Why Size Matters: Carsharing with Microcars

Variants of microcars

As with any new form of mobility, there are many buzzwords that are used to categorize the variations currently available on the microcar market. Generally, the distinguishing features of microcars are the weight of 500 kg, putting them in the category of micromobility. We see microcars fitting in between electric cars and electric mopeds on the mobility spectrum. Even then, there can be a lot of variation in terms of what a microcar looks like or is categorized by. Some other terms that may be used to describe a microcar include:

Why microcars?

As its name suggests, microcars are super small cars. Even though traditional OEMs have been creating bigger and bigger cars, microcars have its benefits. One of the main contributors to city congestion is the number of single-occupancy vehicles on the road. Microcars give people the similar comforts of a standard car by providing a sheltered and sometimes heated space that keeps them protected from wind and rain but takes up less space because there isn’t any wasted seats or cargo capacity. In addition, its compact size means it requires less space for parking. As a result, microcars combine the positive features of cars with the advantages of micromobility vehicles, bringing an optimized, more agile form factor for consumers.

Aspects to consider for future microcars

The size of microcars means that within the mobility ecosystem, they can address inter-urban trip needs sustainably. Microcars go fast enough (or slow enough, depending on how your perspective) to be safe for residential streets and downtown cores. Their electric motor allows for quick acceleration, which means they do not disrupt the flow of traffic. Microcars also do not carry around excess weight in material or capacity, meaning they efficiently consume energy. From a cost perspective, they are more expensive than a moped but cheaper than a car.

  • Regulations — To support improving the maturity and robustness of microcars, it will be necessary to have more regulations to mandate safety requirements. Many of these microcars are considered legal motorized vehicles, but they lack the standardization and regulations that car manufacturers must adhere to. In addition, some microcars do not require a driver’s license. In Beijing, sales of microcars are banned due to a lack of regulation, though they can still be seen driving throughout the streets due to minimal enforcement.
  • Vehicle design — While a rational consumer will choose the vehicle that is most suitable for them based on need, often times, what a vehicle looks like plays a role in attracting consumers. People have to want to ride these microcars, so it must reflect the lifestyle they are trying to achieve. In addition, the vehicle design needs to be considered in the context of vandalism. The vehicles are open concept meaning the interiors can be vandalized, and given their relative lightweight, have been found destroyed in rivers.

Building microcars for sharing

Even though microcars have not taken off in the sharing space yet, it is better to consider the factors that will go into making a suitable shared microcar. Ideally, microcars do not follow the same progression as kick scooters, where they were introduced to the market with durability that could not stand up to high utilization. Having purpose-built microcars designed for sharing is ideal so that consumers can enjoy a seamless, reliable experience. Based on discussions with INVERS engineers and their unique expertise from analyzing more than 650 vehicle models, including microcars, these are some key features every shared microcar should have:

  • Standardized charging — To be a sustainable mobility solution, microcars must be electric. At the same time, the vehicles should be compatible with existing charging infrastructure and/or have swappable batteries like some e-mopeds on the market. Otherwise, shared microcars are limited to the station-based model. While range likely is not too big of a concern given the slower speed and typical use case with a microcar, these features will ensure that an electric microcar will be known as a suitable mobility option for mid-distanced trips around the city.
  • More CANbus signals — Data is becoming more and more of a critical aspect of successfully scaling shared mobility options. To make this possible, having insight into vehicle data is important for understanding how people are using the service. Most microcars we have analyzed have limited CANbus signals, meaning there is no information on vehicle lock status, battery level, state of charge, etc. Without this data, a fleet manager is virtually blind to the maintenance needs of the vehicles.

Getting prepared for the future

Overall, microcars have the potential to evolve into a viable mode of transportation. Its adoption is still in the early stages, but it is never too early for future operators of shared microcars to consider the factors that will contribute to a successful mobility service. If you’re curious to learn more, we’d be happy to talk with you about sharing microcars and getting them equipped with our market-leading connectivity and telematics solutions.

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