Skip to Content

Tiny Electric Cars Are Coming

If batteries aren’t up to the job, why not make smaller cars?

French automaker PSA Peugeot Citroën kicked off the Geneva Motor Show this morning by announcing that it is pursuing a deal with Mitsubishi Motor to develop a compact electric car for sale in Europe next year. It will be based on Mitsubishi’s i-MiEV, an approximately 160-kilometer-range commuter car that the company plans to roll out in Japan this summer.

Plenty more compact four-wheelers are in the automotive pipeline. Daimler will sell a battery version of its popular Smart Fortwo next year, and Volkswagen is engineering a commuter EV called the Audi Up! with a top speed of 130 kilometers per hour and roughly 100 kilometers of range. Renault is engineering a pair of battery-powered cars, to be produced starting in 2011.

These automakers are betting that there will be a market for smaller electric vehicles (EVs) that will be cheaper to build and far cheaper and cleaner to operate than regular hybrids. With battery technology developing rapidly and the automotive market in turmoil, that logic even has gas-electric hybrid champion Toyota hedging its bets. At the Detroit auto show in January, Toyota put the spotlight on new versions of its Prius, but also announced plans to offer a commuter EV in 2012.

Prototype i-MiEV on show at this week’s Geneva car confab. Sketch: Mitsubishi

To be fair, most of the companies talking up tiny EVs are similarly hedging their bets, simultaneously developing a range of hybrid options. PSA Peugeot Citroën plans to launch two diesel-hybrid vehicles in 2011–the Citroën DS5 HYbrid4 and the Peugeot 3008 HYbrid4–and it’s also developing a “multipurpose” plug-in hybrid EV analogous to the Chevy Volt.

Like the Volt, PSA’s plug-in will be a series hybrid, in which a small fuel-efficient engine serves only to recharge the batteries en route. Unlike the Volt, however, the engine can be swapped out and additional batteries swapped in for longer-range city driving.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

A Roomba recorded a woman on the toilet. How did screenshots end up on Facebook?

Robot vacuum companies say your images are safe, but a sprawling global supply chain for data from our devices creates risk.

A startup says it’s begun releasing particles into the atmosphere, in an effort to tweak the climate

Make Sunsets is already attempting to earn revenue for geoengineering, a move likely to provoke widespread criticism.

10 Breakthrough Technologies 2023

Every year, we pick the 10 technologies that matter the most right now. We look for advances that will have a big impact on our lives and break down why they matter.

These exclusive satellite images show that Saudi Arabia’s sci-fi megacity is well underway

Weirdly, any recent work on The Line doesn’t show up on Google Maps. But we got the images anyway.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.