Today I helped another friend get his electric car road-legal again. And all through the day I watched as people stopped, stared, and asked questions.
“Is that really an electric car? Is it legal? Did you make it?
You can’t blame them of course. After all, the car in question was a City El – a little single seat bubble car first made in Denmark and then later manufactured in Germany. You can still buy one brand new today. If there’s any vehicle out there which will attract stares it’s the City El.
It’s a funny looking vehicle which is incredibly narrow and rather long for a single seat car. It screams “I’m different” from every single millimeter of it’s plastic bodied, electric powered shell. If you drive one you shouldn’t expect to be unnoticed.
With the original City Els (or Mini Els as they were first known) now over twenty years old it does beg the question as to why they haven’t become more popular?
I have an article given to me by another City El driver of a 1993 news article with John Prescott MP, praising these new vehicles as the breakthrough that the UK needed to help ease the transport crises of the early 90s. And yet, here we are, sixteen years later and still waiting for that revolution to happen. And people still ask, in a non-believing way, if that funny little ‘thing’ being driven around the parking lot is a real car.
Well, not really. Let’s face it, the City El isn’t anything more than a town commuting vehicle. But that’s okay. It’s what it was built to do. It was never meant to be a vehicle to compete with a full size car. But as far as a getting noticed goes it certainly should have done that by now. It should have people clambering all over the Internet, checking out these fantastic things called Electric Cars. That hasn’t apparently happened yet. Why?
Is it because vehicles like the City El and G Wiz are too much of a joke? Is it because of the rabid ravings of true petrol heads like Jeremy Clarkson? No? Is it lack of incentive? Lack of interest? Apethy?
I’m not sure. But watching excited people point and stare as an El goes past, or coming up to the tiny bubble car in a parking lot to ponder at what-on-earth it is really makes me smile. People are interested. They do want to know more.They’re clamoring for more information. They want to know how they can get one, or how they can drive smarter and cheaper. I’d much rather own an EV which didn’t look any different from a regular car, but that’s unlikely to get people’s attention on the street because a regular looking EV is just that – another car which doesn’t stand out. For every normal looking EV we need a few of those quirky and unusual EVs to help people realise that EVs exist… That EVs could make a difference.
Today another Mini El got back on the road. Hopefully it’s quirky looks and unusual shape will help get folks thinking about changing the way they drive and thinking:
Could I go electric too?