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2, 3, or 4 per parking space?: Tiny electric car now on sale in France

At just 1.74 metres long, the licence-free Estrima Birò is hailed as the smallest quadricycle in the world but costs more than its Renault and Citroën competitors

The new Birò is only 1.74 metres long, 1.56 metres wide and 1.03 metres high Pic: Estrima Birò / © Cartella Stampa

An 100% electric minicar is the newest licence-free car to (re)enter the French market, which has been growing ever since Renault and Citroën released their Twizy and Ami models.

The two-seater Estrima Birò is designed to be an urban-only car, its size facilitating driving and parking and its two electrical batteries providing between 50 to 100 kilometres of autonomy. 

The car can be driven by people as young as 14 and costs from €9,990. It is currently available in Paris, Bordeaux, Marseille, Lyon and in Monaco.

This is the second time the Birò car has become available on the French market, after a short initial commercialisation by cycling manufacturer Newton between August 2009 and May 2012, at which point government subsidies for electric quadricycles were halted.

Read more: Are there any financial aids for buying an electric bike in France?

The Birò is presented as a “four-wheeled scooter” by Matteo Maestri, president and founder of the Italian manufacturer Estrima, which claims that the minicar will help drivers to avoid congestion and gain time when looking for parking spots. 

“The aim is to bring to life the smallest quadricycle in the world,” Côme Drescher, head of Estrima Birò France, told The Connexion.

Birò cites on its website that users will spend 30% less time driving and 90% less time looking for parking spaces than those using normal cars. It also states that the car can save drivers 75% of the maintenance costs associated with normal cars, as well as saving on petrol or diesel.

Park anywhere

The standard Birò (there is also a longer version) is only 1.74 metres long, 1.03 metres wide and 1.56 metres high. 

This makes it narrower than the Twizy and the Ami (respectively 1.19 metres and 1.39 metres wide) and 67 centimetres shorter than the 2.41-metre-long Ami and 2.32-metre-long Twizy. 

Sales of these small cars are reported to have boomed during Covid.

Read more: Licence-free car sales boom in France due to ‘Covid effect’

Drivers can also opt for a version with a boot, which extends the minicar to 1.835 metres in length.

Such a short length allows the car to park horizontally between two cars, an unusual parking method which opens up considerable possibilities in cities where space has become a rare commodity.

Mr Drescher said that up to four Biròs can fit in a single traditional car space when parked horizontally and with no in-between space, reduced to three spots when more space is allowed to access the car.

He added that although the Birò can be parked in scooter and motorcycle spots or between two cars, it is not allowed in cycling slots. 

Estrima has introduced 4,500 Biròs – produced in a factory near Venice – into the French market through its French headquarters located in the seventh district of Paris. 

The Birò uses two rechargeable, removable lithium batteries – called Litio Re-Move – which can be charged through a 220V electric plug over three to six hours.

The bigger version allows up to 100 kilometres of autonomy while the smaller version is estimated to be able to cover a maximum of 50 kilometres (or 40 in the stop-start city environment).

Mr Drescher also said the car can be personalised, with the driver able to decide aspects such as the upholstery and colour.

No licence required

The smaller Birò is classified in the 50cm3 category – once again like mopeds – while the larger version is in the 125cm3. It can reach between 45 and 65km/h depending on the version.

The smaller version can be driven by 14-year-olds having graduated with the AM motorcycle licence or the previous ‘Brevet de sécurité routière’ (BSR). To drive the bigger Birò, you must be 16 years old and have a B1 licence.

People who have lost their full car licence are also eligible to drive both Biròs. 

The major hurdle comes with the price. The less expensive Birò starts at €9,990 and the bigger version comes in at more than €13,000, while the Citroen Ami starts at €7,390.

The Estrima Birò Winter is listed at €13,690 on Greenlines, a website for renting and buying electric bikes. 

However, French clients buying a Biro will benefit from €900 from a government grant with an additional €1,500 for professionals in the Ile-de-France region. Residents in Monaco are provided with a €3,000 subsidy, Mr Drescher confirmed to The Connexion.

*Update: This article was changed on May 21 to update the width and height of the car, which were initially wrongly cited. 

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