Meet the Small Three-Seater French Electric Car: The mia

By · August 09, 2011

It's a new car, but it has a long story behind it.

It's a sad story because it escaped at the last minute from being another victim of France's deindustrialization. This little car was unveiled as a concept under the name of Heuliez Friendly at the Paris motor show in September 2008. Heuliez, a contract manufacturer and supplier to the auto industry, slowly disappeared, with layoffs getting many headlines in France—but the EV team remained intact and focused. Some German investors got control of it, with the manufacturing facility the car required. At last, the engineers completed the car's development, and got the production started last June.

The electric mia

The little mia électrique

The car has a new name: mia. Like the smart car, you're not supposed to write it starting with a capital letter. That's not the only thing the mia has in common with the smart. Both are very small city cars. The mia is only slightly bigger. It's 7 inches longer and 3 inches wider, with the same height. Yet the mia has a strong advantage: It's a 3-seater.

The driver sits alone in front, with the passengers behind. It's good use of space. The McLaren F1 supercar was like that too, but the mia is no supercar. I believe it's the least performing car on the market. It's not a low-speed vehicle though.

It's registered as a car, with a top speed of 62 miles per hour. It will prevent you from speeding on the highway. The motor produces 18 kilowatts—not enough for a normal car but the little mia weighs only 750 kg (1,650 pounds), so it's adequate for city driving. Traveling cross-country isn't possible anyway because of the limited range. Fifty miles is possible with the standard 8 kWh battery, with an optional 12 kWh one if you want more range. The advantage of the small battery is that recharging doesn't take long: only three hours on a standard socket in Europe. They've chosen lithium iron phosphate cells (LiFePO4), which should last several years thanks to a sharp management system.

The electric mia

The little mia électrique

I haven't driven the mia yet, but I've been sitting in it, looking closely at everything. There's little doubt that it comes from a small manufacturer. You could compare it to a Think City, but the quality of the plastics is inferior to anything from a major carmaker, such as Hyundai or Chevrolet. Yet, it feels quite nice. Murat Gunak, the designer, has been smart enough to give the car some youthful flavor. A little 5-leaf clover on the side is a push button to open the door. The mia is also fantastically convenient in the city with its large sliding doors. This is the easiest car I know for getting in and out. If there's one thing wrong with the mia, it's going to be the price.

The electric mia

The little mia électrique

When the concept was unveiled, in 2008, the goal was to sell it for about 12,000 euros. In the end, the mia costs 19,950 euros ($28,375), and that's a lot of money for such a small car. But don't blame the manufacturer. The problem is the huge cost of doing business in France. There's one zillion regulations for any manufacturing company and the big brands which are closing their factories don't shut them down for no reason. Yet what makes the mia so expensive will make it attractive to some people. Compared to most cars with parts coming from everywhere, the mia is totally French-built. Even the battery pack is French. The cells are outsourced, but the pack with all its electronics is made in France.

All customers so far have been government agencies, utilities companies or city services, signing up so many orders that the mia won't be available to private customers before next year.

Comments

· BenBrown (not verified) · 2 years ago

Laurent,

Thanks for providing more information about the mia. I'm looking forward to hearing about your experience driving and riding in one. I wonder if it can take cargo?

· ed44 (not verified) · 2 years ago

How does the "mia" Spec's compare with,
. . . Race car driver and designer Gordon Murray's,
. . . "T.27" that has the same seating arrangement and
. . . claims to be the "The Worlds Most Efficient Electric Car."

http://www.carsession.com/photos/miscellaneous/t..27-electric-city-car-s...

http://www.carsession.com/photos/miscellaneous/t..27-electric-city-car-s...

http://www.carsession.com/photos/miscellaneous/t..27-electric-city-car-s...

· · 2 years ago

This is a neat little car, Laurent. Smaller than a microvan . . . a nanovan? The dashboard with the single seat in front of it reminds me of a mixdown console in a small recording studio. Just put a couple of Tannoy nearfields in there and you're ready to go.

Remove those two rear seats, Ben, and you've got a fair amount of cargo space. The 4 X 8 sheet of plywood goes on top of the roof, though (good thing it's pretty flat up there.)

Along with the T.27, here is yet another single-front-seat city EV, this one from Audi . . .

http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1064628_is-this-audis-all-electric-c...

· Tugrik (not verified) · 2 years ago

I'd adore getting one of these for an in-town vehicle here in the SF Bay Area. Any chance the mia will ever make it to the states?

· · 2 years ago

Quick, somebody call an exterminator before anybody sees this embarrassment to the EV movement.
A few of these on the streets will completely undo all of the efforts at electrification of our transportation that we've been going through for the past decade or so.
@Tugrik, get a bike or take the bus. If this piece of junk will do anything useful for you, you don't need a car at all.

· · 2 years ago

I've been invited to drive it, I'll do that sometimes, and I wouldn't be embarrassed doing so. It's low power and low range, but there's a market for this in Europe because it has so much practicality. If it could be 30% cheaper, they could sell several thousands a month over here.

But the Mia can't compete with the T27 from Gordon Murray, I'm expecting that one to be much faster, and more efficient.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 2 years ago

Laurent, You said in an earlier piece about european range anxiety then say that this would fit into the European market. The piece you did showed that most people would not buy this car and then where does this fit into the european mentaltly of range anxiety?

· · 2 years ago

Ex: If the Myers NMG didn't kill the movement, then this thing won't either. Don't worry, if they actually ever do make them they will be about as rare as the NMG, since they offer little utility and even less value. It basically a NEV that can go slightly faster than most.
EV's like this only stood a chance if the major OEM's decided to completely ignore BEV's, but now that they are finally making them, there is little reason to even look at something like this. Sorry to sound so condescending, but that's the reality of it.

· · 2 years ago

Range matters in real cars. The Mia registers as one, but it's more of an NEV when you look at it. Nobody would think about using the mia the same way you drive a normal car.

· TotalRecall (not verified) · 2 years ago

It's a Jonnycab!

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