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Trend Light Vehicles - Copyright Supertrooper - stock.adobe.com

Light vehicles - mega trend for 2024

Working from home, the pandemic and the Ukraine crisis with the sharp rise in energy costs are affecting future mobility in Europe. In addition to bicycles and pedelecs, light vehicles have become a popular alternative for commuters in the last two years. A compact design, a significantly reduced energy consumption compared to the car and a smaller space requirement are obvious advantages for the increasingly popular Micro Cars. A closer look at the manufacturers and new models in this report reveals the amazing variability.

In the EU, basically all vehicles are systematized and classified into EC vehicle classes. Light motor vehicles are divided into 7 subclasses, from very light two-wheeled mopeds to four-wheeled light vehicles with an unladen weight of up to 550 kg. For all vehicles in these classes, the demands on the driver are very differentiated according to the requirements.

Important criteria are decisive for light vehicles

The most interesting for continuous use regardless of the weather and season are the small light vehicles of the L6e class. The 450-wheel vehicles, which weigh up to 4 kg unladen, may drive at a maximum of 45 km/h and the driver only needs a class AM driving license (included in driving license classes B, T and A1/A2). Interestingly, since the implementation of a new decision since July 28, 2021, it has been possible nationwide to acquire a class AM driving license at the age of 15. For reasons of European law, however, it is subject to the condition that it may only be used for domestic journeys up to the age of 16. This requirement does not apply if the driver's license holder has reached the age of 16.

Ligier Logo - Groupe Ligier, SA (formerly Automobiles Ligier), based in Abrest, is a French automobile manufacturer. The company was formed in 2008 from the merger of Automobiles Ligier and its competitor Microcar../ Copyright Richard Villalon - stock.adobe.com
Ligier Logo – Groupe Ligier, SA (formerly Automobiles Ligier), based in Abrest, is a French automobile manufacturer. The company was formed in 2008 from the merger of Automobiles Ligier and its competitor Microcar../ Copyright Richard Villalon - stock.adobe.com

In addition, there is the heavy four-wheeled vehicle of class 7e. Here the empty mass is up to 450 kg and the maximum output is 15 kilowatts. But you also need a category B driver's license for this.

While the vehicle class 6e used to only occupy niches, they have become increasingly popular in recent months, on the one hand because of the much lower maintenance costs compared to the car and on the other hand because of the lower demands on the driver. There are also a few special features to consider in terms of insurance.

The insurance companies offer the three classic forms of insurance liability, partially comprehensive and fully comprehensive insurance. The vehicle is tax-free and therefore always has a green number plate. However, a valid insurance license plate is a prerequisite for moving the vehicle on public roads. Driving without a valid license plate is a criminal offense and can be punished with imprisonment or a fine.

ClassDescriptionDriving license EU and Germany
L1eBicycle & Motorcycle with a top speed of up to 45 km/h and displacement of up to 50 cm³ or 4 kW with electric driveAM – from 16, in Germany and Austria from 15
L2ethree wheeler Vehicle, top speed up to 45 km/h and cubic capacity up to 50 cm³ or 4 kW with electric driveAM – from 16, in Germany and Austria from 15
L3ebike with internal combustion engine and top speed and 45 km/h, displacement up to 125 cm³ and 11 kW (L3e-A1), 35 kW (L3e-A2) or over 35 kW (L3e-A3)A1 from 16, A2 from 18, A from 24 (or 20 with graded driver's license) years
L4ebike with sidecar, with Vcombustion engine and top speed and 45 km/h, other classes as for L3eA1 from 16, A2 from 18, A from 24 (or 20 with graded driver's license) years
L5eThree-wheeled vehicle with symmetrical structure, top speed and 45 km/h, cubic capacity over 50 cm³ and under 125 cm³, max. 15 kW with electric driveA1 from 16, A2 from 18, A from 24 (or 20 with graded driver's license) years
L6eEasy four-wheeled Vehicle, empty weight up to 425 kg (for electric without batteries), top speed up to 45 km/h, cubic capacity up to 50 cm³ and 6 kW with spark ignition engines, or 500 cm³ 6 Kw with compression ignition engines or 6 kW with electric driveAM – from 15 in Germany and Austria
L7eheavier four-wheeled Vehicle, empty weight up to 450 kg, power max. 15 kWB – like passenger cars in Germany, B1 in France and Italy
Light motor vehicles - vehicle categories 2023

A look at the pros and cons of the L6e class

If you are interested in a light vehicle, you should find out about the advantages and disadvantages in advance so that there are no unpleasant surprises.

With energy costs continuing to rise, the light vehicle has a clear advantage over the conventional car. You need significantly less petrol or diesel, consumption is often limited to 3 to 4 liters of petrol or diesel per 100 kilometers. Even with electrically powered vehicles, significantly less than 10 kilowatt hours per 100 kilometers can be achieved. This makes these vehicles significantly more environmentally friendly and economical than cars.

There is also an unbeatable advantage when it comes to maintenance and service costs. Neither taxes nor MOT fees are due for these vehicles. The driver's license costs for class AM are also significantly lower compared to the conventional driver's license.

Those who only use the vehicles for commuting or shopping will be happy about the smaller parking spaces, which makes finding a parking space much easier. The simpler operation is also seen as a plus point for people with walking disabilities or restricted mobility.

The small dimensions also mean significantly less space in the interior. Most light vehicles only have space for two people, and there is rarely additional seating in a back seat. A bulky purchase such as a dryer or a washing machine can hardly be accommodated in a lightweight vehicle.

Trendsetter in France Citroen Ami - Copyright olrat - stock.adobe.com
Trendsetter in France Citroen Ami – Copyright olrat – stock.adobe.com

The possibilities of the small car are very limited with a maximum speed of 45 km/h. As a result, they are often not recognized as slow vehicles on country roads until late and are often viewed here as a traffic obstruction. The passive safety compared to conventional cars is also significantly lower.

The ranges depend on the type of drive. While up to 100 kilometers can be achieved with the newer light electric vehicles, distances of up to 300 kilometers can certainly be achieved with conventional drives.

The most important manufacturers at a glance

Manufacturersvehicle classesVehicles
Ligier GroupL5/6/7eMicrocar brand
stellantisL6eOpel Rocks / Citroen Ami
AxiamL6eCity/Coupe/Crossover
Electric BrandsL6/L7eX-Bus flexible concept vehicle
Evetta L6e vehicle
Manufacturer of light vehicles

The new insurance market for light vehicles

If you only commute short distances in the city and occasionally shop, a light electric vehicle is sufficient. However, those who drive longer distances overland, such as trainees on their way to an apprenticeship or vocational school, should rely on conventional drives. Because the charging of the Batteries takes a few hours and is best done overnight using the in-house power supply.

Some surprises await the drivers when it comes to insurance. The insurance market is young and by no means all insurance companies have their own tariffs in their portfolios. In addition, all details in the insurance conditions must be checked carefully.

Security is a relevant factor

Light and agile is of course nice, but light vehicles can easily be mistaken for normal cars. If other road users misjudge the slow speed, there is a great potential for accidents. In addition, lightweight vehicles can pose a traffic obstacle because they are traveling at a maximum of 45 km/h. Although the models are not approved for the motorway, it could still be dangerous on country roads.

Another aspect is the body. This is not as stable as that of a normal car. Although they offer their occupants good protection against the weather, in the event of an accident, lightweight vehicles offer little buffer zone. Both points can be dangerous, especially for young drivers. Those who drive light vehicles at the age of 15 or 16 usually have little driving experience and react accordingly more uncertainly to dangerous situations than passionate drivers.

Outlook and conclusion

The automotive industry is constantly evolving and larger and larger manufacturers are now trying to produce micro cars with electric drives and approval from the driver's license AM. The small, cost- and space-saving microcars for urban purposes should encourage rethinking in the long term and become an alternative to large motor vehicles for commuters in urban areas.

Due to the versatile usability and the comparatively low energy consumption, there is great potential for electric microcars, as the charging infrastructure for electrically powered vehicles is constantly evolving and battery technology is also being trimmed for the longest service life and even greater range.

An electric microcar is therefore worth considering in the long term if you do not want to be tied to public transport in large cities and want to commute to work inexpensively within a radius of up to 25-30 km.

Addendum

Cover Photo - Trend Light Vehicles - Copyright Supertrooper - stock.adobe.com

What do you think of light vehicles?

N. Hawthorn

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