Back in 2018, Los Angeles-based startup Eli Electric Vehicles announced an electric microcar called the Zero for relatively short, low-speed jaunts around town. Now the Neighborhood Electric Vehicle has entered an initial production run.

In the electric mobility mix, there are some drivers who don’t necessarily need big or fast or long-haul vehicles for their daily jaunt through small towns and big cities. And this is the market where microcars will shine – able to quietly zip down narrow streets while keeping occupants dry, squeeze into parking spots too tight for bigger vehicles, turn on a dime (well, not quite), and be relatively cheap to run.

One of the first small electric runabouts to burst onto the e-mobility scene was of course Renault’s supremely fun Twizy, but we’ve seen others pop up over the years – most recently the adorable Microlino that’s due to roll out next year and the shape-shifting City Transformer coming in 2024. Now Eli Electric Vehicles has started a small production run of its Neighborhood Electric Vehicle (NEV), the Zero.

A NEV is a category of relatively low-speed compact four-wheelers designed for trundling down inner city streets or urban neighborhoods up to a top speed of 25 mph (40 km/h), though Eli says that they can legally be driven on most roads where a 35-mph limit is in force.

The Zero NEV is limited to a top speed of 25 mph

The Zero NEV is limited to a top speed of 25 mph

Eli Electric Vehicles

In order to get the Zero ready for its launch in the EU marketplace, the 2018 prototype has undergone a number of tweaks. Production-ready updates include an upgrade to a 72-V system architecture (originally 48 V), power steering, power braking, reversing camera, a dual-beam LED headlight, and a redesigned chassis.

Though it certainly has the look of a Twizy family member, the two occupants sit side-by-side and are fully protected from inclement weather. The 4-kW rear-drive motor gets up to that restricted NEV top speed of 25 mph, and there’s the option of a 5.8-kWh or 8-kWh battery for 50 or 70 miles (80/112 km) of per-charge range, respectively, with regen braking potentially helping to eke out a little more.

The 88.6 x 54.3 x 62.5-in (225 x 138 x 158-cm) Zero is built on an aluminum chassis with McPherson suspension to the front, has disc braking front and back, and boasts a 23.6-ft (7 m) turning circle. The electric microcar has a tilting sunroof to let some fresh air in during hot days, a rear camera and parking sensor should help drivers slot into where they need to be, and there’s a low-speed sound system to alert pedestrians to the vehicle’s presence when crawling along. Power-assisted braking and power steering are available on two out of the three configurations on offer.

The no-frills interior includes a 7-inch digital dash that's able to show images from the rear camera for parking assist, and most configurations come with hot/cold AC

The no-frills interior includes a 7-inch digital dash that’s able to show images from the rear camera for parking assist, and most configurations come with hot/cold AC

Eli Electric Vehicles

Inside you’ll find seating for two in either fabric or vegan leather, a 7-inch digital dash, USB charging ports and a 12-V power socket, two configurations get hot/cold AC, and there’s 160 liters of trunk space.

The vehicle was designed to be street legal in Europe, was homologated in late 2020, and moved to production-ready status earlier this year. Now an initial batch of Zero NEVs has entered production, with shipments to the first European distributors expected to take place in the coming weeks. The company then plans to launch in the US in the near future.

This week Eli also announced the launch of its second equity crowdfunding campaign on StartEngine, the first one closing on July 30 with nearly US$1.4 million raised from over 1,500 investors. Funds from this second round will go towards production costs, ramping up distribution and meeting operational expenses.

Source: Eli Electric Vehicles