Earlier this week, Antony Ingram asked if the open-air Renault Twizy electric car would threaten the new Smart ForTwo.

A little larger than most motorcycles, the two-seat French city runabout has found itself a surprising number of fans, thanks in part to its minimalistic, yet funky design.

But now, a tiny electric city vehicle from a famous Italian design house is threatening to make the Renault Twizy look positively portly. 

Meet the Zagato Volpe, 771 pound vehicle that comes with a choice of powertrains, including gasoline, natural gas, and electric. 

Unlike the Renault Twizy, the Zagato Volpe has just one seat, and a top speed of 30 mph. It also has two, full-size doors and a fully-enclosed cabin. 

Claustrophobics need not apply, although it does promise a drier, warmer ride for those who want to experience the pleasures of a tiny vehicle in winter months. 

The electric, range extended version costs just $9,000 and can travel for up to 37 miles on a full charge, although it’s unclear how far the range extender can take you beyond that. 

Interestingly, the Zagato Volpe isn’t the first electric car designed by Zagato. Back in the 1970s, Zagato designed and produced the Zele, a tiny, boxy, two-door hatchback that was powered by four, 12-volt batteries. 

At 84 inches, the Zele was the same length as the modern-day Volpe, but was a little wider, due in part to seating for two. 

It had a similar top speed, but could manage an impressive 50 miles per charge on wheels smaller than you’d find on a modern golf cart. 

With only 500 examples made, the tiny Zele (sold in the U.S. as an Elcar) is now a collectors item.

We’re pleased to see Zagato hasn’t lost interest in tiny electric cars, but with such poor performance and top speed, we can’t see the Zagato Volpe (or Zele) being anything more than a curiosity for the collector.

Although much of the mainstream media is excitedly proclaiming the Zagato Volpe the world’s smallest electric car, we feel that calling it a car is perhaps a little generous. 

If we had to choose one of the tiny cars to drive, which would it be? 

For sheer fear-inducing nostalgia, we’d go with the Zele, but if we had to pick one to drive every day, it would have to be the outdoor-loving, open-air Twizy. 

Sometimes, being the smallest isn’t all that fun.


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