Messerschmitt revives classic 3-wheel microcars, in gas and electric
A few years back, a German team resurrected the adorable Messerschmitt microcar as an electric-assist two-man Velomobile. At the time, some people wondered why it didn't just skip the pedals, drop a small engine in and bring it back as a modern-day microcar. Well, Messerschmitt Werke has answered that question, launching both gas and electric variants of an ultralight roadster that pays homage to the original Kabinenrollers of the 1950s and 60s.
After the initial Veloschmitt project ended in financial problems, project principal Achim Adlfinger pursued a successor with a new team, debuting it as the KR 25-E pedal-assist velomobile in 2019. In the months that followed, Adlfinger watched closely as the appetite for small, efficient vehicles (and prominent original Messerschmitts) grew, and he used the downtime of the COVID-19 pandemic to develop the new KR-202 Sport and KR-E5000 fully powered microcars.
"Kabinenroller" translates to "cabin scooter," and the original Messerschmitt Kabinenroller (KR) models were just that - tiny, fully faired three-wheelers with modest engines. Using the latest in materials and automotive technology, Adlfinger's Messerschmitt Werke produces modernized KR-200 Sport-inspired cabin scooters that weigh even less than the originals.
Both new Messerschmitt models feature fiberglass bodywork atop a hot-dipped galvanized steel and aluminum honeycomb hybrid chassis. A Perspex windshield is included, but since the new three-wheeler design is based on the original KR-200 Sport open roadster, the dome hardtop is optional. Hydraulic disc brakes on the two front wheels and single rear wheel provide stopping power, and a suspension system with adjustable spring dampers smoothens out the road below.
Inside the locking swing-up entry, each KR comes equipped with a pair of belted seats laid out in tandem and a simple cockpit with gauges, F1-style steering wheel and handbrake. There's also a USB charging port and under-hood storage compartments.
The big difference between the 112-in (285 cm) KR-202 Sport and E5000, of course, is found in the powertrain. The KR-202 relies on a 7.3-hp 125cc one-cylinder engine and CVT automatic transmission to deliver speeds up to 56 mph (90 km/h). The car weighs in at a mere 485 lb (220 kg) and is able to travel up to about 100 miles (160 km) on a full 6-L tank of gas.
The KR-E5000 has a very similar 6.7-hp (5,000 watt) output and 56-mph top speed courtesy of its permanent-magnet motor. It suffers in range, however, dropping down to 50 miles (80 km) via a small 1.4-kW lithium-iron-phosphate battery that charges in four to six hours. Buyers can double that range by adding an optional second battery. The single-battery electric roadster weighs less than the gas variant, wearing an estimated 430-lb (195 kg) ready-to-drive weight.
According to a spec list from The Bruce Weiner Microcar Museum, the original Messerschmitt KR-200 Sport weighed in at 507 lb (230 kg), slightly heavier than either of these reborn variants.
Messerschmitt Werke began production of its newest models in Spain earlier this year. It is currently offering the KR-202 Sport for special pricing starting at €10,950 (approx. US$13,200) and the KR-E5000 Sport starting at €12,950 ($15,600), before VAT and €690 European shipping fee. Options include the aforementioned hardtop, two-stage electric heating, AM/FM/Bluetooth radio and a chrome luggage rack.
See the Messerschmitt KR-202 Sport intro video below. And if you decide it's ultimately not the modernized post-WWII microcar for you, there's always the all-electric Microlino 2.0.