There are huge number of public spaces in European towns, especially in Italy, tight areas where it would be hard for sedans to navigate. Whether the roads are too rough, or the area is designated to pedestrians, it is not a place for normal cars. Added to this are car-free islands where there is no way to transport anything substantial to the place.
Is there a Motorized Vehicle Solution?
This is where you need some kind of minimalist car. What is a minimalist car? Well there are a few examples already in existence, and if the market demands it, perhaps they will design more.
In Slovenia, for instance, where the elderly and the infirm are moved about by Ljubjani or slow-moving taxis. But there are hundreds of such regions from the Spandau of Berlin to the Renaissance Quarter of Seville. There must be a market here for mini vehicles?
Such was the concept that Giorgetto Guigiaro hoped to innovate. One of the chief designers of Italdesign, he had created a number of specialist cars like the famous Delorean. Giorgetto was ahead of his time, thinking up concepts like ride-sharing long before others created it. Could he create a car that narrowed everything down to the basic essentials, for use in these urban enclaves where other cars cannot go?
A New Approach to A New Type of Car
In terms of car design, Italdesign does a little of everything, including creating prototypes for automobiles and design validation. At least according to their website. It’s not clear how validation differs from testing, maybe it’s about getting from a prototype to a product that can enter the market.
Guigiaro planned to get a minimalist car to market by 1992, but there’s little point in researching a new vehicle unless you plan for some kind of success. Previous attempts at minimalist cars, like the Sinclair C5, had a toy car look and feel. These cars embraced their identity as novelty cars and therefore had no mass marketability.
The car that Guigiaro came up with was the Biga, one of the first electric cars. This type of car looks more like a small van than a car and it has been built to save space.
Which parts did the vehicle need and what could be left out?
To look at the Biga from the outside you might find it hard to believe it is possible for this tiny a vehicle to transport four people. The way round this is to only to have the driver’s seat where it usually is. The other three seats are at 90° from the driver’s seat and access is only available through a back door. If each seat had its own door this would take up needless space.
You might have thought that the Biga was made of fiberglass, but it was actually made of a lightweight steel. The overall effect is a cube on wheels. Like a number of compact cars since, the Biga can be parked at right angles to the sidewalk (where the law permits), this allows you to easily fit three Biga’s in the length of two normal parking spots.
Not all cars can be Cadiallacs, there are hundreds of vehicles that aren’t there for the mass market. It’s hard to find accurate sales of the Biga. It would be difficult to judge those numbers in context if you found them. The reason is that the Biga is a cross between a novelty car and a mass market production vehicle—more in the category of a four-wheel drive off-road vehicle, only most off-road vehicles are still able to serve as a daily driver in a pinch. The Biga is the type of car which encourages creative thought and solves a problem, rather than one that makes a huge impression. So it makes a splash in its own way.