European Vacation Outtake: Aixam City – Only 5.4 HP, But No Car Driver’s License Required

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Automotively-speaking, Europe and America have become relatively more similar over the decades, but there’s still plenty of differences. One of the more unique automotive sectors in certain countries are these “quadra-cycles”, or (proper automobile) license-free automobiles, as they are essentially four-wheeled mopeds. Since a “real’ driver’s license costs some $2000 (for required intensive training) in places like Germany and Austria, some just don’t bother, perhaps older folks who never got a proper license, or sixteen-year olds who aren’t even eligible for one. They have a number of four-wheeled choices, including this Aixam City, which has a legally limited top speed of 45 kmh (28 mph) and an engine (diesel, gas or electric) rated at no more than 4kW (5.4 hp). Sounds a bit modest, but they do the job in the dense cities where they’re mainly found. 

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The French maker Aixam is the market leader in this field, with a 40% share. There are versions with higher engine outputs for countries with different license regulations or where regular-licensed drivers want a cheap, small car. But in the main central EU markets, the 4kW versions are the most popular ones.

The diesel engine is a two-cylinder made by Kubota, the gas engine is by Lombardini, and the electric version has a 6.4kWh Li-ion battery pack, but costs a fair amount more than the more popular diesel, which can be had for some €10,000 or so (∼$11k). The diesel has 10.3 ft.lbs of torque (14 Nm), and fuel consumption is 80 mpg or better. The transmission is a CVT, and a recently added option is air conditioning. The body is ABS plastic and the chassis is aluminum. Ready-to-roll weight is 400 kg, or 880 lbs.

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The 45 kmh/h sign is prominent on the back. This one appears to have dealer tags. I saw a few of these around Innsbruck, most typically inhabited by an older couple; folks who never got a license but desired the mobility of a car in their later years. I don’t recall seeing any kids in one, but then frankly, one just doesn’t see a lot of very young drivers behind the wheel here. Mass transit is so incredibly comprehensive, cheap, and still being enhanced, that driving is just not something on most urban kids’ radar. But Aixam does say that kids who drive these a few years before getting a proper license have better outcomes. Training wheels, in other words.

Aixam’s English web site here