Sometime in this century, the streets of major cities may be filled by microcars that combine the stability of four wheels with the efficiency of a small scooter. All major automakers — Toyota, General Motors and Volkswagen, for example — have shown concepts that test the boundaries of how far personal transportation can shrink. Now Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson has debuted Top Gear's own version of what he calls the smallest car in the world — when he's not screaming in fear.
In the debut of the 19th season of the world's most popular car show, Clarkson unveiled what he's called the P45, a nod to the actual smallest car in the world, the Peel P50. The P45 looks like a gas-powered Hoveround topped by lights, mirrors and a modern version of the armor worn by the Knights Who Say Ni. It's a hybrid, inasmuch as its gas engine can be swapped for batteries and an electric motor, and in the episode Clarkson demonstrates the P45's ability on highways, city centers, and even in shopping malls and libraries, to generate more embarrassment than momentum.
What Clarkson doesn't acknowledge is the debt the P45 owes to its spiritual forbearer, the Kenguru EV — less an electric car than a set of four wheels, windshield and safety gear that surrounds drivers in wheelchairs who want to travel short distances on public streets at speeds of less than 28 mph. At $25,000 when available, the Kenguru hasn't caught on despite being sold in several countries around the globe. For the future of driving, tiny spaces remain the final frontier.