Veloschmitt's KR E-250 Personal Transporter: The Messerschmitt Reloaded

If the Veloschmitt KR E-250 looks oddly familiar, you might have spent a little too much time in post-war Germany. Designers Achim Adlfinger and Fred Zimmermann have been there and now they've done that, evoking the spirit of Messerschmitt's quirky KR200 Kabinenroller in this three-wheeled pedal/electric velomobile.

The two-stroke, three-wheeled Messerschmitt KR200 was perhaps the best-known of post-war Germany's iconic and (from some angles) comic microcars. The last Kabinenroller rolled off the production line a half-century ago but memories linger with the pungency of acrid blue two-stroke smoke.

The prototype Veloschmitt KR E-250 Personal Transporter attempts to keep all that was good about Willy Messerschmitt's wee wundercar while consigning the bad to history's trash heap. The former would be the cute, bug-eyed styling; the latter being an oil-burning two-stroke engine similar (though smaller) than the evil-smelling powerplant employed by East Germany's archaic in its prime and little-lamented later Trabant.

Adlfinger and Zimmermann's modern take on the Kabinenroller concept employs a pedelec (pedal electric cycle) bicycle platform. As adapted for the Veloschmitt KR E-250, the driver pedals an eight-speed Shimano Nexus cycle drivetrain. A 250-watt electric motor powered by a 36-volt 10Ah lithium-iron-phosphate (LiFePO4) battery pack lends assistance at the flip of a switch anytime it's required.

Put it all together and what do you get? The fiberglass-bodied Veloschmitt measures 285 x 120 x 110 cm (112 x 47 x 43 inches) and seats one or two comfortably. True to the KR200's design ethos it's a three-wheeler (two up front and one out back) but Professor Willy would no doubt be impressed with its carbon fiber chassis and air spring suspension.

As an aircraft designer (think of the Bf 109 and Me 262), Willy Messerschmitt knew the importance of saving weight wherever possible – though not at the expense of strength. Thus, the Veloschmitt KR E-250 Personal Transporter tips the scales at a mere 60 kg (132 lb) while its sleek bodywork slips through the air with a 0.30 coefficient of drag. The combination enables speeds of up to 30 km/h (18.6 mph) and no, that doesn't mean going downhill.

If you're up for a little velomobiling in this little velomobile, you'd best take a number and get in line: Adlfinger and Zimmermann are planning a 200-model production run beginning in late 2014. Sticker prices reportedly start at €5,200 ($7,150) for single-seat versions and €6,250 ($8,600) for a two-seater; options extra. Holy Messerschmitt! (via Gizmag)