About this time last year, it was reported that Europeans were leading the way in reducing automotive traffic in the city, resulting in improvements to air quality and in living standards. Many municipalities look upon electric vehicles in a more favorable light to their gas-guzzling cousins, though, which makes them an increasingly appealing option for those who depend on being able to drive through city for their livelihoods.

Electric taxis are already zipping their way through the maze of busy city streets, and the Ford Transit Connect electric van we featured in 2010 is now ready for transporting over 130 cubic feet (more than 3,800 liters) of cargo. Small-scale courier services, electricians or plumbers on the lookout for something a little smaller and lighter than Ford's trailblazer, but with a similar battery range and speed, may well find the novel mia electric microvan a very good fit indeed.

Part of a series (more on the other models later), probably the most striking feature of the mia U is the seating of the driver in a central position. The manufacturer states that this gives better all-round visibility, as well as giving plenty of room for the mounting of a smartphone, tablet computer, GPS device or music player to either side of the driver. Of course, it also means that the makers don't have to worry about building separate left- and right-hand drive models.

The mia U is a single occupancy vehicle of some 10.46 feet (3.19 meters) in length, although the manufacturer can equip the vehicle with two seats if desired at the cost of reducing the 53 cubic feet (1,500 liters) of cargo space behind the driver seat. The contents of the microvan can be accessed via the rear door or a lateral sliding door on either side of the driver. It's capable of a top speed of 68 mph (100km/h) thanks to its 18kW (peak) asynchronous electric motor, which also delivers a maximum torque of 58 Nm.

There are two battery options available. The 8 kWh LiFePO4 Lithium iron phosphate battery pack gives a range of up to 56 miles (90 km) and is fully charged in just three hours via a standard 230V/16A plug, although the manufacturer says that a quick 10 minute top up should be good for at least five miles (eight km) - hopefully enough for the homeward journey. A 12 kWh battery pack will extend the vehicle's range to up to 80.77 miles (130 km), and charge time is five hours.

Said to have been developed with city center deliveries in mind, the mia U is something of a lightweight too. The 8kWh version tips the scales at a very low 1,686.5 pounds (765 kg), while the 12kWh model weighs in at just 1,732.8 pounds (786kg) - which doubtless contributes to the microvan's extremely economical power consumption and low running costs (about US$1.34/one euro per 62 miles/100 km).

As someone who is regularly woken in the early hours to the awful clatter of a voiturette sans permis as the driver delivers the morning newspaper, I can personally appreciate that one of the major benefits of the mia U is its quiet operation.

We've already featured other electric vans in Gizmag - such as Nissan's e-nv200 electric minivan with 145 cubic feet (over 4,000 liters) of cargo space and the semi-autonomous capabilities of the much larger eT concept from Volkswagen - the mia U, however, does have one big advantage over both of these impressive vehicles, in that it's available now.

The mia U is priced at EUR 23,879 (US$32,064) for the 8kWh version, before any green incentives are taken off. It will cost an extra EUR 3,773 (US$5,066) to upgrade to the 12kWh battery pack.

The other two models in the current range are aimed more at non-professional use. The mia L is the same length as the U but has bench type seating behind the driver capable of comfortably seating three passengers, with those with a window seat being particularly spoiled for leg room thanks the central driving position. Like the commercial vehicle, the L also benefits from lateral sliding doors that gives it an outward appearance of a shrunken-down Peugeot 1006.

There's nearly 15 cubic feet (420 liters) of storage at the back. The 8kWh version weighs 1,732.8 pounds (786 kg), which increases to 1,843 pounds (836 kg) for the 12kWh model. Passenger seats are fitted with an ISOFIX system for attaching child seats, and there's a three-point safety belt on all seats. Other safety features include ABS and Active Brake Assist as standard to help with emergency stopping, a central airbag for the driver and central locking for the doors and trunk.

The mia L carries a price tag of EUR 25,974 (US$34,877) for an 8kWh version, before incentives, with the higher capacity battery pack adding the same amount to the cost as with the mia U.

The remaining bare-bones electric vehicle in a range that's said to have proudly and unpretentiously turned its back on a market where extreme power and good looks are king, is the standard mia. Its length of 9.4 feet (2.87 meters) and tight turning circle of 14 feet (4.5 meters) makes it quite the parking and maneuvering performer. It weighs just 1,686.5 pounds (765 kg) with the 8kWh battery pack on board and 1,796.7 pounds (815 kg) with the larger capacity pack, and has just over 9 cubic feet (260 liters) of storage space at the back.

There are two passenger seats behind the central driver but like the other models, it benefits from those sliding side doors and features a bowed floor and roof to make it easier to get in and out.

The mia standard will cost EUR 24,927 (US$33,469) for the 8kWh version, without any eco bonuses being taken off, and there's the same extra charge for an improved battery life as with the other models.

This economical urban vehicle concept was originally developed for contract vehicle production company Heuliez, by Patrick Largeau. In July 2010 the newly-formed French/German company mia electric took over the electric division of Heuliez, which had previously been involved in the production of electric versions of the Peugeot 106 and Citroen Saxo, and gave the car a new identity.

The modern assembly line at Cerizay, in the west of France, began commercial production of the mia range in June 2011, but didn't enter the consumer marketplace until September. The factory is now reported to be capable of churning out around 1,000 mia vehicles per month. The mia has already been adopted by local authorities in the French cities of Angoulême, La Rochelle and Nice for employee car share schemes.

The mia range, including an exclusive miaparis model, will feature at the 82nd Geneva International Motor Show from 8 to 18 March, before hopping over the English Channel in May to go on sale in the UK. These electric vehicles have just qualified for the government's Plug-In Car and Van grants, which could cut up to GBP 5,000 (US$7,927) off the cost of purchase of a mia car and up to GBP 8,000 (US$12,683) off the cost of a mia van.

Source: mia electric