The CityEl was originally developed as the Mini-El by Danish company El Trans A/S in Randers and was first brought onto the market by them in 1987. After El Trans A/S had to give up production in 1988 and two subsequent manufacturers (Eltrans1 A/S in 1991 and Eltrans89 A/S in 1995), Citycom Denmark A/S, a German investor, took over and moved the company to Aub. In 2009 the company was renamed Smiles AG, when it started to sell electric vehicles of other brands besides their own; but three years later Smiles experienced financial difficulties and production of the CityEl restarted with CityCom GmbH.
The vehicle is for one person, seated centrally. Rather than conventional doors, the whole top-half of the vehicle hinges upwards on gas-struts allowing access to the cockpit. An optional child seat allows the car to carry a child (up to 30 kg), sitting behind the front seat on the engine compartment, facing backwards. The driver operates car-like controls (steering wheel, brake and throttle pedals) although the vehicle is classed as an electric motorcycle in some countries.
There have been three body styles since production started. The 'Basic' version has a completely solid roof. Some versions have plexiglass side-windows. The Convertible was a fully open version no-longer made by CityCom. In its place the 'Targa' version was constructed, with a removable centre soft top but solid rear windows. In America the City El was sold with a different roof, made out of fibreglass. This roof is slightly different from the factory-built City El roof.
The older version had a 36-volt, 2.5 kW motor with three 80 Ah lead acid batteries, a 40 km/h (25 mph) (Series1) to 55 km/h (34 mph) (Series2 and up) top speed and a range of 60 to 70 km (37 to 43 mi) (Series1) or 40 to 50 km (25 to 31 mi) (Series2). The consumption from Series2 and up was 7 to 9 kW·h/100 km. The new version FactFour has four lead acid batteries, a much better 4 kW electric motor that provides a 63 km/h (39 mph) top speed and 70 to 90 km (43 to 56 mi) range. The consumption is 3.5 to 5 kW·h/100 km. When the FactFour was introduced, Smilies started to offer a lithium-ion battery as an alternative, giving the vehicle a range of more than 120 km (75 mi). The City El is regularly modified by enthusiasts and it is common to see City Els powered by alternative batteries, such as the nickel-cadmium battery or a different lithium-ion battery. The improved performance and range given to the City El by using such batteries make them a viable town commuting vehicle with enough acceleration to keep up with city traffic.
A City El weighs 280 kg (620 lb), and the front end can be lifted quite easily. When the batteries are removed it is possible for three people to lift a City El off the ground. When a City El is retrofitted with 100 AH Thunder-sky lithium-ion batteries, the car becomes approximately 70 kg (150 lb) lighter, bringing the weight of the City El well under that of some motorbikes. At this point the driver has to take extreme care driving at 50 km/h (31 mph) or more in moderate cross-winds to prevent the City El from being blown about.
- 1993 CityCom City-El at avalbum.com
- Hans-Ulrich von Mende, Matthias Dietz & Benedikt Taschen (Sep 1994), Kleinwagen, Small Cars, Petites Voitures, Taschen. ISBN 3-8228-8910-5
- Coverage on CityEl in the TV show "Das! mobil", July 27, 2005, on German TV channel NDR Fernsehen
- Coverage in German magazine Solarmobil, issues 55/56, 57, and 59. ISSN 0941-102X
- German homepage of the producer
- French homepage of the importer
- Danish homepage of the importer
- Service/Dealer homepage (German)
- Service/Dealer Homepage (Danish)
- CityEl and FactFour
- British City El driver who uses her City El as daily transport
- Battery Vehicle Society with active City El forum
- German forum for City El owners and its wiki
- Yahoo English Language group for City El and Mini El owners
- Elektromobil, German language site for CityEL and other electric vehicles
- Dutch site with lots of information about the CityEL
- EcoCarForum, includes forum for eco-friendly cars including the CityEL
- Ellert.info, Danish site, with lots of information about the CityEL and Mini-el]