Shrinking-Car Startup Nets Millions In Government Support

City Transformer

Developing a new car from scratch is no simple matter – nor is it a cheap one, by any means. And it’s not one that has often been undertaken in Israel. But there’s one company doing exactly that, with a creative spin, and the inherently expensive endeavor has just won substantial financial backing from the Israeli government.

The Ministry of Energy announced this week a grant of ₪2 million (equivalent to roughly $570,000 at current exchange rates) awarded to City Transformer, a startup developing an urban commuter vehicle with a variable track.

City Transformer’s prototype is substantially smaller in every dimension than the pint-sized Smart ForTwo (which was initially designed by the same Johann Tomforde who’s now part of the City Transformer project). But its innovative party trick is that its wheels can pull closer into the body, allowing it to park in a space designated for motorcycles. With four wheels, though, it’s more stable than a motorcycle, and with a fixed roof structure, it’s both safer and better shielded from the elements.

The talents behind the project told this writer this past summer that they plan on launching a pilot project in Tel Aviv in the new year that’s now just around the corner. It then plans on expanding to certain European cities before venturing into the North American market by the end of 2021. This latest cash injection surely won’t be enough to fund the entire project, but ought to help get it there.

The grant comes part of a ₪22 million (~$6.3M) fund from the Energy Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office through the Fuel Choices and Smart Mobility Initiative. City Transformer is one of the largest recipients of the 15 projects being supported by the fund. Among the other beneficiaries of the government’s support, four million shekels are going towards the establishment of Israel’s first hydrogen filling station being jointly undertaken by local energy company Sonol and bus operator Metropoline.