Renault touts the Twizy as an eco-friendly “last mile” solution targeted at the legions of public transport users who might want to car-share. But the battery-powered tandem two-seater is actually a fun, futuristic- looking and impossibly nimble micro-hatch that might just run circles round a Lotus Elise in a gymkhana.
Weighing just 474kg (about half that of a Smart Fortwo or slightly more than a big Harley), it is possibly the lightest electric car in the world.
Renault kept down the weight (the No. 1 enemy of electric vehicles) by constructing the body almost entirely out of plastic and doing away with frills such as windows (which are optional accessories).
The featherweight machine thus requires just a tiny motor and a modest 6.1kWh battery. This gives it a number of plus points over other electric vehicles. Firstly, it takes only three-and-a-half hours to fully charge its lithium-ion battery (versus 12 to 18 hours for other EVs), for a theoretical range of 100 kilometres. Secondly, there is no need for special electrical equipment, because stowed under the nose flap is a built-in 3m-long charging cable, with a three-pin plug that you can slot into any 220V household outlet. Last but not least, it makes for one nippy, zippy runabout.
Measuring less than 2.4m long and 1.3m wide, the Twizy is not much bigger than a touring bike. The car has zero overhang, too. In fact, the wheels jut out in front and to the sides, like what you see on a Caterham roadster. This scooter-like configuration and the Twizy’s super-compact dimensions result in an extraordinarily tight turning circle of 6.8 metres. So, you can actually keep the steering wheel in full lock, floor the throttle and do incredibly small “donuts” on the tarmac without having to drift.This tall, narrow rear-drive vehicle with skinny 13-inch tyres (125/80 in the front and 145/80 in the rear) looks like it might tip over when aggravated, but it is actually very stable. With its battery bank laid out beneath the floor, the car has useful “ballast” that keeps its extruded wheels from lifting off. Furthermore, the so-called “pseudo MacPherson” suspension system copes well with stress, helped by the overall lightness of the Twizy’s upper body.
In spite of its lightness, this thing is strong. Its tubular frame, developed by Renault Sport, offers a decent level of integrity in the passenger cell.
The car also has all-round disc brakes and a driver’s airbag. Of course, the Twizy doesn’t get up to high speeds in the first place – it maxes out at 80km/h, which is still fast enough for it to be used on our expressways.
But whether it can be registered for the road at all depends on a few factors. Potential buyers must accept that the radical Renault does not have air-conditioning. And the authorities must accept that the vehicle is not a full-fledged car, but a cross between a quad-bike and a car. Current local legislation dictates that a motorbike cannot have more than three wheels, and the operator must straddle it rather than sit in it. A revision may be timely, seeing how bike-car hybrids are popping up as cities cope with traffic congestion. Toyota in Japan, for instance, has started consumer tests of its i-Road, a radical electric three-wheeler. If classified as a bike, the Twizy, which has an open market value of around $10,000, should cost less than $30,000. But if it is deemed a car, it will be close to $100,000.
For a start, Renault will enrol the Twizy in the electric vehicle test-bed programme in Singapore, which exempts it from all taxes. It is also in talks with car-sharing operators to start a fleet. With the top grouse of car-share firms being the lack of designated parking, the tiny newcomer will be welcome – three Twizys can fit, side by side, into a parallel carpark lot.
ENGINE Electrical induction motor
MAX POWER 17bhp (12.5kW)
MAX TORQUE 57Nm
0-100KM/H Not applicable
TOP SPEED 80km/h
CONSUMPTION Not applicable
CO2 EMISSION Not applicable
PRICE INCL. COE
TO BE ANNOUNCED