Is it a car? Is it a scooter? Well neither actually it is the Twizy from French car giant Renault. Renault has always had a reputation for innovation and with their much anticipated new world order of electric vehicles which includes the Twizy, the Fluence saloon, Kangoo van and Zoe micromini.
“Twizy is part of a unique 4 electric vehicle line up that Renault has started to market, with Kangoo ZE and Fluence ZE on sale, and ZOE arriving in fall 2012. What makes Renault EVs better is the never seen before price, which is comparable to traditional vehicles’ and the comprehensive features, starting with state of the art real life range,” said Thierry Koskas, Director of the Electric Vehicle Program when Swide spoke to him about the forthcoming Twizy.
It’s not just Milan but many of the world’s major urban centres that are seriously restricting access by car in an effort to get their city centres moving again and more importantly to reduce pollution and make the centres of the largest cities more habitable.
There have been previous attempts at a serious electrically powered urban vehicle many of which have fallen flat, but when you look at the market needs for a solution such as this together with technological advances and the general zeitgeists that recognizes the imperative for change in the car market you can somehow feel it the air that the Twizy will hit the ground running. It all adds up to the perfect storm for the EV (Electric Vehicle).
“Indeed, we do think it’s the right timing for EV, because 2 key factors arrive simultaneously: the need to reduce as quickly as possible the CO2 footprint of transportation and the technical breakthrough of lithium based batteries that offer satisfactory range,” said Koskas.
Twizy is a perfect piece of modern vehicle design. Paired down to its absolute basics it is a solution born totally from the requirements of modern city life. If good design really can change the world and benefit our society then the Twizy deserves its place at the vanguard of modern eco revolution.
What we buy and drive has changed drastically over the last two decades. It was only in 2000 that the smart car really took to the streets in earnest. At the time, peope didn’t know what to think of them and it was a brave person who invested in the costly microcar. But today the smart is an everyday part of the cityscape.
It seems people are more open to new concepts than ever before. Yet necessity is the mother of invention and anyone who lives in the city will tell you that the nightmare of parking is one from which you never wake up and the days when you could go jogging in the city centre are long gone as he health risk of exposing yourself to air pollution far outweigh any health benefits from running. Something has to change and Twizy is that change.
“Twizy is not only an electric car but a whole new concept by itself. What Renault wants to offer is “4 wheels for the price of 2”, ie an alternative to 2 wheelers, with an incomparable level of safety and comfort. We do think there is a great expectation for this type of vehicle. The comparison with any microcar is irrelevant.,” continued Koskas.
Many point to the scooter as an already tailor made solution and of course the scooter is not going anywhere. But neither is the car, the Twizy is not a replacement for either of these but it looks to carve its very own, if rather substantial niche, in the car market. Probably the biggest advantages the Twizy has over its rivals is that it is current (no pun intended), that is, it’s available this year and the price puts it within reach of everyone. Indeed Twizy seeks to bring the outside inside the car, connecting the driver with their environment just as the two-wheeled vehicles do, but a helmet is not necessary for driving and safety is very much to the four with both seats fitted with four point seat belts and drivers airbag but you get the feeling that a collision with ay type of bigger vehicle and it is the Twizy that would come off the worst.
Twizy is meant for short to medium length urban journeys for one or two people. It comes with or without doors, but even with the doors you’re somewhat exposed to the elements. However an Italian company is now offering retrofitted windows for the Twizy that can give you a weather-proof bubble to scoot around in. The battery can be charged off a regular household supply in 3.5 hours and the car with battery included weighs in at 400 kg. This gives you a 100 km driving range, which can decrease due to gradient. That’s more than enough to get you around the city doing your daily errands it’s when you have to go out of the city that the Twizy may just be a stretch too far.
Ok, so Twizy may not be the viable long-term solution to our motor malaise but there is no silver bullet either. “It’s not the only solution but it’s clearly part of the solution, as it will enable to lower CO2 emissions and will also reduce local pollution. Traditional vehicles will remain in the market for a while, as it is today suitable for longer distances,” continued Koskas.
“The Twizy is meant for people making daily urban trips, that want to travel quickly and park easily and who are not so keen to use a scooter because it’s dangerous. It will also appeal to families, as a “joker car” to be used by all members of the household.”
But electric cars still have to get their power form somewhere right? And I can hear your brain cranking up in an effort to understand where exactly are the real emissions saving. Surely by charging the battery from your household supply you’re taking more energy from the grid, therefore increasing the carbon fuel burned to create that energy right? Not exactly. Although increased domestic electrical demands will have an effect on supply, the general bent these days is for sustainable energy forms and that will certainly be the case in the long term. Countries with well established nuclear energy networks such as France and Germany won’t have to change tack. Renault claims that the Twizy has a well-to-wheels carbon dioxide emissions of 62g/km, compared to about 87g/km for the lowest conventional car plus another 20 or so grams for the extraction, refining and distribution of the fuel.
The environment is not the only winner in this, the handing of the Twizy is spectacular and corners brilliantly. Tight city streets is this car’s natural habitat and it takes to them like a duck to water with a full turning circle of 3.3 metres. The Twizy is a design game-changer, something that come along and shifts our expectations. While yesteryear the Sinclair C5 was widely ridiculed it is now considered a collector’s item. Enthusiasts all over the world lament the panning of a vehicle that is now deemed visionary and ahead of it’s time. The Twizy on the other hand is a car absolutely of and for it’s time, a classic in the making.
by Hugo Mc Cafferty
Special thanks to Thierry Koskas, Director of the Electric Vehicle Program, Renault