Electric cars: do they have a future? That’s the big question for we petrolheads, but Renault clearly thinks the answer is a resounding ‘yes’. So say hello to the Twizy.
If you’ve seen photos of the Twizy before, you’ll be excused for scratching your head in bewilderment. Just what, exactly, is the Twizy?
Well, it definitely has four wheels, but it’s not a car. And while it can obviously carry two people, the driver and the rear passenger sit in tandem, rather than side-by-side.
But while it has a roof, like a car, it’s big negative — certainly in terms of the British weather — is the fact it doesn’t have any doors.
Ok, you can buy the £545 ‘optional doors’, but they only cover the bottom half of the door space, leaving the top half open to the elements.
Visions of a dark late-January morning with the temperatures well below zero; or a mid-October afternoon with the autumnal winds and driving rain as you head home from the office, generally don’t make the Twizy sound an attractive proposition.
But let’s move on positively. Rather than handlebars, thankfully the Twizy has a steering wheel.
It is, to all intents, a quadricycle: but unlike any quad bike I’ve ever been on, it’s fitted with airbags and disc brakes, and is far more sophisticated than you might expect.
In terms of safety, it’s best you adopt a motorcyclist’s mentality when driving the Twizy: be seen. There’s very little front crumple zone back and front, and you certainly don’t want to consider the results of a side impact.
This isn’t a ‘car’ in which you’d leave yourself exposed to oncoming traffic as you jostle for position when entering a roundabout, or leaving a junction, as most driver tend to do nowadays.
But is it any good? Without question, yes. If you can cope with the fact you’re going to be ogled at every time you take to the road in the Twizy, it will happily substitute for a full-size car for just about any driver-only local journey.
In fact, it’ll probably do the job for any driver-passenger journey, just as long as your passenger is nimble enough to get into the rear seat easily enough.
One of the things which strikes you immediately about the Twizy is how narrow it is. At just 1.4 metres wide and 2.33m long, you could stretch your arms wider than the width of the Renault.
And that width takes a bit of getting used to. Anyone who has spent time on a moped will instantly feel at home, and probably at least appreciate the roof.
The biggest problem, of course, with all electric cars is their range. Who wants to run out of electricity, with two passengers and two kids in a car after just 80 miles?
And this is where the Twizy really scores. Because of its very nature — it will spend its life covering short urban journeys — it has an inbuilt safety margin when it comes to range.
Renault says a full charge is good enough for 60 miles. Let’s face it, if you’re nipping three miles into the office or the shops on a daily basis, one charge a week is all you’re going to need.
Expect to take around 12 hours to fully charge the car if you’re using a normal domestic electricity supply: plug it in at night, unplug in the morning, and off you go.
Probably helps if you have off-street parking, unless you can trust your neighbours not to go playing with the recharging cable. There is, of course, the option that you could upgrade your power supply and reduce the recharge time to four hours.
The combination of a17hp electric motor, combined with Twizy’s weight of 475kg, means it’s no slouch. With a top speed of 50mph, it’ll scamper from standstill to 28mph in 6.1secs: perfect for keeping pace with city centre traffic.
Plus, thanks to its size, you’ll be able to nip in and out of spaces you couldn’t ever consider in a car. It is the perfect town commuter … as long as the sun shines.
Sure, you might find a bit of jarring when the Twizy meets with a decent-sized pothole, but because it’s so manoeuvrable, you’ll quickly find yourself instantly steering round them.
The lack of ‘complete’ doors apart, there are some additional drawbacks. Storage is limited — there’s a lockable compartment behind the driver’s seat large enough to encase a laptop — there’s no heater or radio, and you have to pay 45 quid a month to lease the battery. That monthly cost is in addition to the purchase price of £6990.
Renault’s innovative approach to electric vehicles, in the shape of the Twizy, means it has has every reason to be a success.
Ok, it may struggle for sales in the UK, simply because of the weather handicaps, but can you imagine going on holiday to some sun-kissed island and hiring one for the day to go sight-seeing: brilliant.
It’s the electric car which has put other manufacturers in a tiz: the Twizy is definitely going to be around for a long time. It’s ace.