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Twizy EV: More Than Skateboard, Less Than Car
NY Times reporter Serge Schmemann tries out Renault brusque little electric runabout in Paris but comes away not entirely impressed.
NDTV 25 Nov 2012
PARIS - The Renault Twizy is one of those vehicles you instinctively want to like. The tiny electric two-seater is virtuous (zero emissions), quirky (people sure look at you) and entertaining to tool around in. It wants to be patted, played with and praised. But after buzzing around the boulevards for a couple of days, it became clear to me that to like the Twizy, I first had to figure out what it was.
That's not easy. Sure, it was fun to drive. And easy: push in the hand brake, turn the key, wait for it to go through a brief start-up ritual, push the D (or R) button and nudge the pedal.
The Twizy was designed by Renault Sport Technologies, the hot-rodding division of Renault, so even though the 13-kilowatt (17 horsepower) motor provides the acceleration of a 125 cc scooter, the steering is taut, the center of gravity is low and the contraption is surprisingly composed through turns.
There's no inside rearview mirror (there's no rear window), but given that the vehicle is only marginally wider than the driver, the side mirrors give a good sense of the neighborhood, allowing for some deft weaving through traffic. I found that drivers who would normally try to kill me when I darted in front of them seemed prepared to cut me some slack in the Twizy, possibly because they feared that an unidentified driving object like this might be armed with laser guns.
Around town, the governed top speed of 50 miles per hour was enough, and even on the Boulevard Peripherique, the multilane ring road, I generally held my own.
But the fact is, whatever positive things I imagined saying about the Twizy as I hummed around in it were immediately followed by "But..."
It is emphatically not a car. In France, whence it comes, it is classified as a quadricycle, which means you can't take it on the autoroute superhighway. That eliminates several suburbs from which one might want to commute, as well as quick trips to the airport or to Disneyland Paris.
Not that there'd be any room for any purchases or luggage - storage consists of two glove compartments and a hole behind the "back seat." That seat is actually a scooterlike perch behind the driver, requiring the passenger to straddle the front seat.
The driver, I must add, best have dental fillings firmly glued in, given a suspension that faithfully transmits every contour of the cobblestones below and a seat minimally slathered with padding. Hey, Renault Sport doesn't do soft.
Doors are optional, for 590 euros ($755). I had them, but they were really a bar with a Plexiglas sheet down below and nothing up above.
I confess it was sort of fun to drive with both elbows hanging over the sides, but then the weather was nice. Along with the absence of windows, there's also no heater, no air-conditioning, no radio, no power anything - only a bare-bones pod that shows roughly how fast, or how slow, you're going; how much juice you have left; and whether you're in D, N or R.
The driving range on a full charge is about 60 kilometers (37 miles), after which you need to plug in the Twizy for three and a half hours.
Where to plug it in is, of course, the universal problem as battery-powered cars come of age. Twizys (Twizies?) have a normal European 220-volt plug, which is good if you have a garage. The town hall of each of the 20 arrondissements, or districts, has a pair of outlets for electric cars. I dutifully plugged in my Twizy overnight outside the mairie of the 5th arrondissement, by the Pantheon, but when I got in the next morning the meter hadn't budged. I have no doubt I did something wrong, so I will not hold this against the, um, quadricycle.
Quadri, yes, but cycle, no.
Bicycles, scooters and motorcycles are fixtures on the streets here, and young people moving up from these are the most logical market for the Twizy. But the allure of a scooter is that it can zigzag through urban traffic, can be parked almost anywhere and is cheap. The Twizy fails on all three counts.
Narrow as it is, the Twizy cannot squeeze between cars stuck in a traffic jam, and though it is less than eight feet long and only four feet wide and can turn on a dime, it still requires a real, paid parking spot. And its price, starting at about 7,690 euros ($9,800) without doors (and batteries, which are leased), is more than double that of the basic Vespa scooter, which starts here at 3,690 euros ($4,720).
(There's a cheaper Twizy with a 4-kilowatt, or 5 horsepower, motor that can be driven without a license, but that's really another story.)
Renault has said that it has no plans to offer Twizys in the United States, a market the company abandoned in 1987.
Why would anyone buy a vehicle that combines the disadvantages of a car and a scooter? Evidently, many people are asking the same question, which is why you don't see many Twizys here. That may change as power outlets for electric cars proliferate, but by then there will undoubtedly be many other urban runabouts to choose from.
So what is it? Well, in the end, it's a statement. Renault went out of its way to make the Twizy completely different from anything else on the road. The whole point is to get people to ask questions and to proclaim that the all-electric revolution is upon us - and that Renault is there at the starting line.
In fact, Renault makes two other electric vehicles, the Fluence Z.E. (for zero emissions) sedan and the Kangoo Z.E., a mini delivery van, and a compact car, the Zoe, is on the way. But none of those stand out like the Twizy.
No, I wouldn't buy one, and I wouldn't recommend one. But I did enjoy the smiles, the pointed fingers, the questions and the novelty.
Guardian Reviews Renault Twizy Electric Runabout
The Twizy's 17bhp electric engine has a top speed of 50mph and a range of 30-65 miles, but would likely be illegal in America.
Guardian/UK 22 Jul 2012
The first time I saw Renault's Twizy – a sort of stubby Shetland pony of a car, dressed in garish Versace disco wear for good measure – was on a test track in the countryside outside Milton Keynes. Parked up among a fleet of dignified, soon-to-be-launched premium cars it seemed as incongruous as seeing a beach buggy on the M4. Yes, it had four wheels, an engine and a steering wheel, but that's where the similarity ended. It is a car, but not as we know it. Maybe it was to do with the context: the Twizy is, after all, at the cutting edge of modern urban transport. But then last week I was in Paris and saw a pair of them powering across the cobbles outside the Gare du Nord and… well, they still looked like the Double-take Brothers.
Like many things ahead of their time, the electric Twizy seems curiously simplistic, even backwards. It looks sci-fi, but only in a kitsch, 70s way. It's a scooter for people who like cars, or a car for people who love scooters. Old Mods, maybe. The Twizy… hang on, let's pause here for a moment. Twizy! Are you thinking about a turkey twizzler? Or a Twix? Could it be a play on whizzy – a whizzy Twizy? I can't decide if it's inspired or ridiculous. A bit like the car itself, in fact.
The Twizy has two comfortable seats which are arranged in tandem, so your passenger sits behind you. The driver clunk- clicks with a four-point seatbelt before confronting a traditional steering wheel and a digital display showing speed, battery charge and range. It's very straightforward to use. Turn it on, release the parking brake, depress the accelerator and you're off. It's driving at its purest and least complicated.
The 17bhp electric engine has a top speed of 50mph and a range of 30-65 miles, depending on how you drive. It then takes about three hours to fully recharge – about as long as it takes to enjoy a leisurely French lunch.
Returning to the car from lunch, you won't have to trouble yourself with opening a door to climb in, checking you've locked the boot or even that you've remembered to shut the windows as the Twizy doesn't trouble itself with these road-going necessities. You can opt for a pair of doors (an extra £545), but you still won't get windows. Perhaps better to invest in a branded Renault water-resistant blanket (£110) – known as a jupe (skirt) in France – and, instead of a boot, a leisure bag for £95. If that all sounds a bit bleak, start up the Twizy and it will soon win you over.
The electric motor whines gently, press the accelerator and it lurches into life. At first, the ride feels alarmingly firm on its hard little wheels, but as you pick up speed, the timorous beastie comes into its own. The steering is so direct and immediate it feels as if you're in an animated go-kart that's jumped out of the screen and soon you're whooping and swooping through tiny spaces and roaring away from traffic lights.
Despite being totally open, it feels planted and secure, though how it would fare in a smash I wouldn't like to guess. It's the most fun you'll have had in a tiny, two-seat, bootless, doorless electric car – since the last time you went on the dodgems.
AutoCar Test Drives Twizy Electric Runabout
£7,000 electric two-seater, designed for use in urban ecosystems, has top speed of 50 mph and range up to 60 miles.
AutoCar/UK 09 Aug 2011
Renault’s Twizy isn’t a type of vehicle I’ve driven before – or indeed any of us have driven before. It’s just over two metres long and one wide, has unassisted steering, skinny 125/80 R13 front tyres and 145/80s at the back. And it’s powered by batteries.
The nearest comparison is BMW’s C1 scooter-with-a-roof, but the Twizy has a steering wheel and foot-operated accelerator and brakes. Car drivers will feel at home. I’m strapped in by a combination of a conventional seatbelt and an additional diagonal belt from the other side of the vehicle. There are no doors on these prototypes, but the production cars will be available either with simple beams that open and close, or beams with lower panels to keep spray out.
What’s it like?
Top speed from the 20bhp electric motor is 50mph. That’s enough for a vehicle that’s likely to be used exclusively in towns, as is the claimed range of 60 miles. All-up weight, including batteries, is 450kg. Driven solo, the Twizy’s acceleration feels sprightly, and quicker to the senses than it probably is in physical terms, if only because of the open sides and the directness of all the controls.
The gung-ho Renault test driver we’re following flings his Twizy into the first corner. I do the same, preparing to lean to counteract any two-wheeling. Instead, there’s a fair bit of understeer; with 100kg of batteries under the driver’s backside and barely any weight higher than a couple of feet up, the Twizy swoops around corners.
The track we’re on is super-smooth but the unsprung weight should be low, so ride quality on more challenging surfaces is likely to be good. These really are prototypes with crude plastic panels not properly attached to the Twizy’s frame; there’s a bit of banging and crashing from them that should be gone by the time proper production parts are used.
Should I buy one?
Renault claims it has received four times more interest in the Twizy than it has in its conventional EVs. The beauty of the Twizy, apart from its sense of fun, is that it doesn’t try to be anything other than an urban runabout. There won’t be tales of Twizys running out of juice on motorways because no one will try to use one for over-ambitious journeys.
The Twizy isn’t the only electric car that I’ve enjoyed driving, but it’s the only one I could imagine owning. Just for the fun of it.
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