What’s hot: Fantastic fun, as ‘green’ as a lentil burger, has a roof and seatbelts (unlike a scooter).
What’s not: It can’t be registered... yet. (Time to wake up your local member).
X-FACTOR: Our regulators clearly haven’t recognised it, but here, in the Twizy, is the future of urban personal transport.
Engine/trans: 13kW/57Nm Synchronous AC electric motor | 1spd auto
Fuel consumption: 0.0 l/100km
Just been driving the Renault Twizy. It’s electric, seats two line-astern, has a maximum range of 80km and is as unusual and appealing as is its name.
It’s appealing for a whole bunch of reasons.
One, it’s fun to drive. Doesn’t matter that it’s never going to hit highway speeds - it’s for the cut and thrust of innercity streets - and is zippy in the way a small scooter is zippy.
Two, it’s electric, incredibly efficient, and has the tiniest of tiny environmental footprints. It takes just 3.5 hours to fully charge on a 10amp plug.
And three, a point that is clearly not apparent to some (as in ‘some’ in Government service), is how friggin’ sensible this little machine is.
Imagine if vehicles like this - of this size, and with this tiny green EV footprint - were running round our city streets.
And imagine, if you can, that we had governments and regulators and road planners with the wit to recognise that in vehicles like Renault’s Twizy are solutions.
How much pressure would be lifted from existing road infrastructure if commuters in numbers drove such vehicles?
Perhaps, it’s entirely possible, we would not then need more roads after all, and we’d discover that there are other answers to fixing a roads system that seems forever always five years behind.
Whether you are interested in the Twizy is nearly irrelevant, because plenty are; and we'd all benefit.
Renault has sold more than 13,000 Twizys in Europe. No problem. There, regulators recognise that the thrall of the conventional car is killing cities, stifling the life out of them.
And why would those European jurisdictions not approve it?
The Twizy has a maximum range of 80km, can hit 80km/h if pressed (but is designed for lower city-street speeds), has driver airbag protection, four-point harness and disc brakes all round.
But here Renault can’t get the Twizy approved for registration under Australia’s Road Vehicle Certification System (RCVS), administered by the Federal Department of Infrastructure.
The RVCS requires that vehicles sold into the Australian market meet prescribed safety standards specified in Australian Design Rules (the ADRs), which, in turn, are overseen by the Vehicle Safety Standards Branch (VSS).
There is a long line of bureaucrats there.
Too long for the Twizy, classified a ‘quadricycle’, to make it through.
Speaking to Fairfax media last month about the refusal to grant approval to the Twizy, a Department spokesman said that “before changing the legislative framework to make special provisions for quadricycles, the Government would need to be assured that in collisions with other vehicles, the occupants of quadricycles would be afforded at least the minimum level of protection expected of passenger cars.”
Does a scooter afford “the minimum level of protection expected of passenger cars”, or a motorcycle, or a pushbike?
And what of the broader picture?
Would our roads be in fact safer, our cities cleaner, the quality of our lives enhanced, if commuters in numbers were encouraged to leave the car in the garage and drove instead vehicles like the Twizy.
It must be that it can’t be put in a conventional box, that the Twizy confounds the regulators.
Renault’s Twizy is a message from the future to the past.
It sits outside the box and challenges all those snuffling bureaucrats in the Department of Infrastructure, and elsewhere, that there are more definitions to safety than will be discovered against a large concrete block.
And, quite likely, creative solutions to personal transport like the Twizy may also provide creative solutions to improved safety on the roads.
The world has changed. But too quickly, it would appear, for some.
There’s not much interior at all. Flip up the gull-wing doors, slide in, and, for elbow room, you’ll be reminded of the last time you sat in a cardboard box. (Each to their own...)
Perversely, though snug, it feels surprisingly ‘right’. Like a well-fitted suit.
There is, in fact, room for the elbows, the windscreen doesn’t feel like it’s encroaching, and the footwell with the brake and accelerator is like any other.
You’ll also find a firm driver’s seat - that could maybe do with bit more padding - and, just behind, a firmer passenger seat that could definitely do with a bit more padding.
The rear seat is a tad more awkward to access (though we fitted a well-fed six-footer there), and the passenger sits legs akimbo, with the knees each side of the driver’s seat.
It’s a bit like pillion on a motorcycle.
There is not much in the way of storage space, a glovebox on each side of the steering wheel, and the rear seat (or the passenger’s lap).
ON THE ROAD
How much fun is this? On the closed Metec driver training centre in Melbourne’s outer ‘burbs, we saw 81km/h on the clock.
At that speed, the Twizy begins swallowing its electric charge, but it feels quite remarkably stable even on the choppy surface of the training centre.
It also pulls up pretty well. There is no power assistance, or none that we could detect, but the four-wheel discs have no trouble washing speed off the tiny Twizy.
In reality though, it does its best work at 60km/h. Then, while hardly the last word in comfort, the go-kart suspension can absorb corrugations and broken tarmac without transferring them through to the seats of the occupants.
And a bit of absorbing is necessary as the seat base hardly qualifies as ‘padding’ - especially in the rear.
Front and back, it’s more like a scooter seat - does the job, is better than a wooden bench, but not for a really long drive.
In fact, the scooter comparison is never far away with anything the Twizy does.
The whole show weighs just 474kg, and it’s only 2.3 metres long and 1.2 metres wide. You can get, apparently, three Twizys into a conventional parking bay.
With a 50-80km range, most innercity commuters would have no trouble getting to and fro the desk, or making a quick evening dash into the CBD for dinner for two.
The little steering wheel is perfect, and the getting in and out through the gull-wing doors is no trouble. (And, in case you’re wondering, there are clip-in side curtains should the weather turn ‘Melbourne-ish’.)
The Twizy is kind-of brilliant. It’s neither fast nor slow, but doesn’t have to be anything, because driving it is such fun.
And in driving it, you simply can’t help but feel that this little EV - that runs on the whiff of a power-point - provides so many solutions to so many of the issues that bedevil modern cities, personal transport and urban living.
And it looks great - there is a puppy charm about its lines that will win you over the moment you clap eyes on it.
This is the kind of vehicle that everyone should have as ‘the second car’.
And leave the SUV, and all the energy it burns, and all the roads it clutters, and all the metal and glass and polymers it consumes in construction, leave the SUV at home and drive the Twizy to work.
Might be time to give your local member a heads-up. Here’s how you find them: http://www.aph.gov.au/Senators_and_Members/Parliamentarian_Search_Results