08 March 2013


From time to time, I enjoy posting about new transportation hardware ~ cars or motorcycles that morph into airplanes, or vehicles of unusual design, shape, size, or propulsion.  That was the subject of a segment on last night's NBC Nightly News ~ a microcompact car made by Renault, called the Twizy (above, click image to enlarge).  It was the top-selling plug-in electric car in Europe in 2012, and comes in two power plant options ~ a 4 kW, 5 horsepower model whose top speed is 28 mph, and a 13 kW, 17 horsepower model whose top speed is 50 mph.  The maximum range is 62 miles.

When you view the video, your first impression may be, "that's just plain silly".  The vehicle is only 8 feet long, 4 feet wide, and 5 feet high.  It carries two people ~ the driver in front, and a very cramped passenger (or cargo) in the back.  Yet as an urban commute vehicle, it is nimble, quiet, and may be parked in a space so small it would normally only accommodate a motorcycle.  The Twizy looks like a fun experience, especially on European streets.

I have no information on vehicle safety, but just looking at it, one's impression is that a crash would leave a Twizy occupant seriously injured or dead.  Renault says that the car's design and construction are safety-friendly, but I suspect it is no match for a vehicle almost as tiny, the Smart car, which runs on a conventional engine.  Even a motorcycle might be safer, with its superb maneuverability and greater power.

Still, the Twizy's popularity means that many drivers find that it matches their modest needs.  As more car makers present more designs for greener, non-polluting vehicles, the challenge remains coming up with a design that affords higher speeds and greater driving range for the wide open driving spaces of the American highway system.

On the Twizy, windows (and even doors) are optional.

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