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Renault pushes for a new category for its Twizy electric runabout but there is a query on quadricycle safety.
Renault’s Australian arm has put its two-seater Twizy electric vehicle on what it calls a “long road" to establish a new vehicle category here. The French brand is seeking a quadricycle classification, as is the case in Europe, that does not require its personal mobility device to conform to passenger vehicle safety standards.
The company argues that the Twizy performs similar duty to an electric scooter but with a much-greater level of safety. Renault Australia managing director Justin Hocevar says the Twizy has to be driven locally to be understood. He describes "a unique, imaginative and exciting view of future personal mobility" in increasingly congested cities.
Three Twizys can fit on a standard car parking space and the vehicle can be charged overnight from a standard household socket, he says. The Twizy has been on sale in Europe for two years. Renault's local arm wants to show its capabilities to legislators, industry associations, transport authorities and the public.
There are some Renault electric light-commercial vans on test on the Australia Post fleet. The maker also has conducted hot-weather testing on its Zoe small car. Corporate communications manager Emily Fadeyev says the Twizy program is in the "early, early stages ... you need to see it to understand it".
Renault started the process at last weekend's Hunter electric vehicle festival in Newcastle and it has an EV specialist approaching federal and state authorities to create a quadricycle category. The four-wheel Twizy has disc brakes, with a protective cell around its two passengers (there are optional "scissor" doors) as well as an airbag and four-point harness for the driver. The rear passenger has a conventional three-point seat belt.
Weighing 450kg, the Twizy can reach 80km/h. Its lithium-ion battery, which is recharged when decelerating or via a normal power socket in just under four hours, powers a 13kW/57Nm electric motor. Maximum range is 100km though the real-world figures are more like 55km-80km. Among its chief attractions is the ability to go from A to B in the open and without a helmet.
Crash testing authority Euro NCAP tested four "heavy quadricycles" earlier this year as part of what it called "a special safety campaign". It found "all vehicles have performed very poorly and some have shown serious risks of life threatening injuries".
NCAP logged "dangerously high" forces acting on the head and neck of occupants and poor leg protection, particular near the driver's knees. The safety body chief Michiel van Ratingen concedes crash tests for quadricycles are not required by law and they have nowhere near the level of safety of a regular passenger car.
Euro NCAP has called on makers and legislators to ensure a minimum level of crash safety for this vehicle segment. It's not the first time the safety body and the French maker have clashed. Renault was the first maker to achieve a five-star NCAP rating - with its Laguna 13 years ago but is bringing its Captur small SUV to market without rear side airbags.
The Captur got five stars in its crash test but the side-impact tests summay says: 'In the side barrier test, protection of the chest was adequate and that of other body regions was good.
"However, in the more severe side pole test, dummy readings of rib compression indicated weak protection of the chest and marginal protection of the abdomen."Using different criteria, Australian NCAP is likely to give the Captur four stars.