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Renault Twizy crash test shows sustainable mobility needs to be safer

Tristan Honeywill

Part-car, part-motorbike and zero emissions, the Renault Twizy is the kind of vehicle that many expect to fill the streets of the world’s cities in the coming decade or so. Car companies are expecting there to be huge growth in these compact, efficient electric vehicles, officially classified as “heavy quadricycles” in the next few years. But can they cut it in the real world, where they must share the roads with trucks, vans, buses and cars?

The Renault Twizy crash test by Euro NCAP, using some pretty relaxed criteria, indicate that safety is not as good as it could be. The Renault Twizy, was the best of five models that were crashed, but it leads by a small margin against some pretty catastrophic competition.

Renault Twizy

Renault Twizy: still safer than a motorbike

The reason they perform so poorly is that quadricycles are not subject to the same legal requirements as cars. You don’t need a full driving licence to drive some. And although they have to fit seatbelts, not much is actually tested. Similarly, electronic stability control (ESC) is not a legal requirement on them. You definitely don’t want these things under-steering on a busy street corner.

It’s worth noting that the tests that Euro NCAP put these vehicles through were a lot less challenging than the ones that family cars undergo. Instead of crashing them at 64kmh (40mph), these tests were conducted at 50kmh (31mph).

quadricycle

Club Car Villager is road-legal, but offers little protection

Even so, a seatbelt broke on one of the vehicles. The seatbelt mount broke on another. One quadricycle folded in half.  The dummies were given a serious workout. Some people may point that some of these vehicles have top speeds of less than 50kmh. In real life, in a crash with something heavier, the change in speed that the vehicle and the people inside could be much greater than the top speed, however. Going from 45kmh to 10kmh in reverse in the time it takes to blink is going to hurt.

There are talks of even faster quadricycles in development as well. VW, BMW, Honda, Peugeot, Toyota, Nissan and General Motors have all indicated that they have plans for them in the pipeline. Tougher safety regulations would be a logical step to make and the EC is looking at different categories for these vehicles.

Looking at what’s currently available, I’d rather be in the Renault Twizy than any of the others: the Club Car Villager 2+2 LSV, the Tazzari ZERO and the Ligier IXO J LINE 4 Places.

Ligier ixo crash test

Ligier Ixo: not a proper car, says crash test dummy

I’m told that Renault did crash test the Twizy during development, but under slightly different test conditions. Apparently they’re pretty surprised how small changes in the test configuration completely changed the outcome. I’d also choose the Twizy over a motorbike or scooter. But for around £7,000, you can buy yourself a low-spec, low-cost city car. It would be safer.

I love the idea of personal mobility that’s silent, efficient and takes up less space on the road. Vehicles like the Renault Twizy have to be encouraged. We need visions for future mobility to focus less on personal mobility and think more about the traffic mix. A bit of vision in Europe’s transport policy and regulations would help. Making crash prevention technologies standard on all new vehicles seems more important than ever. A city where everybody can zip around without worrying about accidents? I’m in.

 

Comments

  1. Safety adds mass unless expensive materials are used.

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