Would you Twizy ?

A little off topic tonight, but hopefully not too far.

One of the things I used to talk about on my old blog was a concept I called GPEC. I am not going to discuss it again here, but basically it is a measure that I suggest government economic policy should be judged by. GPEC is an acronym for sustainable Growth, Productivity, Employment and social Calm.

One of the topics I talked about in regards to GPEC was the fact that foreign sourced resources tend to be a negative because fluctuations in prices were not able to be responsively controlled for in the local economy . Oil is one of those resources that fits this bill. Australia is a net importer of oil and the petrol price chart tells the rest of the story.

The growth in imports and the higher price of oil is obviously a growing financial burden on the Australian populace and economy, but it also is a social issue because petrol is required disproportionally across the socio-economic spectrum.

Previously I have suggested that I thought the government should investigate ways to lower our reliance on oil, such as investigating the potential of using local energy sources and supporting research and development into electric vehicles and electric vehicle power distribution. The issue is obviously two fold. Firstly the power source itself. I am certainly not an energy expert, but it has been suggested earlier to me by readers that gas turbine technology is a potential candidate for the Australian market place.

The second issue is obviously the vehicles themselves, which is what I want to discuss today. My feeling about electric vehicles until recently is that they have simply been a case of trying to do a like-for-like replacement from a petrol/diesel to electric engine(s). Yes, there have been some hybrids but in my opinion, they suffer from the same issues. None of these has really worked because people have expectation about how a “car” should perform and be priced and pure electric cars do not match those expectations. In my opinion what is really required is a vehicle that provides niche advantages over standard cars that incentivise people to slowly make the change, but people will not attempt to compare to a petrol/diesel car because it is obviously not one. The obvious market to start with in this regard is the inner-city or park-and-ride commuter.

Bring on the Renault Twizy.

The vehicle has 15kW, 57Nm electric motor powered by a lithium-ion battery with a range of 97Km and top speed of 76km/h on a 3 1/2 charge from a domestic powerpoint. It is about to go on sale in Europe with a price of Euro 7690 with a battery lease of Euro 49 a month. Given that many people at my work have $6000 bicycles that price seems cheap to me considering the features.

Clearly this vehicle is made for  inner-city motoring, the Twizy seats two in a tandem arrangement, is a mere 2.32m long and 1.19m wide. It has a deformable body; obviously is 4 wheeled; has lateral beams either side of the chassis; a driver’s airbag; a four-point harness at the front and a three-point safety belt at the rear. As occupants are protected and held in place, they are under no requirement to wear any sort of protective gear.

You can imagine that a small-footprint platform vehicle has the potential to change the way inner-city infrastructure could work, but that is for the future.

The real question for now is would you buy one? I know I would.

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  1. I’m sure it’d find success as a niche product in Australia at that price, but i think it is unlikely to be a hit with the masses. $7700 euros is $10.5k and for that much you can pretty much buy a new Hyundai or Proton or something with AC/Heating, 4 seats, higher top speed etc.

    I suspect part of the problem is that the majority of Australians aren’t inner city dwellers or park and ride commuters. The vast majority of urban Australians live in the suburbs and commute by car on fairly high speed roads.

    The two electric car approaches I think are worth keeping an eye on are the Chevy Volt, which basically operates as a plug in electric car with generator backup, and the swappable electric car network like Better Place is rolling out. Supposing the price is right, they are both pretty close to perfect substitutes for conventional cars.

  2. Sandgroper Sceptic

    Would I buy one? Not now but that is due to personal life circumstances.

    Nice design. When I did live in the inner city I either had no car (amazingly liberating) or when the family size became 3, ran a small petrol car that did less than 5000kms a year.

    Now I need something bigger than this to replace my one burbs car, it needs to seat 4, have plenty of safety features and a range of at least 100km. The Nissan LEAF is the first EV I have seen that fits those requirements. If I owned one I would no longer have to pay petrol taxes, spend time filling up my car with petrol, save one car service a year (no motor oil etc) is a sweet list of bonuses. Electric motors can literally last for a million kms…signicantly longer than their sulky petrol brothers.

    If the LEAF is priced ok then it is a goer, $50k+ is not cricket but $30k sure.

    The fact that Australia imports 80% of its oil should scare the crap out of so called leaders. If that stopped tomorrow or was drastically reduced for some reason we would be absolutely toast. Australia needs to be thinking about how we change our reliance on that scarce oil, especially as most of that imported oil is used for transport. Never mind personal transport but what about all those trucks I see everywhere taking food to the stores?

  3. @Sandgroper Sceptic

    I am working in Oil and gas sector here in Australia. Thanks to Obama blocking new drilling in US all petrol companies are coming here in Australia to tap our reserves (There goes our environment). As we supply 20% of our needs from 5% of explored and taped oil when they start drilling (Darwin area) we will have About 200% of Australia needs from explored wells only….. Nice picture though that Reno is… I bet they will sell 20pcs in Australia max. You can’t put surf board in that car so it will never become unemployed bogan legend. It lacks roof racks at least 🙂

  4. That is one ugly vehicle. If your single I hope you wish to stay that way. If your married it would be grounds for divorce.

  5. Doubt I’d buy one, I’d feel to ‘exposed’ and there are too many large 4WD and utes on the roads up here (and they always seem to be in a hurry).

    Given our dependance on foreign oil, I often wonder why we don’t have more cars running on natural gas in Australia. Must be easier to put it into tankers and sell overseas.

  6. I think it looks ok, but agree with arescarti42 that the price is a put off.

    I recall talk of $3000 cars being produced in India, they should be able to get the price of this one down a bit.

  7. Love the car. I wouldn’t buy that one, even though I do live in the inner city. It seems little more than a 4-wheeled electric motorbike. Why not just ride a motorbike? Or a bike if you have such short commutes?

    I disagree with this point – “…foreign sourced resources tend to be a negative because fluctuations in prices were not able to be responsively controlled for in the local economy”

    But for any global commodity resource, the price is set on global markets, and domestic producers will always sell at that price. For example, if we very quickly become an oil net exporter as slob suggests we might, these new producers will still sell at the global price. And if the global price fluctuates wildly, there is nothing we can do about it (save for nationalisation of oil wells).

    This is of course one of the concerns many people hold over ‘free trade’. Just like locally we can see monopolistic behaviour due to market structures, we can get the same thing happen globally when one large country trades with a smaller one.

    The smaller one then becomes greatly influenced by the actions of the larger one, either by their demand for a product in determining the price, or their own domestic policy (if you are thinking China here you are one the right track. Although many small nations have held this concern about trade agreements with the US in the past few decades).

    So I’m not sure producing more oil improves stability at all. My gut feeling is that diversity of industry improves stability, so that changes to one sector are always limited by its share of the economy. Hence, quarry australia, where mining becomes, say 25%, of our domestic production, would leave us in a very volatile situation.

    • Thanks Cameron..

      > I disagree with this point – “…foreign sourced resources tend to be a negative because fluctuations in prices were not able to be responsively controlled for in the local economy”

      There are a couple of caveats around that statement which this article obviously was not focussed on.

      Firstly, I said “tend to” which means that this is not always the case.

      Secondly, my point about stability in the case of oil is one of politics. We have seen wild fluctuations in the oil price due to political instability and security of production. If Australia was able to produce its energy needs based on a locally sourced resource then this could be mitigated somewhat.

      Thirdly, in regards to price I agree with you about “world pricing”, however I do believe the “nationalisation” of resources is something that we should be debating a bit more ( maybe for another post )

      However, if resources are produced locally then the country has the ability to gain wealth from the supply chain and in the case of energy, a productive asset, could incentivise ( via fiscal policy ) investment. In that way, even if prices did fluctuated the economy would be buffered from it via economic returns. None of this is possible if you are not the source country.

  8. I’ve long contended that the typical family garage should contain:

    a 4 dour hatchback (e.g Jazz/Focus/i35) for the ‘stay at home’ parent to do all the shopping, kid lifting etc, but get 6L per 100km. These modern TARDIS type vehicles can pretty much do everything, and at less than $25K

    a 250cc scooter for the commuting parent, getting 2L per 100km, but able to do over 80kmh.

    Allow lane splitting like in Europe (or at least remove the ambiguity) – your commute time will at least half. Modern wet weather gear (Goretex etc) can stave off the cold and wet days and can double up for more outdoors pursuits (hiking etc)

    Hire a 4WD for those weekends away – there’s next to no economic point in owning one full time unless its a critical part of your work.

    I do all the above (but I ride a 1200cc motorbike, because I’m a motorbike fan, but if I didn’t a scooter is fine) and our fuel bill is negligible and the cost of owning our vehicles is extremely low….

    The only electric vehicle on my radar is the Lotus Elise inspired Tesla. But then you will get arrested if you drive it properly on our ridiculously policed roads, but that’s another debate…..

    • Thanks Prince.

      My real interest in the vehicle is more about the platform that the actual vehicle itself.

      From the comments it seems that this isn’t going to fly in Oz yet. I suspect it will do ok in Europe, but in that case they may be asking the reverse question. Why would I buy this and not a bicycle ?

      But I am reminded that I owned an apple newton in 1994. At the time everyone I knew couldn’t understand why anyone would want such a device because they couldn’t see the use. That particular product died, replace by others along the same line, all of which failed but the platform evolved.

      That evolution of “platform” has now led to today, where you have to line up for hours to get your hands on an iPad when they launch. Admittedly there were also big advances in other supporting technologies, but I assume the same will be the case with electric vehicles.

  9. The key for electric cars is not the size and cost but the charging. Just plugging it into your garage for 8 hour is flawed.

    The next phase of development will be petrol stations where the electric car battery will be changed – 1 minute in and out. Once this happens there will be more electric car usage.

    As a Melburnian I’m a public transport/bicycle/rent a car for the weekend man.

    • So if there was a “swap-out” facility available where you could change over you battery in a minute or 2, then would this change your mind ?

      As I stated in my post, the issue with the introduction of any vehicle is that people have “car” expectations.

      • the critical flaw with this one IMO is the top speed, less than 80km/h just isnt suitable for our roads. Even in inner Sydney there are 80km/h zones so these things would be a menace.

        Personally i hardly drive anyway, less than 8000km per year at the moment. So even owning a 4WD means that petrol isnt the dominant cost for me, rego and insurance is.

        Having to pay individual registration on multiple cars is a real annoyance for me. I’d love to have the 4WD, a little electric city car and a fast plaything but having to register and insure them all is a pain.

  10. I wouldn’t buy one. Some basic arithmetic leads one to the conclusion that minus crude oil (a mathematical inevitability, not a theory) there isn’t enough energy available to run motor vehicle fleets the size and distance which they presently run.

    “Biofuels”? Don’t make me laugh, a net energy loser and wastes valuable resources (arable land) which should be used to grow food. The generating capacity isn’t there for a switch to an entirely electric fleet (never mind sourcing the lithium salts for the batteries), and gas (LNG or LPG) ain’t gonna happen either. The industry claims of “hundreds of years” of reserves are missing the very important caveat – at current levels of consumption.

    The failure to comprehend the true meaning of exponential growth of consumption of a finite resource is the biggest political failing of this generation. Here it is in very simple terms than even a maths numpty like myself can follow: http://albartlett.org/presentations/arithmetic_population_energy_video1.html Watch it all, it’s enlightening stuff.

    If the segment of oil consumption/production in the videos doesn’t convinces the “drill baby, drill” crowd (probably nothing will anyway), then have a read of this: http://cluborlov.blogspot.com/2010/11/peak-oil-is-history.html

    Enjoy! 🙂

    • Forget encouraging innovation and new technologies, let’s just continue business as usual!

      Shortsighted viewpoint.

      • Err Jason, if you comprehended my comment, rather than just read it, you’d see that I’m saying that BAU is probably the last thing we (the human race in general that is, this ain’t happening next week or year, or maybe your lifetime so don’t be buying gold and stocking a bunker with bottled water and canned tuna) will be continuing.

        I actually own a battery electric vehicle (sadly it’s a scooter rather than the motorcycle I would have preferred, and I’ve just let the rego lapse because it needs new batteries (again) and it’s not worth the cost). Apart from brushless permanent magnet DC motors (which my scooter doesn’t have), there’s not much that’s innovative about EV’s.

        Even the best present battery technology (LiFePO4) is not that fantastic, mainly better chemistry than the sulphuric acid and lead in your car battery. The General Motors EV1 battery electric car of the mid 1990’s was brilliantly executed, using an AC induction motor and other neat features, but AC induction motors are not practical for small vehicles due to the high input voltages required. Plus there are inefficiencies involved with converting DC to AC.

        Anyway, my point was, and still is, that the energy density of crude oil cannot be underestimated. It is not possible to replace, or even come close to replacing it with “technology” or “innovation”, the maths just doesn’t add up.

        There is 9.7kWh of energy in one litre of regular unleaded petrol. Visualize 1l of ULP. That’s more energy than is contained in the Twizy’s 100kg battery pack (claimed 7kWh). Here’s a more detailed comparison http://www.hybridcars.com/electric-cars/power-of-pump.html

        Gonna need a whole lot of innovation to replace that ULP.

        If you, like Jack down below, think hydrogen will save us, sorry to burst your bubble, but it’s a worse net energy loser than growing crops for ethanol production. After you’ve wasted the energy separating the hydrogen atoms from their oxygen friends, you’ll have fun storing it at between 5,000-10,000psi. In liquid form it leaks away at a rate of about 1% per day.

        Fuel cells? Not likely, fueled by a net energy loser like hydrogen? Fueled by a net energy loser like methanol?

        There are some projects which can synthesize crude oil from cellulose material but whether that can be scaled up or is a net energy loser or not remains to be seen.

        If you read the Club Orlov posting, you’ll see there’s two options:

        “When faced with insufficient domestic oil production, an industrialized country has but two choices:

        1. Import oil

        2. Collapse

        But when faced with insufficient global oil production, an industrialized planet has just one choice: Choice Number 2.”

        I think perhaps the greatest irony of your comment is that you criticize me for praising crude oil, yet in the same statement you infer that “innovation” and “new technologies” will let you continue “business as usual”. The simple fact is that all the clean and green in the world can’t replace the stinky and dirty which gives you access to the business as usual you love so much. 🙂

  11. Looks good, however how exactly do you secure it against theft while left on the street? 😕

  12. Does anyone have updates on the German’s hydrogen car, i always thought that was a clever idea, burn Hydrogen and get water as long as it didnt blow up !

  13. Forget energy efficiency, it’s real selling feature is safety. Heres an analysis of crash safety intensity:

    0. It’s classified as a “quadricycle” not a car so it will never lose safety stars Vrs an average car that scores only 3.5/5 stars. (1.5/5)
    1. It only endangers two people at a time Vrs a normal cars 5 seat arrangement. (2/5)
    2. It has “improved visibility” (1/2)
    3. It occupies 1/3rd the road space so is less likely to get hit. (1/3)
    4. Top speed is half that of a normal car so head on collision total accident energy is reduced. (1/2)
    5. Utilisation is lower as the 3.5 hr charge time needs to be added to the average 2.0 hr commute. (2.5/(2.0+3.5)

    All up, 1.5/5*2/5*1/2*1/3*1/2*2.5/5.5)= 0.02 Crash intensity Vrs a median car.

    So a complete adoption of the Twiggy in Australia will result in 50 (1800*0.02) fewer deaths per year.

  14. The problem with the “inner city car substitute” meme that these type of vehicles are supposed to cater for is that if you live in that area you often don’t need a car anyway. Even if you do you aren’t driving significant distances, hence the fuel savings are minimal.

    I believe it would be better to target our road transport fleet, where there are significant gains to be made, and you have a fleet that’s responsive to economic nudges, either market or government