Renault Twizy : A Tiny Electric Car

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BEING 14 SUCKS. You’re a freshman in high school, which puts you at the bottom of the social food chain. The opposite sex is endlessly confusing, you need to beg your parents and older siblings for rides, and (in the US at least) you’re half a lifetime away from the legal drinking age. Unless, that is, you live in France. Then you just need to beg your parents to buy you a Renault Twizy, a $7,600 “car” that 14-year-olds can now legally drive.

The Twizy is a quadricycle, a 1,000-pound, two-seat electric car meant for zipping around cramped European cities. It’s designed to be a safer alternative to bicycles and scooters for the urban set, sporting a 13-horsepower electric motor and enough batteries to take you 60 miles at a maximum speed of 50 mph. It won’t hold much cargo, but it’s got plenty of room for your baguettes, cigarettes, wine, and “On Strike” signs (because yes, French high schoolers love to faire la grève).

The Twizy has airbags, seat belts, two seats, headlights, turn signals—all those things that actual cars have. And, thanks to new legislation in France, youths as young as 14 can now drive the things legally.

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Previously, 14-year olds in France with a road safety certificate (sort of a lightweight-version of a driver’s license) could only ride mopeds. Now, in order to comply with EU regulations, that same certificate now allows holders to drive “quadricycles”.

As regulated, quadricycles are four-wheeled cars that can’t exceed 28 mph, can’t have a battery pack bigger than 4 kWh (for electric engines, traditional gas and diesel versions can’t have an engine bigger than 50cc), and can’t exceed 770 pounds curb weight. To accommodate the new market, Renault is releasing a special, scaled down, slower version of the Twizy specifically for youngsters with a road safety certificate.

Renault says it’s sold some 15,000 Twizys in Europe since launching the thing half a decade ago, and we would love to see the automaker jump the pond and let American teens, or adults, climb in. Unlike other small European cars like the Smart, which is actually kind of expensive (base price is around $13,000), an $8,000 Twizy would be great for city-dwellers who want something faster and safer than a bicycle, and nearly as versatile. We could see it being popular for car-sharing services like Zipcar or as an alternative to bike sharing services in cities like New York and San Francisco.

There are reports that Renault, which left the US in 1987, is exploring the possibility of selling the car in Quebec, but entering an established market is risky business. Daimler, which owns Smart, has an established dealer and parts network in the United States already, making it easier to launch its sub-brand here, with modest success.

Renault has a strategic partnership with Nissan, so it’s possible the Twizy (or a variant) could make an appearance as a Nissan-badged product (might we suggest the Nissan Stem, to go along with the Leaf?). But this is America—where the little car has never flourished—so we’re not holding our collective breath, even if the Twizy would make for a badass little city car.

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