Originally Posted by New York Times
Part scooter, part microcar, the Renault Twizy was presented this month with the Red Dot award for product design, a prestigious designation given annually to a single product, be it a chair, mobile phone, lamp or motorcycle.
The Red Dot panel praised the Twizy, which went on sale in Europe in March, for “its revolutionary design, agility and original ergonomics and safety system.”
For Renault, the award offered validation, though the two-person electric vehicle has already been something of a sensation on the Continent, in part because of a video shot in New York.
The Twizy scoots about Manhattan as taxi drivers and street vendors express open-mouthed amazement. But according to Raphaëlle Gomez, a spokeswoman for Renault, there is no Twizy in New York: none to sell, none to rent, none to borrow. She wrote in an e-mail that Renault, which had not sold new cars in the United States in more than 20 years, had no plans to sell the Twizy in America.
From the front, the Twizy evokes a pod from “2001: A Space Odyssey,” while from the rear, some people might glimpse Bender the robot from “Futurama.”
It seats two in tandem style, meaning the passenger sits aft of the driver, with a leg on each side.
The Twizy is the smallest of the four electric cars in Renault's Z.E., or Zero Emissions, lineup. It bears a superficial resemblance to the Smart Fortwo, but lacks doors. Instead, arm rests resembling giant Jawbone ear pieces swing across the open sides. It can be ordered at one of two levels of power. One specification, which does not require the operator to have a license in most countries, offers a 4-kilowatt motor, roughly 5 horsepower. The motor of an urban model that requires a license is rated at 15kW, or 20 horsepower.
Twizy also offers a novel financial approach. Customers buy the car, but lease the battery pack, typically the most expensive component of an E.V.
The runabout has inspired thinking about whole new classes of vehicles: not quite cars and not quite three-wheel motorcycles. Miguel Angel Galluzzi, designer of the Ducati Monster and director of advanced design for Piaggio, cited the Twizy in an interview earlier this year as an inspiration in his work. Dan Sturges, a champion of the neighborhood E.V. category who teaches at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif., framed the Twizy as a cost and space saver, writing in an e-mail that a Twizy, “together with public transportation and occasional car rental, could be a great alternative to the second car.”
Renault's marketing strategy for the Twizy has been suitably unconventional. In addition to the videos, the car has a gig in the Sims 3 video game, where it is a licensed character. Last year, Renault arranged with the chic Parisian retailer Colette to display the Twizy in the front window. Also, to emphasize Renault's claim that its Formula One team helped engineer the vehicle, Sebastian Vettel, the two-time champion, crawled into the Twizy for some not-so-hot laps.