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Crash safety watchdog savages electric buggies

By Barry Park, 05 Jun 2014 News

EuroNCAP testing shows serious flaws with small electric vehicles sweeping Europe

Crash safety watchdog savages electric buggies

EUROPE’S crash safety authority has savaged a new breed of electric vehicles sweeping the market, accusing their makers of skimping on the high levels of safety commonly found in regular cars.

The European New Car Assessment Program (EuroNCAP) overnight released the crash test ratings for four “heavy quadricycle” vehicles – the name given to the likes of the Renault Twizy four-wheeled electric car – and slammed them for a lack of safety as the vehicle’s makers take advantage of engineering loopholes.

The Renault Twizy 80, Club Car Villager 2+2 LSV, the Tazzari ZERO and the Ligier IXO J LINE all showed what EuroNCAP said were “serious safety problems” related to their small sizes and inadequate structures and restraint systems.

According to EuroNCAP, the Twizy – the only quadricycle tested to have a driver’s airbag fitted as standard, and potentially slated for sale in Australia – scored the best, but its stiff structure and seat-belt system resulted in some dangerously high crash-test dummy readings.

Others fared even less well.

The upper seatbelt connection in the Ligier pulled out of its mount, exposing the dummy to a high risk of injury, while in the Tazzari, the driver’s seatbelt broke and the driver’s head hit the steering wheel “with a force that indicated a high risk of serious or fatal injury”.

Meanwhile, the structure of the Club Car “virtually collapsed” after its front-on crash test.

“It’s worrying to find that, because crash safety tests are not required by law, quadricycles show a level of safety that is way below that of cars,” Euro NCAP secretary general Michiel van Ratingen said.

“Even though they meet legislative standards, these vehicles lack the minimum safety equipment which has become commonplace on passenger cars sold in Europe.”

Renault revealed earlier this year that it was considering bringing a Twizy to Australia to evaluate the vehicle for local sale.

Renault Australia corporate communications manager Emily Fadeyev said the EuroNCAP result had not changed the car maker’s plans to bring one of the electric cars here.

“I think what you have to bear in mind is that the Twizy is a quadricycle and not a car, and it is meant to replace vehicles such as scooters,” she said.

Ms Fadeyev said the possibility of bringing the Twizy here was still “a long way down the road”, with Australia missing the key piece of legislation that makes the vehicles road-legal in Europe.

She said the French car maker had been in talks with the Australian government regarding making quadricycles legal on our roads.

In Europe, the Twizy costs about the same as a high-end Vespa motor scooter, suggesting the small electric vehicle could sneak into the Australian market priced below $10,000.