Could scooter-style, two-seat electric vehicles be the answer to environmentally friendly individual mobility in the world's increasingly crowded cities?
Although I am a firm skeptic when it comes to electric cars, I think the answer is yes. Why? Because the two-seaters are relatively inexpensive and they fill a market niche.
A battery-powered minicar costs about 35,000 euros, roughly three times as much as the same vehicle equipped with an internal combustion engine. This makes them a tough sell.
Renault's Twizy two-seater will go on sale in France in December starting at 6,900 euros, roughly the same price as a modern 50cc scooter.
The Twizy is a four-wheel, battery-powered vehicle where the passenger sits behind the driver just like on a motorbike. It has a 100km range and takes just 3.3 hours for a full recharge from a household 220-volt socket.
In cities such as Barcelona, Paris and Rome, you see middle-aged executives and professionals who need to get around quickly driving scooters. In my view, over time two-seaters like the Twizy will replace many of these large (and expensive) scooters.
That won't be a disaster for new-car sales because:
1. People will need cars for longer journeys and for transporting more than two people.
2. Vehicles such as the Twizy would attract people who now shop at a motorcycle retailer instead of a car dealership.
At the Frankfurt auto show last week, we saw more examples of battery-powered mini-vehicles designed for congested cities -- Audi with the Urban Concept, Opel with the Rak e and Volkswagen with the Nils single-seater.
Don't be surprised if these three concepts go into production soon.