Affordable, lightweight electric quadricycles (or neighborhood electric vehicles) like the Renault Twizy and Tzarri Zero might make for a more environmentally conscious way of travelling short distances without shelling out tens of thousands on a full-size electric car, but driving one could result in life-threatening injuries if you have an accident.
That’s the opinion of European crash test agency Euro NCAP, who is calling on European legislators and automakers alike to create a mandated minimum crash test standard for a class of vehicle which to date has avoided the tough crash test standards required by law for all full-size vehicles.
Limited to a maximum speed of 45 kilometers per hour (28 mph) and having a maximum weight of no more than 350 kg (excluding battery pack), lightweight quadricycles can be driven in many European countries without a driving license, or just on a moped license in others.
Heavy quadricycles, defined in law as having a maximum weight excluding battery pack of no more than 400 kg and a power output of no more than 15 kilowatts, are not limited to a specific speed. Like lightweight quadricycles, they’re not required by law to undergo the same strict crash tests as full-size cars, yet both types of vehicle share the same roads as far more powerful, far safer cars.
In addition, quadricycles aren’t required by law to carry airbags, crumple zones, or assistive safety technologies like ABS or traction control. And while quadricycles must meet certain basic safety requirements — like having a seatbelt, lights and working brakes — they’re no match against heavier, better protected vehicles in an impact.
To highlight this, Euro NCAP took four quadricycles currently on the market in Europe — three electric and one gasoline — and put them through the same crash tests normally reserved for full-size, highway-capable cars.
The results are sobering.
Of the four cars tested, the Renault Twizy fared best. Although Renault often highlights the Twizy’s front crumple zone, single airbag and passenger protection shell in advertising material, the tiny two-seat electric runabout isn’t required by law to pass any specific safety standards.
While Euro NCAP said that the Twizy performed better than other cars, carefully controlling rearward movement of the steering wheel in a front collision, it noted that the car’s stiff structure and seatbelt restraint system could lead to serious neck injuries in the case of a high-speed collision.
Moreover, the rest of the Twizy fared poor to adequate in leg and body protection. Out of a total of sixteen points, the Twizy came first with just six points.
Careful to note that the tests carried out on the four quadricycles should not be directly compared to its full-size car crash tests, Michiel van Ratingen, Euro NCAP Secretary General said that the tests highlighted a major gap in European vehicular safety standards.
While quadricycles are undoubtedly safer in most situations than motorcycles, van Ratingen warned drivers and passengers alike aren’t as protected as they think.
‘Our test campaign confirms that quadricycles generally provide a much lower level of safety than regular passenger cars,” he said. “The poor results, however, urge us to ask ourselves whether consumers should really be satisfied with the protection currently being offered? As quadricycles look set to become more and more popular, Euro NCAP is calling for manufacturers and legislative authorities to ensure a minimum level of crash safety for this vehicle segment.”
We love the Renault Twizy’s funky design and go-kart-like driving characteristics, and think it’s the perfect vehicle to get you around a hot holiday paradise. But we find ourselves agreeing with Euro NCAP when it comes to matters of safety: better standards are needed to ensure that these small, super-efficient commuter vehicles keep occupants and other road users as safe as possible.
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