As the nights draw in across the northern hemisphere, the chances are your attention is starting to shift from warm summer evenings to warm log fires, snow-filled lanes and perhaps even a ski trip to your local resort.
But if you’re among the number of future-car loving ski fans who have yet to book their winter ski holiday this year and you’re looking for a little off-piste action that’s different from the rest, we think we’ve found the perfect resort for you: La Clusaz, in the French Alps. Because while La Clusaz might look like any other European Alpine ski resort, it has something we’re sure you’ll want to try: electric car ice racing.
As ski-mad InTheSnow details the ski resort of La Clusaz is offering those who visit it this winter the chance of engaging in a spot of automotive ice-racing this winter, complete with all the spills and thrills that come from driving a rear-wheel drive car on tightly-packed ice.
The difference? The car you’ll be driving isn’t a powerful German sports sedan or a roaring V-8 from America. It’s the diminutive Renault Twizy.
Somewhere between a moped and a car, the Renault Twizy is one of three different plug-in vehicles currently being manufactured and sold by Renault for the European market. Offered in both a Twizy 45 and Twizy 80 guise — the numbers referring to the vehicle’s top speed in kilometres per hour — the Twizy is low on creature comforts, with even doors and windows being add-on optional extras at point of purchase.
At 91 inches long, 47 inches wide and 52 inches high, it’s also the smallest four-wheel plug-in car you can buy from a mainstream automaker, yet it boasts driver airbag, front crumple zone, four-point driver belt and regular three-point passenger belt. Thanks to its a lightweight chassis, 6.1 kilowat-hour lithium-ion battery that sits down the centre of its go-kart-like body and a kerb weight of under 1,000 pounds, the Renault Twizy is incredibly agile on the open road, with firm yet well-designed coil-over suspension, a direct unassisted rack-and-pinion steering, and one-lane turning circle.
It also happens to be rear wheel drive, with a 13 kilowatt electric motor (4 kilowatts in the Twizy 45) driving the rear wheels through a single-gear reduction box.
The result? An agile, fun runabout that’s bound to raise a grin if you’re well wrapped up — and while most people put the Twizy in an urban environment, they can be found everywhere from the wilds of Norway to the Welsh Mountains.
Essentially, that’s the key to the Twizy. Despite being designed for temperate holiday destinations in the south of Europe, the tiny Twizy has sold across the entire EU, sometimes as a second car for families who need something small and cheap for the daily commute, sometimes as a first car for teenagers who can’t afford a car, and sometimes as a safer, more practical alternative to an underpowered scooter.
Add a set of studded tires, and the Twizy’s tiny wheelbase, easy-to-use controls and rear-wheel drive power make it the perfect ice-racing machine. Combined with a little opposite lock and a pulsed right foot, the tiny Twizy is also super-easy to push into an easy-to-control drift.
The ice circuit at La Clusaz opens on December 15 and will, say its owners, operate “as long as there is ice!” The first ice track in the world that is designed exclusively for electric cars, the race track also doesn’t have to worry about the usual problems of automotive ice-racing. There’s no noise pollution, no nasty air pollution, and the cars can be easily charged at the end of every session via a standard household outlet.
Prices start at €30 for an individual 10 minute driving session, rising to €99 for a 45 minute ‘ice-driving lesson’ with a professional instructor. For those looking for something a little more official, there’s even the chance of taking a 1-hour team challenge, provided you can find eleven other people to join the ice with you. prices for that start from €80 per person.
Do you like the idea of driving a tiny all-electric car around the French Alps on an ice track? Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.
We’d love to go — but since our Skiing skills aren’t as good as our driving skills, we’re worried we’d spend more time off piste than on it. And that just wouldn’t be fair on anyone else.
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