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Renault Twizy puts the authorities in a tizzy

NEITHER BIKE NOR CAR: The Twizy, a plug-in electric vehicle, has the Land Transport Authority scratching its head over how to classify it.


    Mar 26, 2014

    Renault Twizy puts the authorities in a tizzy

    A FUNKY new electric vehicle now undergoing type approval here could spark the creation of a new certificate of entitlement (COE) category.

    The Renault Twizy is a plug-in quadricycle that seats two passengers, one behind the other. It has a steering wheel, airbag, seat belts and the convenience of a car, but is the size of a large motorcycle.

    The Land Transport Authority (LTA) is understood to be mulling over how to classify this diminutive Renault.

    Its front seat is a bucket seat so the LTA is unable to call it a motorcycle, which requires its rider to straddle it, not sit in it. At the same time, at 2.3m by 1.2m, it is much smaller than the typical 4.5m by 1.8m compact sedan.

    Whether the plug-in electric vehicle with its 17hp motor is deemed a bike or a car is important. The Category A COE premium for cars under 1,600 cc or 130hp now costs $78,602; the Cat D premium for motorcycles is $4,289.

    However, it is understood that the Twizy's basic cost after taxes is about the same as that of an average motorcycle. If registered with a Cat D COE, it should not cost more than $25,000 on the road. But if it is categorised as a car, its price tag will be almost $100,000.

    The price distinction is critical because although it seats only two and has neither windows nor air-conditioner nor significant boot space, this electric Renault with its all-weather usability and four-wheeled stability has all the conveniences of a car.

    So at about a fifth the price of a Japanese Cat A sedan, it should sell by the truckload.

    The Renault Twizy is already approved for road use in many large European countries, such as France and Britain. It is understood that the Malaysian authorities are in the process of approving its sale.

    No helmet is required to drive this vehicle, which has a top speed of 80kmh.

    Industry veterans say that if the vehicle clears the regulatory hurdles, three outcomes are possible: One is that it will be classified as a passenger car because, firstly, it does not handle like a motorbike and, secondly, it would otherwise be too affordable.

    The second outcome is that a new COE category will be created for the Twizy and similar vehicles in the future.

    The third possibility is that it will be subjected to Cat A COE status, but with a discount on the premium to reflect its eco-friendly electric-vehicle status, its size, or both.