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TLC needed: Can cars like the G-Wiz still have a purpose in life?

Weekly Column. By Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield.

They have a funny name, massive door seals (so designed to hide a panel gap big enough to drive a bus through) and a top speed approaching 50 mph on a good day. They’ll charge up from empty to full in a little under eight hours from a standard household outlet, and like the Tesla Model S, have a front trunk.

Blue G-Wiz on the road in London

I am of course talking about the diminutive Reva G-Wiz, an Indian-made electric quadricycle which made a name for itself in London ten years ago thanks to its all-electric drivetrain, tiny proportions and London’s recently enforced Congestion Charging Zone. For years, it was the best-selling electric vehicle in the UK, providing cheap and cheerful transportation to Londoners wealthy enough to be able to afford the £15,000 price tag.

It-and other similarly-sized and priced low-speed electric quadricycles like the NICE car (aka MEGA City)-look frankly pathetic when compared to today’s modern electric cars like the Nissan LEAF, Renault Zoe or Vauxhall Ampera. But can cars like the G-Wiz still have a purpose in life in the face of smarter, fancier alternatives?

No comparison

I’ve tried comparing the G-Wiz to the LEAF, as well as other modern EVs, and the truth of the matter is that the G-Wiz really doesn’t compare, because it’s so different. Aside from the limited luggage carrying capabilities (a few bags in the area under the bonnet, and a choice between carrying your kids or the weekly shop in the back) driving the G-Wiz is unlike anything else on the road. G-Wiz recharging

For a start, you sit perched on a relatively hard seat, peering down from the very top of the windscreen over the vehicle’s tiny snout, a comically small steering wheel in your hands. Then, once you’ve finally got the car moving at anything above 25 mph, moving the steering wheel any more than a few inches causes the G-Wiz to lean over in a manner best befitting a motorcycle.

If I had to codify the G-Wiz driving experience in town and bottle it for future generations, I’d explain it as a cross between driving an oversized LittleTykes toy car, and a fairground ride. Fun, but not necessarily something you’d want to do every day.

On the open road, outside of the city limits, I’d describe the G-Wiz as nothing short of a nightmare: slow moving, poorly handling, and vulnerable.

Yet still useable

After that little character assassination, you’d be forgiven for thinking I hate the G-Wiz with my entire being. After driving one for nearly a year, I’ll admit I had moments when that was true. But like the Renault Twizy I owned for a similar length of time, the G-Wiz and other low-speed quardricycles have a part to play in weaning us off the dead dinosaurs for good.

A gathering of G-Wiz cars in Regent's Park, London-proof that G-Wiz owners are enthusiasts

With terrible range, poor performance, and a lack of modern safety features, not everyone will feel safe in a G-Wiz or even want to get behind the wheel of one. Given the choice I suspect most people would in fact opt for a more advanced electric vehicle, but there’s one thing the G-Wiz does have going in its favour: price.Daisy G-Wiz

Today, it’s possible to buy a working G-Wiz or similar quadricycle for under £3,000, complete with a set of batteries capable of surviving a 20-mile round commute without giving you massive range anxiety. If you’re a handy sort who knows how to deal with things like lead acid traction battery packs, you could get one for less, but you’ll have to put some sweat equity in and probably replace the battery pack at a cost of around £800.

But for that, you’ll end up with a car which can do all the school run-type duties you’d want from a second or third car. All without burning petrol.

So bad, it’s good?

As a car, the G-Wiz is unutterably bad. It’s like the kind of B-Movies you watch on Netflix with your friends late at night after a bottle of wine and a kebab.

Yet because it is just so bad as a car, it occupies a kind of bizarre space in the automotive world. It has a cult status, and fans that adore it, and thank it for bringing them to the world of all-electric motoring.

Watch the video to see just how much G-Wiz owners love their vehicle

And that’s why it’s so good. The G-Wiz is an accessible-if limited- entry into the world of zero emissions motoring. It’s great as a second- or third- runabout car. It’s not bad as a low-emissions city-only commuter, and sure beats the kind of fifteen year-old hatchbacks you see kept by families across the UK as errand and school-run vehicles.

So next time you see a G-Wiz. Don’t snicker. It can’t play with the fully-grown EVs on the motorway, but it still has a purpose in life: keeping us from away from those dreaded petrol pumps.

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Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield

Filed under: Electric cars, Weekly Column

3 comments

Dan

haha I'd agree with the whole 'it's so bad, it's good!' idea...definitely more of a cult fave!

Alison Kidd

Interesting article esp as our first EV was a G-Wiz equivalent. However, unlike Nikki, we are really hoping that quadracycles are not viewed simply as stepping stones to grown up EV's. We hope the Twizy, for example, will be a starting point for a diversification of lots of cool, fun-to-drive quadracycle models which are then recognised as a key EV category in their own right. (In particular, round here people would like trendy rugged ones with chunky wheels for our rural roads and tracks!).

Minimalist, ultra low energy EV's are fine for the 80% of car trips which are under 5 miles and don't require something which can do 70 mph on a motorway in air conditioned comfort. The UK doesn't generate enough electricity for us all to drive around in the style we do today in high end EV's and we don't need them for 90% of our journeys. Generating solar and hydro electricity locally makes one very conscious of just how much (green) energy is consumed for every mile we travel (relative to other electric uses). In rural wales, personal travel unfortunately accounts for 40% of our carbon footprint (because we have no ready access to public transport).

So, can we make ultra low energy, rather then simply "electricity" the cool design focus for the industry? The great thing about a Twizy compared to a G-Wiz is that teenagers scream "cool" as you whizz past.

Wish we could come up with a sexier term than quadracycle though!

aless

My father ha one of these. Great city car. He goes to work and for groceries, very helpful. But the most important thing, NO POLLUTION !

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