Electric dreams

25 May 2006

G-Wiz: electric Noddy-carA year ago, the G-Wiz electric Noddy car sold by GoinGreen was a slightly less common sight on British roads than a pink Cadillac. Today, in Central London at least, the little plastic runts seem to be everywhere, silently creeping up on pedestrians with the stealth of ugly cubic cats. The reason is not hard to fathom: London appears to have more parking wardens than it does parking meters, and G-Wiz parks for free. El Presidente Ken Livingstone’s punitive Congestion Charge is a pricey £8 for the privilege of crawling over potholes, but the G-Wiz is exempt. And while the G-Wiz is unquestionably a bit of a slug, the average speed in the capital is still not much above the trotting pace of a three-legged camel. In short, London is about the only place in the world where running an electric runabout actually makes some kind of sense. Squint hard, and it might even make more sense than the other things you might spend eight grand on like, say, a Tube-pass and a second-hand Ford Ka.

The G-Wiz will no longer have this oddball corner of the market to itself, however. A rival has appeared in the shape of the Maranello4. Unlike the G-Wiz it has so-called “suicide” doors, with a hinge at the rear rather than at the front of the aperture. The only other mainstream vehicle on British roads to share this quirk is the £250,000 Rolls-Royce Phantom (RR calls them “coach doors”, not liking the lethal connotations of the normal name. And the Mazda RX-8's rear doors don't really count as suicidal, because you can't open them independently of the front doors).

While the Maranello4 is not as pricey as a fat Roller, it isn't cheap either: it's a full £1,696 more expensive than the G-Wiz at £9,995 on the road. And it’s slower (claiming 45kmh or 28mph top speed versus the G-Wiz’s claimed 40mph). When you’re driving a small, vulnerable vehicle, keeping up with traffic so as not to be overtaken by irate nutters really matters.

The Maranello4’s makers claim that their car has good looks on its side. It’s true that the G-Wiz has the kind of looks that only a blind mother pig could love, and that the Maranello4 looks slightly less like a wheelchair wearing a body-kit, but obviously that’s all just a matter of opinion. And it’s doubtful that either electric vehicle is likely to be bought by anyone who is particularly worried about what other people think.

Auto IT’s prediction is that the G-Wiz will continue to become a more common sight in the city. The Maranello4 needs to be cheaper and quicker to make any kind of impact.

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