No-go for Twingo ZE electric car

17 March 2014

New Renault Twingo

I haven’t yet sat in Renault’s new Twingo city car and I’m already disappointed. The launch of an electric version of the cute new city car has been scrapped, or at least moved to a slow-bubbling back burner.

It’s hard to know exactly what happened, given the short conversations you tend to have when enquiring about cancelled products. There is no dispute that the third-generation Twingo was developed with battery power in mind, and that a Twingo ZE was initially on the cards. Renault’s 2011 Annual Report – the official summary of performance issued to shareholders – even gave the car a mention, noting that Twingo ZE production was “planned to begin in 2014”.

Today I was told there is “no current plan” to launch a ZE derivative of the freshly hatched Twingo.

Rear-engined new 2014 Twingo

It’s not yet clear if the same delayed or deleted fate awaits an electric Smart ForFour, which was also pencilled in for a 2014 launch.

The Mk3 Twingo was developed alongside both the next generation Smart ForTwo and an upcoming Smart four-seater. The three cars share an underlying rear-engined, rear-wheel-drive architecture, despite unique outer skins, and indeed the upcoming four-seat Smart is due to be built alongside the new Twingo at Renault’s Novo Mesto plant in Slovenia.

2014 Renault Twingo interior

Both the Twingo and four-seat Smart were previewed by electric concept cars last year, with the Renault Twin’Z revealed in April and the Smart FourJoy shown off in September.

The plan was for Daimler to supply batteries and Renault the electric motors for production Twingo ZE and Smart Electric Drive variants, but it’s unclear if overall intentions have changed now the French electric car is no more. Daimler has told its own shareholders that it plans to bring a Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive to Europe soon, following a US launch in the middle of 2014, but has made no recent mention of a new Smart ED.

2013 Smart FourJoy concept car

It seems likely that the relatively slow sales achieved by Renault’s Zoe in its first year may have put a dampener on Renault’s plans to offer a smaller electric car, given that small cars typically produce slim margins. In the UK, at least, Zoe has been outsold by both the Nissan Leaf a size above it and the Twizy runabout in the space below. And that’s within the context of an overall market where EVs take only a tiny sliver of new car sales as a whole.

At 359cm from bumper to bumper, the new Twingo is almost 9cm shorter than the outoing car. However, with its rear engine and tiny overhangs, the new car’s wheelbase is more than 10cm longer than the outgoing Twingo. A ZE edition would have provided an interesting contrast to Volkswagen’s front-wheel-drive e-Up in the emerging electric city car market.

2013 Renault Twin'Z concept

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