by Lem Bingley
Remember the G-Wiz? Almost a decade ago, the tiny Indian electric vehicle (pictured below) became a minor hit in London, with more than 600 examples sold between 2006 and 2008. This was despite some obvious limitations, including cramped dimensions, modest range and very modest performance. The G-Wiz was, however, cute to look at and great fun to drive, if a little on the terrifying side at full pelt. I drove one up to its 50mph maximum speed, briefly, and wasn’t in a hurry to repeat the experience.
Sadly, sales of the G-Wiz collapsed after it became common knowledge that the little car wasn’t a car at all, but a quadricyle – a legal category within which a light, four-wheeled vehicle can slip past most of the rules governing actual cars. Those rules include crash tests from which quadricycles tend to emerge in a worryingly mangled mess.
Fast-forward to today, and the spiritual successor to the G-Wiz is here. A lot has happened in the interim. Reva, the small company behind the G-Wiz, has been sold to Mahindra Group, a gigantic Indian industrial conglomerate. And the new vehicle, called the e2o, is actually a car this time. It has passed mandatory 35mph impact tests and also boasts the safety gear required of any fully fledged car sold in Europe, including front airbags, ABS brakes and ESP stability control. There are also proper crumple zones and side-impact bars built into the car’s steel frame, underneath its plastic bodywork.
The above does not mean that the e2o will necessarily be as safe as any other small car. Most carmakers aim for a good score under the Euro NCAP test process, which is a lot tougher than the legal minimum. Under Euro NCAP rules, cars are flung into barriers at 40mph, for example, with the extra 5mph raising the energy of the impact by 30%. A good score is not a given, as demonstrated by the Lancia Ypsilon supermini, which earned a lowly two-star result last year.
It will be interesting to see if Mahindra is willing to have the e2o tested under the Euro NCAP scheme at all.
All of the above said, safety is not the only consideration – if it were, there’d be no cyclists, motorcyclists or maniacs on mopeds zipping along our roads. The e2o does have other charms. It is unusually tall, short and narrow for a car, measuring 1,560mm high, 3,280mm long and 1,514mm wide. Compared to a Fiat Panda, for example, the e2o is about 1cm taller, 37cm shorter and 13cm narrower.
The shape may also look a little familiar – being virtually identical to the Reva NXR concept car that was first previewed way back in 2009.
Peculiar dimensions do make the e2o look far from sleek, though they ought to make it a boon in the bustle of urban traffic. Narrow cars can flit through smaller gaps and it’s easier to find an adequate parking spot when you’re driving a short car.
With drive to the rear wheels, the e2o also provides an exceptionally tight 3.85m turning circle – better than a Toyota iQ or a London black cab.
The urban remit of the e2o is also underscored by Mahindra’s somewhat tortuous description of it as an “ElectriCity Car”, and by its top speed. Flat out is 63mph, according to Mahindra, and the company doesn’t provide a 0-62mph stat. Zero to 50mph takes a leisurely 17 seconds, though like most electric vehicles it is likely to feel quite brisk for the first hundred yards away from the lights.
You can legally drive an e2o on a motorway, but it’s probably not a very good idea. That said, I once spotted a Renault Twizy on a German autobahn, which was probably less wise still.
Power is provided by a lithium-ion battery of 69 cells, big enough to store just under 15.5kWh when fully charged. That’s a little smaller than the 17.6kWh battery you’d find in an electric Smart ForTwo ED. Normal range is quoted as 60 to 70 miles in warm weather and 50 to 60 miles during the winter.
There are two editions of the e2o, called City and TechX, the latter of which includes an intriguing feature called Revive. In common with other EVs the e2o won’t let itself run truly flat, always keeping some charge in reserve in the interests of long-term battery health. Revive will let you dip into those reserves for about eight extra miles, in an emergency, unlocked via the e2o’s smartphone app.
The TechX edition also supports fast charging via a CHAdeMO socket in the car’s rump, providing a 95% charge in 90 minutes. A full charge takes about nine hours from a domestic 240-volt socket, and can be scheduled remotely using the app.
The e2o meets the criteria of the government’s Plug-in Car Grant, yielding a starting price of £12,995 for the basic City edition, with steel wheels and no frills. The TechX, with leather and alloys, app compatibility, aircon, rapid charging, touchscreen, reversing camera, wheel-mounted controls and the luxury of rear wash-wipe, starts at £15,995.
Mahindra is hoping to sell its new baby as a second car for school runs, popping to the shops and pottering around town – aiming at buyers who care about air quality and the zero emission promise of electric cars. We shall see whether those particular buyers will warm to the gawky charms of the e2o, as some initially did to the dinky G-Wiz, or whether they will be drawn to a used Leaf or a nearly new Renault Zoe.
Mahindra e2o: the G-Wiz strikes back
20 April 2016
by Lem Bingley