Eco-friendly urban runabouts are panned in basic government crash tests
9 May 2007

The electric car that’s taking London by storm thanks to its congestion charge exemption has performed badly in a crash test for normal cars, prompting serious safety concerns.The G-Wiz, built in India by the US/Indian company Reva Electric Car Company and sold in Britain by GoinGreen, is classified as a light car under European legislation and is sold perfectly legally as a ‘quadricycle’.Britain’s Vehicle Certification Agency carried out the crash test at the request of the Australian government, according to industry sources, and the British government has seen the results, prompting the safety concerns.According to the Department for Transport (DfT), in the test replicating the official crash for ‘normal’ vehicles, the driver of the G-Wiz was trapped in the wreckage and suffered “significant head and lower extremities injuries ” while the passenger suffered “lesser, but severe lower extremity injuries”.The British government is concerned that the growing popularity of the G-Wiz and similar models as replacement transport for ‘normal’ cars will result in more road injuries and fatalities, undermining the UK’s road safety record.“The safety regulations that govern this type of vehicle were designed at a time when they would cover four-wheeled motorcycles and not city runabouts that resemble small cars,” said roads minister Stephen Ladyman.As a result the British government is seeking an “urgent review” in Brussels of the European regulations governing quadricycles. “We will raise this first with officials as soon as possible and take it from there,” said the DfT.Defending the G-Wiz, GoinGreen boss Keith Johnston said the real-world safety record of the car spoke for itself: “Our customers have driven 20 million miles and have 4000 years of ownership with no reported serious injuries.”Around 300,000 quadricycles are thought to be on the roads across Europe, most powered by motorcycle engines. France is the biggest market with around 30,000 registrations a year thanks to driving licence exemptions.A Mega City, a French electric-car built by Aixam-Mega and sold in Britain by Rickmansworth-based Nice is due to be crash tested in the coming weeks, according to industry sources. Nice couldn’t be contacted for comment.A quadricycle is classified as a “four-wheeled vehicle whose unladen mass is not more than 400kg (excluding batteries if electric-powered) and whose maximum rated power does not exceed 15kW,“ according to the DfT.There are no requirements for occupant safety, unlike a heavier, ‘normal’ car, which must protect the front occupants in a crash at 35mph into a deformable barrier with only 40 per cent of the front of the car overlapping the barrier to simulate a real car-to-car crash. This is the test similar to the public NCAP tests, although that is carried out a higher speed.

Julian Rendell

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