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Renault returns to old urban EV formula: Twingo minicar with tiny 22-kWh battery

Renault has sold nearly 4 million units of its gas-powered Twingo city car. That experience over nearly two decades taught the French automaker what makes a winning Euro-chic city car. Renault will try to leverage those insights with the all-electric Twingo ZE. The formula is urban maneuverability and a 22-kilowatt-hour battery pack that can fill up in an hour at a Level 2 charging station.

Such a pipsqueak battery sounds so 2012, right? That’s unless you accept that the Twingo is designed for local use in cities. Taking a longer trip from a European urban center? Take the train. That’s the green solution.

Need to dart around the city, like city-dwellers do for nearly all of our driving? Then pound your Twingo ZE with its best-in-class turning radius and electric rear-wheel-drive.

The Twingo ZE is just 11 feet, 10 inches. Power is modest at 82 horsepower, although zipping to 30 miles-per-hour takes four seconds thanks to electric torque. The electric Twingo features a “B mode” for three levels of regen. The batteries, sourced from LG Chem, are managed by a liquid-cooled system. That’s a first for a Renault electric vehicle.

As far as range, Renault cleverly leads its press release with city distance on a single charge: 143 miles in WLTP. That equates to about 120 miles in EPA. (The total cycle range is probably under 100 miles EPA). Once again, the greenest choice is not to buy a resource-intensive big battery pack that gets lugged around but seldom used.

But things get more interesting with the charging-time specs provided by Renault’s adaptable “Caméléon” charging system that can handle between 2 kW and 22 kW:

  • 63 minutes – 22 kW charging point (32A three-phase) (0-80%)
  • 2 hours and 10 minutes – 11 kW charging point (16A three-phase) (0-80%)
  • 4 hours – 7.4 kW Wallbox (32A three-phase) (0-100%)
  • 8 hours – 3.7 kW Wallbox (16A single phase) (0-100%)

Connect to a public 22-kW charging station for 30 minutes and add 50 miles. Maybe that could work for apartment dwellers.

Still unconvinced? Consider that Inovev, a French industry analyst, forecasts that Renault will sell 25,000 Twingo ZE models annually. That would make it a bigger seller than any EV in the US other than the Model 3.

Decide for yourself if you like the style:

Stéphane Wiscart, Twingo Deputy Program Director:

“Twingo ZE is not only tailored to everyday uses but also designed to support urban transformation. It’s the most Twingo of the Twingos!”

Renault gets cute by giving drivers of a choice of three different external pedestrian sounds, with volume that varies based on speed.

Renault did not give a price for the Twingo ZE, but executives said it would be less than the ForFour EQ, which starts at just under 22,000 euros ($24,000), including incentives.

The Twingo ZE debuts at the Geneva auto show on March 3. It goes on sale in Europe in late 2020.

Electrek’s Take

The Twingo ZE is an A-segment car, like the Fiat 500 or Smart ForTwo. In fact, the Twingo shares a platform with the ForFour EQ – and it will get built next to the Smart ForFour at Renault’s plant in Novo Mesto, Slovenia.

Americans might think the Twingo ZE’s cabin and battery are laughably small. But the A-segment has decent appeal in Europe. (Thank goodness, not everybody wants an SUV, which wipes out environmental gains from EVs.)

Some automakers stopped selling eco-friendly A-segment cars in Europe because the cost of improving their internal combustion engines to meet stricter EU CO2 reduction goals is too high, and the profit margins are too low. But EVs matter in this CO2-cutting world. So enter VW E-Up, Honda e, new Fiat 500e, and now the Twingo ZE.

Most of those diminutive EVs have batteries bigger than 32 or so kilowatt-hours. The Twingo ZE goes small at just 24 kWh. If that brings the cost down, enough to rack up 25,000 sales a year, then maybe it deserves at least a little respect.

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Avatar for Bradley Berman Bradley Berman

Bradley writes about electric cars, autonomous vehicles, smart homes, and other tech that’s transforming society. He contributes to The New York Times, SAE International, Via magazine, Popular Mechanics, MIT Technology Review, and others.