June 9 - Renault hopes its eye-catching all-electric concept car, Twin'Z, can help persuade drivers who refuse to embrace alternative fuel technology to change their minds. Like other all electric vehicles, the Twin'Z is limited in its power and range so the French auto maker is focusing instead on sheer visual pizzazz to reel in the skeptics. Jim Drury reports.
The striking, all-electric, Renault Twin'Z concept car....the latest attempt by automakers to interest drivers in battery-powered vehicles. Renault's Head of Design, Laurens Van Den Acker, says it's packed with exciting new features. SOUNDBITE (English) RENAULT HEAD OF DESIGN LAURENS VAN DEN ACKER SAYING: "The most dramatic and the most individual thing about the car is the lighting that covers the whole roof all the way to the back, and using LEDs and you can actually create a mood with the car, from the inside or from the outside." The Twin'Z has semi-transparent seats, made of carbon-fibre covered by fishnet-style mesh and blue flooring, giving the appearance of being at the bottom of the ocean. Touchscreens allow the driver to control heating, seat and lighting adjustments, navigation and in-car connectivity. SOUNDBITE (English) RENAULT HEAD OF DESIGN LAURENS VAN DEN ACKER SAYING: "We are using just two screens, one that you can take away with you and one that remains in the car and so you'll be able to bring your world, your life into the car and connect yourself to the car immediately and drive away." The Twin'Z isn't for sale, but some of its features may end up in Renault's next 'Twingo' model, to be released next year. Although visually impressive, experts say it will take more than gimmicks to make the public overcome its apparent reluctance to go electric. Louise Bunce is lecturer in Psychology at London's Metropolitan University and advises the British government on electric car use. SOUNDBITE (English) LOUISE BUNCE, LECTURER IN PSYCHOLOGY AT METROPOLITAN UNIVERSITY, SAYING: "From the research that I've been involved in of electric vehicle users we found that a portion of those users are interested in electric cars because they're interested in new technology. So a gimmicky car such as the Renault may appeal to that portion of the consumer market, early adopters that are interested in new technology but I think the mainstream consumer market for electric cars just want something that's reliably going to get them to their destination." Many drivers are reluctant to ditch their fuel engined cars, because of both the limited range and speed of electric models. The technology is slowly improving but for manufacturers with an eye on the future, style is every bit as important as substance in changing minds and sparking sales.