Monday, July 1, 2013
Renting Twizy is Ezy.
In previous posts I've given my impressions of the Renault Twizy, that oddball electric 2-seater that looks like nothing else on the road. I have my doubts that it will be a massive hit, as there are some negative points that will keep it from appealing to everyone. Still, it WILL find a few fans, and it really is quite well suited to rental-car duty, as evidenced by the TwizyWay program.
It is nothing like a traditional rental car agency, where you have to go to a counter, sign the rental agreement, and pick up the keys. The process has been greatly simplified for the Twizy in the city of Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, southwest of France. To create an account, you can sign up online, or drop straight into the boutique, where you must go in either case to pick up your swipe card. A credit card is linked to your account, for automatic payment of your usage, and in case of damage to the car. There is no need for a separate insurance policy, or even 'filling up' the batteries, as all is covered under the rental cost.
The process is quite simple. Using a smartphone or computer, you can localize and reserve a car. This blocks the car for 15 minutes; after that time, the car is free for someone else to rent. Once you physically show up to the car you have reserved, you swipe your badge over the windshield sensor. A series of blinking lights confirms that your card has been accepted and the car is yours. An automated voice recording asks you to take a walk around the vehicle to make sure that there is no damage, and if everything is okay, you confirm by pushing a green button on the ceiling. If ever there's a problem, pushing the red button puts you in live contact with an operator so that you can explain what is wrong.
From there, you hope in, buckle your seatbelt, turn the key (which is built into the ignition) and you're off. In much less time than you would spend at a traditional rental car desk, you're off whizzing about in your little electric wonder. Those familiar with bicycle rentals available in many large cities will feel very familiar. If you happen to wander by a TwizyWay Twizy in the street (you can't miss them, there are signs plastered all over each one!), you can flash the QR Smartcode on the windshield and reserve it instantly.
Obviously everyone is wondering how much this all costs. The initial one-time cost of the swipe card is 15 euros. After that, you will either pay 0.29 euros per minute, or 11.90 euros per hour. One big benefit with these Twizy rental is the fact that if you stop for a short period of time, you pay a reduced rate (0.10 euros), and don't risk having your car picked up by anyone else. The prices seem quite reasonable, especially when you consider that many people will use them for short trips in the city. The price is certainly less than a city taxi.
This pilot program has apparently been successful, and Renault is looking to expand it to other cities. I heartily applaud this move; I think that this is the best use for a vehicle like Twizy. It is going to have a hard time finding many individual owners, I fear, but it is truly well suited as a short-term run-about rental for the city. Its narrow width and ease of driving make it a great choice for scooting in and out of traffic, and its short length allows you to park it almost anywhere.
Renault has gone out of their way to make renting a Twizy a simple and easy experience, for both local people and tourists, and I really expect to see this program to spread to many other European cities quickly. For anyone planning a trip to the Paris area in the near future, know that you now have a new and interesting transportation option!
Posted by Paul Simmons