One of the main concerns with compact cars is the safety of the vehicle. The lighter weight of these vehicles makes them more susceptible to damage in an accident, and automakers need to be creative if they want to build a strong, protective body. The close quarters also put drivers and passengers at an increased risk of being hurt by poorly designed crumple zones or broken windshields.
The G-Wiz is very compact -- it's only about 8.5 feet long and 5 feet tall -- and since it's classified as a quadricycle, it's not required to undergo the same kinds of safety tests regular automobiles do.
So in 2004, Reva introduced the G-Wiz dc onto London streets, following up in 2006 with the G-Wiz ac. No official crash tests were performed on these vehicles, so consumers had no idea how someone would fare in a collision. It wasn't until the summer of 2007 that UK car magazine Top Gear performed its own series of crash tests with the G-Wiz. People were finally able to see the destruction a wall -- or better yet, a simple table -- could deliver to the popular electric vehicle.
The results of the crash tests, which you can view on the Jalopnik Web site, are painful to watch. One video shows a G-Wiz driving into a wall at 40 mph, while another shows two G-Wizzes, traveling at 30 mph, hitting each other. In both, the front section of the G-Wiz gets completely torn apart and crumpled in toward the driver and passenger dummies. Another video, seen here on YouTube, puts the G-Wiz up against a table, with simultaneously amusing and horrifying results.
GoinGreen offers only this explanation on their Web site: "Whilst larger, heavier cars in general perform better in crash tests, statistics show they tend to be driven less defensively and at higher speeds and so they are also more likely to injure other road users." Reva no longer manufactures the models used in the tests, but they still offer used versions of the G-Wiz dc and G-Wiz ac on their Web site. More than 900 of these initial models are driving around the streets of London, and more than 2,000 elsewhere around the world.
On top of this, Reva had to recall several hundred G-Wizzes in November 2007 to replace or repair every battery charger -- one of the quadricycles suddenly overheated and burst into flames while parked. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but the idea that the G-Wiz was a ticking time bomb, whether or not it was driving, wasn't comforting to many.
There seem to be good intentions and a few good ideas behind the "socially responsible" G-Wiz. Even the distribution method is interesting -- after ordering online, the G-Wiz is either driven to you if you live in London or delivered by trailer if you live elsewhere in England. But the G-Wiz, designed in California and manufactured in India, seems to sacrifice too much to make the vehicle affordable and environmentally friendly. The G-Wiz doesn't even come with airbags, simply because, according to GoinGreen, the "majority of the cars on the road in the UK do not have these features." Another offbeat and efficient vehicle, on the other hand, the Aptera, also came out of California -- its makers went above and beyond to ensure safety standards weren't just met, but exceeded.
If you want to know more about electric cars and other offbeat vehicles, take a look at the next page.