Renault Is Bringing Mini-EVs To Europe Via Its Mobilize Brand

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If there’s one big problem with electric vehicles, it’s that they’re big and expensive.

For a lot of people, the only EVs they can afford are used and clean — but those usually cost just as much as the cheapest new gas-powered cars. Sadly, this stops many low-income individuals from being able to own an EV car, both in America and globally.

EVs are also getting bigger. Some environmentalists and urban planners point out the popularity of electric SUVs and claim that we’re seeing Jevon’s Paradox at work (more efficiency leading to more consumption), but there are some serious holes in the general applicability of that theory, and it could be that the EV market is just sucking in people who already liked ICE crossovers and wouldn’t buy a small EV. Either way, the size of vehicles can be a problem on their own.

Micromobility provides another option, but it comes with a drawback. Because these smaller vehicles use much smaller and cheaper battery packs, even less wealthy countries can now afford electric transport. We’re already seeing that play out outside of the US and Europe.

However, there is a significant downside to bikes and motorcycles that are electric: they’re exposed to the elements. This hasn’t stopped people in many countries from using them because they’re so useful and riders can wear raincoats. I witnessed this first-hand when I was in Taiwan. Most Americans wouldn’t dare ride a motorcycle or bike if it means being caught out in the pouring rain though. Even people who commute by bike on days with fair weather would rather use a car during cold or inclement days whereas those conditions don’t seem to bother citizens of other countries as much.

Although, there is a middle ground that has become increasingly popular in China — miniature EVs. Smaller than regular EVs, and more in line with electric motorcycles or e-bikes in terms of battery size and power, these miniature vehicles often have a low speed limit (under 30 MPH) like mopeds. However, they provide the driver with most of the benefits regarding comfort and protection one would find while driving a normal sized car, making them much more appealing to consumers.

As useful as these vehicles can be, they aren’t a Chinese invention. French manufacturer Renault has been at this game for a while, with the Renault Twizy dating back a decade. So, it’s not a big shocker that Renault would keep this tradition not only alive, but thriving with a new tandem two-seater, but with the stability of four wheels just like the Twizy. Add some important interior upgrades (and a fun design), easy and very inclusive lease deals, and you end up with one of the most environmentally friendly EVs that could prove to be a big hit in Europe.

Why Renault Is Betting On Continued and More Mini-EVs

The new vehicle, Duo, provides an innovative take on urban transportation at a time when restrictions on traffic in city centers are increasing. As it is all-electric, it will be able to enter the low-emissions zones that are appearing or growing in most large cities. This micro-vehicle embodies everything the Mobilize brand represents: rewriting the rules and championing new, more appealing and fun mobility — that is also more responsible, inclusive, and for every age.

Duo is a two-seat (tandem) electric car that comes in two versions: 45 km/h (for 14 years and up, depending on the country) and 80 km/h (which requires a class B license). Both vehicles have quick acceleration due to the torque being immediately available. They are also silent and don’t vibrate, adding an extra layer of comfort for drivers.

Duo is ideal for city and suburban driving with a range of 140 km (pending WMTC certification). Duo is much smaller than the average car at only 2.43 m long, 1.30 m wide, and 1.46 cm high, so that it can easily navigate through urban areas. It’s also comfortable to drive and easy to park due to its agility; in fact, three Duo cars can fit into one parking space! Additionally, the wraparound bumpers protect it from any minor bumps or scrapes.

An Upgraded Interior For The Euro Market

Duo’s dashboard is designed to be both simple and fun, with a pop-culture touch that harkens back to the boomboxes of the 1980s and 1990s. The orange color scheme, central instrument screen, gearbox lever on the left side of the steering wheel, speaker and smartphone holder on the right, plus USB-C port for charging all come together to create a user-friendly interface that anyone can enjoy.

“The design of our vehicles and our services mirrors the Mobilize brand’s DNA. We draw inspiration from urban hallmarks to design objects that enable mobility and venture beyond traditional automotive conventions,” said Patrick Lecharpy, VP Design, Mobilize. “With Mobilize we are inventing an entirely new take on mobility centred around digital technology and revolving around the object itself. People will choose Mobilize for the experience: it offers sustainable and connected mobility, while being fun, convenient, robust and easy to use.”

Duo was created for those who want quick and easy transportation in crowded urban areas. It has two seats that are close together to make maneuvering through traffic easier. The passengers are also protected from the outside with an enclosure around the compartment and large windows to let light in. Finally, the steering wheel contains an airbag — a feature that is not common among other micro-mobility vehicles.

No comfort is sacrificed in this playful, functional interior — the two seats are fully padded for optimal posture and come with a choice of two ultra-tough TEP upholstery styles. The passenger compartment was designed with durability in mind, while being easy to wash.

The driver’s seat is equipped with a 20 cm sliding mechanism for ease of access to the back seats. For storage, there are two compartments on either side of the front seat which can fit two small bags each. The backseat itself is spacious and comfortably accommodates passengers up to 1.8 meters tall. The plans also cater to people with reduced mobility: the vehicle will be able to carry a folding wheelchair and can come with a kit that modifies the controls on the steering wheel.

All-Inclusive Leasing Deals

Mobilize’s private customers have the option to choose Duo and receive flexible subscription deals that start with 3-month agreements. The monthly payments will depend on how long the customer leases for, but in all cases ordering their new Duo will be a quick and easy process that only requires a few clicks on a website.

If you are a professional customer looking for long-term leases, Mobilize Financial Services is the place for you. The deals it offers to companies include everything that these customers expect — manufacturer warranty, maintenance, insurance, and charging solutions. Duo has been designed specifically to significantly reduce fleet operation costs compared with other 4-seater electric city cars: its build is robust, it has a limited number of parts, and no paint, etc.

“Through its subscription deals, Mobilize provides all the services relating to manufacturer warranties, maintenance, insurance and charging solutions. This all-inclusive package aims to provide private and professional customers with all-round peace of mind,” says Corinne Pakey, Duo and Bento Product Performance Leader, Mobilize.

A Commercial Cargo Version

Bento, a cargo-version of Duo, has the same appearance and is designed for professional customers who need a small all-electric vehicle for last-kilometer services. Instead of having a passenger seat, Bento has a closed boot at the back which provides close to 700 liters of usable capacity — the optimal position.

The box is rotomolded out of grey plastic with two extra-large doors that open a full 140 degrees. It also has a hatch to make it easy to transport long objects on the driver’s right side. There will also be additional interior amenities available to meet the needs of different professionals (such as tool racks).

“Bento transfers Duo’s cool and endearing spirit into the van universe. It gives visibility to business activities and at the same meets demand in growing sectors such as last-kilometre services,” points out Benjamin Manceau, Duo and Bento Project Manager, Mobilize.

Starting in 2024, Bento will be available for long-term leases for professionals.

All images provided by Mobilize.

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Jennifer Sensiba

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to get off the beaten path in her "Bolt EAV" and any other EVs she can get behind the wheel or handlebars of with her wife and kids. You can find her on Twitter here, Facebook here, and YouTube here.

Jennifer Sensiba has 1953 posts and counting. See all posts by Jennifer Sensiba