The Government is seeking a review of the European regulations for quadricycles after initial tests of their safety performance, following their growth in popularity as a more environmentally friendly alternative to cars.
A “quadricycle” is a vehicle with four wheels whose unladen mass is not more than 400kg (excluding batteries if it is an electric vehicle) and whose maximum continuous rated power does not exceed 15 kW. The G-Wiz electric car is a quadricycle.
Current safety standards, set at European level, were established at a time when it was never envisaged that this type of product would be used as a mainstream road vehicle.
The Department for Transport began simulated impact tests on a G-Wiz once this growth in popularity had been determined. The vehicle tested passed all the European requirements applicable to quadricyles, but when it was subjected to the same impact test expected of normal cars serious safety concerns were highlighted.
For quadricycles, as opposed to passenger cars, there are no requirements for occupant protection tests. The occupant protection is assessed by a frontal impact test where the vehicle is propelled into a deformable barrier (to simulate striking another vehicle) at a velocity of 56 km/h (35 mph). The impact takes place at a 40% overlap with the barrier and is concentrated on the driver’s side of the vehicle.
Roads Minister Dr Stephen Ladyman said: “The safety regulations that govern this type of vehicle were designed at a time when it was thought they would cover four-wheeled motorcycles and some small, specialised commercial vehicles. Not city runabouts that resemble small cars. But, given increasing environmental concerns, new vehicles that qualify as quadricycles have come to the market and are becoming more popular for urban use. Therefore it is right that we reconsider the regulations for this type of vehicle and whether safety regulations should be made more stringent. Now we have the initial findings of our tests we will be taking this up with the European Commission and manufacturers, and will publish more information when the full programme of tests is complete”.
The Department for Transport will carry out further tests on another make of quadricycle to help its discussions with the European Commission, and is now in urgent contact with the relevant manufacturers. Once the full analysis is complete further information will be made available.
Construction standards for quadricycles are harmonised at European level, the main instrument being European Parliament and Council Directive 2002/24/EC – the Framework Directive. This Directive requires compliance with a number of individual Directives that set out requirements for particular vehicle systems; brakes, lighting, wheels, etc.
These harmonised requirements are recognised by all 27 Member States of the European Community and once the vehicle is approved to the standards of the Directive by any member state the manufacturer has access to all 27 markets.
This review could present small electric car makers with a serious challenge – at a time when one of their main competitive advantages, the London Congestion Charge exemption, may be opened up to a wide range of other vehicles falling below the 120g/km CO2 emission threshold, including more conventional products from mainstream manufacturers, such as the Mini Cooper D and the Vauxhall Corsa Life 1.3CDTi.
See also: Safety features on the G-Wiz