A recent article on Toyota’s i-Road got me briefly excited. It’s a small, three wheeled electric vehicle (EV) that can carry two people. It’s less than a metre wide, so to provide stable cornering, the i-Road automatically leans through corners in an experience that has been described in this video as “surreal”. It has a range of 50 km – adequate for many commutes – but the deal breaker for me is its top speed of 45 km/h. That might be fine for crowded Japanese and European cities, but in Australia’s suburban sprawl and 60 km/h limits, the i-Road won’t cut it.

There is also the small point that it wouldn’t be allowed on Australian roads anyway, and that got me thinking back to the ill-fated attempt to bring the Reva to our shores.

The Reva is Indian electric car, and back in 2006 Solar Shop gained local distribution rights. The Reva of that vintage looked like it was designed by a cartoonist, but it had four wheels, a top speed of 80 km/h, would take you 80 km on a single charge costing around 60 cents and had a price tag of about $15,000. But, it didn’t meet Australian design standards.

Europe’s solution to vehicles like the Reva was to create a separate class called quadricycles. According to the UK distributor, the Reva (G-Wiz in that country) had “an exemplary safety record”. It also goes without saying that, small though it may be, the Reva offers vastly better protection than a motorbike, moped or humble bicycle.

This last fact I pointed out to both state and federal transport ministers in my eloquent letters packed with persuasive logic for letting the Reva onto our roads. Sadly, they were not persuasive enough. The Reva, Renault Twizy and numerous other electric commuter solutions remain locked out of the local market.

Solar Shop’s Adrian Ferraretto went on to found Tindo Solar, and I bought a Toyota Yaris as the family’s second car. It is, I admit, a bigger, safer and far more versatile vehicle than the Reva, but also more polluting. So years later, I still feel pangs of disappointment that I was denied the chance to opt for reasonably practical, low-cost, if slightly ridiculous looking electric transport.

And surely I’m not alone in wondering: why can’t we drive small electric vehicles in Australia?

Main image: Reva Recharging by frankh via Flickr (Creative Commons)

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