G-Wiz! the Electric Car That Started a Revolution

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A G-Wiz charging on the streets of LondonIn early 2004, a tiny new car appeared on the streets of London.

It confused, surprised and confounded everyone who saw it. It was more compact than a Smart ForTwo, it had cheeky, quirky styling that demanded attention, it could turn around in the width of a narrow street, it squeezed into the tiniest parking space, and it traveled in silence.

The little car attracted attention wherever it went. What was it? Who made it? Why is it so quiet? Was it electric? Suddenly, the media were falling over each other to report on a new vehicle: the G-Wiz electric car.

In a short period of time the little G-Wiz went from being a complete unknown to a media sensation. Hollywood stars, TV celebrities, politicians and captains of industry queued up to buy them. Fashion designers created special edition models. Suddenly, the G-Wiz became cool.

Hundreds of people flocked to buy the G-Wiz. Some were attracted by the cheap running costs, exemption from London's Congestion Charge, and free parking permits. Others were attracted by its environmental credentials. Lots were bought by SUV owners, wanting a smaller car to use in the city.

Local government and private businesses responded by installing charging points and offering free parking in many parts of London. Enthusiastic owners went on to form their own club - the G-Wiz Owners Club - now one of the largest electric car owners clubs in the world. They also set up the EV Network, the world's first National Charging Network for electric cars across the United Kingdom.

Other car manufacturers and the automotive press couldn't understand it: the G-Wiz was slow, cramped and not particularly well built. Why were people buying the G-Wiz instead of a "proper" car? Why was there a five month waiting list for the G-Wiz?

Few cars divided opinion or created as much debate as the G-Wiz. And few cars are likely ever to do so again.

The car's success was the first indication that the general public was eager to buy electric cars. It wasn't long before Honda, Renault and Peugeot showed electric concept cars of similar dimensions to the G-Wiz. Norbert Reithofer, CEO at BMW started openly talking about BMW building "a G-Wiz competitor," explaining that this would be an important future market for BMW.

Today, six years after Londoners saw their first G-Wiz, the car remains popular. Build quality, safety, performance and handling have been improved in successive models and the car still sells in reasonable numbers. Visit a car park in the City of London or City of Westminster and you'll see more examples of the G-Wiz than any other single model of car. Many Londoners view the car with pride - they see it as "their" car, created for "their" city.

The true value of the G-Wiz is not in the car itself, but what it has achieved. Each day, the G-Wiz demonstrates to millions of Londoners that electric cars are practical. It is the first time any electric car has managed to achieve that in 100 years of motoring. In doing so, it has become a milestone in the uptake of electric cars.

A recent Frost and Sullivan survey into electric vehicles noted that when people find out about electric cars, their interest in buying one doubles. I carried out a survey with city car users as research for a book I am writing; in cities where the G-Wiz is common, people are twice as likely to consider buying an electric car in the future.

It's a legacy that will live on for a very long time.

[Note: the author Mike Boxwell is head of the G-Wiz Owners Club in the U.K. The G-Wiz is actually an Indian-made Reva rebadged for the U.K. market, and all information pertains to the U.K. version only.]

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Comments (14)
  1. This is VERY informative and interesting. Thank you Mr. Boswell.

  2. The pent up demand for EVs is huge. When they actually start rolling off the assembly lines, there will be mass hysteria. People will love them and the limited range will just be an accepted drawback.
    Like the iPod, it will take time to catch on, but soon everyone will want one.

  3. And pro-active automobile makers like Nissan and Mitsubishi will keep working on growing the all-electrical car infrastructure, along with government and private utilites and companies, and we will be off and running. West coast cities like Portland, San Francisco and Seattle are among the cities getting actively involved in building the automotive electrical infrastructure up. Tax breaks to follow and help the common bill-paying working man out? One should only hope.

  4. Why on earth do you send links to all possible cincurrent and none to any G-Wiz page ?
    What about people wanting to surf on the hype and to buy one ?

  5. @manu - stop being so lazy and expectant. if you want to buy one then try googling g-wiz perhaps?

  6. Thanks a lot Mr. Boswell its interesting even I also love electric cars. It helps a lot to stop global warming which is the major problem on earth. If everyone starts thinking the same, I am sure that there will least amount of pollution.

  7. A recent Frost and Sullivan survey into electric vehicles noted that when people find out about electric cars, their interest in buying one doubles. I carried out a survey with city car users as research for this book. In cities where the G-Wiz is common, people are twice as likely to consider buying an electric car in the future.

  8. Hopefully with the means to power 'em with low GHG energy not hitched on a lot later, and a lot further behind.
    Sort of the cartel after the horsepower?
    I still see moppets, from BBC 'correspondents' to business secretaries missing the point that just 'cos the exhaust pipe isn't part of the car, that doesn't mean it has 'zero emissions', at least by any cradle to grave assessment I've seen.
    Better for high density urban pollution, yes. For most else just another contributing factor to the impact of a travel-addicted consumer society.

  9. The question is do the costs of electric vehicles on the environment really offer a benefit over non-electric? Storing electricity has to come at a significant cost. I'm pretty sure or I would think you loose allot of electricity in the process of charging a battery and storing it in a battery for later use. So therefore one must ask the inevitable question is oil so costly (environmentally) that other forms of electricity generation and then storing impacting the environment less? I know engines in cars are not the most efficient in electricity generation as other forms of power generation. But if you don't use that power immediately you loose some of it in storing it.

  10. I truly wish to never purchase another gas engine but until EV's are A) Affordable B) Really safe (especially against larger vehicles) I don't see affording one. If larger vehicles were banned from inner city streets that would be a great step in the right direction.
    Colorado, USA

  11. I brought one & boy is it fun! the little g-wiz is hard to beat in any town!
    With Mr Boxwells very own g-wiz owners club for support running one without the dealers network nearby is within reach of anyone with an interest in going electric.

  12. I wish the fact that it is actually an Indian made car was not relegated to the last line of the article. I think the company and the car need a lot more publicity here in India.
    The Reva is made by Bangalore based Maini group, although the car has not been very popular here due to its comparative high cost, and lack of govt. incentives.
    But if you found it good, dont feel shy of commending the actual creators!

  13. Great article. Functional utility is the key for any vehicle which is Cost, Operating Cost, and Performance (speed, range, carrying ability, and terrain capability). Some communities allow golf carts on their streets and in Florida they satisfy all of the criteria. Here in Utah, it's different with temperature extremes, hills, long distances, and a local preference for speed. So far, nothing makes it here. Maybe later.

  14. India invented the number ZERO ... and now India leads the way in ZERO emissions vehicles!!
    Howz THAT for an encore!!

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