THEY might look as though they should be restricted to the golf course. But these open-sided electric microcars will be used to help tourists explore Scotland’s countryside through an environmentally friendly transport scheme.
The Eco Travel Network (ETN) has won a new Scottish Green Transport Prize after demonstrating the benefits of hiring lightweight Renault Twizys to visitors as a “cheap, green and fun” alternative to using 4x4s on country roads.
The network plans to use the £50,000 prize money to expand north of the Border and develop even sturdier buggies for the rugged terrain of the islands.
People on Eigg have already expressed interest in the idea, and St Andrews University, which supported the inaugural award, is also keen to bring Twizys to Fife.
ETN director Dr Alison Kidd believes the vehicles, which have proven themselves in Wales, would be ideal for exploring the outdoors across Scotland.
She said: “Twizys are perfect for rural tourism businesses – and we want to use the prize to attract further investment to develop a more rugged vehicle that can be used on country roads and rougher tracks.
“Sometimes, that last quarter of a mile up a rough track to a holiday cottage needs that more rugged vehicle, with higher wheels and tougher suspension.
“We have learned a lot in Wales and this kind of project would be perfect for rural Scotland, too – especially some of the islands and ideally places with renewable energy sources to power the vehicles.”
Dr Kidd, who is also a psychologist, said Twizys were winning people over, adding: “If you give them a fun experience and change their behaviour, you might change their attitudes in the longer term – and the Twizys are cool and fun.”
The Welsh scheme was launched last year in the Brecon Beacons, which is popular with tourists but has limited public transport and rough roads.
Tourists can hire the microcars from B&Bs and hotels. The vehicles have a top speed of 50mph, power for journeys of up to 50 miles at a time and can be recharged at 40 pubs, cafés, castles and activity providers.
Lucy Conway, a project manager on Eigg, has approached the ETN to discuss using electric vehicles for a business venture transporting artists and their equipment around the island.
She said: “We have only got four miles of road which has a lot of potholes, so for us if they developed an electric quadbike that would be very useful.”
Staff at St Andrews University believe the microcars could be a viable, green transport option for people there, too.
Dr Roddy Yarr, the environment and energy manager, said: “The Twizys would be perfect for the rural roads of east Fife.”
The Green Transport Prize was set up by Edinburgh College in partnership with St Andrews and Edinburgh Napier universities, supported by the South East Scotland Transport Partnership and Scotsman conferences.