Image

Happy 20th Birthday, TW560!

Two decades, 280,000+km – countless hours of driving bliss and a persistent attribute of my life – Thank you, TW560!

Built in Switzerland mid-2000 by the nascent TWIKE AG, it was put into service one month before my eldest daughter was born. My wife and I had just returned from 3+ years of living abroad in Asia and southern Europe in June 2000 and had just begun to restart our life in Switzerland.

My TWIKE was the 560th in the line, but due to some administrative miscommunication, more than one TW560 exists – my TWIKE’s twin lives close to Munich. We met in 2013 in Zurich for a record breaking event.

TW560's life starts

TW560’s life starts

Let’s just have a quick look into where TW560 was produced…In 1999, in the production halls of TWIKE AG, it was part of the second wave of TWIKEs that were produced after the pilot wave. The first TWIKE I ever drove was one of the very first batch: TW077 – a glorious 2-pack TWIKE that got me hooked for life during the period of one year and one very, very patient TWIKE pilot who lent me his TWIKE not once, not twice, not three times…but a full four times during weeks before I bought my own.

This is the hall TW560 was produced in – the newest in this picture is TW141.

TWIKE production line

In August 2000 it was delivered to one of the first TWIKE service centres in north-eastern Switzerland – TWIKE Center, Griesser Elektro AG, for some final touches and delivery to its first owner who lived just 11km away in one of the most beautiful small villages and a cultural heritage site of the Canton of Zurich – Guntalingen. It’s a perfect setting for owning a TWIKE. Rolling hills, medium-sized cities within 20-30km, all reachable by TWIKE in its initial extra-urban transit configuration.

Speaking of which – TW560 was quite a luxuriously appointed TWIKE, ordered with most top-line options available in those days:

  • 3-block / 3kWh NiCd battery pack
    A treat for those days – 3kWh was much more than you would ever need and gave you a peace of mind that gave you the flexibility to drive much further than you would typically go.
  • Full creme-color luxury carpet trim
    Not only a beautiful sight, it insulates well against outside noise.
  • Sun visors on both sides
    Doesn’t sound luxurious until you get to drive in one without them.
  • Alcantara long-distance seats
    Drive further than 20km with the plastic-only seats and you know what this is worth!
  • Integral 3-wheel braking system
    Extremely safety-relevant update with the front brake now not controlled by your left hand but by your legs!
  • 3-point seat-belt
    Standard was a 2-point seat-belt
  • Interior lighting
    Well, this was indeed a luxury… the current version of TW560 doesn’t have an internal lighting solution
  • 3rd brake light
    OK, this one might be the least important.
  • NiCd discharge controller
    Extremely important feature…in those days. In order to always have the pack’s full capacity, regular full discharges of the NiCd batteries were necessary. With this controller, a full discharge was just a button-press away. It would discharge the battery very slowly with a set of resistors that would cut out at 265V and then initiate a full charge. Gone were the days that you needed to keep the TWIKE running with its lights on until it died and then get it back from the dead by reprogramming the battery controllers and a full re-boot!

Edwin Griesser is one of Switzerland’s early electric mobility pioneers. In his 80’s nowadays, he opened the TWIKE Center in 1996 and helped ramp-up the production speed of TWIKE’s by supporting the assembly in-house. TWIKE’s weren’t the only products he sold and maintained: The iconic Kewet and MiniEl could also to be seen on the parking lot in front of the TWIKE Center.

TW560’s first owner started driving it just a month later and drove it 55683km in 8 years averaging 7263 km per year. This incidentally is around the exact average a TWIKE typically has. It is a vehicle designed to cover everyday mobility. Taking you to the shops and to the railway station in comfort and protected from the elements.

I’ll write about how I came to want a TWIKE and buy TW560 in a future blog entry.

By mid-2007 TW560 previous owner had decided to get one of the newest TWIKEs with Lion cells and a 200+ km range. In those days, conversions from NiCd were not the norm and he had the funds available to get a new one. His new TWIKE 831 was delivered in November 2007.

After driving TW077 for a total of around 12 weeks in 2006/2007 I was sold and started to research which type of TWIKE (e.g. separate braking system vs. integral system, etc.) would be the one I wanted.

Q3/4 2007, I went to visit Griesser Elektro in Marthalen and Bechtiger in Zurich multiple times to test drive some TWIKEs.

Lucky for me, at this time, pre-2008-crash, there were quite a lot of used TWIKEs available for 6-11k – new TWIKEs were priced around 35,000 CHF…outside of my budget, unfortunately.

Test driving the TWIKE’s was fun, but I soon noticed that the cheaper, older, less well kept ones with less healthy batteries were not an option for me. TW077 had around 55km range and I had been constantly feeling restricted by this. My eyes were firmly on a TWIKE with good batteries …and… as original as possible: No aftermarket additions or weird holes by previous owners.

Long story short: With a budget of ~8k, none of the TWIKEs I tried convinced me and adding a new battery pack to an otherwise good TWIKE would have overrun my budget by far. With this, I decided that owning a TWIKE was something that wasn’t to be and left it at that with a sad and heavy heart.

Fortunately, by the end of 2007, I successfully grew the business of the company against all odds. As a result they gave me – besides a sizeable chunk of RSU’s – a 10k cash bonus…which brought me back into the business of purchasing a TWIKE!

After receiving my payout March 2008, April 2008 I went back to Möckli-Elektrofahrzeuge and walked around the various TWIKE’s in the vast basement and started discussing upgrading an existing TWIKE with some new batteries when we walked past a TWIKE that was covered with white protective sheets.

I asked why this TWIKE was covered and if I could have a look at it. Thomas Möckli answered that it was on sale but the owner wanted quite a lot of money for it because it had many add-on features and a big 90km battery. The owner wanted CHF 18k for his TWIKE. Quite a lot of money for a used vehicle!

With the sheets off: here it was … TW560.

First picture of TW560

First picture of TW560

We took it for a test drive and it felt very different from the TWIKE’s I had driven previously – precise, comfortable and quiet.

Back from the first test drive I was convinced that this would be “my” TWIKE and asked Thomas to put me in touch with the owner. Within a week I had purchased TW560 and had Thomas detail it for me whilst I arranged the insurance.

Early May 2008 TW560 was ready to be picked-up and I set off to start a completely new era of personal transport, fun, discussions about electric mobility, getting to know a completely new set of like-minded people and trips all over the world.

In those days electric mobility was seen as something for freaks and treehuggers – we were indeed pioneers in those days. Since then we’ve come a long way – and I’m looking forward to the future.

With my new battery pack and continuous maintenance I am convinced that TW560 has another 20 years of life ahead!

#gogogo!