Automakers Plug In To The Future At Paris Motor Show

The buzz out of the Paris Motor Show this year is that electric cars are no longer just the eco-friendly but unsexy vehicles most major manufacturers grudgingly produced to keep up with the Teslas. 

“This show will always be remembered as the event where electric vehicles stopped being niche and moved into the mainstream,” writes Steve Cropley for the U.K.’s Autocar. “There were simply too many battery electric models, launched or forecast, for anyone present to imagine that their life isn't going to be affected, and in the near term, by the presence of electric vehicles.”

“This show may end up being best remembered as a tipping point for an electric car revolution poised to challenge the automobile industry’s internal-combustion status quo,” Jerry Garrett agrees in the New York Times  “— although some of the excitement is still speculative, of course.” 

Case in point: “Renault’s zero-emission pure-electric powertrain TreZor prototype is a new concept for a glamorous two-seat coupe the French carmaker claims will influence the design of its cars well into the next decade,” according toEuronews

But as an self-driving concept car, not everything is all that practical. “The steering wheel is rectangular for more of a Formula 1 look, which is fine, since this thing has a snowball's chance in hell of appearing on the road,” writes Andrew Krok for CNET’s “Road Show” while admiring the overall look.

Back in the real world, Renault unveiled it next-generation Zoe EV, which has a range of about 250 miles.

The Zoe has been around since 2012 and costs about $27,000 without a battery, the NYT’s Garrett reports. “Buyers then lease a battery pack from the manufacturer for about $100 a month. Renault said the new Zoe would probably have a battery purchase option.”

Mercedes, meanwhile, took the wraps off its battery electric sub brand “EQ” and CEO Dieter Zetsche claimed it will be “the leading seller of electric vehicles in nine years,” reports Larry E. Hall for “When asked if Tesla is the EQ’s main competitor, Zetsche gave a affirmative reply,” Hall writes.

“At that point in time, obviously yes. We had set for ourselves a target five years ago… to become the No. 1 car premium manufacturer,” he said. “That was supposed to be reached in 2020, [but] it seems that we are awful close already.”

In all, Mercedes plans to launch more than 10 electric cars over the next decade, Zetsche told reporters last week, and zero-emission vehicles will make up 15% to 25% of its sales by 2026.

BloombergBusinessWeek’s Elisabeth Behrmann tells us that Mercedes-Benz design chief Gorden Wagener believes electric motors will “fundamentally” reshape the way cars look in the same way that gasoline-powered automobiles eventually looked a lot different from the horse-drawn carriages they resembled for three decades.  

“Electric cars ‘started out with a bit of an eco-friendly, responsible tag,’ Wagener said as crowds clustered around the Generation EQ during the Paris show. ‘They weren’t sexy, they weren’t luxury cars, and they didn’t sell,’” Behrmann reports he said.

That other German automaker, Volkswagen — “trying to move beyond the diesel-emissions cheating scandal that has tarnished its brand” — brought an all-electric concept car it calls the I.D. to the show and it will “introduce a new e-Golf, with a range the company says exceeds 124 miles,” at the Los Angeles Auto Show next month, the NYT’s Garrett reports.

The I.D. is a “highly automated electric car that will be able to cover a distance of 249 to 373 miles on a single battery charge. The production version of the I.D. is due to be launched in 2020 at a price on a par with comparably well-equipped Golf models,” according toSports Car Illustrated.

Meanwhile, Citroën “showed off its new plug-in hybrid hatchback, the CXperience, revealing its ambitions in the upmarket sector,” Euronews reports, and “Japanese carmaker Mitsubishi presented its GT-PHEV, the latest in a series of plug-in electric SUV concepts.” Finally, Mitsubishi presented its GT-PHEV, a plug-in electric SUV concept car.

Then there’s the Toyota FCV Plus, a hydrogen fuel cell concept car. “When the car isn't in use for transport, it can be used as a generator to make electricity for the driver's home; it can also be used away from the home, and when not in use, it puts energy back into the grid,” reports Autocar’s Jimi Beckwith.

“The car's overriding ethos, according to Toyota, is ‘how future hydrogen cars can make a positive contribution to society.’” 

There’s a lot riding on that concept.

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