30 September 2016

Some electric thinking from Paris

I remember writing the 'electric story' at a car show about six or seven years ago, when there was really nothing practical out there except the groundbreaker Nissan Leaf, writes Brian Byrne.

In 2010, for instance, BMW's i3 was only a concept that year, in the coming weeks it's being relaunched with a longer range battery.

And close to home, three friends of mine in our one-street town have bought Leafs in the last six weeks or so.

So one of the big stories of this Paris 2016 Mondial de l'Auto is not that electric cars are still coming, they're here, in numbers. And while all the talk in those earlier years was about range anxiety, now it's all about 'my range is bigger than yours'.

In a big way, kilometres have taken over the place once given to horsepower.

So Renault's big emphasis at this show is the Zoe (top), its bespoke electric supermini. Not that there's a new version, but that it will now travel 400km on a charge.

Significantly trumping Nissan's recent bump up to 250km for its Leaf. Better too than VW's e-Golf, now trumpeted at 'up to 300km'. Then VW also has its e-up!, which has been given a range boost too.

Opel's Ampera-e promises to beat them all for the moment, debuted at the show with a 500km range. But we won't see it in Ireland because the cost of building it in RHD form don't add up to local market viability.

Mercedes-Benz is showcasing its EQ SUV concept, introducing the 'EQ' brand on which it will pin its electric vehicle future. The platform of the EQ is flexible, and can be used to provide saloons, coupes, estates or any format that will sell. The range of the concept is claimed to be 500km on a single charge of the in-floor battery.

Volkswagen is looking very seriously at an electric vehicle future, and its keynote concept was the I.D. (the full stops are part of the name, as batty as the up!). The car will go into production in 2020 as a compact, alongside the Golf. VW say it will have a range of up to 600km on a charge.

Hyundai are also showing their Ioniq car here. It's triplets, really, with a hybrid aimed directly at Prius, a plug-in hybrid version, and also a pure electric car. Arriving in Ireland in November, and the Korean company is very definitely elbowing its way in to everything electrical in cars.

More later when things stop sparking.