The Venturi Volage, the Most Promising EV Ever, Should Make it to the Streets in 2012

By · July 07, 2011

Electric cars are still a rare sight on the road, but I don't remember going to an auto show without seeing at least one. Concepts. Cars that you know won't ever be produced. You look at them politely, with moderate interest, wondering what will come next.

The Venturi Volage could have been like this. It's so different, so unlike anything else on four wheels. I will describe it, but you have to see it to really understand it. You have to kneel down behind the car: there is nothing between the rear wheels. Every car has an axle there—and sometimes a gearbox or an engine too—but there isn't any in the Volage. This incredible feat comes thanks to the use of Active Wheels from Michelin.

The Venturi Volage at the Le Mans vers le futur event

The Venturi Volage at the Le Mans vers le futur event

The whole drivetrain and suspension system are inside the wheels, and there is no such thing as "wheel travel" with this set-up. So the interface between the wheels and the car can be very close to the wheels, freeing up space for passengers or whatever a carmaker chooses to do with it.

Venturi engineers chose to use it as a design feature, giving the Volage its unique look. The unusual paint highlights it, and tells the world the Venturi brand is 25-years old. And more than that actually, because the Volage has already been through three years of development. I discovered the car at the Paris motor show in October 2008, and I was told then that the car would be available in 2012. I'm happy to report everything is going as planned.

Venturi Volage at the challenge Bibendum in Berlin

The Venturi Volage at the challenge Bibendum in Berlin

The car's development is now complete. We saw it at the Challenge Bibendum in May, and it took part at the Le Mans vers le futur parade last month. Those events were opportunities to see how it fared against the competition, and quite simply, it was the best. The Volage was the quickest through the slalom, and it was the fastest accelerating car at the Challenge—even faster than a Tesla roadster, (though the Tesla might be faster in the quarter-mile.)

That's the car only shortcoming: though it's incredibly quick off the line, its top speed is a slow 100 mph. Each motor makes 55 kW and 43 lbs-ft of torque, giving 220 kW and 171 lbs-ft for the whole car. The peak torque value seems rather low, I guess that comes from the incredibly small size of the motors. They're smaller than an alternator in a gas car. Anyway, that's not of a problem as the Volage only weighs 2370 pounds.

The Venturi Volage interior

The Venturi Volage interior

That includes 45 kWh of lithium-polymer cells giving a 200-mile range at a steady 55 mph. Much of this low weight comes from the extensive use of carbon fiber, which is everywhere in the car. On the outside, painted, and in the interior also. There's so much of it that it feels strange when you're sitting inside. You get in through Lamborghini-like doors, and the entire footwell is made of beautifully finished carbon fiber, with minimal carpeting. It should be nice, but it felt intimidating to me—unnatural, I'd say.

Looking up, the rest of the interior would be quite straightforward if the center console weren't so high, this is due to the batteries underneath. But overall, this interior is a nice place to spend time in.

The Venturi Volage parading at Le Mans

The Venturi Volage parading at Le Mans

The big question is: can you buy it? Today's answer is that you can't, but this should change next year. Venturi is ready to build the car, but it doesn't manufacture the motors. Those come from Michelin, which should be ready quite soon to put its Active Wheels in regular production. Actually, Michelin's very willing to mass produce them, and in greater quantity than Venturi could make cars. Perhaps once the Volage is available, another car manufacturer will see how great the technology is and order thousands.

Comments

· · 3 years ago

Laurent, A 100 kph top speed would be a non-starter in the USA — being unable to keep up with traffic on highways and freeways is unsafe. Do you really think it would sell in Europe?

· Anonymous (not verified) · 3 years ago

To dpcolorado,

It said 100 MPH. And fyi, you are forgetting about hyper-milers. I never exceed 60 mph on the highway.

Although I noticed there was no price mentioned...sure to be beyond my range!

· · 3 years ago

Yes, 100mph should be more than fast enough for most stylish outlaws attempting to evade the authorities. I'm more underwhelmed with the fact that, with in-the-wheel motors, you're still straddled with a huge center console to hide the batteries. More impressive to me is the 200 mile range @ 55mph spec. Let's see them put that technology in a car with a bit more real world functionality and less uber-sizzle pretense.

· · 3 years ago

Sorry, I read that wrong. 100 mph would be plenty!

· · 3 years ago

All sounds too good to be true.... but that's only without knowing the price. That could unfortunately put everything in perspective. In many ways, this seems to be the first real challenge to the Roadster. I'd sure like to know how slippery through the air this thing is. Looks like it could have amazingly low drag. Could it beat the EV1?

· · 3 years ago

Darell,

I don't know how low the Cd would be -- the slope on the rear window is too steep, and there are large air intakes. The rear wheels do have skirts, but they appear to have the same track as the front wheels.

My guess is the EV1 is lower drag -- this car is maybe under 0.22-23?

Neil

· · 3 years ago

At the risk of potentially getting folks angry at me (no fear of that, actually,) I'm going to say what has to be said: I think this thing is truly ugly . . . like some sort of track shoe with wheels. The Tesla roadster is gorgeous. But this thing?

And, yes, what's with all those air scoops? If you are going to design a super slippery car with an innovative electric drive train, you might as well go all out and obtain something with looks while you're at it. How about putting those Michelin wheel/motors onto something like
this? . . .

http://autophotosite.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/1988_Oldsmobile-Aero...

· · 3 years ago

Venturi hasn't released any info about the Volage Cd value, I don't think it's a record-breaker though, it's just good.

· · 3 years ago

@Benjamin Nead
The car you linked does look cool, the only problem is it's Old. I mean look at the name on the side of the car, "OLDsMOBILE".

Seriously though it all comes down to:
1. Price
2. Will it come to the US

· · 3 years ago

I'm going to guess that the Volage will cost a pretty penny, Travisty. It's hard enough to get real world European cars over here, if they don't have an already established U-S dealer network. Where are the Venturi dealerships? I'm not waiting for them to pop up on every corner between now and next year. I'd rather see a European EV exportation effort go into something a bit more utilitarian, realistically priced and, if its supposed to be in the same league as the Tesla Roadster, a bit more stylish.

· · 3 years ago

Meh, a weird looking 2 seater that's likely to be ridiculously priced. I see no practical benefit to using the wheel motors in this execution. "Best EV Ever" is rather a stretch to say the least.

· George Parrott (not verified) · 3 years ago

Those air ducts may be actually functional reductions in frontal area and channels to smooth airflow?

At least that is possible.

And about price....I think that since Venturi have never suggested a target price, and because this is very limited production and virtually all carbon fiber, you can start saving your big bills, as this is likely to be perhaps twice the price of a Tesla. At anything less than $100,000 this might even sell to the wastefully wealthy and still "green."

· · 3 years ago

I must have missed the memo that electric cars have to look weird and awkward. If these car companies want something to sell to anyone outside of a fringe audience, they need to hire good car designers FIRST.

· · 3 years ago

At some point we need to start realizing that transportation is more than jewelry, and that aesthetics should NOT come first. But I realize that's taking a huge leap. With finite time, money and effort, I'd rather see functional, efficient cars way before pretty ones.

Hell, the Prius is selling well.

· · 3 years ago

Form should follow function but I'm not convinced that's what's happening here. Plus the design would seem to have serious blind spots with those huge rear pillars. Good aerodynamics can look good as well.

· · 3 years ago

I didn't mean to say that THIS care was a fine example of form following function... I was only commenting on the idea that the most important aspect of cars is their looks.

· · 3 years ago

Agree, but it's hard to fight human nature. We are visual creatures in all things, and our first impression of anything is how it looks. All subsequent information will be influenced by our initial feelings based on visual cues. Certainly subjective to some degree, and possibly influenced by changing ideas as to what is really important. Example, I used to love big trucks and muscle cars with loud motors, now I mostly see them as inefficient dinosaurs lacking good aerodynamics. I still hope to build a 4x4 EV someday, but I'll have to wait until cheaper batteries and affordable, sealed, water cooled AC motors are available to allow for the off road capabilities I want. Hopefully someday.

· · 3 years ago

I agree on all accounts. We just need to start advertising aerodynamic cars with hot babes draped over them.

· · 3 years ago

Now you're talking. Besides, those smooth flowing curves should be more comfortable for the models. Fisker is heading in the right direction:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mo5YOZ2saZk
Now if they'd just get rid of the ICE so they can close off and smooth out the front end....

· · 3 years ago

Oooh. 9-1/2 Weeks sexy. Yay.

· · 3 years ago

To reduce drag why not make it as wide as a motorcycle? (alright it's a little wider but not by much)
http://flytheroad.com/

If only there was an EV version....

· · 3 years ago

> If only there was an EV version....

Well, not by these same folks, but if you want efficiency. Look no further:
http://www.wired.com/autopia/2010/09/oerlikon-solar-zerotracer/

· · 3 years ago

There were 2 pretty girls when the Volage was unveiled, but I guess I made a mistake as I went to talk with an engineer instead of taking pictures... I'll do it better next time.

· M. Jennings (not verified) · 2 years ago

I applaud Michelin for it's innovative thinking about integrating systems and making our future vehicles more efficient. One challenge for designers is to full embrace the freedoms that these new technologies and approaches afford.

Regards

· · 2 years ago

Most important aspect of a car is the ability to sell. For that looks are somewhat important. as is price.

· · 2 years ago

Plus there is nothing particularly efficient with a vehicle that size getting 200 miles at 55 mph from 45kwh's of batteries.

· · 1 year ago

Well, here we are. 2012 is behind us. Where's that "most promising" EV??

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