Report from Europe's Largest Electric Car Show

By · April 06, 2011

The Green GT electric race car at Ever Monaco

The Green GT electric race car at Ever Monaco

Ever Monaco is a small motor show in the tiny Principality of Monaco. You'd think it doesn't matter much, but it does as most of the cars there are EVs. They don't make the show any bigger, but there were enough of them to make Ever Monaco larger than any other show dedicated to green cars in France, the neighboring country. So all French brands were attending—Citroën, Peugeot and most notably Renault, which came back after several years of absence.

Renault-Nissan has great ambitions. It intends to be the world leader in electric mobility, and that's what they will achieve in a few months. Nissan has already delivered more cars than Tesla, and it will beat Think and Mitsubishi later in the year. The tsunami in Japan caused a hiccup in the production, but everything will be back to normal soon, and as I was given the opportunity to drive a Nissan LEAF for a day, I can testify it's the best electric I've ever driven by a huge margin. It was the star of the show in Monaco.

The FAM F-city at Ever Monaco

The FAM F-city at Ever Monaco

Ever Monaco has usually been a show for small manufacturers, as the bigger ones weren't making any electrics. Next to the super expensive Venturi Fetish and hybrids, cars like the little Think used to be the best on the show. Another example is the FAM F-City. It's French-built, with lead-acid batteries, and it costs about the same as a Honda Fit Hybrid which was also at the show. It's launching right now in Europe. Americans might be jealous, because they won't get the Fit Hybrid. The table will turn on Europeans, when Honda Fit EV is launched in the U.S., because Honda has already said it won't be available in Europe. Even less inspiring, there used to be quite a lot of low-speed vehicles, like the GEM car, but there were less of them this year, and talking with a few people, I have felt some resentment.

Electric car Revolution Will Not Happen Without Pain

Those companies making small EVs like the Think, or low-speed vehicles, are certainly not making great cars. They have few supporters among drivers, or in the automotive industry, but at least some of them were profitable companies with a viable business model. I was the first to applaud when I learned that Renault-Nissan was investing $4 billions in EVs, but the small players just can't compete at that level. Several of them will have no other choice than to close their doors. I just hope things will turn out the same way they did when Henry Ford started manufacturing the Model T: the public good will prevail.

The Renault Twizy at Ever Monaco

The Renault Twizy at Ever Monaco

Small manufacturers bring small cars with simple engineering at high price, the bigger ones bring lower prices, and most importantly better cars. Or vehicle-type things. The Renault Twizy is one of them. Though the most incredible thing about it is that Renault has green-lighted it. It will go into production later this year. The basic model, which will sell as a low-speed vehicle so that a 14-year old can drive it, will cost about $10,000 battery not included. No big manufacturer has ever made anything like it. If it proves successful as a PT (Personal Transportation) device, it may change the face of the world. In the meantime, the electric Citroën C-Zero already represents a huge improvement over fossil-fuel-burning vehicles, but registrations are still very low. First deliveries of the Nissan LEAF are expected late summer in France, I'll be watching the numbers very closely.

The Citroën C-Zero at Ever Monaco

The Citroën C-Zero at Ever Monaco

Last, as this is Monaco, the place with the highest density of exotic cars in the world, there had to be something sexy. The Green GT had that role. It's an electric race car. It currently has batteries, but the team behind it is working on a fuel cell evolution. It's needed. This is a 175-mph automobile. On the track, its batteries last only 17 minutes. That's not enough. Talking with the engineer who made it was refreshing. So many people working on electric cars only talk about urban driving, but we spoke about speed and torque vectoring. Hey, that's more fun!

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