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Paris show: Electric vehicles crowd Paris show

Benz beauty: The Mercedes Generation EQ all-electric SUV concept features what its designer calls “the electrified look”.

Cheaper, more practical and sophisticated EVs set to tempt buyers

Mercedes-Benz logo30 Sep 2016

By RON HAMMERTON

FEWER than one car buyer in 100 in Europe chose an electric car last year, but vehicle manufacturers believe the tipping point for mass take-up of electric vehicles is fast approaching as pricing, performance and practicality near conventional vehicle levels.

Several leading manufacturers came to this week’s Paris motor show armed with EV concepts or production cars, pledging plenty more where they came from over the next decade.

The latest concepts are not only fully electric but also feature autonomous driving technology and advanced connectivity.

Volkswagen says its ID electric small-car concept shown in Paris will become the next VW “people’s car” after it goes into production in 2020, following in the tracks of the famous Beetle and Golf.

Volkswagen chairman Herbert Diess promised the ID would have similar pricing to Golf, “easily”.

Likewise, Mercedes-Benz’s head of cars Dieter Zetsche said his company’s electric SUV concept at Paris, Generation EQ, would be seen in showrooms within just three years at “the same price as a reasonably equipped GLC”.

In Australia, that could mean a family sized luxury electric SUV with a handy 300kW of power, a driving range of up to 500km and a high level of electronic automation – for about $70,000.

“Our message to the market is: we are ready when you are,” Mr Zetsche said, adding that all of Mercedes’ new EVs will be modular and capable of being built at its existing plants, thus saving costs.

Like Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz is planning whole families of full-electric vehicles. In the case of Benz, 10 battery-powered vehicles are in the pipeline.

Mercedes said the new generation of electric vehicles will be based on an architecture developed specifically for battery-electric models, “which is scalable in every respect and useable across all models: the wheelbase and track width as well as all other system components, especially the batteries, are variable thanks to the modular building-block system”.

“The vehicle concept is thus optimised to meet every requirement of a future-oriented, battery-electric model family. The basic architecture is suitable for SUVs, saloons, coupes and other model series,” the company said.

VW’s Mr Diess went a step further, predicting that Volkswagen will one day stop production of all cars powered by internal combustion engines and hybrid powertrains.

He said VW wanted to become the global leader in electric vehicles.

But first, the German company will have to get past Renault and its partner Nissan, which jointly claim to control 50 per cent of the world EV market with cars such as the Nissan Leaf, Renault Zoe and Kangoo ZE.

Renault raised the EV stakes at the Paris show when it unveiled an updated Zoe light hatch with a record theoretical driving range of 400km – double the previous range on the full charge.

The French company concedes that the real-world driving range is more like 300km, but that is still a record for a European car.

Announcing the new version, Renault chairman and CEO Carlos Ghosn said that when it came to electric vehicles, the future had arrived.

“It is not down the road, not next year, it is right now,” he said.

A bit further down the road is Renault’s all-electric Trezor sports coupe concept that was also shown in Paris.

The French answer to Tesla is well short of production readiness, but perhaps could lob around 2020 – the same year offerings from Mercedes and Volkswagen land in showrooms.

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