2016 Paris Motor Show: Electric, for real

Electric and hybrid drivetrains have been familiar themes of motor shows for the best part of a decade.

No surprises, then, that there was a healthy array of electrically-propelled machinery at the 2016 Paris Motor Show.

But the difference with Paris 2016 was that it’s all getting a lot more real.

Whereas the electric cars of previous shows have typically been dream machines that haven’t gone far (or real cars that have missed their mark) there was a feeling that some of the stars of Paris will soon arrive in showrooms.

Indeed, Volkswagen’s ID concept is planned to go on sale in 2020, complete with a 600km driving range and a 125kW electric motor. Even better is that VW is estimating it will be about the same price as a Golf diesel, so about $35,000.

Sure, that still ensures the ID will sit at the premium end of the small car market, but it’s close enough to the sweet spot of the broader new car market to garner some serious attention, especially considering the obvious benefits of never having to refuel.

VW-Id -concept -car -paris -motor -show-Mercedes-Benz, too, laid out the beginnings of its plan to tackle the likes of Tesla with a family of electric cars with big performance and big range. The Mercedes-Benz EQ family could be a game changer for Benz – and at the very least is an insurance policy against the inevitable rise of electric propulsion.

Another big difference with the electric cars from the Paris Show is that they’re no longer compromises. Typically carmakers dabbling in electric have used existing architectures (the expensive bit of making cars) and replaced the engines, fuel tanks and gearboxes with batteries and electric motors. It works, but is far from perfect.

Both the Merc and Volkswagen Paris Show cars used a new platform that houses the batteries in the floor (keeping weight down low) and maximises interior space as a result of not having to fit in an engine and its associated componentry.

Helping the charge (sorry…) towards electric is fast improving battery technology, with carmakers utilising more efficient and lighter batteries that make the whole thing a lot more appealing.

The big unknown, though, is how fast we’ll rush to buy electric cars. Ultimately, that will come down to price. As Tesla has proven, if you get the rest of the package right people will buy it.

But to get real volume, the price of electric cars needs to be commensurate with the cars we buy today.

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