It’s another exciting week in France, as auto enthusiasts around the world storm the venue of this year’s Paris Motor Show, to have glimpses of latest babies delivered from the bellies of the auto factories around the world.
Of course, as expected, the show is electrified. Another occasion for the auto world to tell the likes of Nigeria that petrol or diesel would be useless in no distant future.
Even the luxury brands, Mercedes-Benz and Audi, are showcasing auto tech that would, in future require being plugged into electricity overnight for cruising about the following day. So let NUPENG or whatever similar union would be called in future, auto users are heading to an era, when they won’t have to use that dangerous fluid called petrol.
Mercedes-Benz is showcasing its new EQC electric crossover, which was unveiled in Stockholm last month. First fully electric crossover from the German auto maker, EQC is meant to tackle the likes of Tesla Model X, the J aguar I-Pace, and the i Vision Next vehicles from BMW. The electric SUV, which Mercedes initially debuted as a concept in Sweden, is roughly the same size as the Mercedes GLC.
Renault is not taking the back seat. Starring prominently at the show is its all-electric and autonomous EZ-Ultimo meant to be offered as an on-demand service for private trips and premium ride-hailing offerings.
However, most unexpected is the classic VW Beetle. The world thought Beetle, the real ols Beetle was gone forever. Well, it was buried. But from all indications, it is gonna resurrect in future, not as we used to know it. It is going to run with battery packs in the boot at the front and just below the rear parcel shelf, with an electric motor at the back driving the rear wheels.
As being displayed presently at the show, the base car is a restored Beetle 1302 from 1971 and it’s actually a prototype, as French regulations render it illegal on public roads.
With 37 lithium-ion cells it has 39kW of power and the claimed range is about 250 kilometres (155 miles). The top speed is said to be 250kmh, which is going some for an old Beetle.
Unusually for an electric car, it uses the standard Beetle’s four-speed gearbox.
There’s also a regenerative function, using the electric motor rather than harnessing braking energy.
Renault’s all-electric and autonomous EZ-Ultimo is meant to be offered as an on-demand service for private trips and premium ride-hailing offerings.
Designed for a luxurious ride, its interior is paneled with wood, which Renault says is a nod to traditional Parisian Haussmann-style apartments, while the worktops are marble and the bench seat and armchair are upholstered in leather.
Addressing auto executives on Monday, Luc Chatel, head of the French auto industry association revealed that each of the new electric cars requires 100 million lines of code: That’s five to six times more than in a Boeing,”
Auto industry executives gathering at the show will be rubbing shoulders with dozens of tech experts eager to tackle what many consider the ultimate connected device.
The enthusiasm for the electrified revolution is partly out of necessity, as regulators and local officials try to cut down on the smog chocking many large cities.
In Europe, carmakers are racing to comply with tough EU limits on CO2 emissions that take effect by 2021, and the introduction of tougher emission testing standards in the wake of the “dieselgate” cheating scandal.
After investing billions of dollars in new batteries despite a still-uncertain payoff, companies are also betting that electric cars will help their bottom lines.
More reliable and with fewer moving parts than combustion engines, electric motors require far fewer workers to install and service.
But industry chiefs know they won’t be able to develop the full potential of an electrified, always-connected future on their own.
Google, Nokia and French IT specialist Atos are among the tech groups sending staff to the Paris show with pledges to help automakers navigate their industry’s seismic shift.
“Obviously every company would love to do everything by themselves,” Carlos Ghosn, head of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance, said in a keynote address Monday.
“There is an explosion around the services of mobility, where carmakers are going to play a role, in partnership with others,” he added, predicting that “we’re going to see in the Motor Show less and less car companies.”
Ghosn expects his group to sell 14 million cars by the end of 2022, of which 10 percent will be all-electric.
But joining with tech companies means ceding part of the profit, not exactly a welcome prospect for an industry just recently back on a stronger footing after years of bailouts for many in the wake of the 2008 economic crisis.
Automakers are also grappling with lithium-ion battery costs that keep electric vehicle prices well above those of traditional cars — the new models are still loss-makers for most companies.
Mike David, an analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence, forecast that prices would not come down to competitive levels until 2025.
And with new technologies comes the chance for upstarts to jump in: Tesla’s market value is greater than that of Renault and PSA combined despite production snafus and recent blunders by its flamboyant founder Elon Musk.
Adding to the headwinds are changing consumer tastes: More people now live in urban centres where alternative modes of transport from cycling to scooters are flourishing amid the zero-emission zeal.
“Single-use vehicles are wasteful,” said Ian Simmons of Magna International, a parts maker specialising in “green mobility”.
Car-sharing and ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft — which are racing ahead with their own autonomous driving research — will require heavy tech investments in cars and city infrastructure, he said.
But with Audi and Mercedes showing off all-electric SUVs this week — shortly after Ferrari announced an ambitious plan for hybrids — more buyers might be convinced their performance has caught up with combustion engines.
“Their arrival also dispels any doubts over battery or quality issues,” JATO analyst Felipe Munoz wrote in a research note.
The Paris Motor Show opens to the public on Thursday and runs until October 14.