The atmosphere at the 2010 Paris Motor Show this month was electric. Literally.
I had the privilege of doing some reconnaissance at this biannual auto show – the world’s largest in even-numbered years – paying attention to new trends that will impact Colorado car buyers and dealers. (And, as always, we’re looking to make sure we can display the latest and greatest at the Denver Auto Show in March and early April of next year.)
The topic du jour – pardon my French – at the Paris Auto Show was the viability of the fully electric car.
The basic concept of electric cars is not new. In fact, fully electric cars were among the first produced when the automotive industry was in its infancy.
Today, gear-heads and car aficionados fall squarely into one of two camps. Either they believe electric cars have a promising future or they think the current focus is a huge and costly waste of time, energy and money.
In their hyper-competitive race to roll out alternative motor vehicle power sources, virtually every auto manufacturer has progress to report in the advancement of fully or partially electric cars. Many examples were on display at the Paris Motor Show.
Just four years ago, or even two years ago, at the Paris Motor Show, it appeared that as much focus was being paid to other alternative power sources such as hydrogen fuel cell, clean diesel, compressed natural gas or combinations of these with hybrid electric power-plants.
Yet any casual observer of this year’s show would come away with the distinct impression – no, belief – that the world’s great automakers are committed to fully electric cars and are working as fast as they can to roll them out.
Here are some recent headlines, regarding the upcoming launch of several electric cars:
• Detroit News: Educated buyers, key to plug-in cars
• Detroit Free Press: Electric cars – The race is on and the road is jammed
• CNET News: Auto industry pros counter electric car hype
• Wall Street Journal: Electric cars – stuck in first gear
Everyone has an opinion on electric cars, even before anyone really knows how well they will perform. Probably the biggest or at least most prevalent concern is that of limited range of the fully electric car and how long the car will have to charge to enable maximum range again.
Range anxiety is expected for those electric cars that don’t come equipped with a range extender power source (i.e. a backup gas-powered engine). The expected distance of travel per charge for fully electric cars is anticipated to be about 80 to 100 miles. When the battery is depleted, a recharge will take four to eight hours.
Even with these initial bumps in the road, the key to effective electric cars will be developments in battery capacity, battery storage technology and, overall, expanding the travel range. Yet, getting to mass-produced, fully-electric, cars is nothing short of amazing. Expect to see significant gains in performance and customer satisfaction as this still very young technology rapidly improves.
Tim Jackson serves as president of the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association