The Paris Motor Show is prime stage for car manufacturers to show off their exciting new concepts and upcoming road-going models. The 2018 edition of the Show focused on the transition of the transportation sector towards electrification, placing the spotlight on electric offers from European names.
Mercedes showed off its latest offering, the EQC SUV, the company’s first all-electric vehicle. German automobile manufacturer Audi put on show its E-tron range. Renault added to its catalog of electric offerings with the EZ family, including a new limo model offering new self-driving luxury and a redesign of a delivery van to outfit it with the latest electronic tech. Renault also presented its all-electric hatchback, the new Zoe.
The Motor Show was an event of electric optimism, pushing hard for electric to be accepted by consumers. Eleven of the automakers who presented at the Show together made 33 cars available for free 30-minute test drives around the Place de la Concorde.
Despite the Show’s endorsement of an electric future, attendees for the motorshow, even regulars who make the annual pilgrimage, still voiced concerns regarding the electric revolution. Price point, range to charge ratios, and lacking supportive infrastructure were some issues brought up by consumers who said they liked electric cars but might not purchase them right away.
For example, the base price of Renault’s Zoe starts at €23,000 ($26,500) in France, a price tag that doesn’t yet include battery rental costs. However, many markets are supported by government subsidies and tax exemptions to make switching to electric more appealing to consumers. The French government offers a €6,000 clean car rebate.
Limited ranges are also an issue for consumers. However, with the introduction of new models at this year’s show, it’s obvious that the industry is quickly trying to remedy the situation and offer the same variety of choice as in the traditional vehicle market.
Consumers are turning to all-electric cars, but slowly. According to Jato Dynamics analyst Felipe Munoz, global sales of all-electric vehicles jumped by 50 percent last year. Still, this growth still represents barely 1 percent of new registrations worldwide.
Industry experts still remain optimistic that the problems of now will soon be remedied and the all-electric vehicle will see mass adoption.
“There isn’t a single carmaker which isn’t planning to develop its own range of models in the next three or four years,” said Guillaume Crunelle, an auto expert at Deloitte. Crunelle also said that by the year 2022 or 2023, all-electric vehicles will “absolutely be competitive in terms of price.”
Regarding the issue of range, Carlos Ghosn, who heads the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi automotive alliance, said that when buyers are assured that a car can go at least 300 kilometers, or 185 miles, running on a single charge, the issue of range is “no longer a concern”.
The new models seen at the show, including the SUV’s offered by Mercedes and Audi, offer this kind of long range consumers are seeking.
Industry executives also acknowledge the issue of lacking infrastructure. Charging stations are sometimes limited and disparate, depending on where you are. Sometimes stations are equipped with incompatible plugs or payment systems. The issue of long charging times is also a deterrent often cited by consumers, with minimum waits currently standing at 15 minutes.
However, new technology is showing progress for electric car batteries, including ultra fast charging that could cut down wait times to just seven or eight minutes, comparable to the time it takes to fill up a tank at a petrol station.
The market of European cars seems to believe in the all-electric dream. Automobile manufacturers are already investing in developing more vehicles to join their fleets. But where the market as a whole is heading, including whether or not consumers will be able to jump the hurdles currently preventing early adopting, is one that needs to be solved by collaboration with governments. Yves Bonnefort, head of high-end French carmaker DS, said that the level of government support would determine whether the market accelerates sharply, or develops slowly.
The Paris Motor Show will run until October 14.