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E-Cars Dominate European Auto Shows

i-miev-e-car.jpgMany car manufacturers used the recent Geneva and Paris auto shows to debut their E-Car prototypes. These cars are typically very small two-seaters (some are larger) that are all electric or plug-in hybrids.

And while production models for some may be years away, the prototypes reveal some interesting feature sets that are likely to be included in this emerging class of vehicle.

For example, one distinctive features shared by many of the E-cars is that they each have a unique shape.

That’s certainly the case with the Mitsubishi i-MiEV. As one Wired reviewer said to another in a test drive of a prototype: “You’re driving an electric egg.” Vanity aside, this car is expected to be on sale this year in Europe.

The i-MiEV has a Mitsubishi stated range of as much as 100 miles. Car and Driver pegged its 0-to-60 mph accelerate time at 13.5 seconds.

With regard to availability, there is a reason this E-car is so far ahead of other E-cars. Car and Driver noted that the i-MiEV is an electric version of a gasoline car already on sale in Japan. Many of the other E-cars are being built from scratch.

One example of a built from scratch E-car is the Kia Pop. It shares a somewhat similar overall egg shape with the iMiEV. But pretty much everything else is different.

kia-pop-e-car.jpgThe Kia Pop, like most of the concept E-cars, is designed to meet the commuting needs of urban drivers in densely populated cities. In its current inception, it is about two feet shorter than a Mini Cooper, will seat three, and will rely on an all-electric powertrain.

However, the all-electric Pop concept car is according to the company a “convention-challenging, design-led concept.” Translated, that means the car is not likely to ever go into production. To that end, a Car and Driver blog noted: “perhaps bits of the all-electric powertrain will eventually make its way into a future Kia.”

Its purpose, like that of many of the concept cars introduced at the Paris show, is to introduce design ideas, try out technologies, and gauge driver interests.

A bit closer to availability is the Mercedes-Benz A-class E-cell, which was also introduced at the Paris show. Even with its small size, this car offers a number of impressive features. It has five doors (it’s a hatch back) and a battery pack that supports a maximum range of at least 124 miles.

townpod-e-car.jpgAnother notable concept E-car introduced at the Paris show is the Nissan Townpod all-electric concept vehicle. This vehicle is very different looking (and that’s saying something given the shape of these E-cars). It is very boxy, looking a bit like a very small panel truck. Nissan says it is “more than just a car” and “more than just a van.”

These models are just the tip of the E-car iceberg market – a market that is expected to grow rapidly. Most of these small, all-electric cars would be ideally suited for city driving in Europe and Asia. Demand is expected to grow in Europe as stronger greenhouse gas emission laws are phased in and in Asia simply due to the populations of China and India adopting cars.

By Jeff Carey

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