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October 15, 2008

Honda Hybrid and Smart EV Unveiled at Paris Motor Show

Photograph of a mid-sized silver sedan with dark black tinted windows.

The concept version of the Honda Insight.
Credit: Honda

The Paris Motor Show, or "Mondial de l'Automobile"—typically the venue for supercars from such automakers as Bugatti and Ferrari— features a number of hybrid and electric vehicles (EVs) this year, a tectonic shift that led a New York Times blogger to ask, "Who killed the non-electric cars?" While many of the entries are unlikely to cross the Atlantic to the United States, a new Honda hybrid is certain to arrive here soon, and the odds are also good for a Smart EV. Honda actually revived an old name, unveiling a concept version of the new and improved Honda Insight at the auto show. Although it resembles a Toyota Prius, Honda says the vehicle shares styling cues with its FCX Clarity fuel-cell vehicle. And while the old Insight was a two-seater, the new version is a sedan that will seat five. Honda expects to sell 200,000 Insights per year in North America, Europe, and Japan once the vehicle goes on sale in spring 2009. Expect more details in January, when Honda unveils the production version at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan. See the Honda press Release and Web site.

Among the other major automakers, Daimler arrived at the Paris Motor Show with the smart fortwo electric drive, which features a lithium- ion battery pack. Daimler plans to test the vehicle in Berlin, Germany, and begin limited production of the vehicle in late 2009, but the company has not announced plans to sell the vehicle in the United States. Meanwhile, General Motors Corporation (GM) unveiled the Chevrolet Cruze, a small car slated for production and sale in the United States, and the Saab 9-X Air Biohybrid concept, a convertible with a hybrid powertrain that can be fueled with ethanol-rich E85. See the Daimler Media press release, and the GM press releases about the Chevrolet Cruze and the 9-X Air Biohybrid.

The Paris Motor Show also features its share of exotic electric vehicles, including one from Venturi, the Monaco-based electric car company that introduced its "Fétish" back in 2005. Venturi unveiled the new Volage, a futuristic sports car that matches a lithium-polymer battery pack with in-wheel motors as well as in-wheel electric shock absorbers, designed by Michelin. The result is a lightweight vehicle that does away with heavy transmission and suspension components, and although the vehicle looks like a concept, it is fully functional and intended for production in 2012. Venturi has also finalized its design of a city electric car, the Eclectic, which will go on sale next year, and is also displaying the Astrolab, a solar electric concept car, and the Berlingo, an electric utility vehicle. Meanwhile, Pininfarina, the Italian company responsible for the styling of many Ferraris and Maseratis, has introduced its own electric vehicle concept, the B0 (that's "B Zero," not "B Oh"). The four-seat hatchback features a solid-state lithium-polymer battery, supercapacitors, and a roof- integrated solar panel to achieve a range of 153 miles. Developed in partnership with the Bolore Group, the vehicle is slated for limited production in 2009. The Paris Motor Show is open to the public through Sunday, October 19. See the Venturi press release, the press kit (PDF 79 KB) and Web site for the Volage, the Pininfarina press Release and B0 Web site, and the Mondial de l'Automobile Web site. Download Adobe Reader.

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