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French Automakers Betting Big On Battery Power

Government backing is a key motivator.

by on Oct.13, 2010

Renault's DeZir concept was one of an array of French-made battery cars at the Paris Motor Show.

In the days leading up to this month’s Paris Motor Show, French papers raised the suggestion that the event organizers consider changing its name; perhaps offered one, the Paris Electric Vehicle Show might be more appropriate.

While the idea was politely rejected, there’s no question what is formally known as the 2011 Mondial de l’Automobile is perhaps the most electrified auto show to date.  Visitors to the event, which continues through the 17th, would have a hard time finding a stand that didn’t put some emphasis on battery power – from pure EV makers like Tesla to slick sports car makers, such as Lotus, which promises to offer its Formula One-derived hybrid system in an assortment of new models.  Even Jaguar weighed in with the 205 mph C-X75 extended-range electric supercar.

But few makers put more emphasis on battery technology than the home team, the French manufacturers Renault and PSA Citroen, who seem to be suggesting that virtually everything they build will rely on electric propulsion – or at least offer a battery-powered option – in the very near future.

This move may underscore how government mandates can be even more critical in steering industry than actual consumer demand.

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The Renault stand featured models like the Fluence, and striking DeZir Concept, as well as the quirky little Twizy.  Peugeot rolled out the Ion, BB1, HR1 Concept and a number of offerings of its own, while its sibling brand, Citroen, had a number of battery models and battery-drive options for products like the upcoming DS5.