French Minister Wants To Create $7500 Electric Car “For The People”

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Originally published on Gas2.

Amongst all the hoopla in Paris this week as the COP21 conference on climate change revs up, Madame Ségolène Royal, the French Minister of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy, announced that she wants to create “an electric car for the people.” What does that mean? According to Mme. Royal, it means a car that costs between $5,400 and $7,500.

Renualut-Twizy“In emerging countries, the growing middle class means that there are more and more vehicles being purchased and most of these cars are fossil fuel cars,” she pointed out. “This is a very attractive solution.” Indeed it is, although exactly who would build such a car or how they would do so profitably she did not say. Royal said that she hoped the competition would spur innovation in material and battery development, as well as new modes of car use. She admits that the result “may not look like traditional electric cars.” Can you say, “Renault Twizy”, boys and girls?

This is not the first time that a visionary has set out to build a car for the people. The name Volkswagen in German translates to “people’s car.” In East Germany while under communist rule, the people’s car was the godawful, pollution spewing Trabant. India has taken a turn at producing a low cost electric car. It is made by Mahindara and called the E2O. Its pretty basic transportation but sells for around $15,000. You can buy a new Civic for less than that.

Everyone agrees that electric cars have to get cheaper before then can go mainstream. Tesla plans to introduce its lower priced Model 3 in 2017. It is expected to start at $35,000, though various desirable options like dual motors, more powerful batteries and a crossover with falcon wing doors could easily push that to $50,000 or more.

France bet heavily on diesel powered cars over the past 40 years. Today, almost 70% of all new cars sold in France are diesels. What France didn’t count on was how dirty the tailpipe emissions from early diesel engines can be. Today, there are millions of oil burners chugging around France and spewing out NOx emissions and particulates. The problem is so severe that Paris has experienced days this year when the Eiffel Tower has disappeared inside a miasma of smog.

France is now taking drastic measures to get the oldest and worst polluting diesels off the road and into junk yards. The mayor of Paris has imposed stringent rules preventing diesel cars from driving in her city and has even declared Paris a car free zone on occasion.

Surely Minister Royal’s proposal is just so much bureaucratic doublespeak, some pie in the sky chimera that has no chance of ever coming to pass, right? Maybe, but perhaps it’s time to revisit this advice from Elon Musk, a man who knows a thing or two about impossible dreams. “If something is important enough, even if the odds are against you, you should still do it. The first step is to establish that something is possible; then probability will occur.” In other words, “Mme. Royal, you go, girl!”

Reprinted with permission.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."

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17 thoughts on “French Minister Wants To Create $7500 Electric Car “For The People”

  • First Nissan announcing a range extender now that.
    I think people are reading my cleantechnica comments after all.
    Now we just need some billionaire picking up the KiteGen development and another one Heindls Hydraulic Rock Storage idea…
    Branson, do you read me!

  • Often it is stated that the free market will deliver what people want.
    That is not quite a true statement, because there are lots of examples of the general public wanting/looking for something and the markets not delivering, except for some rouge element (Tesla).
    In some cases, look at coal, oil, etc, the established companies are trying their hardest to convince the public not to change (including misinformation).
    But all of us need to remember one thing, all of us (the public) outnumber by a great deal the companies, politicians and once the 5 % mark is hit change becomes a market force.

  • IMO this is a reflection of her tenuous hold on reality, Grandes Ecoles graduate or not.

  • The solution to world transportation problems is solar electric velomobiles like the ELF, made by Organic Transit. If these velomobiles were mass produced they could be sold for $1,000 each, and allow low income people around the world to afford clean green transportation. The solar electric ELF can go 30 MPH with pedaling, and require no insurance or registration, so they are much cheaper to operate than an expensive electric car like the Nissan Leaf. They recharge in 7 hours in the sun with a solar panel on top, so they require no fuel, and produce no pollution. Organic Transit already makes a tactical model that can go 28 MPH on electric power alone, and 40 MPH with pedaling, but would require insurance and registration. In China, and India, where cities are choking in smog, as well as Paris, Mexico City, and many other cities around the world, solar electric velomobiles could be a solution. I’m all for electric cars like the Nissan Leaf, and want them to replace all our dirty gas cars, but most people in the world can’t afford a Nissan Leaf. Even many people in the USA, can’t afford expensive electric cars, so a low cost solar electric ELF could be a solution for them to. Of course the speed limits in cities and towns would have to be reduced to 30 MPH, but New York city has already reduced it’s speed limit to 25 MPH to save lives, and lower traffic fatalities. You can’t go faster than 25 MPH in most congested cities anyways with their lights and endless stop signs.

    • I think the solution is autonomous driving cars so that one car is essentially “owned” by many.

      Small neighborhood cars may have a place but if one can simply push a button on their cell phone and have a car pick them up at the door and deliver them to where they are going for a fraction of what a cab costs most people in cities probably wouldn’t bother owning a vehicle for inner-city transportation.

      Why bother buying and storing something you use infrequently and then have to pedal around when you could order up a vehicle that fit your needs of the moment and have someone else deal with all the ownership/maintenance stuff?

      Parking? A non-issue.

      • I agree 100% with your suggestion. If the cost was much cheaper than what an Uber driver or taxi cab charges, than it can eliminate congestion in cities, because people wouldn’t need expensive cars with high insurance and registration charges, as well as limited parking opportunities. Perhaps also we could have dedicated lanes for busses, and more barrier separated lanes for bicycles. I’m not against cars, but the car centric car is king culture, needs to change, and allow other better alternatives. Thanks for your comment.

  • Ummm, aren’t there second hand leafs going for $10,000? I see some doubters in the comments. But we are already in the ballpark for the “people’s car” with used first gen EV. The other thing is electric “tuk tuks”. They are already springing up and are no brainers. The amount of people that are transported by tuk tuk in Asia is surely larger than the entire US vehicle fleet. We lose perspective with our western hemisphere bias… the low hanging fruit is in Asia.

    • You are 100% correct. The Philippines is moving into electric Tuk Tuks to replace their dirty gas ones, and fight pollution in their cities. I think these electric Tuk Tuk’s could be a replacement for dirty polluting gas taxi’s worldwide. Sometimes we need to look at and borrow technology from other countries to solve our problems.

      • Recently back from a holiday in china, stayed in bejing and all we saw was the electric scooters, Person we was with was there 7 years before and it was full of ice scooters.

        Also was suprised to note how little smog or pollution we noted in bejing.
        Went to few cities in tibet and same there re electric scooters.

        Stopped in place called Xinging on our way by train to tibet and pollution there was aweful.

        Also i noted every place we visited as near as we could tell all street light we powered by solar and wind built onto the led street lamps.

    • Wish there where Leafs selling for under 19k€. More like 20k and 79€ battery rent per month.

      I would even buy 3 narrower kids seats to fit them on the small back row.

  • The last time a crazy politician tried to do a “people’s car”, things got a little weird…

    • Yes, but the car was a thing of beauty.

      Efficient (for the time). Affordable. Surprisingly safe. And simple to repair.

      Sheet metal didn’t change each year simply to drive sales numbers. Cars changed as improvements were figured out.

    • The KdF Wagen was planned to sell for 990Reichsmark…about 4020€ today.

  • the Renault Twizy with a 7000 euro price is close. All it needs is supper charger capability to give it 30 minute recharge time and one supper charger station every 25 miles in France. And for good measure Add a more powerful motor for freeway speed capability and a slightly larger battery. Don’t know if it would be any safer than the last “Peoples car”.

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