With strict emissions regulations, rising gas prices, and environmental concerns, electric cars are on a charge of late. While the battery technology is still being developed that will give plug-in vehicles the range to compete with gasoline cars, some pioneers are turning the idea into reality. Here is a roundup of new electric-car models from the 2008 Geneva auto show.
Do not readjust the aspect ratio of your screen. The Lumengo Smera really is that narrow. The two-door two-seater looks like a Smart Car from the side and even has a trunk. It is powered by two 20-horsepower electric motors, which are fed by an as-yet-unnamed battery source (either a lithium-ion or a lithium-polymer pack).
The Smera is designed to tilt automatically during cornering to keep all four wheels on the road. Weighing slightly more than 700 pounds (including batteries), the Smera will have a range of 150 km (93 miles) and a top speed of around 80 mph when it goes on sale, according to its manufacturers who say that the first production models should be out in 2009.
With a recent investment from General Electric, Norway-based Th!nk is on track to become a significant player in the electric-car market. Its flagship vehicle is the City, a zero-emissions plug-in electric car that boasts a top speed of around 60 mph and a range of 110 miles on a full charge. Adding to its environmentally friendly resume is its body made from 95 percent recyclable plastic. While in Geneva Th!nk was demonstrating the car enclosed in a giant inflatable ball to underline its zero-emissions message.
Th!nk also used the Geneva show to launch its Ox five-seat concept car. The Ox is based on a space-frame architecture with the two lithium-ion battery packs situated in lower compartments. The batteries drive a 60kW electric motor and will have a maximum range of around 155 miles on a full charge.
According to Th!nk, the Ox features some advanced cabin tech, including real-time navigation, Web access, and e-mail. The navigation system (which didn't appear to be working when we tried it out) apparently has an application to inform drivers how far the car can go on its remaining charge.
It's still just a prototype, but according to its German designers, the E-motion is constructed with production-grade components, which means that it may well make an appearance on the road in the future. The UPS-van-like four-seater is driven by an 8kW electric motor via a lithium-ion battery pack, which gives it a top speed of 50 mph and a range of around 60 miles.
Chinese automaker Byd touts the F3DM as both an electric vehicle and a hybrid-electric vehicle. The car, which can apparently be run in electric-only or gasoline-electric hybrid modes, can be plugged into a 220V outlet and can then run for nearly 70 miles on one charge without starting up the 1-liter engine, according to its designers.