Mondial de l’auto: how the car accelerates its ecological transformation

Electric minicars, solar-powered vehicles, hydrogen specialists: the Mondial de l’auto, which will take place in Paris from 17 to 23 October, bears witness to its time. A trend that is largely due to a decision taken by the European Parliament in June: the outright ban on the sale of new combustion engine vehicles to private individuals from 2035. Consequence: Until this deadline, the share of electricity from engines should increase by 24% per year in Europe, according to the consulting firm EY-Partheron. With a big challenge: the deployment of 65 million chargers, knowing that today there are barely… 410,000, according to calculations by the European Observatory of Alternative Fuels.

In June, the European Federation for Transport and the Environment published a study on the potential market value of six European car manufacturers: Volkswagen, Stellantis (formerly Peugeot-Citroën), Toyota, Mercedes, BMW and Volvo. This would increase by … €800 billion if they accelerated their transition to 100% electric over the next ten years. With as a result an increase in their share price of 316%.

Between legal obligation and the prospect of profits, manufacturers are accelerating their conversion. Renault and Ford have thus separated their activities. Ford Model-e will gather new energy vehicles; Ampère will be Renault’s unit for electric vehicles, while thermal and hybrid engines will return to the horse, of which Geely and Aramco should have the majority of the capital.

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Driven by the supply of new models and sky-high prices at the pump, sales of electric cars are progressing at a good pace and are already feeding the second-hand market, as they represent 10% of transactions at Aramisauto. “We saw a peak in demand in the week of March 6 to 12 with the increase in fuel, explains Marie Laloy, the distributor’s marketing and service director. In August, demand increased again by 61% for electric cars and 38% for hybrids compared to August 2021 .”

It is in this spirit that Citroën designed Oli. This electric family car, with a range of 400 kilometers, uses recycled and recyclable materials while aiming for simplicity to facilitate repair, modernization and customization. Declared goal: to pass it on “as new” to several successive owners or several generations.

To adapt to skyrocketing energy prices and easy battery charging, some manufacturers equip their models with solar panels. The Dutch Lightyear has unveiled its first production car equipped with five square meters of solar panels and four electric motors with a range of 710 kilometers. Toyota is offering a solar roof as an option on its first 100% electric SUV, as it did with the hybrid Prius. Mercedes has equipped the roof of its luxury Vision EQXX prototype with photovoltaic cells, which has already completed two 1,200 kilometer trips on a single battery charge. More affordable is the Sion, designed by a German start-up, completely covered in solar panels. Its designer, Sono Motors, plans to produce 260,000 by 2030.

Hydrogen is the second track followed by manufacturers to increase the autonomy of their vehicles and reduce the charging time to a few minutes. Toyota and Hyundai already market fuel cell models. Stellantis offers three in its easy-to-use line. BMW launches its first model, the iX5 SUV. “We have partnered with Toyota to manufacture the battery at our Munich center,” said Vincent Salimon, Chairman of the Board of BMW France. Finally, two French start-ups have recently made their mark. NamX designed its SUV with Pininfarina. It is equipped with six replaceable capsules at the gas station, in addition to the main tank. The launch is planned for 2025, at the same time as the premium sedan from Hopium, which has established its factory and research center in Douains, Normandy.

One in two French people ready to share a car

To reduce its ecological footprint, the automotive sector relies not only on new technologies, but also on services such as car sharing. It is true that one in two French people say they are ready to switch to this mode of transport and that 28% want to see this offer extended, especially young people under 24 (45%), according to an OpinionWay survey published in July. “This is the ideal solution in urban areas where the car is immobilized 92% of the time. This market should triple in Europe by 2030”, assesses Laurence Béchon, director of mobility services at Mobilize, armed with Renault in this area.

This company currently offers two different solutions: Zity, self-driving car sharing for big cities; Mobilize Share, for medium-sized cities with a closed circuit (the vehicle must return to a station). In France, the franchise has been granted to 500 dealers, as close as possible to the needs of local authorities and businesses. Ikea, Leroy Merlin or Western France use it for their employees.

A total of 20,000 vehicles are used for car sharing in companies, all operators combined, plus 11,550 cars for the public. A still low volume, compared to the 30,000 cars available in Germany, where this concept was launched in the 1980s. Not to mention Switzerland, “where everything started ten years earlier and where all municipalities with more than 10,000 inhabitants are now equipped”, emphasizes Laurence Béchon.

In late 2023, Mobilize will launch Duo, an electric cart designed to be shared, connected and easy to repair. It will compete directly with the Circle, whose batteries are removable – like those on scooters. “An advantage for operators who want to avoid the astronomical costs of investments in terminals, collection of vehicles and immobilization during the six or eight hours of charging”, explains Eric Boullier, its founder. Decontamination by air renewal will be carried out between each journey – an asset in the era of epidemics – while sensors will make it possible to know if waste has been left in the car or if it has deteriorated. Marketed to rental companies without a station like Lime or Bolt, 2,000 copies of the Circle will be delivered to Paris at the end of 2023, then available in Munich and Berlin.

In less dense areas, platforms like Getaround connect people who want to rent their car like an Airbnb. Thanks to the installation of a box for handing over the keys, in 2016 the service experienced a serious acceleration. “The collaborative economy is also an ecological sharing”, assures Simon Baldeyrou, CEO of Getaround. In fact, one shared car would replace four individual vehicles, according to the French Environment and Energy Management Agency. Which in the whole of France would save 40% CO2 and 52 million kilometers. More than a thousand times around the Earth!


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