Electrics touted at PARIS CAR SHOW but await their moment

Electrics touted at PARIS CAR SHOW but await their moment

PARIS, France — When will electric-powered cars become a practical choice for ordinary people? The question hangs in the air at the Paris auto show where Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz and General Motors are showing off electric cars they hope are the on-ramp to a profitable future. The raft of new vehicles lends buzz to electric cars. But earlier over-optimistic predictions have also bred scepticism. Volkswagen compared its ID electric compact to its historic Beetle and mainstay Golf models, and said it was the leading edge of 30 new electric models it plans to put out by 2025. Daimler AG CEO Dieter Zetsche looked more Silicon Valley than Stuttgart, wearing faded jeans and sneakers to tout the Mercedes-Benz EQ, a battery-powered crossover SUV concept. The vehicle aims to illustrate the company’s longer-term strategy that connects electric cars with other new technology, such as autonomous driving and vehicle sharing.
Zetsche said the company aimed for 10 electric vehicles by 2025, making up 15-25 per cent of global sales — a bold prediction he immediately tempered by saying that was based on “continued development of infrastructure and customer preferences”. He said “we need to prepare ourselves with all our resources for electric mobility as a mass phenomenon” yet remain flexible if demand is lower — or even higher — than predicted. General Motors Co’s European division Opel is showing off the Ampera-e, a rebadged version of the Chevrolet Bolt. Opel says the Ampera-e will achieve a range of more than 500 kilometres under European standards, a significant leap. The Bolt goes on sale this year in the US, but it’s hardly cheap at the manufacturer’s suggested retail price of US$37,495 for a five-seat hatchback. That’s not counting the tax break of up to US$7,500 the federal government offers to encourage the growth of zero-emissions vehicles. For now, the limited range and higher costs mean battery-powered vehicles have little attraction for regular folks trying to get the most for their money. They remain largely a niche market, often for people enthusiastic about new technology or the environment, and with the extra disposable income to act on that. The Palo Alto, California-based Tesla has won attention with rising sales of electrics to well-heeled customers — but loses money. Subsidies and incentives have been key in government efforts to help electric vehicles get a foothold. That has been the case in urban areas like Norway’s greater Oslo area, around San Jose, California, and in Shanghai, China. In the short run, at least, they help burnish companies’ image as technologically advanced and environmentally friendly. Volkswagen is struggling to recover from a scandal over diesel cars rigged to cheat on emissions tests. But companies are also laying the groundwork for the day when the cost of electric falls to, or below, that of internal…

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