So how's your French doing? Mine is a bit rusty but I had the pleasure to watch (thanks to our reader Henry) an interesting video on YouTube about the development of alternative cars cars in France. The video is divided into 4 blocks: The early years of automotion, the 60-70s, the modern times and then finishes with a strong criticism of France's politics on alternative cars. If you can't understand much of French, here's a summary of the contents - the images are quite interesting.
The early years
As our readers know, at the beginning, electric cars were also researched and sold in respectable quantities. Compared to gasoline counterparts, they were clean, didn't smell and offered adequate power. Nevertheless, gasoline won the heart of motorists (according to the video, because of the "macho" image of gasoline cars). The video shows "La jamais contente" (Never happy), a Belgian electric car which established the first speed record in 1899. Then the video shows some interesting images of the '50s and '60s. First, a micro-bubble car is shown which resembles the Voisin and then, in a move that we could consider an ancestor of the Smart's ability, it is able to park perpendicularly on the curb side, able to run up to 60 km/h (40 mph) and with an autonomy of 100 km (60 miles).
The '60s and '70s
The video shows some developments in that time which begin with the fuel cell. An engineer appears showing a small fuel cell pack able to produce more electricity than the battery packs he's got on the floor. The fuel used in this case was powered by metanol. The voice, which comes from the news that time, says that fuel cell would be available in 1975... and what do we have in 1975? A Renault 5 converted to run on electricity but without backseats nor trunk, where the batteries are placed - only able to run for about 100 km (60 miles). Then, some engineers from Renault, Citroën and Peugeot state their interest in developing the fuel cell for automotive purposes.
The '90s and 2000s
First of all, the Zoom appears, which could run up to highway speeds of 130 km/h in France (about 85 mph), 0-100 km (0 to 60 miles) in less than 6 seconds and an interesting feature that allows the car to reduce its dimensions for parallel parking (60 cm - about 23 inches). The car also features a cell phone and a primitive GPS. The news from which these images come says that in France, up to 50 million vehicles run less than 50 km per week.
Then the images show a Renault Espace minivan that was a kind of primitive series hybrid: Able to run up to 100 km in electric mode, it had an gas turbine able to recharge the batteries which are placed under the floor. Then, again from Renault, another prototype of a "conventional" hybrid able to run up to 60 km/h with electric power only. The part ends with the arrival of the Toyota Prius.
Final part: Why haven't the french alternative cars succeeded?
With a small wit of regret of seeing how many developments had been achieved throughout the French car history, the video mentions political interests on oil. First, former Prime Minister Jacques Chirac is shown visiting Iraq to sign an agreement for oil supply. Then, the same Jacques Chirac, as President of the Republic gives an speech on how the "After oil era" had started and how France would switch to 10 percent of biofuels in 2004. The video ends with a famous version of an Italian song called "Parole, parole" (words, words) and an exclamation: "Façons vite, ça chauffe" (Let's go quick: it's heating up).
[Source: YouTube, Merci beaucoup Henry for the video]