The Venturi Volage is one of those vehicles that you can tell, just from the way it looks, offers some flat-out fun. The problem-slash-cool-part is that the all-electric Volage – on hand at the 2011 Michelin Challenge Bibendum in Berlin last week – hides a secret that makes it even more enjoyable than you might suspect. This same secret, sadly, means most people can't yet actually get to experience the joy of riding in one. Prince of Monaco excluded, of course.
The secret in question is Michelin's Active Wheel technology, which puts two motors in each wheel, one for propulsion and one for suspension. This gives the Volage the same weird handling abilities that the Heuliez Will has; i.e., the car remains mostly horizontal during cornering and braking. We almost didn't notice this unusual stability during the Ride & Drive, but once we did it was kind of unsettling. Fun and unsettling.
The problem, of course, is that Michelin's Active Wheels are not in production, and that step has to happen before Venturi can move forward and actually offer customers their own Volage. Venturi has been know to take its time bringing its cars to market – *cough*Fétish*cough* – but in this case the company does in fact have to wait for Michelin.
This isn't to say that the Volage, first unveiled in 2008 at the Paris Motor Show, is otherwise ready. The prototype we rode in had gaps in the door seals to let in air on the hot Tempelhof tarmac, and everything was pretty noisy. The chassis is the same as the commercially available Fétish, which means it is tough to get in and out of, but now has a 45-kWh battery between and behind the seats. This won't change if/when the car goes into production, as it's all part of how the Volage was designed by Sacha Lakic to show that the car uses different technology. As Clément Dorance, Venture's marketing manager, told AutoblogGreen:
You wouldn't know by looking at swoopy concept vehicles like the Volage, but Venturi does have a practical side. A lot of the company's profits come from converting big vehicles for OEMs (Peugeot and Citroen, as well as converting vans for partners like the French postal service). "This is what makes us some money," Dorance said, and that's something every company needs while it is unable to produce real vehicles. We had heard that the Volage is scheduled for 2012, and we'll let you know how that pans out.
Venturi people are passionate people, about the automobile and technology. So these technologies are so cool, we wanted to make a car with it. Also, we really believe this is the future of the automobile. For a sports car, it's really good for dynamic and performance reasons, but for a family car, you can imagine a completely new and different architecture.
Photos by Sebastian Blanco / Copyright ©2011 AOL
VENTURI VOLAGE SPECS
Type: 2-seater roadster
4 wheel drive « Michelin Active Wheel »
Electric motor: 4 wheel-motors with max power of 55 kW, ie. 220 kW.
Max torque: 232 Nm (4 x 58 Nm) from 0 to 8 500 tr/min
Suspension: Electric shock absorber on each wheel, of the "Michelin Active Wheel" type
Batteries: Technology: Polymere Lithium
Weight of batteries: 350 kilos
Life-span of batteries: over 1,500 cycles
Regeneration system via deceleration
80% recharge: With external recharge booster (10 kW): 4 hours (220 V-16 A T)
With onboard charger: 8 hours (220 V–16 A mono)
Chassis: Central unit: composite materials, carbon sandwich / aluminium honeycomb, pressure-sealed.
Front and rear mesh: aeronautic steel.
Bodywork: Carbon fiber
Brakes: Discs and specific calipers, incorporated into the Michelin Active Wheels
Performance : 0 to 100 km/hr : < 5 secs.
Range at 90 km/hr stabilized: 320 Km
Top speed: 150 Km/hr
Length: 3965 mm
Width: 1949 mm
Height: 1235 mm
Front gauge: 1525 mm
Rear gauge: 1626 mm
Wheelbase: 2702 mm
Front tyres: Michelin 205 40 R18
Rear tyres : Michelin 235 45 R18
Total weight: 1,075 Kilos
Our travel and lodging for this media event were provided by Michelin.