Exciting news from Venturi in Paris this week!
The well-resolved America dune-buggy has a redesigned powertrain and will now grow past concept and prototype stages.
Limited-production of the EV off-roader begins in early 2015 -- but there is a catch. Only 25 initial copies of this innovative and stylish crossover will be made.
Performance stats are looking very impressive, however, and the carbon-kevlar tub will make this thing unstoppable on the rough stuff. And likely a fun canyon-carver on hard surfaces or, gasp, tarmac!
Like the Local Motors Rally Fighter and many Baja race trucks, the Venturi is RWD versus a 4x4. But the extremely chunky tires, 11-inches of ground clearance and 350-pound-feet of instant torque will get you up and over that rock easily.
Most impressively, the Venturi America now runs a 53-KwH battery pack that is the largest-ever employed on an EV outside of the Tesla Model S. Range is up to 155-miles and charge times down to 3.5-hours.
These fresh battery components and the new speedy electric motors share more than a little with the Formula E entry from Venturi for the all-new racing series.
Inside, the cabin is far more like a luxury supercar than a concept; it is seriously posh in here with leather everywhere and a nicely enveloping dashboard that oozes high-fashion style.
So who will the first 25 buyers be, and where can is be road-certified? That remains unclear, but the US market is likely not on the radar for this first-release. At least, not on US roads.
Another unlikely but possibly interested client? The United States Special Forces -- who have unlimited budgets and a keen interest in silent off-roaders.... How would it look in radar-absorbing black rubber paint, or desert khaki... being dropped from a Chinook helicopter? We will probably never see or hear it coming, so might never find out!
HOW TO ORDER ONE?
Overall, hooray for Venturi on its 30th anniversary! We hope the America is a huge hit and will lead to a wider commercialization of this Monaco-based firm's EV tech. More commercialization may bring the price down from an expected $100,000-plus for this first batch.
Cruise over to the Venturi site to learn more and express interest in ordering the Venturi America, the world's quickest EV SUV!
2015 VENTURI America
PART ONE: INTRO TO BRILLIANT CONCEPTS
You cannot fault Venturi Automobiles for their ambition - here is a company with the power to envision and make concept cars that might even fail the Rinspeed or ItalDesign "reality check" test.
Wild ideas like a solar streamliner for commuters, the Antarctic shuttle on treads, and the America off-road cabrio concept are certainly enticing for their rarity and bold vision. The Volage concept is perhaps the most feasible as a sale-able vehicle -- with unique ideas present even six years since its first look as a concept in 2008.
PART TWO: HARSH REALITIES
The Venturi America off-roader concept also looks fun, but being stranded in a high-temp desert in an EV dune-buggy does not sound ideal.
Nor does the same scenario in the arctic. [Batteries are notoriously trouble-prone and lose power rapidly in any extreme heat or cold.]
The latest ideas from Venturi are still looking like concept-phase executions - but there is clearly skill and investment behind the firm with the splashy launch of the VOXAN Wattman concept bike recently.
VOXAN WATTMAN CONCEPT
But is the investment really working toward a production reality? Even the best and most brilliant EV ideas and companies like Tesla are, truth be told, struggling to find the volume of buyers they need. Other imploded green-sector investments like Fisker show how precarious the leap from idea to market-ready product can be.
Even as these Venturi concepts stand, however, they really do show new ways of thinking when an EV powertrain is planned from a blank sheet of paper onward. Add in the in-wheel motor-generator solution from Michelin -- and really anything is possible.
PART THREE: Big Macro-Economic Reasons EVs Are Still Not Viable in 2014
Lack of huge technological leaps in solar energy generation (by anyone, not just Venturi), plus similar stagnation in battery density possibilities, are the major hurdles to still overcome for all EV fans.
Even behemoth Michelin has not found much 'traction' in the marketplace, per se, for the in-wheel power solution.
The other assumption that all these EV makers relied upon when making their plans and projections?
That gasoline and diesel pricing would be double what it actually is today: with pricing in the $140-plus range per barrel used in many equations. This does not reflect the continuing $95-per-barrel pricing that has been relatively steady since 2013. Many in the EV industry continue to watch stable gasoline prices -- but the costs for nickel and lithium for batteries increasing steadily.
Nickel and battery production costs are squeezed by consumer electronic demand on all sides -- with extra market fluctuations in the cost of mining the metals just another added layer of complexity. So now these EV startups need to hedge their battery buys like Southwest does its jet fuel? That is a lot on any startup's plate -- and balance sheet.
Edit: Venturi is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year - making is less of a startup than many...
This is the opposite of good news for EV dreamers, and even for Prius hybrid reality.
Nonetheless, the bold vision for an EV future outlined by Venturi is to be commended -- if only the economics made as much sense to buyers as they do to green-world dreamers...