French Minister of Industrial Renewal Amaud Montebourg wants his nation to be considered the world's electric-vehicle leader. "France can guide the electric revolution. We want electric vehicles to be for everyone," he said during the recent welcome-home ceremony for the Citroen C-Zero driving team that finished an eight month, 15,535 mile road trip on $300 worth of electricity, the Electric Odyssey.
Montebourg's pronouncement was made on the eve of the Paris Motor Show, where French automakers are ready to show off displays of electric vehicles. Renault is showing its full lineup of Zoe, Twizy, Kangoo and Fluence EVs. Citroen is displaying its DS3 electric concept car and its C-Zero. Peugeot will show the iOn, sister to the C-Zero and Mitsubishi iMiEV. Two startup makers will also show their wares – Mia is displaying small EVS and Courb will bring its C-Zen.
Government incentives are available to move this vision forward. For example, there is a $9,100 tax credit available for the Renault Zoe, which brings the price down to the level of the Renault Clio or Peugot 208, Montebourg said. The question the French government and auto industry needs to have answered is similar to other locales, such as California and Washington, D.C.: what will it for EVs to take root?
The Ministry of Industry Renewal will be announcing increased consumer incentives to buy EVs, including free parking, free passage on urban toll roads and financial aid for installing recharging stations. The French government is following a similar path as the state of California, having pushed for the technology in the 1990s. Back then, in France, Peugeot-Citroen and Renault converted 10,000 small cars to electric power before the experiment petered out. Limited range from lead-acid batteries, high prices and lack of charging stifled the plug-in revolution. Now, with the tax credit making these cars more attractive to consumers, it looks like charging infrastructure remains the largest hurdle.
The government is pushing for infrastructure development through various methods, such as meeting with local governments to assist with the installation of public charging stations and changing regulations on underground parking garages in apartment complexes to make installations viable.
One of the hurdles for infrastructure development is deciding on what type of plug to use for fast charging. The government has committed to making its decision in the next few months, even though the plug-in industry doesn't know itself. A second problem is starting up fees for charging, when people were used to free public charging.