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Frost & Sullivan consultant suggests European EV success will require radical lightweighting plus enabling legislation

The 400 kg (curbweight) Aixam quadricycle, with a 400cc two-cylinder diesel, is an example of the size and weight needed in future city vehicles, Meilhan suggests. Click to enlarge.

Significant vehicle weight reduction and an accompanying change of enabling regulations and norms is the way forward in the quest to reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions, according to Paris-based Frost & Sullivan Senior Consultant, Nicolas Meilhan.

The car of the future is a small city car, but not necessarily electric, Meilhan suggests. The future of electric vehicles (EVs) depends on regulations from governments and the European Union, incentivizing the consumer to buy them. Legislations for taxing weight size and engine power will help produce and sell such a car. Making parking even more expensive for regular cars will help. Other incentives for small cars, such as being allowed to drive in bus lines, as practiced in Norway, would certainly improve the business case for EVs.

Governments should consider to pass legislations increasing tax on ordinary cars based on their weight as well as make car parking more expensive—€200 [US$263] per month instead of €12 [US$16] per month for residential parking in Paris, for example. That way you might have a chance to change the car market into an electric one, or at least one that emits less CO2 and consumes less energy, whether it is electric or not.

—Nicolas Meilhan

EV sales performance. According to the latest AID newsletter, electric vehicle (EVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) sales reached 20,558 units in Western Europe for the first 10 months of 2012. During the same period, the US registered 38,000 units sold, half of it being Chevrolet’s Volt.

Worldwide, not more than 100,000 electric vehicles are expected to be sold in 2012. While the penetration of sales in the US stands at 0.6% for 2012, it is even lower for Europe with 0.21%. European Renault, though at the forefront of producing EVs in Europe (earlier post), is one of the vehicle manufacturers with the worst performance in Europe, consultancy Frost & Sullivan notes.

Renault invested approximately $5 billion in the production of electric vehicles, which prevented them from investing in new models of conventional cars. Whether this strategy pays off and the Renault Zoé attracts much interest remains to be seen, the consultancy cautions.

The current EV market is a fleet market, a B2B market, not a B2C market. A lot of people think the EV is the perfect car for the city. But the truth is it only addresses the local pollution issue; it neither addresses the congestion problems nor the parking issue most cities face today.

If you really want to reduce CO2 emissions and energy consumption, especially in cities, then governments and local authorities should only allow cars with a maximum 500 kg (1,100 lbs) weight. A 500 kg gasoline car—a gasoline Twizy for example (which does not exist)—emits less CO2 in its lifecycle than a the Renault Zoé EV weighing 1400 kg [3,086 lbs].

If you compare the same Renault Zoé (EV) with a bike, the easiest means of transport in the city, then you have to put more than 140 people into the car in order to make it as energy efficient as your 10 kg bike.

—Nicolas Meilhan

Weight. 50 years ago, the average weight of a French car was 758 kg (1,671 lbs), 500 kg lighter than today’s average weight of 1,266 kg (2,791 lbs); car weight has increased by as much as 10 kg (22 lbs) per year for the last 50 years. A car of approximately 500 kg of weight is as big as the iconic little 2CV, for which production was stopped 20 years ago, but which could be the car of the future in cities.

The Ligier JS50. Click to enlarge.

Such light vehicles consuming 2L per 100 km (118 mpg US) already exist. The Aixam or the Ligier are quadricycles with a consumption of 2.5L (94 mpg US), which do the most important thing a car should do in a city, Meilhan notes: take the driver from A to B. You can almost park two quadricycles in one car park where one 5m length BMW 7 Series would fit. And finally, it reduces congestion as it is smaller.

The 400 kg (82 lbs) curbweight Ligier IXO Urban uses a 0.5L 2-cylinder diesel engine developing 4 kW (5.4 hp) and 17.0 N·m (12.5 lb-ft) of torque, with fuel consumption of 3.57 l/100km (66 mpg US). Top speed is 45 km/h (28 mph). The new Ligier JS50, available in February 2013, offers fuel consumption of 2.5 l/100km.

The 400 kg Aixam city quadricycles weigh some 350 kg (771 lbs) unladen and feature a 0.4L 2-cylinder diesel engine that develops 4 kW (5.4 hp) and 14 N·m (10.3 lb-ft) of torque; fuel consumption is listed as 2.96 l/100 km (79 mpg US). Top speed is 45 km/h

The car of the future for cities is small and above all, light. However for major European car OEMs to focus on the production of such lightweight electric cars, the authorities have to put legislation in place to promote lightweight small vehicles.

First reduce the weight and the size of the car, then add a small battery (because for a small car, you can use a small battery), then you have the ultimate city car. The BMW’s 7 Series weighs up to 2t just to carry 70kg. This is an energetic non-sense.

—Nicolas Meilhan

The Kei-car in Japan on the other hand, he sugests, is the car to look at with a 660cc engine and a maximum of 3.4m length. But the most important advantages of this vehicle are all related regulatory advantages, reduced taxes, reduced annual road taxes, reduced insurance etc, granted by the Japanese government.

If you really want to move towards such a car, you need to have a strong legislation on the weight of the car, and not only the CO2 emission. If you want to develop a successful EV, you need to minimise battery size as well, as it is heavy and expensive.

If you can ‘fuel’ your car every day at home, you do not need a big battery. 80 percent of daily drips are less than 60 km (37 miles) so there is not a single reason to put in a battery which has a larger autonomy than 60 km. Of course you need to add a small range extender to cover 20 percent of the daily trips where you drive longer distances.

—Nicolas Meilhan



Since a majority of Americans are obese, I don't think these tiny cars will be very popular here. Radical lightweighting sounds a lot like radical weakening too - if it does not mean weakening & is also cheap, I think it sounds promising (though not necessarily popular with the fatties).


Americans and their cars became obese 'fatties' in the last 60 years or so as both double their weight.

Should drivers and passengers reduce their (over) weight from 300 lbs to 150 lbs and be healthier, need less medical care, use less prescribed drugs, eat less, use less fabrics and materials for clothing and shoes, consume a lot less energy to move from A to Z, look better etc ?

Next, they could use much lighter cars, i.e. less than 2000 lbs instead of the many 4000+ lbs gas guzzling monsters currently used.

In the near future, new ultra light weight composite materials and improved design will be used to produce ultra light weight (well under 2000 lbs) but stronger, longer lasting vehicles.

Liviu Giurca

A radical way to cut the weight of electric/hybrid vehicles is described in the site

Liviu Giurca

A radical way to cut the weight of electric/hybrid vehicles is described in the site


ejj is right. Radical lightweighting should start with the fat Americans. The answer is to take away their cars all together and make them walk or ride a bike, that way they'l get stronger instead of facing their own radical weakening. ;)

Bob Wallace

Cars, even light weight ones, will still have to meet safety standards and provide adequate crash resistance.


Tiny subcompacts need only fill a niche urban market. The main advantage of BEVs and PHEVs is their energy storage capacity. BEV energy storage applies mostly to compacts, unlike PHEVs which apply to all weight class of vehicle. Fuel cell EVs do not offer this advantage as storing hydrogen is impractical and problematic. With a plug-in EV, households have a choice to use stored energy for driving or household uses. With a PHEV hybrid, households are least dependent upon a utility grid to supply household energy. Thus, the PHEV (plug-in hybrid EV) offers the most potential to reduce overall driving distances and overall energy consumption.


Everyone may want to be 'fashion model' thin and a billionaire, but somehow stressing in front of a computer overtime doesn't seem to always promote or result in the above.

Since average vehicles were '1671 lb' and drove over 70 mph 50 years ago, what is this "Top speed is 45 km/h (28 mph)." about in the real world?

Bob Wallace

Sir, we are likely to build all sorts of vehicles which run totally on batteries. We're already building large passenger buses, they are on the streets.

PHEVs are likely only a temporary step on our route away from fossil fuels. In the long run batteries should be cheaper to manufacture than ICEs. The "fuel" for an EV is tremendously cheaper than the fuel for an ICE.

BTW, have you ever heard about the Tesla Model S? A fairly decent sized EV with more than a 250 mile range. You might want to check it out. It should give you some idea of what the future of the car is likely to be.


The Tesla 'S' 4-door luxury car is priced in the $60,000 range. Apparently, battery cost is becoming as cheap as nuclear power was forecast to become in the 1950's. My preference for PHEV technology is based upon its greater capability to induce a reduction in routine driving distances. We drive too much, too far, for too many purposes. BEVs attempt to maintain current patterns of excessive driving. The future of BEVs doesn't look much different than today's traffic gridlock. Perhaps their windshields, side and rear windows could double as video screens displaying images of passing scenery to enjoy while stuck in traffic? And with fully automated driving, we could pretend the world is finally perfected as we drive in a garage to garage matrix.


This is not news. Lightweighting has been recognised for years as the main route to less consuming vehicles by most automotive OEMs as well as the European Commission.

Lightweighting is highly beneficial for the energy efficiency of not only EVs, which can then run on a smaller=cheaper battery, but also ICE vehicles which can feature a significantly downsized motor, thus highly efficient for the power it needs to provide.

A number of large scale R&D projects follow that route, focusing on lighter materials (e.g. carbon fibre reinforced plastic composites, high strength steels, aluminium, magnesium), multi-material approaches (incl. metal-plastic hybrids) and innovative, customised design for downsizing and function integration.

For more info have a look at past projects TECABS, SuperLightCar, as well as running projects ELVA, DELIVER and HIVOCOMP. New projects ALIVE and ENLIGHT are soon to be public, while others focusing specifically on safe light urban electric vehicles (like the Axiam but homologated for safety) are likely to be launched next year.

See a short description of the projects in the EUCAR project book 2012:


The power densities of these engines are best described as archaic. 10-12 HP/Litre?! Are these engine designs pre-war, like pre WWI? I like the idea of reducing weight in just about any context but this doesn't seem to be completely thought out.

Bob Wallace

Sir - "We drive too much, too far, for too many purposes."

Yes, but it is unrealistic to think that people will voluntarily change their behavior. We have to work within the constraints of what is possible.

PHEVs, as I've said before, offer range that EVs cannot provide at an affordable price right now. I do not expect that to remain true.

If you've ever torn down and rebuilt an ICE you will be familiar with the numerous individual bits and pieces which have to be designed, manufactured and assembled into a working engine. Many careful calculations and much effort to find the most appropriate materials.

The "engine" of an EV, its battery pack, is made up of lots of identical cells. Simplicity in manufacturing, it makes for lower cost.

Given that the material costs are not the cost driver for battery cells greater automation opportunity is likely to make EVs much cheaper than ICEs.

That's where I see cars going.

Congestion is a different issue. Self-driving cars will help a lot, regardless of how they are powered. Better public transportation and better designed cities will also assist.


Micro cars have no traction in the US.. we need large cars that can handle 5-6 cornfed 6 footers, with a reasonable range of 100-150 miles at hwy speeds of 65-75mph... and cost around $30k


One of the potential solution may be to selectively ban and/or to progressively over tax the major causes for obesity, including:

1) Junk food and empty industrial cereals and prepared foods.

2) Sweet drinks and so called energy booster drinks

3) High cal. beer

4. High cal. Hot Dogs

5. High cal. sweets

6. All you can eat places, etc

Secondly, have a national program to (repeatedly) inform people of all ages of all ages of the ill effects of over eating/drinking, special the fattening foods and drinks etc?.

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