6 Cool European Electric Cars Never Coming to the US

European Coachbuilding Goes Electric

The European tradition of coachbuilding—the manufacturing of carriages—dates back to the 1700s. These days, it refers to the high-end auto design firms, such as Rolls Royce and Ferrari, which build custom-designed specialty vehicles.

Like nearly every automaker in the world, coachbuilders are going green, by designing and building all-electric vehicles. Their electric cars are well suited to the congested streets of Rome or Paris, but don’t hold your breath for these cool electricity-powered rides to make it across the pond. By nature, the coachbuilders produce vehicles in limited runs intended for local markets.

1Pininfarina B0 (“B Zero”)

Design house Pininfarina, of Turin, Italy, showed the B0 at the 2008 Paris Auto Show. The B0 is four-seat, four-door electric hatchback—about the size of a Honda Fit. The car has a range of 153 miles and a top speed of 80 miles per hour. The B0 features solar cells across the roof and front fascia to top up the lithium ion battery pack. Acceleration is zero to 60 (kilometers not miles per hour) in a little over six seconds. In other words, zero to 37 mph in six seconds—not quite the pace of the Ferraris also designed by Pininfarina. The company is considering direct sales via the Internet, and will begin production as early as 2009, according to some reports.

2UK Lightning

The Lightning Car Company is Britain’s answer to Tesla Motors. The company aims to build an all-electric luxury sports car with classic British sports car design. The Lightning provides a top speed capability of more than 130 mph. The Lightning electric car was first unveiled as a prototype at the London Auto Show way back in 1999. It’s been totally revamped since that time. The company is offering a GT model promising zero to 60 mph performance of less than 4 seconds. The “extended range” version claims a range of 250 miles and a recharge time of only 10 minutes using a standard home socket. (Sounds optimistic.) Price is expected right around, ahem, $300,000.

3Heuliez Friendly

Heuliez Friendly

The Friendly is available in 27 different variations with options such as body length, motor output, and battery type.

French coachbuilder Heuliez of Cerizay, France, recently revealed its mini minivan called the “Friendly.” There are 27 different variants with variable options such as body length, motor output, and battery type. Depending on these variables, the Friendly will have a range of between 60 and 150 miles, and a top speed of about 65 miles per hour.
All versions are configured with three-seats: one seat in front and two in back. Heuliez, founded in 1920, has been in the business of electric vehicles for well over 25 years. It is starting to focus on EVs, after building chassis structures under contract for Peugeot, General Motors, and other carmakers. The company hopes to build 10,000 a year at its factory, with the first units rolling out in 2010. One warning: The motor has limited power for climbing hills, only for “slopes up to 17%,” according to the company.

4Heuliez Pondicherry

Heuliez Pondicherry

Heuliez also recently showed the Pondicherry, a demonstration model of four-wheel neighborhood all-electric urban pickup. Production details have not been confirmed.

5Karmann Quicc DiVa

Karmann Quicc DiVa

The Quicc DiVa is an all-electric urban distribution van. The body is made of plastic.

You’ve probably heard of the Karmann Ghia, right? Well, Karmann, the German company with a century-old tradition of building cars from the ground up, is teaming up with DuraCar, a Dutch company, to produce the all-electric Quicc DiVa urban distribution van. The Quicc DiVa body and chassis of the car are entirely made of plastic. The company has plans to build up to 15,000 units per year.

6Ford F-150 Ha-Pa

Ford F-150 Ha-Pa

The Hi-Pa Drive system, built in the UK, can be applied to existing vehicle formats.

Okay, here’s a European-built electric vehicle system that could make it to the US—if an American car builder decides to use the Hi-Pa Drive. The Ford F-150 concept vehicle, shown at the 2008 Specialty Equipment Market Association trade show in Las Vegas, demonstrated a system that allows designers and builders to create an electric vehicle application by installing motors on all four wheels. Together, the four motors installed on the F-150 deliver 600 horsepower—greater power and torque than the 320-hp 5.4L V8 engine that was removed from the truck. The F-150 concept was built by UK-based PML Flightlink in collaboration with Ford. Any takers?

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  • Uncle B

    The deepening depression in the U.S.A. will favor the import of the smaller plug in style vehicles.So long as they remain small and rechargable by solar and wind applications they will gain popularity, after the “great breakdown” of the monetary system – until then, its, gas guzzling V-8’s for a few and grinding poverty for the many at home in the U.S.A.

  • nathan

    that f-150 needs some more work. there’s still a rear differential there. if there’s a motor on every wheel, you wouldn’t need that

  • Nate

    >One warning: The motor lacks the power to climb hills with a gradient above 17 degrees.

    Umm, at what speed? Power would only limit its ability to climb that gradient without slowing down. So is it 35 mph? 55 mph? 85 mph?

  • El Tonto

    About what Nate was talking about:

    If it has greater power and torque, how does is have a problem climbing steep hills?

    Also, how long does it take to fully charge and how many kW/hours does it take to charge it fully?

  • Skeptic

    One of these is definitely vaporware. Most of the others will get built.

    The Ford truck is intriguing. It’s about time the auto companies ditched the “one motor” idea and copied Diesel-electric locomotives and put a motor on each wheel (locomotives have one per axle, but have no tight turning radii to deal with).

    No more transmission, things like traction control get way easier.

    *Very* cool.

    Not that you’ll be able to buy one any time soon.

  • Nate

    Addressing the same quote, I’ve seen sources elsewhere that cite that it can’t climb a *17% grade*, not a 17° slope.

    17° would be a 30% grade, and a 17% grade would be a 9.6° slope.

    Doing the math (0-50 km/h in 7 seconds) tells me that it should be power limited to no less than 18 mph on a 17% grade. Hardly worth advertising, but not a physical impossibility (perhaps a practical one thought).

  • Nate

    I believe you’re looking for “kilowatt-hours.” The kilowatt is a unit of power, whereas the kilowatt-hour is a unit of energy equal to 3,600,000 joules.

    The wording, according to their site, is: “the motor is designed for slopes of up to 17%.”


  • Ryan G

    An unfortunate name for the B-Zero, considering that it will utmostly end up being the B – O.

  • Neil

    The Karmann Quicc DiVa is super cute! It looks like a beefed-up Tango.

    Maybe OPEC will really cut oil production and give these electric cars a jump start by sending petrol prices through the roof?

    p.s. Saw a Cadillac Escalade Hybrid at an auto show this weekend. The 110v plug/outlet is at the back of the vehicle in the cargo area. So if my passenger wants to work on a laptop without draining the battery, we would run an extension cord from the front of the car to the back corner? How dumb can these US designs get?

  • ZAP Alias

    Yes these are lovely cars but there are a lot of really cool EVs going into production as early as next year in the US. They will be fast, long range, sporty looking and futuristic.

  • ZAP Alias

    Yes these are lovely cars but there are a lot of really cool EVs going into production as early as next year in the US. They will be fast, long range, sporty looking and futuristic.

  • ZAP Alias

    Yes these are lovely cars but there are a lot of really cool EVs going into production as early as next year in the US. They will be fast, long range, sporty looking and futuristic.

  • ZAP Alias

    Yes these are lovely cars but there are a lot of really cool EVs going into production as early as next year in the US. They will be fast, long range, sporty looking and futuristic.

  • hybridman2

    Someone should tell Pininfarina That BO in America means body odor – in other words it stinks. Bad marketing research.
    Reminds me of the old Chevy Nova and Gm’s attempt to market it in Mexico where nova means “doesn’t go”.


  • Paul Beerkens

    Can someone explain to me what the big deal is about making cars for a target market. If you build a car that works in Rome why would it not work in Chicago? I know that there are difference in safety standards (pollution not being in issue with electrical cars) but Europe has some pretty decent safety standards already. Just put them on a boat and sell them over here. What is the big deal?

    The same is true for the big three. For example the Ford Ka has been sold in Europe for years. Why does it take several years to make a US model?

  • G.B. Koerner

    Let’s not ignore that ultra-exotic, high-performance electric from Oregon, the BugE (www.bugEv.net)

  • 33Nick

    It is puzzling to see how Chrysler has a working electric car prototype in the shape of its Dodge EV (electric Lotus), GM has fuel cell cars in China and Ford has an electric pickup truck with PLM, yet none of them use this technology here. Could it be they have a different plan for the U.S.? 😉

  • Anonymous

    it takes about 4 to 8 hours to fully rechage.. thats what all my research says…

  • zack

    i think number 2 look hot

  • Earthling

    They should really allow the importation of the Pininfarina B-Zero.. what a brilliant car for commuting in LA or SF.

  • gallantkcanada

    We are building solar mobile fuel stations for the next gen electric car in Canada. We are looking at Europeans cars for testing. What countries in Europe would you target for the next gen solar fuel charging system. http://www.southsideair.com

  • Big Bizz

    Could it be that corporate world works like your local chamber of commerce? And decides collectively when new technologies will be made available. Research must evaluate how it will affect current markets and those investments.

  • RNDay

    Sadly we in the US will never see the effective electric cars seen in others, while we are quite seriously under the control of oil barons. We are so emeshed with the Arabic oil supply that we do not even use the cheaper costing, but quite pure, latin suppliers. Right now cost of cash is being used against our incumbent president and then if a Republican psycho is elected the price will mysteriously go down.

    We are the official 1st world crack addict of Arabic oil.

    very sad.

  • mungo

    The cars are interesting but they all seem like prototypes. It doesn’t support the premise of this article that Europe is so much farther along in integrating EVs into their transportation system.