This post was contributed by guest blogger Sebastian Blanco, editor in chief of AutoblogGreen.
In the auto show world, Geneva is often the place where automakers display their most fanciful concept vehicles. This year, the trend continued loud and clear and, when you put the pieces together, the Geneva Motor Show gives us a broad vision of a greener, more interesting automobile.
Take, for example, the absolutely crazy interior of the Renault R-Space Concept (pictured above). Instead of a typical rear seat or cargo arrangement, the R-Space has 27 padded cubes that can be manipulated into variety of shapes: a flat floor, a table, a booster seat or, when parked, "a random configuration for children games." Something like this would never make it past the safety regulators into a production car, but it's still fun to gawk at. On top of this, the R-Space also has a green sheen to it, with one of Renault's Energy TCe Concept engines that gets more power from less fuel.
Other notable flights of fancy in Geneva this week include the VW Bulli – a reworking of VW's classic van that includes an integrated iPad and an all-electric powertrain – and the Rinspeed BamBoo – which also has a tablet PC included and can use its inflatable roof as a beach blanket. I mean, seriously.
Then we have the Renault Twizy, which prefectly blends the dream-fueled concept car with an all-electric powertrain. A concept version of this two-seat urban runabout was first revealed at the 2009 Frankfurt show, and it's being toned down for the production version. But let this sink in a minute: there will be a production version of a car that, up to this point, we haven't seen with any doors.
If the Twizy looked like a standard urban two-seater, it might be similar to the Smart Fortwo or the Think City. Instead, it's a bubble car that exposes its occupants to the elements from the side (we assume the production version will be different) and has a previously-stated range of 62 miles from its small lithium-ion battery and a top speed of 47 mph. As we said, it's a city car, and it has the size to match: just 2.3 meters long and 1.13 meters wide.
As different as this sounds from most other cars on the market, the Twizy is about to become very real, and will go on sale in Europe later this year. The big news is that Renault announced this week that the car will cost just €6,990 (around $9,700 U.S.), putting it well within reach of many city dwellers who need or want an emissions-free way to scoot around town. Since most of the cost of an electric car is in the batteries, it should come as no surprise that you don't get to own the pack for 10 Gs. Instead, Renault will lease the battery for about the cost of a smartphone bill: €45 ($62) a month
And this is how we get to what might be the big lesson of Geneva this year: as crazy as it sounds, the shift away from a purely gasoline-powered automobile is somehow accelerating. Every automaker, it seems, even Rolls-Royce, has some sort of alternative powertrain on display, trying to appeal to every possible customer. Some people will want to outright buy their plug-in car. Some will want to lease it. Some will stick with liquid fuels for now. What we see in Geneva is, if you can dream it, the auto industry just might be able to offer it to you.