Paris challenge shows electric car's power

Wed Jul 14, 2010 2:30pm EDT
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By Helen Massy-Beresford

PARIS (Reuters) - Driving into the chic Place Vendome in central Paris, lined with upmarket jewelers and exclusive hotels, a small orange van looked out of place on Tuesday evening amid the sleek luxury cars.

The Citroen Berlingo was remarkable not just for its diminutive size and striking color. It was arriving in the French capital after a journey of 13,565 km, that began in Shanghai two months ago. Powered by electric batteries.

The electric vehicle odyssey was masterminded by electric sports carmaker Venturi, which has a partnership with French carmaker PSA Peugeot Citroen to supply the rather more down-to-earth "Berlingo Electric First."

Venturi, based in the tiny principality of Monaco, famous for its lavish casinos, and the Grand Prix that sees sportscars racing through its winding streets, makes the futuristic Fetish electric sports car, which sells for around 300,000 euros ($381,200).

The Shanghai-Paris trip was the brainchild of two teachers, Xavier Chevrin and Geraldine Gabin, looking for an unusual adventure, and one that would not rely on petrol.

Chevrin had already crossed Papua New Guinea from south to north on foot, and travelled from Santa Fe to Los Angeles on horseback.

Venturi agreed to provide the car, but CEO Gildo Pallanca Pastor was adamant the little van should make the trip alone, without a support car, to dispel some of the doubts about electric cars.

With European emissions rules tightening, many carmakers are pushing electric technology, and electric models from major carmakers are going on sale later this year in Europe.   Continued...

<p>A worker cleans a new Citroen Berlingo car displayed during the first media day of the 78th Geneva Car Show at the Palexpo in Geneva March 4, 2008. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann</p>