(check it out – no exhausts)

Yesterday I had the privilege of being one of the first people in Ireland to test drive the new range of electric vehicles from Renault.  The test vehicles are proto-types, not yet factory produced and are therefore one-offs, worth about a million euro each.  The event was out in Carton House and we got to drive through the estate, out onto the public road, up to a roundabout and back again.  The two vehicles they had were the Kangoo (van) and the Fluence (an executive saloon).

What are they like?  Long story short, they’re just cars, with a different engine.  Driving-wise the biggest difference was they’re left hand drive (weird enough) and they’re set up like an automatic, with just drive, park and reverse (which I’ve never driven before).  Those differences were much more noticeable to me than the difference between a petrol and an electric engine.  Which probably says it all. 

They’re also silent.  Can you imagine a city centre, like Dublin, without the roar of traffic?  I was going to say it’d be like going back to pre-combustion engine days, but actually, there were noisy, smelly horses clip-clopping around and relieving themselves all over the place back then.  This would be a breath of fresh-air and completely noise-free.  In fact, that’s one of the challenges of electric vehicles – they’ve to put an artificial noise into them for pedestrian safety.  Who’d have thought we’d have been trying to make cars noisier? 

The Gardai and Emergency Services were also out there getting training on how to deal with any potential road accidents involving an electric car (tip: don’t try putting out fires with water…).

Yesterday was a glimpse of the future.  Electric Vehicles may not be mainstream, mass-produced, today, tomorrow, next year, in the next 3 or 4 years.  But in 5, 10 or 15 years time, we’ll all be driving them.  And I wish that was now, because it’d be a far better place.

In other respects, we’ve already arrived at the future.  Car companies like Renault are now inviting as many bloggers and online publishers as traditional journalists to these kind of things.  I was sitting beside the blogger behind a new motor site called http://smokerspack.com/ (@smokerspack).  He’s a micro-blogger who reviews individual cars that individual dealers have for sale.  So for example you could look up a second hand Golf on his site which he’s reviewed and then call down to the dealer and try it yourself.

Then when I got back to the office I tweeted a few photos of the electric vehicles and hash-tagged #Renault and #Fluence.  2 minutes later I got a direct message from @RenaultZE complimenting me on my pictures.  Now I’m following them so I get to hear the news and developments around their ZE. 

Good to see some brands trying to get to the future first, both with what they do and how they talk to you about it – after all, first tends to get all the credit.

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