DETROIT – Venturi SA, an electric sports-car maker from Monaco and France, is establishing a beachhead in Columbus, OH, to market its battery-management system and its ability to make electric versions of delivery vehicles.
At the North American International Show here, the company displays its Venturi Jamais Content, a vehicle produced in cooperation with Ohio State University, developed to set a land speed record of 307 mph (495 km/h).
Venturi also showcases its America concept off-road buggy, which uses the mechanics of its new-generation Fetish sports car, as well as the electric Citroen Berlingo First that it manufactures for PSA Peugeot Citroen and the French post office.
In the U.S., Venturi is not going to challenge Tesla Motors Inc. in the electric sports-car market, because it can’t afford “to lose $200,000 on each car it sells,” CEO Gildo Pastor says.
Rather, Venturi plans to push a battery-management system it has developed over nine years in France and will look for technical partnerships, including the idea of adapting vehicles to electric power.
Venturi uses relatively inexpensive, high-temperature Zebra nickel-sodium-chloride batteries in the Berlingo that are a mature technology. The Zebra battery “is more compact than lithium, is good in crash tests and works very well in cold and hot weather,” Pastor says.
“The big defect is that you have the obligation to plug in your car whenever you can. It is a very big defect for a lot of people, but not at all a defect for professional users who go back to their garage.”
The Zebra battery has no memory effect and requires no oversight by the drivers, Pastor notes. “The users (at the French post office) are happy.”
Venturi won the post-office contract in France on its own, but since then PSA has teamed up with the company to offer electric delivery vans through its dealers in 10 European countries. Venturi has opened a factory in France that is turning out 200 vehicles a month.
“Peugeot and Citron have really great demand, because there are not other (electric vans) available,” says Pastor, who notes Renault SA’s Kangoo EV is not yet on the market.
In addition, he says, the high-temperature battery is appealing in northern European countries, such as Austria. “This (van) has one big asset; it is very light,” Pastor says, noting it was designed for commercial use and not as a passenger vehicle.
Although the sodium nickel technology is not widely used, it has been licensed by General Electric Co. for North America, he says, which may result in new applications.
Venturi expects to use its plant, near LeMans, to produce its Eclectic city car, as well as a 3-wheeler, which will use lithium-ion batteries.