SOFTCAR is reinventing the Swiss electric car

SOFTCAR is reinventing the Swiss electric car

The Fribourg-based company intends to take advantage of the imminent disruption of the car market to promote an innovative concept in the manufacture of electric vehicles.

A quarter of a century after the idea for the Swatchmobile came to Nicolas Hayek, a lightweight and economical electric car may at last see the light of day in Switzerland. The implementation of this incredible project is in the hands of Softcar, a Fribourg-based company headed by Jean-Luc Thuliez, himself a former member of the Swatchmobile team, and Marc Frehner, who is responsible for the design.

An economical and environmentally-friendly vehicle

A traditional car has almost 40,000 components and weighs 1.3 tonnes. The Softcar, on the other hand, has only 1800 parts and weighs 480 kilos. The car body can be changed in 30 minutes and, unlike present-day cars, whose worn-out parts have to be destroyed or burned, all the mechanical parts can be reused. The Softcar's batteries give it a range of between 240 and 400 kilometres, depending on the model. According to Jean-Luc Thuliez, replacing 100,000 petrol vehicles with electric models would reduce CO2 emissions by 300,000 tonnes annually.

However, the issue for Softcar is not merely one of replacing petrol cars. Jean-Luc Thuliez believes that his electric vehicle provides a lighter and more accessible alternative to the electric cars currently available on the market. "Current models are designed in the same way as petrol vehicles. They're heavy and they cost too much. On top of that, the available battery technologies don't give them a sufficiently attractive range." Even the electric Smart weighs almost a tonne. A long way from Nicolas Hayek's visionary dream!

A new industrial model

Marketing of the Softcar is due to begin in Switzerland and Austria in 2018. But the real horizon for the project is much further away: the key market for the electric car is China, with its 80 megacities, each with more than 10 million inhabitants. The Softcar company will not make the cars itself, but will develop the technologies needed to produce these vehicles and will sell manufacturing licences to third parties.

"We're selling a recipe and the ingredients needed to build clean cars," explains Jean-Luc Thuliez. This decentralised model, known as the "cloud factory", will use assembly plants close to the megacities. These same plants will also be responsible for the end-of-life recovery of the vehicles. "This is a much more modern business model that enables us to provide solutions far more quickly than the model used in manufacturing traditional cars," Thuliez adds. "We’re going against the whole of the automotive industry, which increasingly tends to produce complex, expensive electronics."

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