Quebec International Car Show focuses on beauty but little innovation

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Photo: Kasia Borkowska

The Twizy, Renault's all-electric car, can seat two people and, depending on the model, can reach speeds up to 40 or 80 km/h.

Set in 2015, the final instalment of the Back to the Future trilogy featured the flying DeLorean DMC-12, an automobile time machine powered by household waste. The 34th annual Salon international de l'Auto de Québec, held at the Centre de Foires de Québec from March 3 to 8, demonstrated that the future is definitely not here... yet. There were no flying cars in sight and as for fuel, electricity was as advanced as it got. It seemed that despite all the esthetic and subtle technological developments, the substantial, game-changing progress in automobile innovation had stalled circa 1997, when Toyota manufactured the first hybrid (gasoline-electric) car, called the Prius.

Still, car aficionados could feast their eyes on over 375 vehicles on display, from fully electric models and hybrids to classic sports cars and extravagant sedans. Coveted makes such as Ferrari, Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Lamborghini and Aston Martin in the luxury-car pavillion were a sight to behold. A rare hybrid Porsche 918 Spyder, valued at $2 million, was displayed by its two owners, New York-based Elizabeth White and Andrew Zallison. Iconic automobiles of cinema, from the aforementioned DeLorean to a 1982 Pontiac TransAM Sport (from the TV series Knight Rider), triggered nostalgia in those of a certain age. 

The show was the opportunity for car manufacturers to unveil their latest models. Toyota's sporty Scion tC release series 9.0 and the tiny Renault Twizy had their Canadian debut; Hyundai Sonata hybrid 2016, GM Chevrolet Volt 2016, Mitsubishi PHEV, Mazda MX-5 and Volkswagen Golf R 2016 were unveiled for the first time in the province.

But the undisputed stars of the show were the all-electric vehicles, with the luxury Tesla S P85D competing for attention with the much less expensive Renault Twizy. The former is named for the early twentieth-century Serbian-American futurist Nikola Tesla, who invented the Tesla coil and alternating current machinery. The Tesla is the first all-electric luxury sedan. Sleek, understated, and very fast, it boasts an all-wheel drive and an unprecedented battery life of 435 kilometres. At a starting price of $82,270, this car does not come cheap, but it is perhaps the only contemporary vehicle displaying the highest standard in both innovation and design.

And the jaunty Renault Twizy, a battery-powered two-seater, comes in two versions: Twizy 40 and Twizy 80, named for their respective maximum speeds in kilometres per hour. It weighs 450 kilograms, costs between 7,000 and 9,000 Euros ($9,590 - $12,330 CDN) and has a battery life of about 100 kilometres. Available in Europe since 2012, Twizy has yet to find a distributor in Canada. The demand for fully electric cars is ever increasing and the show organizers fervently hope that Twizy will make its Québécois debut later this year.

The Electric Circuit (EC), the largest public charging network in Quebec, has over 375 stations for plug-in electric vehicles all over the province, including eight fast-charge stations. They can be found in parking lots of major shopping centres, AMT, Rona and Metro stores as well as St-Hubert restaurants and farmers' markets. In response to the increasing presence of electric cars on our roads, EC, in collaboration with AddÉnergie and CAA-Quebec, will install three more 400-V fast-charge stations this spring in the Quebec City metropolitan area, adding to the growing charge-station infrastructure in the province. The charge stations are manufactured at an AddÉnergie plant in Shawinigan. At the show, EC representatives outlined their goal to erect 50 fast-charge stations in the province of Quebec by the end of 2016. 

For now, the all-electric vehicle is the future of the automobile industry. While environmentally sound, it still does not solve the problem of road congestion. Let's hope that in the not-too-distant future the bold predictions of Back to the Future will come to pass. 

The Car Show was very popular this year with some 67,500 visitors, almost beating their all-time-record of 70,000 in 2008.