At this year's Geneva Motor Show, there is clearly a bigger buzz among mainstream manufacturers about electric vehicles.
According to Mercedes-Benz executive Harald Kroger, who oversees the company's e-drive vehicles, this growing interest could be because a battery-power breakthrough is on the horizon. The driving range of current electric vehicles is already improving but within 10 years, the distance a plug-in vehicle will be able to travel on a single charge will have doubled, he told Auto Express.
Mercedes demonstrated its latest plug-in hybrid concept at this year's show, the V-ision-e. It's a big seven-seat MPV that can travel 50km just on the batteries before its gas engine kicks in. If interest is there, it will go into production.
The company chose its luxury MPV for the hybrid treatment because the popularity of Tesla proves that there is serious interest in the premium sector for something with better environmental credentials.
Audi has taken this logic one step further, unveiling its first ever plug-in electric car, the R8 e-tron, a battery-powered version of its new flagship supercar. It delivers 456bhp to the rear wheels, can go from 0-100km/h in 3.9 seconds and although top speed is capped at 350km/h, it can travel for up to 444km between charges.
The R8 e-tron will also serve as a research and development vehicle, gathering data for the creation of an EV SUV. Audi is aiming for a spacious, high riding car for four with a 500km range.
Audi also believes significant battery technology improvements are near and that very soon electric will be a viable alternative to fossil fuel.
The current world leader in battery-powered cars based on sales is Renault-Nissan, with 222,000 cars sold over the last four years: its CEO, Carlos Ghosn welcomed news that the market is about to heat up. "We don't consider that other people making electric cars are competitors; we consider them allies," said Ghosn. "Because today, the battle is not who is going to have the biggest share of the electric car business. It's about how many companies are going to join in promoting zero-emission transportation."
At this year's event, the company announced that the Renault Zoe's range had been improved by 14% to 240km thanks to new electric motor technology and hinted that it was considering offering a full-electric version of the Nissan Qashqai, Europe's most popular crossover.