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Venturi. It’s a name that conjures up carburetors, but not apparently to the French firm of that name, they’ve gone all electric. Or in this case Eclectic.

In 2006, Venturi displayed the Eclectic at the Paris auto show. Now, bearing in mind this was a show car, we expect a little of the unusual, but this thing pushed the definition of “little” to new heights, or lows depending on how you look at it.

Style wise, it is a combination of golf cart, pedal bike, and lunar rover. The boxy shape was certainly styled for an air-less atmosphere, but there again, the top speed of 28mph isn’t going to be fast enough to generate much air resistance.

Venturi dubbed this an NEV, a Neighborhood Electric Vehicle. What they missed off that acronym is an “S.” And no, its not for what you might think, it’s for “Sunny,” because doors were an option. A lockable trunk was an option, too, though it would have been closer to call it a lockable glove box.

So, why all this weirdness? Simple, Venturi wanted the Eclectic to be powered by renewable sources – and it can be, to a limited extent. The Eclectic has a roof covered with photovoltaic cells.

On a sunny day these generate 72W. I’ll spell that out, in case your thinking bigger … seventy-two watts. With a few wiring losses, that’s enough to switch on the lights, which would be a pointless thing to do because

  1. its sunny, and
  2. no one’s going to miss you in this thing anyway.

According to Venturi, if you turn the lights off the solar cells will generate enough for 3 miles travel per day. Makes you wonder if the N in NEV really meant “Next door.”

But wait, there’s hope. The Eclectic can be ordered with a wind turbine that generates up to 300W.

A good windy day and you’ll be cruising a whole 8 miles. Obviously, that’ll be the next day, because you’ll have to wait for a windy day to get the batteries charged to do the 8 miles in the first place. On the up side, if its windy and sunny you might make ten miles. Might.

Venturi also saw the range and performance as a potential obstacle to their world domination plans. But these guys think big, so at the same show as the Eclectic was launched, Venturi revealed the Astrolab.

The Astrolab had a larger surface for solar cells and generated 600W. This meant 11 miles and 75mph. Oh wait, sorry, that’s 11 miles OR 75mph. Solar radiation only has a low energy density and Newton’s Laws won’t be denied. Well, at least not at 75mph.

The Astrolab had the same challenging looks as the Eclectic, but with less practicality (and I can barely believe I’m making that claim). You’d have to be limber to step over the solar cells and into the tiny cockpit. One possible advantage would be that the flat surface would be very useful if you stopped for a picnic or impromptu game of Monopoly with your rear seat passenger. A very useful feature as you’d be stopping every 11 miles to wait for another solar cycle to recharge the batteries.

Despite the practical problems, and ignoring the looks (if that’s possible) Venturi have high hopes for their range of cars.

What do you think? Is the criminal element in NY is waiting with fingers crossed for mass adoption NEVs? Or is solar and wind power the (slow) way of the future?



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