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Geneva Motor Show: Electric cars no longer the exception?

The Porsche Panamera S is quite a car. Sleek, powerful and aerodynamic, it’s capable of 167mph.

But that’s not all. The version on display here in Geneva is also able to travel for about 20 miles on nothing but battery power.

It is, of course, a hybrid. It has an electric motor sitting alongside a 3-litre petrol engine. It is fast, powerful and remarkably economical. Porsche claims it can drive for 91 miles on a single gallon of petrol.

Yet if you can afford a Porsche, you can probably also afford a fairly steep fuel bill – so why has the company taken the time, trouble and expense to develop it?

“We know our duty and we have big concerns about the environment,” says Wolfgang Hatz, Porsche’s research director and a senior member of the company board.
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If you look back over the past three years, the electric car market has multiplied by a factor of 25”

Ian Robertson BMW’s global marketing chief

“This technology helps us to fulfil our responsibilities, and it will help us to meet future requirements from regulators, for at least the next 10 to 15 years.”

What is happening at Porsche is very much a sign of the times. A decade ago, hybrids were still a fairly unusual sight at the big international motor shows.

Now, under pressure from regulators around the world, carmakers have been working hard to reduce emissions and fuel consumption. So hybrids have become decidedly mainstream.

Electric motors not only reduce emissions, they allow energy that would normally be lost – under braking, for example – to be recovered, boosting efficiency.
Tipping point

Now, some manufacturers are going a step further – and producing wholly electric cars aimed at the mass market. Last year, for example, BMW released the i3, a neat little city car that runs entirely on batteries.
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