The 100% electric car is probably not the only solution

Published on 27/02/2024, updated on 15/03/2024

At the recent Brussels Motor Show, ACL Pro Fleet had the opportunity to speak to Linda Jackson, CEO of the Peugeot brand within the Stellantis Group. This was an opportunity to clarify Peugeot’s position on the electrification of the car industry.

The latest news is that Europe’s response to reducing CO2 emissions is to abolish the sale of combustion-powered cars from 2035. How are Peugeot and the Stellantis Group positioned?
LJ: First of all, let’s remember that manufacturers have been pushed towards the electrification of their vehicles by the European Commission, which considers that this is the solution for achieving the targets set in terms of CO2 emissions by 2030 to 2050. So we have no choice, because on the one hand, we have to comply with the legislation, and on the other, it’s also a question of ethics.

How is Peugeot preparing for the massive electrification of its range?
LJ: We have established our roadmap, which began in 2019 with the e208 (a 100% electric BEV). Today, all our models offer an electrified variant (HEV, PHEV or BEV*). By 2025 we will introduce 5 new BEV models to offer a complete 100% electric range, with the aim of all our sales in Europe being 100% electric by 2030. In the meantime, our sales have gone from 1/6 electrified vehicles in 2021 to 1/3 today. This rapid acceleration can be attributed to BEV models, thanks to government incentives.

Do you think that this acceleration in electrification will continue at the same pace?
LJ: We don’t know, because on the one hand it depends on the development of recharging infrastructure, and on the other on the cost of BEV vehicles. Manufacturers are working on the ‘vehicle cost’ part, but it’s now up to governments and energy players to ensure that the infrastructure follows suit.

Electric cars are expensive, so how can we make them accessible to as many people as possible?
LJ: At Peugeot, we have put our faith in the ‘Peugeot As You Go’ formula, which we will shortly be launching in France and then rolling out across Europe. It’s a similar offer to private leasing over a 3-year period but, at a later date, we’re also considering 6- or 9-month subscription formulas for greater flexibility. Our aim is to offer a Peugeot e208 for €150/month, including government grants.

In short, you’re positioning yourself as a competitor to leasing companies?
LJ: Absolutely! And that raises the question of whether people will continue to own their cars or use them as a mobility-on-demand service, like Netflix for films! We think that if we offer good products with attractive rental or subscription packages, customers will take the plunge. This formula will also allow customers to change vehicles during the term of the contract, to meet the needs of a growing family or simply to go on holiday.

What do you think about the problem of recharging BEVs, which will be faced by city dwellers living in flats without a private charging point?
LJ: Infrastructure is a real problem in terms of availability and prices. In this respect, we will be offering a Peugeot universal recharging card giving access to 350,000 charging points in Europe, with prices negotiated to the lowest possible level. This is not yet available, but we are working on it.

Let’s come back to Europe’s choice of electric vehicles. Do you think we are really heading towards 100% electric vehicles beyond 2035, or do you see other possibilities for development at the same time?
LJ: We are currently moving towards 100% electric vehicles, but I don’t think that this is the final and definitive solution for all applications. For example, on our large commercial vehicles, we are seriously considering the hydrogen fuel cell (HFC) solution. For the moment, this does not apply to passenger cars, but future developments will probably make it possible to adapt them. Some German and Japanese manufacturers are also considering synthetic fuels as another alternative. This means that at this stage, it’s far too early to say that we’ll have either technology.

If I were to translate what you said, would it be correct to say that the future will probably be based on a certain technological diversity that will be chosen according to the mobility applications? So it would be possible for different technological solutions to coexist?
LJ: Absolutely, that’s exactly how the Stellantis Group sees the future, and that’s why we can’t afford to favour one solution over another. Unfortunately, Europe is currently forcing us down the path of 100% electric vehicles, but new technologies are continuing to be developed and, in the end, users will also have their say, because we can’t force the population to adopt a single solution that would be inaccessible to some. While we must work to resolve the climate crisis, we must also be careful not to create a social crisis.

Can we expect technological upheavals in the next few years?
LJ: Yes, I’m convinced that what happens in the next 5 years will be far more important than what has happened in the last 3 decades! Every month now, we’re seeing technological advances in a huge number of areas, because everyone is working urgently in this direction.

To conclude, is it fair to say that the various technological choices have to take into account many factors, while also considering the reality on the ground within the population?
LJ: That’s a good conclusion indeed, and that’s why it’s vital that we continue to communicate and inform the public about this particularly complex subject, so that they can form a reliable opinion and then make their views known to our politicians.

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* Legend for abbreviations used:
BEV: Battery Electric Vehicle (100% electric car)
PHEV: Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle
HEV: Hybrid Electric Vehicle (self-recharging hybrid)

Photo credits: Peugeot