Softcar – Biogas car prototype by Holdigaz

Holdigaz unveiled its gas-powered car prototype – Softcar. The plant is expected to produce 5,000 vehicles a year.

The energy company Holdigaz will inject some 25 million francs in a project of alternative gas/electricity propulsion car, called ‘the Softcar’. A plant with a capacity of 5,000 vehicles per year is to be created in the Vevey region.

According to Philippe Petitpierre, the vehicle would have an autonomy of 700 kilometres. In order to supply the battery, the Softcar will have two gas cylinders which, via a motor and an alternator, will generate current.

“The vehicle does not run on electricity whose source in the future is uncertain, but on gas, a resource we control.”

Philippe Petitpierre , CEO

Softcar - the biogas prototype
The Softcar

Softcar’s 100% recyclable body

The Softcar sprouted in the minds of engineers who imagined the Swatch Mobile, now the Smart. The 100% recyclable body is moulded from biopolymers obtained from food waste. The compact vehicle of maximum four-five seats is flexible, with different configurations: transport of goods, taxi, postal service or even cabriolet.

This concept makes it possible to reduce costs, assures Philippe Petitpierre. 

“One (Renault) Zoe electric is 40’000 different parts. A Softcar is 1800 different pieces. The assembly is done very quickly. We hope to reach the market with prices in the range of 15,000 to 18,000 francs, without subsidies. “

On the highway

The final version of the Softcar will be able to reach top speeds between 135 and 140 kilometres per hour and will, therefore, be allowed to travel on the Swiss motorway network. Six “major” patents have been filed for the vehicle.

“The idea is to build a plant in the region in the next six to eight months. A first production is expected in 2020.”

The studio Porsche Design has developed the concept of the production site, from which 5,000 vehicles are destined for the Swiss market and will be released each year.

“Since we are the biggest financial contributor, we wanted to have this project very close to us,” explains Philippe Petitpierre. The Softcar company, of which Holdigaz holds 36% of the share capital, then wants to sell licenses abroad. The French factory – the exact location of which is still kept secret – will be the “demonstrator”. Asian countries have expressed interest.

So far, Holdigaz has supported the development of Softcar up to 5 million francs. “This vehicle had encountered financing difficulties in its electric version, because of the competition from other models already on the market,” says the president of the Veveysan group. The cost of the plant will be in the order of 20 million without the land. All this will be financed without recourse to indebtedness.

The Softcar is part of a series of projects aimed at reducing the carbon footprint of Holdigaz’s activities. Among its initiatives is a new, more efficient boiler model, the use of liquefied natural gas imported from northern Europe and an equity investment in a wind farm in the Baltic Sea for CHF 50 million.

This article is courtesy of Tribune de Geneve.

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