How the Venturi Fetish Works


The Venturi Fetish prototype battery electric sports car goes through the arrival gate in front of the Aichi Expo 2005 guesthouse upon its arrival from Kyoto in an eco-car rally in Nagakute, central Japan, on June 9, 2005. See more electric car pictures.
AP Photo/Katsumi Kasahara

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Suppose you heard that a European company was releasing a terrific new sports car and that only 25 of them were scheduled to be made. Each one of them will be a unique collector's item, custom tailored to their owner's specifications. Oh yeah, and the price is going to be a dirt-cheap $400,000. You'd have your checkbook out in a heartbeat, right?

Well, maybe you wouldn't. Not everybody can afford a nearly half-a-million-dollar car. In fact, relatively few people can. But does it make sense for a company to develop and sell a car that most people consider outrageously expensive, especially during a time of economic turmoil? Well, that's exactly what the Venturi Corporation of Monaco is about to do and they hope to sell all 25 that they produce.

Meet the Venturi Fetish -- one of the world's first electric sports cars. It's not on the market as of this writing (and Venturi has pushed back the projected release date several times), but when it finally appears on the street, it will be one of the most exclusive (and expensive) cars you can own.

­Venturi originally announced the Fetish as the world's first production two-seater electric sports car; however, since Venturi's original announcement, the Tesla Roadster has taken that title. The Fetish is a premium vehicle in every sense of the word, not the least of which is the price, which is staggeringly high. By limiting their output to only five vehicles a year, however, Venturi hopes to attract a small but very wealthy clientele, willing to pay top dollar for the opportunity to own something very rare and special.

Let's look at the specs on the Venturi Fetish: The electric motor will produce 330 horsepower, and the car will have a range of 180 miles (289.7 kilometers) between battery charges and a top speed of 110 miles per hour (177 kilometers pe­r hour). Perhaps the most impressive spec is that it can accelerate from 0 to 60 miles per hour (0 to 96.6 kilometers per hour) in about 4.3 seconds, which would be extraordinary even in a sports car with an internal combustion engine. And because it's a fully electric car, the Fetish produces zero emissions.­

Over the next few pages we'll look at the Fetish's background and examine just what makes it go.

Venturi History

Venturi Automobiles, a car manufacturer based in the small European country of Monaco, has been making gasoline-powered sports cars and race cars since 1984. In the year 2000, however, the company was closed down due to a lack of funds. Not long after, Venturi was bought out by millionaire European businessman Gildo Pallanca Pastor, who shifted Venturi's emphasis toward electric-powered vehicles. The prototype of the Venturi Fetish was introduced at the 2002 Geneva International Motor Show and was brought to the United States for the 2003 Detroit Auto Show. Originally, the Fetish was scheduled to enter production in 2005, but that date has been pushed back more than once, and now the Fetish is scheduled to hit the streets in 2009.

Venturi's plan for the Fetish has always been to produce five hand-crafted cars per year over a period of five years, for a total of 25 cars in all. And the best current estimate of what the Fetish will cost in U.S. dollars is roughly $400,000. This is clearly not going to be a car for the average driver.

However, the Fetish isn't the only electric car planned by Venturi. They've also announced the Venturi Eclectic, a quirkily designed electric car that comes complete with solar panels and wind turbines, so that, in theory, it will never require recharging from an external electric source -- although this option is available, too. Venturi has also announced the Astrolab, a hybrid vehicle that combines an internal combustion engine with a solar-powered electric motor similar to the one found in the Eclectic.

The Fetish is a unique car in several ways. On the next page we'll look at exactly what sets it apart.

What makes the Venturi Fetish unique?

So what makes the Venturi Fetish unique? First of all, it's a fully electric sports car -- a type of car that, to date, really hasn't been much explored by auto manufacturers. The exception to this statement is the Tesla Roadster, which was unveiled by its designers in 2006. The Tesla Roadster has an advantage over the Fetish (or is that 300,000 advantages?) with a price tag of slightly more than $100,000. That's still pretty expensive compared to most cars currently on the market, but with the Fetish boasting a price tag at least four times as large, the Tesla Roadster almost seems like a bargain.

Second, though most people think of electric cars as having inferior performance to cars with internal combustion engines, the Fetish performance specs are impressive. Perhaps the only area where it falls short is its maximum speed of 110 mph (177 kilometers per hour). On a straightaway the Fetish would lag far behind other high performance sports cars, but its 280 foot-pounds (379.6 newton-meters) of torque will make it competitive in short sprints.

Third, the Fetish recharges quickly. While some electric cars can take all night to charge using ordinary house current, the Fetish comes with a quick charge option that lets it recharge at a rate of one minute for every mile of driving. If the batteries are completely discharged, it will take approximately three hours to completely recharge them to bring the car back to its full driving range of 180 miles (289.7 kilometers).

Fourth, the Fetish is custom-designed for each buyer. If you choose to fly to Monaco when you order your Fetish, Venturi will tailor the interior to your needs. Then, you simply wait four months for your custom fit car to be built.

Fifth, Venturi's Fetish has WiMax connectivity. This means that your vehicle's charge status can be monitored remotely. For instance, even if you're at your office, you can use your computer to tell you when the Fetish is fully charged and ready to go. This connectivity is made possible through a partnership between Venturi and California-based computer chip maker Intel.

Sixth, the Venturi Fetish just looks cool. Designer Sacha Lakic has given the Fetish a colorful exterior and the sleek, aerodynamic lines of a race car. If you can afford one of these, your friends will be impressed long before they learn what the price tag was.

Up next, let's take a look under the hood of the Fetish to see what makes it move.

Venturi Fetish Performance

The Venturi Fetish made its world debut during the press days at the 72nd Geneva International Motor Show, on March 5, 2002, in Geneva, Switzerland.­
The Venturi Fetish made its world debut during the press days at the 72nd Geneva International Motor Show, on March 5, 2002, in Geneva, Switzerland.­
AP Photo/Laurent Gillieron

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Few people associate the words "electric car" with the word "performance." But sports cars are performance cars and the auto designers at Venturi knew that they'd have to build in as much speed and acceleration as possible in order for the Fetish to be competitive with others sports cars on the market. Unfortunately, its maximum speed of 110 mph (177 kilometers per hour) isn't terribly impressive. Where the Fetish excels is acceleration.

Venturi estimates that the Fetish will accelerate from 0 to 60 mph (0 to 96.6 kilometers per hour) in 4.3 seconds. It gets that burst acceleration from its 180-kilowatt electric motor that produces 280 foot-pounds (379.6 newton-meters) of torque. For a sports car, that torque figure isn't extraordinarily high, but unlike an internal combustion engine, where maximum torque is available only at certain engine speeds, a traction electric motor can deliver full torque from the moment it's turned on. This allows the Fetish to deliver neck-snapping acceleration from the very moment the driver steps on the accelerator. And that power will remain available even while cruising down the highway at 60 mph (96.6 kilometers per hour).

Another factor that makes the Fetish quick is its light weight -- about 2,450 pounds (1,111.3 kilograms). Venturi chief engineer Gérard Ducarouge achieved this relatively weight -- in spite of the car's large array of batteries -- by building the chassis from composite materials, carbon fiber and aluminum honeycomb. The bodywork is carbon fiber, too.

The Fetish is an electric car and therefore draws its power from batteries rather than from gasoline. Like most recent electric car designs, the Fetish uses rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. The battery array weighs 750 pounds (340.2 kilograms), nearly one-third the weight of the entire car, and contains 100 individual batteries. These batteries, which form a T-shape under the car's hood, give the Fetish its impressive 180-mile (289.7-kilometer) driving range between charges.

Like all electric cars, the Fetish has the advantage of producing no pollution. But whether the Fetish is completely nonpolluting depends on the source of the electricity used to recharge it. If that electricity comes primarily from coal-powered electric plants, then the Fetish will still be indirectly responsible for carbon emissions. But if the electricity is from a nonpolluting source, such as hydropower plants or nuclear plants, the Fetish owner can drive happily in the knowledge that he or she is not contributing to the gradual degradation of the earth's atmosphere. And that's probably a pretty good feeling.

For more information on the Venturi Fetish and other related topics, charge on over to the next page and follow the links.

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Sources

  • Gizmag. "Intel partners with Venturi Fetish to make energy sharing possible." Nov. 11, 2005. (Feb 25, 2009) http://www.gizmag.com/go/4832/
  • MSN Encarta. "Monaco Facts and Figures." (Feb 25, 2009) http://encarta.msn.com/fact_631504819/monaco_facts_and_figures.html
  • Rubens, Craig. "Venturi Delays Its Fetish." Earth2Tech. April 25, 2008. (Feb 25, 2009) http://earth2tech.com/2008/04/25/venturi-delays-its-fetish/
  • Venturi Automobiles. "Venturi Fetish Presskit." Sept. 23, 2008. (Feb 25, 2009) http://www.venturifetish.fr/pdf/PRESSE_FETISH_2008_en.pdf