Drawing attention in a cavernous auto show filled with new Lamborghinis and Ferraris is like trying to get a construction worker's attention in an elevator full of supermodels. But the Infiniti Emerg-E electric sports car unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show manages to pull that trick off with aplomb — and it could become far more than a show car.
Built as a collaboration between Nissan's luxury brand and Lotus, the Emerg-E uses the same electric-with-gas backup power system as a Chevrolet Volt, but laid out in a sports car. The rear wheels turn thanks to two 201-hp electric motors, which can travel 30 miles on electrons only before a petit 1.2-liter, 3-cylinder gasoline engine turns on to recharge the lithium-ion battery pack.
In most similar concepts, that combination of motors, an engine and enough batteries for a round trip to the supermarket creates a vehicle that weighs at least a third more than it otherwise might. The Emerg-E uses aluminum and carbon fiber to stay light, and even so still weighs 3,500 lbs. But that 402-hp system pushes the Emerg-E to 60 mph in 4 seconds, while granting a 300-mile range in total. Based on Infinit's estimates, the Emerg-E would get roughly 99 mpg.
All of which would make it just another electric show horse except for two things -- its striking exterior, and Infiniti's plans to build a few copies for test driving, with the potential for full production. Infiniti has never established itself among the top-tier of luxury car brands around the world; building something as striking as the Emerg-E with or without its electrical power would push them closer than any new SUV. And with Honda pledging to revive the NSX as a hybrid sports car in 2015, putting a competitor in dealerships would only get more customers charged up.