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How electric microcars wound up on Bora Bora’s front line against climate change

Electric microcars are often touted for their superior urban performance, wiggling through crowded cities without taking up more space than they need. But you can find them much farther flung than just the narrow alleyways of European cities. In fact, you just might see them on the beachfronts of your next vacation.

When picturing French Polynesia in your mind, you’re more likely to conjure up images of the white sands around Bora Bora or Tahiti’s mountaintop jungles towering over the beautiful crystal-clear waters below.

What probably doesn’t come to mind first is the climate emergency faced by those South Pacific Islands, whose low-lying population centers could soon be devastated by rising ocean levels.

And that’s why radically reducing the carbon emissions that are warming our planet and increasing ocean levels is such a keenly important issue on coastlines around the world. In French Polynesia, one solution is to start with alternatives to unnecessarily large and inefficient cars and trucks.

Eli’s ZERO electric microcar, which I’m more used to seeing cruise the streets in Italy and the Netherlands, is getting some much more tropical weather after the French Polynesian government adopted the vehicles as part of its new fleet of eco-focused transportation.

It wasn’t enough to simply go electric, but rather the government sought a smaller form factor that provided just enough enclosed vehicle without being wastefully large.

For Pacific islands known for intense rainy seasons, the vehicles work well all year round yet are much more efficient than full-sized electric cars.

As the company explained, “Eli Electric Vehicles is at the heart of French Polynesia’s radical transport decarbonization program. Amidst climate emergencies, the government is making a bold move – overhauling their fleet with our eco-conscious vehicles, based on their actual usage. Eli ZERO, our compact, two-seater, zero-emission vehicle, is the perfect solution for government officials’ commuting needs, leading to an optimized balance of vehicle capacity and energy use.”

The vehicles, which are brought to French Polynesia by local Tahiti-based distributor E-Motors Pacific, were chosen to closely meet the needs of government workers.

As the distributor added, “Faced with climate emergencies, the government is turning to an eco-responsible modernization of its vehicle fleet, based on a careful analysis of their actual use. Thus emerges our Eli ZERO by Eli Electric Vehicles, a compact two-seater vehicle, specifically adapted to urban needs. Designed to meet the requirements of either individual or two-seater use, common among government agents, the Eli ZERO is an eco-efficient solution that emits no carbon emissions and consumes little energy. Its choice was motivated by a desire to optimize not only energy consumption but also vehicle capacity, in perfect alignment with the real needs of users.”

In addition to the government fleet, E-Motors Pacific has also made the Eli ZERO electric microcars available for purchase by locals as well as for rent by tourists via a partnership with Avis.

eli zero electric microcar bora bora

This isn’t E-Motors Pacific’s first electric rodeo, either. The company has already brought other leading light electric vehicles to the island nation, including Pickman electric mini-trucks, Yadea electric scooters, Evoke electric motorcycles, and Frey electric bikes, among many others.

The company has also focused efforts on installing dozens of solar canopies for parking light electric vehicles in the shade while using the solar energy to charge from a 100% renewable source.

Electrek’s Take

Sure, I’m used to spotting electric microcars around Europe and have also long enjoyed the lonely job of trying to convince Americans that they can be useful in the US as well. So this is a fun chance to see electric microcars in a new environment that is no less ideal for them than the narrow winding alleyways of European cities or the crowded streets of New York City.

And of course a few electric microcars is mere water vapor coming off a drop in the bucket of global transportation emissions. But the whole point is to send a message. These are the locations that will suffer first from rising sea levels. And not just the beautiful beaches of Bora Bora, but also the hundreds of millions of people living along less affluent Asian coast lines in areas that don’t get postcards made of their villages.

And yes, even you in California and New York and Florida, it’s coming for you too. Without creative solutions like these to address the damaging climate impacts of oversized and inefficient vehicles, your kids are doomed. We need fewer Cybertrucks and more cyberbikes. We need fewer driverless cars and more carless drivers. We need our transportation solutions to meet what we actually need, not the maximum of what we think we might need twice a year. And that’s exactly what microcars, e-scooters, e-bikes. and other energy-conscious solutions are designed to do.

Well that’s depressing. To end on a happier note, here’s a short video of me testing out an Eli Zero last year. Or for a longer test ride on a pre-production unit, check that one out here.

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