Gazelle going where no car-maker has gone before

A French start-up has a fresh idea – to design a lightweight and thus fuel-efficient car which can easily be converted into an electric version and then to sell complete factories to make the cars to countries with no motor factories.

21 November 2018
The Gazelle prototype at the Bordeaux factory
By Brian McCulloch

The Gazelle, just 800kg with a one-litre, 85hp, three-cylinder petrol engine, should use less than three litres of fuel per 100km - with the performance of a “normal” 170hp engine.

Early indications predict fuel savings of 30%-40% compared to similar-sized cars.

Around €1million has been invested in the car, which is designed so its petrol motor can be taken out and substituted with an electric one and a battery, adding just 110kg to the weight.

The guide price for the Gazelle if it were to be built in France, is around €15,000, which is similar to a Dacia Duster.

Gazelle Tech founder and chairman Gaël Lavaud said: “Our intention is not to build the cars but to sell micro-factories and the kits to be assembled in them, which we will make or have made ourselves. They will let a team of four people build around 200 cars a year.”

The Gazelle, looking a little like a 1950s hotrod station wagon, is built out of patented sandwich composite material, which is mainly glass fibre. 

Parts are glued together, using techniques and materials similar to those used to build commercial aircraft such as Boeing’s Dreamliner.

The Gazelle is expected to receive the go-ahead to make it legal on French roads next year.

If all goes to plan, the company, which was founded in 2014, will sell micro-factories, which can be built on 100m2 of land, as well as receiving a licensing fee for each car sold.

The factories will arrive in the form of three containers joined together for the factory space, and a fourth detachable one which contains kits for three or four cars.

When those cars have been put together, the empty container can be detached and replaced with another one full of kits. Gazelle Tech is confident that it will sign an agreement with a partner in North Africa for the first micro-factory in early 2019.

There is still some way to go: ground clearance, essential for less developed countries, is 4cm lower than planned due to a misunderstanding, and the fit and finish of the panels is a long way from what buyers will want from production models, though the interior looks excellent.

The car has air conditioning and a sound system as standard.

When Connexion visited the company’s premises in a “green” industry nursery near Bordeaux, a test car had a problem with its clutch cable, which meant only two usable gears, but that was still enough for Mr Lavaud to take us for a spin.

Mechanics manager Emeric Bouteiller said: “We will be offering training packages, and we are able to tweak the design and the kits for each customer. That way, if a local supplier is able to find a source for a part locally, cheaper than we can provide, they can do so.”

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