July 10, 2006 The Zooop is a high performance 150 kW three seat electric car that weighs just 690 kilograms and has a range of 450 kilometres. It won a special award at the recent international sustainable mobility event, the Michelin Bibendum Challenge for its extreme performance. Remarkably, the Zooop is not the product of an automotive manufacturer, or even an automotive design house. It is the third fully-operative EV prototype produced by globally renowned Paris-based fashion design house Maison de Courrèges and has had very little publicity outside of the car's native France. Which is all very surprising, because in the heady world of fashion, the husband and wife team of André and Coqueline Courrèges are superstars. Both André Courrèges and Coqueline Barrière were (separately) apprenticed and mentored by one of the original fashion designer icons, Cristóbal Balenciaga. Further reading on the remarkable legacy of Balanciaga can be found at Wikipedia, the Fashion Industry Search Engine, InfoMat, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and there's currently an exhibition on Balenciaga at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris.
André Courrèges opened the Maison de Courrèges in 1961 and was one of the most influential designers of the swinging sixties, most famously as the inventor of the miniskirt but also responsible for the trouser suit, the Moongirl look and gogo boots. Though one of the most important designers of the sixties, the Courreges name has maintained its position at the head of the fashion world for nearly fifty years.
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Now Madam Coqueline Courrèges is championing the cause of the electric car.
The Maison de Courrèges was one of the driving forces of the sixties, and as far back as 1969 was using electric vehicles in his fashion shows (see photo gallery). The more modern EV direction of the company was first seen publicly when it rolled out La Bulle (the Bubble), a vehicle that looked for all the world like a flying saucer, at the 2002 Michelin Bibendum Challenge in Heidelberg, Germany. The vehicle was capable of 110 km/h and had a range of 170 kilometres - quite a feat back in 2002. La Bulle competed again in the Bibendum Challenge in Sonoma, California in 2003, and has appeared in each subsequent Bibendum.
In the 2003 California event, Coqueline Courrèges drove La Bulle witnessed the performance of the AC Propulsion TZero and soon began negotiations to purchase an entire drive system to power the next Courrèges prototype vehicle.
Sure enough, the following year in 2004, Courrèges ran two cars at the Shanghai Bibendum Challenge. The new ACP-powered EXE was designed to look like a "jewel box" with a Lexan structure atop a lattice frame that converted easily from two to five seats. As with the campaigning of La Bulle before it, Courrèges made no effort to promote the company's involvement with the EXE in the Bibendum Challenge, and no public statements were forthcoming from the celebrity designer behind the wheel. Madame Coqueline Courrèges ' comments on the future of electric vehicles and the wellbeing of the planet were all sourced second hand by the media from other competitors who spoke to her during the event, in which the EXE finished second outright, beating home cars from every major automotive manufacturer on the planet. Not bad for a fashion designer, heh? The EXE used 149 A/h 370 V Lithium Ion batteries, accelerated from 0 to 100 km/h in 6.2 seconds and had a top speed of 160 km/h. In the performance aspects of the event, the Courrèges EXE scored straight A's in the emissions categories and A's in acceleration, handling, and efficiency as well for an overall average of 3.50 (A = 4.0). Only a problem in the braking test prevented an even higher average. Madame Courrèges ordered the tzero hardware and begun construction of the EXE in the garage of her Paris home. AC Propulsion built the systems in California, shipped them to France and the EXE first ran in September. Ten days later it was shipped to Shanghai where final debugging took place at the Shanghai Grand Prix circuit.
After the competitive events were scored and the results posted, some of the cars took to the track again in a ride and drive for the media and distinguished guests. In the Shanghai Circuit's pit lane, the sight of Courrèges' two entries, the almost perfectly round La Bulle or and the acutely angular EXE captured the Bibendum's spirit of innovation and possibility.
The lucky drivers who got behind the wheel of the EXE explored its powerful acceleration and smooth responsiveness on one of the finest racetracks in the world. The experience inspired awe in many and never failed to put a smile on the driver's face. The EV smile. The last drive of the day went to Edouard Michelin, the now deceased CEO of Michelin. With Madame Courrèges in the copilot seat, Michelin drove the EXE hard for two laps, exceeding 100 mph on Shanghai's back straight. Returning to the pit lane he unstrapped his helmet, got out of the EXE and smiled. "Bravo" said Monsieur Michelin. "Voila" said Madame Courrèges.
In 2005 Madame Courrèges continued her pursuit of understanding of the electric vehicle, competing in the Kyoto event with two vehicles. The EXE's was once again using custom-made red tires produced specially by Michelin, but reports suggest that in the unlikely event of a flat tyre, the Courrèges team had a complete set of both blue and green tyres in the van, as the coloured tyres had been made in sets of four and colour co-ordination was considered of utmost importance.
Just prior to the eighth running of the Bibendum Challenge in Courrèges home country, Madame Courrèges unveiled her latest creation, the Zooop, with a bright yellow-orange canopy and matching tires.
The new vehicle is a further development of the EXE's drive train in an entirely new chassis, with Lithium Polymer batteries that are lighter, have greater power density don't overheat, charge quicker and offer many more recharges. The new 70 A/hour 370 V Lithium Polymer batteries offer a range of 450 kilometres.
The Zoop is now capable of 180 km/h and offers performance to match most supercars. No statements have been made by Courrèges regarding the possible future directions of the company's EV efforts.View gallery - 20 images