By on November 12, 2010

Now that the worst part of the global economic crisis is over, investors are fired up for any investment opportunity that looks good and doesn’t smell funny. Especially in the alternative-energy field. Some ventures make sense while others are based on a rather exotic logic. Better Place, for instance: its institutional investors say it’s “the only EV + infrastructure play”, and therefore something you’d better not miss. I’d just say it requires weird financial reasoning to justify electric filling stations stocked with expensive exchange batteries.

Earlier this week, I was at Mindset Holding’s press conference in Switzerland, where they announced they had received 75 million Swiss Francs of financing from a US fund, GEM Group, with another 108 millions optional. Mindset will be using this money to produce its exotic electric sports coupe — the one I thought was fantastically forward-looking when I witnessed it last year.

Is this madness? After all, Mindset in 2012 will be competing with Tesla’s Model S, the Fisker Karma, and numerous electrified or hybridized German and Japanese luxury cars. Who’d spend 100,000 Francs on a Swiss made electric three-seater?

Well, first of all, Mindset has assembled a team of pretty impressive industrial partners. The car will be built by Xenatec, a contract manufacturing company that is already set to produce the spectacular (and odd) Maybach Coupe. Brusa, a leading Switzerland-based supplier, will be demonstrating the quality of their battery and electronics in the electric coupe. Mindset’s REX (range-extender engine) is a wonderfully innovative, low-friction one-cylinder machine that, because it uses roller bearings, will probably never need an oil change and doesn’t mind standing times of several months. Weighing only 38 KG as a combined motor-generator unit, it is made by Swissauto, another company to watch.

Management looks fit, too. Mindset’s CEO, Lorenzo Schmid, is something of a celebrity in both the investment and EV fields. The company’s COO, Leon Hustinx, spent several decades at Mercedes, and in the end was in charge of marketing the Maybach and the SLR McLaren, so he knows something about the premium segment. (No, you don’t have to remind me that the Maybach is not desirable). In Prof. Paolo Tumminelli, Mindset has a communications VP who is a renowned author of automotive design books.

Still — would you bank $190 million on a car with a radical new concept and new technology, which will be selling to a new market? The lame-snark response would be to call anybody who did reckless.

My opinion: the more daring, unusual, advanced cars out there, the better. Without this kind of risky investing philosophy, the Citroen DS would never have been built. Down with beancounter cars! Capitalism is all about progress.

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11 Comments on “Swiss EV Firm Pitches Investors On The Niche Mindset...”

  • avatar

    Nice to see bench seats have become a dream car feature now that nearly every production car has bucket seats and needlessly bulky center consoles.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    It may be a stretch, but it reminds me of the very first Porsche 356, which was also a very advanced and highly efficient small coupe with 2+2 seating. The priorities of the times have changed since 1947, but there are similarities, and meeting them with the most efficient solution technology has available is where the two intersect.
    I do wonder how a Swiss-based firm can be cost-effective considering the lofty levels of the Swiss franc.

  • avatar

    More pictures of the handsome bald fella! :) What a cutie pie.
    Wait, was this about cars?

  • avatar

    The side view reminds me of the DeLorean.  They should have put gull-wing doors. :D

  • avatar

    Looks like the front half of a Solstice glued to the back half of a DeLorean.

  • avatar

    I suspect the real breakthrough in electric vehicles will come from completely out in left field. No one will see it coming and most won’t recognize it when it appears. Not sure this is it.

  • avatar

    Is it some kind of negative leading indicator, that when I clicked on your embedded link, to, your system came back with the message ‘page not found’?

  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    I love those wide open floor spaces, which is just one of the reasons I still want to add a late 60s FWD Eldorado to my oddities stable. The growth of the center console to become the dominant styling feature in modern automobile interiors is tiring to look at in addition to its visual mass. The unsupported dashboard of yesteryear has a light, airy look reminiscent of a slender concrete arch compared to the heft of the Brooklyn Bridge’s pilings. The bench seat may elicit musings of pickup truck simplicity, but from what I can see there the materials used to line the interior exude lots of class, especially that slick leather pouch in place of the traditional storage cubby/glove box. Perhaps give it a shoulder strap and make it detachable for use as a traditional wallet/purse? This would definitely tie it further with the car as fashion accessory.

    The side opening rear glass is an ingenious method of maintaining good rear storage area access while allowing the unbroken loop in the back to add structural rigidity without unnecessary additional mass.  The exposed rear wheels with fenders? I love it; it acknowledges the dead space most automobiles suffer outside of the rear wheel arches without attempting to disguise it with the added mass of swelled quarter panels. It will also be much easier to clean out accumulated dust and grime at journey’s end.

    It’s been a couple of years since I first laid eyes on the concept renderings, then finished prototype, and it is still distinctive and attractive. The larger diameter wheel shod with what appears to be 50 series rubber should offer a longer-than-wide contact patch, which will definitely aid in offering good tractive and stopping power while not being a slouch for lateral acceleration either.

    Their initial projection for the “range extender” engine’s output power indicates the early thinking for gas/diesel-electric hybrid drive systems; size the engine’s maximum output power towards the trip average requirements and let the battery bank’s reserve handle the demand as necessary. This should ensure outstanding fuel consumption figures even with an early start to maintain battery bank reserves on longer trips.
    The biggest negative to me is it will never be available for new purchase in the USA; the safety standards squabble coupled with the nonsensical 25 year import rule ensures continuing lockout between otherwise compatible markets.

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