In early November 2023, the 2nd European Conference on Light and Efficient Vehicles (2ème Salon Européen des Véhicules Intermédiaires) was held in Millau in southern France. This was organized by the non-profit organization eXtrême Défi Mobilité, which, is also supported by the French government and aims to boost eco-friendly short- and medium-distance vehicle projects.
Photos and video: courtesy of Karbikes, Etienne, and Velofasto
In eXtrême Défi Mobilité’s imagination, a means of transport that is 10 times cheaper, 10 times more sustainable, 10 times lighter, 10 times simpler, 10 times more efficient, and, in its intended environment, as fast as a conventional car. So they are after a means of transport for one or two people with a 100 kg load, or three passengers and their hand luggage.
The three-day event in Millau thus revolved around just such a means of transport. On the agenda were not only interesting lectures and workshops on the development, possible streamlining of production, business aspects and promotion, a new type of cooperative and other areas, but also an exhibition of the vehicles themselves and a parade ride through the city.
If we look at the event through the eyes of a recumbent fan, the simplest vehicles were recumbent trikes with the addition of solar panels and trailers or a Veltop canopy. Unsurprisingly, Bernard Cauquil was in Millau with his new tilting solar tandem. I wrote in detail about his ingenious tilting delta trike with serial hybrid drive and solar power, the TiltDragonFly, in a May 2021 article. And also Denez Bodenez with DuoQuest showed up.
Furthermore, there were a lot of small kind of pedal cars in various stages of development. Most of them were four-wheeled, very light but partially or completely faired machines, with electric drive and often with human assistance of various levels. And because most developers know very well that if they want to replace cars with their future products, they have to be at least close to cars in terms of comfort, which means a recumbent seating position.
A total of 40 projects and manufacturers were represented, most of which were producing the actual vehicles, but some were producing individual components.
Here is the list of the attending manufacturers from the event webpage:
It’s a bit of a shame that the event, although it included the word “European” in its title, was primarily French and thus had a minimum of non-French projects. Among the participating brands were therefore missing those we all know, such as Quadbike, Pedilio, Podbike Frikar, Northern Light Motors 428, or any of the established velomobile manufacturers. Even so, this is an event that is unparalleled in the world in its focus and scope, and I personally hope it will keep going and will continue to grow.
I would like to thank Philippe Descubes, a recumbent bike dealer in France called Velofasto, for his cooperation in the preparation of this article, and also the people at Karbikes who provided me with a huge amount of photos and also the footage for the video. The video will give you at least a partial idea of the atmosphere at this unique event.
Premium subscribers then also have access to a mega gallery with descriptions of vehicles and the event.
By the way, if the name Millau sounds familiar, it could be because of the highest road bridge in the world over this village. More in the video here.