FRANCE PARIS MOTOR SHOW.jpg
Chairman of the Board of Volkswagen brand, Herbert Diess, presents the new Volkswagen I.D. electric car at the Paris Motor Show 'Mondial de l'Automobile' in Paris, France, 29 September 2016.
Photograph: EPA/IAN LANGSDON

One of the world's biggest motor shows opened to professionals on Thursday, with manufacturers unveiling new concepts whose greatest features are measured in their absence.

No drivers, less fuel - the future of cars as envisioned at the Paris motor show is being driven by sleeker and smarter designs that are notable for what they no longer need. In some cases, the absence of a car itself was showcased, with a focus on peer-to-peer car-sharing that allows multiple drivers to use one vehicle.

Electric vehicles, with varying degrees of efficiency, and driver-free concepts dominated the first day of the auto show. Carlos Ghosn, the chief executive of Renault, hailed what he saw as a shift, saying he remembered recent skepticism about the ability of electric vehicles to take off.

"I am thrilled that the same people who in 2008 were laughing at us are now saying: we will five new cars in the next few years," Ghosn said. "It's a great surprise that everyone is coming on board."

Daimler chief executive Dieter Zetsche presented his company's vision of the future: what he called a "connected, autonomous and shared" car that would, for example, drive its owner to the airport, advertise itself as for rent during the owner's absence, charge itself, and pick up the shopping and packages to be ready for the return.

Smart, a division of Germany's Daimler and long a manufacturer of electric vehicles, presented a full fleet of cars that can be purchased with traditional combustion engines or electric motors.

BMW's Ian Robertson put forward a similar vision, saying that the company was pursuing "new answers for individual mobility" based on a future it saw as increasingly urbanized with vehicles that are, "autonomous, emission-free and shared."

That includes a new model of Rolls Royce, in development, that is self-driving. "The future of the Rolls Royce will be the ultimate luxury retreat," Robertson said. The German brand also introduced a battery-cell scooter.

In the wake of a chaotic and business-shaking emissions scandal, VW put forward an electric concept car called ID. Its electric model will have a driving range of 400 to 600 kilometres, and is set to be on the market in 2020, VW board member Herbert Diess said.

Opel, a subsidiary of General Motors, presented the Ampera-E, an electric vehicle with a capacity of more than 500 kilometres. "The car was built by the battery pack up," said chief engineer Pam Fletcher. "It will on energy and power with no compromises."

France's Renault presented a new edition of its electric car Zoe, with a new range of 400 kilometres. At the same it, it unveiled the sleek Trezor concept car, a two-seater electric coupe with red windows and a powerful engine - not yet slated for sale, but an ambitious push to marry sports car allure with the fuel of the future.

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