French performance brand Alpine has revealed the electric A110 E-ternité as an intriguing glimpse of its all-EV future - hinting at the techniques its next-gen cars will use to minimise weight and maintain agility.
Unveiled on the 60th anniversary of the Alpine A110, it is not only the brand's first running and driving electric car, but also its first drop-top, featuring a removable roof section that has minimal impact on the car's rigidity and silhouette.
Its unveiling comes just days after company CEO Laurent Rossi gave Autocar new details of the next-generation Alpine A110, which will swap its mid-mounted turbo four-pot for a pure-electric powertrain - but remain a highly bespoke proposition even as the sporting brand launches a line of models based on Renault-derived EV platforms.
"We hope to preserve the A110 DNA, and it might be quite different from the rest of the cars, despite platform sharing,” he said. “There’s nothing more similar than two electric cars nowadays: same platforms, same electric power, distributed to all wheels if you’re lucky, and it’s pretty much a matter of fine-tuning the output of the motors."
The new E-ternité prototype is not explicitly said to be a preview of the 2025 A110 EV, but it stands as a showcase of the brand's commitment to the coupé's fan-favourite formula: compact, lightweight, dynamically capable and engagingly quick.
As a "rolling laboratory", the E-ternité is being used by Alpine's engineers to explore ways of electrifying its flagship sports car. The firm describes it as a sort of "resto-mod" and says it serves as a "bridge between a prestigious past and an even more ambitious future".
Based on the same chassis as the current production car, the E-ternité uses battery packs from the Renault Mégane E-Tech – whose CMF-EV platform will underpin Alpine's own upcoming electric crossover – but houses them in bespoke casings and spreads them around the chassis for optimum weight distribution: there are four at the front and eight at the rear - in a bid to maintain the A110's characteristic mid-engined handling behaviour.
The cells weigh 392kg, but Alpine claims to have increased the prototype's kerb weight by a total of only 258kg - putting the E-ternité at 1378kg at the kerb. If the eventual A110 EV comes in at somewhere around that point, it could be one of the lightest series-production EVs on sale. That's not only good news for its handling characteristics, but also its efficiency: Alpine claims a range of 261 miles per charge.
Performance-wise, the prototype is a close match for the combustion car on which it is based. It packs 239bhp and 221lb ft from a single rear-mounted motor for a 0-62mph time of 4.5sec and a top speed of 155mph.
"No gearbox was available in-house" to suit Alpine's performance aspirations, so it has worked with supplier Getrag to adapt the petrol A110's dual-clutch automatic ’box for the new electric powertrain. It says this arrangement "makes it possible to avoid a break in torque while remaining compact and light".
To all intents and purposes – aside from the open roof and the bespoke rear deck – the A110 E-ternité is visually identical to the standard car, inside and out. The cabin keeps its touchscreen, "state of the art" sound system and climate control arrangement.
The roof panel itself was designed and fabricated in-house and is partially constructed using recycled carbon for optimal rigidity and weight, while boosting sustainability credentials. A second prototype features various body panels constructed using flax, which, Alpine says, is as strong as carbonfibre but has better acoustic properties.
Alpine has not disclosed how much money or time went into the project but has said the prevailing goal was "to electrify the next Alpine vehicles, and why not starting by the A110, a paragon of sportiness known for its light weight and agility, within a realistic budget".