Can a small electric car ever truly be fun? This is the question Alpine hopes to answer with the new A290 hatchback, due out in 2024. And to whet our appetite before then, the French company has revealed a three-seat concept version called the A290_β.
A muscular, four-square car with a short wheelbase and the look of a tarmac stage rally racer, the A290_β’s most defining feature is how the driver sits in the middle – just like in a McLaren F1 or Gordon Murray Automotive T.50 supercar.
Also like those cars, the Alpine features a pair of passenger seats flanking the driver. Although this seating layout is highly unlikely to make production, the sign of intent from Alpine is clear; it wants to demonstrate how fun hot hatches can still exist in an all-electric world.
The concept interior also features a Formula One-style steering wheel, carbon bucket seats and a hydraulic handbrake. For sliding its way around the hairpins of Rally Monte-Carlo, presumably.
The Renault-owned company hasn’t revealed any performance stats for the car, but says it is powered by a pair of electric motors on the front axle. This means it is front-wheel-drive, but each wheel is powered by a separate motor. We're expecting it to pack all sorts of clever torque vectoring technology, where power is shuffled between the front wheels depending on which corner has the most grip.
On a similar note, Alpine says how it has invested effort into making the A290 a driver’s car, thanks to “extensive fine-tuning to achieve both playful and efficient behaviour.”
Power is expected to come from the same 52 kWh battery pack as the Renault Megane E-Tech and range could be in the region of 250 miles, while the charge rate should be up to 130 kW.
Although this is clearly a concept – or a beta, to use Alpine’s terminology – the company says the exterior looks “a lot like the future production models”. The car will be joined in Alpine’s future lineup by an all-electric successor to its A110 sports car and a larger, more practical and family-friendly electric crossover.
Alpine boss Laurent Rossi said: “The A290_β is tapping into its rich legacy and ushering Alpine into the future, with an everyday experience of the motorsports spirit that has inspired the brand since its inception.”
The A290 shares its general proportions with the revived Renault 5, another electric hatchback also due to arrive in 2024. Alpine says its concept is 4.05 metres long, 1.85m wide and 1.48m tall, and describes the show car as being “a taster for a sparkling, agile production car with a short wheelbase and wider track for sporty driving and greater stability at high speeds.”
Alpine added: “The show car’s design, materials and technology encapsulate a new angle on electric cars that are just as suited for motor-sports tracks as they are for everyday drives – and as exciting for the driver as they are for passengers…Alpine A290_β is more than a show car: it embodies the brand’s strong stand and unwavering commitment to sustainable motorsports.”