In Tour de France terms, the Geneva International Motor Show (GIMS) is a reminder that the peleton is chasing down Elon Musk’s lead in a Tesla.
China is about to become a global superpower on the electric vehicle front, either via the numerous European brands it now owns, or through its own national cars.
And while the debate over self-driving and when fully autonomous vehicles will be legal continues, the electric car is here now and has been for a decade, with dozens more in the pipeline, from the Aston Martin’s luxury Lagonda to the tiny Italian Microlino.
Some car companies, such as Mercedes and BMW, argue diesel will still have a place, but they’re also investing in electric, and others are backing hydrogen fuel cells. In Geneva, few announced new cars that didn’t at least have a hybrid option.
And when energy companies such as Chinese giant Envision, the wind turbine, tech and energy management software business are involved in collaborations and concepts, amid countless tech entrepreneurs, you know it’s going to be a highly competitive and contested space in the coming years.
Here are some of the electric vehicles that stood out at the Geneva show, which ended on the weekend.
Aston Martin’s Lagonda ‘Vision Concept’
Tell me more: Aston Martin wants to turn its famed century-old limousine business into the world’s first zero emission luxury brand, reviving the brand with an electric, level 4 autonomous driving vehicle in both coupe and SUV.
Why it matters: Lagonda is a marque that’s always been out there, design-wise, and the concept car unveiled in Geneva is no exception, from the interior in silk, wool and cashmere, to the space age design with front seats that reverse to face the rear passengers. Money is no object with 2015’s $US1 million Lagonda Taraf, briefly the world’s most expensive four-door saloon – expect the same here. The car will have a range of 640km on a single charge and will feature wireless conductive charging technology.
When: Starting in 2021, Aston Martin wants both models on the road by 2023.
Tell me more: Volvo’s high performance brand, Polestar, is becoming a standalone electric car maker, and kicking off things next year with the Polestar 1 GT — a $240,000 two-door, 2+2 seat Grand Tourer coupé, a plug-in hybrid with a petrol engine that Volvo is touting as a supercar.
Why it matters: The next two Polestar cars will have a fully electric powertrain. The mid-sized Polestar 2 — think Tesla Model 3 followed by the larger SUV-style Polestar 3. Australia will miss out on the first car, but the next two heading this way will offer a serious, Chinese-made rival to the Tesla.
When: The first Polestar 1 is due to roll off the production line in mid-2019, with the Polestar 2 starting production in late 2019.
Tell me more: Italian car design legend Giorgetto Giugiaro is still a powerhouse approaching 80. GFG (the F is son Fabrizio) has collaborated with Chinese wind turbine energy business and Internet of Things (IoT) advocates Envision for this four-seat concept car with gull-wing openings and wrap-around windscreen.
Why it matters: Envision wants to flip around the way people think about cars, arguing that a vehicle with a 75KWh battery can store as much electricity as an average European household consumes in a week. They want to hook the car up to the grid to use as both an energy source and stabilising factor in managing supply and demand (an idea also championed by Elon Musk). The Sybilla has a range of 450km.
When: There are no production plans at this stage.
Pininfarina HK GT
Tell me more: Pininfarina’s supercar concept for Hong Kong listed electric motor company Hybrid Kinetic Group (HKG) follows on from last year’s luxury sedan and 5- and 7-set SUV designs for the company. This Gran Turismo’s classically Italian curves hide some serious tech under the gull-wings in a 2-door, 4 seater, with 4 electric motors delivering 800Kw (1,073hp), 0-100km/h in 2.7 secs and a 350 km/h top speed and regenerative braking system. In “race” mode, the interior turns red, and the digital display concentrates on data such as acceleration and speed track cornering. In “cruise” the interior is blue, a large passenger touch screen offers everything from e-mail to films and music, while the door panels are animated via a long interactive screen.
Why it matters: As HKG’s name implies, it offers greater range than electric-only, with options for a microturbine, hydrogen fuel cell, or combustion engine that takes the electric’s 160km range to 1000km-plus.
When: Who knows, but 2016’s H2 Speed, a Le Man’s style hydrogen-based racer, goes into a 12 car production run in Torino shortly.
Rimac C-Two Marlera
Tell me more: Two words: Croatian supercar. Richard Hammond crashed a Rimac Concept One while filming The Grand Tour last year. Rimac spent the last four years piling even more power and tech into its new carbon fibre missile, launching Concept Two, the Marlera, in Geneva with a 1427Kw (1,914hp) engine generating 2,300Nm to leave Tesla’s Roadster in its wake, hitting 100km/h (60mph) in 1.85 seconds, with a 9.1 sec quarter mile.
Why it matters: Unless you’re a Russian oligarch or Middle Eastern oil prince, it probably doesn’t. Rimac is producing 150 of the Concept Two, for an undisclosed, undoubtedly seven-figure price (Concept One offered some change from $AU2 million), but it gives you some idea of the potential in EV hypercars. It has a speed-limited top speed of 412km/h (258mph) and comes with Level 4 autonomous driving with eight cameras and 400 sensors and a range of around 400km.
When: As soon as you’ve saved up.
Nissan Formula E Championship race car
Tell me more: After signalling its plan to become the first Japanese automotive brand to compete in the all-electric ABB FIA Formula E racing championship during the Tokyo show last year, Nissan unveiled its concept livery in Geneva.
Why it matters: Because its EV for ordinary mortals, the Nissan Leaf, is the world’s best-selling electric car – in Europe they sell one every 12 minutes – and a larger all-electric crossover concept, the IMx Kuro, with 320 kW of power, 700Nm of torque (outperforming the Nissan GT-R) and a range of 600km was also unveiled in Switzerland.
When: The Formula E series kicks off in December, with production for the Leaf SUV expected in late 2019.
Tell me more: This Spanish-made electric two-seater is classed as a quadricycle in Europe. A glorified golf buggy with a 100km range and top speed of about 80kmh, it’s part of a broader portfolio of EVs by Renault and has been around for seven years (the concept dates from 2009, and in 2012, it was Europe’s top-selling plug-in EV).
Why it matters: It’s not legal in Australia, because it doesn’t comply with local standards, but has sold around 20,000 in Europe and the UK. But as you know, the preferred and best way to tackle the mean streets of Mosman and Toorak is an SUV or Hilux. But at least Renault announced late last year it would open sales of the Zoe (its small Clio cousin) and Kangoo ZE van to corporate and government buyers (Australia Post has been trialing the Kangoo). The Zoe is Europe’s best-selling EV.
When: Now for Zoe and Kangoo. When the colour fades from hi-vis vests on Australian authorities for the Twizy.
Tell me more: Inspired by 50s bubble cars such as the ISO Isetta, Swiss kickboard inventor Wim Ouboter and his sons have created a 2.4-metre-long, 1.5-metre-wide, 513kg 2-seater with a 120km range, which, after the prototype first emerged in 2016, is now ready to roll.
Why it matters: Costing 12,000 Euros, the Microlino is described as “less than a car, but a bit more than a motorbike”, it has a front opening door, will no doubt be banned in Australia, but is perfect for European cities and can be recharged at a conventional domestic power socket in 4 hours, or a Type 2 connector in one hour.
When: Production starts mid-2018.
Tell me more: FOMM (First One Mile Mobility) is a Bangkok-based electric car business that launched less than 5 years ago, with a Japanese former Toyota engineer as its founder. The 1.0 is the world’s smallest class 4-seater EV – and it can also float and move on water.
Why it matters:It has a detachable cassette-type lithium ion battery and uses a “battery cloud” system to manage battery information by smartphone. It’s roughly the same size as the Microlino – 2,585mm long, 1,295mm wide – and the company also plans a 4WD electric sports car and scooter.
When: Production is scheduled to begin in June 2018 in Thailand, with output at 4,000 in the first six months, rising to 30,000 units annually by 2020.
Tell me more: Icona is an Italian design company best known for the Vulcano Titanium V12 supercar. The Nucleus concept vehicle is a level 5 self-driving “executive lounge” seating three in luxury mode or up to 6 adults. Icona calls it a “mobile living space”.
Why it matters: Because imagine stepping off the plane and starting your next business meeting in a mini boardroom in the car on the way. But Icona also sees it as a family car that “will take you to the airport, come back to pick up the kids from school then later take the grandparents to a doctor’s appointment” and replace several cars with just one, spending much less time parked. The range is 1200km and its use and versatility will be directly reflected in the multiple possibilities of its interior design.
When: No set date.
Tell me more: China’s answer to the Lagonda is this Italian-designed, 5-metre-long limo concept from Shanghai’s Lvchi Auto. Stick a 185 Kw motor over each wheel combined with a 100 kWh Lithium-Ion battery pack and you’ve got 1000hp combined with 1,540Nm to fire the CEOs in the cockpit to 100km/h in 2.5 secs, with a top speed of 286 km/h and 652km range.
Why it matters: This is just the beginning for two-year-old Lvchi Auto, which in 2020 and 2021, plans to release an electric SUV, MPV platforms and the Urano, an electric high performance sedan launched in January in Shanghai.
When: Production on the Venere starts in Turin next year.
Tell me more: Jag beat its luxury rivals to the premium electric SUV punch with iPace, which it describes as a five-seat sports, performance and family car all in one. An AWD with Jaguar-designed motors delivers 294Kw with 696Nm to push the car to 100km/h in 4.8 seconds.
Why it matters: Jag promises a 480km range (including 100km in a 15 minute charge), artificial intelligence (AI) to tailor individual preferences, as well as calculating range based on factors ranging from weather to topography and the way you drive, plus wireless over-the-air updates for the car’s software. The cost is around $120,000, giving Tesla a serious run for its money (without the same stupid extended wait). Jag’s first electric car is the start of a big push in that direction, with the XJ going battery in 2019 and hybrids on the rest of the range available from 2020.
When: The bad news is the first year’s production is largely sold out, but the first cars should land in Australia in October (the UK rollout starts in July).
Volkswagen I.D. Vizzion
Tell me more: I.D. Vizzion, revealed in Geneva, is VW’s next gen high-end electric saloon, designed to be Level 5 fully autonomous, with artificial intelligence and machine learning, biometric sensing and augmented reality and adaptive interiors (for relax, active and family) in a “mobile living space”. The true test of the AI system is it being able to tell that you screaming at your kids is not an instruction to the car to get lost too. There’s even a robot charger planned.
Why it matters: The fourth car in the ID range follows on from a compact, an SUV, I.D. Crozz; and van, I.D. Buzz. The Vizzion will have a range of 665km. With a long way to go to redemption following the vehicle emissions scandal, VW is spending more than $50 billion over four years in a push to electrification and other pollution mitigation. “Roadmap E” will see 16 production sites producing EVs by 2022, and the goal is a million EVs built by 2025.
When: Production in 2022. VW is banking on self-driving becoming the norm by 2025.
Porsche Mission E Cross Turismo
Tell me more: Mission E is the German sports car brand’s electric program, first revealed in 2015, and the Cross Turismo, a cross utility vehicle (CUV) is the second concept in the range, following the Mission E sports sedan, which takes its cues from the 911 design. They’re both four seat, four-door AWDs with two electric motors.
Why it matters: Audi is using the Mission E platform for two models – the E-Tron GT and E-Tron Quattro, the latter due out next year, along with the Mission E sedan. The Porsche CT captures the market’s hunger for SUVs, which has in turn made the Macan a hit. The 440Kw (600hp) system accelerates to 100km/h in 3.5 secs. One note of warning is the company flagged the view that charging stations are a potential profit centre.
When: Mission E sedan next year, CT two years later.
Tell me more: Imagine the public transport lovechild of Ikea and Lego with the Jetsons as godparents and you have the Rinspeed Snap bus. Swiss “mobility mastermind” Frank M. Rinderknecht has turned up at the GIMS for 40 years, and “Snap” is his 24th concept. He calls it a “mobility ecosystem”, with different pods fitted out for various functions, from shopping to camping to urban travel.
Why it matters: The “skateboard” platform with an electric drivetrain has customisable passenger pods you can swap on top, as well as a “cyborg gopher” – an autonomous personal assistant. Boarding is approved via iris scanners when it operates as an urban bus. Could it work? Perhaps. Just imagine having 2-3 pods parked in your garage.
When: Excellent question.
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