Back in the day, motor shows used to be all about flash and dazzle. Italian supercars, German luxury grand-tourers, American muscle cars and lots of horsepower, sprinkled liberally with skimpily-clad booth babes preening for glory. Car manufacturers would try and outdo each other in shouting out the biggest bhp numbers and trotting out the newest, coolest sounding buzzwords. Bigger turbos! Superchargers! V8s! Wild styling! V12s!Higher speeds! Sadly, all that glamour and gloss has faded a bit these days.
These days it is all about electric cars. Forget forced-induction, double-wishbone suspension and racing exhausts; now, it’s all about the size of your battery and whether you’re using a single or twin electric motors for propulsion. That and the size and number of large full-colour LED displays that are crammed on to the car’s dashboard for the full PlayStation effect. With environmental consciousness reaching a new peak and governments worldwide pushing hard for zero-emissions mobility to be achieved within the next decades, electrics are now centre stage at motor shows around the world.
As car manufacturers prepare for the inevitable shift from internal combustion to electric, EVs have also muscled into mainstream automotive consciousness. People who couldn’t have cared less about electric cars as recently as 2-3 years ago are now prepared to at least consider buying an electric car, and carmakers are lining up to announce the demise of the internal combustion engine. In India, too, the EV movement has been gather pace, despite the almost complete lack of any significant EV charging infrastructure in the country.
There are, supposedly, more than 1,800 charging stations across the country and new ones are coming up all the time, but we still have a very long way to go before EVs become a realistic proposition for most car buyers. Still, manufactures like Tata, Mahindra, MG, Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar are already offering electric cars in India, while even Tesla is all set to join the fray later this year. How that pans out remains to be seen, but it does seem to be the beginning of the end for IC-engined cars, even as EVs look all set to take over the world.
That the future is all about electrics is a sentiment that is mirrored in the proceedings at the ongoing Auto Shanghai, one of Asia’s premier motor show, where the covers are being taken off a raft of new electric cars. In terms of specs, styling and performance, some of these cars – especially the ones shown by German manufacturers – are looking good enough to provide tough competition to Tesla, whose cars are currently at the forefront of the EVs pack. With their new generation of electric cars, established carmakers are finally looking ready to give Tesla a run for its money. Should be an interesting battle, over the next couple of months and years. In the meanwhile, here’s a look at some of the most interesting EVs shown at the Auto Shanghai.
Audi A6 e-tron Sportback Concept
The all-new A6 e-tron Sportback is a premium, high-end electric sedan that shows just how serious Audi is, about EVs. Positioned as the forerunner of an upcoming family of fully-electric production cars, the A6 e-tron is based on Audi’s ‘Premium Platform Electric’ (PPE) technology, which has been optimised for both electric SUVs and sedans. According to Audi, its PPE tech will ensure that the company’s electric vehicles offer high levels of dynamic performance combined with everyday practicality. The production-spec A6 e-tron is expected to have a range of more than 700km and will be able to accelerate from zero to 100kph in less than four seconds. Of course, it will also offer all the luxury and refinement that buyers would expect from an A6, along with Audi’s trademark ‘quattro’ all-wheel-drive, achieved with twin electric motors – one each for the front and rear axles. With a total output of 350kW and 800Nm of torque, the A6 e-tron’s performance is likely to be nothing short of spectacular.
The BMW iX will, according to BMW, ‘open the gates to a new era of personal mobility.’ Developed as an all-electric sports activity vehicle (SAV), the iX will go on sale towards the end of this year and features BMW’s fifth-generation eDrive technology. The top-of-the-line iX xDrive50, with electric all-wheel-drive, will pack as much as 370kW, allowing it to go from zero to 100kph in under five seconds, while offering a range of more than 600km. It will also feature major advances in terms of connectivity and digital services and will be the first BMW vehicle to get the company’s new Operating System 8, along with the latest generation of BMW iDrive. With this, the company aims to vastly improve the interaction between the driver and the vehicle, making it much more intuitive and engaging.
Hyundai Genesis Electrified G80
If the Germans are pushing ahead with EVs, the Koreans aren’t very far behind either; Hyundai’s luxury division, Genesis has unveiled its first electric car, the Electrified G80. ‘The Electrified G80, the perfect balance of athleticism and elegance, marks the beginning of our journey into the EV market, representing Genesis in the era of electrification,’ says Jay Chang, Global Head of the Genesis brand. With its swoopy, graceful styling, all-wheel-drive and a range of about 425-500km, the Electrified G80 also offers fast charging capability. With 350kW rapid charging, the car’s batteries can go from 10% to 80% in about 20 minutes, which is a big step forward in terms of everyday practicality. With a zero to 100kh time of 4.9 seconds, the big luxury sedan from Korea offers high levels of performance, along with features like active noise control, for significant noise reduction, and electronically controlled adaptive suspension for the smoothest ride quality possible.
Honda SUV e:prototype
Honda, a company that has big plans for e-cars in China, revealed its new electric SUV; the very imaginatively named Honda SUV e:prototype. Ahem. The Japanese company isn’t saying anything about the vehicle’s tech specs but does say that it plans to launch as many as 10 new all-electric cars in China in the next five years. So, while we don’t know anything about the e:prototype’s battery or electric motor specs, power or range, what we do know is that it features Honda’s new, third-generation ‘Connect’ system, which features voice recognition, extensive smartphone connectivity and OTA software updates for the car’s onboard computers. No word from Honda on whether it also plans to introduce its new range of electric cars and SUVs in India. Fingers crossed.
The EQB is Mercedes-Benz’s first all-electric 7-seater SUV, which will be launched in various markets at the end of this year. For now, Mercedes isn’t saying anything about the EQB’s power and performance figures, but does reveal that the vehicle will feature ECO Assist, which will enable optimised energy recuperation for extended range. Using navigation data, traffic sign recognition and information from the vehicle’s sensors, the EQB will be able to boost the efficiency of its electric powertrain, thereby allowing the vehicle to maximise the utilisation of its battery capacity. The electric SUV can be charged at up to 11kW with its AC onboard charger, or it can be hooked up to a DC fast-charging station for much faster charging; a mere 30 minutes for going from 10% to 80% charge. Mercedes might also launch the EQB in India early next year, so stay tuned for more.
MG Cyberster EV
The MG Cyberster concept is an aggressively styled roadster based on an all-new electric architecture, with an electric powertrain that provides a range of up to 800km. There’s also 5G connectivity, a ‘gaming cockpit’ that features a game-controller type steering wheel and an instrument cluster that wants to be the next PlayStation. Developed by MG’s design centre in London, this two-door, two-seater sports car concept can accelerate from zero to 100kph in less than three seconds, though MG isn’t saying much about the car’s actual battery and electric motor specs. ‘The Cyberster is a bold statement that looks strongly into MG’s future, touching on our heritage but more importantly building on our technology and advanced design,’ says Carl Gotham, Director of SAIC design.
Back in 2018, Toyota announced that it will transform itself from an automotive company into a mobility company, and the new all-electric bZ4X all-wheel-drive SUV is probably a step in that direction. The ‘bZ’ in its name is for ‘beyond Zero,’ which underlines Toyota’s commitment to achieving zero carbon emissions in the future. Co-developed in collaboration with Subaru, the Toyota bZ4X is likely to go into production by mid-2022 and will, according to the company, offer class-leading efficiency and a very competitive driving range. With twin electric motors and AWD, the bZ4X will also feature genuine off-road capability as well as a world-first steer-by-wire system, which will provide greater control and will do away with the conventional steering wheel, replacing it with a unique steering yoke for a whole new driving experience.
The ID.6 is a 7-seater electric SUV, which Volkswagen has already started manufacturing in China. ‘With the new ID.6, we are laying the foundations for at least 50 percent of our cars sold in China being electric by 2030,’ says Ralf Brandstätter, CEO, Volkswagen Passenger Cars, who is aiming to scale up VW’s electric car sales in China by offering the latest technologies at an affordable price. The ID.6 is based on VW’s Modular Electric Drive kit (MEB) and will be available in a range of four configurations, with the top-end variant offering 225kW of power, and a driving range of 588km. The electric SUV also offers respectable performance, with a zero to 100kph time of 6.6 seconds and a top speed of 160kph. While the ID.6 will first be offered in China, we’re sure VW will also take this electric SUV to some of its other global markets, perhaps including India.