Elec­tric cars cre­ate auto show buzz

Au­tomak­ers give glimpse at com­ing changes

Lethbridge Herald - - WHEEL & DEALS - David McHugh

Car­mak­ers at the Frank­furt auto show are un­veil­ing the lowe­mis­sions ve­hi­cles and tech­nol­ogy strate­gies they hope will let them profit from the sweep­ing changes ex­pected to hit the auto in­dus­try in the next few years.

Daim­ler AG’s Mercedes-Benz on Tues­day un­veiled a compact elec­tric ve­hi­cle un­der its EQ sub­brand that show­cases its ef­forts to make con­nected, elec­tric, shared and au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles. The EQA has two elec­tric mo­tors that can give it dif­fer­ent driv­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics de­pend­ing on which mode the driver chooses.

The Stuttgart-based au­tomaker also had the GLC FCell, a “pre-pro­duc­tion” model of a bat­tery-fuel cell hy­brid SUV that can run on hy­dro­gen and emits only wa­ter vapour.

BMW AG is show­ing off the four-door i Vi­sion Dy­nam­ics elec­tric con­cept ve­hi­cle to join its i3 and i8 elec­tric mod­els. The com­pany says the i Vi­sion Dy­nam­ics can hit 200 kph (124 mph) and ac­cel­er­ate to 100 kph (62 mph) in a quick 4.0 sec­onds.

Car­mak­ers are spend­ing heav­ily to de­velop and im­prove elec­tric cars to meet in­creas­ingly tough gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tions lim­it­ing air pol­lu­tion. That is even though cur­rent elec­tric mod­els do not en­joy high sales be­cause of lim­ited range, higher price, and a lack of fast-charg­ing sta­tions.

An­a­lysts think that as bat­ter­ies get bet­ter and costs come down, elec­tric sales may even­tu­ally take off. Ac­cord­ing to re­search and an­a­lyt­ics firm IHS Markit, bat­tery-only cars were 0.57 per cent of global pro­duc­tion in 2016 and will in­crease to 0.86 per cent in 2017.

Bri­tain and France have pro­posed elim­i­nat­ing in­ter­nal­com­bus­tion cars by 2040. China’s in­dus­try min­istry is de­vel­op­ing a timetable to end pro­duc­tion and sale of tra­di­tional fuel cars and will pro­mote de­vel­op­ment of elec­tric tech­nol­ogy, state me­dia re­ported Sun­day.

Volk­swa­gen AG showed off a re­vised ver­sion of its elec­tric ID Crozz cross­over SUV con­cept ve­hi­cle as it an­nounced a long-term elec­tri­fi­ca­tion cam­paign, say­ing its brands would in­tro­duce 80 new elec­tric ve­hi­cles by 2025. The com­pany plans to in­vest 20 bil­lion euros ($24 bil­lion) in up­grad­ing plants, cre­at­ing two new elec­tric car plat­forms and train­ing work­ers.

The com­pany said that de­pend­ing on mar­ket de­vel­op­ments it could sell 3 mil­lion bat­tery-only ve­hi­cles a year in 2025.

“Now the big ques­tion that ev­ery­one is ask­ing is, ‘When will we see (elec­tric cars) in mass vol­ume?’” Volk­swa­gen CEO Matthias Mueller said Mon­day ahead of the show. “But it is not just a mat­ter of what is be­ing of­fered from man­u­fac­tur­ers but also the elec­tric charg­ing in­fra­struc­ture. That’s why it is im­por­tant to have a fact-based con­ver­sa­tion about the ur­gent prob­lems with elec­tric mobility and how they can be solved. This needs to be dis­cussed jointly, with elec­tric­ity com­pa­nies, with states, with lo­cal au­thor­i­ties.”

The ar­rival of bat­tery-pow­ered cars is just one an­tic­i­pated change. Au­tomak­ers are also search­ing for ways to adapt to a fu­ture in which peo­ple find ways of get­ting from one place to an­other with­out nec­es­sar­ily own­ing a car, such as car-shar­ing or ride-hail­ing through smart­phone apps.

They are also work­ing on de­vel­op­ing au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles that could drive them­selves — un­der lim­ited cir­cum­stances such as cor­po­rate cam­puses or lim­ited ac­cess free­ways at first, and pos­si­bly more widely later.

The three Ger­man lux­ury car­mak­ers were the home team and showed it with large dis­play ar­eas. Some other car­mak­ers are skip­ping the Frank­furt show this year be­cause of costs, the abil­ity to dis­play cars in other ways, like livestreams, and less fo­cus on Ger­many and Europe as a mar­ket. No-shows in­clude Fiat Chrysler’s name­sake Fiat and its Jeep and Alfa Romeo brands, Peu­geot and its DS lux­ury di­vi­sion, plus Nis­san, In­finiti and Volvo. Gen­eral Mo­tors, which sold its Euro­pean sub­sidiary to PSA Group, is also not at­tend­ing.

Even Porsche, part of Volk­swa­gen, didn’t wait for the show but showed off its new Cayenne SUV on Aug. 29 with an elab­o­rate streamed event from its base in Stuttgart, Ger­many.

Small SUVs are also a theme at the show as man­u­fac­tur­ers crowd into a seg­ment that has proven a win­ner with con­sumers. New of­fer­ings of SUV or SUV-like body stylings on compact car plat­forms in­clude: Volk­swa­gen’s TRoc, the SEAT Arona, Jaguars E-Pace, Kia Stonic, Citroen C3 Air­cross and the Skoda Karoq.

And high-end cars re­main a fixture as be­fore. Daim­ler un­veiled its Mercedes-Benz-AMG Pro­ject ONE, a low-slung, race-car like two-seat hy­brid with an over­head air scoop and a long car­bon-fiber tail fin. It gen­er­ates 1,000 horse­power for a top speed of 350 kph (217 mph).

The Frank­furt show opened for jour­nal­ists Tues­day and Wed­nes­day and is open to the gen­eral pub­lic from Satur­day through Sept. 24.

As­so­ci­ated Press photo/Martin Meissner

An I.D. Crozz is pre­sented on the Volk­swa­gen stand on the first me­dia day of the In­ter­na­tional Frank­furt Mo­tor Show IAA in Frank­furt, Ger­many, on Tues­day. The show runs through Sept. 24.

An­dreas Arnold photo via As­so­ci­ated Press

The new BMW i3 elec­tric ve­hi­cle is pre­sented on the first me­dia day of the Frank­furt Mo­tor Show Tues­day.

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