MAK­ERS GEAR UP FOR EV SUS­TAIN­ABIL­ITY

Af­ter the suc­cess story of the Nis­san Leaf, more bat­tery elec­tric ve­hi­cles from other brands are set to go main­stream be­fore the end of the decade

Bangkok Post - - LIFE - RICHARD LEU

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n ar­ray of elec­tric ve­hi­cles with much-im­proved tour­ing range have been pre­viewed by a num­ber of car­mak­ers at the on­go­ing Frank­furt Mo­tor Show. While Ger­many’s lead­ing brands have wasted no time in us­ing their home soil to show pend­ing EVs with next-gen­er­a­tion bat­ter­ies that could cure the in­her­ent prob­lems of range anx­i­ety, Honda man­aged to at­tract sub­stan­tial at­ten­tion with a near-pro­duc­tion con­cept that would hit show­rooms with a price tag to beat.

The so-called Ur­ban EV Con­cept is a retro-look­ing com­pact hatch­back that mea­sures no longer than to­day’s five-door Jazz. It is built on a ded­i­cated plat­form for bat­tery elec­tric ve­hi­cles and uses shades of lu­mi­nes­cent blue on the ex­te­rior to sig­nify its CO2-less am­bi­tions. Easy func­tion­al­ity has been made pos­si­ble with the use of slim A-pil­lars and widescreen float­ing screen on the dash­board.

Honda has yet to re­veal the spec­i­fi­ca­tions of the pro­duc­tion-ready model, which will hit Euro­pean show­rooms in 2019. Bosses have stressed that elec­tri­fi­ca­tion will be­come more com­mon in their new cars from now on­wards. The only other EV Honda is cur­rently sell­ing in se­lected mar­kets is the Clar­ity which fea­tures hy­dro­gen fuel cell tech­nol­ogy. The Ur­ban EV Con­cept will evolve into a reg­u­lar bat­tery elec­tric ve­hi­cle draw­ing en­ergy from the wall socket.

The na­ture of its size would en­able Honda to price its new EV at a lower level than oth­ers. The­o­ret­i­cally speak­ing, it could cost less than 1 mil­lion baht if it was to be made in Thai­land us­ing the lat­est priv­i­leges drawn up by the Board of In­vest­ment.

BMW is set to make a third model in its “i” sub-brand fam­ily to sit in be­tween to­day’s i3 hatch­back and i8 sports car. The rak­ish-look­ing saloon is be­ing pre­viewed as the i Vi­sion Dy­nam­ics con­cept car that is ru­moured to be called i5 when it hits show­rooms in 2021.

Due to ad­vance­ments in lithium-ion bat­ter­ies, t he iVi­sion Dy­nam­ics can travel on pure elec­tric­ity for up to 600km — more than dou­ble the dis­tance of the ear­lier gen­er­a­tions of EVs. BMW says it can do 0-100kph in less than four sec­onds and has a top speed of nearly 200kph.

BMW hopes to have 25 elec­tri­fied ve­hi­cles on sale by 2025 with 12 of them be­ing pure bat­tery elec­tric ve­hi­cles. In or­der to make EVs a sus­tain­able busi­ness, BMW will be in­vest­ing in the man­u­fac­ture of bat­ter­ies to con­trol pro­duc­tion and sup­ply in-house.

Mini, BMW’s fash­ion­able small car brand, will also be go­ing all-elec­tric in 2019 with the Hatch. The so-called Elec­tric Mini Con­cept fea­tures chis­elled sec­tions on the front end, al­though they are just for show be­cause elec­tric mo­tors don’t need cool­ing. Ex­pect the pro­duc­tion-ready ver­sion to gain in­flu­ences from the i3.

Mercedes-Benz and Volk­swa­gen have as­serted their EV am­bi­tions by show­ing more body vari­a­tions for their new sub-brands known as EQ and ID re­spec­tively. Al­though none of them have hit show­rooms yet, both brands have an­nounced pro­duc­tion plans from 2020 on­wards.

The lat­est show car from Mercedes-Benz is the EQA which, in the eyes of the lay­man, is like an all-elec­tric ver­sion of the next-gen­er­a­tion A-class hatch­back. The EQA uses the so-called EVA (elec­tric ve­hi­cle ar­chi­tec­ture) plat­form and can drive for a the­o­ret­i­cal 400km. The pre­vi­ous show car was the EQC, an SUV roughly the size of to­day’s GLC. Mercedes hopes to sell 10 dif­fer­ent EV mod­els by 2022.

Af­ter con­firm­ing the Mi­crobus-re­viv­ing ID Buzz for pro­duc­tion at a sim­i­lar time frame as Mercedes-Benz, Volk­swa­gen is pre­par­ing for the next one in the guise of an SUV. The ID Crozz is an evolution of an ear­lier con­cept with closer hints to the real ar­ti­cle for the show­room. A hatch­back ver­sion of the ID fam­ily was also once shown as a po­ten­tial ri­val for the i3 and EQA.

Audi, sis­ter-brand to Volk­swa­gen, fol­lowed up its EV plans by un­veil­ing an­other SUV con­cept called Elaine that looks sim­i­larly rak­ish in pro­file as the ID Crozz. Like all of its com­pa­triot brands, Audi is look­ing to sell EVs with at least 500km of driv­ing range, as well as with au­ton­o­mous driv­ing tech­nolo­gies.

Nis­san, who was first to bring an EV into main­stream pro­duc­tion, re­vealed the sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion Leaf ear­lier this month. But rather than de­but­ing it in Frank­furt, the new Leaf pre­miered on its own in Ja­pan. Nis­san is promis­ing a 400km range for its new-gen­er­a­tion EV which is roughly dou­ble that of its pre­de­ces­sor. With such a range, EV users would be able to charge at home and use their cars on a daily ba­sis with­out re­ly­ing on a charg­ing point else­where.

Nis­san is set to be­come the first brand to sell an EV in Thai­land. The Leaf is most likely to go on sale next year, al­though it’s still un­clear what kind of tax waiver the Thai gov­ern­ment will be giv­ing to car­mak­ers im­port­ing EVs be­fore build­ing them in the coun­try. If shipped in and taxed nor­mally, the Leaf would cost around 2 mil­lion baht, thus re­duc­ing its reach to the masses.

Honda’s Ur­ban EV boasts retro looks and com­pact di­men­sions.

EQA is like an A-class EV that’s more pre­mium than a Nis­san Leaf.

ID Crozz has been fur­ther honed to ready it­self for the road.

BMW’s iVi­sion Dy­nam­ics pre­views a saloon sit­ting in be­tween the i3 and i8.

Elec­tric Mini goes on sale in 2019 with in­flu­ences from the BMW i3.

Audi preps the next step to its first elec­tric SUV with the rak­ish-look­ing Elaine.

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