A number of countries around the world are looking to move away from fuel-burning automobiles. India, France, Britain and Norway all want to abandon gas and diesel cars in favor of cleaner vehicles. Even in Germany, the country that literally invented the internal combustion car, there is talk among politicians about eventually doing away with them.
None of this means the rumble of piston-power will be gone overnight. Or even over the next decade. The transition to electric cars will take many years and will involve a slow transition.
As automakers look toward a future without fuel-burning cars, plug-in vehicles were a big part of this year’s Frankfurt Motor Show.
Mercedes-AMG Project One
The Mercedes-AMG Project One, is a plug-in hybrid that wrings every ounce of power out of a tiny 1.6 liter 6-cylinder engine. While Mercedes boasts of its impressive efficiency, none of the 275 people who have already signed up to buy this $2.7 million car are probably terribly bothered by fuel costs. With a total output of over 1,000 horsepower, thanks to three electric motors driving the wheels and one driving a turbocharger, this car is looking to compete in the supercar ranks of Ferrari, Lamborghini and McLaren.
Mercedes Concept EQa
For those with the net worth not counted in billions, Mercedes also unveiled the Concept EQa, a compact electric car. If you look closely, you can tell this is just a concept car. Those bumpers don’t look like they’d take much bumping, the wheels fit a little too snugly inside the wheel wells and it doesn’t have enough doors to be practical. If you squint, though, you can see a compact hatchback car that could join the planned EQ electric car line-up Mercedes announced at last year’s Paris Motor Show.
Honda’s electric car also looks like a cute concept vehicle but Honda promises that something like it will go on sale in Europe in the next couple of years. The Honda EV concept is about four inches shorter than a Honda Fit and it looks a bit a like 1970s Civic. A screen between the headlights can display messages for those outside.
A Smart electric concept, unveiled by Mercedes’ mini-car subsidiary, does the same sort of thing. It’s a possible answer to the question of how autonomous cars of the future will interact with pedestrians. (If the driver isn’t paying attention, they won’t be able to wave at people to tell them to go ahead and cross, for instance.) Smart’s Vision EQ concept is a fully autonomous vehicle that could be used for a car-sharing network, relying on “swarm intelligence” to predict where it will be needed next.
Volkswagen is also filling out its planned electric car sub-brand, ID. The first ID car was unveiled at the Paris Motor Show almost a year ago. Later, in Detroit, Volkswagen unveiled the ID Buzz, an electric minibus that, it was announced recently, will go on sale in a few years.
The Volkswagen ID Crozz was first unveiled at the Shanghai Motor Show in April but was it was shown at Frankfurt slightly changed. It’s an electric compact crossover SUV. Crossovers are something that any car brand needs to succeed these days.
BMW already has an electrified car sub-brand called BMW i. It currently has the blocky BMW i3 and the supercar-shaped i8. Again, BMW i Vision Dynamics is just a concept but it’s something that would clearly make sense in BMWs electric car line-up. It’s a real, practical car-shaped car with 373 miles of range, according to BMW, and a zero-to-60 time under four seconds. In other words, it would be the perfect BMW to directly take on Tesla.
Mercedes GLC F-cell
Pure battery power isn’t the only thing that can drive a no-combustion car, of course. Another option was on display, and actually very close to production, in the Mercedes-Benz GLC F-cell, a hydrogen powered plug-in hybrid. It uses hydrogen fuel cells that combine hydrogen gas with oxygen from the air to generate electricity. It can go about 430 miles on hydrogen power, emitting only water vapor as exhaust, plus another 30 miles on plug-in electricity. It’s expected to be on sale in the United States by the end of 2019.