By Jody McCutcheon
Held a short while ago in Las Vegas, the 2016 CES ® represented something of a departure for the techie-dream trade show. In terms of predicting the future of electric cars, at least, one could say the CES put all its car(d)s on the table. Which is to say there were more introductions of electric vehicles (EV’s), plug-in hybrids and self-driving concept cars than ever before.
Essentially, the Vegas CES was a death knell for petrol-powered cars, as EV’s went mass market and self-driving cars zoomed into the mainstream. Goodbye gas pumps and rear-view mirrors; hello car-centric wifi and touchless, gesture-controlled dashboard displays.
Vegas may be North America’s gambling capital, but the future of electric cars has solidified into quite the safe bet. Here are five EV highlights from this year’s CES.
An e-car in every garage? The folks at Chevrolet hope so, and they think it could be their Bolt. Priced in the low thirties with the electric-car rebate, the small SUV/crossover Bolt will be marketed to the masses in direct competition with Tesla’s Model 3, both of which are expected to go on sale later this year. While the earlier hybrid Volt (pictured below) offers a range of about fifty kilometres plus the mileage from a gas engine, the purely electric Bolt offers two hundred miles from a single charge of its 50kWh lithium-ion battery. A high-speed DC charger will juice the Bolt battery to about eighty percent capacity in thirty minutes. A built-in OnStar system ensures your portable devices won’t get lonely, as the system interacts with smartphones and web browsers about many subjects, including location, the battery’s state of charge and whether the car doors are locked.
VW BUDD-e Concept
Trying to wash the bad taste of the diesel scandal from its mouth and rebuild consumer trust, Volkswagen is renewing an old idea with its emission-free BUDD-e concept microbus. It’s probably more of a long-term plan, the BUDD-e being a means of showing the potential of VW’s future EV platform based on the new Modular Electronic Drive kit. The BUDD-e is comparable in size to Toyota’s RAV4 and configured like Tesla’s Model S, with electric motors in the front (100kW) and back (125kW) and a floor-set 101kWh battery in the middle. At the CES, VW announced a 375km range and a top speed of 150km. A 31cm Active Info Display (AID) offers the driver information such as drive route, vehicle status, weather, messages and appointments, while a centre-mounted 34cm display houses entertainment console and map info. Infrared sensors and cameras allow hand gestures to open and close doors and touch-free interaction with dashboard displays, while Internet-connectivity and wifi allow for remote home automation. Control your home’s lights, security and climate control while you’re on the road!
BMW iVision Concept Car
The newest offering from BMW combines the i8 two-seater coupe with the Spyder convertible, while adding a dash of touchless-interface futurism. The hybrid-powered iVision is a smooth, sexy ride in which you’ll feel at one with your car. The AirTouch feature is a gesture-sensing, driver anticipation technology that allows you to interact with the 53cm LCD console simply by pointing or gesturing. The console also connects to any portable smart tech (phones, watches, etc), and to the Internet. With three driving modes to choose from, you can select the degree to which you control your driving experience.
Faraday Future FFZERO1 Track Racer Concept
Seemingly emerging from nowhere, the Chinese-funded, California-based EV company Faraday Future has produced a Batmobile-esque, single-seated, thousand-horsepower track racer. The top speed of 320kph and 0-96kph acceleration in less than three seconds is totally cool, but so are frills such as a glass roof, an instrument panel that displays both drivetrain information and driver biometric data, and an optional driver helmet that supplies both air and water. A more mainstream version will likely be produced in the company’s planned Vegas production plant, and may be available through subscription service by 2017. The production car will supposedly offer “seamless connectivity” between car, driver and passengers (assuming more seats are added).
EHang 184 Personal Driving Vehicle
One of these automobiles is not like the others! EHang’s Personal Driving Vehicle is called an Autonomous Aerial Vehicle, or AAV. Essentially a cross between drone and personal helicopter, EHang’s car-sized electric quadcopter will transport a single passenger about sixteen kilometres without guidance, with the passenger inputting the destination on a mobile app. The company say a full charge allows the AAV to fly for twenty-three minutes at up to 100kph–but not in the US, where the AAV isn’t “street” legal. Assuming the project gets off the ground, you’ll finally be able to be the one who arrives at the party with the coolest vehicle.