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By Jody McCutcheon
Concept cars are awesome – yet a little bit heartbreaking. The awesome factor lives in the glimpse of the unexpected offered by a concept car. The heartbreak, meanwhile, comes from the fact that we may never get the chance to drive it due to exclusivity or simply a lack of manufacturing feasibility. But I love lusting after concept cars because strangely, they provide some kind of hope – for the future of motoring, of course, but also for the future of the environment.
So, here are five concept automobiles–three luxury sedans and two sports cars–that I’m seriously hoping make it to production. Not only are these killer sleek, but all will offer zero emissions even if they do hit the road.
Porsche Mission E
The first fully electric Porsche has been in the works for a while, but a light now shines at the end of the tunnel. A four-door, four-seater with all-wheel drive and steering, the Porsche Mission E premiered at the Frankfurt International Motor Show in September, 2015, seemingly destined to challenge the Tesla Model S for electric supremacy of the road.
The form (and target competition) makes the Mission E seem like a luxury sedan, but its guts suggest performance vehicle. Two electric motors, one per axle, offer more than 600 horsepower (447kW). The Mission E will do 0-100 km/h in under 3.5 seconds and accelerate to 200km/h in under 12 seconds. A floor-integrated, lithium-ion battery system extends the length of the car, ensuring even weight distribution and supplying an impressive range of 500km. The 800-volt charger unit specially developed for the Mission E–the Porsche Turbo Charging System–provides an 80% charge capacity in 15 minutes. There’s also an option for wireless re-charging by induction via a coil built into the garage floor.
The Mission E offers a dashboard panel with instruments for media, navigation, climate control, etc., that are controlled not by touch, but by eye movements. Yes, that’s right, eye movements. Simply look at a display menu to activate it, then press a button on the steering wheel to confirm selection. Another note of interest is an absence of protruding sideview mirrors, to reduce aerodynamic drag. These have been replaced with camera-enabled displays located at the lower corners of the windshield, with cameras mounted in the front fenders. Hopefully there are no adverse effects from heavy rain or snow on the lenses while driving.
Perhaps the biggest drawback is that the Mission E won’t hit production until 2020. Hopefully pre-orders begin before then.
Lucid Air EV
As impressive as the Mission E may be, that’s just the luxury electric vehicle iceberg’s tip. US-based start-up Lucid Motors is also having a go at Tesla and the EV market with their stunning Lucid Air. According to the company website, the Air offers not only superior energy efficiency, but also a longer driving range than any other EV. Their standard 100kW battery is unmatched by any EV battery, yet can be upgraded to a 130kW model that offers a driving range of 643km (400 miles). The battery’s superior energy density allows the engine’s two motors to generate over 1,000 horsepower (745kW). With that much power, the Air does 0-100km/h in an astounding 2.5 seconds. A “unique battery chemistry” allows for frequent fast-charging. And the ultra-slim headlight system is fifty percent more energy efficient than conventional LED headlights.
The interior is spacious and luxuriously comfortable, with rear executive seats offering up to 55 degrees of incline. Enjoy easy, voice-activated interaction with vehicle systems from any seat in the car. The 29-speaker sound system provides exquisite audio experience, especially with active noise cancellation, enhanced cabin isolation and no gas-engine growl for competition. A comprehensive sensor suite with regular software upgrades enables autonomous driving, while a mobile app allows you to remotely prime your ride, even from across town.
While the Lucid Air will cost $100,000, the company concedes that a cheaper model is in the works, with a price point around $65,000. Production of the Air will begin in 2018. Until then, Lucid is thankfully taking pre-orders.
Jaguar’s first electric model will be marketed as a crossover–half-sedan, half SUV. But what it looks like is a good, old muscle car for the twenty-first century. The five-seater I-Pace aims to be another Tesla competitor as the first vehicle to line up against Tesla’s Model X SUV.
With one electric motor per axle, the drivetrain will offer a combined output of 400 horsepower (298kW), 700 newton meters (516lb-ft) of instant torque and 0-100km/h acceleration in 4 seconds, which is on par with Jaguar’s F-Type SVR sports car. The power comes from an underfloor, in-house-designed, 90kW lithium-ion battery pack that provides a driving range of 354km (220 miles). A fast 50kW DC charger achieves full battery charge in two hours, and an eighty percent top-up in ninety minutes.
The lack of a traditional drivetrain up front allows for extra space, meaning the I-Pace will boast more room for cargo and passengers than most larger SUV’s would offer. Pretty utilitarian for an EV that resembles a muscle car. Production models will become available sometime in the second half of 2018. We’ll know more later this year.
Taking a sporty turn, we come to the Renault Trezor. This all-electric, 2-seater coupe was unveiled last October at the Mondial De L’Automobile Paris 2016, and more recently named Festival Automobile International’s Most Beautiful Concept Car of the Year for 2016. Renault says the Trezor design is a nod to the future of automobile stylings and technology. Its distinctive aesthetic is emphasized by simple, sensual lines, C-shaped signature lighting and a roof that rises, clamshell-like, to let in the driver and passenger.
The dual electric motors are modeled after those used by Renault’s Formula E double world champion E.DAMS racing team. These are powered by two batteries, one situated at the front of the vehicle and one at the rear for optimal weight distribution. Each has its own cooling system optimized by the variable air-intake system built into the car’s bonnet. This setup offers an output of 260kW (350hp), 380nm (280lb-ft) of torque, and an acceleration of 0-100km/h in under 4 seconds. No word yet on driving range. The Trezor uses the Formula E racers’ regenerative braking system, better known as Rechargeable Energy Storage System technology.
From dash to windows to upholstery, the striking interior aesthetic is done all in red and fashioned from top-quality wood and leather. There a touchscreen display on the dash and another set into the rectangular steering wheel, allowing for customizable, connected interface. And in the wooden dashboard is a luggage compartment. Together, it all adds up to a beautiful blend of classic style and futuristic technology.
Finally, the Trezor offers three operating modes: Neutral, Sport and Autonomous. So you can drive the sports car or let it drive you. Renault is hoping to start production in 2020. We hope it’s earlier.
Nio EP9 by NextEV
Included among a list with so many superlatives, Next EV’s NIO EP9 doesn’t disappoint. At a gear-limited maximum speed of 313km/h (194mph), the Chinese racer is billed as the world’s fastest electric car. Unsurprisingly, it set a new lap record of 7 minutes, 5 seconds at Germany’s world-famous Nà¼rburgring track in 2016.
This curvaceous, four-wheeled speed demon is backed by some serious power. Four electric motors spell out a 777-volt powertrain that generates 1,341 horsepower (1 freaking megawatt) and 6,331 nm (4,670lb-ft) of torque. All these numbers add up to an acceleration of 0 – 100km/h in a sizzling 2.7 seconds and 0-200km/h in 7.1 seconds. These specs basically spell out the fact that the EP9 is designed for the track. Furthermore, an interchangeable battery system allows for quick battery-change time (8 minutes) and charge time (45mins). A full charge provides a driving range of 425 km (265 miles).
Another eyebrow-raising detail is the EP9’s cornering abilities. Its four motor generating units facilitate the kind of fast cornering unheard of for an EV. (The four-wheel drive capabilities don’t hurt, either.) I’m talking the kind of cornering that exerts 2.5G’s, or two and a half times the force of Earth’s gravity being pressed onto the EP9 and its passengers. To paraphrase the NextEV website, that’s approaching F-22 fighter pilot territory.
Yes, the EP9 is some kind of impressive–the sort of vehicle that virtually guarantees you or I will never drive one. Not only will the unspecified price be prohibitive (likely seven figures), but the plans are for only six to be manufactured in China in 2017. At least there’s talk of a mainstream release to follow. Just so our duh-duh-duh-drooling isn’t entirely for naught.