The diesel scandal, the CO2 dilemma and improved batteries deliver a charge to electromobility. But many of the concept cars at the IAA take a detour around the cold, hard facts about their range.
The designer Alberto Tribelhorn from Feldbach near Lake Zurich would not believe his eyes if he were to stroll through the International Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt today. And why not? Back in 1900, he received a gold medal for his electric car at the World’s Fair in Paris. Eleven years later, gasoline-powered cars raced past him once the electric starter was invented. The reason is no secret: range, range, range.
Today, more than 100 years down the road, the word being passed from one high-ranking auto executive to another is: “Electric is the new normal.” Are we coming full circle? At the very least, we now have the impression that we want or are being “forced” to make battery-powered cars a high priority once again. No automaker dared to show up at the IAA without a battery-powered car in its showcase. After 2019, Volvo intends to sell only electric and hybrid cars. Starting in 2020, Jaguar plans to offer an electric version of each of its models. Not to be outdone, BMW is determined to offer no fewer than 25 electric models by 2025.
In Germany, one of the main surges behind this “electric euphoria” is likely to be the diesel scandal that has rocked the industry. But that is not all: CO2 fleet requirements and future sales markets in China are two other reasons for the new interest in e-mobility. It also appears that the thing that was really keeping automakers up at night is slowly, but surely taking shape – demand. In just one reflection of this, orders for the E-Golf have doubled since thunderheads began to form over the diesel engine. But it will take something more than this scandal to fuel long-range demand, things like affordable, attractive models, good range and, not least of all, a widely available charging infrastructure.
An outline of the road that leads this way can be seen at this year’s IAA in Frankfurt. In addition to the unavoidable parade of SUV bulls, automakers are showing off a range of electric cars. Unfortunately, many of them are being wheeled out as concept cars whose future is cloaked in question marks.
Volkswagen is presenting electric cars in all segments, and the company hopes that these vehicles will gradually conquer the highways beginning in 2019. After introducing the E-Smart, Daimler plans to move ahead with electric EQ models in larger SUV dimensions for the first time beginning next year. Opel has unveiled the Ampera-e, an every-day electric car that will have a “realistic” range of 400 kilometers. The Technical University of Munich has directed its attention to the south and come up with an innovative electric car designed especially for the African market, the aCar. I-Pace, the first fully electric predatory cat made by Jaguar, is already considered to be a possible “Tesla-Model-X-killer” by the market monitoring organization IHS Markit.
“Tesla killer” from Munich
In Munich, BMW has its sights trained on the Tesla Model 3. The new, fully electric BMW was just presented at the IAA. Positioned between the i3 and i8, this car is designed to travel between 500 kilometers and 700 kilometers on a single charge. The vehicle is scheduled to enter the market in 2021. You can only hope that battery technology has caught up with these plans by then. And it remains to be seen whether this car will actually be able to take on Tesla. The Model 3 is already rolling off the assembly line in California. It is the vehicle that company founder Elon Musk hopes will conquer the market for electric middle-sized cars.
Tesla is a no-show at IAA – for good reason. Musk does not see himself as a traditional automaker. He prefers to parade his wares at non-industrial events. The maker of the world’s top-selling electric cars has also skipped the event. The world premiere of the second generation of the Nissan Leaf was held earlier in Tokyo.
Digital revolution in e-mobility
Other absentees include Alfa Romeo, Aston Martin, DS Automobiles, Fiat, Infiniti, Jeep, Mitsubishi, Peugeot, Rolls-Royce and Volvo. Experts cite the growing role of digital technology in vehicles as the reason for their absence. As a result of this trend, huge digital trade fairs like the CES are increasingly appealing to automakers.
Trade motor shows are going digital as well. At this year’s IAA, the empty spaces created by some automakers have been filled by data and high-tech companies like Google, Facebook, SAP, Qualcomm, IBM, Kaspersky, NXP, Siemens and Deutsche Telekom. But this is hardly surprising. One of the megatrends sweeping through the automotive industry – connected and autonomous cars – is breeding partnerships between technology companies and automakers.
This trend is being highlighted at a special site during this year’s motor show. Daimler, VW and Audi have teamed up with the suppliers Bosch, Continental and ZF to demonstrate just how real this trend has become. The special exhibition area “New Mobility World” takes a similar approach for the subjects of alternative drives, networking and digitalization. We will have to wait and see if this will be enough to keep motor shows cruising along in the future.