The Coolest Electric Cars And Hybrids At The Geneva Motor Show
At this year’s Geneva Motor Show, electric vehicles came in all different shapes and sizes.
At one end you have the Citroen Ami One, a vehicle which is so small (and slow, with its 28mph top speed) that the French manufacturer believes it could be driven without a driving license in some countries. At the other, you have the Battista by Automobile Pininfarina, a 1,900-horsepower monster with a sub-two second 0-62mph time and a $2.6 milliom plus price tag.
These two cars have little in common, but they are both fully electric, use similar propulsion technology, and can be plugged into the same charger to top up their battery.
And between the Citroen and Battista, Geneva 2019 was host to an eclectic mix of electric and hybrid cars, and, perhaps more importantly, by some margin more vehicles with these powertrains than ever before. Some could very well become your next car, while others are much more of a gaze into the crystal ball, as evermore manufacturers plot their own particular roadmaps for a battery-powered future that is certainly coming.
Here are our electric and hybrid highlights from the 2019 Geneva Motor Show.
Honda e Prototype
Honda stole the car industry’s collective heart with the adorably retro Urban EV Concept back in 2017. Now, after huge demand, a production version is almost ready, in the form of the e Concept on show at Geneva.
Although the outside has softened into a more rounded and pedestrian-friendly shape, with large A pillars for crash protection, much of the look of the original is still here. So, too, is the interior, including two huge 12-inch touchscreen displays dominating the entire dashboard, complete with an extra pair of displays acting as wing mirrors in conjunction with external cameras.
The car has a claimed range of 124 miles, and Honda says the battery can refill from empty to 80 per cent in about 30 minutes. This range may sound unimpressive, but Honda sees this as a city car and not one which drivers should rely for long journeys.
Honda says the car shown at Geneva is 98 per cent representative of what the production version will look like, and that orders will open later in 2019.
Looking further forward, Honda said this week that by 2025 its entire range of cars sold in Europe will be electrified – meaning either fully electric, or hybrid.
Aston Martin Vanquish Vision Concept
Credit: Aston Martin
It was a busy Geneva this year for Aston Martin, which revealed the AM-RB 003 as a car to fit below the flagship Valkyrie, and the Vanquish Vision Concept, which previews the design language of the brand’s first mass-production, mid-engined supercar.
Very little was said about hybridisation and electrification at Geneva, but Aston did say that its all-new V6 engine - to be used by the 003 and production version of the Vanquish Vision – will be a “hybrid turbo” unit.
This differs from the hybrid system employed by the Valkyrie, which adds a naturally aspirated Cosworth V12 to an electric motor and batteries produced by Rimac, but will likely pave the way for a range of hybrids from Aston Martin.
Aston says a production version of the Vanquish Vision will arrive in 2022.
Audi Q4 e-tron Concept
Audi used the Geneva Motor Show to reveal the latest installment of its e-tron electric car lineup. Presented as a concept for now – so you can expect the styling to be toned down a notch or too before it appears in your local dealership – the Q4 is a compact SUV with a claimed range of 279 miles.
An electric motor on each axel gives the Q4 all-wheel-drive, as you might well expect from an Audi SUV, and the claimed performance figures include a zero to 62mph time of 6.3 seconds and a limited top speed of 111mph.
The Q4 e-tron is powered by an 82kWh battery pack, while its compact dimensions suggest the car will compete with the Tesla Model Y, which is due to be revealed on March 14, rather than the Model X.
Audi says the car will go on sale towards the end of 2020, which is also when we expect to see the Model Y rolling off the production line.
Automobili Pininfarina Battista
Automobili Pininfarina Battista
The Battista is the first car to be produced by Pininfarina, having spent decades designing for the likes of Ferrari. The Battista is an all-electric hypercar with an astonishing 1,900hp and 2,300Nm of torque. Power from the 120kWh battery pack is delivered via a motor attached to each wheel.
All-wheel-drive also assists with the 0-62 mph time of sub-two seconds, and the top speed is 217mph. Pininfarina claims the Battista has a range of 280 miles, but one suspects the driver would need to exercise considerable restraint to achieve this, given the huge power on tap.
Citroen Ami One
Billed as a new vision of urban mobility, while following in the footsteps of the iconic 2 CV, the Ami One is a playful take on what the city car could look like in the near future.
A cuboid vehicle measuring just 1.5 metres wide, 2.5 metres long and 1.5 metres tall, Citroen claims the Ami One is so small (and slow, with a top speed of just 28mph) that it can be used by people without a driving licence – although this will vary from one country to another.
The range is just 60 miles, but Citroen claims this is plenty for the dense urban environments the concept is designed for. The battery takes a claimed two hours to fill to 100 per cent.
But instead of being a car to buy, Citroen is pitching the Ami One as a vehicle to hire when your travel demands require it – a bit like an electric scooter from the likes of Bird and Line . The Ami One would be booked via an app, then unlocked by scanning a QR code on the door handle. Drivers then dock their phone on a wireless charger, and use it to access apps via the car’s head-up display.
Fiat Concept Centoventi
Marking Fiat’s 120th anniversary, the Centoventi is the company's take on an electric Fiat Panda.
Described as a blank canvas by the Italian car maker, the Centoventi is intended to be a highly customisable car, with future buyers encouraged to configure the interior, choose accessories and adapt the space inside the car however they like – including 3D-printing their own compatible items.
Fiat likens the car’s interior to having the modularity of LEGO bricks, where components can be removed and swapped with something else; using this system, the company suggests a door pocket could be replaced with a bottle holder or a music speaker.
Fiat says there will be 120 additional accessories available at launch, allowing buyers to change the look of their car – inside and out – and opening up a new business model for the manufacturer.
One interesting option floated by Fiat is for the buyer to configure a driving range of between 100km and 500km, with this being possible by buying or renting additional modular batteries, and fitting them inside the floor of the car. A solar roof panel generates an extra 50W.
Fiat seemed particularly proud of a personal digital billboard built into the rear of the vehicle, and as all the elements are swappable or removable, the company sees this as a good option for ride sharing, too.
Alfa Romeo Tonale
Fitting somewhere between a crossover and a small SUV, the Tonale concept by Alfa Romeo is the Italian brand’s first foray into electrification. Described as ‘future gazing’ for now, the car feels like an evolution of the brand’s current lineup rather than a far-out concept, with hints of the Stelvio SUV.
The Tonale concept is a plug-in hybrid rather than a fully electric vehicle. However, there has been no mention of what the internal combustion engine will be, nor what share of the work will be done by the battery and electric motor. As such, this still feels very much like an early concept, rather than something you should start saving up a deposit for.
Designed to seat four, the Tonale features a fully digital dashboard, with a 12.3-inch display cluster behind the steering wheel, and a 10.25-inch touch screen in the centre of the cabin. Alfa is keen to show off its new-and-improved infotainment setup, which we hope will usher in a major upgrade on the current, somewhat dated, system used by the Giulia and Stelvio.
With the focus on driving enjoyment as much as economy, we suspect the Tonale - if it makes production - will use its hybrid system to boost the performance of the company’s existing engine lineup, augmenting gaps in the power band with extra shove from the electric motor. If the Tonale becomes reality, we can imagine a pumped up Quadrifoglio version – complete with 2.9-litre V6 engine and hybrid system – being quite the machine.
Volkswagen ID Buggy
At its press conference VW announced that 2019 was "all about EV". The latest addition to Volkswagen’s electric ID range is called the Buggy – and, as you might have guessed, it’s a modern reboot of the classic beach buggy of the Sixties and Seventies. A concept for now (these will be built, thankfully), the ID Buggy is being used by Volkswagen as a demonstration of the versatility of an electric vehicle platform, and how it can be used by various types of vehicle – not just SUVs, crossovers and city cars.
The ID Buggy has a 150kW motor powering the rear wheels directly, but drive is then sent to the front axle via an “electric propshaft”.
In a nod to how the original beach buggy could be heavily customised, VW has built the ID Buggy is such a way that the body can be detached from the chassis. The company says it is opening up the vehicle and its platform to third-parties, who may want to produce alternative bodies of various designs and seating configurations.
Although Volkswagen is unlikely to mass-produce the ID Buggy itself, the company says it is open to allowing other manufacturers to build upon the Volkswagen Group’s MEB electric car platform. So if there’s enough interest (and it certainly looks like there is) we could one day see an electric revival of the beach buggy.
BMW plug-in hybrids
Back in the real world, BMW revealed a whole range of plug-in hybrids. Five new models and two revised versions of the 530e feature the brand’s most up-to-date battery tech.
The BMW 530e plug-in hybrid gets a new lithium-ion battery, (this means a 40-mile all-electric range, an increase of 11 miles over the previous model). While BMW is going to introduce an all-wheel-drive version of the 530e in July, specs on the drivetrain are yet to be confirmed, but it is claiming an all-electric range of 35 miles and economy of 149mpg.
The new BMW X3 xDrive30e gets power from a turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine that is joined with an electric motor, producing a combined output of 244bhp. As a result of this hybrid hookup, apparently power can be temporarily boosted by 40bhp thanks to that electric motor. All-electric range? 31 miles.
Imagine by Kia
The Imagine is a concept of a four-door electric Kia could look like. We say ‘could’ because, while we can envision what a toned-down version of the exterior might one day morph into, the interior is utterly barmy, with a dashboard made up of 21 angled touchscreens.
But all isn’t as it seems, as Kia has actually done this to poke fun at other manufacturers and their desire to fit cars with ever-larger touchscreens. According to Kia Europe’s interior manager Ralph Kluge, the car is “a humorous and irreverent riposte to the ongoing competition between some automotive manufacturers to see who can produce the car with the biggest screen”. Perhaps it’s a good job Tesla didn’t attend Geneva this year.
A year on from relaunching as a luxury, electric sub-brand of Aston Martin, Lagonda returned to Geneva to show off the All-Terrain Concept.
The car is billed as a luxurious way to travel across any terrain, surrounded by calm, electricity-driven silence. Lagonda describes the All-Terrain as a “near future” study which will transform into the company’s first electric production car, due on sale in 2022.
Where last year’s concept took inspiration from Concorde, Lagonda says the All-Terrain was inspired by superyacht design – as seen with the rear-leaning belt line – and there’s a general toughness to this model compared to the previous Lagonda concept.
Of course, this wouldn’t be a Geneva concept without some far-flung gimmick. For the Lagonda All-Terrain, this means a key fob which levitates via magnets when placed on its holder between the front and rear seats.
There is no word yet on what size battery the Lagonda will have, or what its performance statistics and range will be – and we shouldn’t expect to find out for at least a couple of years yet.
Mercedes Concept EQV
Taking a practical turn away from electric hypercars and hybrid supercars, Mercedes this week revealed the Concept EQV, which it describes as an insight into what the electric future of the premium people carrier will look like.
Yes, we know. People carriers aren’t exactly pin-up material to sit alongside the Aston Vanquish Vision, but their large size makes them perfect candidates for electrification, as big batteries can be fitted into the floor. For the Concept EQV, Mercedes is offering a 100kWh battery with a claimed 250-mile range, and the ability to add 62 miles with 15 minutes of charging.
Mercedes hopes such a vehicle, complete with a wide range of seating options, will be popular in the VIP transport sector, offering seven- or eight-seat versions and a premium interior.
Piech Mark Zero
Founded by the son of former Volkswagen boss Ferdinand Piech, Swiss firm Piech Automotive is a new player in the industry, and it used Geneva to reveal the electric Mark Zero.
Built on a modular platform, the Mark Zero is a sports car with a classic long-bonnet, short-tail aesthetic. Range is a claimed 310 miles, but the biggest news here – or the biggest claim, at least – is how the Mark Zero can recharge its battery from zero to 80 per cent in four minutes and 40 seconds.
Produced by the Desten Group in China, the batteries are air-cooled to help boost charge times and mean the car can be driven hard for extended periods without overheating – something today’s electric cars can struggle with.
The Polestar 2 is an all-electric family car with the mid-range Tesla Model 3 firmly in its sights – a rivalry the company even says for itself. The car will be priced from just under €40,000 when it enters mass production in 2020, and Polestar says its 78kWh battery is good for a range of some 500km (310 miles).
The zero to 62 mph sprint is completed in under five seconds, Polestar says, and an optional ‘Performance Pack’ with Öhlins dampers, Brembo brakes and 20-inch forged wheels suggests Polestar plans for the 2 to be a capable sports car as well as a practical, zero-emissions EV.
But it’s inside where things get really interesting, as this is the first car to feature an infotainment platform running natively on Google’s Android operating system. This means the driver gets access to a whole suite of Google applications – including Maps, Google Music and the Play Store – and the whole thing can be controlled by speaking to the Google Assistant.
Just say ‘Hey Google’ and the car will read out news headlines, change the music, check your calendar, find a local charging station or control your smart home devices. Polestar says that, by the time the car goes on sale in 2020, Google Assistant will also work with car-specific features, like the climate control, too.
Skoda Vision iV
Skoda’s first forward-looking electric concept, the Vision iV, is based on the Volkswagen Group’s MEB modular electric car platform.
Skoda claims the Vision iV will be capable of 500km on a full charge - but bear in mind that this is a concept, with no news on how big the battery actually is, or how powerful the motors are.
The car features cameras and interior displays instead of wing mirrors – common for years on concept vehicles, but a feature which is finally arriving on production cars – and a smartphone app which will double as a key, just like that of the Tesla Model 3.
Other than signalling its aesthetic intention for future electric vehicles, the Vision iV reveals relatively little about Skoda’s plans for future battery-powered cars, so it’s tricky to read much more into the concept for now.