The Frankfurt international motor Show is an absolute monster. Spread over 12 halls in the sprawling Messe complex in the heart of the financial district, it is a chance for the German car brands to flex their collective muscles.
Where rival manufacturers share equal stand space at most other motoring events, the likes of Mercedes-Benz and the VW Group essentially enjoy their own halls here. It goes some way to explaining why some international brands don’t bother even showing up.
To combat the many miles show-goers must stomp in order to see everything, surely a portent of things to come, this year’s event featured myriad electric vehicles quietly cruising around the site, shuttling those averse to walking between the numerous buildings.
Step onto one of the numerous stands, gaze at the vehicles glistening under bright show lighting and bear witness to an industry desperately trying to move away from the internal combustion engine towards a quieter, cleaner and decidedly more angular future.
This year’s show was packed to the rafters with electric and alternatively powered machines (some production-ready, some mere concepts), so here follows a selection of our favourites.
Volkswagen ID 3
VW has been teasing its ID 3 model since its very first reveal back at the 2016 Paris motor show, but it can now finally unveil its latest all-electric model that it hopes will go on to join the Golf in terms of volume sales.
With prices starting at £27,500 and an all-electric range of up to 341-miles, it offers an extremely enticing package, which just so happens to showcase a brand new, spartan interior that revolves around a new ten-inch touchscreen display and operating system.
Most conventional buttons have been thrown in the bin and replaced with touch surfaces, while the interior feels surprisingly spacious for a car that is only slightly larger than the existing Golf. Boot space is also on par with VW’s most famous hatchback.
Punters will be able to pick from a variety of battery packs at launch, with the range spanning 45kWh, 58kWh and 77kWh, meaning drivers can motor 205, 260 or 341 miles before needing to recharge.
The higher spec ID 3 models are capable of charging at 100kW, meaning it is possible to add a range of around 180-miles within 30 minutes using the appropriate fast-charging network.
Seat Cupra Tavascan
A quick stroll over to VW’s sibling brand Seat revealed a similar push towards electrification, with its El-born model aping ID 3 almost a little too closely. The much meatier Tavascan, on the other hand, offered a more original and certainly more imposing presence.
Powered by two electric motors – one on the front and rear axle – the system develops a meaty 306hp, propelling the big SUV from 0-62mph in a claimed 6.5 seconds. Take things easy and you’ll get around 280-miles from a single charge of the 77kWh lithium-ion battery pack.
The Lamborghini Urus has proved it is possible to utter ‘SUV’ and ‘performance’ in the same breath, and Seat’s sporty subsidiary hopes to offer the same kind of thrills on a much cheaper budget… and without the nasty emissions.
Inside, it’s all about those figure-hugging bucket seats and structural carbon trim, but neat touches, such as the fact the 13-inch infotainment screen can swivel towards the passenger when needed, ensure it is a nice place to sit when not attacking the race circuit.
Mercedes-Benz Vision EQS
The three-pointed star has been relatively slow to the all-electric vehicle game, opting to instead hedge its bets on researching a developing a variety of alternative fuels, which includes battery power, hybrid set-ups and further investigation into hydrogen fuel cell tech.
This Vision EQS, however, is a statement of intent and a glimpse at the future of what pure battery vehicles could look like from the German brand and the initial states are impressive: more than 350kW of total output from the numerous electric motors sees the 0-62mph sprint dispatched in 4.5 seconds in the EQS, while what Mercedes calls ‘intelligent operating strategy’ allows a ‘comfortable’ range of 435-miles.
Much like Volkswagen has done with its new MEB architecture, the basic platform underpinning the Merc show car can be extended or shrunk to suit all manner of different machines, paving the way for a variety of EQ products in the future, spanning everything from hatchbacks to saloons and SUVs.
However, this is a show car, so it has a number of flashy bits that are designed to attract the crowds. Regular rear taillights are replaced with 229 individually illuminated stars and the digital front grille, which consists of 188 LED light matrix, boasts a 3D effect when set to full poser mode.
The interior takes inspiration from the world of luxury yachts and features a sculptural dashboard that cleverly integrates with most of the front trim. It looks like the deck of a Riva yacht and places touchscreens in the central tunnel, as well as the driver and passenger doors.
Completing a quartet of fully autonomous vehicles, the AI:TRAIL joins the equally awkward nomenclature of the Audi Aicon, AI:ME, AI:RACE fully autonomous concept vehicles. This set showcases a variety of use cases for its upcoming artificial intelligence technology, where customers would take an Audi to suit every purpose.
Where the Aicon and AI:ME are designed for those longer journeys and inner-city transportation alike, the awesomely rugged AI:TRAIL offers a look at a future where we sit back and enjoy the terrain as this absolute unit traverses it.
There are no distracting screens or TVs here, simply large glass windows (inspired by the cockpits of helicopters) for appreciating nature, while the enormous 22-inch wheels with 850mm tyres, 34cm ground clearance and impressive wading ability means it can travel to places most other Audis can’t.
In a move that appears to be lifted directly from Blade Runner, traditional low-beam and high-beam lights have been replaced with five rotorless, triangular, electrically operated drones with integrated matrix LED elements. They are capable of landing on a roof rack or directly on the roof of the vehicle, and docking onto the inductive charging elements.
These act as pathfinders for the vehicle, not only lighting the terrain ahead but also feeding live video back to the driver’s display via a Wi-Fi connection. Audi is also touting Level 4 automation, which means drivers will be able to relinquish control in certain on-road scenarios but traditional pedals and a steering wheel are required for off-road scrambles.
An all-electric powertrain has been implemented with mud-plugging in mind. The marque has targeted a range of 248 to 310 miles on roads or easy off-road terrain, that figure dropping to 155-miles when the going gets tough.
Ok, so it’s not exactly an EV, but this is about as close as the Italian marque is getting with some proper production hybrid technology for the time being.
A throaty V12 engine develops over 785hp, but with additional shove produced by a 48V e-motor, it is capable of accelerating from 0-62mph in 2.8 seconds.
But rather than a use a lithium-ion battery, the Sián utilises a supercapacitor, which is three times more powerful than a battery of the same weight and three times lighter than a lithium-ion battery producing the same power.
Better still, the supercapacitor technology can be charged and discharged with the same power, meaning the Sián’s energy storage system is fully charged every time the vehicle brakes. Similarly, power delivery is immediate, allowing the driver to draw on increased torque when accelerating up to 80mph, when the e-motor automatically disconnects. This lightweight motor can also help with low-speed manoeuvring.
Just 63 examples will be produced and, quite unsurprisingly considering the ferocity of the Lamborghini fanbase, all examples have already been sold.
Honda finally unveiled the production version of its ground-breaking electric vehicle, which hasn’t changed all that much from the concepts and prototypes that have been doing the rounds at various events all summer.
Pricing has now been confirmed, though, with Honda e starting from £26,160 and rising to £28,660 for those models in Advance trim, which adds the Side Camera Mirror system and increased output of 113kW (the standard model has 100kW).
There have been a few disgruntled voices concerning the price, especially as the claimed range is a good 60-miles short of the fully unveiled Volkswagen ID 3 and a long way off the much cheaper Hyundai Kona Electric. But the Honda e makes an extremely impressive technological case for itself, with a stunning dual 12.3-inch LCD touchscreens that serve to inform the driver and entertain the front passenger at the same time.
Honda also has big plans for its own range of apps and services, with head of connectivity Mirai Aki stating that his company hopes to develop a marketplace of Honda applications that customers could choose over and above those offered on popular app services from Google and Apple.
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read more at https://www.wired.co.uk/ by Leon Poultney