This is it, this is the year, they all say, when we start buying electric cars en masse. Well, we’d better.
In 2020 everyone from Audi to Volkswagen is doing an EV: compacts, coupes and crossovers. The numbers however say we’re getting a bit jaded with the whole driving thing. After a dip in 2018, globally car sales have dropped to below 80 million units in 2019 too, and declining demand in China and the US is to blame. In America it’s a third loss in a row – last week car manufacturers turned up in Las Vegas for the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) to drum up some excitement. Here’s the pick of the bunch.
While Nissan’s former CEO Carlos Ghosn dodges the courts and the stocks slide (Bloomberg says Nissan stocks dropped 24% in 2019), after a tough year the Japanese company stayed optimistic in Las Vegas with a zero-emissions ice cream van. More appropriately there was also the Nissan Ariya concept, a crossover EV with a pair of electric motors driving all four wheels which previews the company’s new dedicated electric architecture. Nissan claims over 300 horsepower and over 480km of driving range afforded by the battery pack laid out in the flat floor.
Instead of an actual car, the Germans brought along an interior, and a hashtag, in an attempt to showcase a “new angle of thought”. BMW’s artificial intelligence tech onboard detects when passengers fix their gaze on something outside the car, and then tells them about it. The idea is to explore the human-to-car relationship and figure out how we will interact with cars in the future since manufacturers seem hellbent on removing physical switchgear from our dashboards.
Mercedes tends to go all out for CES. This year the Stuttgart-based manufacturer showed up with a concept car inspired by James Cameron’s Avatar – the Mercedes-Benz AVTR concept is suitably fanciful, with clear doors, crab-movement capability, and a biometric connection to the driver allowing for “energy exchange”. Instead of holding onto a regular steering wheel, you’re meant to merge with the machine by placing your hand onto the centre console to fire up the projection interface with real-time 3D graphics.
In the 1930s Chrysler set about revolutionising car design with the Airflow – shunning contemporary running boards and bulky fenders, the streamlined Airflow looked like nothing else out there, so no one bought it. Lesson learned, Chrysler stopped production after three disastrous years. The US brand seems ready to move on, with the reveal of the Chrysler Airflow Vision design concept at CES 2020 in Las Vegas – the show car is supposed to preview Chrysler’s future styling direction and UX experience.
The Korean giant announced a plan to manufacture aircraft in partnership with Uber with the potential to revolutionise the taxi industry with its new Hyundai S-A1 model previewed in Las Vegas. Designed to cruise at up to 290km/h at an altitude of 600 metres above ground, Hyundai’s Uber Air Taxi will be all-electric requiring no more than seven minutes for recharging. With space for four paying passengers the S-A1 is meant to be a volume design intended to eventually drive down costs per trip, although neither Hyundai nor Uber are clear on a launch date. Morgan Stanley’s analysts anticipate air taxis to become commonplace by 2040.
Best known for solid axles and khaki shirts, the Jeep brand announced its new ‘4xe’ badge at CES 2020 denoting plug-in hybrid models due to start arriving in showrooms in 2021. Jeep says it will offer electrified versions of all its cars, promising greater power and response without compromising too much on off-road capability. Details are scarce, with Jeep holding out for the motor shows in Geneva and Beijing later in the year to reveal more about these upcoming plug-in hybrids.
Dane Henrik Fisker is best known for designing the BMW Z8 and Aston Martin DB9 before he put his own name on the 2011 Fisker Karma plug-in hybrid luxury car. Hollywood loved it – Leo immediately bought one. Just about a decade later, the Danish designer is no longer affiliated with the car, which is now the Chinese-owned, California-based Karma Revero GT priced from about $140,000. At CES 2020, Karma Automotive announced a partnership with BlackBerry and Amazon for the Revero GT’s operating system and intelligent machine learning.
With a debut at CES 2020, the Land Rover Defender is the first production vehicle to feature two embedded LTE modems enabling over-the-air updates and the inclusion of a new Pivi Pro infotainment system – additionally a new 10-inch touchscreen allows passengers control using “the same processing hardware as the latest smartphones”.
On the one hand Lamborghini is preserving the fossil-fuel burning internal combustion engine vehemently. On the other hand the Italians are getting with the times together with Amazon, by incorporating Alexa into its supercars from 2020. Lamborghini claims it’s the first car manufacturer to offer in-car control via Alexa, meaning drivers will be able to adjust air conditioning or seat heating using voice commands.
With driverless tech being on everyone’s minds, Audi presented the new AI:ME concept featuring Level 4 autonomy and zero-emissions powertrain. The Golf-sized concept is built on the same platform as the upcoming Volkswagen ID.3 electric vehicle and the 122cm-wide dash display certainly sticks out. Audi however is more interested in talking about empathy – the Audi AI:ME uses artificial intelligence and self-learning to predict passengers’ preferences when it comes to things like seating position, music, satellite navigation, cabin temperature, and the fragrancing of the interior…
Republished with permission from ITWeb | www.itweb.co.za