Plug-in cars seem to have arrived in Europe. At this week’s Geneva Auto Salon, charging posts were to be seen at just about every major automaker’s booth, as EVs and PHEVs were peacefully coexhibited with legacy gas and diesel models. The corded cars were generally not prominently featured, but neither were they hidden away in the corners.
The only new production vehicles announced were Audi’s Q7 diesel plug-in and R8 e-tron, but there were several interesting concepts, and a couple of established models showed off some new features.
Aston Martin became the latest luxury carmaker to stick its finger in the electric socket. James Bond’s favorite British brand, which to the best of our knowledge had never mentioned any electrification plans before, revealed the DBX Concept, a crossover with the styling of the GT coupe, but with 4WD and a high ground clearance like an SUV.
Aston Martin’s new CEO, Andy Palmer, who in a previous post at Nissan was one of the shepherds of the LEAF, said, “This is, clearly, not a production-ready sports GT car, but it is a piece of fresh, bold thinking about what Aston Martin GT customers around the world could request of us in the future.”
The concept features a lithium-sulfur battery pack, in-wheel electric motors, active LED headlights, and rear-view cameras instead of side mirrors.
Ssangyong, a Korean company now majority-owned by the Indian giant Mahindra, introduced the Tivoli, a mini-crossover that will go on sale in Europe in May with a sub-$20,000 price tag. A concept electric version was on display, but no technical details were offered.
Nissan showed off the e-NV200, a CHAdeMO-equipped electric version of its popular delivery van that made its debut here last year, as well as a LEAF equipped with vehicle-to-grid (V2G) capability.
Mercedes had its share of charging posts hooked up – on display were the C-350 PHEV, the B-Class Electric Drive, and a capacious electric minivan concept.
e’mobile, a Swiss trade association for electrified vehicles, provides a guide to the various green vehicles at the show, as well as information about the Swiss EV market. Sales of pure EVs here in Switzerland grew by 41% in 2014, while PHEVs grew by 109% and plain old hybrids declined by 9%.
A new national database lists over 1,000 public charging stations, including 70 DC Fast Chargers. One of the chargers on display at e’mobile’s booth was a branded station with CHAdeMO, CCS and Level 2 connectors.
Moving out to the fringes of the exhibition floor, we find the Swiss-made Budii concept, an autonomous version of the BMW i3 that includes all kinds of super-high-tech features, including a 7-axis robotic steering column. “If the occupants of the autonomously driving electric vehicle feel like having some fun at the wheel on a twisty country road or off road, a robotic arm will hand the steering wheel to the driver or front passenger as desired, thereby transferring command.”
Also in the “interesting” category: a concept tire from Goodyear that’s designed to use heat generated while driving to recharge an EV’s battery. “This tire generates electricity through the action of materials in the tire that capture and transform the energy created by heat when it flexes as it rolls during normal driving conditions.”