EV Preview of 2013 Geneva Auto Show

This is a re-blog from the blog on the Elon Musk fan site on EV Preview of 2013 Geneva Auto Show. 

The Geneva Motor Show press days begin next week, on March 5. The show will be a study in contrasts between fantasy and reality, with an abundance of hyper-exotic sports cars rubbing fenders with more affordable, eco-minded and zero-emission electric vehicles.

The hotly anticipated McLaren P1 supercar, along with the Ferrari F70, the successor to the Italian automaker’s discontinued Enzo model, will utilize electric motors to supplement their high-revving, gasoline-fed engines. In both instances, however, the extra jolt of electric power will be resolutely aimed at boosting overall performance, not fuel mileage.

Despite cars with seven-digit price tags trying to hog the limelight, there will be plenty of buzz surrounding plug-in vehicle introductions. Major automakers, such as Volkswagen and Toyota, are set to unveil highly advanced concepts that push technological boundaries. In the case of the sleek VW XL1 production car, the German automaker estimates the two-passenger coupe’s mileage at a phenomenal 261 m.p.g.e.

Yet considering the sluggish pace of EV sales in Europe—as previously reported, fewer than 20,000 were sold in all of the E.U. in 2012—the hype is likely to be well-measured, at least when it comes to sales projections. With many European countries still mired in a deep recession, the glitz and glamor offered this year in Geneva can only go so far to counter what remains a gloomy short-term outlook.

Mitsubishi CA-MiEV

Mitsubishi needs the second generation i-MiEV to be a hit.

Sales of the Mitsubishi i-MiEV in the past two years have been well below expectations. Last year, Mitsubishi sold less than 700 of these jellybean-shaped EVs in the U.S. In certain months, sales didn’t break into triple digits. A recent recall to fix a braking flaw further dented the i-MiEV’s reputation . Yet rather than give up on this EV, Mitsubishi is readying the next generation model for Geneva. A claimed 186-mile driving range sounds impressive, though we’ll wait to heap praise on Mitsubishi’s engineering team. The current i-MiEV has been mostly notable for its paltry driving range, which is meager compared to competitors like the Nissan LEAF. A more aggressive exterior (check out those funky headlights in the teaser image) and significant boost in range could, finally, just maybe, make the i-MiEV a contender in the EV market.

Land Rover Electric Defender

Defender EV
Land Rover plans to build seven electric-powered Defenders for testing purposes only.

How’s this for unexpected eco-champions? The Land Rover Defender is about as cutting-edge as a spoon, and it’s been around nearly as long. Brutish-looking and an absolute beast at tackling rough terrain, the Defender is appearing in EV guise for the first time in Geneva. Officially, Land Rover is using a small production run of seven units for testing purposes only. The truck’s electric motor delivers 94-hp and 243 lb.-ft. of torque, and comes mated to a single speed transmission and updated version of Land Rover’s rugged four-wheel-drive system. Range is only 50 miles, though a fast charger can top up the lithium-ion batteries.

Toyota i-Road

The Toyota i-Road has an electric powertrain and is roughly half the width of a normal passenger car, thanks to its 1+1 tandem-seating.

There have been very few hints about the propulsion system in Toyota’s upcoming i-Road concept car ahead of its introduction in Geneva. About all we know is that the i-Road is a small, urban-centric EV with a tandem-seating arrangement. More specifics about this 1+1-seater, which is roughly half the width of a normal car, will have to wait until its official introduction.

Sbarro React EV

React EV
The Sbarro React EV utilizes a gasoline-fed V-6 and twin electric motors. Performance should be stunning.

This Swiss-based boutique automaker isn’t one to take a subtle approach. So it’s no surprise that Sbarro has brought an electric-powered supercar to its ‘home show’ in Geneva. Called the React EV, despite its name, this two-passenger sports machine is not entirely electric-powered. A 210-hp V-6 is mounted aft of the cabin and delivers power to the rear wheels. Meanwhile, at the front of the React EV is a pair of electric motors that provide 268-hp to the front wheels. For the moment, Sbarro has not mentioned specifics regarding range or recharge times. And any sort of serial production model remains highly unlikely.

Volkswagen XLI

The VW XL1 is claimed to achieve 261 miles per gallon.

The Volkswagen XL1 is a mobile test-bed of ideas aimed to stretching fuel mileage to seemingly impossible levels. A 261-m.p.g. average makes today’s Toyota Prius suddenly seem like a fuel hog. Too bad the price of the XL1 is reported to be in the region of $50,000—and VW has already confirmed this diesel-powered plug-in hybrid has no future in the U.S. market. The car’s highly aerodynamic skin, which rings in at a slippery 0.19 Cd, is wrapped snugly around a 47 horsepower 800-cc 2-cylinder diesel, mated to a 27 horsepower electric motor and 5kWh lithium-ion battery pack. The powertrain offers an EV-only range of about 30 miles.

Audi A3 E-Tron Plug-In Hybrid

The Audi A3 e-tron plug-in hybrid will likely go into production within the next year.

Technically, this Audi wagon remains a concept—though a production variant seems a certainty. Based on the recently updated A3 range, the E-Tron Plug-In Hybrid is powered by a 150 horsepower turbocharged 1.4-liter gasoline-fed inline-4 cylinder. Coupled to a 75-kW electric motor, the two units deliver a useful 201-hp. That’s a few horses short of the outgoing Audi A3 wagon sold stateside, though more than enough to give this plug-in some punch. Audi pegs the run from 0 to 62 mph at 7.6 seconds. In electric mode, driving range is estimated at 30 miles. Look for a production version of this Audi concept later this year, most likely during the Frankfurt Auto Show.

Volkswagen Golf EV

Golf EV
The Golf EV could prove if VW can sell an electric vehicle in any significant volume.

The exotic-looking XL1 snag more headlines, but it’s the Golf EV that will serve as the German automaker’s bread-and-butter electric vehicle. A plug-in hybrid model is also in the product pipeline.While it doesn’t have the extreme eco-appeal of the XL1, the e-Golf is going is likely to sell in much higher numbers—or at least that’s what VW will be hoping. A driving range of 109 miles puts the e-Golf right in the thick of the EV competition, though pricing and availability remains to be determined.

Rinspeed microMAX

The Rinspeed microMAX could serve well as an electrified shuttle or minibus.

The Rinspeed microMAX comes with a coffeemaker and tablet computers, but no seats. This bizarre box on wheels is supposed to be suited to city-centers, though it’s probably more useful as an electric-powered bus for narrow urban streets, or perhaps as some form of futuristic airport shuttle. Rinspeed has a long history of building concept vehicles that float, hover, and swim above (or below) the water’s surface. So the idea of a boxy electric van designed to help commuters in congested cities is perhaps not that far-fetched.

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