The cancellation of the Geneva Motor Show seemed to limp its way into reality. A fortnight prior to the official announcement the coronavirus outbreak was really beginning to become a global concern. At the same time on car Twitter and offline conversations there were murmurings of discontent from journalists and manufacturer staff at the idea of cramming thousands of people into a (albeit big) room.
Despite this, the organisers and exhibitors were holding out for what eventually happened; the Swiss government banned gatherings of more than 1000 people. This was probably the best outcome in an all-round bad situation as insurance should cover a good proportion of the losses, hopefully securing the show for the future.
Technical aspects of the cancellation dealt with; let's take a look of what would have been shown at an event which was shaping up to be a massive one for EVs. We've listed manufacturers by A-to-Z for ease of reference.
The Chinese brand is continuing to pursue its goal of entering – and disrupting the western market with its second all-electric SUV. Following the U5 which is soon to go on sale, the U6ION (which we don't think is pronounced onion) uses the same lightweight, scalable platform and a lightweight drivetrain and similarly skinny interior to minimise overall vehicle weight to help maximise range. The main difference between the U6ION and U5 as far as we can tell is in the styling, which is lower, wider and more of a crossover-coupe, making it more dynamic in the looks department. Inside, there's a 14.6 inch touchscreen and a 'little robot' human/machine interface – an on-the-mover personal assistant. For now, the U6ION is just a concept, but don't bet against a version of it going on sale following the U5.
This is one of the most anticipated EV reveals of the not-the-Geneva-Motor-Show and is confirmed for series production starting in 2021. BMW's first pure-electric Gran Coupé brings with it both a new era of electric saloon cars, and the new brand design identity. Our first thoughts are that it looks really, really good – if you can accept the front end's exaggerated kidney grille, on top of which the new BMW logo can be found. Aerodynamic function meets sharper, slimmer LED lights front and rear, whilst the high waistline and low roof line combine with a front apron and rear diffuser to give the i4 a genuinely sporty look. Inside, it's a minimalist dream with a huge, curved, touchscreen dashboard focussing on what is essential to the driver and occupants rather than festooning the car with gadgets.
The BMW i4's sporty looks aren't misplaced; the drivetrain offers up 530bhp which will propel the i4 to 62mph in four seconds, and on to a top speed of 124mph. A range of 373 miles is extremely strong, and we expect that the i4 will have ultra-rapid charging, albeit the finer details of the battery and powertrain are yet to be released. We'll bring you more on the BMW i4 in the coming months.
We've already taken a good look at the new SEAT Leon PHEV which was going to be the Spanish brand's electrified offering to the show, but performance-orientated spin-off, CUPRA, was all set to debut the PHEV-driven Formentor performance SUV. Named after a cape on the island of Mallorca, CUPRA reckons the Formentor is a vision of contemporary sportiness. What it is, is a practical, jacked-up hatch which offers a decent amount of interior space, plenty of standard kit and connectivity (much of which it shares with the aforementioned Leon) and sporting pretensions.
It's driven by effectively the same powertrain as has just been announced for the VW Golf GTE which means a 1.4 turbo petrol engine and a 114bhp electric motor for a total system output of 241bhp. Around 31 miles of electric-only range can be had thanks to a 13kWh battery with all power being sent to the front wheels via a shift-by-wire DSG 'box. UK prices are TBC, but deliveries will start towards the end of the year.
At nearly the other end of the EV spectrum to the BMW, but no less interesting to us, is Dacia's first all-electric car – the Spring Electric. Based on Renault's K-ZE which is sold in China, the Spring Electric is confirmed to be going on sale in Europe in early 2021. It may well be one of the cheapest family-friendly EVs when it does so since the car upon which it's based retails for less than £13,000.
For reference as to what we can expect from the Dacia Spring Electric, the Renault K-ZE uses a 26.8kWh battery giving a range of up to 150 miles. Dacia is quoting 124 miles for the Spring Electric, so we reckon that it could have a slightly beefier motor than the 44bhp that the Chinese car comes with, enabling it to reach motorway speeds rather than topping out at just over 60mph.
Had Geneva happened, DS would've shown off its latest round of EVs and PHEVs – such as the DS 9 E-TENSE. However, its concept for the show was somewhat more exciting and comes in the form of the Aero Sport Lounge, which despite the name isn't a flying V8 sofa. What it is, is DSs vision of the antithesis of increasingly homogenised EVs; “Travel becomes art” in the French brand's words.
It's big, at five metres long, and chunky, but with a 680bhp motor and 110kWh battery, DS reckons it would be good for 0-62mph in 2.8 seconds, and 400 miles on a charge if they were to produce it. Which they won't. Inside, it's packed with interesting features like ultrasound which provides haptic feedback in open space, enabling drivers to 'feel' the touch of a button without actually touching anything. At the opposite end of the technological spectrum, straw is used extensively as a material within the dashboard and seats, and as a design feature.
For me as your humble news writing correspondent, this is my favourite concept of the not-the-Geneva-Motor-Show. Hyundai's Prophecy concept is a showcase for the brand's latest design language, which is stripped-back and favours clean, minimalist lines. That total removal from the fussiness and business of modern aero and over-prescribed detail is not only refreshing, it's bleedin' fantastic.
But that's not to say that Hyundai has created form over function as it's quite the reverse, with details like the propeller wheels and rear spoiler actively drawing air where it needs to go for maximum slipperiness. On the inside, things do take a turn for the less conventional with joysticks in place of a steering wheel and a swivelling dashboard to redefine the interior space. In addition, Hyundai hasn't even bothered giving the Prophecy an imaginary powertrain – but that's ok, because it allows us to simply look at it without the need to contemplate range, power, or any of those other practical aspects of motoring.
Away from concepts and back into reality, and Mercedes has unveiled EQ Power (plug-in hybrid) versions of its CLS 250 Coupe and Shooting Brake, and GLA small SUV. All three cars will be available to drive away by the summer, albeit UK prices and specs remain to be confirmed. All three cars share a common EQ powertrain which serves up a total system output of 218bhp combining a 1.33-litre turbo petrol engine with a 100bhp electric motor.
A decently-sized battery of 15.6kWh affords the trio an electric-only range of between 44 and 49 miles – plenty for most people, most of the time. Each can be charged in 1.75 hours using a 7.4kW AC wall box, or 25 minutes using a 24kW DC charger. CO2 emissions range from 32g/km to 42g/km and fuel consumption ranges between 130 and 168mpg, meaning each car will help Mercedes towards the 95g/km target for 2021. You can find out our thoughts on currently available Mercedes EQ cars here.
It's yet to hit the road in owners' hands, but already Pininfarina has unveiled a limited-edition version of its Battista hyper EV to celebrate 90 years of the coachbuilder-come-styling house-come hypercar manufacturer. Just five cars will be made, each with a price tag of €2.6 million and a new hand-painted livery which requires the car to be disassembled and reassembled three times to ensure that the pinstripes line up properly.
The powertrain remains the same ludicrous affair as in the regular car. New wheels shave 10kg from the weight, despite the rears gaining an inch in diameter, and a plethora of celebratory, engraved plaques and logos ensure that the five people who purchase one will have ultimate pub bragging rights. Not that the Battista is likely to ever be seen in the pot-holed car park of the Loom and Shuttle in Kidderminster.
Polestar has showed off its vision of the company's future vehicle aspirations in the shape of the Precept – a four-door GT. Like the Hyundai Prophecy, Polestar has focussed more on what the car is, how people will interact with it and use it rather than the technical side of the equation. Sustainability of materials, development of digital interface and new design directions are at the heart of the car.
Up-front, the Precept does away with grilles and uses the space at the nose to house sensors for driver assistance – such as radar and two high-definition cameras. 'Thor's hammer' LED headlights frame the nose of the car (and sound really cool). Roof-mounted LIDAR points to the next step of safety and autonomy for Polestar. Inside, infotainment is powered by Android and features a 15 inch portrait central touchscreen and 12.5 inch driver display. Smart sensors, such as eye tracking, enable the car to monitor the driver's gaze and adjust screens and display accordingly. The Precept's interior materials are made of up to 80 per cent recycled plastic, and are lightweight to boot. The beauty of the Polestar Precept is how most of what's on display isn't futuristic madness, but realistic and potentially production-ready.
Renault had planned to bring along its Megane Estate E-TECH PHEV and the new Twingo Z.E. to Geneva, and we were excited about the prospect of an electric Twingo until we found out it's being released in left-hand drive only. However, actual cars you can buy aside, the French brand's centrepiece was (you guessed it) an EV concept – the Renault Morphoz – which looks to EV mobility beyond 2025. Renault's Morphoz is an electric SUV based on the new, modular CMF-EV platform and has vehicle-to-grid capability built-in, conduction charging, AI and level 3 autonomous driving.
On the charging side, it's all part of Renault's continuing efforts to build a sustainable vehicle ecosystem, where stored power is used more efficiently than simply sitting idly in the battery. Speaking of batteries, Renault envisages two versions; a 40kWh 'city' version, and a 90kWh 'travel' version, offering 249 miles and 435 miles of range respectively. 5G on-board connectivity and level 3 (hands off) autonomy are designed to make the driving and passenger experience more relaxing and convenient, whilst the cabin itself can be reconfigured on-the-move – for example, so the front passenger seat can face the rear. The platform and some of the tech is already making its way into the brand's road cars, so expect more to follow.
VW Group cars are like buses; they all come along in one go. So it is in the case of Škoda's first performance-orientated, plug-in hybrid – the Octavia vRS iV. Read the VW Golf GTE story, or look above at the CUPRA Formentor's vital powertrain statistics and you'll understand what you're getting, albeit wrapped up in the attractive package of the new Octavia.
As well as the sporty vRS iV, Škoda is also launching a regular version of its Octavia iV which will have near enough everything in common with the all-new Mk8 VW Golf PHEV, and aforementioned SEAT Leon PHEV.
Previously incarnated as the VW ID. CROZZ showcar, Volkswagen has done what everyone predicted they'd do and give the next step on the ID. journey a name that falls in-line with the over-arching brand. The ID.4 is a small SUV which is designed for all of VW's major markets – Europe, the USA and China – and will be produced in each. It's based on the MEB and same basic architecture as the ID.3, sharing the compact electric drive and standard rear-wheel drive, with a four-wheel drive option arriving at a later date. VW is saying that the ID.4 will have a range of up to 310 miles depending on the drive package selected, so again we can assume that it'll share much with the ID.3.
Alongside the ID.4, VW has revealed its all-new Toureg R – the performance version of the conventionally-powered small SUV, now in PHEV form. Combining a 134bhp electric motor with a 335bhp turbo V6 petrol engine, the Toureg R should be brisk, and yet able to cover most commutes in emissions-free mode. And you can get used to performance PHEVs from the brand; Volkswagen has stated that all of its future 'R' cars will feature plug-in power.
We were, of course, disappointed that the Geneva Motor Show was cancelled, but in all honesty it had to happen. Out-of-pocket journos and Swiss businesses aside, avoiding a global pandemic is more important than metal boxes on wheels. We'd love to say that what happened was manufacturers put on a brilliant display of digital press conferences and demonstrated what an online motor show could be like, but ultimately it's all been a bit of a damp squib. Negativity aside, what has been shown off is an exciting array ranging from the preposterous to the near-available to buy. Moreover, across everything that was supposed to be at Geneva almost all of the show-stopping cars featured electric drive and demonstrated an industry getting to grips with the future.