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Frankfurt International Motor Show – a festival for an electric future

The Frankfurt International Motor Show (IAA) is upon us and this year is defined by big news in the EV world. Germany's place at the heart of automotive tech development ensures that across most major manufacturers, Frankfurt is the place where they debut their most important new cars.

This year's show is a veritable festival for an electric future and has among it some very important news. Most notably we have the global première of the Volkswagen ID.3 – a potentially game changing car when it comes to mass EV adoption. Even Land Rover has gotten in on the action with its new Defender by announcing PHEV and MHEV powertrain options!

We've been through the major news and distilled it into bite-sized chunks, but rest assured that in the coming days there'll be more detailed articles about everything that's made a splash at the IAA.

Volkswagen ID.3

The Volkswagen ID.3 is arguably the biggest news coming out of Frankfurt this year and with it VW has also redone its logo (albeit subtly). It's the car that will define VW's new generation of EVs with the burden of moving them from curios to a mainstream option firmly on its shoulders. Based on VW's lauded MEB platform, the ID.3 will be available with three battery size options: 45kWh offering 205 miles of range at under 30,000 Euros; 58kWh offering 260 miles; 77kWh offering 340 miles. Costs will obviously go up for larger battery sizes.

100kW charging capacity means fully juicing an ID.3 will take less than an hour, and with 200bhp on tap driving the rear wheels, real-world performance promises to be very good for a compact car. Importantly, the Volkswagen ID.3 leaves the factory as a carbon neutral product thanks to a sustainable supply chain. You can find our detailed look at the ID.3 here.

Honda e

The Honda e is another car that has been making waves in the EV world thanks to its retro styling and the promise of a fun, engaging driving experience. Whilst not dissimilar in size to the ID.3, its mission isn't to conquer the family hatch market, rather it is an urban-orientated everyday commuter. As well as the production version making its public début in Frankfurt, Honda has released the UK pricing for the e, which will start at £26,160 and rise to £28,660 for Advanced trim including the plug-in car grant. The latter version also gets a slightly more powerful 151bhp motor to boot. Deliveries will begin in early summer next year.

Mercedes-Benz Vision EQS

Whilst very much a concept-come-show car, the Mercedes-Benz Vision EQS is designed to show how the brand imagines its version of 'sustainable luxury' to look in the future. Think of it as a next-gen S-Class. Design wise, the Vision EQS employs what Mercedes calls “one bow” proportions, which features a prominent front end grill defining the lines that flow around the car via a continuous “lightbelt”. Inside there is the array of connectivity and luxury design features becoming of any future big Merc.

Fancy design aside, the Vision EQS sits on an EV platform with a 100kW battery, powering electric motors one each axle with a total output of 470bhp. This translates to 0-62mph in 4.5 seconds and a 124mph top speed. Mercedes is reckoning on a range of 435 miles and super-fast charging at 350kW. Level three autonomous driving would make life easier for the driver, with the option of upgrading sensors for fully autonomous driving down the line.

Less exotic, but more immediately available, is the Mercedes EQV 300 – an electric eight seat passenger van with a 250 mile range thanks to its 100kWh battery pack and 201bhp motor. The tech seen on the EQV 300 will inevitably make its way onto other models in time. Similarly more imminent were Mercedes' PHEVs – including its GLC, GLE, A and B-Class PHEVs, all of which have joined Mercedes' model range.

smart is going EV-only

Mercedes' city car brand, smart, is using the Frankfurt IAA to show off its revised EQ fourtwo and EQ forfour models. It's also announced that it will become the first manufacturer to switch completely from combustion engines to battery electric powertrains. As well as redesigning the exteriors of its range, smart has revised the interiors with a focus on connectivity and a user experience that is in-line with today's smartphone generation. Powertrain wise, across the board smart has created a compact 17.6kWh battery – good for just under 100 miles – and an 80bhp motor for a fizzy, city-friendly driving experience. Standard in the UK is a 22kW on-board charger which juices from 10 per cent to 80 per cent in just 40 minutes. The new fourtwo and forfour are due to launch imminently.

Hyundai reveals new design direction and electric racing car

Hyundai has unveiled a concept called simply '45' which showcases the brand's future design direction for EVs and forms part of the brands wider 'Style Set Free' design initiative. Perhaps ironically for a forward-looking design concept, 45 actually harks back to the original Hyundai Pony Coupe – a design that is 45 years old – and take cues from that car. Other 45-based design features include the angles of the A and C-pillars which define the car's diamond side profile shape. It's based on a 'skateboard' platform with the batteries making up the floor pan, allowing for greater cabin room which Hyundai calls a 'living space' suitable for modern passenger lifestyle demands.

Alongside the 45, the Korean brand's burgeoning race division has presented its first ever pure electric race car. Designed and built at Hyundai Motor Sport's HQ in Alzenau, Germany, the Veloster N ETCR (based on the brand's road-going Veloster N) is designed to compete in the forthcoming Electric Touring Car Championship series. With a mid-mounted motor and rear wheel drive, the Veloster N ETCR will go into full race testing before the end of September. Interestingly, to charge the Veloster in the most efficient way possible, Hyundai has developed a mobile charger that uses hydrogen fuel cells to provide efficient, clean energy regardless of the local grid.

Vauxhall Corsa-e Rally

While we're on the subject of electric motorsports, as well as its standard Corsa-e, Vauxhall has brought along its Corsa-e Rally – a car developed by sister brand Opel and the first of its kind to be offered for customer rally sport. It has been designed to compete in the ADAC Opel Rallye Cup – an entry level rallying series for budding drivers. To all intents and purposes, the Corsa-e Rally is the same as the standard production car but with full rally preparation such as a roll cage, uprated suspension and a stripped-out interior. Opel Motorsport will sell you one for a shade under £46,000.

Also taking its place on Vauxhall's stand was its new Grandland X Hybrid4 – the brand's first PHEV model.

Aiways takes the highways

Chinese EV manufacturer and European market hopeful, Aiways, has achieved what it set out to do back at the end of July and has successfully driven its prototype U5 from China to Frankfurt. In doing so, it has set a new Guinness World Record. Totalling 9,930 miles over 53 days, the adventure took the U5 through 12 countries and across challenging landscapes such as the Gobi desert and the Alps. A PR stunt it might be, but Aiways considered the trek a proving ground for the car before its entry into the European market in 2020.

BMW Group EVs

BMW has brought numerous cars to its home motor show, among which are several of its forthcoming EV selection. The Mini Cooper SE makes its show debut in advance of deliveries starting early next year. Here's our run-down of the SE. BMW's i3 gets a limited edition makeover in the shape of the i3s Edition RoadStyle of which just 1000 will be built. Fluid black paint with E-Copper accents, 20 inch wheels in jet black and an interior with Stellargic/Dalbergia brown leather and matt finish, dark oak dashboard finishes off the look.

A notable mention which we'll slot into this section goes to the BMW i Hydrogen Next – a hydrogen fuel cell electric SUV that is a precursor to next-generation FCEVs based on the X5 and planned for 2022. Whilst hydrogen isn't BMW's main focus, it's aim is to show that the brand is exploring all routes to sensibly considered, zero-emissions vehicles.

You may recall us covering the BMW Vision M Next – a potential PHEV successor to the i8 with a host of retro design features. Well, this too was on BMW's stand at Frankfurt, demonstrating how its performance models may evolve in the coming years.

Pininfarina

The Italian design house and now vehicle manufacturer has gone into partnership with Bosch Engineering and Benteler to strengthen its position as a manufacturer. Its strategic goal with this partnership is to increase its offering to provide scalable platforms for other car brands – predominantly at the luxury end of the spectrum but with the potential to move into other segments. The first products of the setup will break cover after the launch of Pinifarina's high performance Battista electric hypercar.

SEAT

Making its public début at Frankfurt is the CUPRA Tavascan concept electric SUV, but something more tangible alongside it is the Mii electric – a car that Seat reckons will help it democratise EVs. Like with Vauxhall and its Corsa-e, Seat is aiming to enter the world of electric motorsport with its CUPRA brand. Racing driver, Mattias Ekström, has joined CUPRA as a brand ambassador and will be a key part of future e-motorsports development.

New Land Rover Defender gets MHEV with PHEV to come

Alongside the Volkswagen ID.3 the new Land Rover Defender has arguably been Frankfurt Motor Show's biggest story. Reinventing a decades old icon with a fierce global following is no easy feat – especially with the fact that part of the old car's charm was in its obsolescence. Unfortunately built-in obsolescence is not an option for Land Rover, and reflecting this its new Defender will be available from launch with a mild hybrid option. Down the line it will also get a PHEV option, most likely a development of the existing Land Rover PHEV powertrain.

For the eagle eyed, during the Defender launch video there were a few frames of the rear of what we assume will be the next-generation Jaguar XJ. Based on Jag's MLA platform, we know that it'll be available as both a pure EV and also a PHEV – unfortunately we will need to wait a bit longer to get a proper glimpse of it.

Ford electrifying more of its range

Ford is pushing forward towards its goal of having an electric option across its entire range, with over half of its sales being of such vehicles predicted by 2022. Eight such vehicles are being launched this year and at Frankfurt, Ford has shown its largest ever range of electrified vehicles. Three plug-in hybrids were present – the all-new Kuga mid-sized SUV, all-new Explorer seven seat SUV and Toureno Custom eight seat people mover.

Alongside its PHEVs, Ford showed off its new Puma EcoBoost hybrid small SUV and Mondeo hybrid wagon. Ford's much-anticipated, Mustang-inspired electric SUV wasn't at the show, but we will be reporting on it in due course.

Other honourable mentions

If it wasn't for the fact that we'd already had a detailed look at the Porsche Taycan it'd be getting more page time here! As it was, Porsche somewhat stole the IAA's thunder by showing off its new EV a couple of days in advance, however the car was still one of the big attractions at Frankfurt. Porsche rival, Lamborghini, brought its Sian hybrid supercar – albeit its hybrid powertrain is less about efficiency and low emissions and more about filling the gaps between gear changes to ensure the Sian is as fast as possible

Speaking of hybrids, Audi brought along its newA6, A7, RS6 and RS7 which use mild hybrid technology to elevate efficiency. It also showed off its AI:TRAIL – an autonomous-capable electric off-roader concept which is designed for... Well we're not wholly sure, but it is equipped with five drones which autonomously fly from the vehicle to act as eyes and spotlights in the sky – which is so cool that the car doesn't really need a greater purpose! On Peugeot's stand its new e-208 and e-2008 were on display, demonstrating the French brand's commitment to EV-powered models.

Conclusion

Overall, Frankfurt has been a very strong showing for green cars. A stellar line-up of EVs has drawn much of the coverage, with PHEVs and hybrids also gaining a fair amount of attention. What has been clear throughout is that manufacturers are acutely aware of the need to be providing low and zero emissions powertrains, and they are increasingly stepping up to the plate. Next-generation design and connected, autonomous vehicles have also made up a huge part of the show.

What is fairly obvious is that whilst manufacturers have, in the past, pulled in their own directions, with the increasing homogonisation of technology, especially around EVs, they are now beginning to head down the same path.



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