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2019 Los Angeles Auto Show report: electric car debuts from Ford, VW, Hyundai Toyota, Audi, Karma and Bollinger

Whilst it might be one of America's biggest motoring events, the Los Angeles Auto Show has global appeal. Electric Vehicles are very common in ever-more eco-conscious California, so it's no surprise that pure electric and electrified vehicles took centre stage at this year's show.

Another major theme at LA reflects that which we have seen in the market across the globe in recent times; SUVs are king. Quite aside from US-friendly gas-guzzling examples from manufacturers domestic and foreign to the States, EVs are also heading down the SUV route. Thankfully, there are a couple of exceptions – so let's get into the details.

Ford Mustang Mach-E

You can read our report in full here, but it's worth channelling your inner Mark Morrison again as the return of the Mach is a big deal globally. It's Ford's first 'proper' EV (anyone remember the Ford Focus Electric that went on sale in 2013?) and will lead the way for the brand as it expands its electrified range. At launch the Mach-E will be available in two- or four-wheel drive, with a choice of 75kWh or 99kWh batteries and power outputs ranging from 245bhp to 332bhp. Ford is already teasing the idea of a more powerful GT variant with 459bhp, too.

Tesla's Model Y is clearly in Ford's crosshairs with the Mach-E, as the brand hope to bring everyday practicality and usability (maximum range in 99kWh spec is around 370 miles) to its first EV. It's also packed with tech, with a cockpit dominated by a whopping 15.5 inch touchscreen interface along with all of the new generation of connectivity we expect such as the FordPass charging network access system. We'll have to wait until October 2020 for it to hit the road, unfortunately.

Front view of the Mach-E
Size view of the Mach-E

VW ID. Space Vizzion

It looks like what we'd imagine an electric VW Passat would look like. It is also said to offer the space of an SUV with the design and dynamics of a Gran Turismo. We like the look of the Volkswagen ID. Space Vizzion, which is now the seventh concept from the ID. family. It's based on the MEB platform, has an 82kWh battery which enables it to travel up to 366 miles on a charge. 4MOTION all-wheel drive and 335bhp enable the Space Vizzion to hit 62mph in just 5.4 seconds.

Inside and out the Space Vizzion is festooned with intriguing design touches, such as the low-slung bonnet and a horizontal panel between the headlights which optimises the car's aerodynamics. As well as the Fort-trumping 15.6 inch touchscreen, there's also an augmented reality head-up display for the driver and 'AppleSkin' leather which is made from the by-products of apple juice production.

The ID. Space Vizzion isn't just a pretty concept; it forms part of VW's plans for a future car line-up. Volkswagen has been vocal about an EV adoption 'tipping point' for some time, as we previously reported, and it has reaffirmed this talking point when talking to electrek at the show. Vice President of e-mobility at VW, Matthew Renna, said: “When people see a compelling product that combines, of course, the range, the charging capabilities, and the price, combined with the technology and the external factors like dealerships and infrastructure, when all those things hit, then you have to be crazy not to buy an EV.”  

He also said that VW has a “clear line of sight” on said tipping point, although in America how soon it is reached depends heavily on the next election, with the Democrats far more likely to push for EV-friendly legislation.

Hyundai Vision T PHEV SUV

Hyundai has a big market in America, and it chose the LA Auto Show to reveal the seventh concept from its Design Centre. Called the Vision T, it is a PHEV SUV which is slightly smaller than the brand's Santa Fe. In true Hyundai concept tradition, there are no details on the car's powertrain other than that it's a PHEV. We do, however, have a lot of information on the design.

Geometric shapes are central to the car's overall look, whilst there are apparently two sub-themes running through the design. These are Parametric Fantasy and Transcendent Connectivity, which in plain English means that each surface is interconnected, creating a sense of seamlessness and a freedom from distinct boundaries. An active grille doesn't just make cooling more efficient, it also enhances the Vision T's front-end demeanour.

One feature we can definitely get on board with are the hidden headlamps and DRLs which enable the car's overall design to carry the feel rather than distinct headlamps interrupting things. They're also a bit like a modern version of the hidden headlamps on a Dodge Charger – if you use your imagination anyway.

Hyundai Vision T front view, showing off the grill
Hyundai Vision T rear view

Toyota RAV4 PHEV

Hitting the market in the second half of 2020 is the Toyota RAV4 PHEV, which draws on Toyota's 20 years of hybrid experience to become the halo of the RAV4 range. Of the latest RAV4 more than five out of every six sold in Western Europe has been a hybrid, so Toyota is clearly banking on the lower emissions and additional oomph being a compelling enough package to tempt people into a zero emissions-capable version.

The PHEV is based on the same GA-K platform and retains the 2.5-litre petrol engine of the normal hybrid but in combination with the electric motor, total system power is 302bhp. This enables the RAV4 to hit 62 in just over six seconds. We haven't had the car's battery size confirmed, but in EV mode it's good for 37 miles on the WLTP cycle, which should mean an easy 30 miles in real life and makes the RAV4 PHEV the class leader. CO2 emissions will be sub-30g/km – again, lower than any D-segment SUV rival.

Toyota's RAV4 is a big seller in the US, but it definitely has the potential to challenge the ever-popular Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV over here, given its on-paper stats.

White Toyota RAV4
Red Toyota RAV4

Audi e-tron Sportback

We've driven the regular e-tron and were really rather taken by it as an overall package, with the only complaints we could realistically come up with at the time being niggly things. Whilst the underpinnings of the car remain broadly the same as the e-tron, the Sportback not only looks better, Audi has evolved the technology that makes it move to eke out more range.

That striking, coupé-like roofline doesn't just make the e-tron look like an entirely different beast it has also enabled Audi to lower the car's drag coefficient to a slippery 0.25. An additional six miles of range can be attributed to the car's new shape. Continuously variable drive, with a rear wheel drive bias, enhances efficiency – as does active suspension which hunkers down at higher speeds.

Inside, it's generally business as usual for the e-tron Sportback with only a small decrease in overall cabin space. The vast array of kit and technology, driver assistance and comfort-enhancing features is maintained, only it's now wrapped up in that rakish body. And customers who purchase one when it goes on sale in the UK in Q2 next year can be happy in the knowledge that the production plant in Belgium is carbon-neutral.

Honourable mentions

Whilst we've covered the big name cars above, there's no shortage of electrified cars from smaller producers. Karma, which was born out of Fisker, brought a spiced up version of its Revero – the GTS. It uses the same basic range-extender powertrain, comprising two electric motors and a three-cylinder petrol engine. For an additional dose of madness, Karma also showed off its SC2 EV hypercar concept. With 1085bhp and over 10,000lb-ft of torque (no that is not a typo) it should be brisk. A 120kWh battery should also make it good for 250 miles.

For those who value utility over... well almost everything really, US EV minnows, Bollinger, was showing off its B1 and B2 trucks. Looking like an even blockier version of an original Humvee, the cars are designed to be as rugged and capable off-road as possible. Potential customers apparently include the mining industry, search and rescue and scientific organisations. All of which must be a front to a Bond-villain style operation. A 120kWh battery pack in a skateboard layout sends power to all four wheels, totalling 614bhp. Equal weight distribution, huge ground clearance, a lockable diff and low-range gearbox completes the package.

In conclusion

Old habits die hard, and in the US many people are die-hard V8 SUV fans. However, the LA Auto Show is a stark demonstration that in the US, which will be a tough nut for EVs to crack, there is not only willingness, but acceptance. Many of the cars that have been making waves over the pond have global appeal, so we're looking forward to them making landfall next year.



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