2019 Canadian International Auto Show

There are six major international automobile shows in the world. You may have guessed these five; Frankfurt, Paris, Tokyo, Detroit, and Geneva. You may be surprised to know that the sixth is the Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto. I try to attend the C.I.A.S. most years and I can vouch for the fact that it has all the makings of a righteous event. In addition to supplying manufacturers with a large venue to display their latest cars and trucks (with their Canadian prices), there are concept cars, classic cars, and displays as diverse as Canadian military vehicles to electric bicycles. The show is also the stage for important national announcements, such as the AJAC Awards. This year’s announcement that we EVers would be most interested in, was that Petro Canada will be adding electric car charging facilities to 50 of their gas stations; the majority of which will be situated along the Trans Canada Highway.

This news has enormous ramifications, but let’s leave that topic for another day. The chargers themselves have an overhang with lights. There are two charging cords. One is a 100 kw CHAdeMO while the other is a 200 kw CCS. A reliable source informed me that Petro-Canada is looking to the future and that these charging units have the potential of providing 350 kw. Construction starts in the Spring. Locations are yet to be published. I will get back to you on that. A representative for the marketing firm responsible for this project made it known that they are looking for suggestions. I suggested; using station attendants as valet jockeys to move cars that are fully charged but still plugged in, targeting manufacturers (that specialize in Rex and plug in hybrids) with stored value “Energy Cards” as these vehicles need both forms of fuel on offer, and ensuring that the approaches to charging stations are clear of snow. I have the contact information for this firm if you are interested in contributing ideas.

This year’s show was unique in that it is the first since the Doug Ford Ontario Government (“Doug and the Thugs”) cancelled (entirely) the Provincial Electric Vehicle Incentive. This rebate could have amounted to as much as $14,000. A Toronto area Nissan dealer told me that for years he had done a brisk business in Leafs, but has not sold a single one since the program’s cancellation. All those Chevrolet Bolts that you are seeing in B.C. dealerships were reallocated from Ontario as well due to this turn of events.

So was there much local enthusiasm for EVs at the C.I.A.S.? Even with the Ontario Government situation, it was far from all doom and gloom.The Plug ‘n Drive EV Club was at the show in full force and organized test rides of sixteen different vehicles. These folks are energized and even have a full time Discovery Centre. This is an actual brick and mortar location where an inquisitive EVirgin can learn about life with an electric vehicle, and even go for a test drive.

So, what did the vendors put on the floor? I limited myself to information on full BEVs in the Canadian market. I visited every manufacturer asking the following questions. What do you have that is new? What is its range? How much does it cost? When can I get one? Here are the Good, the Bad, and the Unsubstantiated.

The best presentation by kilometres was Kia’s. They had the all new Kia Soul EV and the e-Niro on display. Their dedicated EV presentation area was up front, bright and expansive, even though it only housed two cars. There were large signs claiming that both vehicles have an “EPA” range rating of 385 kilometres. This is less range than their similarly powered cousin (the Kona electric), perhaps due to increased (Niro) weight or inferior (Soul) aerodynamics. I was (unofficially) told of a starting price of $39,000 for the Soul and $46,000 ~ for the Niro. The Niro is supposed to be in dealerships in April and the Soul in May …. of this year.

I spent a LOT of time with these vehicles. I got in and out, folded seats, and adjusted everything I could get my hands on. I must say that, the ease of ingress/egress, head room, back seat and cargo room of both of these vehicles are substantially superior than that of the Kona.

The Kona was neither hidden nor highlighted in the Hyundai booth. It was up front though rubbing fenders with all its ICE (age) siblings. I think of that as a good thing. Kona is available at EV approved Hyundai dealerships across the country. There was no official date of the availability of the lower spec version. The Kona is a great vehicle for those that do not need a big back seat. It has a 30km range advantage over the Kia duo. An article posted (Dec. 2018) on the Inside EVs website claims that U.S. Konas do not get the battery thermal management system or heat pump that is standard on the Canadian models. Go Canada.

Nissan’s Leaf Plus (with its 62 kWh battery) was on display. Its EPA range rating is 363 kilometres. The availability question was dodged. I was told the smaller battery model will be phased out when Plus arrives. I guessed at a base price of $44,000; in tune with Bolt and Kona. The rep put on a Mona Lisa smile and made a motion like a bobblehead in a gentle breeze. This the second generation of the best selling EV model in the world. The Leaf Nismo RC was also on display. There were six of these extreme cars built.They are research vehicles masquerading as race cars.

Continuing under the Nissan umbrella, Infiniti featured the QX Inspiration SUV Concept.

   

According to Infiniti we can expect a vehicle based on this theme by 2021. It employs the ubiquitous two motor all wheel drive platform of all the premium SEVs. What really stands out about this prototype is its Japanese themed interior. Car designers anticipate future trends, and this interior is all about facilitating autonomous travel. It is more of a lounge environment than a car interior. I doubt the marble on the centre console and door sills will make it into production. This is not your father’s Infiniti.

It seems that the industry is establishing some predictable price categories for BEVs in Canada. The two wheel drive (300+ km range) models have a (base) price in the mid forty thousand dollars. Most of the All Wheel Drive Luxury “SEVs” start around ninety thousand. Ninety Gs is what Audi wants for the base production E-Tron. Design wise, I do not think of the E-Tron as a massive innovator, either technologically or in terms of design. It is a handsome predictable vehicle. The interior is very traditional for a German automobile; the exception being the gear shifter, which looks (to me) like a flip phone turned sideways. If there is anything that is not standard amongst EVs, it is how gears are selected. If SAAB still existed, I believe they would put the shifter on the ceiling. Audi claims Tron will have a 400 km range and you can expect delivery in June. The Audi rep I chatted with said that this car’s essence is in its dynamic driving experience. The test drive in the March issue of Motor Trend magazine and other test sources concur with this summation.

Much less palpable was the promise of a production model based on Volkswagen’s I.D. Crozz Concept. The prototype was displayed (again) on the Volkswagen stand. There were specifications available this year. The production model which will be made in Chattanooga Tennessee and is scheduled for production next year or in 2021. It will have an 82 kWh battery. It will be all wheel drive with two motors; a 75 kw front and 150 kw rear. The range is forecasted to be 350 kilometres. That range was listed on their specification sheet as being established by NRCAN. That would be Natural Resources Canada, which seems an odd testing agency for a German vehicle that isn’t on the road yet.

Volkswagen sees the I.D. Crozz as a direct competitor to the Tesla Y. I am interested to see the price of both of these vehicles compared to that $90,000 Luxury SUV standard.

The really important episode of the VW soap opera will probably have to wait until the Frankfurt Show in September. That is when the I.D. hatchback, (called I.D.3) that is based on the same MEB platform as the Crozz makes its debut. This hatchback’s real appeal might be its significant availability due to the sheer volume of production that an industry giant like Volkswagen can crank out. VW is promising very competitive pricing without actually giving any numbers. It is worth noting that the I.D.3 will be propelled by the rear wheels. Those of you that read carefully will have noticed that the Crozz is engineered to have a rear wheel power bias. At the Los Angeles car show, a Volkswagen of America rep told me that they were surprised at the demand for the e-Golf, and that VW was redirecting their big research dollars into EVs. For now, North America is not slated to get the I.D.3, but hopefully at next year’s Toronto Show we will see the Crozz; in production form. All I know for sure is that too many cars are called 3.

Part of Volkswagen’s penance for Dieselgate was to set up the Electrify America charging network. You may already know that there is going to be an Electrify Canada network as well. There was no mention of it at the show, but it will have the same 350 kw capable chargers as our American neighbours. The initial phase will have 32 stations in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec. Does anyone drive EVs in Saskatchewan?

Volkswagen also had the I.D. Racer on display. This is the winged EV monster that set a new elapsed time record for the Pikes Peak Hill Climb. It beat the former (ICE) record setter by a second and a half with about half of that car’s horsepower. I.D.Racer relied on light weight, prodigious down force and a general disregard for the effects of altitude.

Those Electrify Canada 350 kw chargers will come in handy for the final member of the VW electric vehicle family; the Porsche Taycan (Tie-Kon) sedan. You can now place an order for this Model S chaser. In fact, the Vancouver dealership already has 250 deposits at $2500 each. The thing that stands out about this car is the fact that it will not only drive fast it will charge fast. It has an 800 volt battery. With the right charger it will jam in 96km of range in 4 minutes. Every Taycan will be all wheel drive. There will be variations in power and battery capacity, but all of those specs were not relayed to me. Prices start at $100,000, but I was told to expect to spend $130,000 to get the car the way I want it. Oh!… Okay. We should see the “Porsche of EVs” late this year or early next year. It has been reported on the internet that the top model in the Taycan line will follow suit of the other Porsche lines and be called “Turbo”. How odd is that? I hope I can get a Hemi EV.

Even though Mercedes Benz had the EQC Concept up on a revolving platform, there was not much mojo around it. There were no specs or prices, though I was told the production model would be available in Canada in early 2020.

The Smart EV soldiers on as a two seater with 95 km range and a $30,000 sticker price. That range figure might be looking weak compared to a used Leaf, Spark or “old Soul”. Still, the Smart is the least expensive new EV in the country and leaves a lot of room in a garage for toys. I was reminded that it is the only full EV that has a removable roof.

BMW had the new long range i3 on hand. It can now travel up to 250 kilometres. The BMW representative confirmed that the REX version will continue to be offered in Canada even though that option has been deleted for Europeans. There was no iX Concept (that has been around the Car Show circuit for a year) and no information on the SUV based on the iX. This was disappointing considering how boldly BMW embraced the EV thing with the original i3. I made the suggestion that a small convertible based on the platform of the i3 might find customers.

MINI says 2020 will be when we will see their EV in Canada, but gave me no other information.

Jaguar had a fully loaded production i-Pace on the stand which was optioned well over $100,000. I think the i-Pace’s forte is its style. There are so many interior options, involving leather, wood, chrome and carbon fibre. This is the antithesis of a Tesla 3 interior. If while you are driving you need to remind yourself (or your passenger) as to where all your money went; just look around. I also like the exterior proportions of this car. Unlike other companies new to the EV thing, the Jag designers took advantage of the diminutive EV motors to dial in small overhangs on the body. With that low roof line and the biggest wheels you can get, this “Cat” shows its claws. There was no news about upcoming models.

Chevrolet had a Bolt way in the back of the booth but at least it was “Shock” coloured to stand out. There was not much news concerning the Bolt. There has been internet blurbs suggesting there won’t be any significant changes until 2025. The existence of a Buick version of the Bolt was denied by Chevrolet and Buick. If I was doing the daily commute from Chilliwack to Vancouver, this would be my choice of car; especially if I was carpooling. Back seat room is generous. Visibility is a strong suit, and is further enhanced (in the Premier trim) by a rear view mirror that is linked to a camera. It also has an overhead 360% image on the infotainment screen for easy parking downtown.

A GM rep told me that the Volt platform is not dead and that there will be two range extenders in GM’s future in Canada. Maybe they will make them in Oshawa?

Tesla’s display was in the basement and was smaller than the information booth at Ford. There was an S, X, and a Model 3 crammed in with about 15 reps to chat with. The place was so busy I contemplated doing the mosh pit thing to get to the other end. Of course, the discussion of Model Y brings a friendly shrug. Small booth or not, you could sense the fact that the public recognized these folks as “the”folks. How is it only Tesla has a meaningful Frunk?

Pretty much everyone else tried to steer me towards plug in hybrids or gave me projections that were later than my “Best Before Date” for driving ability. Ford may use its new found limited partnership with Volkswagen to jump start its EV program. Toyota (who admits to losing Prius customers to Tesla) said I would wait until the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games to get their EV news. I wasn’t going, actually. Honda not only did not have either of their wonderful Urban EV or Sport EV concepts in Toronto. No one at the Honda booth was even aware of their existence.

I visited the show on opening day (with my brother who has owned a Leaf since 2012) and again the next day on my own. The Toronto Convention Centre is right downtown and has 650,000 square feet of displays. Last year 358,000 people attended the ten day event. In the last few years it has become a regular occurrence for big name automobile manufacturers to forgo the major international shows. For example, Ford will not be at Geneva this year. Everybody (except Mitsubishi) came to Toronto.

Well, that is my 2019 Canadian International Auto Show report. If you are dubious about things like the price of the Soul, the size of the battery for the I.D. Crozz, or how many new vehicles will be introduced in the next two years, I would say that I am with you. In general though, the show demonstrated that there is a buzz for electric vehicles in Canada. I am delighted that we are offered as many choices as we are; and nationwide, unlike the U.S. Now all we need is a national incentive program. Summarizing the Canadian EV presence is like that “half full, or half empty glass” analogy. Or, maybe a battery that is half full … and charging.