Geneva Motor Show 2019 (Part 2)
So now to the forbidden fruit of the Geneva Car Show. Let’s start with concepts.
The car that was highest on my list of ‘must sees’ was the Honda E Prototype. This city car is based on the Urban EV concept car from the 2017 Frankfurt Auto Show. This time the “E” has four doors and a very close to production look about it. The overall vibe is much like the tidy efficient “econoboxes” of the early 1970s. Think of the Renault 5, VW Rabbit/Golf, or of course, the original Civic. Not far from the stage was a modern Civic in Type R trim. No two cars from the same company could look more dissimilar. The E is a breath of fresh air in Honda’s design philosophy. For now, Europe will get all the Es, and then Japan will eventually be added to the sales markets. Sadly, North America is not on the roster. In the current spectrum of battery technology, more range needs more batteries, and more batteries means a bigger car. Honda has purposely restricted the size of the car to make it urban friendly, and in doing so has limited its range to 250 kilometres. The diminutive stature was also a conscious decision to improve driving dynamics. Surprisingly, those dynamics will be based around a rear wheel drive platform. We have been told this will not be an inexpensive car, and considering the range it may seem to be bad value, but I wanted to put it in my pocket and sneak it onto the plane home.
FIAT, who has been absent from the European EV scenes showed a concept called 120; referring to the age of the company. The boxy concept is three years from production. It’s most innovative feature was its ability to swap or remove interior modules.
^^ Seat had its Minimo Concept. It looks very much like a Renault Twizy with doors.
Then there is the DeVinci retro race cars.^^ There is no motor under that hood.
Citroen seemed to have the core elements of its heyday infused into its Ami 1. Those elements are minimalist engineering and an ample dose of wackiness. Like Australian animals, older Citroens evolved into something very unique. The Ami has that feel about it. One door opens towards the front of the car, the other towards the back. By being able to use the same door on both sides of the car, production costs are reduced. But, of course! The little box has a 100 km range and is restricted to a speed of 45 km/hr. It is meant for car sharing use. In France it could be driven by fourteen year olds. This car would be in my other pocket.
From Estonia comes the NOBE. This is a car reminiscent of the post war micro cars. If you know of the Messerschmidt or Isetta you will get the idea. The Nobe is a thing of beauty that in Europe will be considered a motorcycle. It has an ‘in wheel motor’ in each of its three wheels. In my substantial years of reading about cars, I can’t say I remember many three wheel drive models. It uses a rally race type space frame that is covered in a fibreglass body. With its 25 kWh battery the Nobe will take you 260 kilometres with a potential top speed of 130 km/hr. It’s combined trinity of motors produce 98 bhp and will scamper to 100 km/hr in under 6 seconds. The interior is very nicely outfitted and I thought I saw matching luggage. It turns out I was looking at an extra portable battery in a fashionable carry bag. The price is substantial but a lot less than the electric exotics we will get to later. Due to my excitement to get into the car I forgot to take a photo of the front. You must go to “ mynobe.com” immediately if the world news has made you glum today. This car would be in my shirt pocket.
A local Swiss company called e.Go is known for making small electric buses and commercial vehicles. They had an electric recreational vehicle concept (EV-RV, I guess) and a little commuter car concept. The car is a very simple design with very little electronics outside the engine. It has a manual parking brake, Who sys an EV can’t do handbrake turns in the snow? The top of the line edition will sell for 20,000 euros which is very inexpensive for such a car in Switzerland. E.Go is the first company to have the license to use VW’s MEB platform. My bet is that e.Go will make the ID Buggy.
In the regular fare section we had the Renault Zoe which is due for a big revision, the VW E-Golf and e-Up, and the new Peugeot 208e. This is Peugeot’s first EV and I am sure they are responding to the success of Renault’s Zoe. The e-208 is based on a platform that is shared with an ICE version. Peugeot has been talking about a North American return lately, but they may focus on managing autonomous systems and car sharing instead of actually selling cars.
The next section of this article is for those of you with four hundred thousand to two million euros to dispose of. Exotic cars flock to Geneva like bees to honey.
If ten years ago someone had told you that a Croatian electric hypercar would travel from 0-60 in 1.85 seconds, you might have been sceptical. But there it was, the Rimac 2 with its four motors producing 1900 horsepower, and 412 km top speed. Those are scary numbers. Oh yes, it gets a 550 km range.
Next door was the Pininfarina Batista. This car has an interesting lineage. The tractor maker Mahindra from India has been showing a lot of interest in EVs. They have their own car in the Formula E race series. In Genevea Mahindra had a booth with prototypes of small cars and SUVs. Mahindra bought the Torinese design firm of Pininfarina and had them start on a hypercar. Pininfarina went to the Rimac folks and subsequently the Batista has specs similar to the Rimac 2. The body shape is very different though. The Rimac looks like a race car; the Batista looks like a an athlete in an Italian suit.
The historic name of Hispano Suiza was resurrected in Geneva. The Carmen is designed with elements of a 1930s aerodynamic theme with Art Deco details. Reinterpretation of the past is a slippery slope when it comes to car design. I like the result but I could see why many people will not. It has over 1000 hp and will run you 1.5 million euros.
Other exotics were GFG from Torino, Piech from Germany, and Arc Fox from China. The latter has the distinction of using six electric motors. An interesting facet of all these high performance EVs is battery placement. Modules are not under the driver and passenger, but between them and behind them. This allows the occupants to get their posterior area close to the floor, for those classic exotic car ergonomics.
Then there is Gumpet Aiways. The name doesn’t exactly role off the tongue like Ferrari but they have some interesting specs. The German/Chinese GA uses methane to power a fuel cell. It also has a 60 kWh battery. Refilling the methane takes three minutes and leaves you with a 850 km range. It will go from 0-60 in 2.5 seconds powered by 4 motors, with 2 gears per axle. Bosch is involved with Gumpet Aiways. It looks impressive.
Despite the manufacturers that did not show and the fact that 600,000 paid attendance is down from 750,000 of only a few years ago, Geneva (arguably) is still the most important auto show of the international circuit. The stature of EVs at car shows has been increasing; but not even Los Angeles came close to highlighting electrics the way Geneva did in 2019. I am officially changing the spelling to the GenEVa Motor Show.
The significance I take away from GenEVa this year, is the the broadening of the target market for EVs in Europe. With cars like the Honda E and Citroen Ami 1 at one end and the Lagonda All Terrain Concept and Rimac 2 at the other, there was an electric vehicle for everyone at GenEVa.