Electric cars and SUVs dominated the 2019 Geneva Motor Show, which makes sense. According to Transport & Environment, a European non-profit “campaigning for cleaner transport,” in order to meet the requirements of the Paris climate agreement, the European Union must eliminate sales of new vehicles with internal combustion engines by 2035.
Beyond the product news, however, technological innovation was also on display in Geneva. Let’s take a look at some of the more compelling, and even humorous, visions of our driving future.
Fiat Concept Centoventi Modular Construction
To celebrate its 120th anniversary, Fiat debuted the Concept Centoventi (120 in Italian), an electric car designed and engineered to be affordable and easily personalized.
A modular approach to construction would allow owners to upgrade from the standard 62-mile range estimate to more than 300 miles, to customize the car’s appearance, to accessorize the car with extras, and even determine the layout of the interior.
One of the most compelling ideas behind the Centoventi is battery rental. Fiat says you could buy one with the standard 62-mile range in order to keep the cost of entry low, and then rent additional battery packs when necessary, such as for a trip from Rome to Florence (or L.A. to San Francisco).
Fiat admits that the Concept Centoventi reflects its vision of electric mass mobility, but the company prefers to think of itself as “democratizing everything appealing and trend-setting” with this new electric concept.
Imagine by Kia Concept 21-screen Salute
There are a few things to note about the Imagine by Kia Concept. For example, this electric vehicle wears a new KIA badge that, if applied to production cars, might not get scraped off by insecure owners. It also looks kind of cool, except for its Dodge Durango taillight-inspired front lighting elements.
Technologically, what’s worth noting is the dashboard, on which 21 different infotainment screens are arrayed like dominoes ready to fall. From the driver’s seat, the display looks like a single display (see lead headline photo at the top of this article). Kia isn’t serious about this, though.
Ralph Kluge, Kia Motors Europe’s general manager of interior design, admitted as much. “These 21 incredibly thin screens are a humorous and irreverent riposte to the on-going competition between some automotive manufacturers to see who can produce the car with the biggest screen,” he said in association with the vehicle’s Geneva reveal.
Good to know that Kia still isn’t taking itself too seriously.
Mitsubishi Dendo Drive House
Rumor has it that the Engelberg Tourer, which makes me think of Engelbert Humperdinck on tour (yes, he’s still alive, and he still does) rather than the Swiss ski resort for which the vehicle is named, forecasts the next-generation Outlander, which appears to grow into a legit midsize SUV with a plug-in hybrid powertrain.
In association with the Englebert’s…I mean, Engelberg’s debut, Mitsubishi announced something called the Dendo Drive House (DDH). Basically, if you buy a Mitsubishi electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle, you can get a DDH that includes a bi-directional charger, solar panels, and a battery that you can use to power your home.
Theoretically, this means that power disruption due to weather or natural disasters becomes a thing of the past.
Nissan IMq Concept E-Power Drivetrain
With the Nissan IMq Concept, the company provides a glimpse at its future design direction while showcasing its new E-Power drivetrain, which is closer to the production than the technology seen within this SUV’s cabin.
Expected to make its production debut in an Infiniti model, the E-Power drivetrain is similar in concept to the range-extending systems in the BMW i3 and Chevrolet Volt. However, in this application, the gas-fueled, turbocharged 1.5-liter 3-cylinder engine is permanently charging the battery. You never need to plug the vehicle in.
Nissan says the benefits of this 335-hp, all-wheel-driven drivetrain include electric car feel and performance combined with the ease of gasoline car ownership.
Piech Automotive Mark Zero Quick-charge Battery
If you don’t follow the automotive industry, you don’t know that Anton Piech is the son of Ferdinand Piech, who is the grandson of Ferdinand Porsche. Yes, that Porsche. Not that any of this matters, of course. It’s simply a point of interest.
Anton Piech is the co-founder of Piech Automotive, and in Geneva, the company debuted a seductive looking, if not terribly original, electric sports car called the Mark Zero. It is the first of a family of high-end EVs that will include a more practical car and SUV.
The tech news here is related to the new battery pack, developed by Hong Kong’s Desten Group. Piech Automotive claims that it can recharge to 80% capacity in less than five minutes, and the company claims that maximum range measures over 300 miles. Do the math, and in the time it takes to fill up a traditional gas tank, the Mark Zero can suck up about 240 miles of range.
Furthermore, it employs cell chemistry that doesn’t heat up like existing technology, which means the Mark Zero can employ a lighter air-cooled battery pack rather than a heavier water-cooled system. Piech Automotive also says that, over time, Mark Zero owners can replace individual battery cells if necessary rather than spring for an entirely new battery pack.
Polestar 2 Android-based Infotainment System
With the new Polestar 2, Volvo debuts a new Android-based infotainment system. If you’re rocking an iPhone, don’t worry. They’ll play nicely together.
The new system uses an 11-inch touchscreen display mounted in portrait, or vertical, fashion. Polestar has simplified the menus, improved the graphics, and added natural voice recognition to make it as easy as is possible to operate. Google services are embedded, too, including Google Maps with EV support, Google Assistant, and Google Play Store.
Additionally, the new Polestar 2 employs phone-as-key technology. Essentially, the car wakes up as you approach with your smartphone, allows you to unlock the doors and get in, and then start the vehicle and drive it.
Volkswagen Group MEB Platform
For several years, Volkswagen Group has been showing a range of appealing electric concept vehicles under the I.D. sub-brand. In Geneva, another one debuted called the I.D. Buggy, a modern take on the classic Meyers Manx dune buggy based on the original Beetle platform.
Perhaps more important, Audi showed off the Q4 E-tron Concept, which is just about as production-ready as a vehicle can be.
They’re all based on VW Group’s new MEB modular electric vehicle platform, which the company plans to put underneath a range of Audi, SEAT, Skoda, and Volkswagen models around the world. Production models are due in 2020, kicking off a decade of transformation for VW Group that will touch every one of its brands and models.