SHANGHAI’S MOST INTERESTING CONCEPTS ARE THE FUTURE
Thanks to the exploding Chinese market, the Shanghai Auto Show has become one of the premier auto shows of the world. Most of the major manufacturers bring the goods to Shanghai, and increasingly are saving concepts to unveil there. Vehicles from Chinese manufacturers are catching up to the rest of the world in terms of quality and appeal, and the larger Chinese firms are already expanding out of the country.
The recently proposed aggressive zero-emission mandate has automakers focusing on hybrids and EVs for the Chinese market, which was reflected clearly at the 2017 Shanghai show. Automakers need electric vehicles to represent at least eight percent of their sales in 2018, 10 percent in 2019, and 12 percent in 2020. China’s bold, progressive moves are indeed shaking up the auto industry, accelerating manufacturers’ development of clean energy vehicles as they look to infiltrate the world’s largest automobile market.
The most interesting and potentially impactful concepts debuted at Shanghai all keep this new direction in mind.
Chevrolet FNR-X Hybrid
This wild plug-in hybrid SUV is a logical move for Chevy to make. As consumers warm up to EVs, a plug-in hybrid in SUV form can serve as an appealing stepping stone. Except Chevy doesn’t call it an SUV — it’s an “all purpose sports concept vehicle”. It has opposite-opening doors, and all sorts of modern aerodynamics features, such as active grill shutters and side skirts that adjust according to driving mode. The FNX-8 has a sophisticated autonomous driving system with optical and acoustic sensors all over the place. A solid and adequately ambitious concept from Chevy.
Upstart Chinese automaker NIO has unveiled their all-electric SUV, which has seven seats and will be available in the Chinese market. It has two electric motors, all-wheel drive, and, NIO says, a swappable battery pack that will make the recharging process faster than stopping at a gas station. Sounds great, no? If the ES8 can deliver on all these elements, look for some of them to start appearing in the American and European markets. Though the price is yet to be announced, pre-orders are already being taken.
Audi E-tron Sportback
The E-tron Sportback is an all-electric concept designed to lead Audi to EV domination in the near-as-possible future. It’s a proper sportback with a swoopy roofline and four doors — like an A7 interpreted as a crossover. Since this is Audi, the E-tron Sportback has all sorts of weird lighting features like turn signals that project onto the floor and an LED logo. The interior, of course, is awash with magical gadgets and screens. But does it drive yet? And how does it drive? Yes, and really fast! On paper, this hunk appears to easily compete with your boss’s Tesla. 429 bhp, 590 lb-ft of instant electric torque, and 0-60 in 4.5 seconds. And the range? Audi says it can potentially go as far as 310 miles on a single charge, but you’d probably have to drive like my Great Aunt Gertrude to achieve that.
British automaker MG, which is owned by Shanghai SAIC Motor, brought the prettiest girl to the party. The E-Motion concept is a plug-in EV with a 310-mile range, and is a preview of the future direction of the entire MG brand. MG says the 2+2 sportscar can make the dash to 60 mph in “less than four seconds”, which is pretty incredible. It will have an “intelligent infotainment system” and be “fully internet-compatible”, because, millennials. The two-door grand tourer ticks all the visual boxes with elegant but aggressive lines, big rear haunches, and McLaren-esque dihedral doors. Best of all, when the E-Motion his production around 2020, it will carry a price tag of under £30,000 (about $39,000 today). No word on which markets MG will ship to, but fingers are crossed for a US version.
FCA has decided to follow all the trends and has unveiled a plug-in hybrid SUV, but surprise, it’s a Jeep! The Yuntu Concept has seven seats and an electric-only range of about 40 miles from the powertrain developed for the hybrid Chrysler Pacifica. Jeep says the Yuntu’s hybrid drive and futuristic styling are meant to target the Chinese market, and if it plays well, they’ll consider expanding their presence in China.
Lynk & Co E3
Lynk & Co, the new and disruptive subsidiary of Chinese giant Geely, unveiled their new 03 sedan concept in Shanghai. Its modern looks aren’t the only futuristic aspect of the concept. In keeping with the brand’s modern connectivity-focused ethos, the E3 will always be connected to the internet and will have free unlimited data. The car has its own cloud, an open API, and its own app store. Lynk & Co plans to ditch the dealership model and sell its vehicles online worldwide, and their original model, the 01, should be available in Europe and the US in 2018.
Mercedes Concept A
Mercedes is staying on the gas with their heavy-hitting A-class, which accounts for most of their sales growth. The extra-sleek looks represent a new period for Merc’s design language, according to Chief Design Officer Gorden Wagener. “With its perfect proportions and a sensual treatment of surfaces with reduced lines, it is the next milestone of ‘Sensual Purity’ and has the potential to introduce a new design era,” he says. Continuing on the ‘sensual purity’, Merc has coated an internal grid structure in the headlights with UV paint, making the lights glow in different colors according to the time of day. Nobody really knows why, but it looks cool, right? They’ll manufacture this puppy in Germany, Hungary, and China, which explains the Shanghai debut.