As 2015 winds to a close, big things are on the horizon for 2016, and the year hasn’t even started yet. As the tired New Year’s Eve parties wind down in Las Vegas, a separate contingent will be busy getting ready for one of the biggest electric vehicle events of the year – CES® 2016. Why, you may ask, do car people, EV fans, and CleanTechnica readers care about CES®? I’m glad you asked…
When Tesla crashed the EV scene, EVs were widely perceived to be glorified golf carts, relegated to the slow lane and only driven by people who live in communes out in the sticks… and the Tesla Roadster changed all of that in a flash. Since then, Tesla has continued to disrupt the scene by piling on the performance and the tech, pulling car nuts and technophiles alike into a car that also just happens to be a zero-emission, good-for-the-environment EV. This shift in the audience changed how the masses thought of EVs, and turned them into objects of desire.
The 17″ touchscreen calls to those of us who were weaned off of flip phones onto smartphones and speaks to us at a primal level — just as the ring called to Gollum, so we are called to the Model S. Okay, maybe that’s a bit much, but there is no denying that the car is absolutely packed with tech and many of us love that. Which brings us to Las Vegas and CES®. With the target audience for EVs shifting from treehuggers to tech nuts, auto manufacturers have steadily built up their presence at CES®, and the automotive display areas in 2016 will be a full 25% larger than in 2015.
In addition to the shift in the market, 2016 is also shaping up to be a year of massive change in the EV space. News of manufacturers popping up, being bought out, seeing massive infusions of capital, or partnering with other major manufacturers is surfacing every other day or so, bringing a steady infusion of innovation and new ideas that need to be shared… and CES® is quickly becoming the venue of choice to show off. Which brings us to next week.
Faraday Future snuck into the EV scene 18 months ago with the quiet opening of its Los Angeles headquarters, but what the company has done since has been anything but quiet. The sneaky startup has been on a hiring frenzy, pulling in talent from boilerplate auto industry companies like BMW and Tesla, with current staffing at the HQ alone at over 400 today. We have looked inside Faraday’s headquarters, read about its recently announced $1 billion dollar factory, and are eagerly looking forward to the reveal of its very first concept on January 4th, just 2 days before CES®. We have an invite to the VIP event and will be keeping you updated with all the juicy details as they unfold… and you can stream the event live here.
Faraday has dropped yet… another… profile shot of its yet-to-be-released concept, leaving us with the belief that it is an aero, all-electric 4 seater with fully autonomous driving… when it is ready. Basically, we don’t know a lot about the car, but the company has broadly hinted that it is attempting to redefine cars from the inside out, freeing drivers up to socialize more during the journey. Check out our past coverage to pull together a more fully formed idea of what to expect here, here, and here. We are looking forward to (finally!) taking the wraps off of this mystery once and for all on January 4th. 🙂
Ford just recently blasted out news of a massive $4.5 billion US investment into a broad initiative to electrify and modernize its fleet, which is extremely exciting. At CES®, we will have some face time with Ford leadership (at a VIP dinner with the CEO & President Mark Fields, CTO & Vice President of Global Product Development Raj Nair, and other Ford execs) and we are looking for more details supporting this top-line plan for both new electrified vehicles and “smart mobility” solutions development and deployment. Ford recently released a teaser for a new plug-in vehicle which will be announced at the North America International Auto Show in Detroit one week after CES® on 1/11/16. We covered the teaser for the new mystery vehicle launch a few days back, which looks like a new plug-in hybrid SUV.
For smart mobility solutions, Ford has globally distributed projects underway from which it will pull the most promising ideas forward for integration into new vehicles. Many of these ideas look exciting and a few look particularly promising — especially the carsharing solutions. Many auto companies are leaning heavily into automation and intelligent carsharing solutions, and with the race heating up, it will be exciting to see who gets to the market first with a full-blown production solution. Ford being in the game is a great sign that the industry is ready for disruption and not just from new companies — but from the incumbents as well.
Volkswagen dropped a teaser for a new concept reveal at CES®. Awkwardly, the teaser photo makes me think of a Ford Explorer with the lower LED lights from the Volkswagen e-Golf. The press release says, “Volkswagen will present a completely new concept car at the CES, to illustrate the major changes that the car is set to go through in the next few years,” which, seeing as how Volkswagen has shown of a minibus concept in the past, makes me think the new reveal will not be another microbus (though, rumor is, that concept will indeed be there). It would be fantastic if the higher posture indicated that this new vehicle is actually an electric SUV, for a few reasons:
First — the microbus concept was funky looking, meaning it will only appeal to a limited audience, and we need some serious EV sales volumes in the next few years, so that wouldn’t be ideal. Second — as Zach mentioned on one of our recent podcasts, SUVs are gas hogs, and replacing them with EVs is a huge win from an emissions standpoint. With Volkswagen attempting to rebound from the ongoing diesel emissions mess, many believe that an about-face towards electric vehicles could send the right signals and put the company back on the long road towards being a reputable company producing good-for-the-planet EVs.
Chevy may very well have the most anticipated launch at CES®, where the massive automaker is expected to reveal, once and for all, the production version of the fast-tracked Chevy Bolt. The Bolt has been all over the headlines, as it will be the first EV with ~320 kilometers (~200 miles) of range under the $35,000 price point. Chevy also announced that it will be available in all 50 states at launch, which really raises the stakes for what is arguably the first production EV that the company actually wants to sell in almost 2 decades, with the Spark EV being a compliance car for ZEV mandate markets.
The Bolt will use LG Chem batteries for which GM secured pricing of $145/kWh, which is very close to the best (if not the best) price in the industry for automotive-quality lithium-ion batteries. The last “big” news I’m hoping for from GM and the Bolt team is a name change. I’m already struggling with folks I talk with about this, as the difference between the Volt and the Bolt is so small, and with the Volt being the familiar name already, introducing a new car with nearly the same name is just going to deadlock discussions around the world. Call me selfish, call my lazy tongued, call me a frog. Do your worst. But whatever you do, please change the name. Pretty please? Okay, I’m done.
Kia also wanted a part of the CES® action and secured a press conference to talk about the Kia vision for the future of autonomous driving. Details are sparse, as the session details only say, “Kia’s vision and roadmap for fully autonomous vehicle.” Kia has long had out the Soul EV, which we recently reviewed, but news of autonomous driving from Kia is very recent news with the first whispers only surfacing in November.
We will have coverage from the floor of CES® and all of the big reveals, so keep your home page set to CleanTechnica for all of the latest updates and photos from the show, starting January 4th, 2016. (Holy cow, it’s almost 2016!!)