In part 1 of our review of the 2018 LA Auto Show, we looked at the mobility startup world and how it is proposing to meet tomorrow’s mobility needs. Let’s now look at what traditional carmakers had to offer at the 2018 LA Auto Show.
Traditional Carmakers Shy To Embrace Electric Mobility
As far as the heavy-hitters, Kia is probably the modern car company that intrigues me the most. It was the only mainstream carmaker to prominently show two EVs, including the Soul EV with its 64 kWh battery pack on its main display. The Niro EV and its 64 kWh pack were on the far right side of the stand in front of the Optima PHEV and its 9.8 kWh pack. Apparently, the company doesn’t seem to shy away from showing its plugs to both the media and the public. Thank you for being consistent, Kia.
Subaru prominently showed its plug-in Crosstrek Hybrid with its 8.8 kWh pack. It sounds as if Subaru has some PR work to do around why it is late into the electric game. Officially, the company says it is focused on providing off-road capable cars. Unofficially, it operates on a much smaller budget than others. We look forward to our Crosstrek Hybrid PHEV test drive.
Porsche displays never shy away from bright lights, this time showing its Cayenne and Panamera plug-in hybrids (PHEV). Drenched in white displays, I had to wear my sunglasses to appreciate the contrast in design and flow of the displays and cars. The Cayenne and Panamera PHEVs sport 14 kWh battery packs. The company didn’t show the upcoming Taycan (previously called Mission E), but both PHEVs were shown prominently at the entrance.
Honda showed its Clarity line up. The company has a relatively small 25.5 kWh battery pack in the electric option, a surprisingly small battery for a 2017 vehicle, let alone a 2019 one. The PHEV has a 17 kWh pack. The Clarity models, which also included the normal hybrid and hydrogen fuel cell versions, were not center stage but they weren’t hidden either.
Nissan only showed its 40kWh LEAF. We can confirm that the new LEAF will only have a passive battery thermal management system. Needless to say, the mood wasn’t as cheerful as last year. And Mitsubishi’s display showed a nice concept as well as the Outlander PHEV, with its 12 kWh battery pack, which I reviewed here.
Jaguar showed two of its I-PACE electric SUVs, which come with 90 kWh battery packs. One was in orange and one in dark gray that seemed to catch a lot of attention. As far as Land Rover’s plug-ins, the company showed the Land Rover PHEV and Range Rover PHEV, including the Range Rover Sport version.
Volvo had no problems showing its plug-ins with its regular cars. The PHEV XC60, XC90, S90, and S60 were there and we look forward to test driving them soon. On an interesting note, the Volvo Automobility display showed no cars. It did bring the cars in for the public. It certainly got us talking and intrigued.
2018 LA Auto Show — Hiding Its EVs?
The following carmakers seem to not want to highlight their electric lineups at all.
Ford only showed its Fusion Energi with its 9 kWh pack in the background behind pickup trucks, SUVs, and Mustangs. That’s too bad because that PHEV was a good alternative to the Volt — albeit, not as advanced. Of course, neither model will be sold soon.
Fiat showed its only EV, the 500e (30 kWh battery pack), behind the model’s fun convertible option. As to when will we see an electric convertible? Probably not on this platform, as Mazda designed it and shows little to no intention of making fully electric cars in the future.
Keeping it in the same family, Chrysler showed its Pacifica PHEV, which comes with a 16.6 kWh battery pack neatly tucked away under the back seats. As you can see from the picture, there is a lot of room behind the rear seats. This is a great minivan and we wish the company would highlight it more rather than leaving it alone on the left side of the stage.
VW relegated its sweet e-Golf (35.8 kWh battery pack) to the right stage, strangely enough, behind a pillar. Another electric I.D. Buzz concept was displayed next to the Dumas I.D. R Pikes Peek EV winner this year, as well as a cool electric cargo bike that was only shown for the Automobility days.
BMW showed its i8, including the convertible version and an i3. The other surprise was to see the Mini Countryman PHEV and its 7.6 kWh pack only for the public days and behind other Mini cars. What? …
Mercedes was intriguing, as it seemed to hide its PHEV GLC behind a wall showing the Smart EQ (17.6 kWh battery) and its cars. Mercedes, we love you and your bigger van plug-ins are doing a great job.
Audi prominently showed the e-tron on both media and public days, but pulled out the sleek-looking e-tron GT convertible concept presented last year for the public days.
Acura showed a more muscular version of the NSX PHEV and hinted at a 4 wheel drive version.
Wrapping Up the 2018 LA Auto Show
11 EVs and 19 PHEVs for traditional carmakers at the 2018 LA Auto Show are not bad considering a decade ago there were 3 EVs at most. But one question was raised: where are the Tesla killers we’ve been hearing about for a decade?
So, I decided to go and see what EV-reluctant traditional carmakers are doing. My guilty pleasure is Alfa Romeo. I test drove the Giulia, the BMW 3 Series, and other AMG competition from Italy. The car looks great and its performance is on par with its gasoline counterparts if not better in its feel and character. Sadly, these cars are starting to feel more like incremental updates than anything revolutionary. The Alfa Romeo Giulia is a treat to drive, you would expect. Still, I found myself missing that instantaneous electric torque with lagging combustion engine rev ups. It makes me think that Alfa could make a stellar EV with that kind of DNA.
Overall, the LA Automobility and LA Auto Show showed more electric and electrified platforms than ever. The competition is no longer between traditional carmakers, but between startups and the few established carmakers that will take up the challenge earnestly instead of talking about the future forever. I hope to see NIO, Lucid, Faraday Future, and more at next year’s show to see how they see the future of green mobility in 2019.