Geneva International Motor Show 2019
It was again time to visit the beautiful surroundings of Geneva.
Hotels in the city while the motor show is in session are impossible to book and crazy overpriced. Last year, we had a hotel high up in the snow. This year, it was an Airbnb apartment a few tunnels and scary mountain roads away, but no snow to speak of. Geneva is not a show to visit if you don’t like driving.
Walking the immense halls of the Geneva “Palais d’ Exposition” — Palexpo, for short — I was glad I could ignore most of what was on display at the 90th Geneva International Motors Show. I am not a car guy — supercars are wasted on me. The only reason for being there was my interest in electric cars. Two years ago at the IAA in Frankfurt, Germany, I could ignore 99%. This year, in Geneva, it was only 95%, a number that is pushed to this height by all the sport and luxury cars that are on exhibition here. (Porsche and Mercedes belong not in this category.)
Searching for the cars we made the journey to Geneva to see and learn about, there were some nice surprises, some disappointments, and others that met our (high) expectations.
Like last year, our first visit was Polestar. After being the revelation of the previous show, this year, Polestar presented what well could be the first co-competitor to the Model 3 in the luxury D segment. These two can send a clear message to the dinosaur juice burning other vehicles in this class. Their time has come.
Exploring further, a pleasant surprise was Peugeot. Though, not because of the futuristic light show on the giant Lion guarding the entrance. It was for what the light show symbolized. The whole stand was dedicated to the electrification of the Peugeot brand. Their best-selling model, the 208, did get a major refresh and, contrary to Renault hiding the new Zoe while presenting the new Clio, Peugeot showed the fully electric 208e as the most important version of model.
We quickly passed the Citroën stand and its stunning concept “Ami one,” which is not really a car, as explained in another article. Citroën will have a turn showing its new electric offerings later this year.
For a brand that envisions itself as a leader in the electric vehicle field, disappointment is too weak a qualification for BMW’s stand. A lonesome i3 was hidden in a corner in the back. All the attention was focused on the new releases of BMW’s 7 and 8 Series gas guzzlers. It appears they really believe their own propaganda that around 2030 only 15% of their cars will be without a tailpipe. They are not preparing for a future where less than 15% will have a tailpipe well before 2030.
In happy anticipation, we moved on to the Mercedes stand. A new electric V-Class people mover was announced.
Approaching the prominent, big vehicle in the first row, I was surprised to see V 300D on the back displayed where I expected to see EQV. Consequent in the naming of Mercedes sub-brand electric vehicles, the EQV was with the other EQ models in its own part of the stand. Regretfully, it was only a mockup for the show, not ready to be driven. But with the prominent EQCs on the stand and the complete line of EQ-Smarts beside it, it was clear that Mercedes thought electric cars an important part of its future.
After the huge splash Kia made last fall in Paris with the e-Niro and the subsequent e-Soul upgrade, there was nothing left for us at this show. The Swiss public will be impressed by the electric capabilities of the Kia electric and plug-in hybrid models. If Jose Pontes’s monthly updates are any indication, the Swiss will follow the example of many other Europeans and buy them in droves.
Hidden beside the entrance to the aftermarket upgrades hall, we found Tata Motors. Last year, Tata celebrated its 20th participation in the Geneva Motor Show with a really beautiful electric concept. This year, there were five brand new vehicles on the stand. But Tata does not come to Geneva to wow its European customers — it doesn’t have any. Tata comes to Geneva to communicate with the home front in India. That is a shame — the company has really nice products. Its fully electric SUV would be a nice addition to the market.
Heading back from the farthest corner of the show, we encountered Rolls Royce. Someone has convinced the brand that it would be a good idea to try to be modern and have an SUV. The result is a monstrosity that looks like the cruise ship sized models from more than a century ago. The only reason for it to leave the road is to enter a meadow where the butler can lay out a picnic, using the standard onboard silverware and porcelain while the passengers sip champagne from the RR-engraved crystal flutes. For us, it was the fail of the show.
Ignoring McLaren and Maserati, we went to the stands on the other side of Polestar, where we began our tour. The south half of Halls 4 and 5 was occupied with the even less interesting FCA and Toyota brands. But on the north side we had Honda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, and Renault. For a BEV reporter, these are four stars of the show.
Honda is making moves as if it is really serious to enter the electric arena. In Frankfurt it did have a long line of reporters for its concept mini car, something that mystified me, until I found that the journalists also got a trinket (a popular drinking mug for the road). It paid in press attention. This year, the Honda Urban Mini EV concept was evolved to close to a prototype. They say it might reach production this year. When it reaches production, it will get all the attention it deserves here on CleanTecnica. Right now, it still looks too much like a design student’s final product for the exam commission. Nice, daring, impractical, and not for production.
Neighboring Mitsubishi had two eye catchers: 1) A house powered by the battery of an Outlander, the Dendo Drive House. It had solar panels, storage, inverters and other goodies, as described by Steve Hanley. It is the future, but still a few years away. 2) The other eye catcher is a the concept Engelberg Tourer SUV. Like other smaller carmakers, the Mitsubishi’s concept cars are close to release candidates. This one is no exception. The manager on site could not say if or when it would see production, just that it was a newer architecture than the Outlander, with a ~20kWh battery and a new AWD system. But it is not the successor to the Outlander. It has three rows, an integrated roof box, and a luxury interior, with plenty of room for luggage.
Alliance partner Nissan was showing many electric models on its stand, and most were Leafs. There was also a new concept to show the world, the IMQ SUV. It has an autonomous, self-driving capacity (not ready for production this or next year) and an e-Power drivetrain. The e-Power is a series hybrid drivetrain without the option to plug it in. This is always a huge disappointment for many electric drive enthusiasts.
The main strength of the e-Power is in marketing. On the showroom floor it is a winner. When there are 5% to 20% of customers willing to consider an electric car in some markets, the other 80% to 95% are not willing to consider it, let alone take a test drive. This is just a hybrid like so many other cars. Getting someone to test drive a hybrid is not that difficult, but then it drives far better and more economically than any other gas-powered car — that’s an easy sale. According to salespeople, the standard reaction after a test drive is, “Where can I sign?”
Unlike most plug-in hybrids, it is not electric the first few miles or when driving slowly, with the real power kicking in when needed. The e-Power drives 100% of the time 100% electrically. The battery gets recharged every few minutes from the nearly silent onboard gas generator.
While the (fake) plug-in hybrids of the other carmakers teach their clientele that, for real driving, you need a gas engine, this plug-less powerhouse teaches that the best possible driving is electric. Buy the next one as a fully electric car and you will safe a lot on gasoline. The e-Power could turn out to be the best BEV advocate among all the different hybrid types that are now offered.
Renault devoted this show to the new incarnation of its moneymaker, the Renault Clio. The new Zoe is saved for Frankfurt, or a special event around that time. But unlike German competitors that think they can take over the EV market if and when they decide, Renault did have a full range of its electric offerings at its stand.
We then went up the stairs to the grounds of the most dominating presences of the show. That was not the many brands of the Volkswagen AktienGeselschaft (VAG). It was the Koeningsegg, Rimac, Pagani, ABT, Bugatti, and other fantasy cars. That is what most of the visitors are here to see, creations even many millionaires can only dream about.
In the far corner there were two German EV startups, Piëch and e.GO move. The first has a famous name and lots of money — parts of the Piëch/Porsche familie are in control of VAG. Piëch bought a design from Aston Martina and promises to turn it into a BEV.
Meanwhile, e.Go is a university startup that is the inventor of the streetscooter. It also has ideas and products for electric public transport: a luxury minibus that is best as a hotel shuttle, and a more robust small bus for normal public transport duties. Those busses alone would earn e.Go accolades, but it did have a real surprise at its stand.
The company started production of its electric mini city car. It’s a bit like the Honda concept, but real and ready to buy for a starting price below €16,000. To put that into perspective, that is about what you can get in local + state + federal incentives in some places in the USA. And it is enough of a real car to qualify!! I guess this is not the last you will read about this on CleanTechnica.
At last we reached the end of our tour. The VAG domain was parceled out over its many brands. Most have nothing with EVs, at least not today. Like that other German brand that thinks it can dominate the EV space (actually, not accurate, BMW thinks it is dominating it already), Volkswagen leaves most of it electric offerings and concepts at home for some reason. There was the ID Buggy, a toy for on the beach, and the T-Roc, some kind of SUV. But really, there was no news.
Audi and Porsche were as devoid of real EV news as Volkswagen. Although, Audi did have a concept Q4 e-tron. They are probably saving it all for IAA in Frankfurt this year. But the electrics they did have were shown prominently on their stands, among other exciting (in their eyes) newish offerings.
Seat was the exception. It had a Twizy clone and a real prototype SUV, the el-Born. Based on the VAG MEB platform, it promises to have decent range, DC fast charging, a skateboard underneath, and a great driving experience. These two BEVs were the very proud centerpieces of the stand. What a difference from not that long ago, when an electric offering was shown with a certain ambivalence.
That leaves Skoda as the last major VAG brand, showing something between a prototype and a 3D announcement of what a possible future product could look like. Not as wild and far out as many concepts, but not as real as a prototype.
With all the real announcements of fully electric cars that will be ready to order in a short time, concepts, prototypes, and other trial balloons are less enticing to report on. That is different from the time when concepts was all we had.
Looking back on my first visit to a motor show as a CleanTechnica reporter, only one and a half years back in Frankfurt, what a difference that time makes. Many more brands have BEVs on their stands. Often, they have their current offering and a future concept or prototype. Without the CleanTechnica home team introducing most of the premieres from the press releases, I would be completely overwhelmed by the amount of news there was to report.
Ten years ago, when I visited a car show for the first time to look at electric vehicles, at the RAI in Amsterdam, it was a complete waste of time. Anybody interested in a broad overview of the electric offerings and for whom Frankfurt is not too far away, put September 12th through 22nd, 2019, on your agenda. Or visit the LA, Detroit, New York, Shanghai, or Beijing shows. The news gets better every time.
Photos by Jos Olijve and the various press kits from carmakers.
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