Electric cars and concepts at the 2010 Detroit auto show (photos)
Electric concepts have become a familiar sight at auto shows, but the 2010 Detroit auto show played host to more electric cars from major brands than we've ever seen previously.
Audi e-tron II
Audi's second e-tron concept, following the one originally launched at the 2009 Frankfurt auto show, uses a lightweight sports car body. Each rear wheel gets its own electric motor, and the car's torque vectoring corrects for understeer and oversteer. Audi says this car gets to 60 mph in 5.9 seconds, with a range of 155 miles.
BMW built its electric power train into a 1-series chassis, using lithium ion batteries under the hood and over the rear axle to give the car a 50:50 weight balance. Range is estimated at 100 miles, and zero to 60 mph times at 8.5 seconds. BMW intends to build a fleet of these cars and lease them to private individuals to test the feasibility of an electric car.
Although Nissan didn't have an official presence at the show, its Leaf electric car was on display. The Leaf gets 100 miles of range from its lithium ion battery pack. Nissan intends to mass-produce the cars, and will start selling them toward the end of 2010 as a 2011 model.
Mitsubishi is even closer than Nissan in bringing an electric car to production. The iMiev goes on sale in the middle of this year. This electric car, based on Mitsubishi's i city car platform, also runs for about 100 miles with its lithium ion battery pack. Like Nissan, Mitsubishi didn't have an official display at the Detroit show, but the iMiev was given space in an area devoted to electric cars.
Volvo's Electric C30 took center stage in its display at the Detroit auto show. This car is part of a project by Volvo to develop a commercial electric car, and Volvo intends to build a test fleet of 30 of these C30s. Its 24-kwh lithium ion battery pack gives it a range of 94 miles, with acceleration to 60 mph in 10.5 seconds.
Chrysler, under its new Fiat ownership, had an extensive display at the Detroit auto show, but little actual information on the cars. We only knew this Fiat 500 was electric powered because of the battery pack visible under the hood.
Prominently displayed at Tesla's booth was the new Model S sedan, a car intended to be a mass market antidote to the nichey Tesla Roadster. The Model S gets to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds and has a range of 300 miles, impressive specifications for a car of this size.
The Model S uses LCDs for the instrument cluster and center stack, almost eliminating the need for physical switchgear. And Tesla says this is no concept, but a model very close to the production version expected to launch next year.
One of the less conventional electric cars on display, the tandem-seat Tango's odd proportions make it look like it has been squashed. But the company points out that, with acceleration to 60 mph in 4 seconds, it is the world's fastest urban car. With a lithium ion battery pack, the Tango gets a range of over 200 miles.
Detroit repeated its EcoExperience exhibit, launched last year, a driving course for electric and hybrid cars landscaped with flowers and trees. Addressing the need for electric car charging infrastructure, a Pep recharging station is shown in the EcoExperience. These charging stations may become common in parking lots of the near future.
We drove the EcoExperience course in a second-generation Mercedes-Benz F-Cell fuel cell electric car. It glided through the course, demonstrating that the electric car driving experience is no different than driving a gasoline car, only quieter.