If something is happening in the European car industry, chances are it'll arrive at the Geneva Motor Show.
New models, new concepts, new technologies – so many of them get their public debut at the annual event in Switzerland.
This year was no exception and, while electric vehicles are nothing new, the days of electrification being confined to milk floats are long gone. Electric cars may still be few in number compared to their combustion engine counterparts, but they are steadily on the increase.
This was particularly evident in the statement made by Audi, who turned up with nothing but electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. And while there were the traditional, odd-looking concept cars present that look like they’d transported through time from the year 2100, plenty looked like those you’d find on the forecourts today.
BMW also unveiled its new 7 Series range to the public, including its 745e plug-in hybrid, and also announced a raft of existing models that will get the electric treatment. These include its X3 (xDrive30e), the X5 (xDrive 45e) and its new 3 Series saloon, while existing models will get new and improved batteries to increase their range.
Alfa Romeo showed off the Tonale – a more compact SUV in comparison to the Stelvio – and the firm’s first plug-in hybrid that can run solely using an electric motor. Though, like many cars unveiled at Geneva, the figures were in limited supply, it looks fantastic. Alfa is almost certain to put this or something similar into production, but we’re still awaiting the official announcement.
In the everyday car segment, Peugeot unveiled its e-208 model which – hardly surprisingly – is an electric version of its fuel-drinking 208 supermini. What’s most striking about the Peugeot is not so much the car itself, but its ability to quick-charge, as Peugeot claims to be able to charge the battery to 80% in just half an hour.
One of the most conventional-looking electric cars was Audi’s Q4 E-tron. It looks much like the previously launched E-tron SUV, only smaller, and has two electric motors – a 204hp to power the rear, and a second, smaller one for the front. It looks like this could well be a rival for Jaguar’s I-PACE and is due to enter the market next year.
Plug-in petrol-electric hybrid versions of the A6, A7, A8 and Q5 were also on offer, along with the all-electric GT e-tron. Though the GT is officially a concept car, it is also a car that is almost certainly going to appear in dealerships, with two electric motors producing over 580hp. Expect this to rival Tesla’s Model S and Porsche’s new Taycan, which looks like a futuristic 911 with exaggerated bulbous-ness.
Honda also unveiled the e Prototype, which at first glance, looks like a futuristic version of the Mk1 Volkswagen Golf. It’s a follow-on from the Urban EV concept that was showcased a couple of years ago and, although the e Prototype (as its name suggests) isn't the finished product, Honda says it's virtually the same as the year it intends to market later this year, although by then it will have a new name.
It's only a four-seater, and there are no details as yet. And while it's just a supermini, it's unlikely the small size will be reflected in the price tag.
Kia unveiled its facelifted Niro, with hybrid and plug-in hybrid models on display. It also showcased the latest version of the Soul – a purely electric vehicle now with a claimed range of 280 miles which will be arriving in showrooms soon.
Mercedes took the covers off its concept EQV – an electric people-carrier with a range of 240 miles and the ability to transport up to eight people. It only has a top speed of about 100mph, but in a vehicle so big, that'll be more than sufficient. That’s as long it can harness enough power to move it from a standing start with a full load of people.
Renault’s Clio e-Tech was also on show and is due to make its debut next year. The French firm claims fuel economy will improve by up to 40% over its existing line-up, with a 1.6-litre petrol engine mated to an electric motor and an automatic gearbox. Renault isn’t planning an all-electric version yet as it already offers the Zoe for that. And that appears to be the firm's primary focus for now in terms of purely electric cars.
At the other end of the scale, Pininfarina launched its first ever self-named production car. It may not be a name known to many outside the car industry, but the Turin-based Italian firm is responsible for designing many vehicles over the years for manufacturers including Peugeot, Ford, Bentley and even Ferrari. The Pininfarina Battista, named after the company’s founder, Battista Farina, is an all-electric 1,900hp monster with a claimed 0-62mph time of under two seconds.
The the Geneva Motor Show wouldn’t be the same without some extravagant concepts that look like they come from a children’s storybook. You probably haven’t heard of Hispano Suiza. Not surprising, as the company hasn’t made a car since 1943. Yet somehow, it’s making a comeback. The business, which has been in the aerospace industry since it last made cars, has launched the Carmen. Put simply; it looks like a Morgan would if it were mutated in some sort of sci-fi zombie apocalypse, but in a fun way that’ll make you smile rather than scream. You might scream, though (or at least shriek) when experiencing its claimed Bugatti Veyron-esque power output of 1,000hp. Albeit unlike the Bugatti, this one uses all-electric power. Whether it stacks up to its claimed range of 250 miles with all that grunt remains to be seen.
On a similar note, Aston Martin also unveiled the ‘All-Terrain Concept’ as part of the revival of its Lagonda-badged brand, which looks like it will be used for Aston’s all-electric vehicles of the future. All that’s known about it is it’s an SUV, and we won’t necessarily expect it to come out of the factory looking like a UFO as it did in Geneva. Nevertheless, it’s likely something taking inspiration from this concept will see the light of day in the next three or four years.