By Charlie Fraser, EV Communities Champion
My name is Charlie, and I have a confession. I am a petrol head.
I sit and watch Formula One every weekend. I travel around Europe to follow the WRC and make the pilgrimage to Le Mans every few years. I even have my own race car and compete regularly whenever budget allows (for the avoidance of doubt: mine is an expensive and financially irresponsible hobby). You really cannot meet someone more into burning dead dinosaurs than me. I spend hours on Gran Turismo Sport, I race in an online league. Yeh I am that guy. I've got my PS4 connected to a steering wheel and pedals, and I see racing lines in and around every corner I walk around. I've occasionally even been caught grabbing a handbrake while walking around a tight hairpin on the stairs or through a door. (I even think there are hairpins on the stairs). I love cars.
And yet, at the 2019 International Motorshow in Frankfurt, not one single petrol vehicle grabbed my attention. Not one single cylinder or turbo made me sit up and go “oh yeh, that is awesome.” Many cars did, ones I will cover in the rest of this article. But the electric vehicle revolution that has long been talked about (I bought an electric car 7 years ago) is here. Every single manufacturer’s stand had some degree of electrification on it. Even Lamborghini, the poster child of obnoxiously loud, built-to-look-like-it’s-lifted-out-of-a-comic-book supercars, has released a plug-in hybrid (I know, I know, but let’s celebrate small victories), showcasing plans of an electric future.
Octopus Electric Vehicles sent me out to the motor show with two briefs:
Drive a Jaguar I-PACE all the way from Manchester to Frankfurt. If you want to, take someone that loves electric cars as much as you (so EV Nick was Goose to my Maverick).
Find out about all the cars on display, and tell the world about them.
For those who don’t know the Frankfurt Autoshow, it happens once every two years and is where (primarily) the German brands showcase their production and close-to-production vehicles as they look to release them in the next year or so. Starting in the VW hall, it became apparent there was a reason Volkswagen Group have been talking a good game recently in terms of electric vehicles. They sigmalled their electric ambition across all of their main marques. Volkswagen, Seat, Audi, Porsche, Lamborghini and Skoda all showcased some form of an electric vehicle or another.
The Porsche Taycan brings electric performance motoring to the mass market. Pulling on a rich history of racing in the tradition of Targas racing and endurance racing around Europe, this car will eat countries for breakfast, it will demolish the autobahn and then it will charge over and over again. It’s built around the driver; even how you could hold the touch buttons while cornering has been thought about. The interior is an incredible place to be, you can feel the cold of the milled aluminium and the bolts on the steering wheel, softened by the rugged Alcantara. The sightline is like that of the 911; you feel deep and low within the car, which creates a really sporty feel.
Building on Porsche Taycan, VW Group debuted the Volkswagen ID.3 in its final (or production) form. It’s their electric car for everyone; just like the Golf was before it.
Having sat in the car, I can say it’s built with everything you can expect of a Volkswagen, but interior space for its size is unrivaled, and the driving position is very comfortable and not too high. Electric cars can often feel a bit like you’re sat quite high up in the interior. This isn't the case in the ID.3. Whether this is because of the sloppy front end that drops away very quickly, or that the dash is in your eyeline, you for sure don't need to look down to look at things. The haptic feedback of the touch buttons is a real treat as you get instant feedback and can feel whether you’ve touched the button or not. This is a clear sign that car designers are following the lead of the likes of Apple and putting UX front and centre.
It’s safe to say that the VW brand made a huge statement as most of the cars on their stand were electric.
Audi took a different approach. The Audi Etron has been around for a while now and we know that an Etron GT is on its way, so they showcased their vision of future mobility. This meant an ATV, the PB18 Etron (<swoons>), an inner-city self-driving people carrier and an I.D3-inspired autonomous solution. It was an awesome vision of where Audi see themselves going.
Ever heard of Cupra? It’s the performance arm of Seat, and they’ve been building an electric touring car that will compete in a series over the next few years. They also had the simulator their development driver Mattias Ekstrom uses to train. This gave the general public their first taste of performance-based electric vehicles. As is Seat's business model, they had all the usual VW builds with a bit of Spanish flair.
There were three other cars we had to see; Honda E, Vauxhall E-Corsa and Mini Electric.
Let's start with the Mini Electric. It’s a Mini and it is Electric, and if you sit in it you wouldn't be able to tell the difference between this and the ‘normal’ iteration of the car. I love the Mini Electric.
The E-Corsa is exactly the same. There’s a gap in the electric car market - small, lovable, reasonably priced beauties - that these cars will help fill. I expect to see them both do really well.
Then we come to the Honda E. The staff on their stand were the most knowledgeable by far and took a long time to run through the entire car with us. The hot take from this car...it is so cool!
The interior of the Honda E is a nice place to be, with - EV tech klaxon alert - everything on three big screens, including the mirrors (cameras). Which you can also move so you get the view you normally would want from your mirrors. Overly engineered for the sake of it? Maybe. But that’s what these events are all about.
This event was very much a showcase of cars to come, and as and when they start to hit the UK market we’ll be providing more details of how to get behind the wheel.
The overriding impression that one took from the Frankfurt Motorshow was that European manufacturers are awake to the challenge they face in the transition to electric cars. With Honda joining Nissan as Japanese giants with a strong investment in Europe and European car culture (not to mention up and coming Chinese manufacturers with a wealth of experience and capital to swoop into the market), competition in this area is hotting up.
It’s clear the arrival of the electric car as a viable alternative to petrol and diesel will change the landscape of the motoring industry. The tide has turned. The future has arrived. And you have can join the revolution today.