Renault Morphoz concept animation of the car expanding

Electric cars from Geneva 2020

March’s Geneva Motor Show went virtual this year – thanks to COVID-19 – and was live-streamed to its global audience instead. Here are the most future positive EVs from the car show that didn’t happen. Craig Thomas reports
BMW i4

BMW committed itself to electric cars earlier than most of its rivals. Its i3 was a genuine game changer when it was introduced in 2013.

Now its i4 model – which has been a long time coming – was unveiled in concept form only and proved highly divisive due to that huge grille; nicknamed grillezilla by some of the motoring press. The car you see here is expected to be almost identical to the finished model when it goes on sale next year. It’s less groundbreaking than the i3, but Tesla will be watching closely because it might yet represent the biggest rival it has to its super-successful Model 3.

Based on the BMW’s 4 Series Gran Coupe, the i4 features special alloy wheels to improve its aerodynamics and lower side skirts to hide the battery pack from view.

With 80kWh at its disposal, the i4’s 523bhp motor facilitates a 0-62mph time of just four seconds and a top speed of 124mph. The range is a theoretical 373 miles, which means the i4 should have more than enough stamina to make most journeys possible on a single charge.

Fiat 500e

Electric cars are ideal as around-town runabouts and not just because they’re emission-free. A raft of battery-powered versions of small cars including the Mini and the Fiat 500 are on their way.

Like the Mini Electric and the Honda e, Fiat’s 500e is principally designed for urban drivers. When it hits showrooms later this year, the 500e will rely on a 42kWh battery to deliver a range of 199 miles (on paper, at least). Using a fast charger the battery can be charged from empty to 80% capacity in 35 minutes, or add a quick 31 miles to the range in just five minutes. The 114bhp motor will take the 500e to a top speed of 93mph – which should be plenty for a quick trip to the shops, the school run or to visit friends in town.

Volkswagen ID.4

The ID.4 is the second of Volkswagen’s dedicated electric vehicles, after the ID.3, which arrives in the UK later this year. An all-electric SUV, the ID.4 will offer a range of up to 311 miles, depending on the size of the battery pack that buyers opt for, and will be a rival to the likes of the Kia e-Niro.

Displayed with a camouflaged body and very little specifics, the final car should share a number of similarities with the more futuristic ID. Crozz concept, seen three years ago, including a blanked-off radiator grille, LED headlights and raked windscreen.

Aiways U5

As with computers and mobile phones, Chinese car manufacturers see Europe as a market ripe with potential, so expect to see vehicles from the People’s Republic on our roads in the next few years.

One of them could be the Aiways U5, an all-electric SUV that aims to compete with the Audi e-tron and Mercedes-Benz EQC, but at a lower price point. It has a range of around 285 miles, but Aiways claims that the ‘artificially intelligent’ battery pack can extend the range by up to 62 miles. Whether the brand will connect with European buyers remains to be seen; but if the smartphone market is anything to go by, Huawei is doing just fine.

Dacia Spring Electric

Budget brand Dacia is aiming to launch its first electric vehicle in early 2021, based on an EV that is currently on sale in China, the Renault K-ZE (Renault is Dacia’s parent company).

The Spring Electric is a small SUV suited to urban use, measuring just 3.73 metres: for reference, that makes it longer than a Fiat 500, but shorter than a Mini. Consequently, the electric powertrain is designed for shorter journeys, with a 26.8kWh battery good for 124 miles on a single charge and 44bhp motor enabling a top speed of just 65mph. 

It’s a pretty cool little thing, design-wise, mixing the rugged styling of an SUV with some elements that will appeal to younger, urban drivers. 

Prices are yet to be announced, but Dacia is aiming to undercut rivals, so somewhere in the region of £16,000 is possible.

Renault Morphoz

The Renault Morphoz concept hints at what the French carmaker will be launching in the next couple of years. 

Forget about how the Morphoz can be temporarily extended in length to add more batteries, despite being a process that just takes a couple of minutes, it’s not a realistic possibility for a production car any time soon. Instead, focus on the fact that it previews two potential new Renault models. 

One will be a family hatchback that could have a 342-mile range, while a bigger model could travel 435 miles on a single charge. Both suggest that the ‘range anxiety’ that is a barrier for many buyers right now will be a thing of the past in a few short years. Faster 150kW charging will mean adding 93 miles of range could take as little as 15 minutes. 

These cars should also have the ability to transfer charge back to the grid at peak usage times (known as vehicle-to-grid or V2G technology) and Renault’s electric future looks bright.

Mazda MX-30

Mazda is a carmaker that goes its own way, something that is reflected in the MX-30, which arrives in the UK in 2021. 

Despite its crossover SUV shape, this is not an electric car that is trying to maximise its range: in fact, the relatively small (by current standards) 35.5kWh battery will only deliver a 130-mile range, while the motor produces a modest 141bhp. However, the company is unconcerned and points to the average 31-mile commute of European drivers. 

The MX-30 will also not try to convince drivers that one-pedal driving – just using the accelerator pedal – is the best way to drive an EV, with Mazda saying that a brake is better for slowing down the car, because it moves in the direction of our body. This also means that there will be less regenerative braking on the MX-30, compared to rival EVs, something that seems counter-intuitive, in terms of efficiency. 

But Mazda is often right when it comes to technology and we’ll be curious to drive the MX-30 when it hits the UK, to see if they’re right.

Pininfarina Battista Anniversario 

Proving that EVs can offer the same high-performance cars as anything powered by a petrol engine, the Pininfarina Battista Anniversario is an all-electric hypercar producing 1,900bhp, an immense amount of power that results in a 0-62mph in under two seconds. 

Only five of these highly exclusive cars are going on sale, for £2.2m each. But for that, you get a car that is hand-painted over three weeks, a package of carbon-fibre aerodynamic features to help the car slip through the air and a powertrain that is monitored wirelessly by Pininfarina’s engineers in real-time.

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