For decades, auto shows were filled with concept-car unveilings complete with loud music, extravagant light shows and company executives (or paid celebrities) extolling the virtues of cars that would never make it to production. Usually the cars had huge growling gas engines that drowned whatever guitar wail or pop song a committee deemed most appropriate for the vehicle. This year the thunder of cylinders was replaced with the quiet drivetrains of EVs and hybrids as the industry pulled back the curtain on the biggest change to cars since the introduction of the automatic transmission.
Judging by the pledges made by automakers ahead of, and during, the Frankfurt auto show, by the end of the 2020s, it'll be tough to find a car that doesn't have some serious batteries in it. Mercedes says it'll have an electrified version of all its models by 2022. Its entire Smart subdivision will be entirely electric by 2020. Honda wants two thirds of its sales to be electrified in some way by the end of 2030, while Audi, Jaguar, Volvo and Volkswagen will all have a substantial proportion of their vehicles powered by electrons during the next decade. All of this is good news for drivers.
To help achieve their goals, automakers are already on the verge of unleashing new EVs. Honda's Urban EV Concept is expected in Europe in 2019. The Jaguar i-Pace will be available in the United States in 2018 to challenge Tesla's Model X as the dominant electric SUV.
Meanwhile, Volkswagen has been pushing its electric modular battery, MEB platform via the upcoming releases of its ID vehicles. The Buzz microbus is slated to be available in 2022 for fans of buses and nostalgia. The ID hatchback and Crozz crossover are slated to land in 2020.
A car is an investment. It's something that'll be around for years, and eventually, the oil under our feet will dry up. It might not happen for decades but there's no reason to expedite the process by continuing to power all our vehicles with gasoline. Plus, when it does happen, the last thing you're going to want is a car that runs on something that's incredibly scarce. Automakers are aware of this -- plus it helps that regulation can be a big motivator.
Both the UK and France plan to ban the sale fossil-fueled cars by 2040. Meanwhile China -- a huge market for automakers -- is considering its own ban on the sale of gas-powered cars. Automakers need to stay ahead of these trends in order to compete.
As for drivers, even if you don't care about the environment (and seriously, who doesn't care about the environment? It's where we live) the first time you feel the torque of an electric car, you're going to be hooked. It's also the opportunity to fundamentally change our relationship to the car and how we consume energy.
More and more automakers -- like Tesla and Honda -- are talking about the ability to sell electricity back to grid from their vehicles. For example: If you car's battery is already full, but the grid is in need to more power than it's currently generating, your car (along with others) can sell some back. If your car can earn you a bit of cash while in the garage, that's a plus. Also, as solar and battery technologies advance, there'll be opportunities to power not only your home but also your main source of transportation for less than you're paying today.
This will all most likely start for most of us in the 2020s. As customers, we'll have more car choices, which is always a good thing. Electric cars are going mainstream whether you like it or not, and if you're looking forward to eventually having a car that's silent, maybe saves you a few bucks and is actually fun to drive, start saving now because your next car might plug into your home instead of tapping into a gas pump.