The annual Los Angeles Auto Show has become the place to debut the latest innovations in green vehicles. For the 2014 edition, press previews featured a definitive turn toward hydrogen fuel cells (away from lithium-ion batteries) as a way to power electric cars’ motors. As a sign of the surge in fuel cell vehicle development, Toyota and Volkswagen, the world’s top two automakers, came to LA with a huge fuel cell presence.
Not every automaker was turning away from the battery-powered automobiles that have supplied the drivetrain of most electric vehicles. Mercedes showed what its top-level sedan looks like in hybrid clothing, while a plug-in hybrid crossover and all-electric car with 180 miles of range made headline appearances in the City of Angels. Here are seven innovative electric vehicles on display at the Los Angeles Auto Show.
Volkswagen Golf HyMotion SportWagen
Volkswagen, currently at No. 2 in world vehicle sales behind Toyota, showed it is taking an all-over approach to electric vehicles. Following the U.S. debut of its e-Golf, VW turned heads with a hydrogen fuel cell version of its Golf SportWagen. Using the fuel cells to power an electric motor, the HyMotion wagon features 134 horses using the e-Golf powertrain (an upgrade of 21 horsepower over the battery EV) and 310 miles of range.
It’s easy to see why the industry is excited about hydrogen. Compared to the e-Golf’s 83 miles of electric range and slow charging time, the hydrogen cars deliver infinitely more range with a fueling time of just five minutes. VW also had a Passat in LA with the HyMotion system. Now if they can just find a way to get hydrogen without creating so much in the way of emissions. According to the latest claims, automakers think it will be possible to make hydrogen production greener in the near future.
Mitsubishi XR Plug-in Hybrid EV
Mitsubishi wants U.S. consumers to know the brand is here to stay, and nothing would get the market’s attention more than a production version of the XR plug-in hybrid crossover on display in LA. A lesser version has been selling like gangbusters in Europe and Asia as the Outlander PHEV, but the souped up and ultra-stylized concept promises much more to its future U.S. audience. How much more? For starters, its 50 miles of electric range would make it top dog among plug-ins, besting the Chevy Volt by 12 miles. More importantly, it would fill the glaring hole in the crossover segment as far as electric vehicles are concerned.
Toyota Mirai Fuel Cell Vehicle
Toyota has stopped producing the RAV4 electric vehicle and sold its stake in Tesla in 2014 while pushing forward with fuel cell vehicle development. This Toyota Mirai (Japanese for “future”) on display in LA is the production model (as in, the real thing) going on sale in the U.S. in 2015. Like other fuel cell vehicles, it will be able to cover 300 miles of range on a single fueling. Pricing is set at $57,500 (or $500 per month leases over three years) when it hits U.S. shores. That will include three years of free fuel. Toyota has the potential to revolutionize the industry once again. Prius might seem like a warmup when it’s all said and done.
Mercedes S550 Plug-in Hybrid
The words “Mercedes S Class” and “fuel economy” aren’t often used in the same sentence, but the impressive S550 plug-in hybrid shows they can be. This land yacht will roll with epic Benz force, to the tune of 436 horsepower and 479 pounds-feet of torque. Ho hum, one might say, but then Mercedes drops fuel economy specs that pop off the screen. With 20 miles of all-electric range, the S550 plug-in has achieved 84 miles per gallon on the European testing cycle. Sure, that number will drop in the EPA’s hands, but shall we go with a lowball 70 miles per gallon in an S550? That would be be extraordinary. Most car trips don’t last 20 miles anyway.
Most people remember Coda electric vehicles as frumpy rides that were as likely to break down as bore drivers to sleep. That perception might be fair, but the Coda sedan has been resurrected by Mullen Motor Company with much bigger battery packs. In its LA Auto Show display, the automaker had the “new” Mullen 700e in force. According to the company, this EV offers 134 horsepower and 221 pounds-feet of (instant) torque. Now we’re listening.
With the 31 kWh battery pack Mullen is now offering, the automaker says it gets 180 miles on a single charge. Since only a Tesla gets more, that ought to perk up any ears that weren’t paying attention. What’s more, Mullen told AutoblogGreen that it has a 50 kWh battery pack in development that will hit 200 miles of range.
Audi A7 Sportback h-tron
Volkswagen’s luxury division wanted LA Auto Show visitors to know it isn’t sitting idly with available fuel cell technology. In the A7 Sportback h-tron, Audi shows the possibilities of hydrogen fuel cells and plug-in EV technology when matched to a flashy premium sedan. With an estimate of 31 miles of electric range and 310 miles of range on hydrogen power, the A7 h-tron is more than a hot-looking car with a weird name. Audi says it can sprint from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 7.9 seconds. It’s no Prius (or Marai, for that matter).