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Concept vehicles push the electromobility envelop at Detroit Auto Show

The Nissan IMs electric vehicle concept drew raves from those in attendance at the Detroit Auto Show, but it is only one of several concept electric vehicles on display. ( Photo: Brian Straight/FreightWaves )

DETROIT. Not surprisingly, one of the big themes at this year’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit is electric and electromobility. Journalists are getting a look at the future this week in the preview portion of the show before its public opening later in the week.

To say any one company is more focused on electric technologies than another would be misleading, because nearly all are pushing electric in some way. Nissan (OTC: NSANF) is a prime example.

“[The IMs concept] represents a complete reimagining of the electric car in a sedan,” Denis Le Vot, chairman of Nissan North America, said in his presentation.

Le Vot noted that the new generation Nissan Leaf EV has 50 percent more range than previous models and is just one of eight electric models Nissan expects to be offering by 2022 under its Nissan MOVE plan.

The IMs concept, on display at the Detroit show, is an all-wheel drive vehicle that will offer a graphic user interface as “a gateway to the virtual world,” Le Vot said, giving the vehicle the opportunity to see around corners and behind buildings, among other advanced capabilities.

The dual electric motors, both front and rear, generate 483 horsepower and 590 lbs.-ft. of torque. The 115 kWh battery provides an estimated range of 380 miles on a single charge, Le Vot noted.

“It will drive in manual or fully autonomous mode, giving the driver the opportunity to operate in their most comfortable mode,” he said.

The IMs concept is important to Nissan, Le Vot pointed out. “It’s not just a statement of electrification or sedans,” he said, “it is a statement about Nissan.”

Ford (NYSE: F) is also adapting to the trend. In 2018, the company announced it would be investing more than $11 billion in a plan to bring electric and hybrid vehicles to market. In an interview with CNBC this week, CEO Jim Hackett said the company would have “a big surprise” next year in terms of electrification.

“We’ve seen more startups and investors [in the space than ever before],” Chairman Bill Ford said at the show. “We’ve committed to leading that charge.”

“Being a family business is important as we navigate the biggest change in transportation since Henry Ford,” Hackett added. He went on to add that Ford is “connecting every new Ford vehicle to the cloud” and that will include the capability to connect to infrastructure. “They will have sensors like never before, it will be like having eyes and ears [on the vehicles],” Hackett said.

The company is currently testing autonomous vehicles in Miami, Washington DC, Pittsburgh and Detroit.

 The Volkswage I.D. Crozz electric vehicle concept.
The Volkswage I.D. Crozz electric vehicle concept.

Volkswagen (D.IX: VOW3) is also buying into the electric vehicle movement, announcing an $800 million investment in a new plant in Chattanooga, TN, to build electric vehicles. It will be the second plant in the city for Volkswagen, which opened its first facility in 2011.

“Electric cars are becoming more and more of an opportunity for Volkswagen in the U.S.,” Dr. Herbert Diess, CEO of Volkswagen AG, told the assembled media. “The U.S. market is the second largest electric vehicle market in the world behind China.”

Volkswagen has committed to investing $34 billion in electromobility by 2026.

“Starting in 2020, Volkswagen will start selling on this electric platform,” Diess added.

Diess said the new Chattanooga plant will employ 1,000 people. “When they started talking about electric vehicles, we were very pleased [they considered Chattanooga],” outgoing Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said.

Diess said the company’s $2.3 billion investment in Chattanooga to date has created 3,800 direct jobs and 12,000 automotive jobs in general in the region.

The first electric vehicles to hit the road for Volkswagen will be the I.D. Crozz with the I.D. Bus to follow shortly thereafter.

 Infinit QX concept electric SUV
Infinit QX concept electric SUV

Infiniti is also into the electric vehicle movement, introducing its QX concept. The QX is an all-wheel-drive, fully-electric model. It is part of the company’s future, which it said involves fully electric, e-Power, and performance hybrid vehicles.

“For Infiniti, our powertrain electrification strategy focuses on offering both high performance and range confidence. As the luxury brand within the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, Infiniti can draw on a wide range of ultra-low emissions powertrain technologies to deliver driving pleasure and thrilling performance,” Francois Bancon, vice president, said. “We have previously explored this with the Prototype 9 and Prototype 10, and QX Inspiration shows how this philosophy will manifest itself in production: as a powerful electric SUV with a versatile character and luxurious interior.”

The QX is a midsize SUV.

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Brian Straight

Brian Straight covers general transportation news and leads the editorial team as Managing Editor. A journalism graduate of the University of Rhode Island, he has covered everything from a presidential election, to professional sports and Little League baseball, and for more than 10 years has covered trucking and logistics. Before joining FreightWaves, he was previously responsible for the editorial quality and production of Fleet Owner magazine and fleetowner.com. Brian lives in Connecticut with his wife and two kids and spends his time coaching his son’s baseball team, golfing with his daughter, and pursuing his never-ending quest to become a professional bowler.
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