It has been an unusually busy week of looking back to the future.
Key manufacturers showed what their respective visions of tomorrow’s cars will look like – and what they will do.
Some are concepts, others are imminent. Indeed, some concepts are not cars at all but commitments to what will underpin their vehicles in the years ahead.
What follows is a brief and selective shortlist but even at that it shows what a compelling juncture we find ourselves at. As we enter the much-heralded electric era, anything seems possible.
* Audi, for example, showed a design and technical concept car at Pebble Beach Automotive Week in Monterey, California. The all-electric Audi PB18 e-tron is what they call “a radical vision for the high-performance sports car of tomorrow”.
The team at Audi Sport are behind the technical concept, which has a mix of aluminium, carbon and multi-material composites so there is a low basic weight (1,550kg or thereabouts).
The car uses three electric motors – one in the front, two behind. The motors deliver 150 kW to the front axle and 350 kW to the rear – a total of 500 kW. Combined torque (pulling power) is a whopping 830Nm and the car gets to 100kmh in slightly more than two.
The liquid-cooled solid-state battery (95kW) can cover more than 500km, Audi claims, and it can be fully recharged in around 15 minutes.
* BMW, meantime, had real-world news for us with the unveiling of the new BMW Z4. The M40i First Edition has a straight 6cyl engine, sports suspension with electronically controlled dampers and M Sport braking system. It is expected in Ireland next spring. There will be news of other engines, technical updates and spec levels for the two-seater on September 19. Looks great from where I’m sitting.
* Opel, meanwhile, gave us a look at the eye-catching new all-electric concept. They say the GT X Experimental heralds the electrification of all Opel models by 2024.
The 4.06-metre, 5dr electric compact SUV (wheelbase 2,625mm, width 1,830mm, height 1,528mm) has lightweight architecture and 17in wheels.
Power comes from a 50kWh, next-generation lithium-ion battery with inductive charging. It has level three autonomous driving – it can do a lot but the driver has to be able to intervene when prompted.
All four doors open to 90 degrees while the panoramic windscreen/roof reaches well back to the rear seats.
* Volkswagen has pledged €3.5bn up to 2025 for a massive push towards connected cars. It moves the company towards a new role as a “mobility services provider” as well as developing an in-house operating system, vw.OS, that will govern entire vehicles.
Most cars usually have several separate control systems with their own specific software. But the new vw.OS reduces all that to a few running on one common platform.
Of course, that would most likely streamline self-driving technology and, importantly, allow for continuous updates and upgrades – just like Tesla can add features and change the performance of its cars.
We should see the first vw.OS in the I.D. series of electric cars relatively soon as the automaker connects its whole line-up.
It will set up a “one digital platform” cloud framework to power the Volkswagen Auto Group. Such transformations will take many years but by all accounts the automaker intends to become a technological leader.
* Jaguar announced it is to make an electric version of it famous E-Type. First deliveries are expected in the summer of 2020. Amazing isn’t it? Apparently the manufacturer been overwhelmed by the reaction to Jaguar E-type Zero concept.
The company is expecting to target a range of more than 262km, with the battery capable of being recharged in six to seven hours. It will also have a state-of-art powertrain, LED headlights and a touchscreen.
The electric powertrain with single-speed reduction gear has been designed for the E-type – many components from the electric I-PACE SUV are being used.
* Mercedes, poised to unveil its first electric EQ car next week, is teasing us with glimpses of it but were not nearly as coy about the Vision EQ Silver Arrow, which is a sort of homage to the record-breaking W 125 car from 1937.
We get a sportscar that combines retro design with current and future technology.
The 80kWh battery pack stretches to 400km on one charge and there is a phenomenal 750hp from the electric powertrain.
Two extendible rear spoilers help braking by creating wind resistance.
There is carbon fibre throughout with leather, brushed aluminium and walnut also adorning the cabin. There are also two displays for the driver: a panoramic curved cluster and a touchscreen on the steering wheel.
Sadly, we’re told we won’t see the EQ Silver Arrow in production. But its electric technology will be used in production vehicles as the brand expands its EQ electric vehicle range.
And there’s much more. I have a feeling we’ll be coming back to the future.