Alternatives at London Motor Show

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4-7 May 2017 Several of us went along to the London Motor Show in Battersea Park to check out the alternatives to diesel and petrol vehicles. Many thanks to Neal Romanek for putting together this article about the event with reviews of the BMW 3i, Nissan Leaf, Hyundai Ionic and Tesla’s Model X:

The London Car Show boasted over 150 cars on display, from a classic 1930’s Napier-Railton racing car to the London debut of the McLaren 650S supercar. There were talks, Q&A’s and book signings with guests like Hollywood stunt driver and former Top Gear “Stig”, Ben Collins, and racing driver, TV personality and fashion model Jodie Kidd. Glamour is essential in selling us things that are bad for us and car advertising is no different. It’s been said that the automobile really only exists as a way to sell petrol. That all the stuff we love our cars for is secondary to its purpose as a device for consuming fossil fuels. But amid the selfie’s taken alongside the petrol powered muscle cars, low-emission and electric vehicles had surprisingly high visibility.

BMW i3 Prior to the show, Tiff Needell, self-described “petrolhead”, former Top Gear presenter and London Motor Show President, picked his five favourite vehicles on display. The top five included high-powered sports car, the Lamborghini Aventador S (gets 11mpg in the city, 24 on the motorway, in case you really want to track fuel economy on a car like that). But also in Needell’s top five, and prominently on display at the show, was the all-electric BMW i3. In the BMW i3’s “Comfort Mode” the vehicle has a range of 125 miles on a single charge. This can be extended to 206 miles by switching the care to its Eco Pro or Eco Pro+ settings. The BMW i3 launched in 2013. In producing electric cars, many companies are also taking the opportunity to rethink their entire driving experience. The BMW i3 features software which analyses driving style, topography, temperature, driving mode, route planning, and the energy requirements of anciliary systems to give drivers an exact number of miles left on their charge. The company is currently developing the BMW i5, which will be available next year. It’s rumored that the BMW i5 might include a hydrogen fuel-cell alongside its electric motor. BMW is also working on electric variants of its current petrol vehicles. The BMW i8 is their sporty model.

Nissan Leaf The zero-emissions Nissan Leaf was also at the show, alongside Nissan’s other offerings. This all-electric family car first debuted in 2011, when it won the World Car Of The Year (beating out petrol cars by Audi and BMW and leaving the World Green Car category to the Chevrolet Volt). The 2016 Leaf comes with two battery options. The company claims the 24 kWh battery will allow a range of 124 miles on a single charge. The 30 kWh battery option is said to offer up to 155 miles.

Hyundai Ioniq Hyundai was showing its latest low emission vehicle, the Ioniq. The Ioniq comes in three variations – an all electric car, a hybrid drive, and a plug in dual electric-petrol vehicle which will be available later this year. The Ioniq Electric has a 28 kWh battery capacity with a listed battery range of 174 miles. The Electric can be charged from a regular three pin connector (with a full charge time of approximately 12 hours) or with a recommended Wall Box which is installed at the owner’s home. POD Point is Hyundai’s preferred partner in the UK for domestic charge points. The Ioniq Hybrid features a combination of petrol engine, electric motor and 1.56 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery. Hyundai lists the petrol consumption efficiency as 78.5MPG and claims a 700 mile range. The Ioniq Plug-in has a smaller, 8.9 kWh battery with up to 31 miles in all-electric mode, that runs in tandem with a 1.6 litre re GDI four-cylinder Kappa petrol engine.

The Mitsubishi Outlander, a plug-in hybrid SUV (Suburban Utility Vehicle) can do up to 33 miles on pure electric making short journeys cost pennies. It also boasts 166 miles per gallon and ultra low CO2 emissions (41 g/km) making it exempt from London Congestion Charges. Worth checking out.

Tesla The highlight of the show’s emission-free selections – and arguably one of the main highlights – was the Tesla Model X released last year in the US. The Model X is Tesla’s fully electric mini-sport utility vehicle. As with every Tesla vehicle, the Model X doesn’t just shine as an electric vehicle, but is one of the most interesting vehicles of any kind. Tesla claims the vehicle’s 100 kWh battery will provide 351 miles of range on a single charge. Electric vehicles typically have fast zero to 60 acceleration, but the Model X outperforms some sports cars, let alone SUV’s, with a zero to 60 acceleration of 3 seconds. The Model X includes Tesla’s full self-driving hardware, which consists of eight cameras around the car and ultrasonic sensors and forward facing radar, which, according to the company “is able to see through heavy rain, fog, dust and even the car ahead.” The technology behind the autopilot feature is remarkable, but there is still some controversy about its safety.

What is most remarkable about Tesla however is not just its emissions free car offering. Tesla CEO Elon Musk is set on transforming the entire way we use energy. Tesla vehicles slot into an entirely new energy ecosystem which Musk is trying to build. The Tesla Powerwall battery, about the size of a small fridge, is designed to store power – ideally from Tesla’s new solar energy roof tiles – and Tesla vehicles are optimised to draw power from houses which store power via the solar powered Powerwall system.

Tesla, as part of its “Master Plan, Part Deux” will roll out an affordable, mass market electric car (something more within reach of the rest of us than the £100,000 for a fully tricked out Model X). Perhaps more significantly, the company is also planning fully electric eighteen wheeler trucks for hauling freight and fully electric high passenger-density urban transport (that’s buses). Tesla’s new electric semi-trucks will also be autonomous, or semi-autonomous. Tesla’s autonomous driving technology will also be used for ride-sharing.

Car of the year The show was at pains to highlight the British winner of the Car Of The Year winner the British World Car Awards, the Jaguar F-Pace. It is the first time a British car has won the coveted award, since the awards began in 2005. The World Car Awards have also included a Green Car category in every year but one. This year’s Green Car nominees were the Chevrolet Bolt, the Tesla Model X and the Toyota Prius Prime, with the Toyota Prius Prime coming out on top. A British car has never been nominated in the Green Car category.

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