What we learned at the Detroit Auto Show
Flying buses; flying bikes and EV’s are the future of motoring
When US president Joe Biden announced that he would make a turn at the 2022 Detroit Auto show, the entire weight of the show was afforded a welcome breath of gravitas. Whilst a return to the calendar for the North American International Auto Show sparked a momentous reminder that the world has moved on from dark days, President Biden’s endorsement of it sparked an impetus to attend. I’ve never seen lines so long as security was beefed up ahead of POTUS’ visit.
By International Auto Show standards, the Detroit Show was small in physical floor space and lacking in attendance by some well-known OEM players in the markets. The likes of European manufacturers Audi, Mercedes Benz, BMW, Porsche, Bentley, Lamborghini were no shows but so too were Americanised brands such as Honda / Acura. By comparison, the big North American brands stole the show. Auto shows of this nature are generally a look into the future of motoring, a showcase of concepts and design or engineering thinking and NAIAS didn’t disappoint. Here are just a few highlights from our time on the floor and a little insight into what we managed to learn about the future of mobility.
The EV’s are a comin and Electric Trucks are all the hype
You knew this one didn’t you? Maybe you did but the show gave insight into a raft of new product-types powered by batteries as well the next phase of tech in this area of mobility. Every manufacturer exhibit had an electric car display, the largest announcement of which came from Jeep, Ford and Chevrolet. Jeep’s announcement was its move into the EV space introducing the Jeep 4Xe electrified nomenclature to the Wrangler and Grand Cherokee. This first batch of products are plug-in hybrids featuring a 2.0L petrol motor coupled with an electric motor. Jeep’s claims of over 780 kms is decent enough but the electric-only range of 42 kms perhaps less so.
With the world’s energy crisis, our very own, not withstanding, Ford’s massive Ford F-150 Lightning is the solution to a need that the whole world seems to have. The all-electric truck is monstrous by our standards but quite normal to Americans. With 1020Nm of instant torque; a towing capacity of 4,5-tons, a usable generator to power your appliances and home if need be and the full practicality of a 420-litre frunk plus the rear load bin, what more car do you want?
Though this vehicle is not available or being considered for our market, the use case poses good news for the future and makes a compelling reason to consider these sorts of cars. So compelling in fact, that the Ford F-150 Lightning’s order book is now closed following unserviceable demand. Ford’s estimates of 48000 orders were nowhere near the 280 000 that are currently on back order.
What the Ford F150 brings in practicality, the Chevrolet Silverado RST almost matches in aerodynamic looks and more range. It is the better looking of the two electric ‘trucks’ that commanded some attention at the show. The Silverado boasts a 400-mile range and four-wheel steering to shrink the massive frame in tight spots. No, you can’t get this one either.
Adjacent to the actual sheet metal, a number of peripheral EV suppliers were on display showcasing all manner of tech and IP that either will be or already is in homes and/or businesses across the US. A host of new charging infrastructure companies offering EV charging management software, wireless home or dealer charging stations all point to a mass adoption of EV going forward. No fewer than 10 companies in this space were exhibiting at NAIAS. Standout names were Wytricity, a company rolling out wireless charging pads for home use. Whilst currently only servicing Tesla, the company aims to roll out multi-use technology within the next year. Imagine the ease of driving into your garage, hitting your mark and getting a full charge without having to lug cables around and plug things in. It’s where the world is going…if you can do it with your phone, why not?
Flying Buses are a thing
A large display at NAIAS was a concept from ASX Technologies that is a multi-purpose use case for all manner of industries. It’s a modular technology that makes use of an electric aircraft that can clip into a variety of pods for various uses. Think of a people-mover pod on the ground that can then attach to the eVTOL(electric vehicle take-off and landing) aircraft and then fly to another destination. The use cases abound but the company is set on reducing CO2 emissions.
Flying Bikes are a thing too
Revealed at the show, the XTURISMO Hover Bike is what futuristic film and ad sets have been toying with for some time. Built by a Japanese start up AERWINS Technologies, the hover bike runs six rotors essentially as a manned drone. The XTURISMO Hover bike can reach speeds of up to 100 kph and be airborne for up to 42 minutes. Its use cases range from deliveries to security and according to reports out of Detroit, this is not a concept vehicle but a ready to order product. I wonder about aviation laws…getting a basic drone license is difficult.
The Petrol engine still lives on in glorious fashion
A number of ICE vehicles were on display at the show. Dodge’s Challengers and Chargers did their bit for American muscle as did the Subaru, Toyota, Stellantis stands sport very familiar wares. There were two standout exhibits though, and for petrolheads these really should get you fuelled. The first was undoubtedly the showstopper stand of the entire show. The blue ovalled badge is sacred in Detroit as is the Mustang nameplate. Ford’s stand was by far the largest and most notable with a massive steel Mustang statue the centrepiece of the Ford exhibit, if not the show. A bevy of Mustang’s made appearances, some Mach-E Mustangs, some of the 6generation GT500’s replete with carbon fibre wheels, stripes and Shelby badges. But the big one was the new 7 generation Mustang in all 3 body styles, the GT coupe, EcoBoost coupe and GT Convertible. Also on show was Ford’s new Mustang Dark Horse, the pony of ponies with sinister looks and promises of big-gun performance for the road and the track.
Adjacent to the Ford stand, the Chevrolet exhibit was also showstoppingly large but with more variety of products, one of which was the new Chevy Corvette Z06 . This mid-engined American is now more hypercars than supercar with its 5.5L V8 proudly on display at the show. Orders are reportedly through the roof on this car and I can see why. It’s perfectly proportioned and a real celebration of cubic capacity over downsizing and turbocharging. It is Corvette’s most powerful naturally aspirated V8 boasting 500kW and 620Nm. It’s astonishing. A very friendly Chevy representative at the show also explained the extras that can be ordered with the car including a weight-saving performance package, uprated aero and brakes and Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres.
So what can we conclude from Detroit? Here are my top 4 conclusions:
- Mobility is changing. How we commute in our personal or mass capacity is changing as is the delivery space.
- The EV onslaught continues and there's real impetus in certain markets that will inevitably spill into our market in some way but...
- ICE is very much alive and well. Hybrids will burgeon too but don't expect petrol-powered vehicles to become extinct for a while.
- Electric Trucks are the best invention ever.