Electric vehicles will take centre stage at this year’s Geneva Motor Show, as automakers scramble to bring their fleets into line with strict CO2 emissions standards set to kick in next year. Europe’s biggest annual car show, which will open its doors to the media on Tuesday and to the public two days later, has long been synonymous with new lines of powerful and prestigious racing cars and shiny petrol-guzzling SUVs. But even before the 2019 show got under way, it was clear that electric would be all the rage.
Monday afternoon, the annual European Car of the Year prize went to Jaguar’s new electric I-Pace model, marking only the second time in the 45-year history of the award that it has gone to a fully electric vehicle, after Nissan Leaf won in 2011.The show itself is set to be little more than a showcase for new electric concept cars, from small city autos by the likes of Citroen and Honda, to SUVs by Aston Martin, Audi and Mercedes, and even a new electric Volkswagen buggy.
Other carmakers will unveil brand new models, like Peugeot with an electric version of its popular 208, and Kia with a new compact crossover called e-Soul.
German automakers are about to spend big on electric cars and autonomous driving, two technologies that are expected to reshape the industry over the next few decades. Automakers will spend a combined 60 billion euros ($68 billion) over the next three years, the VDA, a German car-industry trade group, said in a statement ahead of the 2019 Geneva Motor Show.
“We will invest over 40 billion euros ($45 billion) in electric mobility during the next three years, and another 18 billion euros ($20 billion) will be invested in digitization and connected and automated driving,” VDA President Bernhard Mattes said. The number of electric car models from German automakers will also treble in that time, to around 100, Mattes added.
A ramp-up of electric car production is needed to meet stricter European Union emissions standards set to take effect in 2030, Mattes said, asking for what he called appropriate regulatory conditions across Europe. Mattes also called for expanded charging infrastructure and more purchase incentives for electric cars. Major German automakers have also discussed plans to develop self-driving cars. BMW and Daimler recently announced a joint effort to develop the technology, while Volkswagen is working with U.S. startup Aurora Innovation on autonomous cars.
The investments are considered necessary because of the presumed importance of electric powertrains and autonomous driving to the future of the car industry. These technologies also have the potential to greatly reduce emissions and improve safety, which are worthy goals. But self-driving cars are still largely unproven, and Don Walker, CEO of major automotive supplier Magna International, has questioned whether automakers can implement the new technologies profitably.