Noel Adams - Charging Ahead

Report from 2017 Los Angeles Auto Show - Part 2

Jan 09, 2018

EV World's annual LA Car Show reporter, Noel Adams, shares his impressions of the vehicles on display at this year's premier automotive event in California.

It was overcast as I made my way to the LA Convention Center for the second day of press conferences for the LA Auto show. It was still early and traffic was light so I got there well before the first press conference of the day and found a great parking spot near the entrance.

Once again, the show kicked off the day in the technology Pavilion where Toyota were hosting what they called a fuel cell breakfast. It turned out that the breakfast was the same set of catering trucks that were there on the first day but I was able to grab a bite to eat and a coffee before the first presentation of the day from Toyota.

What Toyota had was a semi-truck powered by fuel cells. The truck wasn’t produced by Toyota but was actually a Kenilworth semi that Toyota has modified to be powered by a pair of the same fuel cells that power their Mirai FCEV. The truck has a range of around 200 miles and Toyota is using the truck for short range deliveries from the Port of Los Angeles. The most interesting thing they had was an animation showing how the fuel cell powered truck could accelerate much faster than the equivalent diesel truck. The animation was very similar to one used by Tesla in their Semi-Truck reveal a couple of weeks ago.

This was followed by the Green Car Journal 2018 Green car of the year award. The finalists this year were the Honda Accord, Honda Clarity, Hyundai Ioniq, Nissan Leaf, and Toyota Camry. The winner was the Honda Clarity. The reason they got the green car of the year award was that they offer a family of cars that are electric, fuel cell, and plug-in hybrid and are the only brand to offer all three options in a single model. Of course, the FCEV is only available for lease in a very limited area of Southern California and the San Francisco Bay area, the BEV is only available for lease in a limited number of states and offers only 80 miles of range, so only the PHEV can actually be bought and it is the only version that is available nationwide. Of this list the Nissan Leaf is the better contender, but I have to ask where was the Tesla Model 3?

I hurried over to the South Hall for the Toyota press conference. Traditionally Toyota uses the LA auto show to reveal their large SUV offerings and the Detroit Auto Show to present their green cars which is something I have never understood since California is where they sell most of their green cars. This year was no exception as they rolled out their FT-AC off-road concept. This was a full-sized SUV designed for those that want to take their vehicle off-road. The most interesting thing about the car was that it comes with cameras that can record the trail run and upload it to the web immediately the run is finished.

After the Toyota press conference, I made a mad dash to the West Hall to see what Kia had to offer. After talking about how much their quality has improved, including the Nero being named the most reliable SUV in America, they started to talk about the Kia Stinger.

The Stinger has a top speed of 167 mph and a 0-60 time of 4.7 seconds it is faster than a BMW 6 series or a Porsche Panamera. Kia plans to open salons in shopping centers to display the Stinger.

They also showed the Kia Nero PEHV which is set to go on sale in December. This small SUV will offer an all-electric range of 26 Miles. This is part of their electric car strategy which will produce 14 plug-in and fuel cell vehicles by 2020 with 10 of them headed to the USA.

Finally, following the heard, they rolled out their 2019 Kia Sorento full sized SUV. This will now come with 7-row seating as standard on all trim levels. It will be offered with and eight speed automatic transmission coupled with a 3.3-liter V6 engine. Kia did not give any indication of availability or Price.

After Kia it was time to find my way to the Nissan stand for their press conference. It wasn’t hard, all I had to do was head towards the X-Wing fighters. Nissan actually didn’t have a new reveal, they had already shown the Nissan Kicks earlier in the week ahead of the main press conferences. Instead they talked about their tie in with Lucas Films and the upcoming release of Star Wars the Last Jedi, thus the X-Wing fighters hanging from the roof above their stand.

They had several Nissan vehicles that had been customized to look like various spaceships from the Star Wars movies. They talked about having Star Wars accessories for sale at Nissan dealerships and a virtual reality experience set in a droid repair shop. In the end they opened up a huge box to reveal a Tundra Truck customized with a tank turret in the truck bed and laser guns beneath the front grill. Perfect for those who need to negotiate LA traffic.

Following Nissan was the press conferences for Saleen and Polaris Slingshot neither of which were expected to produce a plug-in car so I decided it was time to check out the ride and drive. The last couple of years the ride and drive has been pretty poor with only three vehicles to choose from and this year was the same story. One vehicle was the Pacifica Hybrid but I drove that at last year’s show. The next vehicle was more interesting however, the next generation Nissan Leaf. The Nissan leaf was first shown at the Santa Monica Alt fuels expo in September but that was only a static display so this was the first chance I would get to take the car for a test drive.

The 2018 Nissan Leaf is just slightly larger than its predecessor but not noticeably so. Nissan has done an excellent job with the car, improving it in just about every way possible over the pervious generation. Power has been upped from the original 107hp to 147hp giving the car a nice sporty feel when you hit the accelerator. It now comes with a 40KWh lithium ion battery that ups the range from 107 miles to 150 miles which will be plenty for most people although not up to the Bolt’s 238 miles of range. The guy from Nissan who was riding along with me said that late in 2018 Nissan would add a long-range option that would give the car a 220-mile range coming close to matching the Bolt.

When I first test drove the Nissan Leaf back in 2011 I liked most of what I saw but was a bit unnerved by the lack of response when in economy mode. During this test drive I put the car into economy mode to see what the difference was. The difference between economy and standard mode was quite noticeable but unlike the previous version I never felt like it was dangerous to drive in economy mode which is definitely how I felt in the previous model.

In fact, everything appears to be just a little better in the new Leaf than it was in the old, even down to more choices for regenerative braking. I didn’t get to try this feature out but they tell me that there is now an option that allows single foot driving like you have in the Tesla models. I’m sure that many existing Leaf drivers who extended their leases to get an option on the new generation are going to be very happy with it.

As I got to back from my test drive one of the Nissan employees came up to me and said before you leave we have had a request. It turned out that the next person to take a test drive was an old friend of mine, David Shelton, who I hadn’t seen in a few years. We were able to greet each other and chat for a couple of minutes but David needed to get on with his test drive and I needed Coffee.

Fortified by a cup of coffee I went back to the ride and drive area to see if I could test drive the third car, the Acimoto. This is a three-wheel tandem 2-seater that is more motorcycle than car. When I got back there was a queue and the guys handling the cars were busy chatting with the first couple of people in line so I decided to pass on the test drive and head to the Arcimoto press conference in the atrium of the South Hall.

Arcimoto has been around from 2007 and while this was billed as the debut they have shown at least a couple of earlier prototypes here in LA. The difference is that they are now technically in production with what they term their FUV or Fun Utility Vehicle.

This car is a reverse trike meaning that it has two wheels in the front and one wheel in the rear. It also has handlebars for steering instead of a steering wheel. As a 3-wheel vehicle it registers in most states as a motorcycle although in most states it can be driven on a standard car license. It has a range of about 70-miles and can hit 80mph on the highway. A 130-mile range version will also be available.

Today Arcimoto were delivering their first production vehicles. The recipient was none other than their founder and CEO Mark Frohnmayer. Their plan is deliver one additional car in December and then begin ramping up production in January. Currently they have something like 1,000 reservations for this car.

David Shelton was also at the Arcimoto press conference and after it was finished we were able to catch up a little before the Aria press conference began. Fortunately, we didn’t have to travel very far for the Aria press conference, it was just a matter of turning around as it was being held right across from Arcimoto. While catching up with David we also got into conversation with a nice young lady called Barb who was working one of the booths down in Kentia Hall and was taking a break to attend some of the press conferences. Both David and Barb had taken a test ride with the Arcimoto and both said it was a blast.

Aria Group unveiled the prototype of their FXE plug-in hybrid.  This is no ordinary plug-in hybrid but can be classed alongside the likes of the Maclaren and Bugatti as a true supercar.  It has a 6.2-liter V8 engine plus an electric motor driven by a 10 KWh lithium ion battery pack and this combination can put out an insane 1,150 hp.  This they said would propel the car from 0-60 in just 3.1 seconds. The car will be built in a limited run of just 400 cars. Pricing has not yet been set but can be it will not come cheap.

I went back to the West Hall again and got there with plenty of time to spare before the Sondors presentation. I found a nice place to sit and was joined by Barb. We were able to chat for a while about issue surrounding charging in apartment buildings and Codos. The company that Barb works for, Optima EVCS, is primarily in the field of LED lighting but has recently branched out into charger installation and can work with EV drivers, the local power company, and landlords or housing associations to get chargers installed.

The Sondors presentation was pretty lightly attended. Sondors is known for using crowdsourcing to launch an affordable electric bike. Now there are back with plans for a 3-wheel electric car. They showed their prototype which reportedly cost $1 million to build.

The car looks very sporty and will seat 3 people, 2 in the front and 1 in the rear. This reverse tryke is intended to be freeway capable although the current prototype is not. The final production version is planned to go from 0-60 in 5.8 seconds and will be offered in three battery pack options to provide 75, 150, or 200 miles of range. The target base price is just $10,000. Sondors will fund development via crowdsourcing but will contract out the manufacturing process and plan to sell the car online delivering them directly to the customer.

The next presentation was Ampere who were showing their first prototype 3-wheel roadster. The Ampere 1 was a lot further back in the development process than the Sondors and looks more like a science project than an actual car, but Ampere did have video of the car being driven around a parking lot so the prototype is functional which is more than can be said for many of the concept cars produced by the largescale manufacturers.

The car is a 2-seat open top reverse trike that is targeted to sell at just $9,900. It is planned to be freeway capable with a range of around 100 miles. The car sits very low which gives the occupants the feeling they are travelling at greater speed than they actually are. The prototype seemed just a little too low and while it was OK flitting around a parking lot I didn’t fancy its chances going over a speed bump. I asked ampere about this and they told me that the ground clearance would be increased by about 5 inches for the production model.

The last presentation of the day was Redspace who were tucked away in the back corner of the West Hall. Redspace is a car that is designed for crowded cities. It is a smallish very boxy EV designed by Chris Bangle who used to design cars for BMW. They didn’t really have any information about the car’s powertrain, the thrust of their presentation was to be able to use the car as a sort of spare room on wheels. The driver’s seat for example swivels around so you can face the rear passengers. There is also a screen that pops up from the dash so the owner can screen videos or play games. The concept might work well in Japan but I don’t see it going down too well here in the US.

After the Redspace press conference I walked back to the Garage, which is what used to be called Kentia Hall, and took a walk around the exhibitors who deal mostly with vehicle customization. There are sometimes small EV startups that display there but this year there were none. Not that I can complain, with 4 EV startups holding press conferences this year there was plenty of interesting newcomers to see.

After a quick stroll around the garage I headed for my car to do battle with LA traffic. This year had actually been a banner year for electric cars, and there are now a few more models we should start seeing on the roads in 2018.

Noel Adams Photo:Ampere

Noel Adams Photo:Aria FXE

Noel Adams Photo:Redspace

Noel Adams Photo:Green Car Award

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