The LA Auto Show — one of the first indoor auto shows to return since the COVID outbreak — was light on news and heavier than usual on vaporware. However, there were a few vehicles, tech and companies that stood out during the two press days leading up to the event.
Here are the vehicles and themes that got our attention for better or worse in Los Angeles this year.
Shifting the narrative: Green and clean
At the major press conferences, which were few and all before noon on Wednesday, the theme of the day centered on sustainability and climate change. It was a mix of greenwashing and actual action.
Hyundai and Kia showed video intros that highlighted how important it is to become environmentally aware, before unveiling their all-electric concept cars and plug-in hybrids. Fisker talked about saving the ocean. Subaru, which has had a longtime commitment to green initiatives and invested quite a bit of money into supporting everything from national parks to animal rescue, also highlighted their continuing support of environmental-friendliness.
While this hasn’t been uncommon in the past, it’s important to note that the entire auto industry has dragged its feet in the path to lower emissions, innovating around sustainable manufacturing and sourcing and finding ways to recycle and reuse parts and vehicles that have come to the end of their usable lives. The dire warning that we have just 10 years to reduce the impact that humans have on climate change came up at multiple press conferences at the show.
One of the more interesting reveals this year was the near-production version of the Fisker Ocean, an all-electric SUV with a massive 17.1-inch screen that can rotate 90 degrees to go from landscape or “Hollywood Mode” to vertical.
When in landscape, users can play games and watch videos when the Ocean is parked and charging. Fisker says that it’s patenting the swiveling screen tech.
The overall theme of this year’s LA Auto Show was (not surprisingly) the electrification of everything. While there were plenty of ICE-powered vehicles all over the floor, the big news came in the form of battery power.
Everything from the all-electric Nissan Ariya SUV and Toyota bz4x and its twin the Subaru Solterra to one of our favorites, the final variants of the all-electric Porsche Sport Turismo sedan and wagon with their magic roof.
Technology that keeps you from getting sick
As we enter into the third year of the ongoing pandemic, carmakers are increasingly considering how to keep us from getting sick. Hyundai unveiled the SEVEN SUV concept at the LA Auto Show that offers features like vertical airflow, antibacterial copper and even a UVC sterilizer.
The electric restomods are coming
One of the trends that stood out at the LA Auto Show this year was a number of older car bodies on new electric powertrains. While they might not offer the same visceral experience as an internal combustion engine does, they offer a new way to enjoy classic vehicles.
Cobera, an automotive startup, brought a C300, which looked a lot like an old-school Shelby Cobra, to the show this year. But instead of a V8 engine under the hood, the C300 has an all-electric powertrain that the company says can take the C300 from 0-62 mph in 2.7 seconds. The Cobera C300 was designed and built by Composite-Projects, a Hungarian company that specializes in building vehicles and campers. When the car is switched on, a synthetic sound emits from the vehicle, which makes it sound only a little like an old V8.
Electra Meccanica, an electric carmaker that also brought it’s three-wheeled Solo cars to the LA Auto Show (more on that below), showed off its eRoadster, looking like a Porsche 356 Speedster electric vehicle, with updated features like air conditioning, power windows and locks, and a modern infotainment system.
It wasn’t just the small and relatively unknown automakers who brought out the restomods with new powertrains, either. Ford brought it’s electrified F-100 that appeared at SEMA in early November. The 1978 F-100 Ford Eluminator electric restomod features Ford’s E-crate motor that customers can buy and put into their own vehicles.
The F-100 gets a pair of electric motors at the front and rear and Ford says that the vehicle gets 480 horsepower and 635 ft-lbs of torque. Inside is a new and updated infotainment system with a screen and digital dash too.
There are usually at least a few three-wheeled vehicles at the show, but this year there were more than usual. Biliti Electric brought their electric and solar powered electric tuk tuks that the company says could be used for last-mile delivery by companies like Amazon and Walmart in densely populated cities around the world.
Their GMW Taskman is already in use in places like Europe and Asia and the founder says that they’ve delivered more than 12 million packages and logged more than 20 million miles.
Electra Meccanica also brought its Solo vehicles, which the company unveiled back in 2016 to the show as well, and was offering test drives during press days. The company says the small electric cars can do up to 100 miles on a charge and make 82 horsepower and 140 lb-ft of torque with a top speed of 80 mph. It’s a single seater with cargo space and is designed for short trips or commutes around town. The Solo costs $18,500 and is built in Mesa, Arizona.
Sondors also brought it’s three-wheeled electric vehicle, which seats three people and the company says it gets around 100 miles of range. The EV was built after a successful round of crowdfunding of more than $1 million, and it comes with a 33 kWh battery pack, makes 170 horsepower and 323 lb-ft of torque.
Imperium also brought it’s three-wheeled electric car called the Sagitta. The vehicle is the largest of the three-wheeled passenger vehicles that made an appearance at the show, with enough space for up to four people. Sagitta didn’t have any specs on the vehicle yet, though they did say they were taking reservations starting in mid-2022.
Even Barbie had a moment at the LA Auto show where Mattel unveiled a life-size version of the Barbie Extra car. Built on the chassis of a 2021 Fiat 500, the fiberglass body got wild sparkly white paint, a pair of wings for doors and a pet pool in the back.
There were a few vehicles that featured some interesting solar charging options at the show this year. Chinese energy company SPI and Phoenix Motor Inc. launched the EF1-T pickup truck at the LA Auto Show that showed off a retractable solar pick up bed cover that the company said can add as much as 25 to 35 miles of range to the vehicle. Both the EF1-T and the van version, the EF1-V are huge vehicles and clearly still prototypes as the company said that its still taking “customer input,” on features and uses.
The company said that the massive bug-like looking EF1-T should get anywhere from 380 to 450 miles of range on a charge and the company is preselling the vehicles now for delivery in 2025. That’s a long way off in our book.