The Future Of Electrification

From the April 2019 edition

From Montreal, to Toronto, to Vancouver, Canada’s International Auto Shows have enjoyed record-breaking attendance this year, testament to the public’s enduring passion for the automobile.

Hyundai unveiled their stunning Le Fils Rouge concept at the Montreal show last January.

And like the cars themselves, auto shows have had to adapt to remain relevant in the face of rapidly evolving technology and consumer expectations. Today’s vehicles are a lot more than simple transportation—they’ve become highly sophisticated mobility solutions offering a dazzling array of new connectivity, safety and autonomy features.

Under the spotlight this year were such notable technologies as Subaru’s DriverFocus, which uses facial recognition software to monitor the driver’s fatigue; a new road-scanning feature from Mercedes that detects imperfections ahead and automatically adjusts the suspension to adapt; towing and trailering apps that use cameras and automated driving systems to help facilitate hookup, monitoring and trailer backup; “virtual cockpits” or highly customizable and dynamic digital gauges replacing traditional analog; smartphone apps that can remotely monitor, start, warm up, and even summon the car; and more sophisticated levels of automated driving that help keep the vehicle between the lines if the driver becomes distracted.

Le Fils Rouge features cutting-edge technology including a panoramic floating display in front of the driver and a futuristic cockpit.

A panoply of new and future electrification, the auto show is still the best place to introduce alternative energies to the Canadian public.

No longer a novelty, or niche-vehicle for virtue-signalling eco-warriors, the electric vehicle takes centre stage with a growing number of manufacturers entering the ring. With longer driving ranges, shorter charging times and loaded with new technology features, EVs have become a truly viable alternative to traditionally powered vehicles. Most brands feature one, if not an entire lineup, of hybrids, but pure electric cars are beginning their move into the mainstream.

While Toyota hasn’t any fully electric cars in its lineup yet, the Prius is the world’s best-selling, and probably best-known, hybrid. For 2019 Toyota introduces the Prius AWD-e, which in addition to its hybrid powertrain up front, now features a rear-mounted electric motor to drive the rear wheels. The e-AWD system reacts only when needed—the Prius remains otherwise a front-driven car to save fuel.

Ford’s new EV lineup
Ford’s recent announcement that it was cancelling all of its passenger cars but for the iconic Mustang was shocking, but not surprising given that it’s concentrating on the more lucrative pickup and crossover segment. But what is surprising is their intention of introducing 40 electrified vehicles (16 of them pure EVs) to the market by 2022. For now, you can still buy the Fusion Hybrid and Energi hybrid, but the Focus all-electric has been cancelled for 2019.

From teetering on the brink, Mitsubishi’s come full-circle since joining the Renault-Nissan alliance. The Outlander PHEV is Canada’s most popular plug-in and the company is refocusing to concentrate on electrification and crossovers. Making its Canadian debut at the Montreal show, the futuristic e-Evolution concept uses a trio of electric motors (one up front, two behind) to power the all-wheel drive system, and it boasts a sophisticated level of artificial intelligence technology onboard.

Honda boasts a trio of gasoline-electric hybrids in the Accord Hybrid, Clarity plug-in, and the Insight, powered by a four-cylinder engine combined with two electric motors. An all-electric Clarity is available in other markets, and Honda recently announced that their retro Urban EV concept is slated for 2019 production, but neither is as yet confirmed for Canada.

Mitsubishi’s Outlander PHEV is Canada’s most popular plug-in, with the company refocusing to concentrate on electrification and crossovers.

General Motor’s all-electric Bolt is the first affordable EV to offer 383km of pure electric range. While the hybrid Volt will not return in 2019, GM plans to concentrate its resources on future battery-electric crossovers, SUVs, minivans and even pickup trucks. Luxury brand Cadillac will be the face of GM’s push to become an industry leader in electric vehicles.

Cutting edge technology
Hyundai’s electrified stable includes the Ioniq hybrid, plug-in, and all-electric, the Sonata Hybrid and the new all-electric compact crossover Kona with over 400km of range. Making its Canadian debut, Hyundai unveiled their stunning Le Fils Rouge concept in Montreal. A showcase of cutting-edge technology, including a panoramic floating display in front of the driver and futuristic cockpit, the EV concept is an indicator of future Hyundai design to come.

While Mazda has thus far avoided the EV segment, concentrating its efforts on high efficiency traditional engines, the Japanese company will launch its first battery electric vehicle in 2019. Most likely a small crossover, the EV will be followed by a range-extended version using a rotary engine.

Making its first Canadian appearance at the Montreal Auto Show, Nissan’s Leaf Plus features a larger battery pack that increases its range up to 363km—versus the 243km of the regular Leaf. Nissan also unveiled another version of their best-selling EV at the Toronto show. The Leaf Nismo RC is a 322hp, AWD electric race car that will be one of the official pace cars for the Nissan Micra Cup, a Canadian race series now in its fifth year.

Nissan’s Leaf Plus features a larger battery pack that increases its range up to 363km.

There were over 40 production and concept electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles on display at the Toronto Auto Show alone, and each auto show made a fleet of EVs available for public test drives.

Plug-in electric and hybrid cars have risen to nearly 46,000 units in Canada and 2018 sales were more than the previous three years combined. Government rebates play a huge role in influencing those sales. With Ontario cancelling a program that refunded up to $14,000 per vehicle, it remains to be seen whether leaps forward in quality, variety and range are enough to maintain that momentum.