This story is part of Gear Patrol’s continuing look at different approaches to sustainability, leading up to Earth Day on April 22nd.
While most concept cars never make it to the production stage, the ideas and innovations within them often do. Take Hyundai's Mobile Eccentric Droid (above) for example. We may never see it out on the street, but a vehicle that bundles steering, powertrain and brakes into each individual wheel, for unparalleled agility? That's the kind of concept we can get behind.
With that in mind, check out five concept EVs with very different visions of the future — and daydream about what might still come to be.
Mercedes-Benz Vision EQXX
Mercedes wants to be, well, the Mercedes of electric car manufacturers. Consider the Vision EQXX the brand’s statement of intent. This concept hypermiler achieves a range of 620 miles on a single charge, enough juice to drive from New York to Cincinnati. It does this using revolutionary aerodynamics — its 0.17 drag coefficient makes it more slippery than an American football — and unprecedented efficiency, sending an incredible 95 percent of its battery energy to the wheels, versus about 30 percent for the power coming from the engine of a conventional car. Mercedes won’t build a production version, but the concept’s tech will reach reality. That should put even Tesla on notice.
Airstream’s eStream concept is a camping trailer with a built-in electric motor designed to mitigate two of the principal stresses of trailer life: parking and towing. The power plant can propel the trailer by itself for tight maneuvers at low speed, allowing you to line up to your tow vehicle’s hitch or reverse into a parking space by steering it with a smartphone. It also has a Drive Mode that uses the battery to propel the trailer on the highway, reducing the strain — and increasing range— for the towing vehicle. We don’t know when this technology will be cost-effective for Airstream to put into production, or how much the increased weight from the batteries offsets efficiency gains, but it’s an ambitious new way of looking at camping trailers for our electric future.
You may not know Citroën’s luxury brand DS — it’s not sold in America — but like many car brands, they’re going electric. The new E-Tense racing concept features some supremely fancy tech, like a full carbon-fiber monocoque and a motor that can stop the car entirely using regenerative braking (the brake pads are only there as backup). But what we’re excited about is the dual-motor AWD system that pumps out 815 horsepower and propels the car from 0-60mph in around two seconds.
See, DS is an offshoot of multicontinental megaconglomerate Stellantis, which also owns Dodge (a brand transitioning from epic V8s to epic battery-electric power). It’s a good bet, then, that DS E-Tense tech could end up being Dodge’s so-called eMuscle electric vehicle tech — soon to be revealed in the brand’s forthcoming EV muscle car. How about an 815-horsepower electric Dodge Challenger, anyone?
The car of the future may not even be a car per se. Last year, Hyundai acquired robotics firm Boston Dynamics (you know, the one from that Sam Adams Super Bowl commercial). Instead of showcasing yet another new crossover, Hyundai’s booth at CES2022 featured the PnD, a so-called modular all-in-one mobility system.
The PnD can be flexibly configured to move goods for last-mile deliveries, or it can operate as a single-seat, short-range personal mobility device. The PnD is designed to operate autonomously — but Hyundai also envisioned giving a driver manual control using a joystick. The PnD can even pirouette 360-degrees like a figure skater, so now we’re picturing ourselves weaving through a crowded street like Barry Sanders through a defense.
Toyota Pickup EV
Vehicle propulsion may be changing, but some things will remain exactly as the motoring gods intended — just with more electrically sourced low-end torque. Toyota recently unveiled an onslaught of new EV concepts, one of which included — among electric takes on a Lexus sports car and a small off-road SUV — a truck called the Toyota Pickup EV. It looks like a conventional, nearly production-ready Toyota pickup, even going so far as to sport stubby off-road tires. Toyota has been stingy with details, but it looks like the Pickup EV will basically be the electric version of the Tacoma. We’d be lying if we said we weren’t already squirreling away money to preorder one.