19 May 2020

Automotive news and advances for 2020

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2020 is a pivotal year for the automotive industry. It’s the year that automakers have chosen to really move towards electrification, and when vehicles and technology really start to click. There are three main trends in the automotive industry: electric cars, sport utility vehicles (SUVs), and driver assistance technology.

Let’s look at what’s in store for us in the coming years.

SUVs taking over

Electric cars are capturing an increasing share of the automotive market, but the good old-fashioned gas guzzler is in no danger of disappearing. For proof, look no further than 2020’s crop of new and appealing, fuel-efficient, gas-powered vehicles.

There’s no denying that SUVs are the vehicle of the hour. Like it or not, that’s what buyers demand, and automakers are delivering. A multitude of new big and small SUVs are popping up everywhere in 2020 to meet consumer needs.

In the subcompact SUV segment, there’s the new Kia Seltos, a little four-wheel-drive sport-ute that plugs the gap in the Korean manufacturer’s lineup between the Soul and Sportage. The Seltos earns its stripes with stellar bang for the buck and the most cargo space in its category.

Mazda has an entry in the same category it calls the CX-30. Taking aim at potential Seltos owners, it brings to the game an enhanced design and a nicely finished interior worthy a luxury vehicle. The sticker price on the two rivals runs from $23,000 to $35,000 fully loaded.

Over in the intermediate SUV segment, Volkswagen presents its Atlas Cross Sport, a sporty five-seater sport-ute that can tow a trailer or boat weighing up to nearly 5,000 lb. (2,267 kg).

Toyota too gets in on the 2020 model year with the launch its very latest Highlander, now available with a hybrid system that drives fuel consumption down below the 8 L/100 km mark, a whole new level for this category. Toyota also has a plug-in RAV4 hybrid in the pipeline boasting a 50 km range on electric power.

Then there’s General Motors with its three heavyweights in 2020: Chevrolet’s Tahoe/Suburban, GMC’s Yukon, and Cadillac’s Escalade. These massive eight-passenger behemoths are built on a brand-new architecture and are powered by muscular V8 and turbodiesel engines capable of pulling a big trailer while stuffed with a big family and all its gear.

Cars, far from over

Despite the SUV craze, there are new car models slated for 2020 as well. Nissan has an all-new Sentra, a compact sedan designed to steal some thunder from the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla that retails for $20,000 to $35,000. The Nissan Versa is back in force as well, although it only comes as a subcompact sedan starting at under $20,000.

Hyundai too brings an updated Sonata, shooting for the intermediate sedan category where the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry hold sway. The plug-in hybrid Sonata features rooftop solar panels that take some of the plugging in out of this plug-in.

Full-spectrum electric

The 2020 model year is hosting new electric vehicles of all kinds. To kick things off, the Chevrolet Bolt EV has a new 66 kWh battery that boosts its range to 417 km under the right conditions. A small SUV, to be known as the Bolt EUV and based on the Bolt’s architecture and mechanics, is scheduled for release as a 2021 model.

MINI is at long last launching its fully electric Cooper, a town car with a 32 kWh battery that will take it up to about 200 km on a full charge. Bolts and Cooper electrics are both eligible for government rebates that shave a total of $13,000 off the price.

Ford introduces its Mustang Mach E in the fall, and it’s quite a departure for this iconic sports car, which has turned into an electric SUV. The Mach E comes in a variety of versions with ranges that go from 355 to 475 km and prices starting from $50,000. That puts it up against Tesla’s Model Y, another new electric SUV that should hit the market here in 2020.

And last but perhaps not least, Porsche introduces its first ever internal combustion free car: the Taycan. This ultra-high-performance (and ultra-pricey) sedan delivers acceleration and handing worthy of Porsche's muscliest muscle cars without burning a drop of gas.

The Taycan has a range of about 300 km and the Turbo S version will go from 0–100 km/h in 2.6 seconds before eventually burying the needle at 250 km/h, a first for an electric car. The Taycan also comes with a nifty new 800-volt fast charge system that can fill its 93.4 kWh battery halfway to the top in under 20 minutes.

On the way . . .

There are lots more EVs on the way in the next few years. General Motors has announced ten new EVs under the brand names Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac, and GMC kitted out with the new Ultium battery GM has developed in partnership with LG Chem. The advanced technology paves the way for GM to produce 50 to 200 kWh batteries with a possible maximum range of up to 475 km.

Volkswagen is putting the finishing touches on its new I.D. family of EVs. First up will be the I.D.3, a Golf-size compact with a range of over 400 km. It should be hitting showrooms late in 2020 as a 2021 model.

Ford should be introducing its F-150 electric this year, making it the first-ever pickup without an internal combustion engine. The folks at Dearborn recently signed an agreement with American startup Rivian to market electric vehicles under the Lincoln imprint. Ford’s Transit cargo van will also be 100% electric by 2021.

Mercedes-Benz is currently working with Hydro-Québec on a solid electrolyte battery. Hydro-Québec claims the new battery will be more cold-resistant and will significantly outperform the lithium-ion batteries now in use. If it all works out, expect a revolution in the automotive market.

Toyota in the meantime hasn’t given up on the hydrogen propulsion option, and has totally revamped the Mirai, its one and only hydrogen-powered car, which still has a few hurdles to clear before the universe’s #1 element becomes the fuel of the future.

Any word on the self-driving car?

The self-driving car remains a long way off, but technology continues advancing toward it at Formula-1 pace. GM’s driverless robo-taxi service is set to start up in San Francisco before the end of 2020. The Cruise Origin, as it’s called, is a driverless shuttle ideal for getting people with mobility issues around in urban environments.

Ford is currently working on cars than can talk to each other. For the giant of Dearborn, fully autonomous vehicles won’t be a paying proposition until the cars can communicate among themselves. In a world where all cars speak the same language, the cars themselves will manage traffic congestion and prevent collisions before they happen. Ford talks about viable prototypes by the 2025 model year.