A slew of new electric cars have made their debut at the Shanghai auto show this week, but don’t expect to see too many of them on Australian roads anytime soon, if at all.
As one of the first major motor shows to return to the circuit since the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic, this year’s buzz around what carmakers are bringing to the electric mobility transition is bigger than ever before.
China was – until recently – the largest market for electric vehicles in the world, with Western Europe overtaking it in early 2021, and the Shanghai show is a stage for numerous Western carmakers as well as a plethora of local names.
Australia, by comparison, is a relative desert when it comes to electric vehicle uptake, due to high prices and thin support from government, a fact that is lamented by industry bodies and carmakers, who have been reticent to introduce more models lest they not prove a return on the investment in getting them through Australian design rules.
While more EVs are coming in 2021, it’s still a long way short of the number of EVs that drivers can choose from overseas.
So here’s a look at the EV models are coming oversea, but may not ever be made available for sale here.
It’s worth remembering that not all combustion vehicles released by carmakers make it to Australia either, but also that the special and enthusiast vehicle scheme (SEVS) allows models not slated for sale here to be imported privately, as long as they comply with regulations.
GM unveils Wuling Hong Guang Mini cabrio
This cute little cabrio makes our top billing not only because it is super-cute, but also because it is the newest version of the Wuling Hong Guang Mini that sells in China for less than $A8,000, and in February outsold the ever-popular Tesla Model 3 there.
With a folding soft-top, two-tone colour scheme and funky stylings, General Motors, which makes the vehicle in China, reckons it will build on the success of what has become one of the world’s most popular vehicles when it goes on sale in 2022.
Sounding more like a new social media platform than a car badge, Zeekr is the new mass-market brand from Geely, which owns Volvo. And its first car is the Zeekr 001, a sleek coupe that promises an impressive 700km driving range (although this may be substantially less in real-world driving conditions).
As with Geely’s Polestar, it appears Zeekr is equally poised to introduce a new era of what it is to own a car – with a plan to introduce its own Tesla-like charging network but with a top charge rate of 360kW, as well as battery rental to reduce the upfront purchase costs and vehicle subscription that would include maintenance and servicing.
Zeekr says it will “take aim at the premium EV segment in China and selected global markets,” but whether that includes Australia is anyone’s guess at this stage.
Volkswagen ID.6 X and ID.6 Crozz
The ID.6 X and ID.6 Crozz were both debuted on Tuesday, and are set apart from the ID.4 (which is slated for Australia but will be delayed for several years unless something is done about what VW Australia boss Michael Bartsch calls a “hostile” government attitude to EVs) by longer wheelbases.
While we may well see the ID.6 here at some point, the variants on show at Shanghai this week – the ID.6 X and ID.6 Crozz are destined only for China, having been designed specifically with the Chinese market in mind.
Ford Evos and Mustang Mach-E
Ford, whose Ranger ute is one of the best-selling vehicles in Australia, has debuted two electric vehicles at the Shanghai auto show, including a China-made Mach-E to be made by Changan Ford designed for the local market, as well as an electric crossover called the Evos.
The Evos will feature Level 2 driver assist technology that can be used on “prequalified” roads (it is doing something similar with a feature called BlueCruise in the US) and is the first vehicle that Ford will introduce its “co-driver” mode which allows the front passenger to access navigation and other vehicle functions via a touchscreen to assist the driver.
While GM unveiled the Lyriq in 2020, this is the first time it has been shown at a motor show. Billed as a redefining chapter for the US auto giant, the Lyriq is spearheading the company’s “zero-zero-zero” vision and be powered by its Ultium battery.
While the vehicle on display at Shanghai is not quite production-ready, Felix Weller, VP of Cadillac in China said, “You may be surprised how similar it is to the show car.”
Will it come to Australia? It may – but it is too early to tell. While GM pulled the iconic Holden brand from showrooms in 2020, it has apparently trademarked a logo and badge readying it for local sales.
Honda SUV e
Following on the heels of its award-winning Honda e, Honda has debuted the Honda SUV e, which departs from the retro stylings that won the Honda e the title of World Urban Car of 2021.
It’s one of 10 EVs planned for introduction in China, as the Japanese carmaker prepares to make a big push into the lucrative market.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She has been writing about electric vehicles since 2018, and has a keen interest in the role that zero-emissions transport has to play in sustainability. She has participated in podcasts such as Download This Show with Marc Fennell and Shirtloads of Science with Karl Kruszelnicki and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum. Bridie also owns a Tesla Model 3 and has it available for hire on evee.com.au.