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Electric cars all the rage at Frankfurt Auto Show, but we can’t drive them yet

Enlarge / The Honda Urban EV is a charming-looking thing. (credit: Honda)

The theme at this year’s Frankfurt Auto Show was definitely electric. Just about everyone had a new electric vehicle concept on show. And there were electrification roadmaps galore. The only thing that was missing was the here and now, and the holdup has me irked. You see, disclaimers were everywhere. The EVs on display are mostly stalking horses for production cars, but none of them is ready for sale today. Those plans to electrify entire model ranges? 2030 appears to be the date by which you’ll be able to get an electric version of any car you want—subject to fine print.

Mainstream OEMs are properly beginning to grapple with the idea of a life without the internal combustion engine, and I quite like some of the directions they’re going. Honda gave us possibly my favorite-looking car of the show, the Urban EV. It’s a small city car with proportions that call back to the Z600 and other Honda hatchbacks of the 1970s but looks that suggest Syd Mead by way of Pixar. Wonderful design details abound, although I doubt either the stubby side-view cameras or external charge indicator will make it to production. But a production version is coming—provided you can wait another two years and live in Europe.

Mercedes-Benz, too, had a small electric concept. The EQA is the three-pointed star’s idea of a sporty compact, a little smaller than the current GLA crossover. Bigger than the Urban EV, it was also designed to show its emotions. Switch the car into Sport Plus mode and the black panel at the front changes the virtual grille, replacing the blue design with a red digital facsimile of the “Panamericana” radiator used on its sports cars of new and old. Whether one wants the entire world to know what driving mode they’re using must be immaterial—at least we can be glad that the blue underlighting only illuminates when stationary.

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