The Los Angeles Auto Show showcases many new electric vehicles coming to market soon, illustrating visions of the future. Electric car makers are finding new ways to differentiate themselves.
Mullen, Indi EV, SONDORS, Imperium, Molnár and Barbie Extra displayed new EV designs. Student designers from ArtCenter College of Design also showed off new visions for the future of mobility.
Design, Cabin Experience & Style Set the Trend
Analysts and reporters noticed the prominence of designers and design concepts and new technologies.
“The importance and emphasis of design at this year’s L.A. Auto Show is interesting. Electric drivetrains kind of commoditize the driving experience to a certain extent. Whether you’re talking about a Nissan Leaf or a Porsche Taycan, the driving experience is fundamentally similar: torquey, silent and smooth,” says Edward Sanchez, Senior Analyst, Infotainment and Telematics, Automotive Practice, Strategy Analytics.
“The difference is in the power delivery and amount of power. So automakers are having to find other ways of differentiating their products beyond just powertrain and driving experience. That’s why you’re seeing such a significant emphasis on design, cabin user experience, and styling,” adds Sanchez.
Mullen 5 Offers Luxury Design, Personalisation And a Pet Mode
Mullen, a Southern California based automotive company, unveiled the Mullen Five electric SUV crossover.
“Ever since I can remember, I dreamed of having my own car company. Ten years ago, when I began, I imagined making the impossible possible. Today, it is a reality,” says David Michery, Mullen’s CEO and Co-founder.
Mullen cars are made by Americans in America bringing manufacturing jobs back to the U.S. at Mullen’s facility in Tupelo, Mississippi, with no need to outsource – something very few companies can claim, says Michery.
“An EV with a price point that’s right for consumers with a strikingly different design that sets us apart from our competitors inside and out. The Mullen Five body is the heart and soul of Mullen. It represents everything that is thought to be unthinkable, inconceivable or impossible but when you sit in the driver’s seat you can see it you can feel it and you can imagine what’s possible,” says Michery.
He called out the strikingly different sleek lines, exceptional performance and thoughtful yet practical touches.
Andreas Thurner, founder of Thurner Design and designer of the Rolls Royce Ghost, led the designers of the Mullen Five. The designers came from ultra-luxury brands such as Rolls-Royce, Bugatti Lamborghini Ducati, Porsche, Bentley and couture design.
“You can see my excitement for the American cars of the fifties and sixties by the landscape and the drama of the front end. Integrated into the seat is silver to protect from magnetic waves or radiation,” says Thurner.
Mullen Five also features active noise cancelling sound system and torque vectoring.
Personal Persona software is part of the Mullen package. Cameras integrated into the sides identify who is entering the car to open the door and personalise features such as infotainment, navigation, steering style and climate control.
There is also a security mode to warn criminals approaching that they are being recorded. Plus, there is a pet mode keeping ‘Chewie’, the Newfoundland dog, comfortable and alerting bystanders that he is safe.
Mullen pricing is between $55,000 up to $75,000 before any federal or state local level incentives with a 60-month and 60,000 mile warranty. The 95 kWh battery pack is backed by a 10-year warranty. Upgrades include carbon ceramic rotors to stop quickly and carbon fibre composite body later to go faster.
Gasoline-powered muscle cars and hot rods of yesteryear would show off the engine sticking out of the hood. Hot-rodders also exposed the engine while drawing inspiration from everyday life.
The bathroom-inspired George Barris’ Bathtub Buggy with two tubs, one gold velvet topped commode, gold engine and pipes.
It was restored to its original splendour by the Car Kings. It is displayed at the Galpin Customs Hall.
“It’s not just about speed, it’s about having a personal connection.”
A next generation automaker, created in Los Angeles, Indi EV design draws inspiration from computer processors.
The design Indi One from Indi EV comes from an abstract idea reminiscent of a computer chip. The design is clean and exotic, says Andre Hudson, Head of Design at Indi EV.
The Indie One features a glowing supercomputer rising from the hood. The computer, called VIC (Vehicle Integrated Computer) has a proprietary air-cooled system to keep it cool.
Hudson is looking to the next generation of car owners – the mobile generation who are constantly connected to 5G.
The vehicle is connected to 5G allowing for all kinds of connections. The dash is lined with three screens with different options for the passenger or the driver.
There are two cameras outside of the car and two and three inside of the Indi One.
An example of how a family would use the interior cameras is that the rear camera can pick up the baby in a rear-facing car seat. The camera can help Mom monitor the baby or take daily photos that are stored in the cloud. Then the proud parents can look back and see the progress of the baby, says Hudson.
The connectivity and the cameras can also be used to shoot video of surroundings on road trips, says Hudson.
The entire car system is based on Windows. There is an SDK so that developers can create new forms of entertainment for the vehicle. Passengers can edit media, share with social media, play games or use VR (Virtual Reality) headsets.
The Indi One features different driving feelings. It is a crossover with adjustable suspension with three settings depending on where and how customers want to drive it, reports Hudson.
Hudson is the father of a teenage son and toddler twins. He understands that things can fly around in the trunk. He developed a click and lock system for the trunk. The handy patented versa-shelf can be taken out of the car to be used as a seat in two different ways. It can also be configured as a dog loft.
“We are the future of smart mobility. When you make an EV, it’s not just about speed, it’s about having a personal connection. We don’t want to tell you what you can do,” says Hudson.
Hudson says we will be hearing more from Indi EV at CES. The Indi One car is priced at $45,000- $60,000.
Economical Mini LSVs to eSUVs from China
Also on display were new vehicles from Imperium Motor of Canada Corp.
“We are in the process of promulgating the vehicles to be sold in the United States,” says Christian DuBois, President of Imperium Motor of Canada Corp.
Imperium is working to sell different types of vehicles in the US. The showed SUVs (Imperium ET5) and pickup trucks (Tera-E) from Skywell manufacturing in China. The vehicles will meet all NHTSA crash standard and are reasonably priced even after import tariffs.
“We are opening up a dealership in Fairfield, California, near Napa. We are also working on partnerships for service in the U.S, with a major motor group,” says Dubois.
Imperium offers a full line of the Chinese Jonway Low-Speed Vehicles for all kinds of local uses for delivery, security, patrolling and fun.
Who’s Winning the New EV Space Race?
Although the vehicles on display from new automakers shine and glisten like those of traditional automakers, the verdict is still out on their future. With skyrocketing values for some EV makers in the stock market, it’s not clear what electric vehicle makers will win the EV race.
“In some ways, I see some parallels to the early 2000s dot.com gold rush with…today’s EV entrants. There will be some success stories, but inevitably, there will also be some casualties. From my viewpoint, Tesla is already well-established globally, and is essentially the industry benchmark for EVs, whether the companies want to admit it or not. Based on their backing from deep-pocketed partners, I’m fairly confident Rivian and Lucid are here to stay, but beyond that, it’s anyone’s guess.” says Sanchez.
The Latest Brainstorms From Storm Sondors
SONDOR Inc, a popular premium electric bike maker showed a prototype of its SONDORS EV. Why did CEO Storm Sondors design the three-wheel electric vehicle?
“I wanted to create something different. Regular EVs are too expensive. I wanted something purposeful and affordable,” says Sondors.
Sondors and his engineers are working on many advanced tech and safety features within the SONDORS EV. There is a touchscreen in the centre of the dash.
There are three separate hub motors for each wheel. The vehicle will come with Level 2 self-driving features such as lane-keeping assist and lane change assist.
Although the current prototype has a steering wheel it may not necessarily show up in the final version. Gamers will be thrilled that the SONDORS EV will have remote smartphone control. They are working on using a game controller instead of a steering wheel. Then the person sitting in the driver seat or the passenger seats could drive the vehicle.
The final version is expected to have USB ports, a 110 electrical outlet and air conditioning.
“We expect the body will be part aluminium and part composite,” says Sondors.
Exotic Electric Classic Roadster with Super Car Aeronautic Electrification
Exotic car lovers drooled over the Cobera C300i. It is no ordinary supercar. It was developed by a aeronautics engineer and is closest to flying on the ground while looking like a classic British roadster.
Cobera engineer, Andres Voloscsuk, designs drones, planes and smart lightweight electric trailers for Westfalia. The smart trailers are designed so that they follow the vehicle in front.
Using the composite material with carbon fibre that is used in aircraft and drones—the body of the Cobera weighs only 80 pounds. By keeping the body light, the car can drive further on a charge, says Voloscsuk.
“An electric roadster should be about experiencing the power, fully. It’s all about the experience,” says Voloscsuk, who mused about how much fun the Cobera C300i is to drive. The limited-edition vehicle sells for $170,000.
Flying Motorcycle Ready for Racing in the Future
While aeronautics play a large part in the design of the Cobera C300i, another aeronautical engineer is using an electric motorcycle engine to make a flying car.
Inventor and pilot, Dezsö Molnár, showed his electric flying car. The vehicle/aircraft has a propeller in the back with an electric motorcycle motor, battery and controls encased in an aeroplane shaped body. The four wings are strapped to the sides of the vehicle, while it is driving as a motorcycle or to park it in a garage.
To convert it to a flying machine the wings are connected to the vehicle enabling it to fly. The bullet nose is removed while it is a motorcycle and then connected when the car is flying. Molnár is working on a solar option for charging in remote locations.
“I want to start flying car racing. There are about a hundred flying cars out there. If we start racing them then we can learn how to make them better,” says Molnár.
Lincoln Auto Designs in the Future Anniversary 2040
The LA Auto Show is showcasing not only cars of the future but designers who will be designing cars into the next decades.
On display and garnering attention from major media outlets was a winning design from ArtCenter College of Design for the Lincoln. The company was so impressed with the design they made a full-sized replica.
In ‘Anniversary’, a four-passenger (low H point) Lincoln electric vehicle for 2040 leverages its digital technology to enable its passengers to connect the present and the past.
In celebration of their 30th wedding anniversary, Julianne and Greg set out to revisit some favourite spots from their youth. As they reminisce about the moments that bind them and rediscover the path of their relationship, their Lincoln sedan is able to access digital images of the past and display their fond memories on the dashboard.
A team of seven ArtCenter students created the concept during the 14-week class sponsored by Lincoln. Recent Transportation Design department alumna, Emi Taniguchi, who is now working at Honda in Japan, designed the exterior and current student, Xiaoyu Shawn Zhang, designed the interior.
“To have my design displayed in Pebble Beach as part of Monterey Car Week and at the LA Auto Show is like winning the lottery,” said Zhang.
Barbie Extra Drives Electric with Pet Puppy Pool
Barbie Extra is ahead of most human drivers to electrification. Future female car designers may be influenced by the life-size Barbie Extra electric car. It is showcased in all its glitter and rainbow glory.
As a crowd gathered around the life-size version of the Barbie Extra vehicle. Auto Futures talked to the car’s designer, Ted Wu, VP, Global Head of Design for Vehicles at Mattel, Inc.
“It is a working electric vehicle. It is a real car. Extra Barbie is always staying at the forefront of trends and that’s true with automotive culture. We wanted to make sure that we built it on an electric chassis,” says Wu.
The life-size Barbie Extra electric car attracted a pink-haired Barbie influencer who posed in front of the vehicle with her own matching Barbie. Many other young people posed in or by the Barbie Extra EV reportedly based on a Fiat 500e, for selfies and social media sharing.
The toy Barbie Extra vehicle is sold exclusively at Walmart. The Barbie Extra electric car has a central touchscreen. It comes with a pair of turquoise platform sandals, rainbow tank top, swan pet floatie ring, heart-shaped doggie sunglasses and a pet puppy.
The frunk has a pop-up clothing rack. The pet puppy, a corgi, has its own pet pool in the back of the pink faux headrests on the vehicle. The toy car is the cheapest vehicle on display at $29.88.
What will be the next EV innovation in the future based on trends from the LA Auto Show 2021?
The Mullen Five gives pet warnings. Who knows, if global warming continues, in the future canines could need their own car-pools just like Barbie’s corgi.
Instead of the hearty pet-spectacles, pups in future EVs may have their very own virtual reality headsets.