2013 Detroit Auto Show: Where Have the Electric Cars Gone?

By · January 08, 2013

Cadillac Converj Concept

The production version of the 2014 Cadillac ELR plug-in hybrid luxury coupe is expected to look very similar to the Converj Concept, which was first shown in 2009.

The 2013 North American International Auto Show, which opens its doors to the world’s media on January 14, signals one of two things by its notable lack of headline-grabbing electric and plug-in hybrid introductions. Either alternative energy cars and trucks have gone mainstream, so as to be virtually invisible on the show-floor in Detroit’s Cobo Hall, or automakers have shifted the bulk of their marketing attention away from electrified vehicles. In the days leading up to the show, only one new and original plug-in hybrid model, the new 2014 Cadillac ELR, is officially scheduled to make a world debut in Detroit.

Cadillac ELR, the ‘Super Volt’

Based on the current Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid, the Cadillac ELR looks set to borrow the bulk of its engineering, including the gasoline/electric powertrain, from its bowtie-badged sibling. Look for ELR luxury coupe to include the Volt’s lithium-ion battery pack and electric motor that, at least in the Chevy, deliver an electric driving range of 37 miles. When battery power runs out, a 1.4-liter gasoline-fed engine powers an onboard generator to provide the Volt with an additional 300 miles of range.

It’s widely expected, though not yet confirmed, that the ELR coupe will have more power and a greater electric-only driving range than the Volt. Sales of the ELR are scheduled to begin late in 2013, for the 2014 model year. Styling will borrow heavily from the edgy-looking Cadillac Converj concept, originally shown in 2009.

Ford C-Max Energi

The Ford C-Max Energi joins a growing list of plug-in vehicles that have made the jump from auto show concept, to showroom reality.

Show-floor versus Showroom

Part of the reason for the lack of electric vehicle introductions this year in Detroit is simply due to the fact that, now more than ever, full-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles are available in dealer showrooms, and not confined to concept status amongst the pomp and glitz of the auto show circuit. New mainstream models, like the Ford C-Max Energi, have only recently gone on sale. Meanwhile, sales of the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan LEAF EV have either held steady or, in the case of the Volt, more than doubled from sales levels one year ago. (Nissan will use Detroit as the venue to unveil the 2013 update to the LEAF.)

Other automakers, including BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi and Infiniti, have plug-in hybrids or full-electric vehicles firmly integrated into their near-term future product range. A lack of flashy introductions in Detroit does not signal the end of the electric car, but perhaps more the tapering off of the novelty factor these vehicles had only one or two years ago.


· · 5 years ago

We will be seeing a plugin Honda Accord Hybrid, a Mitsubishi Outlander plugin hybrid, a BMW i3 EV, Chevy Spark EV, and maybe a few others I'm not remembering.

We'll need to be persistent - and the auto makers need to be working harder on the efficiency of the *car*; since the battery pack holds a lot less energy than a gas tank can. Gasoline's immense energy has made car designers lazy, in my opinion.

We need innovation at the level of the EV1; then range would more or less be a moot point.


· Modern Marvel Fan (not verified) · 5 years ago

"at least in the Chevy, deliver an electric driving range of 37 miles"

Isn't Chevy Volt rated 38 EV miles?

· Anonymous (not verified) · 5 years ago

Auto makers need to move away from the rolling lounge chair concept. These cars are far to heavy to achieve important gains in mileage and are based on materials that are out of date. While newer lighter structures may cost more they are the only solution, maybe they should learn not to expect as large a profit for the stock holders!

· · 5 years ago

I like the rolling lounge chair concept. I don't absolutely need a luxury vehicle, but if automakers feel like making some extra money they will cater to me and millions like me.

· · 5 years ago

I suspect GM will try and fetch $65K MSRP for the ELR and at that price there'll likely be few takers. If, however, they're able to price it in the low $50K, I think it will do rather well. GM desperately needs a good looking CUV on the Voltec platform.

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