As previously predicted, major automakers are massively abandoning traditional auto shows in favor of more direct means of engagement. One industry showcase that continues to see a reliable spike in interest is the annual Consumer Electronics Showcase (CES) in Las Vegas, a January jaunt that evokes equal levels of anticipation and fear among tech veterans and commentators. CES 2022 saw another range of concept cars shown in the city for the first time, where they stood out against the usual chatter background.
In addition to major players such as Mercedes and BMW, there was a newcomer in the area. Sony is of course no stranger to CES, but the Japanese electronics giant surprised everyone by unveiling its second concept car and hinting widely that it might get into cars. Cadillac and Chrysler, two all-American brands that were dwindling their influence, came up with interesting new ideas, while BMW broke the (monochrome) bling with an E Ink concept and a renewed focus on in-car entertainment. Read on for tomorrow’s transportation technology.
CES 2022 Electric Concept Cars
Mercedes-Benz Vision EQXX Concept
The Vision EQXX is a Mercedes for a more minimalistic future. Designed to do everything possible to maximize its range, this ultra-aerodynamic four-door sedan stands out for its rejection of most modern Mercedes design cues, right down to the grille. The company describes it as the first EV ever to break the magical 1000km (621 miles) barrier, aided by the ultra-smooth bodywork that culminated in a severed ‘Kamm’ tail. The EQXX also continues Mercedes’ obsession with huge displays and features AI-generated expressive voice models from UK-based Sonantic. Personality is ingrained in the cars of the future.
Mercedes-Benz Vision EQXX, concept only, mercedes-benz.com (opens in new tab)
Sony Vision S-02 Concept
New EV companies are relatively commonplace, but this one comes with 76 years of history. Sony Mobility is a new Sony division created to produce the elegant Vision-S and the new Vision-S 02 in the future. The first was built in 2020, but this year saw the debut of the crossover-shaped 02 model, based on the same basic architecture but with a seven-seat body above it. The company is putting its significant experience into two key areas, entertainment and autonomy, the latter being powered by a high-speed 5G communications network. The attention to technical details of this concept implies that production is a strong possibility.
Sony Vision-S 02, draft only, sony.com (opens in new tab)
BMW iX Flow concept
BMW turned its attention rather bullishly to the surface application of technology, with the E Ink-equipped iX taking center stage. The iX Flow is a proof of concept with a specially developed body wrap of ‘electrophoretic’ material. Using the same principle as e-readers like the Kindle Paperwhite, the surface reacts to electrical signals, turning the iX into a huge canvas, albeit in shades of gray. Practical applications include switching to light colors in warm climates and vice versa, while the artistic potential for geometric dazzle patterns is limitless. Another engineering debut was BMW’s ‘Theatre Screen’, an 8K ultra-wide rear window that descends from the car’s headliner, accompanied by a Hans Zimmer-composed ‘sound experience’ to keep the backseat audience captivated.
BMW iX Flow, concept only, bmw.com (opens in new tab)
Cadillac InnerSpace Concept
The home team was represented by Cadillac’s massive autonomous concept car InnerSpace. This dramatic design envisions a fully autonomous, two-person electric luxury car of the future, part of a series of forward-looking design visions, including the PersonalSpace and SocialSpace concepts. Cadillac’s ‘Halo Concept’ portfolio seeks to position America’s only homegrown luxury car maker as a creator of avant-garde statements. The party trick of the InnerSpace is that it is a self-propelled space for just two passengers. It joins the box-like six-seater SocialSpace and the single-seat PersonalSpace flying machine, with another concept coming soon, the OpenSpace. The first true Cadillac EV is the somewhat conventional Lyriq SUV, which will go on sale in the United States in a few months. Whether the Halo portfolio will impact future products remains to be seen.
Cadillac InnerSpace, concept only, cadillac.com (opens in new tab)
Chrysler Airflow Concept
Chrysler has revived a historic name for its new EV concept, the Airflow. The 1934 original was strikingly modern, one of the first cars to be shaped by the new science of streamlining. Its namesake packs quite the punch of the nearly ubiquitous crossover body shape, but it’s not quite the same kind of pioneer (compare the Airflow to Sony’s Vision S-02, for example, to see how similar-style vehicles are becoming ubiquitous). The Chrysler brand, part of Stellantis, will launch an EV in 2025, hopefully incorporating some of the Airflow’s design. By 2028, it will be an all-electric company.
Chrysler Airflow, concept only, chrysler.com (opens in new tab)