Cars of 2021: Your motoring future is going to be electric, well, at least partially

Main photo: Mitsubishi Motors Australia
Main photo: Mitsubishi Motors Australia

Cars of 2021

This year will see a steadily-growing list of drivetrain options that will be at least partially electric.

These include the EV (sometimes referred to as a BEV, a fully-electric vehicle with a battery), the FCEV (fuel-cell electric vehicles that recombine hydrogen from a tank with oxygen in the air to produce the electricity), and hybrids of various kinds.

Photo: Shutterstock.

Photo: Shutterstock.

To quickly cover the difference between hybrids, these have a combination of electricity and internal combustion as energy sources. Sometimes the combustion engine can help power the wheels, sometimes it will only run as a generator. Some hybrids have only a very minor contribution from the electric motor to merely assist the combustion engine, some see the electric motor do most (occasionally all) of the work with no external recharging (relying on the combustion engine and regenerative braking to charge the battery). Then there are plug-in hybrids (PHEV). These can be charged like an EV, and they carry a combustion engine to charge (or contribute) as needed.

With such low sales of electrified options up to now, it'll be interesting to see if increased availability sees a noticeable increase in sales. It's also worth remembering that the majority of new registrations are vehicles for businesses big and small.

Meanwhile the states are giving different messages. Queensland commenced a three-year trial with five Hyundai NEXO FCEVs to showcase the tech, and NSW are putting in more charging locations, while Victoria will introduce a user charge for EVs in July.

Anyway, for private buyers like you, here are some examples to consider.

Photo: BMW Group Australia.

Photo: BMW Group Australia.

BMW will introduce their all-electric SUV, the iX, in the fourth quarter of 2021. On December 10 BMW Australia launched a website where you can "reserve" yours with a $500 deposit, "with orders taken on a first come, first served basis." Offering more than 370kW and a range of 600km on the WLTP (world harmonized light-duty vehicles test procedure), it also accelerates from 0-100km/h "in less than five seconds."

Photo: Ford Australia.

Photo: Ford Australia.

Late in the year Ford will be delivering a new variant of the Escape that will have a plug-in hybrid drivetrain. Its petrol engine will be a 2.5L 4-cylinder, and combined power will peak at 167kW.

The fuel tank will be 45L and Ford claims that the automatic version will use a mere 1.5L per 100km on the combined city/highway cycle.

Photo: Hyundai Motor Group.

Photo: Hyundai Motor Group.

Hyundai Motor Group, who also own the Kia and Genesis brands, will introduce seven new SUVs under the Hyundai brand alone by the end of 2021, including the option of ordering one with an EV, FCEV or hybrid drivetrain (such as a hybrid Santa Fe late in the year).

A December statement announcing their electric-global modular platform (E-GMP, pictured) said "Hyundai Motor Group plans to introduce 23 BEV models and sell one million BEV units worldwide by 2025." As for all the specific new electric models coming here, we'll have to wait for further announcements.

Photo: Mazda Australia.

Photo: Mazda Australia.

Mazda will introduce a new model, the MX-30 in 2021, with partial-electric and all-electric drivetrains optional. The MX-30 M Hybrid (where M means the electric assistance is only mild), has a 2L petrol motor doing most of the work and a total peak output of 114kW. So, on the combined new European driving cycle (NEDC) the M Hybrid still uses 6.4L per 100km, and it's due to arrive in the first half of the year. The MX-30 Electric will have Mazda's new e-Skyactiv powertrain with 107kW and a range of 224km in the combined NEDC. The MX-30 Electric will be on-sale from mid-year.

Photo: Mercedes-Benz AG

Photo: Mercedes-Benz AG

Mercedes-Benz are planning to release six new all-electric vehicles by 2022, with production of the EQA and EQB SUVs and the EQE sedans to begin in 2021. Their PR bumf claims they're "targeting leadership in electric drives and vehicle software", in which leading must mean hoping to do it best rather than first. In any case, they are also taking the bigger picture seriously by acknowledging not just the reduction in petrochemical use but also the environmental impact of the manufacture process and the need to recycle as much of the materials as possible, including those in the battery, at the end of their useful lifespan.

Photo: Mitsubishi Motors Australia

Photo: Mitsubishi Motors Australia

In December Mitsubishi launched a PHEV variant of the Eclipse SUV in Japan, only the second PHEV from the brand. Sales during the pre-order period from October doubled their modest target with 2000 units sold in six weeks. Their plan is to offer the Eclipse PHEV globally but no word yet on when it will join the Outlander PHEV in Aussie showrooms.

There will be more beyond this sample, and existing electric and hybrid options from Nissan, Subaru, Toyota and others will continue to be updated as well.

Photo: Shutterstock.

Photo: Shutterstock.

HOW IS COAL ZERO EMISSIONS?

Transitioning to BEV and/or FCEV is clearly needed, and will improve air quality in cities, but since it's mostly about nations achieving their CO2 reduction targets, we must ask where the electricity comes from.

Some states are rolling out charging networks on major routes, Tesla have charging stations in lots of helpful locations, and there are some council and private initiatives too.

Whereas Tesla are implementing a worldwide plan to have all of their charging done entirely off-grid, and some councils are emulating that, the states don't usually bother mentioning how the power will be produced for the networks they are supporting.

Meanwhile, it's up to home account holders who they go to for supply (and whether they have a sizeable solar system for daytime use), so that will determine if each of those vehicles are actually zero emissions.

Hydrogen also requires electricity for production (separating the hydrogen out of water via electrolysis), so that's a question worth asking too if the target emissions reductions are to actually be achieved.