The future of mobility is electric. If there was any doubt about this, the fleet of automobiles showcased by different companies at the Chicago Auto Show reaffirms it. Automakers are transitioning their fleets to electric and are proud to show them off.
The Chicago Auto Show is the largest and longest-running auto exhibition in North America. After two years of coronavirus-inspired smaller shows on outdoor tracks, the Chicago Auto Show revs back to life in grand indoor space.
“We are finally back to our pre-covid levels with two halls here,” said Mark Bilek, Senior Director of Communications and Technology at the Chicago Automobile Trade Association. “We have almost all manufacturers returning. There are a lot more cars on the show floor.”
Now in its 115th year, the 2023 edition opened its doors to the public on Saturday February 11, at McCormick Place convention center and will run until Monday February 20. It will run from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day except on the last day when the show will come to a close by 8 p.m.
The focus of this year’s show has been on electric vehicles and giving drivers the opportunity to go behind the wheel and have a feel of the vehicles on different terrains. The map of this year’s event reveals about six indoor tracks split across the two halls.
Ford is taking the Bronco on a spin through off-road obstacles while showing off the power of the F-150 Lightning in sprints. Jeep set up a course with an intimidating vertical height where it is putting its fleet of Rubicons to the test.
Toyota has a course that mimics four seasons. Ram is showing off its truck’s towing power, and Hyundai set up short EV tracks. The most imposing of all the test tracks is a multi-brand experience known as “Chicago Drives Electric” which is open to passenger-seat EVs from Cadillac, Chevrolet, Nissan, and Volkswagen.
Out of seven test tracks, the Chicago Drives Electric test track sits on a 100,000 square foot giving visitors the chance to sit back and enjoy the power of battery electric vehicles.
Hyundai unveils Evolve+ subscription program
As expected, automakers have seized the opportunity provided by the floor of the 2023 Chicago Auto Show to make huge announcements about upcoming vehicles or programs. Leading the pack in this regard was Hyundai. The Korean automaker announced its new EV subscription service called Evolve+.
The monthly subscription plan is an attempt by the automaker to entice drivers that want to have a feel of an EV without committing to an outright purchase or a long-term lease. Customers who want the Kona Electric can pay $699 for it per month while the monthly subscription plan for the Ioniq 5 is $899.
The pricing covers roadside assistance, registration, maintenance, insurance, and 1,000 miles range. Hyundai said customers can place an order or renew their subscription through their smartphones. Customers can opt-out at any time and cancel their plan.
This is a clear deviation from what is offered by competitors where subscribers are locked to a plan for a stipulated period of time before they can cancel their subscription. To start the subscription process, customers have to download the Evolve+ app from Apple Store or Google Play Store and set up an account.
After setting up an account, the customer can search for a vehicle by price or ZIP code. Once the customer finds a car, they will need to agree to a renewable term and complete their payment using a credit card. Finally, the customer picks up the car through an arranged dealer.
At the moment, Evolve+ is only available to handpicked dealerships in six states. However, Hyundai is working on adding more states and dealerships to the app before 2023 comes to an end.
Corvette gets electrified
One of the talking points of the Chicago Auto Show was the newly electrified iconic Corvette sports car. The E-Ray is the all-electric version of America’s classic muscle car. In continuation of Chevrolet’s recent break from tradition, the new Corvette E-Ray is the first all-wheel-drive and gas-electric hybrid Corvette.
“This is the first ever electrified Corvette, so it’s going to deliver unquestionable performance,” said Sabin Blake, the director of General Motors North America Business Communications. “We’ve got a 160 HP motor in the front, matted with the legendary V-8 small block in the back.”
While its exterior design doesn’t stray far off from its predecessors, what lies under the hood is a clear-cut variation. It is equipped with a 6.2-liter V-8 engine which pairs with a 1.9 kWh battery pack to output a total of 655 horsepower. It can move from 0 to 60 mph in just 2.5 seconds.
At 130 mph, it will cover a quarter of a mile in 10.5 seconds. These stats make the E-Ray the fastest Corvette in the history of the brand. Although similar to the 2023 Corvette Z06, the E-Ray features distinct five-spoke wheels and an E-Ray badge engraved on the body.
Other EVs to watch at the Chicago Auto Show
No fewer than 20 automakers participated at the 2023 Chicago Auto Show. However, it was still the big automakers that drew the most attention, especially as analysts continue to scrutinize their EV future. Although the 2023 BMW XM was unveiled in 2022, it made it to the Chicago Auto Show.
BMW XM is a high-performance plug-in hybrid SUV and the first to be electrified in the performance-focused M division of the brand. The vehicle is powered by a twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V-8 engine and a hybrid-electric powertrain.
In terms of numbers, the hybrid BMW XM lives up to the M moniker. The combination of the gasoline engine and the electric powertrain produces a total of 644 horsepower, 590 pounds-feet of torque, and can travel from 0 to 60 in 4.1 seconds.
Also on display at the Chicago Auto Show is the Dodge Charger Daytona SRT Concept which is a possible replacement for the gas-powered Charger and challenger muscle cars. There was also the Ram 1500 Revolution BEV Concept which shares close similarities with the all-electric Ram 1500 REV scheduled for release in 2024.
The EV concepts on display at the Chicago Auto Show are not for sale. Some will never make it to production. However, their presence is a way of showcasing the electrification plans of the different brands.
Autel Energy will make sure all EVs stay charged
Without a place to recharge, some of the EVs on display will run out of power. Autel Energy is on the ground to make sure that never happens. The company has a 3,000-square-foot exhibition space adjacent to the South Hall track. They will be providing 15 chargers to keep all EVs charged overnight.
Autel Energy has deployed its MaxiCharger family products which include AC (Level 2) commercial and home chargers, DC fast charging (Level 3), and DC bi-directional vehicle-to-everything (V2X) home charging.
The company is also offering digital energy management systems including Autel’s ChargeCloud (the only all-in-one charging cloud solution today) and mobile apps. The 2023 Chicago Auto Show packs a punch of present and futuristic vehicles.