While European legislators are pushing for more electrified vehicles in their quest to cut CO2, and as Americans wonder whether President Trump will slow their progress, the newly crowned world’s largest market – China – is in it mostly for cleaner air.

China is also the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gasses, but its urban air quality index is such that images of citizens wearing face masks to protect their lungs have become a symbol of the burgeoning economic power.


To combat this paradigm, Chinese policymakers since last decade have been incentivizing consumers and manufacturers to shift toward “new energy vehicles.” By 2018 the government wants these plug-in hybrid and battery electric cars to comprise 8 percent market share, so it’s little wonder this year’s Shanghai Auto Show has quite the assortment of new models.

Only a few years ago the country was still a global laggard as the policies were not stimulating enough new sales. In just the past couple years, however, China has leapfrogged former world leaders – the U.S. and Europe – to become the biggest market with even more upside potential.

Last year China bought one third of a million plug-in passenger vehicles – about 43 percent of the world’s total.

But it’s still early in the global market, and what was unveiled at the show includes therefore concepts and production cars in the country that may become a new creativity zone for cars the rest of the world can also buy. Here are seven of note:

VW I.D. Crozz Concept

The future according to VW Group deemphasizes diesel, is autonomous, and all electric.

“If it was ever possible to make a 100 percent certain prediction of what the future will look like, it is achieved here,” said VW design chief, Klaus Bischoff.

Vital stats include 302 horsepower, 112 mph top speed, 311 miles range, and 80 percent recharge in 30 minutes with a 150 kW DC charger.

Thanks to VW’s cross-brand shared MEB platform with batteries in floor, and which allows designers to imagine virtually any shape on top, the vehicle is about the size of a Tiguan but has more interior space.

Unlike a Tiguan you may buy today, this one however can drive itself. Novel indeed is a steering wheel that retracts into the dashboard when switched to I.D. Pilot mode.

The crossover is the third I.D. concept from the now prolific plug-in carmaker attempting to make over its image after the diesel emissions scandal.

“By 2025, we want to have sales of pure electric vehicles up to one million units a year,” said Herbert Diess, VW’s chairman of the board. “The I.D. Crozz will play a key role in that. Production will start in 2020.”

Jeep Yuntu Concept

Jeep’s three-row, seven passenger re-imagination of the Grand Wagoneer is nice but you can’t have one.

That is, assuming you don’t live in China, as for now the luxury SUV – Yuntu translates roughly to “cloud map” – is aimed at the Chinese market.

“SUVs are the fastest-growing segment in China and the Jeep Yuntu Concept showcases the potential for the Jeep brand to keep expanding in the country,” said FCA in a statement. The Yuntu was built in partnership with Guangzhou Automotive Group (GAC), which produces Cherokees and Renegades for China.

Not quite reminiscent of your granddad’s Grand Wagoneer, it’s adorned inside with LCD screens and a full width LCD dash. Details include suicide doors, biometric starting sans key, and gesture controls facial recognition software to identify the owner and passengers.

Details are otherwise scarce on the powertrain, but range is reportedly 40 miles on the notoriously optimistic Chinese cycle.

Observers have said this is a Jeep that Americans could also groove on, but there are no plans announced for that at this time.

Audi e-tron Sportback Concept

Another built-from-the-ground-up EV concept using the MEB platform from the VW group, the AWD e-tron Sportback is the third EV in the works from the brand with the four rings.

A respectable 429 horsepower is on tap with an overboost feature that unleases 496 horses and 590 pounds-feet of instant torque for up to 10 seconds with a foot to the floor.

Zero-to-62 mph is estimated in 4.5 seconds, which is not quite as ludicrous as the fastest Tesla Model X, but Audi has touted the other attributes balancing out the long, high-riding EV.

A concept would not be complete without something really unique, and in the Sportback’s case, it’s electroluminescent paint on the seats and select door panels.

The surfaces add to the lighting with a soft glow in an interior with microfiber door inlays, and bamboo-derived material on the seats.

The production version is confirmed for 2019.

Buick Velite 5

The Chevy Volt lives again in China – reborn as a Buick – and no, it’s not called the Electra.

Named after a former concept car, the Velite 5 demonstrates that miles are shorter in China, as the powertrain rated 53 miles in the U.S. goes a whopping 72 in the Peoples’ Republic.

“Equipped with GM’s latest intelligent electric drive system, the Velite 5 offers up to 768 kilometers of range in extended-range mode,” said the automaker. “Its prioritized pure electric driving mode provides 116 kilometers [72 miles] of range, fulfilling consumers’ demand to commute with zero petroleum consumption and zero emissions.”

The car is otherwise the same as a U.S. market 53-mile estimated Chevy Volt in Buick trim. The Buick nameplate is considered upscale especially in China, and last year they bought five times as many as in the U.S., so China is the GM divisions’ biggest market.

A spec it gets above the U.S. is “A highly efficient automatic air-conditioning system filters out PM2.5 fine particulate matter and odors,” to tackle Chinese urban air quality.

Buick of China says this is its second model to wear the Buick Blue badge. How the rebadged Volt will do saleswise with the compact platform and tight back seat will remain to be seen in a country where automakers typically focus on back seat room and comforts.

The Velite 5 joins the LaCrosse hybrid electric vehicle launched last April.

“Two trim levels are being offered,” says Buick. “The 1.5GL is priced at RMB 265,800 ($33,368)and the 1.5GS is priced at RMB 295,800 ($37,724). Each is eligible for a subsidy of RMB 36,000 from SAIC-GM.”

There are no plans for the vehicle to come to the U.S.

Volvo CMA Platform

More than a car, Volvo’s Compact Modular Architecture (CMA) will be the basis of the brand’s first EV made in China and the platform from which it will spin off many models.

Volvo says the first model off the line will be in 2019, and plans for the Chinese controlled Swedish brand are for global exports.

“The decision to make its first electric car in China highlights the central role China will play in Volvo’s electrified future and underlines China’s growing sophistication as a manufacturing centre for the automotive industry,” said the company in a statement.

This news is recent, but the CMA has actually been known for a little while as it’s reportedly the underpinnings for Chinese auto giant Zhejiang Geely Holding Group’s startup brand Lynk & CO O3 concept compact sedan (pictured).

Also reveled at Shanghai, the hybrid 03 joins an 01 crossover, and a plug-in hybrid is planned by Geely whjch is the parent companty also of Volvo. Novel is sales will be online and a home delivery service will be available, as will a subscription model akin to smartphone app services.


What do you follow up with when you are a startup coming out of nowhere with the world’s fastest electric hypercar?

If you are NIO, and your 1-megawatt ES9 did 7:05 around the Nurburgring, you come up with an enviably sensible, all-electric family hauler, of course.

The SUV with three rows of seats rides on an 118-inch wheelbase. Length from bumper to bumper is 196 inches, and the entire body and chassis are made from aluminum to keep the weight low.

Few powertrain specs have been released, but the ES8 has front and rear electric motors for all-wheel drive and an active air suspension.

A swappable battery lets drivers change batteries instead of waiting hours for a recharge. The interior is elegant enough with the dashboard being dominated by a large tablet-like touchscreen, similar to what Tesla uses.

Assuming range is over 200, Americans waiting for the Mitsubishi 5-passenger Outlander PHEV would likely ditch that prospect for this assuming prices are in line.

NIO will launch the ES8 crossover at year’s end, deliveries are expected to begin in 2018, but so far, plans are only for China.

Honda CR-V Hybrid

A hybrid Honda CR-V has been rumored before, and the Japanese automaker picked Shanghai to announce what for now is a Chinese market crossover.

To be built by joint-venture partner Dongfen, then released after the middle of this year, the CR-V Hybrid is expected to utilize a dual-motor powertrain akin to what comes in the Accord Hybrid.

With the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid selling spectacularly in the U.S., and the Nissan Rogue Hybrid just ramping up, Honda otherwise knows it needs to fortify its hybrid assortment in North America, and has announced ambitious global plans for its product line to be two-thirds electrified by 2030.

Honda did not immediately announce the size of the dual motor powertrain in the pending Chinese-market CR-V Hybrid, or if it will come to the U.S.

It’s believed an eventual U.S. market CR-V Hybrid might push mpg in the upper 30s, even low 40s, which could be competitive with the other crossover SUVs now available .

No word yet has been given on a plug-in CR-V variant.