2018 has brought us some incredible concept cars, ranging from extremely weird to stunningly beautiful, and from painstakingly slow to warp-speed fast, but they were all innovative in one way or another.
While most concept cars are just built for show and never turn into something we can buy and legally drive on the road, they still give us pointers of where car design is headed, and which features we will see on new cars in a not-too-distant future.
It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that most concept cars now focus on the future of autonomous cars with electric powertrains, and while that might sound dreary to the die-hard car enthusiasts out there, it's something we'll just have to accept. The days of the fossil-fueled cars are coming to an end, and they will slowly but surely disappear one-by-one over the next couple of decades.
But hey, it's not all bad news! With all the new technology being developed for the next generation of concept cars, we are now starting to see EVs capable of doing long distances, and they're fast as well! And since there are no huge oily lumps taking up space, the designers get to be much more playful, coming up with designs that would've been impossible just a few years ago.
...And as far as fully-autonomous vehicles go, they're still a few decades away - which means we get to enjoy driving for a long time to come.
32 Toyota e-Palette
The e-Palette summarizes everything that's wrong with the future of driving. When car companies start viewing driving as a hassle we're in trouble. Toyota describes the e-Palette as “fully-automated, next-generation battery electric vehicle[s] designed to be scalable and customizable for a range of Mobility as a Service business.”
In reality, it looks like a transparent shipping container that only lets you ride as a passenger.
Toyota believes they can start testing the e-Palette as an all-purpose tool for businesses in the early 2020s and plan on producing three different sizes that can be used for multiple purposes.
31 Mercedes Benz Vision Urbanetic
Mercedes-Benz's way of dealing with the future of transporting people and goods is with this weird creation, the Vision Urbanetic concept. Of course, it's a self-driving vehicle - but Mercedes didn't share any details of its range, charging technology, or how the self-driving system works, other than that it has an embedded "self-learning IT infrastructure for the continual analysis of transportation needs."
Translated into everyday language, it means the concept car can calculate where it's most needed by analyzing data. Mercedes reckons the Vision Urbanetic is so flexible that more vehicles can be taken off the road to free up space.
30 Renault EZ-GO
Renault is following up its connected SYMBIOZ passenger car concept with their vision of a zero-emissions fully-automated smart taxi of the future. The users will be able to summon the taxi via an app, and up to six passengers will be able to get a ride to one of the dedicated stations dotted around the city. So, it's like a bus and a taxi combined into one.
Being an urban vehicle, the speed is limited to 30mph, but at least the passengers can enjoy the scenery through the huge glass areas.
The EZ-GO will provide wi-fi, induction charging for phones, and a large screen that shares various bits of information.
29 Smart ForEase
Mercedes' little Smart brand has turned 20 years old already, and the ForEase was built to celebrate its 2 decades on the roads.
The concept plays off the iconic ForTwo, but the roof was thrown away and the car was made more fun.
Designed like a compressed sports car with its fun lines, tiny proportions, and speedster humps behind the occupants, it almost resembles something straight out of a cartoon. The Smart ForEase is an example of what can happen when you let the designers be a bit playful, and clearly, even the Germans have a sense of humor.
28 Buick Enspire
Buick has claimed the new Enspire will do 370 miles on a single charge, but they haven't shared any details about the powertrain. What we do know is that the Enspire concept uses Buick's "eMotion electric propulsion technology" which produces 550 hp. There were also claims of being able to charge it to 80% in just 40 minutes, but once again, no details on the type of charger used to achieve it.
There's a thin LED-light strip across the rear end, and it shares some design details with other Buick concepts, like the headlights being similar to the Avista sports coupe. The interior is very futuristic, with an OLED screen at the front, and an advanced augmented-reality HUD, while most surfaces are covered in suede and natural wood.
27 VW ID Vizzion
The ID Vizzion is more of a lounge than a regular car with the regular controls swapped out for voice and gesture control. The 'driver' interacts with the car via a virtual host and a plethora of touch-screens.
VW has plans of launching the first Vizzion as early as 2021, with the self-driving version maybe appearing around a decade later.
For now, the plan is to use a 111kWh lithium-ion battery pack that gives it a 413-mile range and around 300 horsepower. It should go without saying that it's been fitted with the Lidar, laser scanners, and cameras needed for full self-driving abilities.
26 Volvo 360c
Another car where doing the driving yourself is optional, classified as SAE Level 5. The 360c is fully electric and fully connected, meaning it can communicate with other vehicles and the surrounding infrastructure.
Volvo is developing its own self-driving technology in cooperation with Autoliv through their joint venture called Zenuity. Their technology will be used by Volvo, but will also be available to other companies.
Volvo is keen to develop self-driving vehicles and see various scenarios where they believe life will be made safer and easier by not having people drive themselves.
25 Nissan XMotion
The Nissan Xmotion is filled to the brim with technology. There's a total of seven touch-screens inside, which probably is a bit overkill considering there are complaints about The Tesla Model 3's all-in-one touch-screen approach to the instrument cluster. Then again, the 'driver' must have something to do with all his spare time behind the wheel of an autonomous car.
The concept is eye-catching though, with its suicide doors, off-road stance, LEDs, and red interior with wood trim. Even with all this gadgetry going on, I think the best thing about the car must be the personal assistant that lives inside the infotainment system - in the shape of a Koi fish!
24 Iconiq Model Seven
With the Model Seven, Iconiq has chosen to go for the ultimate passenger experience for their self-driving car, hence the label 'the world's first all-electric passenger-focused MPV.'
It uses Microsoft's Azure cloud technology, offering facial and vocal recognition so the passengers can fully utilize their digital presence without having to stare down at the phone during the ride. The vehicle will most likely recognize its passengers through their phone signals before they even get in the car.
There are two comfortable seats in the rear that can recline to a full-flat position, and they face a massive touch-screen display.
23 Kia e-Niro
The e-Niro is based on the already existing Niro crossover and will be available with two different lithium-ion battery packs, one with 39.2 kWh and one providing 64kWh, offering 193 and 301 miles range.
As well as the usual driver assistance systems, like automatic emergency braking and lane-keeping assistance, the e-Niro has Level 2 autonomous capability, which follows traffic and keeps the car in its lane.
There's a battery heating system, and a pre-conditioning system to heat or cool the car before a journey.
Design-wise, the Niro EV stands out from the other Niro's with a new front end, as well as arrow-shaped daytime running lights. At the rear, it has model-exclusive LED tail-lights.
The interior has blue trim to match the exterior highlights.
22 Lexus LF-1 Limitless
Toyota is hoping to have the Lexus LF-1 Limitless concept ready for consumers by 2019.
The crossover aims to make the driving experience easier with touch controls on the steering wheel and a touchpad on the center console.
Design wise, the LF-1 Limitless Concept might be the most radical vehicle Lexus has ever come up with, with some calling it “the sexiest SUV on the planet.”
The LF-1 concept could be powered by fuel cell, hybrid, plug-in hybrid, gasoline, or even all-electric. By 2025, every Lexus model will be available either as a dedicated electrified model or have an electrified option.
21 BMW Vision iNext
BMW hasn't given out many details about the iNext, but has said there will be a pair of electric motors that will make it accelerate from 0-60 mph in under 4.0 seconds. The iNext will be electric and feature a fifth-generation battery design. The largest battery is expected to be a 120kWh unit, providing over 370 miles of range.
There will also be Level 3 self-driving capability, with Level 4 technically being possible but probably not offered initially to the public when it goes on sale in 2022. The design still features the signature kidney-grille, but it now serves as an "intelligence panel" with sensors required for self-driving
20 GAC Enverge
The Chinese auto company revealed their electric crossover concept at the Detroit auto show. Currently, there is no projected release date for the GAC Enverge, but GAC are hoping that they'll be able to enter the U.S. market before the end of 2019.
The Enverge concept does have plenty of flashy features, like the gull-wing doors. They might not be the most practical doors, but they sure do look good. Inside there's a large screen up front and AR features for the rear passengers. GAC has claimed the Enverge can drive 370 miles per charge.
19 Nissan IMx
The IMx all-wheel-drive electric SUV is scheduled to appear as early as 2020 and will be built on the Leaf chassis.
The concept has the battery fitted low in the chassis and has dual motors with a total of 429 horsepower. Claimed range is 380 miles, but in the real world that will probably be quite a bit less.
The IMx uses ProPilot, which is a self-driving system similar to Tesla's Autopilot. The concept car also had a retractable steering wheel which frees up some more space in the already generously spaced cabin.
18 Byton All-Electric SUV
China's Byton All-Electric SUV is scheduled for release in 2019, though it won't be identical to the concept car Byton has claimed the concept represents about 85% of the car that goes on sale.
According to Byton, the SUV is a "smart intuitive vehicle" that may be sold with facial recognition technology, cameras instead of side mirrors, gesture and voice controls, and of course - self-driving capabilities.
It's quite clear that Byton has taken aim at Tesla's market, and with the product they showed off, they're outperforming Tesla in most areas. Things are about to get interesting!
17 Subaru Viziv Tourer
The Viziv Tourer is slightly more compact from front to back than the current Subaru Outback, but it's close to three inches wider and nearly a foot lower. It has a sharp front-end, and it's a Subaru - so a hood scoop was a must-have.
While Subaru has kept quiet about the power plant, it has been made clear that the concept car uses a boxer engine. The Viziv uses the "Eyesight" advanced safety system, which should make it, ahem, safer. Since Subaru has plans for improving the Eyesight safety system, there's a chance the car won't see production until that's done and ready.
16 Infiniti Q Inspiration
There currently isn't a projected release date for the Infiniti Q Inspiration, but it has been confirmed that the car will have the world's first variable compression engine, designed to be more powerful and efficient than a standard engine. There's also a possibility it will be available as an EV, as Nissan has said most Infinitis after 2021 will have an electric alternative.
The Q Inspiration has already won awards for “Best Concept Vehicle" and "Best Designed Interior” at the annual EyesOn Design Awards, so there's nothing wrong with its looks. The cabin has a minimalist design centered around the occupants rather than being flashy.
15 VW ID Buzz Cargo
The ID Buzz Cargo is a commercial version of the ID Buzz passenger-friendly car that was unveiled in 2017. It's pretty much a spiritual successor to the iconic Microbus, and if the demand is sufficient, VW will launch the electric commercial Cargo version alongside the passenger van in 2022.
The ID Buzz Cargo has the longest version of VW's MEB modular platform, which does allow for a 111kWh battery to be fitted, that would give it a potential range of 340 miles. However, VW believes most buyers will go for the 48kWh battery that provides a 200-mile range. With a 150kWh charger, it would only take 15 minutes to get an 80% charge on a 48kWh battery.
14 Peugeot E-Legend
The Peugeot E-Legend looks absolutely amazing, it's like a muscle car and the classic Peugeot 504 had a baby. Sadly, instead of being a proper driver's car that will hit the showrooms soon, the E-Legend is a design showcase for what future fully autonomous Peugeots could look like.
The interior is a mix and match of the past and the future, with 'wood' panels representing the past, and the massive, curved 49-inch screen and small, fully retractable (for autonomous driving) steering wheel showing us what the future will be like.
13 Lynk & Co. 03 Cyan Concept
Lynk & Co. was launched in 2016 and is so far only sold in China, but that didn't stop them from partnering up with Cyan Racing, the Swedish race team that split up from Polestar/Volvo.
The car company is committed to launching in Europe in 2019 and wants to expand to the United States at a later stage. They have also announced their plans of racing in the 2019 World Touring Car Cup with their compact sedan.
Together with the race car, they revealed a road-going version with a rather hefty 500 hp, but as of yet, there has been no mention of production.
12 Hyundai Le Fil Rouge
The Le Fil Rouge is pioneering Hyundai's new "sensuous sportiness" design language. The stylish sedan has a low nose, a long hood, and a cool fastback rear end. The lines are sleek, yet powerful from whatever angle you look at it.
Inside the cabin, you'll find a pair of displays, a square steering wheel, and an unnecessarily high center tunnel that divides the front seats, creating almost a separate cockpit for the driver and passenger.
There's a lot of light fabrics and wood, but it remains to be seen how much of this will be transferred to the actual car.
11 Chevy eCOPO Camaro
The new Chevrolet eCOPO Camaro is entirely electric and produces more than 700 hp.
The eCOPO was developed together with electric drag racing team Hancock and Lane Racing, and it is the first application of a new 800-volt battery and electrical system developed by GM. The 800 volts will shorten the charging time considerably, which is important for the limited time between elimination runs.
While still testing, Chevy is confident the car should be capable of 9-second runs. The batteries are strategically placed for optimal weight distribution, which is 44/56 front/rear. The electric motor is connected to a conventional transmission that drives the same solid rear axle as in COPO Camaro drag racers.
10 Porsche Mission E Cross Turismo
The CUV (Cross Utility Vehicle) is powered by two permanent magnet synchronous motors that put out more than 600 hp, which let the Mission E Cross Turismo accelerate from 0-to-60 in less than 3.5 seconds.
Inside the cabin, there is a curved infotainment system that spans the entire width of the dash with three individual displays. Supposedly there's also an eye-tracking system to make the driver's interaction with the car easier and less distracting.
Following the previously announced Mission-E saloon which will go into production next year, there's a decent chance we'll see this 'design study' eventually make its way to showrooms as well.
9 Lexus LC Inspiration
Lexus has taken everything to the next level with their Inspiration series. The concept is based on the LC 500, which means there's a 5.0-liter V8 hiding under the hood. Producing 471 hp and paired to a 10 speed automatic, it will do 0-to-60 in 4.4 seconds and keep going until it reaches 168 mph.
The interior gets bespoke Alcantara door inserts and there are semi-aniline leather sports seats that will give the occupants a nice hug when driving.
If that sounds like something you'd be interested in, here's a little secret for you; Lexus is currently working on an even more potent LC that will deliver closer to 600 hp and feature much more aggressive styling.
8 BMW M8 Gran Coupe
The BMW M8 Gran Coupe is a serious contender to Aston Martin's DB11 and the all-new Bentley Continental GT.
The Gran Coupé will feature either a 320 hp 3.0-liter six-cylinder diesel or 625 hp 4.4-liter gasoline V8. It would be nice if BMW would offer it with the 6.6-liter V12 engine that can be found in the current flagship model, the M760i.
The styling is very muscular and masculine, which is needed in order to play with the aforementioned big boys, and it's further complemented by the gold-tinged grille, fender air-vents, and other details.
7 Envision-GFG Sibylla
Designed by the legends Giorgetto and Fabrizio Giugiaro in cooperation with energy experts Envision, the Sibylla is a luxury four-door saloon that's connected to EnOS, the largest energy IoT platform in the world, letting the Sibylla communicate and share energy with other vehicles and buildings, as well as run on 100% renewable energy all the time.
Powered by four 100Kw electric motors and a 100kWh battery pack, it offers a 280-mile electric range and 534bhp. Entering the car is done by sliding the windscreen forward, while passengers can get in via hinged doors that open in a gullwing fashion. The Sybilla is actually built to be driven instead of autonomous, with thumb touchpads for easy operation.
6 Toyota GR Supra Racing Project
While this isn't the road-legal Supra all the lovers of Japanese sports car were waiting for, it does show that Toyota is committed to making a production model.
The specs for the track-only Supra doesn't mention much about its performance, but we can say for sure that it has a front engine/rear-wheel drive layout, and is mostly made from fancy composite materials to keep the weight as low as possible.
If you can't wait for the real thing to appear, you can at least drive the virtual version in Gran Turismo Sport on PlayStation.
5 Aston Martin Lagonda Vision Concept
The Lagonda Vision Concept is Aston Martin's approach to making an all-electric flagship vehicle. The designers must have had a great time designing the Lagonda. With no engine or transmission tunnel, they had a lot more freedom to design the exterior - There's no hood, just a sharp nose designed to efficiently cut through the air.
The inside sees extensive use of ceramics, carbon fiber, hand-woven wool, and other expensive materials for maximum levels of luxury. The steering wheel can slide from left to right-hand drive, and even retract entirely. By using next-gen solid-state batteries a 400-mile range could become reality.
4 Nissan GT-R50
The GT-R50 is Italdesign's re-interpretation of the GT-R, European style combined with Japanese performance. The good news is that there might be a customer version available in the future, the bad news is that the starting price is estimated to be €900,000.
There will only be 50 cars built, and each will be tailored for the customer. Key design features are the power bulge on the hood, stretched LED headlights, lowered roofline, 'samurai blade' air vents on the front fenders, and an adjustable rear wing. Inside there are two different carbon fiber finishes and lots of black Alcantara and Italian leather.
Under the hood, there's 3.8-liter V6 that produces 720 horses.
3 Rimac Concept Two
The Rimac Concept Two could prove to be a serious contender for Tesla's position in the EV hierarchy. It features SAE Level 4 autonomy and a 120kWh battery pack that feeds the four electric motors enough electricity to produce an absolutely ridiculous 1888 hp. Then again, there's no need for Tesla to worry too much about the Concept Two, as production will be very limited.
Rimac's previous Concept One only saw eight cars actually being made, but Rimac claims they will make 100 Concept Twos.
They also claim the Concept Two can do 0-to-60 in just 1.85 seconds and can achieve a range of 400+ miles.
2 Audi PB18 e-Tron
Audi is preparing to dominate electric car racing, just like it did at the 24 Hours of Le Mans with the R18 TDI. The PB18 e-tron refers to Pebble Beach where the car was shown, the 18 is from the R18 TDI, and the e-tron is from the upcoming range of EVs.
The most unique aspect of the PB18 is the movable monocoque, which is enabled through the fly-by-wire controls. The cabin is positioned like a mid-engine configuration car, but with a liquid-cooled 95kWh solid-state battery pack.
The body is made of a mix of carbon fiber, aluminum, and other composites to ensure a light weight of less than 3,417 lbs.
1 Mercedes Benz EQ Silver Arrow
The Mercedes EQ Silver Arrow is one of the most incredible looking cars ever made! The design is filled with elements from race cars of a long-gone era, yet very futuristic through its use of composite materials and LEDs... and there's a reason for that.
The Silver Arrow is meant to be a modern interpretation of the W125 Grand Prix championship car from 1937.
Whereas most electric cars these days look mind-numbingly boring, the Silver Arrow with its single center seat, wooden interior, and incredible body is on a whole new level. Not meant for production, so just appreciate it for what it is - a one-off piece of automotive art.
Sources: Business Insider, Top Gear, Motor Trend, Motor Authority