Carmakers at the Frankfurt auto show are unveiling the low-emissions vehicles and technology strategies they hope will let them profit from the sweeping changes due to hit the auto industry in the next few years.
Volkswagen Group showed off a revised version of its electric ID Crozz crossover SUV concept vehicle as it announced a long-term electrification campaign, saying its brands would introduce 80 new electric vehicles by 2025. The company plans to invest €20bn (£18bn) in upgrading plants, creating two new electric car platforms and training workers.
The company said that depending on market developments it could sell three million battery-only vehicles a year in 2025.
Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz unveiled a compact electric vehicle under its EQ sub-brand and the GLC F-Cell, a battery-fuel cell hybrid that can run on hydrogen and emits only water vapor. BMW AG is showing off a concept vehicle for the first electric Mini compact due in 2019.
Car makers are spending heavily to develop and improve electric cars to meet increasingly tough government regulations aimed at limiting air pollution. That is even though current electric models do not enjoy high sales because of limited range, higher price, and a lack of fast-charging stations.
Analysts think that as batteries get better and costs come down, electric sales may eventually take off. According to research and analytics firm IHS Markit, battery-only cars were 0.57% of global production in 2016 and will increase to 0.86% in 2017.
Britain and France have proposed eliminating internal-combustion cars by 2040. China's industry ministry is developing a timetable to end production and sale of traditional fuel cars and will promote development of electric technology, state media on Sunday cited a Cabinet official as saying.
"Now the big question that everyone is asking is, when will we see (electric cars) in mass volume," Volkswagen CEO Matthias Mueller said Monday (11 September). "But it is not just a matter of what is being offered from manufacturers but also the electric charging infrastructure.
"That's why it is important to have a fact-based conversation about the urgent problems with electric mobility and how they can be solved. This needs to be discussed jointly, with electricity companies, with states, with local authorities."
The arrival of battery-powered cars is just one anticipated change. Carmakers are also searching for ways to adapt to a future in which people find ways of getting from one place to another without necessarily owning a car, such as car-sharing or ride-hailing through smartphone apps.
They are also working on developing autonomous vehicles that could drive themselves — under limited circumstances such as corporate campuses or limited access freeways at first, and possibly more widely later.
The three German luxury carmakers were the home team and showed it with large display areas; some other carmakers are skipping the Frankfurt show this year. Reasons include cost, other ways of displaying cars to the public such as livestreamed events, and less focus on Germany and Europe as a market. No-shows include Fiat Chrysler's namesake Fiat and its Jeep and Alfa Romeo brands, Peugeot and its DS luxury division, plus Nissan, Infiniti and Volvo.
Even Porsche, part of Volkswagen, didn't wait for the show but showed off its new Cayenne SUV on 29 August with an elaborate streamed event from its base in Stuttgart, Germany.
Small SUVs are also a theme at the show as manufacturers crowd into a segment that has proven a winner with consumers. New offerings of SUV or SUV-like body stylings on compact car platforms include: Volkswagen's T-Roc, the SEAT Arona, Jaguars E-Pace, Kia Stonic, Citroen C3 Aircross, Skoda Karoq, and a so-far unnamed offering from Chery
And high-end cars remain a fixture as before. Rolls-Royce has a new version of its Phantom, and Daimler unveiled its Mercedes-Benz-AMG Project ONE, a two-seat hybrid with over 1,000 horsepower and a top speed of 350 kph (217 mph.)