Shanghai Auto Show 2013

The Shanghai Auto Show is always more fun than its Beijing counterpart, held every other year,  because, in simple human terms, in Shanghai you tend to see the sun more often.

Still horrendously foggy in a decidedly non-natural way – upon our arrival at the airport the sky was a solid white colour – over the whole trip, Shanghai nonetheless felt brighter, less congested and more upbeat. Pollution levels across the country are still a big issue and a talking point in the local English-speaking papers, though.

According to China Daily after a particularly smoggy winter in Beijing, the city’s municipal government has decided to bring forward a new fuel standard pilot scheme – known as Beijing V – similar to Europe’s Euro V standard (and China V). Getting older vehicles off the road is deemed important, too. Just under 10% of China’s vehicle parc are from the pre-China I standard but China Daily says they account for 40% of total vehicle emissions. With most of China still at ‘China III’ fuel quality level – Shanghai is China IV now and applying the China V standard by mid-year – there’s tangibly still huge work to do.

Despite all these issues, the country is on course to register 21 million new vehicles this year – affirming its number one world market status – and the aspiration to own a car is still high, as one unnamed car designer candidly put it: “A private car – even one that has to sit in a traffic jam – is still preferable to the risk of contracting bird flu on the public subway system.” The huge crowds that swarmed into the massive 17-hall 2013 Auto Shanghai motorshow on its notional first ‘press’ day would seem to back up that personal anecdote, and what was on display revealed a cornucopia of local Chinese and global brands offering now and near-future product with 20-plus serious global unveils.

While the majority of those products were aimed at fulfilling the dream of vehicle ownership rather than green vehicle ownership, some also showed significant eco-focused promise. Here are Green Car Design’s four favourites…

Concept: Chery @Ant 2.0

As the names implies, this concept is the second in a series, the previous 2012 @Ant concept featuring an unlikely but interesting pair of scissor-doored vehicles designed to dock with each other to form an energy-saving car-train. The 2.0 is also scissor-doored and futuristic, but altogether more assured in its execution. Better-looking than the similar-themed Renault Twizy, it also indicates that some local Chinese carmakers are seeking future mobility solutions as well as just meeting existing mainstream demand for saloons and SUVs.

Production: Porsche Panamera e-Hybrid

The Panamera S E-Hybrid was arguably the most exciting eco car at Shanghai, as it showcases highly credible technology available to buy from autumn 2013. Turbo-boosting the brand’s eco credentials at a stroke, the plug-in hybrid arrives with the Panamera’s convincing facelift, offering 91mpg and 71g/km of CO2 (versus the old S Hybrid’s 41.5mpg and 159g/km), plus 416hp, 0-62mph in 5.5 seconds and 22 electric-only miles. This circa £95k four-door now has a clear selling point over its diesel model (whose figures remain unchanged at 44.8mpg and 166g/km) and bodes well for the future of Porsche hybrid tech overall. Progress.  

Concept: Nissan Friend-ME

Low on eco info – other than its unidentified hybrid powertrain – and high in the silly name stakes, the Nissan Friend-ME was nonetheless a key 2013 Shanghai show concept. The muscularly curvaceous exterior ticks all the boxes of Nissan’s future design thinking – from the large V-shaped grille, boomerang lights and ‘broken’ C-pillar – but its interior is the sharpest part. Featuring a multiple-screen console stretching from the dashboard to the rear seats through which all occupants can share content from their wirelessly-connected mobile devices, it was developed by Nissan’s new Beijing-based design studio and aimed at mid-20s Chinese males, but could equally appeal to social-media savvy customers of any age or location.       

Concept: Citroen DS Wild Rubis

If it makes production, which seems likely, this shiny BMW X3-sized plug-in hybrid could be on sale by early 2015, and for the first time for a DS model it could also launch in China before Europe. The exterior, by Kevin Nougarede, has conventionally good-looking crossover proportions – there was no full interior to view – but the more exciting news is under the bonnet: featuring a 225hp 1.6-litre petrol engine combined with a 70hp electric motor on the rear axle to allow 31 miles in zero emissions mode and a super-low 43g/km CO2 figure. Another smart DS model then, but no word on any aero detailing or other green-focused elements, and not as striking as the DS9 concept of 2012

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