Since California is one of the world’s biggest markets for electric vehicles, the show was unsurprisingly dominated by hot new EVs. We walked the show floor and got a first-hand look at all the big debuts, and came away with a shortlist of our top-three new EVs from automotive upstarts. A word of caution: take these timelines and specs with a grain of salt. Because, as Elon Musk found out the hard way, making cars is hard, and even the best laid plans can change in the run-up to production.
VinFast VF e36
Of all the startups with flashy new EVs in L.A., VinFast is the most interesting because it isn’t really a startup at all. The Vietnamese firm is the country’s first domestic automaker, launched in 2017. Last year, it built and sold around 30,000 vehicles, all made in its massive factory in Vietnam. In other words, VinFast has a major head-start over other newcomers. Now the company is eyeing a rapid global expansion, launching in Canada, the U.S., and parts of Europe in 2022. In Canada alone, VinFast plans to open 38 company-owned sales and service stores by the end of 2023.
The mid-size VF e35 SUV will lead the charge, but it’s the full-size VF e36 that piqued our interest. The company is claiming it’ll have a driving range of 485 to 680 kilometres, depending on the model. And, the reason it looks so sleek is because it was penned by legendary Italian design house, Pininfarina.
Hans Ulsrud, chief growth officer of VinFast Canada – formerly of Tesla and Porsche Centre Oakville – said Canadian customers who place a pre-order can expect exceptional service. “It’s really important to surprise and delight customers all the way along the journey, from when you start with your first reservation, to being kept up to date with lots of content,” he said. The first customer cars are expected in Canada in late 2022, but there’s no word on pricing yet.
Company co-founder and CEO Henrik Fisker is a designer by trade, credited for many lovely machines including the BMW Z8 and Aston Martin DB9, among others. His latest project is the Fisker Ocean, a predictably great-looking SUV.
He hasn’t had much luck with electric startups so far, with his first venture, Fisker Automotive going bust due to factors largely beyond his control. (The battery supplier for the Fisker Karma went bankrupt.) His new company, Fisker Inc, is hoping to launch its surprisingly affordable, all-electric Ocean SUV in late 2022. It’ll be produced by Magna-Steyr in Austria and come in several configurations, with different battery packs and front- or all-wheel drive. Driving range is said to be anywhere from 400 to 560 km.
“We already have a ton of reservations from Canada,” Fisker told SHARP magazine. As for pricing, it hasn’t been announced for the Canadian market yet, but he said he is aware of Canada’s federal EV rebate, and that the threshold in order to qualify is $45,000. “We’ll probably try and get the first model under that,” he said.
Hailing from Southern California, Mullen Automotive bills itself as an approachable luxury brand. To that end, the design of the new Mullen FIVE electric vehicle exudes a kind of laid-back refinement. It’s not aggressive-looking, but its great proportions, solid stance, and minimal style immediately caught our eye. The initial specs look good too: 523 km of range from a 95 kWh battery, 0-100 km/h in around 3.3 seconds, and fast-charging capability that can juice the battery up to 80 per cent in just 21 minutes, according to the company. In the U.S., prices start at $55,000. A speedy RS-model is planned too, which is said to have Tesla-Model-S-Plaid rivalling acceleration.
The FIVE isn’t the first EV we’ve seen from Mullen, but we’re hoping this one actually makes it to production. The company says customers can expect deliveries to begin in the second-quarter of 2024.