Here Are 7 Eco-Friendly Cars to be Featured at Frankfurt Auto Show

Get ready to be blown away. 

The Frankfurt Motor Show show will kick off on Thursday, Sept. 14, and this year's show should place a solid emphasis on the disruptive forces changing the automotive industry, including autonomous driving, electric vehicles, new mobility concepts such as ride sharing and ride hailing and vehicle connectivity.

The motto of the show, "The future is now," is fitting this year, Matthias Wissmann, the President of the German Association of the Automotive Industry, or VDA, said in a press conference previewing the event.

"Full throttle and the digital development of the car of the future will be center stage of the IAA Cars," Wissmann said, "a connected and automated car."

Indeed, aside from a number of luxury vehicles from the likes of Bentley, BMW, Ferrari (RACE) , Rolls-Royce, Jaguar, Porsche, and Mercedes-Benz, this year's show will feature a good selection of electric, autonomous and other envelope-pushing, eco-friendly vehicles. 

This is in line with growing trends in vehicle sales.

Overall, 53,806 electric vehicles were sold in the U.S. between January and July, up from 40,511 in the same period in 2016, according to automobile research firm Edmunds. Electric vehicle sales between January and July represented 17.3% of the green car market, compared with 15.2% in the same period last year.

"The EV market has faced a challenging few years with low gas prices turning consumer attention toward SUVs," Edmunds executive director of industry analysis Jessica Caldwell explained to TheStreet. "However, the recent introductions of longer-range electric cars at more affordable price points have breathed life into the segment, making it more compelling than ever."

Here's a look at a few of the envelope-pushing electric vehicles that we expect to hit the show floor in Frankfurt this week.

More of What's Trending on TheStreet:

Editors' pick: Originally published Sept. 11.

BMW i3
BMW i3

BMW sold 3,593 i3s between January and July, and the car is the fifth best-selling electric vehicle in the U.S. market, behind Tesla's (TSLA) Model S and X, General Motors'  (GM) Chevy Bolt and the Nissan (NSANY) Leaf, according to Edmunds.

"The previous generation of BMW's i3 struggled to connect with consumers, many of whom were disappointed in the model's unconventional styling," Edmunds' Caldwell explained. "However, the expanding market of longer-range electric vehicle models may help the BMW i3 tap into a new base of customers who may not have considered buying an EV in the past. The strong brand equity of BMW elevates the i3, putting it in a good position against a growing lineup of competitors in this segment."

BMW's i3 has a starting MSRP of $44,450.

Also of interest from BMW at this year's auto show is the company's response to the autonomous driving capabilities so many of its competitors are now working on.

JPMorgan Securities' European autos analyst Jose Asumendi said in a Sept. 8 research note that BMW remains focused on offering extremely reliable products as it progresses, intermittently introducing different levels of autonomous driving technology as it aims to maintain the auto profit margin within the target corridor.

BMW is targeting the introduction of level 3 autonomous driving technology by 2021, according to Asumendi. The analyst said BMW confirmed it is currently working on small projects introducing level 5 tech, but warned that such tech would need to be rolled out across the larger fleet to be successful.

Mini E
Mini E

BMW-owned Mini is expected to introduce a new all-electric vehicle, according to a recent report from British magazine Autocar.

The first all-electric Mini Cooper, the Mini E, was thrown together in 2009 by replacing the rear seat with a battery pack, but only a few hundred were built.

Last fall, BMW CEO Harald Krüger confirmed an all-electric Mini would return to the British car maker's lineup. The new Mini E is expected to feature both design elements and technical aspects that will differentiate the electric two-door hatchback from standard Mini Cooper vehicles, according to media reports.

"One question surrounding Mini's reentry into the EV market is whether it will be the right car at the right time," Edmund's Caldwell said. "Recent years have seen buyers increasingly passing up compact cars in favor of crossovers and SUVs. What the EV segment needs now are products that more broadly appeal to buyers' changing tastes."

Indeed, JPMorgan's Asumendi argued that BMW's launch of a small electric car has been questioned by investors om the light of other German premium brand competitors launching their first electric SUVs to the market, which could theoretically cover the incremental cost of the battery better than smaller cars due to their higher price tag.

BMW's CFO Nicolas Peter admitted the launch of electric vehicles could initially create some margin contraction, but said this would be well offset by new product launches and additional cost savings actions, allowing BMW to deliver well within the 8-10% profit margin target range, Asumendi said.

Smart Vision EQ Fortwo
Smart Vision EQ Fortwo

Fans of autonomous driving technology will likely be looking out for the Smart Vision EQ Fortwo this week, an autonomous electric concept vehicle from the Daimler group with specs similar to that of the standard Smart Fortwo but without one critical component: the steering wheel.

The Smart Vision EQ Fortwo, one of the most compact among a growing group of electric concept cars from Mercedes Benz, is a fully autonomous electric vehicle that stands 106.3 inches long, 67.7 inches wide and 60.4 inches tall.

The normal Smart Fortwo has a starting MSRP below $15,000, but the autonomous version will likely cost a bit more than that. 

Not many specs are available on the Smart Vision EQ Fortwo at this point, but the company has revealed it will feature a 30-kWh lithium ion battery. The car will reportedly be able to charge itself when not in use and serve as a buffer in a city's electric power grid. 

Volkswagen I.D. CROZZ II
Volkswagen I.D. CROZZ II

If consumers have really moved past the idea of electric cars and onto the concept of electric SUVs, as Asumendi's comments suggest, Volkswagen may be cornering the market with its latest creation.

Volkswagen revealed its new electric SUV, the I.D. CROZZ II, back in April at the Auto Shanghai 2017. But now the German automaker, eager to move beyond its recent diesel vehicle emissions scandal, will bring its groundbreaking electric SUV back home to Frankfurt.

The I.D. CROZZ will feature a 302-horsepower electric motor in an all-wheel-drive layout with a 311-mile driving range, according to Volkswagen. The company claims 80% of the SUV's battery charge can be refilled in 30 minutes with a 150 kilowatt DC fast charger.

Volkswagen introduced its original I.D. vehicle in Paris in 2016 as a preview of an all-electric VW going on sale by 2020. The German automaker then revealed an electric version of its famed microbus, the I.D. Buzz, in January, which it said could make it into production by 2025, though industry followers have their doubts the vehicle will ever hit the road.

Mercedes-Benz GLC F-CELL EQ
Mercedes-Benz GLC F-CELL EQ

Mercedes is widely expected to unveil another electric SUV at the Frankfurt Auto Show this week, the Mercedes-Benz GLC F-Cell EQ. The hydrogen fuel cell vehicle is reportedly nearly production ready.

The GLC F-Cell is a different type of hybrid than U.S. auto consumers may be accustomed. Mercedes concept car will feature a sizable battery, so drivers can plug in to fill up the tank at electric charging stations that are at this point much more widely dispersed than hydrogen-fueling stations.

Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles typically use a fuel cell instead of a battery, or in combination with a battery or supercapacitor, to power their on-board electric motors. Fuel cells in vehicles generate electricity to power the motor, typically by using oxygen from the air and compressed hydrogen.

Mercedes hasn't released any specs for the GLF F-Cell EQ, but a prototype the company unveiled in 2016 included a 9.0-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery with 30 miles of range. With the battery fully charged and the hydrogen tanks filled, the prototype was reportedly capable of driving 300 miles.

Also thought to be revealed at this week's auto show is a compact electric car concept from Mercedes. Mercedes released a side shot of the concept vehicle this week that indicated the car will be a hatchback.

Lexus NX Crossover Hybrid
Lexus NX Crossover Hybrid

Toyota Motor Corp.'s (TM) Lexus brand hasn't yet committed to the fully electric SUV like its peers Volkswagen and Mercedes Benz, but given recent pushes to ban fossil fuel vehicles in major world economies such as Britain and China, the luxury car maker might soon rethink that stance. 

For now though, the company does boast one of the most luxurious hybrid crossovers money can buy. 

The new 2017 Lexus NX Crossover Hybrid will be featured at the Frankfurt Auto Show and is sure to turn some heads. 

Lexus NX offers a combined 31 mpg rating and starts at $39,720. 

Ford EcoSport
Ford EcoSport

While the Ford (F) EcoSport is by far the least environmentally friendly vehicles among this group, it is a relatively new addition to the Ford lineup that will see its first time on the showroom floor this week in Frankfurt.

Ford released a preview of the EcoSport 2017 last week ahead of the Frankfurt Auto Show, and said it would feature the compact SUV, which starts at $19,995, at this week's event. 

The EcoSport does currently have a diesel engine option, and also could serve as a visual model for what a Ford all-electric SUV might one day look like if the company ever decides to venture into such a market. 

Ford is well behind its peers in terms of electric vehicles -- with the all-electric Focus only giving 115 miles of driving range on a full charge -- and likely far from anything close to an all-electric SUV. But, the company's new CEO Jim Hackett has made it clear in recent media interviews the U.S. automaker will not be left in the dust when it comes to disruptive technology or electric vehicles.

As Edmunds' Caldwell pointed out, U.S. consumers have turned their backs on electric vehicles in the past few years in favor of SUVs given cheap gas prices.

Still, automakers are pushing forward on electric vehicles in the U.S. market. Nissan unveiled its all-new electric car the Leaf at an event in Japan last week, while GM's (GM) Chevrolet Bolt EV was introduced just seven months ago.

Maybe it's time for Ford to shake up the status quo and be the first of the big three U.S. automakers to invest heavily in electric SUVs? Perhaps the concept makes more sense for Ford's Lincoln brand, as outside of the luxury market, the SUV price tag might not justify the cost of such an investment. 

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