The overriding sense you get from this year's Consumer Electronics Show, wandering the north hall where all the US' major car manufacturers show off their latest cars and what they see as the next five or ten years in personal transportation, is that big, fuel-guzzling vehicles are on their way out. Concept cars are always sleek, but these are sleek and friendly and don't kill the planet at the same time.
The big reveal at CES 2016 is the new Chevrolet Bolt, the car that might be coming to Australia as a Holden in the years to come. GM's affordable electric car for the masses, the Bolt is supposedly capable of at least 320km, and rated at up to 350km, of all-electric range. This is on the way to being competitive with Tesla's Model S at 420km rated all-electric travelling distance. Of course, Tesla is revealing its own mainstream Model E in March, so watch this space.
The Volkswagen BUDDe is a far-out, groovy, futuristic minibus, like a Kombi left alone in a garage with Doc Brown for too long. A massive 101kWh battery, 12 per cent larger than Tesla's current 90kWh maximum, underpins a relatively chunky bus with an apparent 600km of electric driving range. Cameras instead of wing mirrors, a giant touchscreen dash and gesture-controlled steering wheel — these are fanciful ideas, but give it enough time and they'll be commonplace.
It's not especially new, but Mercedes Benz's Concept IAA is a ridiculously sleek car — because it's made to have just about the lowest drag coefficient of any vehicle around. The four-door coupe has a Cd of 0.19, lower even than the Tesla Model S' 0.24 and Mercedes' own 0.22 CLA. Active aerodynamics close up grilles and reduce drag when the car hits 80km/h, and a 205kW petrol-electric hybrid can hit a supposed max speed of 250km/h, with a range of 66km on purely electric power.
Toyota distinguishes itself from the other car brands by being all about hydrogen fuel cells. The FCV Plus has four tiny in-wheel motors and a fuel cell stack up front supplying them, with a larger hydrogen tank behind the rear seat. It looks like something out of total recall, but it's a vision of a hydrogen future. And, it's been at least two CES shows before this one, but the sleek FV2 concept — like a paralympian's wheelchair — can actually share the electric energy of the FCV Plus, like a drone from a mothership.