Once carmakers committed to developing hydrogen fuel cell cars, the LA Auto Show was the only place they were ever going to take the covers off the fruits of their labor.
California is leading the charge for the new technology, with sizeable investments from municipalities, government agencies, and the companies building the cars. If a sustainable hydrogen economy is going to materialise in the US, it will be in California.
That said, Toyota was alone in debuting a production-ready fuel cell car – the Mirai – after Honda made a late decision to delay the launch of its rival sedan. With the Mirai, Californians now have a choice of two hydrogen-fueled cars, the other being Hyundai modified Tucson. Deliveries, however, won’t start until the end of next year.
Following in Toyota’s zero-emission footsteps was Volkswagen, which revealed a converted Golf. The ‘HyMotion‘ has a similar range to the Mirai, at just over 300 miles, but no plans for production have been announced.
Volkswagen’s sister-brand Audi had a new take on hydrogen power, showing a plug-in hybrid A7 prototype that mated a battery-electric powertrain with fuel cells. The technology is perhaps the best compromise for travelling long distances without harmful emissions, as owners can charge up at their homes if a hydrogen station is inconvenient to reach. A new mild-hybrid concept also pointed towards a new A9 Hybrid sedan.
Electric cars were thin on the ground, but Saleen’s modified Tesla Model S put in an appearance, despite perhaps being overshadowed by Tesla’s own 691 hp version of the car. Coda’s doomed sedan also surfaced in the form of the Mullen 700e, boasting a range of 180 miles from a 31 kWh battery.
A host of old names also put in an appearance, not least MINI’s beautiful electric Superleggera concept and Nissan’s ultra-efficient sports car, the Bladeglider.