2023 CES In Review
Is CES Turning Into A Car Show? Maybe A Mobility Show..?
Either way, CES is back from it's Covid-downturn.
By Don Taylor
Thu, Jan 12, 2023 11:16 AM PST
Images credit Don Taylor or as noted otherwise.
After suffering a hiccup from last year’s covid rebound, the 2023 CES Show was alive and well. It was back last week at full industrial strength. Many say it has become a ‘car show’, with car makers introducing new models and concepts. Well sure, it has to a good extent, but more accurately it could be called a ‘mobility show’, given the broad mix of contraptions on wheels, large and small.
By now you have seen the car introductions others are talking about. I’ll go over them here in case you haven’t read that coverage elsewhere. But what else did I see beyond cars that would be of interest to LA Car followers? That’s what I really want to talk about.
Let’s begin with a high speed review of the mainstream introductions:
The latest version of the car they have been promising for years is now coming in 2025, stressing its Honda partnership. But will it be a Honda model, a Honda showroom buddy, or be sold on its own at Best Buy? Here’s a tip to remember that name Afeela, just think of Bill Clinton in his syrupy drawl “Ah feel ya pain”.
Ram 1500 Revolution BEV Pickup
Following in the tracks of GM and Ford, a Ram EV pickup is coming soon. This Ram concept vehicle was shown with a clever feature, a robotic charging pad that rolls out and under the rear of the vehicle, then lifts up to give the EV pickup an electric goose and a recharge. It didn’t take their agency long to earn their keep and come up with a name for the device: “Ram Charger”.
There are two ideas at work here. One is taking BMW styling to its minimalist form possible with the most generic of shapes and surfaces, then letting the electronically-laced surface treatment adorn that blank canvas with ever changeable stripes, squares, and rectangles of assorted colors. But as the demo went through its routine, rather than producing vehicle form-enhancing graphics, the color blocks all looked like paint swatches selected for the walls of Barbie’s dream house – muted Mary Kay pinks, yawner yellows, and baby blues. This was not the BMW we used to know…
MB had a house-of-mirrors display with their long range EV concept car the 746 mile EQXX, but were mainly there to announce their own branded charging network, which will start in CA, of course.
The car company from Vietnam was back again, showing affordable but generic looking EVs. Check them out in their Citadel Outlets store in Commerce, or at their other nine locations in Northern and Southern California.
VW had an odd giant cube outside in which it previewed a highly camouflaged ID 7 sedan…as if we couldn’t guess what it looked like. Or maybe they intended to sell it that way, flashing and shining in digitized red, orange and blue bits, to compete with BMW?
If CES 2023 was really a ‘car show’ it was lacking a number of major brands who had been there before, like Audi and Ford. Others were able to piggyback on their supplier divisions in order to at least have a second tier presence. GM squeezed a Cadillac Lyriq and GMC Sierra EV pick-up into the OnStar booth, looking like they reserved a too-small Airbnb. Peugeot, part of the Stellantis family of brands, but with no plans to sell in the US, thought CES was a good place to debut its Inception concept EV car. Hyundai’s Mobius component division, showed a mobility pod, named M Vision TO, but without specific KIA or Hyundai brand reference. More about pods later.
Lucid Airs popped up in many places, along with the car of the future from the not so distant past, a Faraday Future, which I found double-parked at the edge of a supplier’s booth.
Startup Car Companies
And then there were the startup car companies. Most notable was Netherland-based Lightyear, who created buzz with Lightyear 0, which goes to the sun and beyond for energy, soon to be followed by a sequel, the under $40,000, Lightyear 2. Although billed as ‘The World’s First Solar Car’…the vehicle still depends on help from on-board batteries.
LA’s own Indi One EV car was back this year, joined in the booth by a Lordstown Endurance EV pickup, now boasting of an agreement from Foxconn for assembly at the former GM plant in Lordstown, Ohio.
Get Ready For The Experience
The most overused graphic of the show was the QR Code. It was everywhere, “for more information”, for “Media Kit”, or in restaurants in lieu of a printed menu. Click here. And the most overused word at CES was “Experience”. Everyone wanted to get into the act of providing, improving, or revolutionizing the driver or passenger’s ‘experience’ while in a vehicle. With the task of actually driving a vehicle soon to be made superfluous, let’s make the vehicle a ‘third place’ for work, entertainment, or gaming they say. Don’t stop with listening to music and the news. With augmented reality, holograms, injected smells, and a dive into the metaverse, you can forget where you are. And then it won’t matter what your car looks like or where you are going.
Autonomous People Movers
Call them Modules, Pods, People Movers, Shuttles or whatever, there were more of those at the show this year than ever. We have been promised these for many years now, and they must be on the street somewhere, but I am not sure where. College campus? Silicon Valley? Anyway, the concept is that an autonomous, low speed people container will follow a route, picking up and dropping off passengers, without having to pay a driver. And everyone wants to build them. ZF’s version is an autonomous Level 4 shuttle, on the larger size, holding up to 22 passengers. BENTELER Group, an Austrian firm introduced HOLON which can accommodate up to 15 passengers (a little too snug post-covid?). It was designed by Pininfarina, looking a bit like a retro Multlipla, but in a good way.
Speaking of Pininfarina, walking into the North Hall, I was struck by HOLON’s sophisticated grey and neon green booth space with its obvious Italian design influence, and right next to it was a spectacular exhibit by Ital Design in grey and neon blue , They featured a more futuristic take on the pod (one that climbs up buildings!), as well as an offroad supercar concept badged Delorean. Boom! Two iconic Italian design houses, side by side. What does that mean for SoCal? Attention Art Center students. Umberto Giorio of Ital Design confirmed that Ital Design is looking for more US business, and they are intending to establish a design office in California. Pininfarina has had outposts in New York and Miami for some time. Is California next for them as well?
Hyundai / KIA were no-shows when it came to cars at CES, but HD Hyundai made a big splash. HD Hyundai is the division of that South Korean giant that makes ships and construction equipment, plus it has petroleum interests.
Fitting for a world stage of big ideas, which the CES Show is, HD Hyundai came out with their plans to take on the oceans. Like, all of them. Recognizing the natural energy of the oceans’ wind and waves, they want to tap that with floating wind farms they have designed, working with GE Wind Energy. Plus they are designing huge cargo ships that are more aerodynamic, and assisted by giant articulated sails. Primary motive power will come from hydrogen fuel cells - with the hydrogen being generated from the wind power generated by the wind farms. The farms could act as ‘gas station’ stops for passing cargo ships. Far out thinking? Don’t underestimate the Hyundai group.
And what’s HD Hyundai’s connection to LA? After the huge backup of cargo ships off our coast during covid, HD Hyundai looked at the big picture of cargo ship logistics, and said, there’s a big problem. There’s no overall tracking of which ships are where in the world, and when are they going to get to port. So they have ‘volunteered’ to take it on, and are designing a global tracking solution.
The SMART Tire Company
On a smaller scale I came across flat-proof bicycle tire. The tire is supported not by air pressure but a coil spring stretched circumferentially around the rim. Originally developed by NASA and now commercialized for terrestrial use by The SMART Tire Company, these superelastic tires are airless, durable and will never go flat. Made from a special advanced material, NiTinol+ (nickel titanium), a shape memory alloy (SMA) that’s elastic like rubber, yet strong like titanium.
Although operations are based in Akron, Ohio, SMART is run by a true LA car person, Co-Founder and CEO Earl Cole, who has MIT, Stanford, USC, and NASA on his resume. Watch for more from him.
And to conclude with one of the more ‘creative’ ideas with which some people associate the CES Show, here’s a real product shown by Panasonic. Ever imagine driving around with your windows open, and wanting to shout freely at other drivers, yelling at them for being idiots, but without them seeking revenge? Well now you can, with the Panasonic mutalk, a microphone tube you wear over your mouth which “suppresses leak sound”. It mutes your voice in public places as a courtesy to others. And even if they think you’re talking about them, you’ll be too strange looking while wearing it to be approached.
Can’t wait for CES 2024.
About The Author
Don Taylor formerly ran the NASCAR program for General Motors, worked as a car stylist at the Ford Motor Company, and as a National Tech Director for the NHRA. He currently serves as Director of the Stand 21 Safety Foundation, and for the UK’s Motorsport Industry Association. Taylor also writes articles for the UK’s Racecar Engineering magazine. Don currently lives in Boston, but makes frequent trips to Charlotte and to the West Coast, still owning a home in Pasadena.