FRANKFURT, Germany — If you were to plunge into the Frankfurt Motor Show — all 3.5 million square feet of it — with an uncritical eye, you could be forgiven for thinking the future is now and it is electric.
This year's immense show, which stretched about a mile across, featured more batteries and power cables than the Consumer Electronics Show. Everywhere you looked automakers promised to mend our fuelish ways, usually with a super-cool concept or prototype.
The coolest BMW on the floor had a blue power cord and an electric motor in the front. The sweetest Mercedes-Benz had a carbon fiber body, gullwing doors and a hydrogen fuel cell. And the coolest Porsche? Well, Porsche, bless its heart, offered nothing more than the new 911.
But if our future is indeed electric, the Frankfurt auto show offers more questions than answers. When will batteries offer more than 100 miles of range? Where will plug in when we aren't at home? And why do cars of the future look so much like cars of the past?
There weren't any answers to these questions on the show floor. So it is perhaps best to consider the Frankfurt Motor Show the new-car equivalent of the vintage Goodwood Festival of Speed. It is a feel-good, anything-goes escape from a world of boring regular cars. It is, after all, a delicious flight of fancy to imagine kicking back in the purple interior of Citroën's trippy Tubik space bus, motoring silently into the future without burning a single molecule of hydrocarbon.
With that in mind, here are 12 of our favorite flights of fancy from Frankfurt.
Above: What's fascinating about BMW's i8 coupé is not its dihedral doors, its twin engines, or its laser headlights, but that it's going to become a production car in the next few years. First shown in 2009 as the even more concept-y Vision Efficient Dynamics, the i8 will be joined by the electric-only i3 in BMW's new i range of eco-friendlier cars. The i8 will have the i3's electric engine in the front, a 220 horsepower three-cylinder turbo in the rear and lots of lightweight composites in between. BMW promises 0-60 in 5 seconds paired with fuel consumption of 80 mpg. In its current state, the i8 remains too gimmicky to be viable, but let's hope the translation into production car will be no worse than how the Lamborghini Marzal became the Lamborghini Espada.
Photo: Peter Orosz/Wired.com