As previously predicted, major car makers are deserting traditional auto shows in droves in favour of more direct means of engagement. One industry showcase that still sees a reliable spike of interest is the annual Consumer Electronics Showcase (CES) in Las Vegas, a January jaunt that invokes equal levels of anticipation and dread from tech veterans and commentators. CES 2022 saw another raft of concept cars making their first showing in the city, where they stood out against the usual chattering backdrop. 

As well as major players like Mercedes and BMW, there was a new kid on the block. Sony is no stranger to CES, of course, but the Japanese electronics giant surprised everyone by revealing its second concept car and hinting broadly that it might be getting into autos. Cadillac and Chrysler, two all-American brands feeling their influence on the wane, came up with interesting new ideas, while BMW broke out the (monochrome) bling with an E Ink concept and a renewed focus on in-car entertainment. Read on for the transportation technology of tomorrow. 

Electric concept cars of CES 2022

Mercedes-Benz Vision EQXX Concept

Mercedes-Benz VISION EQXX Concept, among concept cars revealed at CES 2022
Mercedes-Benz VISION EQXX Concept, among concept cars revealed at CES 2022
Mercedes-Benz Vision EQXX Concept (images courtesy of Mercedes-Benz)

The Vision EQXX is a Mercedes for a more minimalist future. Designed to do everything possible to maximise its range, this ultra-aerodynamic four-door sedan is notable for its rejection of most contemporary Mercedes design cues, from the grille onwards. The company describes it as the first ever EV to break the magical 1,000km (621 mile) barrier, helped by the ultra-slippery bodywork culminating in a chopped ‘Kamm’ tail. The EQXX also continues Mercedes’ obsession with massive display screens and has AI-generated expressive voice models by UK-based Sonantic. Cars of the future will have a personality baked in. 

Mercedes-Benz Vision EQXX, concept only, mercedes-benz.com

Sony Vision S-02 Concept

Sony Vision-S 02 Concept, among concept cars revealed at CES 2022
Sony Vision-S 02 Concept
Sony Vision-S 02 Concept
Sony Vision-S 02 Concept (images courtesy of Sony)

New EV companies are relatively commonplace, but this one comes with 76 years of history. Sony Mobility is a new Sony division set up to put the elegant Vision-S and new Vision-S 02 into production at some point in the future. The former was built back in 2020, but this year saw the debut of the crossover-shaped 02 model, based on the same basic architecture but with a seven-seater body above. The company is putting its considerable experience into two key areas, entertainment, and autonomy, with the latter driven by a fast 5G communications network. The attention to technical detail on this concept implies that production is a strong possibility. 

Sony Vision-S 02, concept only, sony.com

BMW iX Flow Concept

BMW iX Flow Concept with E Ink, among concept cars revealed at CES 2022
BMW iX Flow Concept with E Ink
The BMW iX Flow Concept features transformable E Ink bodywork (images courtesy of BMW)
BMW Theatre Screen with Amazon Fire TV built-in

BMW’s Theatre Screen has Amazon Fire TV built-in (image courtesy of BMW)

BMW rather bullishly focused its attention on the surface application of technology, with the E Ink-equipped iX taking centre stage. The iX Flow is a proof of concept with a specially developed body wrap made of ‘electrophoretic’ material. Using the same principle as e-readers like the Kindle Paperwhite, the surface responds to electrical signals, transforming the iX into a vast canvas, albeit in greyscale. Practical applications include switching to light colours in hot climates and vice versa, whereas the artistic potential for geometric dazzle patterns is limitless. Another tech debut was BMW’s ‘Theatre Screen’, an 8K ultra-wide rear screen that descends from the car’s headliner accompanied by a Hans Zimmer-composed ‘sound experience’ to keep backseat audiences enthralled. 

BMW iX Flow, concept only, bmw.com

Cadillac InnerSpace Concept

Cadillac InnerSpace Concept, among concept cars revealed at CES 2022
Cadillac InnerSpace Concept
Cadillac Halo Concept Portfolio
Cadillac InnerSpace Concept is the third car in the company’s ’Halo Portfolio’ (images courtesy of Cadillac)

The home team was represented by Cadillac’s enormous InnerSpace autonomous concept vehicle. This dramatic design envisions a fully autonomous, two-person electric luxury car of the future, part of a suite of far-sighted design visions that includes the PersonalSpace and SocialSpace Concepts. Cadillac’s ‘Halo Concept’ portfolio attempts to reposition America’s only home-grown luxury car maker as a creator of avant-garde statements. The InnerSpace’s party trick is that it’s a self-driving space for just two passengers. It joins the box-like six-seater SocialSpace and the one-person PersonalSpace flying machine, with yet another concept, the OpenSpace, coming soon. The first real world Cadillac EV is the somewhat conventional Lyriq SUV, due on sale in the States in a few months. Whether the Halo portfolio will have any bearing on future products remains to be seen. 

Cadillac InnerSpace, concept only, cadillac.com

Chrysler Airflow Concept

Chrysler Airflow Concept, among concept cars revealed at CES 2022
Chrysler Airflow Concept
Chrysler Airflow Concept
Chrysler’s Airflow Concept previews the company’s first electric crossover model (images courtesy of Chrysler)

Chrysler revived a historic name for its new EV concept, the Airflow. The 1934 original was strikingly modern, one of the first cars to be shaped by the new science of streamlining. Its namesake makes a decent fist of the near ubiquitous crossover body shape, but it’s not quite the same kind of trailblazer (compare the Airflow with Sony’s Vision S-02, for example, to see how similarly styled vehicles are becoming ubiquitous). The Chrysler brand, part of Stellantis, will launch an EV in 2025, hopefully carrying over some of the Airflow’s design. By 2028, it’ll be an all-electric company. §

Chrysler Airflow, concept only, chrysler.com