'Electrics strike back' at Chicago Auto Show, but will consumers bite?

  • The Chicago Auto Show opens Feb. 8 and runs through Feb. 17. Electric cars are expected to be a hot item this year.

    The Chicago Auto Show opens Feb. 8 and runs through Feb. 17. Electric cars are expected to be a hot item this year. Daily Herald File Photo

  • McCormick Place will host the Chicago Auto Show, which opens to the public Feb. 8 and runs through Feb. 17.

      McCormick Place will host the Chicago Auto Show, which opens to the public Feb. 8 and runs through Feb. 17. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer, February 2019

  • The Land Rover Defender crossover is one of several new cars making their debut at the Chicago Auto Show.

    The Land Rover Defender crossover is one of several new cars making their debut at the Chicago Auto Show. Courtesy of Land Rover

  • Porsche debuts its first electric car, the Taycan, at the Chicago Auto Show.

    Porsche debuts its first electric car, the Taycan, at the Chicago Auto Show. Courtesy of Porsche

 
 
Posted1/27/2020 5:30 AM

When the 2020 Chicago Auto Show revs into town next week, the glitter won't be doused by Detroit.

The Motor City moved its blockbuster auto show from January to June this year, leaving a host of debuts and reveals to occur at McCormick Place.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Without Detroit sucking up all the Midwest oxygen, the Chicago Auto Show is "the first time our market's going to see these vehicles live and in person," said Co-Chairman Tony Guido, owner of Arlington Heights Ford.

Taking center stage at the annual event that runs from Feb. 8 through 17 is an electrifying fleet of vehicles.

In 2019, a testosterone-loaded fleet of heavy-duty, high-chrome pickup trucks were the alpha males.

This year, "the electrics strike back," is how Argonne National Lab auto expert Don Hillebrand characterized the show. "There's a whole range to look at."

Those choices range from Porsche's first electric car -- the Taycan starting at $103,800 to $185,000 with a range of up to 279 miles -- to Hyundai's new Ioniq electric sedan, from $22,000 to $37,000 with a range of 124 miles.

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And proving you can have it all, Ford is unveiling its Mustang Mach-E, expected to make gear heads and tree-huggers weep.

"The electric pony car" is a huge step, said Hillebrand, an engineer and chief of the Energy Systems Division at Argonne in Darien.

"Just the fact Ford put its money where its mouth is and decided to make an electric sports car -- shows they're really serious" about electrification, he added.

Absent from the show will be the industry disrupter Tesla, whose iconoclastic electric cars are shattering records. Mercurial CEO Elon Musk's company hit $100 billion in market value last week, surpassing GM and Ford.

The question for the rest of the automaking world is whether the investment in electric vehicles will pay off given Americans' love of trucks and SUVs. It could be settled at the Chicago Auto Show, Hillebrand said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

So far, "only one company has sold a lot of electrics and that's Tesla."

Meanwhile, chances are the batteries in most of the electrics on display were brewed in the suburbs, Hillebrand said. Argonne scientists have led innovations in batteries that allowed manufacturers to drop the price from $1,000 to $120.

"We expect the prices to drop as low as $80," he said. "They keep getting cheaper and smaller and more-energy dense."

Ford's new Mustang Mach-E is debuting at the Chicago Auto Show, which opens to the public Feb. 8.
Ford's new Mustang Mach-E is debuting at the Chicago Auto Show, which opens to the public Feb. 8. - Courtesy of Ford Motors
What else is new at the show?

Guido's must-sees include the Mustang Mach-E, the new Land Rover Defender crossover and the 2020 Corvette with a twist -- "the motor's in the middle of the car," allowing for better handling and balance, he said.

Consumers can also expect to learn about more bells and whistles connecting drivers, cars and their smartphones, Guido promised.

"Manufacturers are putting everything on apps," he said, explaining drivers can get reminders about oils changes, recalls and maintenance via their smartphones.

Bottom line, if the weather outside is frightful, inside McCormick Place "it's 72 degrees and comfortable," Guido said. "There's nothing to do in February but get to the auto show."

For information, go to chicagoautoshow.

Your voice

Readers had plenty to say about delays at rail crossings, including school bus driver Ruth Rose of Antioch Elementary District 34.

"We have had multiple situations where the crossings at Route 83, North Avenue, Route 173 and Grass Lake Road were all closed because a long freight train broke down," she wrote.

"This causes the buses to reroute all the way to Grand Avenue and creates delays of 30 minutes or more. We refer to this as 'getting Antioch'd.'"

And reader Kristy Miller says, "the trains that stop in Grayslake often block several major traffic arteries: Routes 83 and 120, Center Street and Washington Street, causing delays of anywhere from a few minutes to 30 minutes. I dream of installing speakers on downtown businesses that broadcast community news during those delays."

You should know

The city of Chicago recently hired some key firms to design and engineer a game-changing $8.5 billion redo of O'Hare International Airport.

One of the contractors, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill will take lead design for two new satellite concourses west of the main airport considered to be a key part of western access into O'Hare. Work on the $1.4 billion satellite concourse project will start in 2022.

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