While many of the world’s major auto shows were cancelled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 still saw the debut of several notable new production vehicles and concepts. Not surprisingly, this included countless new battery-electric vehicles, including offerings from General Motors, Toyota, Volkswagen, Nissan, and more.
Although there was plenty to consider, these 10 stood out as being the most significant or interesting new car and concept car debuts from the past 12 months. Every single one of our top picks is a battery-electric model – EVs are set to skyrocket in popularity over the coming years, making these particular debuts a bit more important than new internal combustion engine products.
Scroll down to learn all about AutoTrader’s favourite new car and concept debuts from 2021.
GMC Hummer EV SUV
While the GMC Hummer EV Pickup made its debut late last year, General Motors didn’t officially show the SUV variant until spring of this year. The GMC Hummer EV SUV debuted in the Edition 1 trim level, which features a tri-motor powertrain producing 830 horsepower, enabling it to accelerate from zero to 100 km/h in about 3.5 seconds. A roughly 200-kWh battery pack will provide enough juice for about 480 kilometres of driving on a full charge. This battery-electric super SUV will enter production sometime in 2023, arriving in Canada as a 2024 model year product.
It’s safe to say the debut of Toyota’s first mainstream fully electric vehicle, the bZ4X crossover, was a big deal. Prior to the bZ4X’s debut, the Japanese automotive giant mostly stayed away from the pure EV game, electing to shuffle its eco-friendly Canadian buyers into the fuel-sipping Prius and other hybrid models like the RAV4 Hybrid and Prime. Now, though, Toyota will compete with Tesla, Hyundai, and other established EV purveyors in the hugely popular compact crossover segment.
The 2023 Toyota bZ4X, which has an estimated 400 kilometres of range, will come standard with a single front-mounted electric motor producing 201 hp. All-wheel drive models, meanwhile, will make 215 horsepower from a pair of 107 horsepower motors. Look for it to start arriving at Canadian dealers in mid-2022.
GM BrightDrop Vans
GM launched its new BrightDrop logistics sub-brand at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January. The first two BrightDrop vehicles are two electric delivery vans called the EV600 and EV410, which share the same electric motor, platform, batteries, and other parts. Production of these two battery-electric delivery vans will occur right here in Canada at the automaker’s CAMI Assembly plant in Ingersoll, Ont. This is a significant move that will help companies make their delivery fleets more sustainable.
Hyundai Ioniq 5
The Hyundai Ioniq 5 was also included on our list of the most exciting new cars coming to market for 2022, so it’s no surprise that we found its debut to be one of the more important unveilings from the past 12 months. This electric hatchback/crossover offers up to 480 kilometres of range in certain trim levels and will be priced from a very reasonable $44,999. Its retro-futuristic styling, which includes pixel LED headlights and taillights, is also sure to win over Canadian car shoppers looking to make a style statement with their next car.
BMW i4 and iX
Both the BMW i4, which is essentially a battery-electric version of the 4 Series Gran Coupe, and the related iX crossover debuted in the spring of this year and will go on sale in Canada next year. These two models will help the German luxury automaker compete with Tesla, giving Canadian shoppers solid battery-electric alternatives to the Tesla Model 3 and Model Y. Even performance car enthusiasts can get excited about BMW’s new line of EVs, with the available i4 M50 xDrive model producing an impressive 536 horsepower.
Mercedes-Benz EQG Concept
The iconic Mercedes-Benz G-Class is set to go electric in the not-too-distant future, as evidenced by the debut of the battery-electric EQG Concept at the 2021 IAA Munich motor show. This boxy electric off-roader is based on the current G-Class’ body-on-frame platform and is powered by four separate electric motors. Mercedes described the concept as a “near-production” study following its unveiling and is expected to release a production version by mid-decade.
Nissan EV Concepts
Nissan surprised us with the sudden debut of three electric vehicle concepts in late November called the Hang Out, Max Out, and Surf Out.
The Hang Out is a rugged small crossover targeted at urban city dwellers with active lifestyles and the Surf Out is a small pickup aimed at a similar type of buyer. The Max Out, meanwhile, is a two-seat sports car with a low stance and ultra-sleek exterior styling that could signal the future of the Japanese brand’s Z sports car sub-brand.
Nissan plans to release 20 new EV and e-Power hybrid models globally over the next five years, so these three funky new concepts give us a rough idea of what we can expect from the brand within that same timeframe.
Volkswagen ID. Life
The Volkswagen ID. Life Concept previews an ultra-affordable, entry-level EV from the German automaker. The concept debuted at the 2021 IAA Munich motor show and the production version will go on sale in 2025 with prices starting at around 20,000 euros. While this future entry-level VW EV may not be sold in North America, we’re happy to see VW making efforts to deliver a more affordable EV for eco-friendly buyers who may not have the budget for a $50,000 or $60,000 car. VW estimates the 57-kWh battery will have enough to juice to provide roughly 400 kilometres of driving range.
The Mercedes-Benz S-Class is the undisputed king of the full-size luxury sedan segment – but it now has a new intra-brand rival in the way of the EQS. This full-size, battery-electric luxury sedan debuted in April and began arriving at Canadian Mercedes dealers in the fall. It is only being offered in one trim level for now, the EQS 580 4Matic, which features a 107.8-kWh battery and dual-motor all-wheel-drive powertrain producing roughly 516 horsepower. Estimated range sits at about 547 kilometres.
Volvo Concept Recharge
Electric Volvo models like the XC40 and C40 Recharge have generated some very positive press for the Swedish automaker this year, but if the Concept Recharge is any indication, the brand’s future EV models will be even more impressive. This ultra-sleek concept crossover, which debuted back in June, represents the future of Volvo EV models. Technical details on the powertrain were not divulged, however, the concept features a large 15-inch touchscreen and an ultra-stylish interior that reminds us of a cozy Scandinavian living room.