Buick plans to broaden its range of electric cars in the coming years, and it still owns the rights to the heritage-laced Electra nameplate, so it was only a matter of time before the past and the future met head-on. Buick resurrected the name it used between the 1959 and 1990 model years on a futuristic, battery-powered concept car.
Created by a Shanghai-based design studio, the Electra concept takes the form of either a tall sedan or a low crossover, depending on your perspective. While it's not officially a preview of an upcoming production model, it ushers in a design language named Potential Energy that will permeate most of the electric cars the firm will release during the 2020s. It's inspired by a space capsule, according to Buick, so its greenhouse was drawn to resemble a glass pod. Its surfaces are sculpted but not chiseled, and its front fascia wears LED lights with a three-dimensional effect. Fear not: Stylists didn't forget the seemingly obligatory back-lit emblem.
Butterfly doors provide access to the cabin, where the space capsule theme continues. Buick packed the Electra with cutting-edge technology features, but it concealed them rather well to avoid a tech overload. The driver faces a rectangular steering wheel that retracts when it's not needed, behind which is a wide, curved screen that replaces all of the buttons, knobs, and switches normally found in a car's interior. An electric motor is far more compact than a comparable four- or six-cylinder engine, so designers were able to carve out a generously sized interior.
Engineers embedded technology into the Electra from the project's earliest stage. It's equipped with software named eConnect that supports over-the-air updates, provides on-demand information about a specific trip, and gives details about the various electronic driving aids. An artificial intelligence-powered assistant lets users perform various tasks, such as setting the air conditioning or controlling home devices, with voice commands.
Buick noted the Electra offers about 410 miles of driving range thanks in part to the Ultium battery technology developed by General Motors to power a wide selection of electric models, including the Cadillac Lyriq, the GMC Hummer, and a pair of Honda-badged models scheduled to go on sale for the 2024 model year. Its dual-motor drivetrain sends 583 horsepower to all four wheels, a figure which easily eclipses the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette's, and sends the concept from zero to 62 mph in 4.3 seconds -- in theory, at least.
Supercar-like power is useless if you park two miles away from your destination. Buick thought of that, too. While images aren't available, the company said it cleverly integrated a space-age skateboard beneath the rear bumper to allow the driver to reach his or her destination, even if it's located deep in an area that's off-limits to cars.
Buick hasn't revealed what the future holds for the Electra concept. We know it's planning on releasing two electric models in the 2020s; one will be a crossover with conventional proportions, and the second will arrive as a high-riding model with, in the company's words, "more expressive proportions." Could it be a toned-down Electra? Time will tell. What's certain is that both models will at least borrow styling cues from the design study.