SEMA is often characterized by big trucks with bigger wheels and even bigger engines. It's certainly not in Texas, but the Lone Star State adage that everything is bigger might as well apply to Vegas, at least during the first week of November. Much like the rest of the automotive industry, SEMA has continued to evolve year after year, primarily following the electric trend.
There are plenty of true EVs to go around for 2023, too. But we got curious about what kind of gas and battery-electric alternatives are being demonstrated on the Sin City Convention Center floor. Encompassing every sect of automotive enthusiasm, these alternative energy technologies are helping keep SEMA as modern as possible.
1957 Pontiac Chieftan Hybrid-Electric
Electric hot rods aren't anything new, but hybridizing a hot rod could be the perfect solution to making more power and getting more efficiency. At least that's the case with this 1957 Pontiac Chieftan, as it sports an E-charger powertrain.
But what exactly does this mean? Well, it's kind of like supercharging, as it pairs a 50-kW AC motor and 35 lithium-ion battery cells with a conventional LS engine. The electric motor is spun by the engine's power via additional pulleys and a supercharger belt drive while the battery is installed in the trunk.
This pairing of traditional V8 power and a small-capacity battery plus motor yields an additional 150 lb-ft of torque and reduces emissions by 50%. The fuel economy also allegedly increases by 25%, too.
Propane Powered Engine by Origin Engines
This propane-powered engine from Origin Engines reduces a reliance on traditional gasoline. Origin has been expanding its research into running engines on renewable natural gas, natural gas, or liquid petroleum gas.
Specifically, here you see a 6.2-liter example producing 240 horsepower and a healthy 595 lb-ft of torque with help from a supercharger. Believe it or not, that's in the middle displacement side for Origin, as it offers up to 23.9 liters of displacement for its multi-fuel running engines.
In practice, Origin says these engines are best used for heavy-duty pumping applications, natural gas compressors, remote power generators, and other industrial uses. That said, these engines could be ideal for vehicles in particularly remote areas or even military applications.
Cue the inevitable cooking-with-gas jokes!
Karma Automotive Next-Generation Hybrid Skateboard
Skateboard platform EVs aren't new, but a tumultuous company revealing its own version of the soon-to-be-mainstream technology is worth a look. And Karma Automotive's version isn't actually battery-electric, either.
Based in Southern California, Karma Automotive is already known for its GS-6 sedan, but the brand is looking to expand further into the plug-in hybrid world.
Sporting 536 hp and 200 kW of peak power through its dual electric-motor setup, Karma says the as-yet-unnamed hybrid will feature a torque-vectoring system and a 0-60 mph time of 2.8 seconds. Its top speed will be set at a reasonable 130 mph, and it will have an all-electric range of 105 miles. With its gasoline range included, that distance rises to 360 miles.
None of these numbers are particularly groundbreaking, save for the all-electric range, but are certainly competitive among its legacy OEM competition. They'll just need some secure financing to pull it off.
E85-Powered 2016 Chevrolet Corvette Z06
Anyone who is into tuning and powertrain modifications knows the potential that E85 brings. Often referred to as corn fuel, E85 is a 51%-83% ethanol-rich fuel that helps reduce the likelihood of engine knocking, in simple terms.
As a result, it's called upon by tuners (many in the Midwest) to improve engine safety under heavy modification. However, finding E85 outside of certain regions can be particularly hard. For example, I only know of two places in the five boroughs of New York City where E85 is readily available.
But what if you could use both E85 and regular pump gas interchangeably and reliably? That's exactly what Top Gun Performance Tuning is proposing, as it shows off a 2016 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 and a Ford Raptor that run on both forms of fuel. Just based on the sidewall of those tires, we can tell the folks at Top Gun mean business.
Kenworth Toyota Hydrogen Semi-Truck
We've featured the Kenworth x Toyota Hydrogen Semi-Truck collaboration on a number of lists for good reason. It takes the classic Kenworth big rig shape and throws an experimental powerplant under the hood. No need for EV aerodynamic body work anymore.
And our own Wesley Wren got to ride in Toyota's hydrogen big rig late last year.
"Aside from the distinct lack of noise, and the reduced gear spread, the truck felt like a big rig. Sure, there wasn’t a trailer attached, which would likely dampen some of the spring in its hydrogen-fed step, but the transition to electrified powertrains should give big trucks the same torque advantage that we’re seeing in passenger cars," Wren wrote back in August 2022.
Not convinced? The powertrain specifications may give you pause, in a good way. Pairing Kenworth’s 310 kW Dual Motor Assembly with Toyota’s Gen 2 Dual Fuel Cell Module, the
T680 FCEV makes 415 hp continuously with a maximum payload of 82,000 lbs. And these trucks are in operation today at the Port of Los Angeles, with customer deliveries set for 2024.