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A BMW i8 on display at the Vancouver International Auto Show in Vancouver, B.C., on March 24, 2015. (Jimmy Jeong For The Globe and Mail)
A BMW i8 on display at the Vancouver International Auto Show in Vancouver, B.C., on March 24, 2015. (Jimmy Jeong For The Globe and Mail)

Hot Ticket: Vancouver International Auto Show Add to ...

It’s a revolution that’s beginning in the garage.

For the better part of the past century, gas-powered cars have driven the auto industry – but now major manufacturers are rushing to release zero-emission vehicles, from the upcoming Chevy Bolt to the Kia Soul EV to the highly rated BMW i3.

And auto enthusiasts can test drive 14 of the latest models at the Vancouver International Auto Show, which this year features 400 new and one-of-a-kind vehicles. According to executive director Jason Heard, new developments from the racing circuit are filtering down to the consumer level, where electric cars are dropping in price and offering greater range between charges – reducing two key barriers for the everyday buyer.

At the same time, car manufacturers are jockeying for the driver’s seat when it comes to setting the industry standard for green tech.

“Whether they’re in electric or hybrid or hydrogen, they’ve got to jump on board. It’s like the VHS and Betamax wars, and they’re trying to come out on top with the one technology that everyone is eventually going to use,” Mr. Heard says, adding that changes in urban infrastructure and government policies are also speeding up the shift. “Change is coming – and if you don’t keep up you’re going to be left in the dust.”

This year’s show also features jaw-dropping luxury cars including Bentleys, Lamborghinis, McLarens, Porsches and Ferraris, including two LaFerraris worth millions. A custom-made 1989 Batmobile tribute car with all the bells and whistles will also be on display, as will a tribute Aston Martin DB5 – a vehicle of choice for none other than 007 himself, James Bond.

But it’s not all million-dollar machinery: The show is also geared toward everyday consumers looking for their next ride – including Mr. Heard, who is in the market for a new vehicle, and plans to bring his wife and kids to narrow down the contenders.

He says anyone who hasn’t checked out new cars lately will be blown away by their level of technology – from built-in WiFi to intricate navigation systems to electronics that can perfectly track your usage and seats that can cool as well as heat.

“I’m a car nut, but I believe that a car says a lot about its owner. It’s art, it’s lifestyle, it’s technology, it’s performance. And each and every manufacturer is trying to sway you with that extra little poke that their competitors don’t have,” Mr. Heard says, who has “a few ideas” when it comes to his family’s next make and model.

But does his wife have the same ideas? “My budget is a little higher,” he says with a laugh. “Let’s put it that way.”

The Vancouver International Auto Show runs through Sunday at the Vancouver Convention Centre (vancouverinternationalautoshow.com).

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