The Truth About Cars » california air resources board http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Tue, 15 Apr 2014 13:24:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » california air resources board http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Wash. Governor Inslee Signs Pro-Tesla Legislation, Hackers Find Ubuntu Inside http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/wash-governor-inslee-signs-pro-tesla-legislation-hackers-find-ubuntu-inside/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/wash-governor-inslee-signs-pro-tesla-legislation-hackers-find-ubuntu-inside/#comments Mon, 14 Apr 2014 13:45:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=797458 Ubuntu_GNOME_13.10_ScreenShot

Automotive News reports Washington state governor Jay Inslee signed legislation that would allow Tesla to continue with its direct-sales business model within the state while also clarifying current law that favors traditional franchise dealership networks by preventing other automakers from following in Tesla’s path. The EV automaker thanked the state government “for supporting a culture of innovation and ultimately making the right decision for consumers” with the introduction of the bill into law.

In other government news, the California Air Resources Board is considering cutting EVs priced at $60,000 and above from the agency’s Clean Vehicle Rebate Program as funding continues to run low, according to Capitol Weekly. Though the move would be temporary, the cap would push-out both the Cadillac ELR and Tesla’s Model S and upcoming X, a move that Tesla feels is disappointing:

[CARB] aims to paint Tesla as the sole purveyor of EVs (electric vehicles) to the wealthy, while disregarding the fact that individuals of similar affluence may still continue to receive a rebate by purchasing a different EV.

Finally, Autoblog Green reports a group of tech-savvy Tesla owners have dug into their EV’s console via its exposed Ethernet connector, discovering a subsystem powered by Linux distribution Ubuntu. The individual behind the dig, known only as ‘nlc,’ was contacted by the automaker through its service center, warning him that his exploration could void his car’s warranty should he persist.

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CARB ZEV Credit Restructuring Leaves Tesla With Fewer Credits http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/carb-zev-credit-restructuring-leaves-tesla-with-fewer-credits/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/carb-zev-credit-restructuring-leaves-tesla-with-fewer-credits/#comments Mon, 07 Apr 2014 13:01:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=788698 tesla-model-s-logo

A change to the California Air Resources Board’s Zero-Emission Vehicle credit program will leave Tesla with four credits per car cold for the foreseeable future, down from seven credits for every Model S through 2013.

Bloomberg reports the change will award zero-emission vehicles with long-driving ranges and refueling times no greater than 15 minutes — such as the outgoing Honda FCX Clarity, with its hydrogen fuel cell technology — the maximum of nine credits, while Tesla — which had, until now, earned the maximum of seven — will receive four credits going forward due to failing the rapid-refueling requirement.

Tesla, the top seller of CARB ZEV credits to other automakers, has plans to introduce battery-swap stations that would allow drivers to exchange depleted packs for new ones in around one minute. However, until enough of the stations are in place, the 2014 Model S will be rebranded a Type III ZEV going forward.

The new standards — originally meant to be in place by October 2013 — were designed by CARB to emphasize actual use of ZEVs over theoretical capabilities.

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Tesla Leads Sellers of CARB ZEV Credits, Chrysler Biggest Buyer http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/tesla-leads-sellers-of-carb-zev-credits-chrysler-biggest-buyer/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/tesla-leads-sellers-of-carb-zev-credits-chrysler-biggest-buyer/#comments Fri, 18 Oct 2013 16:19:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=626801 CARB-transfers-out-550x385

According to data released by the California Air Resources Board, CARB, Tesla Motors was the top seller of the zero-emission vehicle credits that regulatory board requires car makers to have if they want to sell cars in that state. Toyota was the top seller of hybrid-car credits.

Tesla sold 1,311.52 ZEV credits from Oct. 1, 2012, through Sept. 30 this year. Suzuki Motor Corp., the next biggest seller, transferred about 41 credits. Though Suzuki no longer sells cars in the United States, they still have credits accumulated from prior sales. Toyota transferred 507.5 plug in zero emission vehicle credits generated by its Prius hybrid. General Motors Co. acquired the same number as Toyota sold, so presumably GM bought them from its Japanese rival.

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Buyers of CARB ZEV credits.

Automakers, if they want to sell cars and light trucks in California, must sell EVs or other zero emissions vehicles in proportion to their market share in the state.  The goal is to have a million and a half ZEVs on California roads by the year 2025. If companies generate more credits than their sales require, CARB allows those credits to be sold. Each Tesla Model S earns the company as many as 7 ZEV credits, the maximum issued by California.

Companies listed by CARB as buying ZEV credits over the past 12 months were Chrysler Group LLC, GM; Honda Motor Co.; Jaguar Land Rover; Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd.’s Subaru; and Volkswagen AG. CARB does not keep track of specific trades or prices, saying the goal is for all automakers covered under California law are compliant.

Some indication of the pricing can be found in company financial reports. Tesla reported that 12% of it’s revenue in the first six months of 2013 came from ZEV credit sales amounting to $119 million. Tesla CEO Elon Musk said that the company’s ZEV credit sales will decline in the second half of the year.

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Review: 2013 Fiat 500e Electric (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/review-2013-fiat-500e-electric-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/review-2013-fiat-500e-electric-video/#comments Sat, 22 Jun 2013 16:45:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=491871 2013 Fiat 500e Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Despite being an incredibly small part of the US market share, you don’t have to look far in California’s urban areas to find a car with a plug. The reason for that is California’s controversial EV mandate. California wants 1.4 million EVs and plug-in hybrids on the road by 2025. Up till recently, California’s regulations seemed like a pie-in-the-sky dream with a far-away deadline. That changed last year when CARB (California Air Resources Board) mandated (in a nutshell) a combined 7,500 zero-emission vehicles be sold between 2012 and 2014 by the large auto makers in the state. (Credits and trades are not included in that number.) Come 2018, smaller companies like Volvo, Subaru and Jaguar will have to embrace plug-love and at the same time, most of the silly green credits go out the window. By 2025, if my home state has its way, 15% of new cars will be an EV. In California. This brings us to the little orange 500 Fiat lent us for a week. Because everyone is getting into the EV game, this will be our first EV review where we make no mention of living with an EV, range anxiety or charging station availability. If you want to know about that, click over to our 7-part saga “Living with an EV for a week.”

 

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

Fiat’s pint-sized car started its life as a Fiat Panda, a popular European car that is constantly bashed on Top Gear. (The Panda isn’t a bad little car, but it looks like something the soviet government would have cooked up.) The 500 however is modern Italian chic from bumper to bumper. While the Nuova 500 (as the Italians call it to distinguish it from the original) isn’t as handsome as the original “new” Mini, it is a plucky little car that makes people smile and point as you drive by. It could have been the $500 optional bright orange paint, but the 500e received more points and waves from passers by than a BMW M6 drop-top or a $120,000 Jaguar.

How small is a 500? We’re talking 139 inches long and 64 inches wide. That’s 7.0 inches shorter and 2 inches narrower than the Mini and a whopping three feet shorter than a Civic and 5 inches narrower than the compact Honda.

For EV duty, Fiat stuck with the 500′s winning formula. The EV gets a tweaked front and rear bumper for improved aerodynamics, wheels that have very little open space to reduce drag and a spoiler designed to do the same. Together the aero improvement reduce drag by 13% over a gasoline Italian. Fiat dropped the charging connector behind the fuel filler door and kept EV badging to an absolute minimum. The 500e’s discrete personality (you know, aside from the orange paint) didn’t go unnoticed by me or by my weekly troupe of lunch guests. Oddly enough when I first drove a 500 gasoline version two years ago everyone I met asked me if it was Electric. Now that there is a 500 electric, nobody thought about asking if it was an EV.

2013 Fiat 500e Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Interior

EV variants of “normal” cars suffer from the same problem as high-performance variants: the common parts bin. The 500′s plastics and trim parts are entirely appropriate in a $16,000 500 Pop edition but a gasoline vehicle starting at $31,800 would normally be expected to have nicer bits. But this isn’t a gasoline car so we should talk actual competition before we go much further.

The gas 500 finds itself head-to-head with the likes of the Mni Copper, Scion iQ and Smart, the $31,800 500e swims in a larger and more varied pond. We have the $28,800 Leaf, $29,135 i-MiEV, $39,200 Focus Electric, $26,685 Spark EV, as well as the lease-only Fit EV, the expensive crossover RAV4 EV, the crop of “almost EV” plug in hybrids and, yes, even the Model S. (The Mini E is not available for sale yet and Think! went belly-up.)

With the competition now in mind we can assess the interior more honestly. As a dedicated EV, the Leaf was built to a weight so plastics are hard and thin. Ditto the Volt and i-MiEV. The C-MAX and RAV 4, being based off slightly more expensive gasoline vehicles have more luxurious interior plastics. Meanwhile the 500 has plenty of hard plastics but Fiat cast them in stylish shapes that are sure to lure PT Cruiser, HHR and Mini buyers. The only real change to the 500′s interior was the installation of shift buttons where the traditional shifter used to live. I think the change was fine but I wish Fiat had gone further and just removed that portion of the dash so you’d have more knee-room.

EV efficiency is driven as much by environmental concerns as the reality that range is limited and charging times are long. Weight the enemy of efficiency so you won’t find heavy items like cushy seats, adjustable lumbar support or power adjusting mechanisms. The 500e’s thrones aren’t uncomfortable, but they lack the range of adjustibility you find in an average mid-sized sedan. Thanks t0 the 500′s upright profile, the rear seats are surprisingly easy to get into and provide enough headroom for a pair of 6-foot tall adults. On the down side, the battery pack intrudes making the footwells four-inches shallower than the regular 500. (Check out the video for more.) The EV conversion doesn’t really shrink the cargo area as much as it converts it. The 500e has a flip-up cargo floor that reveals a can of fix-a-flat and the 120V “emergency” charging cable which suck up about six-inches of cargo load floor.
2013 Fiat 500e LCD Instrument Cluster, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

 

Infotainment & Gadgets

The 500 may seem fresh to Americans since it’s only been sold here for three years. Unfortunately for gadget lovers, the 500 is really a 6 year old car launched in 2007. That means that the gadgets on offer were already ageing when “our” 500 hit dealers in 2010.  That means you won’t find any snazzy touchscreen LCDs, self parking doodads or Ford SYNC aping voice commands. To correct this deficiency, 500es sold in the USA come standard with Fiat’s customized Tom-Tom nav system that “docks” into a dedicated hole in the dashboard. For some reason our Canadian brothers and sisters (who are able to buy the 500e) don’t get standard nav-love but Fiat will sell you one for some extra loonies.

Helping counter the 500e’s price tag, Fiat throws in the up-level Alpine sound system from the gasoline model with Bluetooth speaker phone integration and a USB/iPod interface. EV buyers also get a snazzy 7-inch LCD gauge cluster. The disco-dash offers slick graphics but limited customization in this generation. Instead of reworking the car’s controls for the 500e, the LCD is still controlled via the complicated combination of steering wheel buttons, a button on the wiper stalk and three buttons on the dash. Confused? Check out the video to see what they all do.

2013 Fiat 500e Electric Motor, Drivetrain, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drivetrain & Drive

In place of the gasoline engine sits a 111HP/147lb-ft three-phase AC synchronous motor. That’s a 9HP and 49lb-ft improvement over the 1.4L four-cylinder gasoline engine. Power is stored in a 624lb, 24kWh battery pack that’s liquid cooled and heated that is located mostly under the 500′s Italian body. Power gets to the front wheels via a single speed transaxle. Transaxle is perhaps not the best word to use here since the 500e doesn’t have a transmission in the traditional sense; its more of a reduction gear and differential combination. No reverse gear is needed because the motor can spin backwards just as easily as it can forwards.

Charging is handled by an on-board 6.6kW charger which will take the pack from zero to 100% in just under four hours if you have access to a 240V level 2 charger. 120V charging will take 22 hours, a notable improvement over some EVs thanks to the small size of the 500′s battery. Range clocks in at 80-100 miles depending on how you drive and my range numbers landed in the middle at 90. Thanks to an efficient drivetrain and the 6.6kW charger, the 500e can “opportunity” charge while you’re shopping gobbling up 20-25 miles of range for every hour of 240V public charging. Due to the ongoing DC-charging standard war, Fiat decided to skip on the feature leaving 500e owners to gaze longingly at the possibility of gaining 4 miles of range a minute.

The 111HP motor changes the way the 500 drives dramatically. Motors deliver all their torque from nearly zero RPM to moderate speeds. As a result the 500e has far more “oomph” from a stop than the regular gasoline model that needs to rev to bring the power to a boil. This means the EV version has more torque steer and more one-wheel-peel, but it also runs out of breath over 65 MPH in a way the gas model doesn’t. If you mash your foot to the floor you’ll clock 30 MPH in a very respectable 2.69 seconds, 60 MPH in a four-cylinder Accord 7.87 seconds and a slow 79.7 MPH quarter mile after 16.37 seconds. Keep your boot in it and 88 MPH will happen eventually, at which point the Bosch battery management system will kick in with German efficiency reducing power to keep you from toasting your Samsung cells. Those performance numbers slot the 500e right between the $16,000 500 Pop and the $19,500 500 Turbo which makes sense given the linear power delivery EVs are known for.

2013 Fiat 500e LCD Instrument Cluster, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

The 500e may have more around-town scoot than its gasoline brother, but an overall weight gain of 600lbs vs the dino model and low rolling resistance rubber define the 500′s handling. While its true the battery pack causes the 500e to have a better weight balance than the gasoline 500, it just means you’re going to head into the bushes door-first rather than nose-first. Still, 2,980lbs is a fairly light electric car and that is obvious when you drive the 500e back-to-back with a Leaf or Fit EV. Electrification hasn’t destroyed the 500′s dynamics, but it has dulled them.

Despite the changes, the 500e is still an excellent runabout with a tight turning radius, decent visibility and (thanks to is small size) it’s a breeze to park. The same can be said of the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, but it’s dreadfully ugly and the 500′s pug nose has a cute factor that can’t be denied. The 500e is also running Bosch’s latest regenerative braking software which handles the friction brake/regen brake transition the smoothest of any car I have driven to date, an important feature in a city-EV. Fiat has one selling point we haven’t covered, the ” Pass program” which gives owners “free” access to 12 days of rental car access per year for three years via Enterprise, National or Alamo. The logic is to quell range anxiety with almost a fortnight in a gasoline car for your yearly road trip. Speaking of leases, I’m not sure how many people would pay $31,800 for 500 that ran on electrons, but Fiat’s $999 down, $199 a month (plus a heap of taxes and fees) is fairly attractive. Nissan is also offering a $199 a month lease on the Leaf, but it required another grand down. Based on the little car’s operating costs, the 500e would make an ideal commuter, especially if your employer foots your charging bill (a growing number in California do.) Just keep in mind that you can’t claim that $7,500 tax credit that is heavily advertised by EV makers if you lease, and Fiat only sells the 500e in California. Bummer dude.

 

Hit it or Quit It?

Hit it

  • Most fun to drive EV this side of a Model S.
  • Good looks can’t be overlooked.
  • 36 days in a rental car sounds like a reasonable perk.

Quit it

  • Fiat’s infotainment options are old school and awkward interfaces abound.
  • No DC quick-charging ability leaves you wishing you had a Leaf sometimes.

Fiat provided the vehicle, insurance and 24kWh of electricity for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.69 Seconds

0-60: 7.87 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 16.37 Seconds at 79.9 MPH

Average Observed Economy:148 MPGe over 580 miles

 

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Pre-Production Review: 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/pre-production-review-2013-toyota-rav4-ev/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/pre-production-review-2013-toyota-rav4-ev/#comments Fri, 03 Aug 2012 15:04:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=455124  

With California’s Zero Emissions Vehicle mandate looming it is only a matter of time till we see an EV from each of the major players in the California market. Nissan has the Leaf, BMW has the Active E, GM has the Volt and Honda electrified a Fit and Ford has electrified everything that isn’t nailed down. That brings us to the elephant in the room: Toyota. To give us some insight into Toyota’s CARB (California Air Resources Board) compliance plans and to see the fruits of the unlikely Toyota/Tesla marriage, Toyota flew us to sunny Southern California to sample the 2013 RAV4 EV.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Toyota tells us the RAV4 was selected for the same reason they electrified the old RAV4 back in 1997, the platform was able to handle the weight of the drivetrain without much modification. Essentially what we have on the outside of the RAV4EV then is the body of a RAV4 V6 with different bumper covers, headlamps and a new rear spoiler. The overall look is simple, clean and perfectly normal compared to the Nissan LEAF’s bubbly sheetmetal. During our time with the RAV4 EV no heads turned, nobody pointed and smiled. This truly is the sleeper EV.

The changes made to the RAV4 for EV duty are all “additive” meaning it runs on the same production line as the V6 and simply has additional things bolted on like extra reinforcements, mounting bars for the EV drivetrain, etc. These minimal changes seem logical when you consider that Toyota is hedging their bet in the EV game by working with Tesla to get the RAV4 EV to market in around 20 months while at the same time developing the iQ EV completely in-house.

Interior

The inside of the RAV4 EV is pure mid-market CUV, right from the hard plastic dash to the chunky leather steering wheel and the well placed Big-Gulp holders. To make EV owners feel special, Toyota changed the seating surfaces to SofTex (a faux-leather) with a honeycomb weave fabric insert, borrowed the Prius’ electronic shifter, extended the size of the seat heating zones and installed an all-new gauge cluster and infotainment system. Because the batteries are located completely under the RAV4 EV, the seating positions are unchanged and the rear seats retain their reclining feature as well as their fold-flat ability. With the seats duly folded cargo room grows from a standard 37 cubes to an impressive 73 cubes. Should that not be enough storage for you, the under-floor cargo “cubbies” haven’t been converted to batteries. As you would expect, Toyota ditched the power driver’s seat due to weight considerations so be sure you’re happy with the seat height before you buy.

Toyota chose the RAV4 EV as a sort of production “test bed” for technologies that will eventually trickle down to other products if they aren’t vilified by the press if the public takes to them. The first change is a new climate control interface that ditches the majority of the physical buttons for a (nearly) seamless touch sensitive panel. I’m not sure if I like the lack of haptic feedback on these systems, but Toyota tempers this with a snazzy high-res LCD for climate information.

Infotainment

Toyota seems to be in a “button minimalism” binge lately and nowhere is that more obvious than on the new 8-inch Entune radio in the photo above. Want to guess how you adjust the volume or change tracks? We needed Toyota engineer to show us as well. Thankfully the intuitive steering wheel controls remain unchanged.

The new 8-inch system is very responsive and builds on Toyota’s last generation of Entune products. In addition to the larger screen, the graphics and touch screen have been improved, allowing you to drag the map and volume slider and not “clicking” it. In terms of size, the 8-inch screen puts Toyota just behind Chrysler’s 8.4 inch UConnect system. In terms of functionality, this generation Entune system comes a close second to Ford’s MyFordTouch system now that Toyota has integrated voice command of your USB/iDevice music player.

Drivetrain

Under the hood of the RAV4 EV you will find the reason we hopped on a 45 minute flight: the motor from a Tesla Model S. Say what? Yep, the development timeline on the RAV4 EV was able to be so short partly because Toyota worked on the car in parallel with Tesla working on the drivetrain, but also because the RAV4 is using “off the shelf” Tesla parts under the hood.  Wait! The Model S produces 362HP and 325 lb-ft and the RAV4EV is rated for 154HP and 273 lb-ft. What gives? The simple answer is of course: would you want 362HP in a FWD SUV? No, I didn’t think so.

The more complex answer is that while the motor could put out more power, the battery pack and DC/DC converter in the RAV4 isn’t designed to provide that kind of sustained output. In addition to the motor sharing, the RAV4′s charger and DC conversion circuitry are essentially the same unit as the Model S but adapted to the RAV4. Likewise the single speed transmission is very similar but the gearset was redesigned for a front mounted, FWD arrangement. As it is, the system has to keep the torque controlled when starting, so you don’t peel out every time, to that end torque is normally restricted to 218  lb-ft unless you select the Sport mode that allows access to all 273 (and raised the top speed limiter to 100MPH.)

Part of the reason the RAV4 was selected was the popularity of CUVs, the other reason was the ground clearance and chassis design of the RAV4 made fitting the 41.8kWh battery pack (slightly larger than the base Model S) a “bolt-on” affair. While the pack is not the same one used in a Tesla model, as with the other systems the D-cell sized batteries that make up the pack are produced by Panasonic.

Drive

Out on the road, the RAV4 EV drives like a quiet RAV4 V6 with a CVT, thanks to the constantly available torque. Don’t let the horsepower deficit deceive you, 0-60 happens in 6.8 seconds in Sport mode and about a second longer in the torque-reducing normal mode. This is essentially the same as the 269HP RAV4 V6, and quite fast for an EV of any description.

With this kind of forward thrust, FWD and low rolling resistance rubber, torque steer is present, fairly well controlled and strangely entertaining. Front-drive hoons will weep, sadly Toyota seems to have done an excellent job with the traction control system limiting one-wheel-peel to full-throttle turns only.

The big news for the RAV4 EV is: there’s not much to say. While most EVs drive like underpowered vehicles with strangely little off-the-line thrust, plenty of motor whine, grabby regenerative braking and peculiar throttle mapping, the RAV4 EV just drives like a fairly powerful mid-market CUV.

Charging

Like all EVs, charging is the biggest limiting factor for most owners rather than absolute range. Depending on how you drive the RAV4 and whether you are using the heater or the A/C, you can expect between 65 and 120 miles out of your electric crossover before you have to plug it in. With a 41.8kWh battey and a 10kW charger on board, charging your EV is more complicated than with the Nissan LEAF. Why’s that? Let’s dig in.

When the Nissan LEAF and Chevrolet Volt came on the scene two years ago there was a veritable renaissance in the public EV charging network. Prior to these two volume players (and prior to the J1772 standard) EV charging stations were few, far-between and an odd mishmash of 120V plugs, Avcon connectors and various incompatible inductive paddles.

Two years later and California has been united with one plug to rule them all, except that the majority of these charging stations seem to be designed to support a maximum charge rate of 6.6kWh with a fairly large share of 3.3kWh chargers. As a result, plugging your RAV4 EV’s 9.6kW charger into one of these stations would result in charging times that are much longer than the quoted 5-6 hours. Toyota tells us charging time brakes down like this: a full charge at 9.6kW takes 5-6 hours from empty, 7.2kW 8 hours, 6.6kW 9 hours, 3.8kW 15 hrs and should you only have your 120V “emergency cord” handy, the 1.4kW charge will take 52 hours. Ouch.

Like most EVs, don’t even think about buying a RAV4 EV unless you’re also buying a home charging station to plug it in. Toyota’s partner Leviton will sell and install one for $1,500 (not including permits), but you might want to explore that further before you buy an EV, especially if you live in an older home. Be sure to also check with your utility company to see if you qualify for lower “EV rates” or you may see your electric bill rise much higher than you’d think due to those pesky “baseline” charges in California.

If you’re thinking about upgrading from your LEAF to a RAV4 EV, just remember that in addition to your home charging likely being undersized and needing to be replaced, Toyota decided not to support the CHAdeMO DC fast charging standard. Two years ago when the RAV4 started development there was no national standard and there were no CHAdeMO stations in the country so the engineers decided to skip DC charge support until there was a standard. Since there are now (finally) several stations in the Bay Area and a number sprouting up in Southern California, SAE standards aside, it would seem the DC charging standard has been decided but this generation of RAV4 decided to skip the party. Charge convenience aside, you should know that DC quick charging is hard on a battery so if you want your RAV4 to last, then this isn’t really an issue.

Price

If you are between 45 and 65, married, a two car family and have plenty of expendable income, then this RAV’s for you. If you’re outside this demographic, the $49,800 MSRP will cause some serious sticker shock. Since the RAV4 EV comes only one way (fully loaded) and there are only 2,600 going to be built over three years, you’re not only paying for the extremely expensive drivetrain, but for the scarcity of the vehicle. While Toyota would not comment officially or unofficially on the cost of the drivetrain, I detected a “spot on” glance from one of our minders when I surmised that the EV components, excluding R&D costs was somewhere uncomfortably close to the entire $49,800 sticker price of the RAV4 EV. If you choose to think you’re getting a deal, good for you. For the rest of you: lease the EV so you don’t have to worry about little things like battery degradation. Yes there is a California rebate of $2,500 available and a $7,500 tax credit, but depending on your tax situation the IRS may not give you much back. One possible justification for spending about $25,000 more on the EV than the four-cylinder RAV4 is California’s “permanent” carpool access stickers. On my daily commute using the carpool lane solo saved me 30 minutes a day. How much is that worth to you? Your answer needs to be: more than $25,000.

Who is it for?

Excellent question dear reader. As we said, Toyota is targeting a married, affluent demographic in California. To me, this makes some sort of sense. There is just one problem, it seems to me that Toyota and Tesla are fishing in the same, very small, pond with the Model S at $57,400 and the RAV4 EV at $49,800. Either way, if you want some Tesla love on the cheap, the RAV4 EV is the cheaper option.

Why should I care? I’m not buying an EV.

Toyota is using the RAV4 EV as publicly available test vehicle in some ways. How well does this relationship with Tesla go? How does Tesla handle the supply, assembly and warranty side of the RAV4 EV? How do people like the new Entune system? What do real-world EV owners think of the product? All these questions are why the RAV4 EV exists. BUT, CARB’s ZEV mandate is the reason Toyota is willing to lose plenty of cash to answer them. The RAV4 is a large step in the right direction for the EV niche as it is a perfectly practical, perfectly normal feeling CUV. While 99.9% of readers will never end up with one, you’ll likely benefit from what is learned in this process.

Toyota flew me to Newport Beach, fed me a snazzy dinner and a meat-free continental breakfast for this review. Not a fan of our Facebook page? Too bad, if you liked us on FaceBook you’d know what we have on the front burner. Get on, get social and tell us what you want to see. Subscribe to our YouTube channel while you’re at it.

 

2013 Toyota RAV4 EV, Exterior, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV, Exterior, front grille, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV, Exterior, headlamps, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV, coolant reservoirs, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV, under the hood, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV, EV motor, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV, EV drivetrain, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV, Exterior, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV, Exterior, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV, Exterior, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV, Interior, door switches, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV, Interior, switches, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV, Interior, gauges, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV, Interior, gauges sport mode, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV, Interior, gauges, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV, Interior, gauges, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV, Interior, Entune infotainment, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV, Interior, Entune infotainment, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV, Interior, Entune infotainment, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV, Interior, Entune infotainment, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV, Interior, Entune infotainment, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV, Interior, Entune infotainment, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV, Interior, Entune infotainment, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV, Interior, Entune infotainment, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV, Interior, Entune infotainment, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV, Interior, Entune infotainment, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV, Interior, Entune infotainment, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV, Interior, Entune infotainment, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV, Interior, Entune infotainment, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV, Interior, buttons, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV, Interior, shifter, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV, Interior, dash drivers side, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV, Interior, dash, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV, Interior, center console, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV, Interior, dashboard, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV, Interior, driver's side, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV, Interior, steering wheel, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV, Interior, seats , Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV, Interior,  rear seats , Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV, Interior, cargo area rear seats folded, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV, Interior,  rear seats , Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV, Interior, cargo area rear seats folded, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV, charging cable, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV, Interior, cargo area, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV, Interior, cargo area, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV, Interior, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV, Charging connector, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV, Interior, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV, Interior, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV, Exterior, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV, Exterior, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV, Exterior, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV, Exterior, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV, Exterior, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV, Exterior, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV, Exterior, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV, Exterior, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV, EnTune Infotainment System, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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Pre-Production Review: 2013 Honda Fit EV http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/pre-production-review-2013-honda-fit-ev/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/pre-production-review-2013-honda-fit-ev/#comments Tue, 03 Jul 2012 13:19:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=450721

Despite accounting for an incredibly small percentage of new car sales in America, the EV is all the rage in California. Rather than starting from scratch and designing an all-new car from the ground up (like Nissan), Honda chose the more economical route and electrified the second-generation Honda Fit. On the surface, the recipe sounds like a slam dunk, since the Fit is one of Honda’s most attractive and most fun to drive models now on sale. To prove to the masses that Honda has what it takes to go green, they flew me out to Pasadena to sample the all-new, all-blue Fit EV.

Before we begin, we should talk about the elephant in the room: California Air Resources Board (CARB) compliance. Some years ago California decided that by 2025 15.4% of all new cars sold in California would have to meet the “Zero Emissions Vehicle” (ZEV) standard. Like any government program, the loopholes, credits and credit trading allowed in the convoluted legislation allow OEMs to sell only a small number of the “required” EVs over the next decade. Strangely the legislation doesn’t require that the vehicle be actually “sold” to the consumer either. Enter the lease-only 2013 Honda Fit EV.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Because the Fit EV was designed to be an incredibly low volume vehicle (only 1,100 will be made for the 2013 and 2014 model years combined), you can get your electric Fit in any color you want, as long as you want blue. Aside from the single shade of “EV blue”, a tweaked front grille and some EV stickers, nothing about the Fit screams “electric vehicle” the way the Leaf’s unique sheetmetal does. Some may want the world to know they are saving the planet, but I prefer Honda’s discreet approach. While the Fit EV may look just its gasoline cousin, the Fit EV has different bumpers, side sills, an increased ride height and a totally different floorpan to accommodate the batteries and improve aerodynamics.

Say what you will about the logic and politics involved with making a “compliance” EV, the 2013 Fit EV has one of Honda’s best economy car interiors. The EV’s interior is dominated by various shades of light beige plastic, a soft leather steering wheel and comfortable fabrics. Compared to the 2012 Civic, the interior is luxurious. Pitted against the gasoline Fit, the interior has been tweaked enough that Honda isn’t kidding when they say the Fit EV is the “perfect Fit.” To help conserve power, a single-zine climate control system and heated seats have been adapted to the Fit in addition to the usual bevy of EV-specific gauges. While this may seem counter-intuitive, climate control allows more efficient control over fan speed and A/C compressor usage while heated seats make the cabin feel warmer than it really is on cold days. All Fit EVs come with Honda’s usual touch-screen navigation system with EV-specific software to find charging stations and graphically display your battery range. We were not able to test the feature during our time with the Fit EV, but all models will be equipped with their new voice command system á la Ford’s SYNC.

In addition to being 14mm higher than the gasoline Fit, the addition of the battery pack required changes to the shape of the Fit’s body. This in turn means the rear seats are unique to the Fit EV riding 1.4 inches higher, 3.3 inches further back and reclined just over 4 degrees more than the regular gasoline Fit. While the extra legroom is welcome and the headroom is still sufficient for all but the tallest passengers, I found the seat back angle to be uncomfortably reclined. Fortunately the front seats remain excellent, providing decent bolstering and above average lumbar support. If you are a shorter driver, be sure to check out the seating position before you lease, as the driver’s seat is not adjustable for height.

Since Honda’s press event was boiled down to a 4 hour event, our time behind the wheel was limited to a collective 3 hours and some 80 miles. While the added weight of the battery pack and the low rolling resistance tires limit grip compared to the gasoline Fit, the battery positioning means the center of gravity is very low. The low-mounted mass and a unique independent rear suspension make the Fit EV more fun on the twisties than I expected. Honda had a collection of 2012 Nissan Leafs on hand for comparison and the back-to-back is less than shocking: the Fit handles well and the Leaf handles like a large, heavy hatchback on skinny low-rolling resistance tires. Much like the Leaf, the Fit EV’s top speed  is limited by the combination of the redline on the motor and the single-speed transaxle.

The Fit EV shares its 92kW (123HP) electric motor with the Honda FCX Clarity hydrogen fuel cell car, but the single-speed transaxle is unique to the Fit. The unique gearbox seems to indicate that although the Fit EV is destined to be rarer than a Rolls Royce, Honda is willing to invest in new EV technology. In order to extend the range, the Fit provides three driving modes: Sport, Normal and Eco. Sport provides accelerator pedal mapping and motor output similar to a regular gasoline hatchback. Normal reduces engine power to around 75kW (101HP) under all but full-throttle situations and Eco reduced power further to 47kW (64HP). While some described the Eco mode as “aggravating,” the goal of an efficient city-car style EV isn’t to jet around at top speed. According to Honda, the combination of the most efficient EV drivetrain on the market, a 6.6kWh on-board charger and an 82-mile range makes the Fit EV the best electric vehicle in its class. In reality, it’s the way the Fit EV drives that makes it the best. While the steering is as numb as anything on the market with electro-mechanical power steering, the handling is light-years ahead of the Leaf in terms of both road feel and grip. It was faster too, hitting 60 MPH a full second before the Nissan Leaf (7.91 seconds).

The eternal problem with an EV is charging time. While a car with an 82 mile range would be livable for every driving occasion as long as fill-ups took only a few minutes, charging times for EVs is rated in hours. For reasons that were never officially explained, Honda decided not to equip the Fit EV with the “CHΛdeMO” DC quick-charge connector Nissan has put their weight behind. This means that while your neighbor’s Leaf may take twice as long (7 hours) to charge on your 220V home charger, they can get an 80% charge in half an hour by visiting a quick charge station.

While I’m unsure that California’s ZEV mandate is good politics, it’s obvious we can thank CARB for the existence of the Fit EV. Yet it’s the very nature of the way the Fit EV came into being that makes it both the perfect Fit and the most frustrating. For many Americans looking for a commuter car, $389 a month for the most economical car on the market including collision insurance is a fantastic deal. The flip side of course is that only 1,100 people will get to experience the low operating costs of what may be the best EV in America.

 

Not a fan of our Facebook page? Too bad, if you liked us on FaceBook you’d have been able to ask the Honda engineers and minders your burning questions about the Fit EV.

Honda paid for a Southwest flight, one night’s stay in a hotel, a buffet lunch and all the electrons the Fit could consume.

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.24 Seconds

0-60: 7.91 Seconds

 

2011 Honda Fit EV, Exterior with Nissan Leaf, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2011 Honda Fit EV, Exterior with Nissan Leaf, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2011 Honda Fit EV, Exterior with Nissan Leaf, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2011 Honda Fit EV, Exterior with Nissan Leaf, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2011 Honda Fit EV, Exterior with Nissan Leaf, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2011 Honda Fit EV, Exterior, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2011 Honda Fit EV, Exterior, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2011 Honda Fit EV, Exterior, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2011 Honda Fit EV, Exterior, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2011 Honda Fit EV, Exterior, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2011 Honda Fit EV, Exterior, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2011 Honda Fit EV, Exterior, wheel, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2011 Honda Fit EV, Exterior, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2011 Honda Fit EV, Exterior, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2011 Honda Fit EV, Interior, cargo area, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2011 Honda Fit EV, Interior, rear seats, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2011 Honda Fit EV, Interior, dashboard, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2011 Honda Fit EV, Interior, dashboard, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2011 Honda Fit EV, Interior, dashboard, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2011 Honda Fit EV, Interior, dashboard, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2011 Honda Fit EV, Interior, infotainment, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2011 Honda Fit EV, Interior, cargo area, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2011 Honda Fit EV, Motor, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2011 Honda Fit EV, Motor, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2011 Honda Fit EV, Motor, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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