The Truth About Cars » CARB http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Tue, 21 Apr 2015 19:00:01 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 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 » CARB http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Review: 2015 Kia Soul EV (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/review-2015-kia-soul-ev-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/review-2015-kia-soul-ev-video/#comments Thu, 16 Apr 2015 13:00:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1042177   EV “conversions” make for strange bedfellows when it comes to competition. There is no gasoline Kia Soul that competed even slightly with Mercedes or BMW. Oddly enough however, when you electrify one of the least expensive cars in America, you end up with with a Kia on the same cross-shop list as the i3 […]

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EV “conversions” make for strange bedfellows when it comes to competition. There is no gasoline Kia Soul that competed even slightly with Mercedes or BMW. Oddly enough however, when you electrify one of the least expensive cars in America, you end up with with a Kia on the same cross-shop list as the i3 and B-Class Electric. Obviously a Kia Soul EV vs i3 vs B-Class comparison table is at the extreme end, but I am surprised how many folks wanted to hear that comparison. It isn’t just the luxury-cross shops that become possible however, comparisons normally considered to be “one-tier up” and “one-tier down” become more reasonable as well. For instance, the gasoline Soul isn’t a direct competitor to the Fiat 500 or the Ford Focus, but in EV form they are head to head.

Exterior

The Soul’s boxy profile causes shoppers to frequently overestimate its size. At 163 inches long, the Soul is 16-inches shorter than a Honda Civic and just three inches longer than a Honda Fit. The relative size and the low $15,190 starting price (in gasoline form) are the key to understanding the Soul in general terms. You must also keep that low starting price in mind when thinking of the Soul EV.

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Although the boxy Kia isn’t very long, it is fairly wide. At 70.9 inches wide, the Soul is three critical inches broader than a Honda Fit. This extra width helps keep the Soul from looking too upright (like the Honda Fit) and, from a practical standpoint, it gives rear passengers a wider bench seat than many compact vehicles on the market.

To set the EV apart, Kia crafted unique paint options which include the two-tone blue/white model we tested. Aside from the desire to differentiate the product, the white roof actually reduces heat loads in hotter climates. Kia is a brand known for cutting corners. Last century Kia famously cut all the wrong corners, but lately they started cutting all the right ones. In order to keep the EV’s price, low Kia skipped fancy LED or HID headlamps and used that cash to give upper level trims front and rear parking sensors and power folding mirrors. That’s a worthy trade in my book since many EVs end up being city commuter cars where parallel parking is a way of life.

I have to admit I find the Soul’s boxy form attractive. Maybe it’s my love of station wagons, but the practical profile made me smile. The tweaked front end which ditches a true grille due to reduced cooling requirements makes the Soul look more elegant than in base form as well. While I wouldn’t call it a luxury look, the Soul EV is certainly better looking than the Spark EV or LEAF and it’s a more traditional alternative to the BMW i3.

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Interior

I found the Soul’s interior to be more polarizing than the exterior, but style and not quality is where people were mixed in opinion. With the latest redesign, all Soul models get a soft-touch injection molded dashboard but the feel of the cabin does change from the base gasoline model to the top end trims. The difference seems to be that rather than swapping nicer bits into the higher end cabins, Kia designed a $25,000 cabin and then subtracted to create the base models. Things like the fabric headliner, stitched instrument cluster cover, sort touch door panels and leather wrapped wheel get swapped for lower rent parts in that base $15,190 model. The result is a high-end Soul interior that looks cohesive and a low end Soul interior where interior parts look out of place. Surprised? Then you haven’t driven mid-range or upper trim levels of the latest generation Soul. Kia brought the cheeky box notably up-market in this generation and all EV models use the nicer interior parts.

For EV duty the Soul is available in two trims with essentially no options to choose. The “Base” model is $33,700 (before tax incentives) and the “+” is $35,700. You should know that both trims actually fit into the Soul’s hierarchy between the gasoline + and ! models in terms of features. The $2,000 bump buys you leather seats that are heated/ventilated up front and heated in the rear, heated steering wheel, front and rear parking sensors, fog lamps, power folding mirrors, auto-dimming rear view mirror and leatherette inserts in the doors. The ventilated seats are unique in the EV segment and they are more practical than you might think. We have all heard that it consumes less power to heat the seats and steering wheel than heat the air, but the same goes in hot weather: ventilating the seat consumes less energy than cooling the cabin to a lower temperature. Having the Soul EV back to back with the VW e-Golf made this more obvious than I had expected. Although the Soul EV isn’t as aerodynamic as the e-Golf I was able to get similar highway economy figures by using the ventilated seats instead of the A/C.

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Speaking of air conditioning, Kia decided to use a more expensive heat pump in the Soul EV instead of a standard air conditioning and resistive heater setup that you find in most EVs. Heat pumps are becoming more and more common because they drastically reduce the energy consumed in heating the cabin. If you live in a colder climate, the reduction in energy consumption can potentially mean 5-10 miles more EV range.

The Soul’s front seats are upright and comfortable, but not as adjustable as the gasoline Soul ! which has a 10-way power seat and adjustable lumbar support. This is a shame because it would have made the Soul’s cabin more welcoming than any of the other EVs on the market save Tesla’s new seat design. Headroom and legroom are surprisingly generous thanks to the upright seats and tall roofline. With the front seats adjusted for a 6-foot 5-inch friend, I had no troubles sitting in the back seat. Because the Soul is wider than your average subcompact it has three snug seats in the rear, one more than you’ll find in the 500e, Spark EV or i3. Because most EVs are weight conscious (read: full of hard plastics), only the Mercedes and Tesla offer interiors that feel overtly higher rent. The i3’s interior is difficult to compare as parts are high quality, but the kneaf/plastic blended door and dash panels don’t feel particularly expensive

Infotainment

Perhaps the most attractive feature in the Soul, aside from the ventilated seats, is the 8-inch UVO infotainment and navigation system that is standard on both trims. Kia builds on their easy-to-use software with perhaps the most EV specific information available in a car this side of a Model S. In addition to the standard fare of range and nearby charging stations, the UVO software will let you see where your power is going, score your driving, tell you how much farther you could go if you turned off the AC, and give you charging time estimates. None of these features are unique to the Soul, but not every EV out there gives you ALL of this information in one unit. In addition Kia has a smartphone connected app that will do much of this from afar.

On the downside, UVO still lacks voice command of your media library like you’ll find in most of the mass-market competition from Chrysler, GM, Toyota, Ford and to some extent Honda, but the is the only serious omission in this software. Again however the EV comparisons make even this contrast difficult since the EV’s from those companies don’t include this feature either. The UVO interface is snappy, supports scrolling/drag motions with your fingers, includes a built in cell modem for connectivity features and the voice recognition software is intuitive. The display is large and easy to read in strong daylight and the user interface is sleek and modern. BMW’s iDrive is still the most elegant entry, but only in top end trims as the base i3 gets a less elegant iDrive implementation. Mercedes COMAND is pretty, but lacks UVO’s feature set. Sadly EV owners cannot get Kia’s up-level Infiniti sound system with a center channel speaker, subwoofer and color-changing speaker grills that beat in time with the music. Rocking hamsters need not apply.

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Drivetrain

Powering the electrified Soul is a 109 horsepower AC electric motor capable of 210 lb-ft of torque.  The motor sends power to the front wheels via a single-speed automatic transaxle. (Many of you asked why we call it a “transmission” when it is little more than a reduction gear set with a differential. I don’t have a good answer for you, I call it a transmission because the company that made it calls it a transmission.) Although the curb weight of the Soul EV is a hair lower than the e-Golf (3,286 vs 3,391) and the motor isn’t really much more powerful, 0-60 performance was inexplicably better at 8.5 seconds vs 10.03 seconds. Perplexed by the fast sprint to highway speed? So was I. Many publications have simply quoted Kia’s vague 10-11 second range for the acceleration run, but we tested it several times with the same 20Hz GPS based accelerometer and got the same numbers. The difference is likely due to the gearing and hopefully we’ll be able to get some 0-60 comparisons on other models soon to confirm this, or not.

BMW’s i3 is one of the lightest EVs, tipping the scales 751lbs lighter than the Soul. However, not all the weight difference is explained in the ultra-modern carbon fiber and aluminum BMW construction, the Soul EV carries a battery that is a whopping 44% larger in usable capacity. At 27kWh the Soul’s battery is (at the moment) only outclassed by the B-Class and Model S. Sadly, the laws of physics don’t allow the Kia to have 44% more range than the i3 thanks to considerably wider tires, the heftier curb weight and less aerodynamic profile. For 2015 the EPA says the Soul will cover 93 miles depending on your driving style, about 12 more than the i3. BMW’s numbers were about right, getting around 83 milesin my tests but the Soul EV is rated conservatively (likely due to the brick-like aerodynamics) but I averaged 4.2 miles per kWh which translates to a 113 mile range on my daily commute. Not willing to push things, I did manage a 90 mile trip with about 16% of the battery left.

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Kia’s balancing act between features and keeping costs in check can be seen in the drivetrain as well. The trade-off for the hefty battery capacity is a standard 6.6kW charger which is not slow, but it is slower than the 7.2kW in the e-Golf, 7.4kW in the i3 and 10kW in the Mercedes. Thankfully all Soul models come standard with the CHAdeMO DC fast charge connector up front (the large connector on the right in the picture above). The new SAE (aka CCS) connector may be slimmer and newer, but CHAdeMO outnumbers the newer stations by more than 4:1 in the SF Bay Area and the charging rate is essentially the same. Charging at 120V will take you over 24 hours, at 6.6kW 240V that drops to 4 hours and the little blue box will race from 5% to 80% in under 30 minutes at a coffee shop with a CHAdeMO station.

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Drive

The Soul has never been a driver’s car. The prime reason is Kia’s decision to use a semi-independent suspension in the rear to improve cargo room and load capacity. This means the rear of the gasoline Soul gets upset over heavily broken pavement when driving in a straight line, and in corners rough pavement leaves it unsettled. By adding 500lbs to the vehicle and shifting the weight balance nearer to 50/50 to the rear, the Soul EV delivers improved feel without any major mechanical changes. Because the Soul’s wheelbase is still fairly short the ride can feel slightly choppy on freeway expansion joints, but the added weight brings added polish with it and actually helps settle the rear in corners.

There isn’t an EV out there that excels at handling (even Model S tests on the skidpad yields lower numbers than the gasoline competition) and the Soul is no different. The EV Soul has unquestionably better balance than the gasoline model, and that is obvious on winding roads, but the 205-width low rolling resistance tires and extra weight mean that handling comes in just above the base Soul model (which wears even skinnier tires.) I found the Kia more engaging than the Nissan Leaf, but less engaging than the Focus Electric and e-Golf. In sheer road holding numbersm the Soul and i3 are quite close according to independent metrics, but the the i3’s RWD layout makes it more fun. The Soul’s steering wheel gives precious little feedback but the effort level is adjustable in three levels and no EV’s steering is a “team player” anyway.

Driving dynamics aren’t the Soul’s Forte (see what I did there?) but then again, no EV on the market today does terribly well in this area either. Instead, the Soul EV checks all the practicality and usability boxes from a large and practical cargo area to energy saving features like the standard heat pump and available ventilated leather seats which you don’t find on even the i3 or B-Class. Making the Soul EV perhaps more compelling is Kia’s long standard warranty and the bottom line. If you qualify for the maximum in incentives, the Soul EV ends up being only $1,000 more than a comparable gasoline Soul while costing $800 less to operate on a yearly basis. It may be a low bar, but the Soul EV is easily the best all-around EV on the market today. The more surprising takeaway however is how well the Soul actually stacks up against the high-end competition despite being based on a $15,190 econo-box.

Kia provide the vehicle, insurance and one battery charge for this review. Nissan provided a free charge via one of the Nissan CHAdeMO charging stations in Redwood City.

Specifications as tested:

0-30: 3.3 Seconds

0-60: 8.5 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 16.8 Seconds @ 82 MPH

 

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Review: 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender aka i3 REx (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/review-2015-bmw-i3-range-extender-aka-i3-rex-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/review-2015-bmw-i3-range-extender-aka-i3-rex-video/#comments Fri, 20 Mar 2015 16:24:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1018290 Some call it a hybrid, some call it an EV. Some have called it a REx, a BEVx, a landmark vehicle in EV production, and others simply call it ugly. One things is for sure however, the 2015 BMW i3 turns more heads in Northern California than a Tesla Model S. Not since I last […]

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2015 BMW i3 Range Extender
Some call it a hybrid, some call it an EV. Some have called it a REx, a BEVx, a landmark vehicle in EV production, and others simply call it ugly. One things is for sure however, the 2015 BMW i3 turns more heads in Northern California than a Tesla Model S. Not since I last drove the Jaguar XKR-S have I received as many questions while parked at the gas pump, or visited a gas pump so frequently, but I digress. In a nutshell, the i3 is technically a hybrid or an EV depending on the version you get.

 

BEVx

The “hybrid” i3 isn’t the kind of hybrid you’re used to, this is an all-new classification of car defined by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) as a “Battery Electric Vehicle with Range eXtender” or BEVx. BEVx is the key to understanding why the i3 operates the way that it does and why the Euro version operates differently.

California has decided (for better or worse) that some 22% of cars sold in the state must be zero-emissions vehicles (ZEV) by 2025. While that sounds straightforward, nothing cooked up by the government and lobbyists can ever be easy. Rather than an actual percentage of cars sold, CARB created a credit system where an alphabet soup of classifications (PZEV, AT-PZEV, TZEV, etc) get partial credits and true ZEVs can get multiple credits. Into this complicated world came the unicorn that is the BEVx. Despite having a gasoline burning engine, BEVxs get the same credits as a vehicle with the same range and no dinosaur-burner. The distinction is important and critical. If the BEVx requirements are met, the i3 gets the same 2.5 credits as the i3 EV, if not it would get a fractional credit just like a regular Prius. The requirements are: the fossil fuel range must be less or equal to the EV range, EV range but be at least 80 miles, the battery must deplete to a low level before the generator kicks in and may not be charged above that level. In addition the fossil fuel generator or APU must meet CA’s SULEV emissions standards and have a long battery warranty. There’s one important catch: the carpool stickers. While BMW gets to have the i3 REx treated like an EV for credits, i3 REx owners are treated like hybrid owners for the carpool sticker program. The EV model gets the coveted (and unlimited) white carpool lane stickers, while the REx gets the same quantity-limited green stickers as the Chevy Volt. If CA follows course, the green sticker program will eventually sunset like the yellow-sticker hybrid program did in 2011.

2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior-004

Construction

The i3 is about more than just ZEV credits, it’s about putting new materials and processes into production for real drivers to experience with some funky modern style tossed in for good measure. In some ways the i3 is a return to body-on-frame construction, you see this is not a 100% carbon fiber car as some have incorrectly said.

The i3 is composed of two distinct parts. On the bottom is the drive module which is an aluminum chassis that holds the drivetrain, suspension, battery and crash structures. Connected to the drive module is the “life module” which is made of carbon fiber reinforced plastic or CFRP. While obviously a little heavier than a car made entirely out of CFRP, the aluminum crash structure is more easily repaired in the event of a minor collision. The result is an EV that tips the scales about a cupcake shy of a Mazda MX-5 with an automatic transmission (2,634 pounds). Adding the range extender adds just 330 more. That’s about 370lbs lighter than the already impressive 3,000 pound (approximate) curb weight of VW’s new eGolf.

2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior Turn Signal

Exterior

Up front the i3 gets a familiar BMW roundel and a blue interpretation of the signature kidney grill. What’s different about the i3 is that the kidney isn’t used for cooling, even in the range extending version. The biggest departures from BMW norms however are the headlamps which lack the “angel eye” rings BMW has been known for and the high beams that are placed lower in the facia. (No, those are not fog lamps.) Regardless of the trim or paint color you choose, the hood, lower valance, side trim and rear hatch will always be black.

The side view generated the most head turns due to the undulating greenhouse and “pinched” look to the rear windows. I didn’t find the look unattractive, but it does reduce rearward visibility in what is ostensibly a practical city car. Out back the hatch is composed of two sheets of glass, one for the rear windscreen and the other forms the “body” of the hatch and actually covers the tail lamp modules creating a very sleek look. Turn the steering wheel and passers-by will immediately forget about the pinched greenhouse and focus on the tires. Yes, they are as skinny as they look, but the proportion is the real key to the “bicycle wheel” look as one passenger called it. Our tester was shod with 155/70R19 tires up front and 175/70R19 in back. For reference a Toyota Sienna uses a T155 tire as a spare. Thinking critically, there have been plenty of cars with tires this narrow, but I can’t think of a single one where the width combined with a nearly flat wheel that was 19 or 20 inches across.

2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Interior Seats Doors Open

Interior

Freed from the usual front-engine, rear-drive layout of every other BMW, the Germans decided to reinvent the cabin. Because the drive module under the cabin houses the majority of the crash structure, the CFRP body was built without a structural pillar between the front and rear seats. The suicide door design means that getting in and out of the rear seat is surprisingly easy, as long as you haven’t parked too close to another vehicle. Without the transmission tunnel the HVAC system was pushed as far forward as possible allowing the driver and front passenger’s footwell to become merged. (There are just two floor-mats, one up front and one in back.)

The doors aren’t the only unusual thing about the i3’s interior, the design is decidedly Euro-funky. From the steering column mounted shifter to the “floating” iDrive display and glove box on the “top” of the dash rather than the front, the i3 designers went out of their way to think out of the box. The concept-car like theme doesn’t stop at shapes, the materials are a little unusual as well. The upholstery in our model was a wool/recycled-plastic blend fabric and the dashboard and door panels are made from a bioplastic reinforced with kneaf fibers (a kind of jute.) Front seat comfort proved excellent despite lacking adjustable lumbar support. The rear of the i3 was surprisingly accommodating, able to handle six-foot tall folks without issue. Because the dash is so shallow, a rear facing child seat can be positioned behind that six-foot person without issue. As with other small EVs on the market, the i3 is a strict four-seater. My only disappointment inside was the small LCD instrument cluster (shown below) which is notably smaller than the i3’s own infotainment/navigation LCD.

Under the hood of the i3 you’ll find a small storage area (also called a “frunk”) that houses the tire inflater and the 120V EVSE cable. The i3’s frunk is not watertight like you’ll find in the Tesla Model S, so don’t put your tax paperwork inside on your way to the IRS audit in the rain. Cargo capacity behind the rear seats comes in at 11.8 cubes, about the same as your average subcompact hatch. Getting the i3 sans range extender won’t increase your cargo capacity as the area where the range extender fits remains off limits from your luggage.

2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Instrument Cluster

Drivetrain

Being a rear wheel drive electric car, the i3’s motor is located under the cargo floor in the back. With 170 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque on tap, the i3 is one of the more powerful EVs on the market. The light curb weight and gearing in the single-speed transmission allow a 6.5 second sprint to 60 in the EV and 7.0 in the REx. Powering all the fun is a 22kWh (18.8 kWh usable) battery pack in the “drive module” coupled to a 7.4kW charger capable of charging the car completely in just over 2.5 hours on AC. Should you need more electrons faster, you can opt for the new SAE DC-Fast-Charge connector capable of getting you from zero to 80% in under 30 minutes. 18.8kWh sounds much smaller than the  37kWh Tesla battery in the Mercedes B-class, but the i3 is much more efficient putting their range figures just 5 miles apart at 80-100 miles for the EV and 70-90 for the REx.

Next to the motor is the optional range extender. It’s a 34 peak horsepower 0.65L 2-cylinder engine derived from one of BMW’s motorcycle powerplants. Permanently to a generator, it can supply power to the motor, or charge the battery until it hits about 6%. The 1.9 US gallon gas tank is capable of powering the small engine for an additional 70-80 miles depending on your driving style. There is no mechanical connection at all between the engine and the wheels. Think of the battery as a ballast tank, you can pull 170 HP out whenever you want, but the supply refilling the ballast flows at a maximum of 34. This means that it is entirely possible to drain the battery and have just 34 HP left to motivate your car.

Battery Flow

Sounds like the Volt you say? Yes and no. The Volt is more of a plug-in hybrid with some software tweaks and the i3 is a range extending EV. I know that sounds like splitting hairs but some of this comes down to the way GM decided to market the Volt when it launched. The Volt’s transaxle and 2-motor/generator system is actually much closer to the Ford/Toyota hybrid design than anything else on the market. Because of that design it can operate as an EV, as a serial hybrid or as a parallel hybrid. Interestingly enough however, maximum performance happens in gas-burning mode, just like the plug-in Prius and plug-in Ford Energi products. With the i3 however, performance is always the same (unless the battery is totally dead.) Also in the Volt you can opt to “reserve” your EV capacity for later, and that isn’t allowed in US bound i3 models (you can in Europe) in order to get that coveted BEVx classification.

Technically speaking, it is possible for any hybrid (i3 included) to enter a “limp mode” where the battery is depleted and all you have left is the gasoline engine. The difference is what you have left when this happens. The i3 has far less oomph in this situation than even the 80 HP Volt, 98 HP Prius or 141 HP in the Fusion/C-Max Energi.

2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Shifter

Drive

The i3’s steering is precise and quick with just 2.5 turns lock-to-lock and the turning circle is 10% smaller than a MINI Cooper at 32-feet. Due to the combination of a fast steering ratio, narrow tires, electric steering assist and the incredibly light curb weight, the i3 can feel twitchy on the road, responding immediately to the slightest steering input. That feeling combined with low rolling resistance tires (that squeal long before they give up grip) make the i3 feel less capable than it actually is. Once you get used to the feeling however, it turns out to be the best handling non-Tesla EV currently made. Is that a low bar? Perhaps, but the i3 leaps over it.

BMW’s “one pedal concept” is the fly in the ointment. Here’s the theory: if you drive like a responsible citizen, you just use the accelerator pedal. Press on the pedal and the car goes.  Lift and the car brakes. Lift completely and the i3 engages maximum regenerative braking (brake lights on) and takes you to a complete stop. As long as the road is fairly level, the i3 will remain stopped until you press the go-pedal once more. On paper it sounds novel, in practice it annoyed me and made my leg ache. The reason is that in order to coast you either shift to neutral or hover your foot in the right position. If the i3 could adjust the “foot-off” regen, I’d be happy. Driving the i3 back to back with VW’s new eGolf didn’t make the one-pedal any better because the VW allows you to adjust the regen from zero to maximum in four steps easily and intuitively.

BMW i3 One Pedal Operation Concept Brake Neutral Go

The i3 EV’s wider rear tires mean that despite being RWD and almost perfectly balanced you get predictable understeer as the road starts to curve. You can induce some oversteer if you’re aggressive on the throttle, but BMW’s stability control nanny cannot be disabled and the intervention is early and aggressive. Toss in the range extender’s 300+ pounds and understeer is a more frequent companion. You can still get the REx a little tail happy if you try however. The i3 will never be a lurid tail happy track car like an M235i, but the fact that any oversteer is possible in an EV is a rare feat since nearly everything else on the market is front heavy and front wheel drive. Put simply the BMW i3 is the best driving and best handling EV this side of the Model S.

Now let’s talk range extender again. After hearing the complaints about the i3’s “limp” mode when you’re left with just 34 ponies, I tried to make it happen to see what the fuss was about. I hopped in the car with the battery at 6% and started off to work. Climbing from 700ft to 2,200ft worked out just fine at 45-50 MPH on a winding mountain road, going down from 2,200 to sea level at 60 MPH was uneventful as well. I hopped on CA-85 and set the cruise control to 65 since the rumor mill told me the top speed would max out at 65ish with the battery dead. 15 miles later my battery was still very much alive so I kicked it up a notch to 75 and switched over to Interstate 280 where rolling hills would tax the battery further. 20 miles later the range extender was humming like a dirt bike in my blind spot but I wasn’t slowing down. I decided drastic measures were needed. I kicked the i3 up another notch to [intentionally left blank] MPH and watched as the battery gauge ran to zero. Finally. Except it wasn’t that exciting. It didn’t feel like I hit the brakes, it simply felt like someone had backed off the throttle. It took me around 1.5 miles to drop from [intentionally left blank] MPH to 55 MPH which was more than enough time for me to put my tail between my legs and move four lanes to the right.

2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Instrument Cluster-001

Hitting the “34 HP barrier” as I started to call it proved a little easier at closer-to-legal speeds when hill climbing, and the effects were a little more drastic. On a winding road where driving a car hard involves heavy braking before corners and full throttle exits, the i3 ran out of steam after 4 miles. The i3 then spent the next 8 miles with the go-pedal on the floor at speeds ranging from 37 to 50 MPH.

When running on the range extender, I averaged 60-65 miles before I refilled the tiny tank which came out to somewhere around 38 MPG. The number surprised some, but personally it sounds about right because the energy losses in a serial hybrid can be high (up to 20% if you believe Toyota and Honda). What did surprise me is just how livable the i3 REx was. Despite BMW constantly saying that the REx wasn’t designed to be driven like a hybrid, over 300 miles of never charging I never had a problem driving the car just like I’d drive a Prius, only stopping more often for fuel. Way more often. The i3 REx can drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles stopping every 60 miles for gas, I’m not sure I’d do that, but it is nice to know I could.

2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Interior Dashboard

Starting at $42,400 in EV form and $46,250 for the REx model, the i3 has the same kind of sticker shock as all EVs. However if you qualify for the maximum incentives the i3 REx comes down to a more reasonable $36,250 which is a little less than a 2015 328i. That slots the i3 between the rabble and the Tesla and more or less the same as the Mercedes B-Class, the only real i3 competition. In this narrow category the i3 is an easy win. It is slightly more fun to drive than the B-Class, a hair faster, considerably more efficient, has the ability to DC fast charge and the range extender will allow gasoline operation if required. The i3 is funky and complicated and BMW’s 320i is probably a better car no matter how you slice it, but none of that changes the fact the i3 is probably one of the most important cars of our time. Not because the i3 is a volume produced carbon fiber car, but because we are likely to see may more “BEVx” category “range extending” vehicles in our future (for more unicorn credits) and this is now the benchmark.

 BMW provided the vehicle, insurance and 1.9 gallons of gasoline for this review.

 Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.0 Seconds

0-60: 7.0 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 15.5 Seconds @ 86 MPH

2015 BMW i3 Range Extender 19 inch wheel 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender BMW logo 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Cargo Area.CR2 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Cargo Area 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Dashboard.CR2 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Doors Open 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior Turn Signal 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior.CR2 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior . 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior1 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior-002 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior-003 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior-004 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior-005 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior-006 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior-007 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior-0011 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Front Trunk Frunk.CR2 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Front Trunk Frunk 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Glove Compartment 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Hatch and Tail Lamp 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender iDrive Screen.CR2 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender iDrive Screen 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Instrument Cluster 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Instrument Cluster-001 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Interior Dashboard.CR2 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Interior Dashboard 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Interior Seats Doors Open 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Interior Seats 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Interior.CR2 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Interior 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Interior-001 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Rear Quarter 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Rear Seats Folded 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Rear Seats 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Refueling 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Shifter 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Steering Column 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Steering Wheel.CR2

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Hyundai, Kia Fined $300M By State, Federal Agencies Over Erroneous Fuel Economy Numbers http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/hyundai-kia-fined-300m-state-federal-agencies-erroneous-fuel-economy-numbers/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/hyundai-kia-fined-300m-state-federal-agencies-erroneous-fuel-economy-numbers/#comments Tue, 04 Nov 2014 11:00:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=940209 Being an asterisk regarding fuel economy numbers isn’t the only penance Hyundai and Kia must pay: The U.S. Department of Justice, the Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board dropped a collective $300 million penalty on the South Korean brands for mistating fuel economy numbers on their respective 2011-2013 lineups. Autoblog reports the […]

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2015 Kia K900

Being an asterisk regarding fuel economy numbers isn’t the only penance Hyundai and Kia must pay: The U.S. Department of Justice, the Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board dropped a collective $300 million penalty on the South Korean brands for mistating fuel economy numbers on their respective 2011-2013 lineups.

Autoblog reports the two alone will pay a total of $100 million to the EPA, the highest such fine in the agency’s history. Hyundai’s part of the bill comes to $56.8 million, while Kia will foot the remaining $43.2 million. The brands will also forfeit 4.75 million greenhouse emissions credits, worth approximately $200 million, and contribute a requested $50 million in investments “to prevent future violations of the Clean Air Act” by automakers.

In-house, parent company Hyundai is establishing “an independent certification test group” to handle future fuel economy testing and reporting, along with training proctors on the proper methods. The company maintains the erroneous reporting was due to the methodology used in the EPA’s test schedule, as well as errors from the coastdown portion of the test.

Hyundai and Kia are also auditing 2015 and 2016 models for accurate fuel economy numbers in light of the previous errors.

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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 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, […]

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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.

CARB-transfers-in-550x368

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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Piston Slap: Fix my Bro-Ham, Sanjeev! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/piston-slap-fix-my-bro-ham-sanjeev/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/piston-slap-fix-my-bro-ham-sanjeev/#comments Tue, 30 Apr 2013 13:48:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=486710 Mark writes: Hello Sanjeev, I have a problem and hope you can help me. My Cadillac Brougham with the 307 V8 smells like gas under the hood. This is intermittent and the last time it was in the shop the mechanic found no leaks under the car or around the carb. I did some internet […]

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Mark writes:

Hello Sanjeev,

I have a problem and hope you can help me. My Cadillac Brougham with the 307 V8 smells like gas under the hood. This is intermittent and the last time it was in the shop the mechanic found no leaks under the car or around the carb.

I did some internet searching and have heard all kinds of things including I probably used the wrong kind of gas. Apparently cars like mine can’t burn premium fuel completely and there might be residual gas left in the engine. My other cars use premium so I could have pumped 91 octane by mistake. Could that be it?

If it was a leak why wouldn’t it smell all the time?

I’m frustrated to the point where chancing it is an option so let me ask you this if you can’t fix it… if it is a small leak what’s the worst that can happen? I mean doesn’t modern reformulated gasoline have such a high flash point that I needn’t worry, except for the smell? Gas smell doesn’t really bother me.

If I took a fire extinguisher around with me could I “catch” a small fire under the hood in time to avoid damaging my paint? Are there warning signs, like smoke, before flames start to actually melt things? Does fire extinguisher residue clean up pretty easily?

Many thanks,
Mark

SANJEEV answers:

Mark: I’m searching for a clever–yet benign–way to spell your name wrong, but I got nothing.  Plus, you got a machine that’s right up my Super Classy Alley, so I’ll proudly bestow my Sajeev Magic** on that sweet, sweet ‘Lac.

Old cars do stupid things because they are…wait for it…old. And you are freaking out with eleventy billion superfluous questions because of it: Fire extinguisher residue concerns?  Really???

Stay calm: it’s all good, son! Leaks happen anywhere with old rubber and gaskets, especially with today’s ethanol-blend fuel added to the mix. (Literally.) If your carb’s never been rebuilt from the ground up, now’s the time.  I betcha an internal seal is leaking, pouring fuel down the motor’s throat when it isn’t required.  Perhaps it’s when the motor is cooling down (adding space between the seal’s gaps) and when the bowl is at a certain fill level.  Or not.  But whatever the internal fail, it’s only gonna get worse from here.

I had the same problem on an older EFI car, the fuel injectors were leaking internally and the smell was horrid. You can’t see an internal leak, but you sure-as-shit can smell it. So let’s address everything. Are there any rubber fuel lines under the hood?  Replace them now, they are cheap too.  Did ya install a fancy external glass fuel filter with a removable cartridge? Throw it away and get a conventional sealed filter. Don’t know a good carburetor tech in your area?  Look harder, because now is the time.

About your Premium fuel problem, yes you are wrong for using it, but only your checking account is pissed at you. Premium fuel won’t damage an engine or leave unburned deposits above and significantly beyond a normal used motor. If you’re really concerned, you can run Seafoam in the intake and fuel system followed by an Italian Tune Up to really clean things out. After you have someone blow apart the carb and rebuild it.

 

**Patent pending. Or not.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Review: 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/review-2012-toyota-prius-plug-in-hybrid/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/review-2012-toyota-prius-plug-in-hybrid/#comments Sun, 02 Sep 2012 13:00:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=457237 Public beta tests are common in the computer world where a group of fanatics pound your beta to death and help you find the problems. In the automotive world this activity is not only rare, it runs contrary to the cash spent on dressing future cars in swirly vinyl. The Prius plug-in is different. Toyota […]

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Public beta tests are common in the computer world where a group of fanatics pound your beta to death and help you find the problems. In the automotive world this activity is not only rare, it runs contrary to the cash spent on dressing future cars in swirly vinyl. The Prius plug-in is different. Toyota built 600 demonstrators and sent them to large corporations, Zipcar fleets and, of course the press. Even TTAC was allowed to drive one for a week. What does that have to do with the final product? And how does it stack up against the Volt, Plug-in Fusion and the 2013 Accord Plug-in? Let’s find out.

Click here to view the embedded video.

There is little to distinguish the Plug-in from the “normal” Prius save the charging door on the right rear quarter panel and (if you’re in California) and the green HOV access stickers. The lack of distinctiveness is either a benefit or a drawback depending on how loud you want to proclaim your “greenness.” The lack of differentiation made financial sense for Toyota as the Prius is rumored to be redesigned for the 2015 model year. Compared to the beta car, Toyota relocated the charging port to the rear meaning I had to back into parking spots to use some public charging stations. Ever wondered why the LEAF’s port is in the nose? Now you know.

Because the Prius’ chassis was designed for a large battery, no changes to the passenger compartment were required. The cargo area is a different story. The regular Prius operates in EV mode up to 42MPH with a range of two miles if you are extremely gentle on the throttle. The plug-in’s range is 11-15 miles thanks to a bigger battery. Toyota achieved the capacity increase by using denser lithium-ion batteries (instead of nickel hydride) and converting the spare tire area into a battery compartment. The result is an increase in capacity from 1.3kWh to 4.4kWh at the cost of the spare and the jack. The beta car used a 5.2kWh battery pack that was segmented into one 1.2kWh pack and two 2kWh packs. The reason for the change was the three pack arrangement wasn’t as efficient and the beta testers complained there was no way to regenerate power back into the dual 2kWh packs once they were exhausted.

A 3.1kWh jump doesn’t sound like much until you understand how the Prius uses the battery. To preserve the life of the battery, a regular Prius will never fully discharge or charge the battery (batteries “wear” faster when their charge state is at either extreme), reducing the usable capacity to around 0.6kWh. For plug-in duty, Toyota expanded this usable capacity to somewhere around 4.2kWh. In comparison, the Volt’s usable capacity is around 12.9kWh and the 2013 Accord plug-in is 6kWh.

Under the hood you will find the same 1.8L, 98HP engine and “power splitting device” as a regular Prius. The engine and electric motors even put out the same combined 134HP. I know what Prius owners are thinking: Hang on, if it’s the same drivetrain, why is my Prius limited to 42MPH in EV mode? You won’t find the answer under the hood, it’s the battery and the software. The Prius’ traction motor (MG2) is the motor connected to the wheels and depending on how you look at the way the transaxle works (great link for tech-heads at eahart.com), MG2 is doing most of the work when you’re moving forward. That’s why MG2 is an 81HP motor. The “problem” with the regular Prius is the discharge rate. The 1.4kWh NiMH battery can deliver only 36HP peak and 27HP of continuous power. The plug-in’s larger batter on the other hand is capable of delivering 51HP of continuous power. If your power demands exceed the neighborhood of 51HP, then the engine turns on to make up the difference up to 134. This new battery pack has another benefit: greater regeneration capacity. On my daily commute I go over a 2,200ft mountain pass, a regular Prius’ battery would be full around 1,700ft. Because the plug-in was able to regenerate all the way down, I gained 7 miles of EV range to make up for the extra gas it took to get me up the hill in the first place.

The Prius isn’t an EV, and it’s not trying to be a “Toyota Volt” either. Yet, it’s more than just a CARB compliance car as well. Unlike the Volt, Fisker, or even the new Accord Hybrid, the Prius can’t live without its engine. Even for short drives. If you floor the car, the engine comes on, and while the beta car had a slick heat-pump to heat the cabin, the production car uses engine heat like a regular Prius. Instead, the Prius plug-in is a new type of car where locomotion blends two different fuel sources trading a portion of the gasoline you pay $4.35 a gallon for in California for electricity at $0.10-$0.15 per kWh. The coming Ford plug-in hybrids operate in essentially the same way.

Let’s look at these numbers in terms of a commute. I drive 106 miles a day, and my commute involves city, highway and rural mountain roads. Starting with fuel economy without charging: the Volt averaged 33MPG, the Prius averaged 50 and the Prius plug-in averaged 52. (Credit the greater ability to regenerate for the improved figure.) With charging on both ends of my commute, the Volt averaged 40MPG, and the Prius plug-in averaged 72MPG.

According to our calculations, if your commute is under 27 miles total, or 27 miles each way with charging on either end at $0.15/kWh, the Volt is the cheaper vehicle to run. The more expensive the electricity, the better the Prius’s proposition. Even at $4.35 a gallon gasoline. My average rate at home is $0.27/kWh due to my agricultural rate which bumps the operational cost of the Volt higher than the Prius plug-in at anything over a 1-mile distance. Check your rates before you plug-in.

On the road, the plug-in behaves just like a regular Prius thanks to gaining only 150lbs. As you would expect, the low rolling resistance tires deliver moderate road noise and precious little grip. The steering is numb a bit over-boosted, body roll is average and acceleration is leisurely. Is that a problem? Not in my mind. The Prius’ mission is efficiency and not driving pleasure.

When in EV mode, exceeding 3/4 throttle will cause the engine to start, something I still think is a pity. Still, the plug-in is perfectly capable of tacking mountainous terrain in pure EV mode. At speeds above about 50MPH you have to be more gentle on the throttle in order to prevent the engine from kicking in and at 62 the engine starts no matter how ginger you are. If it’s a cold day outside and you’re using the cabin heater, the Prius’ engine will turn on immediately and run to keep the cabin warm. Unlike a regular Prius , if you are in EV mode,  the engine will be essentially idling and generating a small amount of power as long as you keep your speed under 62.

Although the battery and motor are likely capable of speeds greater than 62MPH, the system’s design requires the engine to be spinning. This means that in “EV mode” above 62MPH, the EV battery provides the majority of the energy while the engine essentially idles. In this operation, we were easily getting 180 MPG while on a level freeway traveling 70MPH for 9-10 miles.

With a starting price of $32,000, or $40,285 if you prefer your hybrid fully-loaded, the Prius plug-in has a limited market in mind. You either need to want the latest in Prius tech, or be willing to pay $8,000 to use the HOV lanes for a few years. While I do believe it would be possible to eventually save money vs a regular Prius, it will take an eternity and some serious number crunching. On my commute it would take 300,000 miles for the plug-in to break even with a $24,000 Prius. If your commute is 24 miles a day, then the break even drops to 130,000 miles. But at 24 miles a day, it would take you 20 years. Still, there is that HOV lane to consider. On my route the HOV stickers would cut my daily travel by 30 minutes or  11 hours a month. How much is that worth to you? If your answer isn’t: $8,000, then click on over to our Prius C review. While the Prius plug-in may make sense for a select few, the Toyota’s beta program still succeeded in several ways. Toyota implemented some major changes to the battery systems as a result of the feedback and gained a non-stop flow of reviews in the process. If only Bentley could do the same.

 

Toyota provided the vehicle, insurance and fuel for this review.

Fuel economy average over 583miles: 65

Percent of time in EV mode: 20%

Performance statistics as tested:

0-30: 3.4 seconds

0-60: 10.0 seconds

¼ Mile: 17sec @ 79 MPH

 

2012 Prius Plug In Hybrid, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Prius Plug In Hybrid, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Prius Plug In Hybrid, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Prius Plug In Hybrid, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Prius Plug In Hybrid, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Prius Plug In Hybrid, interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Prius Plug In Hybrid, interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Prius Plug In Hybrid, interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Prius Plug In Hybrid, interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Prius Plug In Hybrid, interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Prius Plug In Hybrid, interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Prius Plug In Hybrid, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Prius Plug In Hybrid, rear seats,  Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Prius Plug In Hybrid, engine, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Prius Plug In Hybrid, engine, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Prius Plug In Hybrid, wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Prius Plug In Hybrid, side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Prius Plug In Hybrid, side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Prius Plug In Hybrid, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Prius Plug In Hybrid, front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Prius Plug In Hybrid, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Prius Plug In Hybrid, front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Prius Plug In Hybrid, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Prius Plug In Hybrid, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Prius Plug In Hybrid, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Prius Plug In Hybrid, charging door, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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California Volt Drivers Get Carpool Lane Access http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/california-volt-drivers-get-carpool-lane-access/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/california-volt-drivers-get-carpool-lane-access/#comments Mon, 30 Jan 2012 18:39:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=428619 Starting in March, the Chevrolet Volt will be eligible to use the HOV lane on California highways. The catch? You have to buy a new Volt to use the carpool lane. General Motors added a secondary air-injection pump to the Volt’s catalytic converter in order for the Volt to meet certain emission requirements. The Volt will […]

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Starting in March, the Chevrolet Volt will be eligible to use the HOV lane on California highways. The catch? You have to buy a new Volt to use the carpool lane.

General Motors added a secondary air-injection pump to the Volt’s catalytic converter in order for the Volt to meet certain emission requirements. The Volt will also qualify for a further $1,500 in tax credits as well as the HOV lane sticker. Any Volts sold before the new package comes into effect are shut out, and GM has been strategically reducing allocation of the cars to prepare for the launch of the revised Volt.

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CARB Wants 15.4 Percent Of New Cars To Be Plug-In, Hydrogen By 2025 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/carb-wants-15-4-percent-of-new-cars-to-be-plug-in-hydrogen-by-2025/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/carb-wants-15-4-percent-of-new-cars-to-be-plug-in-hydrogen-by-2025/#comments Sat, 28 Jan 2012 19:56:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=428435 CARB has mandated that 15.4 percent of new vehicles sold in California by 2025 must be plug-in, electric or fuel cell powered. The new mandate was supported by major OEMs and could mean as many as 1.4 million zero-emissions vehicles (as well as plug-in cars) on California roads by 2025. Regulators are hoping to offer […]

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CARB has mandated that 15.4 percent of new vehicles sold in California by 2025 must be plug-in, electric or fuel cell powered. The new mandate was supported by major OEMs and could mean as many as 1.4 million zero-emissions vehicles (as well as plug-in cars) on California roads by 2025.

Regulators are hoping to offer additional incentives and credits to spur sales of the vehicles. Hydrogen re-fueling infrastructure will also be supported, though details of how this would be approached were scant. The new rules would also favor vehicles such as the Chevrolet Volt, as CARB feels that it is closer to an electric vehicle than a conventional plug-in hybrid. The Volt has been dubbed a “transitional zero-emission vehicle”.

Organizations such as the California New Car Dealers Association say that demand for these types of vehicles has been overestimated, but CARB chair Mary Nichols told a conference call that car manufacturers were in favor of the new rulings. “Probably the most heartening aspect of this whole rulemaking was the level of cooperation that we received from the industry. Overall, the degree of support for the package was just extraordinary.”

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Piston Slap: Playing Super Breakout by Itself? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/piston-slap-playing-super-breakout-by-itself/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/piston-slap-playing-super-breakout-by-itself/#comments Mon, 23 Jan 2012 14:00:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=427725   C.V. writes: I am a mechanical engineering student looking to learn how to work on cars. My friend has given me the opportunity to take his 1988 Mazda B2200 extra-cab 5-speed. When I drove it, I saw why. The catalytic converter has broken off, and apparently pieces of it are in the exhaust. Would […]

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C.V. writes:

I am a mechanical engineering student looking to learn how to work on cars.

My friend has given me the opportunity to take his 1988 Mazda B2200 extra-cab 5-speed. When I drove it, I saw why. The catalytic converter has broken off, and apparently pieces of it are in the exhaust. Would it be possible to just replace the catalytic converter, or should I replace the whole exhaust?

Also while driving it, there is a weird problem. About 10 or so minutes after startup and driving, it starts bucking back and forth as if I was engaging and disengaging the clutch. Any idea as to why that is happening? Theoretically the truck could drive even with this problem, but I don’t think it’s safe or good for the truck. What should I do?

Sajeev answers:

It wasn’t long ago that I was an mechanical engineering student looking to work on cars.  Hell, it’s way more fun than a semester of Thermodynamics, Solid and Fluid Mechanics! So what’s my advice?  Join the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) as a student and join the local chapter in your college.  The SAE chapter at the University of Texas changed my life, in a good way. And if you don’t have a chapter?  MAKE ONE!

Oh wait…you wanted advice on the truck, not your career. My bad.

The first problem is pretty easy, replace the convertor. Or not: eventually the loose bits of honeycomb inside will stop playing Super Breakout with itself, exit stage left, and it still might pass an emissions test.  If not, any exhaust shop can slap in a new one, and I just Googled one for $270 that’s a direct replacement.  I am sure you college kids use Google all the time, why not for a sweet little truck?

The second one is usually a combination of a poor gear change technique and a lack of fuel.  Or maybe too much fuel.  Does it buck less if you give it more gas and take more time to let out the clutch?  Problem solved. If not, I’d recommend rebuilding the carb, seafoaming the motor (at your own risk, see YouTube for reasons why), and testing the fuel pressure.  Actually not in that order: start with fuel pressure, then maybe learn how to work on a carb.

Or convert it to a later-model EFI setup! Or even better, LS1-FTW!!! You are an engineer for a reason!

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com . Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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CARB To Bump ZEV Mandate, Automakers Fight Back http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/06/carb-to-bump-zev-mandate-automakers-fight-back/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/06/carb-to-bump-zev-mandate-automakers-fight-back/#comments Sat, 11 Jun 2011 21:01:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=398316 The WSJ [sub] reports California regulators want zero-emission vehicles—those that don’t run on petroleum—to comprise up to 5.5% of new-car sales in the state, or roughly 81,300, in 2018. The target would rise annually to 14%, or more than 227,600, by 2025… Tom Cackette, chief deputy executive officer of the California Air Resources Board, says […]

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The WSJ [sub] reports

California regulators want zero-emission vehicles—those that don’t run on petroleum—to comprise up to 5.5% of new-car sales in the state, or roughly 81,300, in 2018. The target would rise annually to 14%, or more than 227,600, by 2025…

Tom Cackette, chief deputy executive officer of the California Air Resources Board, says his agency’s goal is to test whether electric cars can become mainstream vehicles, or wind up serving a “niche” market. Mr. Cackette said the state is investing in charging stations and other infrastructure, and he pointed to the sales of new plug-ins on the market to show that there’s a demand for the vehicles. He said he believes the California targets are feasible.

“That is a question we’ll only find out by trying,” he said. “I think [car companies] are making a pretty big investment in these vehicles, and they wouldn’t be doing that if they didn’t think there was a market there.”

Industry lobby groups are pushing California to roll the ZEV mandate into the forthcoming national CAFE standard. Small automakers like Mazda complain that placing a California ZEV mandate on top of national emissions standards would create a “costly burden…in light of the uncertain marketplace and infrastructure for electric vehicles.” And since CARB is leading the federal government by the ear towards a national standard anyway, it could simply push for a higher CAFE rate, which would at least allow firms the flexibility to comply on their own terms. Adding a major ZEV mandate won’t fundamentally change the national standard, but it absolutely will force automakers to spend huge amounts of money to develop a kind of vehicle that has major shortcomings, is only as green as local electricity generation, and has yet to prove itself with consumers. Whatever you think of emissions standards increases, it should be clear that consumers should determine what mix of technologies can best serve their needs while lowering fuel consumption and pollution.

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EPA, CARB Align Emission Standards Schedules http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/01/epa-carb-align-emission-standards-schedules/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/01/epa-carb-align-emission-standards-schedules/#comments Tue, 25 Jan 2011 01:30:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=381753 California, the perennial thorn in the side of the EPA’s emissions-regulation scheme, has bowed to federal pressure and will wait until September of this year to release its 2017-2025 Model Year emissions standard proposal, by which time the EPA will be ready to announce its own national scheme. Prior to today’s announcement, California’s Air Resources […]

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California, the perennial thorn in the side of the EPA’s emissions-regulation scheme, has bowed to federal pressure and will wait until September of this year to release its 2017-2025 Model Year emissions standard proposal, by which time the EPA will be ready to announce its own national scheme. Prior to today’s announcement, California’s Air Resources Board (CARB) had “announced its intention” to release its proposal in March, a move which had automakers scrambling to complain to congress of the apparent lack of unity on emissions standards. GM and Chrysler even endured a (somewhat predictable) Naderite drubbing in the WaPo in order to to join the howls against the emerging “patchwork of state and national standards!”

Luckily for the automakers, CARB was willing to play ball. Per the WSJ:

Stanley Young, a spokesman for the California Air Resources Board, said the state agreed to the White House’s timetable after being assured the new fuel-economy targets would be based on studies currently being done on the feasibility of the proposed 62-mpg [by 2025] standard.

The studies are examining the technological and financial ramifications of the proposed standard, he said.

“We’re looking forward to seeing the results of the final data from the engineering studies,” Mr. Young said. He added that the board has always cooperated with the EPA and DOT and plans to continue to do so.

Then why stir up the pot by telling the world that you’ll create a de facto standard while the EPA is still looking at the engineering studies? If CARB was looking for ways to add to its resume of ill-advised overreaches, it succeeded admirably. If, on the other hand, it wanted to be seen as the lead partner in a national standard, it would have agreed to a joint announcement in the first place. Regardless of where the standards are set, surely even CARB understands that a truly national standard is the single most important achievement to be won in this process. Oh, and “making sure all the evidence was duly reviewed before ruling” should probably be the second most important.

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California Denies Volt AT-PZEV Status, Tax Rebate, HOV Access http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/07/california-denies-volt-at-pzev-status-tax-rebate-hov-access/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/07/california-denies-volt-at-pzev-status-tax-rebate-hov-access/#comments Wed, 28 Jul 2010 17:26:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=361732 With Chevy’s Volt priced at an eye-popping $41k before tax breaks, those tax breaks are now more important than ever. The first 200k Volts will qualify for up to $7,500 in federal credits, but Chevrolet had to be hoping for state incentives on top of the federal credit, especially in the key launch state of […]

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With Chevy’s Volt priced at an eye-popping $41k before tax breaks, those tax breaks are now more important than ever. The first 200k Volts will qualify for up to $7,500 in federal credits, but Chevrolet had to be hoping for state incentives on top of the federal credit, especially in the key launch state of California. For a number of reasons though, the Volt doesn’t meet California’s requirements for Advanced Technology-Partial Zero Emissions Vehicles, and will lose out on a $5,000 tax credit that’s available to its cheaper competitor, the Nissan Leaf. As a result, the Leaf will cost Californians who qualify for both full credits about $20k, while the Volt will cost about $33,500. Moreover, the Leaf will have full access to California’s High Occupancy Vehicle lanes while the Volt will not, unless a pending bill before California’s state Senate passes. Together, these developments represent a serious advantage for the Leaf over the Volt in what is almost certain to be the world’s largest market for electric cars in the short-to-medium term. So how did GM let this happen?

Greencarreports‘ John Voelcker says California’s evaporative emissions standards may well have scuttled any attempt at certifying the Volt as an AT-PZEV, and regardless of the actual reason, it’s clear that the Volt’s hybrid drivetrain was a factor. The Volt’s range-extended electric drivetrain concept, which delivers very different results based on driving and charging patterns, is still confusing the EPA’s efficiency testers, and it seems the gas-electric compromise was never going to meet California’s strict standards. According to EVWorld

GM decided in 2007 when it committed to series production of the Volt, to not seek California Air Resources Board AT-PZEV certification. Instead, the decision was made to certify the car in all 50 United States. ARB certification would have required, both GM executives explained, additional testing and since California’s air quality regulators had yet to figure out how to classify the Volt, GM felt it was more important to continue the accelerated development program and get the car out by the Fall of 2010 then wait for ARB to come up with a way to categorize what will be for many drivers essentially an all-electric car, while for other who driver further distances each day, a hybrid.

In other words, because GM rushed the Volt to market, it put its wundercar at a devastating competitive disadvantage in its most crucial market. Luckily for the Volt, California’s fiscal crisis has already largely solved the problem. Facing a budget shortfall in the tens of billions of dollars, California has only funded its plug-in tax rebate by $4m, meaning that if Leaf drivers use all the available funding, only 820 cars would have been subsidized this year. Next year, California is expected to renew the program for only $8m, meaning only about 1,600 plug-in purchases will be covered. GM reckons that, with so little money at stake, it doesn’t need to bother certifying to the California standard until 2012. With more than a few eyeballs still bulging at the Volt’s $41k pricetag, however, GM could probably have used all the help it could possibly get.

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California Cool Car Rules Dropped http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/03/california-cool-car-rules-dropped/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/03/california-cool-car-rules-dropped/#comments Sun, 28 Mar 2010 18:17:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=350583 Remember how the California Air Resources Board was contemplating banning black cars because air conditioning uses so much C02 (or not)? Well, the madness is over, as The Detroit News reports that California’s proposed “Cool Car” rules are dead. What killed them (besides common sense and the laws of diminishing returns)? Law enforcement, for one, […]

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Remember how the California Air Resources Board was contemplating banning black cars because air conditioning uses so much C02 (or not)? Well, the madness is over, as The Detroit News reports that California’s proposed “Cool Car” rules are dead. What killed them (besides common sense and the laws of diminishing returns)? Law enforcement, for one, which warned that

the new standards, requiring window glazing to keep car interiors cool, could degrade signals from cell phones and ankle monitoring bracelets worn by felons in rural or mountainous areas.

But don’t think that the CARB will just ignore the .7 million metric tons per year of C02 (by 2020) that they weren’t able to eliminate. According to a statement by the board’s executive officer,
Instead, the Board will pursue a performance-based approach as part of its vehicle climate change program to reduce CO2 from air conditioning and provide cooler car interiors for California motorist
And what, pray, does that mean? Spokesman Stanley Young tells the LA Times that OEMs auto will still have to meet a standard for a specific drop in the interior temperature of vehicles
but they are free to draw on any technology to achieve it. This could be through advanced windows that keep the sun’s heat out, but also heat-reflecting paints, different upholstery, or even fans that circulate air and keep the car cool while it is standing in the sun.
Costs for the abandoned standard were estimated to cost manufacturers between $39 and $128 per vehicle, and it’s interesting that increased cost apparently wasn’t a factor in the decision to walk away from “cool cars” rules. Will the “performance-based” standard help control those costs? Meanwhile, will folks in climates where air conditioning isn’t widely used have to pay for the cost of California compliance as well? CARB helped push national emissions standards forward, and clearly relishes its role as the rogue-agent vanguard of vehicle regulation, so don’t expect cool-car standards to simply disappear.

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California Threatens To Move Fuel Economy Goalposts. Again. http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/01/california-threatens-to-move-fuel-economy-goalposts-again/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/01/california-threatens-to-move-fuel-economy-goalposts-again/#comments Wed, 20 Jan 2010 20:52:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=342433 The Detroit Free Press reports that a recent filing by the California Air Resources Board [Full filing in PDF format here] threatens that a rapid ramp-up to the proposed 35.5 mpg 2016 standard and a reduction in zero-emission vehicle credits are necessary “to ensure California’s continued support.” CARB spokesman Stanley Young explains that “what we […]

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Doh! (courtesy:angryzenmaster.com)

The Detroit Free Press reports that a recent filing by the California Air Resources Board [Full filing in PDF format here] threatens that a rapid ramp-up to the proposed 35.5 mpg 2016 standard and a reduction in zero-emission vehicle credits are necessary “to ensure California’s continued support.” CARB spokesman Stanley Young explains that “what we wanted to do is convey the level of importance for these two issues,” and that it’s “too early” to say whether California will withdraw from its compromise with the Obama administration. Still, the threat of a California withdrawal should be enough to get some attention in Washington, as Obama adviser David Axelrod has called the emissions compromise one of the administration’s top accomplishments of 2009.

CARB’s first complaint is that, though Obama promised to harmonize national emissions standards with California for 2016, the current proposed rule allows for more leeway in the 2011-2015 model-years.

While the proposed national passenger motor vehicle greenhouse gas standards are of equal stringency to the Pavley [California] regulations in the 2016 model year, they are less stringent than the Pavley standards in the 2011 through 2015 model years.  Consequently, allowing manufacturers to comply with the Pavley regulations in the 2012 through 2015 model years by demonstrating compliance with the national regulations in these model years will result in slightly less reduction in greenhouse gas reductions within California and the individual states that have adopted California’s program.  However, staff believes that nationwide, greenhouse gas emission reductions from the proposed national GHG program – assuming California’s comments on the proposed rulemaking are affirmatively addressed – will be greater than if the Pavley program were implemented without the national GHG program. This occurs because although the proposed national standards are less stringent than California’s in model years 2012 through 2015, the national standards apply to more than twice as many vehicles than are subject to the Pavley regulations.

Though the CARB’s zeal is impressive, messing with the ramp-up to an agreed-upon 2016 standard is overreaching for relatively marginal gains… at a considerably higher cost to the auto manufacturers. If this were the only issue, CARB might well have stayed silent and sucked up the slower ramp-up as part of the cost of compromise. The second issue, however, is far more real.

The CARB filing notes:

EPA believes that electric vehicles (EVs), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), and fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) have the potential to reduce greenhouse gases more significantly than any commercially-available technologies, and ARB fully agrees with this.  EPA is, therefore, proposing that additional credits be given to these advanced technologies in the 2012 through 2016 model years, in order to encourage their development.

These advanced technology credits would take the form of multipliers in the range of 1.2 to 2.0, allowing an EV, PHEV, or FCV to count as more than one vehicle during the calculation of a manufacturer’s fleet average CO2 level to determine compliance with the applicable footprint-based standard.  These multipliers would not be applied when calculating the actual footprint-based
CO2 standard to which a manufacturer must comply.  (Footprint is determined by multiplying the vehicle’s wheelbase by the vehicle’s average track width.  The greenhouse gas standards being proposed by EPA are expressed as mathematical functions that depend on vehicle footprint.)

In addition, EPA is proposing to assign a value of zero grams per mile of CO2 for EVs and for the electric portion of PHEV operation, when including these vehicles in a manufacturer’s average.   EPA acknowledges that there are =upstream CO2 emissions from electricity generation, which are produced during EV and PHEV charging.  Similarly there are upstream emissions from hydrogen production for FCVs.  However, EPA feels that the significant greenhouse gas emission reductions that may be achieved from this technology outweighs the dis-benefits of ignoring these emissions within this  timeframe.

Staff agrees with EPA’s goal of encouraging the early development and production of advanced technology vehicles.  However, staff believes that the approach proposed by EPA could allow manufacturers to earn unreasonably high numbers of credits, thereby potentially reducing the overall GHG reductions achieved by the national program and delaying the implementation of improved greenhouse gas technologies on conventional vehicles.

Consequently, staff believes that EPA’s Final Rule must strike a better balance between advanced vehicle development and protecting greenhouse gas reductions by assigning average lifecycle emissions to these vehicles, and restricting credits to EVs and FCVs only.

Having looked into the credit multiplier loophole, we agree wholeheartedly that it’s rife for abuse, especially in respect to Flex Fuel (ethanol) Vehicle credits. On the whole, the “super credit” program incentivizes automakers to build zero- and low-emissions vehicles without regard for marketability, to make up for a fleet that could be otherwise way out of compliance. Under this system the environment and consumers lose out equally.

Still, California is walking on thin ice. Politically, the Obama administration can’t afford to see one of its few major accomplishments of the last year fall apart. But then it can’t afford to burden the auto industry it now owns a stake in with CARB-approved toughness either. Meanwhile, other states are weighing in with concerns about implementing the new GHG emissions standards. Hell, California’s own Energy Commission is asking the EPA to delay the implementation of GHG standards entirely. This is why they call politics the art of the compromise.

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