The Truth About Cars » Electric Vehicle http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 23 Apr 2014 16:58:35 +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 » Electric Vehicle http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com AAA: Extreme Temps Hurt EV Range http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/aaa-extreme-temps-hurt-ev-range/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/aaa-extreme-temps-hurt-ev-range/#comments Fri, 21 Mar 2014 14:06:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=777009 550x366xIMG_6417-550x366.jpg.pagespeed.ic.H6TYJJxGdw

Yes, we know water is wet too, but this study from the AAA provides some interesting findings regarding how extreme temperatures affect the driving range of electric vehicles.

Apparently, the extreme temperature problem cuts both ways

Vehicles were tested for city driving to mimic stop-and-go traffic, and to better compare with EPA ratings listed on the window sticker. The average EV battery range in AAA’s test was 105 miles at 75°F, but dropped 57 percent to 43 miles when the temperature was held steady at 20°F. Warm temperatures were less stressful on battery range, but still delivered a lower average of 69 miles per full charge at 95°F. 

AAA performed testing between December 2013 and January 2014. Each vehicle completed a driving cycle for moderate, hot and cold climates following standard EPA-DOE test procedures. The vehicles were fully charged and then “driven” on a dynamometer in a climate-controlled room until the battery was fully exhausted.

Anyone who has spent time in Texas in the summer knows that high temperatures are sufficient to render your phone too hot to use, and the cold is notoriously harsh on battery life for any electronic device, let alone an electric car. But how about the use of wipers, HVAC systems and other essentials for winter (and well, summer) driving, all of which requires battery power when used in an EV.

In temperate climates like Southern California, EVs will always be a viable, 365-day proposition. In cold countries like Norway, where driving distances are short, fuel is astronomically expense and taxes are high for gasoline and diesel cars, EVs can make sense. But given the drops in range when the temperatures hit either end of the scale, it’s tough to see how they can become a viable, mass-market proposition in the near future for much of the United States and Canada.

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Chicago 2014: Kia Soul EV Debuts http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/chicago-2014-kia-soul-ev-debuts/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/chicago-2014-kia-soul-ev-debuts/#comments Thu, 06 Feb 2014 16:10:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=735049 kia-soul-ev

 

While sister brand Hyundai has yet to offer an EV, Kia will step up to the plate and offer an electric version of the Soul, with a range between 80-100 miles via a 27 kWh battery pack. The Soul EV puts out 109 hp and  210 lb-ft of torque, relatively tame figures for an EV. Level 1 and Level 2 fast charging is supported, with provisions for DC fast charging and even conventional outlet charging, which can take as much as 24 hours. On the other hand, charging via a 50 kWh charger can provide 80 percent juice in as little as half an hour. Notably, the battery pack lies flat, so you only have to give up 5 cubic feet of cargo room and a 3.1 inches of leg room to attain a zero-emissions Soul.

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Review: 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/review-2014-chevrolet-spark-ev-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/review-2014-chevrolet-spark-ev-with-video/#comments Tue, 28 Jan 2014 14:00:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=705962 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Exterior

Outside North America, this little blue pill of an A-segment car is known as the Daewoo Matiz Creative. It may look an obsolete computer peripheral (or a pregnant roller skate), but GM claims that the Chevrolet Spark has more torque than a Ferrari 458 Italia. As a self-described technology lover, and card-carrying resident of the Left Coast, I had to check it out.

 

Click here to view the embedded video.

The Spark EV starts its life in Changwon, South Korea where gasoline and electric sparks are built by GM Korea, which was once known as Daewoo. But the heart of the Spark comes from America. GM is building the permanent magnet motors in Maryland, and instead of LG batteries made in Korea (like the Volt) GM is using American-made batteries courtesy of B456 (formerly A123. I’m not making this up). For reasons we don’t understand, GM isn’t “doing a CODA” and shipping cars sans-drivetran to America for assembly. The plant in Maryland ships the batteries and drivetrain to Korea, GM Korea inserts it in the car and ships the completed unit back to the USA.

The Spark EV exists because of my home state of California. The California Air Resources Board has mandated that Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Ford, GM and Chrysler make a total of 7,500 zero emissions vehicles available for sale by 2014 and 25,000 by 2017. By 2025, this number is expected to rise tenfold.

2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Exterior-006

Exterior

Overall length slots the Chevy between the two-door Fiat 500e and the four-door Honda Fit EV but the small Chevy is narrower than both by a decent amount. Like the Fiat and other small cars, there’s something “cartoonish” about the Spark that is endearing. It’s all about proportions. The headlamps, tail lamps and grille are all fairly standard in size, but they are large in relation to the overall vehicle. The Spark isn’t alone in this, the same thing can be said of the Mini Cooper, Fiat 500 and Fiat 500L.

Because small cars tend to value practicality in design, the Spark has a tall roofline and the wheels have been pushed as close to the four corners as possible. This mechanical necessity pays dividends in handling and interior space but causes the Spark to look unusually tall when viewed head-on.

2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Interior-005

Interior

As with the gasoline version, the front seats are flat, firmly padded and offer little lumbar support. The hard plastics on the doors make for an uncomfortable place to rest your elbow, but there is a padded armrest in the center for the driver only. This isn’t unusual for compact cars, but electrification makes for strange bedfellows and the Leaf, Focus EV and Fiat 500e are direct competition that all offer more driver and passenger comfort.

Because of the Spark’s narrow width, the Chevy is a strict four-seater putting it on par with the 500e but one passenger behind the Fit, Leaf and Focus. It was surprisingly easy to put four tall adults in the Spark, a task that is more difficult in the considerably larger Focus because of its sloping roof-line. Still, passengers will be more comfortable in the Honda Fit which offers a bit more room for four, seating for five and more headroom all the way around. Despite the Leaf’s rear seat numbers being average, because of the way the seating position in the Leaf most people will find the Nissan roomier.

As with most gas to EV conversions, the Spark loses a bit of cargo volume in the process dropping 2 cubes to 9.6 cubic feet of cargo space. That’s slightly larger than the 500e, but a long way from the Leaf’s spacious 24 cubic foot booty. Unlike the Fiat 500e however, GM chose not sacrifice passenger footwell space for battery storage.

2014 Chevrolet Spark EV MyLink-001

Infotainment

All Spark EVs get the same touchscreen head unit that is optional in the gasoline car. The system’s layout is simple, attractive and intuitive. Along the bottom of the screen sits a row of touch buttons for power, volume and a home button. After a week with Chevy’s entry-level system I was left wondering why every GM car can’t have this software. The system isn’t the height of modernity compared to uConnect or SYNC. It does not offer integrated voice commands, integrated navigation software or snazzy animations. This system’s claim to fame is in its simplicity and its integration with your smartphone.

Once you have an Android or iPhone paired with MyLink you can voice command your phone, your tunes, and anything on your device with the voice command button on the steering wheel. This means the mobile services provided my MyLink are limited to the app selection on your device. GM has taken another step that other manufacturers would do well to copy: integrated smartphone navigation. For $5 you can download the BringGo navigation app to your smartphone and the MyLink system will use the app as the processing engine and the car’s display as the user interface. This gives you a large, bright map with controls that look like a standard integrated navigation system coupled with the ability to pre-program addresses using the app before you get into the car.

In the Spark EV the MyLink system also handles vehicle charging control. You can choose to charge immediately, at a specific time, or you can program your electrical rates into the system and have the car charge when it is most economical. We of course get the typical power flow meter which is getting a little silly in the 21st century and a display that shows what percentage of your battery was used for driving, cabin heating/cooling and battery conditioning. Driving your Spark, or any EV, in a “polar vortex” will reduce battery life due to both cabin heating and battery heating.
2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Drivetrain

Drivetrain

As with most EVs on the road power is delivered by a 3-phase AC motor connected to a fixed-speed reduction gear. EV’s don’t have a transmission in the traditional sense in order to reduce weight. If you want to go in reverse you spin the motor backwards and if you need neutral you simply disconnect the motor from the electrical path. Power output is rated at 140 horsepower and torque comes in at a whopping 400 lb-ft. (Most EV makers choose to electronically limit torque to reduce torque steer and improve battery life.)

Power is supplied by a 560lb, 21.3 kWh lithium battery pack located where the gas tank is in the gasoline Spark. As with the Chevy Volt, GM is taking the cautious path to battery preservation equipping the pack with an active heating and cooling system. That’s a stark contrast to the Nissan Leaf which uses a passive cooling system. Thanks to the lightest curb weight in the group (2,989lbs), the Spark scores 82 miles of EPA range and the highest efficiency rating of any EV to date. Depending on the weight of my right foot, my real world range varied from 70-100 miles.

2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Charging Port

For any battery, heat is the enemy. Especially when charging or discharging rapidly or when charging in hot desert climates. As a result I would anticipate that all things being equal, the Spark, 500e and Focus should suffer less capacity loss and battery degradation over time than the passively cooled Nissan Leaf.

The big news for 2014 is the world’s first implementation of the new SAE DC fast charging connector. I’m a bit torn on this twist in EV development. While I agree that the DC “combo connector” is more logical and compact than the competing CHAdeMO connector found on the Nissan Leaf and most EVs in Japan, there are already several hundred CHAdeMO stations in the USA and right now there is one SAE station. I’m told there is unlikely to be an adapter so this makes three charging standards on offer in the USA. One for Nissan and Mitsubishi, one for Tesla and one for GM and BMW (the i3 will use it as well.)

2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Wheels

Drive

The biggest thing people forget about an EV isn’t charging related, it’s heat related. When you want to heat the cabin in a gasoline car you are using “waste” energy to do it. If you didn’t have the heater on, that heat would just end up dissipating via the engine’s radiator. Electric cars produce little heat when running and rely on resistive heating elements to heat the cabin and an electric air conditioning to cool the cabin. Heat pumps would be more efficient because they “move” heat rather than “creating” heat but so far the Nissan Leaf (SV and higher) are the only production cars to adopt this tech. In 50 degree weather on a 60 mile journey nearly 15% of the energy consumed went into heating the Spark’s cabin, while on my way home when it was 80 degrees only 8% of the energy was used to cool the cabin.

Thanks to a better weight balance vs the gasoline model and staggered tires, 185/55 front 195/55 rear, the Spark handles surprisingly well. Many have posited that this is simply a band-aid measure due to the weight shift in the car but all sources point to the Spark EV still being heavier in the front. This means the tire selection was likely done for handling reasons, which makes sense because the Spark beats the 500e in fun-to-corner metrics. The extra weight has also improved the ride in the small hatchback which, although still choppy on the freeway like many small hatches, it much smoother in EV trim. Steering is numb but accurate, a common complaint with EVs.

With 140 horsepower and 400lb0ft of twist routed through the front wheels, the Spark is probably the 2014 torque steer king. Is that bad? Not in my book. I found the effect amusing and perhaps even a challenge to control on winding mountain roads. The competition limits their torque output to reduce torque steer but in doing so they reduce the fun-factor as well as performance, something that really shows in the Spark’s 7.08 second run to 60, notably faster than the competition.

When it is time to stop the Spark comes up short. Stopping distances and fade aren’t the issue, it’s feel. The brake pedal is softer than average and the transition between regenerative and friction braking is probably the poorest, excluding the current generation Honda Civic Hybrid. When the system is entirely in friction braking mode (if the battery is full and you are going down hill) the brakes get even more vague, requiring more travel than when the system is regenerating to get the same effect.

2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Exterior-010

Pricing

At $26,685, the least expensive EV on the market excluding the Mitsubishi i-MiEV. For $27,010 the 2LT trim swaps cloth seats for “leatherette” and adds a leather wrapped steering wheel. That’s about the fastest and cheapest model walk in the industry. GM tells us that the DC quick charge port is an independent $750 option and it cannot be retrofitted to a Spark shipped without it. The Spark undercuts Nissan’s Leaf by nearly $2,000 and the Fiat by more than $5,000. While I might argue that the Nissan Leaf is more practical than the Spark, GM’s aggressive pricing screams value at every turn, especially if you lease. At the time of our loan GM was offering a $199 lease deal on the Spark with $1,000 down plus the usual miscellaneous fees.

The Spark’s main sales proposition for many is as a commuter car. When you factor in everything the Spark is the cheapest way to drive in California’s carpool lanes (you know, other than actually carpooling.) Despite not being less attractive than a Fiat 500e, less practical than a Nissan Leaf and less luxurious than a Focus EV, I’d probably pick the Spark.

 

GM provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.72 Seconds

0-60: 7.08 Seconds

 1/4 Mile: 15.78 Seconds @ 86 MPH

Average observed economy: 4.3 miles/kWh

Sound level at 50 MPH: 70dB

2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Charging Port 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Drivetrain 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Drivetrain-001 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Exterior 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Exterior-001 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Exterior-002 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Exterior-003 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Exterior-004 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Exterior-005 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Exterior-006 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Exterior-007 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Exterior-008 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Exterior-009 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Exterior-010 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Interior 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Interior-001 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Interior-002 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Interior-003 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Interior-004 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Interior-005 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Interior-006 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Interior-007 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Interior-008 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV LCD Gauge Cluster 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV MyLink 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV MyLink-001 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Wheels ]]>
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Still Not Ready For The Rental Counter: EV Rentals Fail To Thrive http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/still-not-ready-for-the-rental-counter-ev-rentals-fail-to-thrive/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/still-not-ready-for-the-rental-counter-ev-rentals-fail-to-thrive/#comments Tue, 15 Oct 2013 19:00:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=624593 Tesla_Supercharging_in_Gilroy

Tis better to own a Leaf or an S than to rent one, it seems. According to Enterprise Holdings Inc., known for driving around in cars wrapped in branded brown paper for some reason, customers who rent electric-only vehicles from their lot soon return their sustainable rides for a one with a sustainable range based on the number of (gasoline and diesel) fuel stops along the way.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Enterprise Head of Sustainability Lee Broughton note that while customers were “keen” to give electric power a go, range anxiety led many a renter to return the car for one where they know the infrastructure is there to meet. On average, a renter will spend almost two days with an electric-only car versus a week with a conventional road warrior. Currently, the St. Louis-based rental car business has 300 electric cars in their overall fleet, all Nissan Leafs. The figure is down 40 percent from the target of 500 of the cars set by Enterprise back in 2010.

Despite the overall lack of demand in this emerging rental market due to lack of infrastructure and larger-capacity batteries for extended range, competitor Hertz added the Tesla S to its Dream Cars lineup in September for their customer base in Los Angeles and San Francisco. The daily rate to feel like Elon Musk is $500; Enterprise offers the S in their Exotic Car Collection for $300 to $500 in the same locations, with three currently in the lineup available. The Leaf offered by Enterprise goes for $55 to $140 a day depending on location.

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Saab 9-3 Back in Production http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/saab-9-3-back-in-production/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/saab-9-3-back-in-production/#comments Thu, 19 Sep 2013 11:00:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=523065 Saab re-starts production

After years of rumors and speculations of the will they/won’t they variety, a brand-new Saab 9-3 has – finally! – managed to roll down the assembly line! Don’t be fooled by the fact that this new Saab looks just like the 2009 models the company was building when it was spun off from GM’s bankruptcy, however. This car features all-new components designed by Saab engineers and manufactured in Trollhättan, Sweden.

Saab, now owned by the National Electric Vehicle Sweden company, promised its new cars would reach production in 18 months. That was in September of 2012, so they’re about 6 month ahead of schedule. That on-track message puts NEVS-owned Saab in a decidedly different league than faux car-makers like Detroit Electric and Elio Motors, who’ve spent more time justifying delays than they have building cars. Don’t take my word for that, though, check out the well-appointed assembly line and experienced Saab assembly workers in the photo gallery, below, and start getting excited.

Saab’s back, baby! All we need now is a new Saab 900 revival and we’ll really be in business!

 

saab saab_3 saab_2 New Saab 9-3

Sources | Photos: Saabs United, via WorldCarFans; Originally posted to Gas 2.

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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

 

2013 Fiat 500e Cargo Area 2013 Fiat 500e Cargo Area-001 2013 Fiat 500e Electric Motor 2013 Fiat 500e Electric Motor, Drivetrain, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Fiat 500e Exterior 2013 Fiat 500e Exterior-001 2013 Fiat 500e Exterior-002 2013 Fiat 500e Exterior-003 2013 Fiat 500e Exterior-004 2013 Fiat 500e Exterior-005 2013 Fiat 500e Exterior-006 2013 Fiat 500e Exterior-007 2013 Fiat 500e Exterior-008 2013 Fiat 500e Exterior-009 2013 Fiat 500e Exterior-010 2013 Fiat 500e Exterior-011 2013 Fiat 500e Exterior-012 2013 Fiat 500e Exterior-013 2013 Fiat 500e Exterior-014 2013 Fiat 500e Exterior-015 2013 Fiat 500e Exterior-016 2013 Fiat 500e Exterior-017 2013 Fiat 500e Exterior-018 2013 Fiat 500e Exterior-019 2013 Fiat 500e Exterior-020 2013 Fiat 500e Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Fiat 500e Interior 2013 Fiat 500e Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Fiat 500e Interior-002 2013 Fiat 500e Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Fiat 500e Interior-004 2013 Fiat 500e Interior-005 2013 Fiat 500e Interior-006 2013 Fiat 500e Interior-007 2013 Fiat 500e Interior-008 2013 Fiat 500e Radio 2013 Fiat 500e TomTom Navigation, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Fiat 500e Wheels IMG_4666 2013 Fiat 500e LCD Instrument Cluster, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes IMG_4758 ]]>
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Yet Another One Bites The Dust: Miles Electric Gone Bust http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/yet-another-one-bites-the-dust-miles-electric-gone-bust/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/yet-another-one-bites-the-dust-miles-electric-gone-bust/#comments Tue, 11 Jun 2013 14:05:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=491611

 

The electric vehicle revolution has eaten another one of its children. “U.S. electric car manufacturer Miles Electric Vehicles filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection early on Tuesday, court documents showed, highlighting the difficulties faced by battery-powered vehicles in gaining wide market acceptance,” says Reuters.

TTAC has never been bullish about EVs. This has nothing to do with ideology. Cars by nature will have a very limited market as long as they take hours to fill up, are for all intents and purposes unusable beyond a 40 mile radius from your home, and are priced out of the market.

Miles Electric, founded in 2004, made headlines with the  first street-legal Chinese-made automobile sold in the United States.  Its ZX40 was made by FAW Tianjin, a subsidiary of Volkswagen and Toyota joint venture partner FAW.

Miles sold into one of the few niches where EVs make sense: It made what usually are called ESVs, essential services vehicles, low-speed all-electric means of transportation used in parking enforcement, security, shipping and delivery, and grounds maintenance.

There, the usage pattern matches the technology.

This small, but possibly lucrative fleet market is now pretty much left to little-known Texas-based Good Earth Inc., makers of the even lesser known FireFly  electric three-wheelers that help police departments all over the U.S. put parking tickets under your wipers.

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Living With an EV for a Week – Day Six (Don’t honk at me, I’m saving the planet) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/living-with-an-ev-for-a-week-day-six-dont-honk-at-me-im-saving-the-planet/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/living-with-an-ev-for-a-week-day-six-dont-honk-at-me-im-saving-the-planet/#comments Tue, 04 Jun 2013 22:07:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=490709 Rainy forest, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Day six brought a typical Northern California morning: it was 41 degrees, foggy and raining in my forest. But because I was driving an electric vehicle, a squirrel greeted me at the doorstep to thank me for saving his home and a group of hummingbirds dried my charging cable with their tiny wings so I wouldn’t electrocute myself as I unplugged. Then I woke up. But it was still 41. And foggy. And raining.

If you’re just checking in, catch up by going to Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5 before coming back to the saga, I promise we’ll wait for you.

Because I got up on time and I didn’t drive the orange Fiat 500e (Zippy Zappy) much on Sunday, I was greeted by a full charge. Via the smartphone app I commanded cabin heat since I had become soft and given into the temptation that is a warm cabin earlier in the week. Doing causes the cabin heater to turn on at a low-level to heat the cabin. It puts out as much heat as a regular-old space heater: not much. Given enough time it will get the cabin to a normal temperature. If your battery is already fully charged, using this feature will preserve range because you won’t use battery power to bring the interior bits up to temperature. This is not only in the name of battery life, but efficiency as well. It is more efficient to suck off the 120V/240V charging teat than to charge the battery and discharge it. Everything about the modern crop of EVs is designed around efficiency, even the sporty Model S. Increase efficiency and you reduce emissions.

Say what? How can you reduce emissions on a “zero emissions” vehicle? You thought EV equals zero emissions? Au contraire! Where do you think the power comes from? We’re all adults. We know by now the ATM doesn’t “make” money, and what powers our appliances has to be made somewhere. If that somewhere is in the United States, then on average half of it (49.6%) comes from coal. Average is an important thing to keep in mind, power sources vary wildly from zip code to zip code. If you’re in New York, rejoice because you have the cleanest power in the country as long as you’re in the camp that thinks nuclear power is clean. While not quite as squeaky clean as NY, California, the “Pacific Northwest” and New England are the cleanest places to power up your ride. If you live in Colorado or one of the other square states, your EV is a novelty coal-powered car. (Some portions of Colorado are nearly 75% coal.) Brings a new meaning to “clean coal” doesn’t it? In those coal heavy states, depending on which study you believe, driving a Nissan Leaf (one of the most efficient EVs) will produce similar greenhouse gas emissions to a 30MPG car. Ouch. If you live in Denver and drive an EV, you are making the forest sprites weep. Indeed, even the ginormous Toyota Avalon Hybrid (below) is 20% cleaner than your electric anything in The Centennial State. (And cheaper as well.)

2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

 

What about the rest of us? Well, it is comforting to know that 32% of EVs are being sold in California with Florida at 6.6%, Washington 5.7%, Texas 4.3%, New York 3.5% (so much for those liberal Yankees being into left-wing propulsion and Texans loving oil.) Ohio, Illinois and North Caroline all come in at 3.1% with the other states trailing. That’s not surprising when you consider CA accounts for 11.1% of US car sales with others falling roughly in line: TX 9.6, FL 7.1, NY 5, IL 3.6. The stand out is the environmentally conscious Washington, third in EV sales but eighth in overall vehicle sales. If you want to check out where your power comes from, just click on over to the DOE’s nifty website. Or, for the reader’s digest MPG conversion, there is a very nifty map created by The Union of Concerned Scientists. The map below shows you the equivalent MPGs you would have to get in a gasoline car to be as clean as an EV that averages 0.34 kWh/mile. Zippy Zappy has been averaging only 0.25 kWh/mile, so adjust your figures accordingly. That model S? 0.38 kWh/mile.

Power MPG map, Picture Courtesy of www.ucsusa.org

The trouble with these numbers (aside from the fact that they are confusing) is: there is more going on than just greenhouse emissions. We have nitrous oxide (known as NOx because it refers to both NO and NO2) to think of. Upon closer inspection that seems to be a non issue because the average vehicle emits .001438 lbs of NOx per mile and a LEAF in Colorado (consuming 74% coal electricity, the worst in the USA) only puts out 0.0000096 lbs. Cross that one off your list. What about particulates? The claim is most forms of power generation produce less than the same energy in a gasoline vehicle. But what about the intangibles? How do you feel about hydro power and the effects on fish populations? Wind power and birds? Nuclear power and the insane people who think it’s going to make them grow 5 eyeballs? Think Solar power is your answer? If you charge at home off-peak (after 6pm for most of us) you’re in the dwindling return part of the day for solar in the summer, and in the dark in the winter. That means you may have put clean solar power into the grid, but at night you’re sucking down nuclear power and the other forms of generation that provide constant forms of output. (That’s as opposed to gas and others that can ramp up production quickly to meet spikes in demand.)

One must also consider the extraneous factors involved in the EV game. Recycling of the lithium-ion battery packs on the scale required is a current unknown. How about that EV charging station at home? How long will it last? How much of an environmental impact is buying an EV and not investing that money into home improvements to cut your utility expenses? How about buying local products and produce, etc.? I don’t have the answers to any of these questions, but I think they need to be resolved in my mind before I can say without a doubt that driving an EV is saving the planet.

2014 Fiat 500 Electric, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

But on the other hand, does saving the planet have to be your EV goal? Is driving an EV because it reduces certain expenses and is exciting  technology enough? How about if your employer subsidises your EV charging in an attempt to be green? (Plenty do.) How about that HOV lane access? How about those crazy-cheap lease deals? I’m seriously considering an EV as my family’s next car purchase, but it has more to do with the financial and “time away from home” incentives than purely altruistic environmental concerns. Looking at that map above, if you feel truly inspired to protect the environment, then some of you will have to skip the EV holy grail and drive a 50+ MPG Prius C. Slowly.

My time with Zippy Zappy is drawing to an end. Tomorrow she will go back from whence she came to be primped and charged for the next journalist. With one final drive ahead of me in the morning, I oscillated between driving ZZ like I stole her and like the future of every forest creature depended on my frugality. I suspect I’m not alone with my personal struggles on the EV front. On the one hand an EV is an enormous gadget, perhaps the ultimate gadget. On the other, EVs don’t make a sound financial argument in terms of “saving” anything. The steep purchase price washes out much of the supposed savings vs a Prius. Being no closer to a conclusion, I plugged ZZ in one last time and noted my state of charge was 33% with an estimated time of completion 16 hours hence.

 

Looking for the other installments? Here you go:

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 7

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Living With an EV for a Week – Day Four (can we get a charging standard please?) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/living-with-an-ev-for-a-week-day-four-can-we-get-a-charging-standard-please/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/living-with-an-ev-for-a-week-day-four-can-we-get-a-charging-standard-please/#comments Sun, 02 Jun 2013 19:18:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=490456 2014 Fiat 500e Under The Hood, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

If you’re just now reading this series, here’s what’s going on. Because reviews of electric vehicles (my own included) seem to be 1/4 review and 3/4 whining about EV related issues, I decided to divorce the review from the “EV experience” and post daily about driving a car with an 80-95 mile range. You can catch up by going to Day 1, Day 2, Day 3 before coming back to the saga. Don’t worry, we’ll wait for you. Day three ended with my battery at 15% because I drove the orange creamsicle Fiat we have named “Zippy Zappy” over 175 miles. I don’t have a 240V charging cable at home so the car told me it would be 24 hours until the car was charged at 120V. Good thing day four was a Saturday.I woke up and debated whether I should shirk my weekend chores and head to the beach. After all, I had discovered the beach was equipped with a 240V station. No dice, I looked up the station online and it was occupied, probably because charging is free in Capitola By The Sea. Looking at the ChargePoint station map it’s obvious to see how the landscape has changed in a year. The SF Bay Area now has 781 public charging stations on the ChargePoint network,  172 on the Blink network, 23 DC “Fast Charge” stations that deliver 90 kW (nearly 14x faster than the onboard charger in Zippy Zappy or the 2014 LEAF). Of course Fiat hasn’t signed onto the CHAdeMO bandwagon yet leaving the LEAF and iMiEV the only cars capable of sucking down electrons at such a speed. No, I haven’t forgotten about Tesla, we’ll talk about that later.

In addition to those stations there another 980 private 240V chargers in the Bay Area that are part of PlugShare, a deal where you let random EV people charge at your home using your juice. Last time I had a LEAF, I decided to use a PlugShare station, so I looked one up and followed the directions. I texted the guy who was sharing his station and he told me to just drive up and plug my car into his station in his driveway. I was so blown away by thig I interviewed him. He told me he thought of PlugShare as”EV random acts of kindness.” How sweet. Let me ask you all a question to put this in perspective. How many of you would sign up for “GasShare.com” a place where you keep a 5-gallon gasoline can in your driveway so you can share it with your fellow neighbors? Anyone? I suspect that as EVs become more popular and the charge rate increases fewer people will be willing to let strangers park in their driveway and suck down $10 worth of electricity.

2012 Nissan Leaf, Exterior, charging connector, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

About that Tesla. The charging standard situation  is like a VHS/Betamax battle with only one player on the Beta side: Tesla. I do understand the logic with the new charging connector, it is without a doubt superior into the J1772 that every other EV and plug-in hybrid uses. It is also better than the CHAdeMO DC charging plugs on Mitsubishi and Nissan EVs. Finally it’s way, way more attractive than that funky SAE combo connector the society is pushing.

How is Tesla’s cord better? First off the connector is smaller. I’m not convinced this is a big deal since every car has a fuel door and so far nobody has  told me they hated their fuel door because it was too big. But the electrical side of the connector? Tesla rocks. J1772 started out with a 30A max draw, later amended to 80A in 2009 (although I have yet to see an 80A capable station). If your car supports J1772 AC charging and CHAdeMO quick charging, you have the ginormous connector above shown above ( on the left of the J1772 connector). It’s HUGE. Now we really do have a size problem because  you can’t hide the two of them together behind a normal fuel door. Tesla went another way and (we can only guess at some of this because they haven’t shared their charging standard with anyone) and combined the AC and DC charging onto the same pins. (You can see the Tesla connector below.)Even though the Tesla connector is smaller it’s just as beefy with a Model S drawing 80A if you buy the 20kW charging option. That’s over 330% faster than a LEAF, Focus EV or Fiat 500e. The only problem being that your home needs to support that and my home has only a 100A service so I would have to choose between charging my car and using the oven. If that’s not fast enough you can stop by a Tesla “Supercharger” station and suck down power at 100kW (400 volts at 250 amps) 10kW faster than CHAdeMO.

The problem with this charging superiority is that it’s exclusive to Tesla. With the adapter that comes with every Tesla model S, you can use the 1,933 J1772 charging stations in the Bay Area, but you can’t share your home station with a LEAF driver. If you’re a multi EV family with a Model S and a 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV (powered by Tesla ironically), you will need to either use a J1772 station and deal with the slower charge in your Tesla or have two stations at home. (You know, aside from the fact that you’re going to be nearly maxing out your 200A service.) More vexing than that is DC quick charging your Tesla. Yes, I freely admit CHAdeMO is an enormous chunky plug, but there are already 23 CHAdeMO stations in the Bay, 28 in Tennessee, 18 in Portland, 6 in Seattle, 19 in Phoenix and several in Southern California. (Not to mention hundreds in Japan.) Right now there are only eight Tesla Supercharger stations in the USA growing to some 50+ stations by the end of the year. Great. But as of now you can’t charge your Tesla from the existing CHAdeMO stations and you can’t charge your CHAdeMO car from a Tesla station. If we cared about the EV landscape and wanted EVs to succeed, we need to use the same connector. How would it go down if Honda came up with a new Accord and used an all-new and all-sexy fuel filler neck that was incompatible with anything but a Honda gas station unless you used a funnel? A comparison to Apple is usually drawn here, but even Apple has always used industry standard NEMA power cords.

socket4, Image from blog.widodh.nl

This this is all about Tesla vs Nissan? Think again. There is so much indecision in the industry over what charging standard to support that most manufacturers do nothing, which is probably worse. That means you can’t fast charge your RAV4 EV, a car that really needs it, or your Focus, 500e, Fit EV, Mini e, A3, Active e, iQ EV, fortwo, Spark EV, or Transit Connect Electric. What do the car companies say? “We are waiting for a standard to emerge.” Funny, I’d call the hundreds of DC stations already installed in America a standard that has emerged.

After 15 hours of charging, the wee Fiat was ready for a trip to civilization as we had a party to attend. We pre-planned and carpooled with some friends so we could leave Zippy Zappy plugged into their garage outlet for a few hours. There was zero range anxiety this time with an 84% charge. The EV Fiat proved amusing to drive quickly on the winding mountain roads we traversed. EVs add a fair amount of weight to any conversion like this, but because the battery pack is positioned low in the vehicle, it improves the centre of gravity and weight balance when compared to the gasoline 500. Four hours of partying later, the 500e was a minor celebrity with all manner of people wanting to see it/sit in it/ride in it. Even though you see EVs driving around all over the place in N. CA, they still have a novelty factor that makes people interested. Saturday was a slow day with only 49 miles going on the Fiat and an estimated time to a full charge when we rolled in of 9 hours even at 120V.

Looking for the other installments? Here you go:

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

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Living With an EV for a Week – Day Two http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/living-with-an-ev-for-a-week-day-two/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/living-with-an-ev-for-a-week-day-two/#comments Fri, 31 May 2013 22:52:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=490093 2014 Fiat 500e, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Because of my RA (Range Anxiety), I drove Zippy Zappy gently on day 1, plugged the EV in immediately upon arriving at home and nixed my impromptu drive to the beach. (I haven’t named a car since I was 12 but the garish orange hue and pill-box proportions have made the name stick.) Thanks to my prudence (or was it fear?) I awoke to a 90% charge. According to Fiat’s computer, that was good for an 87 mile journey, plenty for my 52 mile one-way commute. Of course, it was after I started climbing up the mountain pass that separates my home from civilization that I asked “how am I going to charge today?”

You see, [for me] planning is something you do after you meet a problem, then you back-date the plan so you can claim you were prepared all along. As a result, I decided to turn off the heater in the car to save mileage, after all it was “only” 43 outside. The heater is thing most people don’t think about when it comes to EVs. In your gasoline car, you use the heater all you want and don’t run the A/C to save gas because heat is a “waste” product of combustion engines. EVs turn this logic on its head. Since there’s very little heat happening under the hood they have to use resistive heating elements to heat the cabin. According to Toyota, heat pumps would be more efficient but they cost way more and add a great deal of complexity and weight. Running the A/C in the little Fiat consumed about 1.5kW of power while the heater on medium sucked down nearly 8kW. By the time I got to the bottom of the hill, I decided the heated seat wasn’t cutting it and I needed to be more realistic so I set the climate control to 68. Let the future be damned!

Once on the freeway I realized my RA had returned. I decided to set the cruise control to a decidedly pokey 59 MPH, a speed that even tractor trailers don’t stoop to in California (even though their speed-limit is 55). At this speed I was able to commune with other EV drivers on the highway  (the ones I normally fly by in the left lane.) When I drove a BMW Active E, I got waves and thumbs up from the LEAF drivers. I decided to try the same in Zippy Zappy but the lack of decals announcing the Fiat’s electrification caused confusion in the LEAF drivers and just made them swerve wildly thinking I was some crazy person out to get them. My bad.

2014 Fiat 500e Charging Illegally, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

55 miles later (I decided to take the flattest and shortest route) I arrived at work where I discovered my RA was unjustified. I had 45% of my battery left. Charge time at 120V was 12 hours and 45 minutes. Electrical codes in the USA limit the 120V EVSE plugs to about 12A which isn’t very fast. Logically 8 hours at 120V would be more than enough to get me back home, but since I work in an area that has only street parking, things had to get creative. Extension cord plugged into the outlet in the hall (the breaker that wouldn’t trip), down the hall, through my office, out the window, across the lawn, over the sidewalk and into the street. I don’t recommend trying this in San Francisco, I’m sure an ADA compliance mob would stone you to death. (If you are meter maid in the Bay Area, I deny all knowledge of the picture above. It was someone else.)

After a few hours, I bothered to look into charging stations. After all, I did sign up for a ChargePoint account a while back. Low and behold there was a charging station just around the corner charging $0.49/kWh. Looking at the map it’s obvious what a year has done to the EV landscape, there are easily three times the number of public EV charging stations in the Bay Area than there were a year ago. Because I’m selfish, what mattered was there were now EV stations near ME.

2014 Fiat 500e, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

I’ll digress for a moment. People call the thing on the curb with the cord and plug a “charging station” but that is something of a naming error. All modern EVs have on-board chargers. That thing that you connect to your car is an over glorified “smart” extension cord. The purpose of the “charging station” is to tell the car what kind of power is available (120/240 V) how much current the car is allowed to draw and to provide some safety mechanisms to protect the person plugging in. All the magic is happening *in* the car. As parts are getting cheaper and more widely available, faster chargers are being integrated into EVs. The first LEAF’s 3.3kW charger took 9 hours to fill the battery at 240V, barely 2.5x faster than at 120V. A year later most EVs use a 6.6kW charger that completes the task in 1/6th the time. Good news for me. Since I’m supposed to be getting more exercise I drove a few blocks, plugged in and walked back. Two hours later I had for the first time in my life, a full EV battery and I have a picture to prove it.

Drive Route With Topo

Feeling like an ePrisoner eLiberated from their eBondage, I renewed my pledge to test drive Zippy Zappy like any other car. That meant taking Highway 35 home. If you aren’t familiar with the Bay Area, the coastal mountain range separates the population from the sea. At some point a brilliant highway engineer decided to put one of the most scenic highways in the state along the ridge of the range. The trip (shown above with an elevation profile) takes me from sea level to 3,157 ft, then down to about 400 ft with plenty of ups, downs, sweeping curves and corkscrews. If you haven’t driven it and live nearby, shame on you.

About the time I reached that first 2,000+ foot blip on the left of the graph, I had a mild panic attack. ZZ said I wouldn’t reach my destination. Had I bitten off more than she could chew? No, because the software in the car is only using your past record for future range. By climbing rapidly, it assumed the next 40 miles would be on a similar incline. Don’t blame the software. Blame me. The driver is in control so I had to take my (limited) experience into account. I decided not to bail (and charge in Palo Alto). I pressed onwards. (But I set the cruise control to 50.) In the process I snapped some cool photos.

2014 Fiat 500 Electric, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

 

My faith was rewarded as I neared CA Highway 17 with a battery still 40% charged. I decided to throw caution to the wind and visit downtown Los Gatos. The EV gods smiled upon my diversion and without looking for one, I stumbled upon a brace of EV chargers. One was occupied by a decidedly non-EV BMW 760iL, which I briefly considered putting a door ding in “accidentally” as I got out.  One expensive carrot cake and a 1.8kWh charge later I headed home.

Since I didn’t make it to the beach yesterday, I decided today would be the day. Thanks to my nifty iPhone app from ChargePoint I found that there was an EV station operated by the City of Capitola By The Sea just two blocks from my favorite beach dive restaurant. A quick numbers game in my head told me that 2 hours would not only power me back up the hill to home, but also put me in a better charge situation. There was just one problem. OK, two. The EV station had one broken charge cord and some douche in a LEAF had occupied the other for 2 hours over the parking limit and counting. What would you have done?

Columb ChargePoint Station, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

I sat in the car and contemplated my options. 1 unplug him and plug myself in (not on his dime, the sessions stop when you unplug). 2 leave him a nasty note and hunt for another station. 3 wait him out. I waited for 20 minutes at which point he had been over his 4 hour parking limit (clearly signed) by almost 3 hours (according to the charging station). I thought: lave a note explaining why I had unplugged his ride so that he (or maybe she) wouldn’t retaliate by unplugging me when they returned. No pen. I took the high road and moved on to an EV station 7 blocks away.

After a stroll along the beach and dinner, we walked by the LEAF (still plugged in) and left him a more tactfully-worded note than I had planned. I reminded the driver that the spot clearly said “4 hour limit” and that there are other EV drivers out on the road that need to charge. I may or may not have indicated that I would unplug his shiny red LEAF with “NOGAAS” license plate should I see it there for 4 hours again. Or maybe not. Is this the start of “plug rage” perhaps??

Upon returning to ZZ, something else crossed my mind. This EV station is new, and like others is no longer in a prime parking area. Instead they jammed it at the back of the parking lot. Preferential EV treatment may be starting to end as early as it started.

EVs in the mist, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Day two and 155 miles ended with a 68% charge.

Looking for the other installments? Here you go:

Day 1

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

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Honda Cuts Fit EV Lease Costs http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/honda-cuts-fit-ev-lease-costs/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/honda-cuts-fit-ev-lease-costs/#comments Thu, 30 May 2013 16:37:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=490072 2011-Honda-Fit-EV-007-550x358

New and current Honda Fit EV customers can look forward to a reduction in their lease costs.

 

The old lease cost of $389/month for 36 months with 12,000 miles allowed annually has now become $259/month for 36 months with unlimited mileage. Also included are scheduled maintenance, collision coverage and a free 240V charger (the unit is free but you have to pay for installation). Customers who already leased a Fit EV will be able to take advantage of the new rates going forward.

The EV market is experiencing a bit of a price war lately, with aggressive deals from Fiat, Nissan and Chevrolet. For commuters in California, this presents an opportunity for a cheap runabout for short distances. TTAC contributor Jeff Jablansky is slated to give us his impressions of what it’s like to live with the Fit EV in the next couple weeks. In the mean time, Alex Dykes has driven a pre-production version, and currently has a Fiat 500e in his garage. The rest of us will have to watch from afar.

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Tesla Wants To Build A Leaf Competitor http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/tesla-wants-to-build-a-leaf-competitor/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/tesla-wants-to-build-a-leaf-competitor/#comments Tue, 28 May 2013 18:34:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=489777 2013-nissan-leaf-01-628-1357743465

Elon Musk is turning his sights towards the Nissan Leaf. The Tesla Motors founder says his ultimate goal is for a sub-$40,000 car that’s better than Nissan’s EV, and he’s hoping to make that happen within 4 years.

The Detroit News quotes Musk during a Bloomberg interview

“With the Model S, you have a compelling car that’s too expensive for most people,” he said. “And you have the Leaf, which is cheap, but it’s not great. What the world really needs is a great, affordable electric car. I’m not going to let anything go, no matter what people offer, until I complete that mission.”

The long-rumored mainstream Tesla product is being targeted for a 200-mile range.

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Slow Moving Vehicle http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/slow-moving-vehicle/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/slow-moving-vehicle/#comments Mon, 27 May 2013 13:09:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=489704 Select EV Sales Company Vehicle Units Time-frame Tesla Motors Model S. 4,900  Q1 2013 Fisker Automotive Karma  < 2,000  since inception CODA Coda 100  since inception BYD BYD e6 1,700 2012 Nissan Motor Leaf 62,000  since inception
Source: ABC News
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Another One Bites The Dust: Better Place Bankrupt http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/another-one-bites-the-dust-better-place-bankrupt/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/another-one-bites-the-dust-better-place-bankrupt/#comments Mon, 27 May 2013 12:07:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=489701

Better Place “filed a motion in an Israeli court to wind up the company, bringing an end to a venture whose battery charging network had aimed to boost electric car sales,” Reuters says.

Better Place, founded by former SAP executive (he never was SAP CEO, as often reported,) said it had the answer to three big problems of the electric vehicle: Charge time, range, and cost of the expensive battery. The idea was to swap the battery quickly, in many swap stations, and with batteries that are financed like a smartphone on a plan. Good idea, but it did not work.

The idea missed two important ingredients: Supply and demand. Sales of electric vehicles did not take off as hoped, and car suppliers did not want to standardize on batteries that can be changed like a AA cell. Better Place always talked up its “partnership” with Renault, which supplied the first batch of Fluence cars with a swappable battery. That partnership remained one-sided. Off the record, Renault executives kept their distance from the project and refused to mass market a car with a swappable battery.

Better Place said it wanted to move 100,000 of the Fluence ZE in Israel and Denmark by 2016. However, “just over a thousand cars are on the road in Israel and Denmark, the first two countries where Better Place began operating,” says Reuters.

Founder Shai Agassi was removed as CEO in October, his successor was replaced just four months later. Rapid changes at the top of a startup usually is a sign of impending passing of the company.

Founded in 2008, Better Place attracted $850 million in investments, which can be written off by names like Israel Corp., HSBC and Morgan Stanley. In a November earnings report published by Israel Corp, which owns about 30 percent of Better Place, it was said the company had an accumulated deficit of $561.5 million with more losses expected.

Coda, Fisker, A123, now Better Place: This hallowed publication always has been a bit doubtful when it came to the prospects of battery-operated locomotion. This hesitation is not driven by ideology. I am on record that I am strictly nondenominational when it comes to powertrains. I won’t argue if a two-cylinder fueled by woodchips is found better for the job than a turbine. But if someone tries to sell me on a car that takes eight hours to fill up, a car that needs an eight hour fill-up again when it barely got going, a car that costs double of what a comparable OTHER car would cost, then I will be a very reluctant customer.
 

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Charge! Electric Racers Attack Pikes Peak http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/charge-electric-racers-attack-pikes-peak/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/charge-electric-racers-attack-pikes-peak/#comments Thu, 16 May 2013 13:33:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=488659 IMG_5063

The annual Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is quickly turning into a Nurburgring equivalent when it comes to bragging rights of electric vehicle makers. The venue is perfect for EVs:  The track is 12.42 miles long, as cinch even for the most range-challenged EV.  The track finishes at 14,110 ft, a height that deprives ICE-powered cars of oxygen and some 40 percent of their power. An EV just laughs at the breathless engines. I learn all those trivia today in Mitsubishi’s showroom in Tamachi, Tokyo. A descendant on Mitsubishi’s iMiev will be part of the electrified hill climb.IMG_4812

The last year’s winner was the Toyota TMG EV P002. It will defend its title.  Across town in Tokyo, Mitsubishi fields its MiEV Evolution II all-electric racer.  The sport appears to be one for mature men. Mitsubishi-driver and two-time Dakar Rally overall champion Hiroshi Masuoka is a relative youngster at age 53. Toyota’s driver Rod Millen is 61. Pikes Peak legend Monster Tajima, himself 63, won’t return in an EV, but will arrive with a 670hp hachi-roku.

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Ghosn Deals A Blow To Better Place http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/ghosn-deals-a-blow-to-better-place/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/ghosn-deals-a-blow-to-better-place/#comments Wed, 15 May 2013 17:14:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=488602 swapstation4-450x300

Beleaguered EV start-up Better Place faced yet another blow this week, as Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn declared that rapid-charging, not swappable batteries, will be the predominant charging technology for EVs.

Israeli business outlet Globequotes Ghosn as saying

“When you look at the overall trends, we must conclude that replaceable batteries are no longer the main track for electric vehicles…The main trail is flat batteries in cars with charging. We believe that people want flexibility in the technology, and we can see that the demand is for rechargeable standard batteries.”

Ghosn stopped short of completely writing off Better Place and their battery-swap technology, but Ghosn made it clear that the focus would be elsewhere. Commercial fleets were one area where Ghosn identified potential demand for swappable batteries, due to a lack of downtime with charging the vehicles.

“There may be cases where people prefer replaceable batteries – as we have tried to include Israel and Denmark. Here we will continue to offer the Fluence with replaceable batteries. There may also be large companies, where they have a huge fleet of cars, and do not want to wait for charging. But it will not be the majority of the market, and going forward, our focus is on the charging technology, among other things look at our new Nissan Leaf.”

Increasingly efficient rapid-charging technology and a lack of demand for EVs has led to a downward spiral for Better Place’s fortunes. The company recently shuttered their American and Australian operations and gave founder Shai Agassi the boot.

 

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BYD Wants to Rule The World Hong Kong’s Taxi Market http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/byd-wants-to-rule-the-works-hong-kongs-taxi-market/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/byd-wants-to-rule-the-works-hong-kongs-taxi-market/#comments Wed, 15 May 2013 16:23:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=488596

Scaling back from its former intentions of becoming “China’s No. 1 automaker by 2015 and the world’s leading car maker by 2025,” China’s BYD now wants to become a world-class fish in Hong Kong’s taxi pond.

BYD has six electric e6 taxis running in Hong Kong, across the border from its Shenzhen, China, headquarters.  Its plans call for much more: “We expect to increase the number of e6 taxis in Hong Kong to 5,000 in three years,” Liu Xueliang, general manager of BYD Asia Pacific sales, told Reuters. Hong Kong Taxi & Public Light Bus Association said it is renting from BYD an initial fleet of 45 taxis for around US$1,000 each per month.

Back home in China, BYD sold about 1,700 e6 vehicles last year. They go for around $60,000 and are reluctantly bought by local governments and taxi companies that want to shine their green image.

Hong Kong’s taxi fleet consists mostly of often LPG-powered Toyota Crowns. Last year, BYD announced plans to export 50 e6 taxis to London.

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Bosch Launches EV Home Charger With Sub-$450 MSRP http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/bosch-launches-ev-home-charger-with-sub-450-msrp/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/bosch-launches-ev-home-charger-with-sub-450-msrp/#comments Fri, 10 May 2013 15:19:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=488068 power_max4_LG-main

Bosch has introduced a home charging point for EVs that costs half as much as current competitors, which will no doubt be welcome news for current and prospective EV buyers.

Dubbed the PowerMax, the charger is said to be capable of 240V charging at half the time of the equivalent Level 2 chargers currently available on the market. The PowerMax comes in a 16 amp configuration with a 12 foot cord or a 30 amp version with a 25 foot cord. Bosch said that it was able to lower the price of their charger by eliminating the overly-long cords featured in many competitive units. Sales begin in June, and while a home evaluation is included in the price, installation is extra.

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Ferrari Scales Back Production, Says No To EVs, SUVs http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/ferrari-scales-back-production-says-no-to-evs-suvs/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/ferrari-scales-back-production-says-no-to-evs-suvs/#comments Wed, 08 May 2013 15:39:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=487834 Ferrari_458_Italia_--_05-18-2011

Ferrari will be scaling back production in 2013, in an effort to help retain some of the brand’s exclusivity.

Reuters reports that Ferrari will build fewer than 7,000 cars this year, despite selling over 7,300 in 2012. Speaking to British publication AutoExpress, Ferrari head Luca di Montezemolo said

“Our exclusivity is the brand’s equity…those who buy a Ferrari buy a dream and we want to ensure that we preserve that dream. In 2013 we decided to manufacture a lower number cars than last year. We want to prove that selling less cars can still increase profits – despite the trend in the market”

Also ruled out by di Montezemolo were an SUV and a pure electric vehicle, stating  he would ”never build an all-electric car as long as I am chairman of the company”.

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Tweak For The Peak: Toyota Returns To The Hill With Updated Electric Racer http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/tweak-for-the-peak-toyota-returns-to-the-hill-with-updated-electric-racer/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/tweak-for-the-peak-toyota-returns-to-the-hill-with-updated-electric-racer/#comments Mon, 06 May 2013 16:38:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=487467

 

Toyota plans to defend its electric title at this year’s Pikes Peak International Hill Climb with a tweaked TMG EV P002. The electric racer is currently on its way to Salisbury, N.C., where TRD USA will perform aerodynamic upgrades to the Radical-based chassis.

2013_TMG_EV_P002_graphic__mid

On June 30, 61-year-old Rod Millen will  attempt a new record in the TMG EV P002 at Pikes Peak.  TMG is using  an off-board battery-to-battery charger, because there is no reliable connection to the power grid at the race site. A 42 kilowatt lithium ion battery is mounted into the back of a Toyota Hiace,. and can quickly charge the TMG EV P002 even in places where there is no plug in sight.

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Requiem: 2012 Coda Sedan http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/requieum-2012-coda-sedan/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/requieum-2012-coda-sedan/#comments Wed, 01 May 2013 23:30:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=487013 2012 Coda EV, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesAbout a year ago Bertel, Ed and I ended up in Los Angeles for a PR meet/dine with Coda. No automotive event would be complete without a drive and our electrifying dinner was no different. Bertel and Ed wisely chose to leave the driving to me (although they did toss me in the trunk and close the lid later that evening). Since that night I have struggled to erase the Coda from my mind when today it all came flooding back. Coda has filed for chapter 11 protection. I know it’s bad form to speak ill of the departed, but this is TTAC so let’s have a review style requiem for the worst EV ever made.

Exterior

If you ordered your car by the inch, the Coda is what 176 inches of generic sedan would look like. Since Coda was a small California company without the deep pockets of Elon Musk, they did what any start-up with a screw loose would do: turn to China. Hafei was crazy enough to be smoking the same thing Coda’s dudes were, so they offered up their Saibo sedan as a donor car. Plain hardly begins to describe the Saibo. It looks like a cross between a 1990s Corolla and a 2000 Civic with some 1980s Geo tossed in. No problem, just call in a design firm. Sounds good right? They hired Pininfarina. Sounds even better, right?? Yea, except look what they came up with. Ouch. The result was a grille-free beige something that was so boring we failed to take a side-profile shot of it. You didn’t miss much.

2012 Coda EV InteriorInterior

The Saibo was based on a last-century Mitsubishi Lancer, sort of. Knowing this, I feared that the 2012 Chinese car would still be sporting a 1990s interior. Oh how I wish that were true. Instead, they attempted to “modernize” things by creating an interior that even Benz/Cerberus era Chrysler would have rejected. That’s fine when the Chinese version costs about $15,000, but with a starting price of $37,250, “bad” doesn’t begin to describe what’s happening here. The dashboard in the “production” vehicle we drove rattled and squeaked non-stop, the radio was a Best Buy special with no Coda customization, and the only “feature” touted was the leather wrapped steering wheel. In truth, the tiller was fairly pleasant to hold, except that when you moved it you were reminded it was attached to a Coda. Toss in the cheesiest gauges I have ever seen and an imitation Jaguar Drive Selector gear shifter that looked bad and felt worse and the cabin was complete. I think recalling the horror within is bringing back my PTSD, I need to sit down.

Infotainment

Seriously, they just used an aftermarket double-din radio. Check out Crutchfield for the review on that.

2012 Coda Sedan, Drivetrain, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesDrivetrain

Under the not-sexy-at-all hood of the Coda beat a 130 horsepower electric motor capable of delivering a stout 220 lb-ft of twist from zero to whenever it hit its redline (we weren’t told) through a single speed transmission. If that sounds OK, trust me, it’s perfectly fine. In fact, the drivetrain of the Coda was innovative and had nothing to do with their failure. Powering the motor was a custom designed lithium ion iron phosphate (LiFePO4) battery that sported square rather than round cells for greater energy density and better cooling. The power pack under the floor was rated at 31kWh (larger than the Leaf) but because of the Coda’s weight, range was barely better than the Nissan. Unlike the competition, Coda installed an active thermal management system to keep the cells at the optimum temperature at all times to prevent the same sort of battery failures we saw on the Leaf in the Arizona desert.

2012 Coda EV on the road, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drive

So far, the Coda sounds like a boring little car with a bland interior, high-tech drivetrain with an advanced battery pack. In truth, the Coda sounded like a reasonable argument on paper and it looked like something you could live with in person… until you drove it. The Coda’s motor management software that had all the refinement of a science project. An elementary school science project. Acceleration was brisk but wasn’t in tune with the sloppy bumper-car pedal. As with most EVs, the Coda had regenerative braking but the system was bipolar providing either too little assist or way to much. Press the brake pedal down 10%, nothing. 20 %, nothing. 30% was where the “magic” started with the slightest resistance to forward progress. Between 31 and 40% things were peachy-keen but soggy. Press the stopper to 41% and everyone in the car will be dialing a whiplash injury lawyer.

Steering feel was horrid, but so is the feel in the Prius. Not much to say here.

2012 Coda EV, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

So far everything I have described could have been lived with, you know, if someone gave you a Coda and you were unable to sell it. What absolutely could not be lived with was the ride. No 1990s Mitsubishi had a terribly polished ride to begin with, add Chinese tinkering, tinkering by a company that had never built a car before and 728 battery cells and you have a recipe for disaster. To compensate for the added weight, Coda jammed stiffer springs on all four corners and did nothing else. Crashy doesn’t begin to describe what my vertebrae felt on our 50 mile drive. If you think adding passengers would have improved things, we tried, there here were four of us in the car and we are all “American sized”.

Adding insult to injury, the EPA rated the Coda sedan the least efficient EV in modern history. No wonder they failed. Still, I’m sad to see Coda Automotive go because there will be one less voice in the EV conversation and auto journalists will have one less car to complain about. When you gathered writers together, someone will proclaim “there is no such thing as a bad car anymore.” Then somebody would remember Coda and we’d all have a good laugh before we moved back to complaining about the Prius. Now Coda is a fading memory, unless you are unfortunate enough to have one in your garage, then you won’t be able to forget. Or get it fixed. My condolences.

Coda gave me a free T-shirt at the Coda store, I still have it.

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Electric Car Maker Coda Goes Bankrupt http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/electric-car-maker-coda-goes-bankrupt/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/electric-car-maker-coda-goes-bankrupt/#comments Wed, 01 May 2013 11:56:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=486918

Electric car startup Coda is the latest in a series of greenm dreams to go down the drain – and it won’t be the last. Coda filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection today, writes Reuters,  “after selling just 100 of its all-electric sedans, another example of battery-powered vehicles’ failure to break into the mass market.”

Coda launched its electric sedan in California a year ago. Based on a slider made in China, the car delivered a range of 125 miles on a single charge. For $37,250 MSRP, the few buyers received a no-frills car.

Coda had no shortage of money when it started. Coda raised $300 million in equity from backers “including Aeris Capital, Limited Brands Chief Executive Les Wexner, and former U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson,” Reuters says. Nevertheless, $300 million are not enough to develop a car, let alone a car company.

Coda applied for, but withdrew a request for $334 million in federal loans.

Electric cars are a hard sell, but Coda made its life even tougher: “Coda has two problems,” a leading executive of a Japanese OEM that is heavily invested in electric cars told me last year, “they are trying to sell EVs, and cars made in China.”

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Marchionne Claims $10,000 Loss On Each Fiat 500e http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/marchionne-claims-10000-loss-on-each-fiat-500e/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/marchionne-claims-10000-loss-on-each-fiat-500e/#comments Mon, 22 Apr 2013 16:54:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=485889

Despite overwhelmingly positive press for the Fiat 500e, the electric Fiat is known to be a bete-noir for Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne. Speaking at the SAE Congress last week, Marchionne claimed that Fiat loses $10,000 on each 500e, describing it as “masochism”.

Marchionne has repeatedly stated that Fiat is only building the car to comply with California regulations that mandate the sale of zero-emissions vehicles. But despite rave reviews and an aggressive lease program, Marchionne has repeatedly made negative statements about the car. The Detroit Free Press quotes Marchionne on the nature of the money losing EV

“For every 500 electric that we produce even after all the subsidies we will lose about $10,000 bucks a car,” Marchionne said. “Doing that on a large scale would be masochism to the extreme.”

Machionne also urged governments to stay “neutral” on what technologies it decides to subsidize, citing the current trendiness of EVs versus the widespread enthusiasm for hydrogen a decade ago.

“A number of governments around the world including the U.S. have provided incentives for consumers to purchase plug-in electric vehicles and have provided direct incentives to manufacturers…my fear is that regulators are rushing precipitously into embracing electric vehicles as the only technological solution.”

 

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BYD Seen Ditching Gasoline-Powered Cars http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/byd-seen-ditching-gasoline-powered-cars/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/byd-seen-ditching-gasoline-powered-cars/#comments Fri, 19 Apr 2013 13:32:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=485524

BYD, the company we visited in yesterday’s story might ditch  conventional gasoline-powered cars and focus on electrics, Reuters says in an exclusive story,

Two senior BYD executives told Reuters that along with dropping gasoline-fueled cars, the company also might offload its solar panel business and concentrate on new greener battery technologies.

BYD will unveil its Green Hybrid Technology at the Shanghai auto show on Saturday. Reuters sees BYD focus on hybrid cars, with a smattering  of  all-electric and ‘plug-in’ electric hybrid cars thrown in.

The story caused raised eyebrows and snickers among the auto executives that congregate in Shanghai for the auto show that will open its doors to the press tomorrow. Currently, EVs and hybrids sell only in homeopathic quantities in China. I am in Shanghai, and we’ll see what develops.

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Fisker Fires Workers, Gets Sued http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/fisker-fires-workers-gets-sued/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/fisker-fires-workers-gets-sued/#comments Mon, 08 Apr 2013 09:57:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=483948

On Friday, Fisker fired most of its rank-and-file employees, 160 out of a total 210, and promptly got into hot water for doing so.  The law firm Outten & Golden filed a class-action lawsuit for not giving employees a 60-day notice under California’s WARN act.

“We contend Fisker ordered mass layoffs on or about April 5, 2013 without providing its employees with advance written notice. The Case is pending in the United States District Court for the Central District of California,” says Outten & Golden’s website. The firm is seeking 60 days wages and benefits for former employees. The wheels of justice better move fast. Siliconbeat says that “many speculate that Fisker could file for bankruptcy as early as Monday.”

According to Reuters, the 160 fired were told that the company could not afford to give them severance payments. 53 senior managers and executives were asked to stay on board, “primarily to pursue buyers for the company’s assets,” Reuters says.

The Outten & Gol;den lawfirm is the same that sued ill-fated Solyndra, another fine example of government investments into green technologies. Green as the color of tax payer money.

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