Long time listener, first time caller. I have a 1982 Oldsmobile 98 Regency Brougham, that last summer I ripped the 307 out of. It now has a Chevy ZZ4 crate motor, backed by a TH 350 transmission. (Gasp! My hero!!! – SM) (Read More…)
After a trip to Russia last Wednesday and a thorough look at Japan on Monday, here I am again, annoying you with ever more worldwide car sale figures. This time let’s get back to basics and look at the best-selling hybrid/electric cars in the USA, a category up 75 percent year-on-year…
Can’t get your head around why you would buy cars that run on batteries? That’s ok, you can discover the best-selling models in 168 countries and territories in my blog and you’ll see most of them still are good old gas-guzzlers. Or today I can also offer you the Top 277 best-selling models in the USA over the first 9 months 2012…
Tesla has officially launched their long-awaited “Supercharging” network last night to a star-studded crowd in Southern California. (We assume it was star-studded since our invitation got lost in the mail.) The EV network promises to enable Model S and Model X owners to charge 150 miles of range in 30 minutes. What about your Roadster? Sorry, you aren’t invited to this charging party. Have a Tesla and a LEAF? You’ll have to be satisfied with separate but equal charging facilities as the Tesla proprietary charging connector restricts access to Tesla shoppers only. Is this class warfare or do we parallel the computer industry where connectors come and go with the seasons?
With California’s Zero Emissions Vehicle mandate looming it is only a matter of time till we see an EV from each of the major players in the California market. Nissan has the Leaf, BMW has the Active E, GM has the Volt and Honda electrified a Fit and Ford has electrified everything that isn’t nailed down. That brings us to the elephant in the room: Toyota. To give us some insight into Toyota’s CARB (California Air Resources Board) compliance plans
and to see the fruits of the unlikely Toyota/Tesla marriage, Toyota flew us to sunny Southern California to sample the 2013 RAV4 EV.
Despite accounting for an incredibly small percentage of new car sales in America, the EV is all the rage in California. Rather than starting from scratch and designing an all-new car from the ground up (like Nissan), Honda chose the more economical route and electrified the second-generation Honda Fit. On the surface, the recipe sounds like a slam dunk, since the Fit is one of Honda’s most attractive and most fun to drive models now on sale. To prove to the masses that Honda has what it takes to go green, they flew me out to Pasadena to sample the all-new, all-blue Fit EV.
I should go on vacation more often. No, really. Last time I took some time off, I accidentally caught a parade of BMW prototypes descending the Sellajoch in Italy’s Dolomite Alps. Then, just weeks ago when I was in Los Angeles with Bertel, I was driving along towards Venice when I caught a glimpse of the tell-tale camouflage that makes every auto enthusiast’s heart skip a beat. And then I noticed that it had no tailpipe…
Of course, the vehicle I caught wasn’t anything earth-shattering, just a prototype of Toyota’s first-ever EV for the American market. And here in California, where electric RAV4s have been running around since 1997, this prototype didn’t exactly bring traffic to a halt. Still, it’s a reminder that even EV skeptics like Toyota are already dipping a toe in the battery-powered market… if only as a “compliance exercise.” Plus, it’s more evidence that my employers should give me more time to get away from the computer and drive around unfamiliar places. Obviously these prototypes want me to find them…
Last May, the Nissan Leaf was the hottest thing on the green radar. Limited production and a long waiting list for the press meant that Nissan was lending out Leafs (Nissan tells us that is the correct way to pluralize a Leaf) 62-hours at a time. With my long commute and lengthy 120V charging times, this meant a review with only 217 miles under our belt (read our three-part review here: 1 2 3). Now that a few thousand Leafs have found homes in Northern California and I had practiced my “range anxiety” breathing techniques, I was eager to see if the ultimate green ride was also a decent car beyond the batteries.
A few years ago I was let in on a secret: Toyota’s dreams of world domination hinged on capturing hip young buyers interested in green tech and high fuel economy. Of course, Toyota’s hybrid plans have been the worst kept secret since In-N-Out’s “secret menu” and as a result, the green Gen Y boys and girls I know in Berkeley have been excited for years about a “baby Prius”. Well kids, the blue spaceship landed in La Jolla and Toyota invited us down to take a drive. Does a hybrid Yaris with more MPGs than you can shake a stick at have what it takes help Prius become Toyota’s best-selling nameplate? Let’s find out.
Did you think $27k was a steep ask for a non-premium-brand compact car? How does a $40k Focus grab you? That’s a good four grand over what Nissan wants for a Leaf (and about $2k more than a loaded Leaf), and about $12k more than the Mitsubishi i (all before available tax credits). On the other hand, we don’t yet know if Ford can claim an EPA-certified range advantage over the Leaf (both Ford and Nissan initially claimed 100 miles, but the EPA dropped the Leaf to 73 miles). In any case, if you want the most expensive Focus ever built, or the first Blue Oval-badged plug-in, Ford’s started taking reservations online… but like any good insanely-expensive-for-what-it-is product, you need more than money to bring home an Electric Focus. Specifically, a little patience and an address in one of the following communities:
Atlanta, Houston, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, New York City, Orlando, Florida,Phoenix, Tucson, Portland (OR), Raleigh-Durham, Richmond, Virginia, Seattle, or Washington, D.C.
But only California and New York will get a Focus EV this year… the rest will be waiting until Q2 of next year. And the remainder of the US market could be waiting even longer, as Ford has not yet announced a full rollout date. But then, a little exclusivity never hurts when you get above the $40k price point.
I’m a product of the 1970s, and as a result I was just the right age to remember when Kia came on the scene in 1992 (available for sale 2 years later), the first Kias were cheap to buy but fairly cheaply made as well prompting the running joke was that Kia meant: “Korean, Inexpensive, and Awful.” Fast forward to 2011; Kia/Hyundai products are on an impressive roll, sporting competitive looks and competitive features without the sting of a large price tag. Could the new Optima Hybrid be the frugal shopper’s green alternative to the mainstream Camry and Fusion or even the Lexus HS250h? Let’s find out.
Would you be a little bit surprised if the man behind this tiny, funky little electric van was the man who styled the VW Passat CC and first-generation Mercedes SLK? Well, Murat Günak has been heavily into the electric car game since leaving Volkswagen, having designed one of my favorite EVs, the fresh-and-freaky Mindset. But even though the Mia and the Mindset seem a little more in the same vein, Günak has actually moved well past the Mindset’s super-high-end positioning, as this Mia is set to sell for the lowest price of any EV in the EU, starting at €19,500 ($28k). For comparison, Mitsubishi’s iMiEV (the cheapest EV in the US market) sells for €34,390, or nearly $50k… although its European price is set to drop to closer to €15k when production ramps up.
But the Mia isn’t just (relatively) inexpensive… it’s downright cool. Built by the French firm Heuliez in either 9.4 or 10.5 foot lengths (the latter with 53 cubic feet of cargo space), it comes with a McLaren F1-style central driver’s seat and doors designed to operate in tight urban conditions. With a range of only 60 miles and a top speed of only slightly more than 60 MPH, it’s strictly an urban runabout, but as a small business delivery vehicle it seems to hit a lot of the right buttons… especially the three-hour charging time (an 80-mile-range battery is optional but takes five hours to charge). Production hits 10,000 units next year, when sales to private customers begin. [via Autobild]
The previous day’s usage had left me in a pickle. With the 12 miles left and only nine-and-a-half hours charging time at 120V. Of course if I constantly had to remind myself, if I had a 240V charging station at home this would be a non-issue as the Leaf would have been completely full. However, my situation as it was, the Leaf was perhaps a hair over 40% charged when I left for work with the range indicator displaying 59 miles, hopefully enough for my 57 mile drive.
Since I needed all the juice I could get to make it to Burlingame I decided to forgo the pre-heating and let the Leaf charge to the very last second. Fortunately this morning was a hair warmer than the day previous being a brisk 40 degrees. Unfortunately the temperatures and humidity conspired to fog the windscreen. Without sufficient power to make it to work and use the defogger, I chose to defog the old-fashioned way: windows open.
Automotive News [sub] reports that Volkswagen has approved a plug-in electric version of its Golf hatchback for sale in the US by 2013. According to AN [sub]:
Called the Golf Blue-E-Motion, the car forms part of a broad-based electric-vehicle offensive by VW that will see similar versions of the Mexico-built Jetta and the Chinese-market Lavida also going on sale in 2013.
Powered by a 115-hp electric motor, the front-drive Golf will be VW’s higher-end EV, fitting above the Up! Blue-E-Motion subcompact “city specialist.”
With over 8,000 pre-orders already logged, Reuters reports that Nissan is well on its way to selling out its capacity-constrained, 25,000-unit first-year production run of Leaf EVs. Better yet, Nissan’s North America director of product planning and strategy Mark Perry says that, with those sales volumes, the Leaf will actually turn a profit for Nissan. He tells Reuters:
We are making money at the price that we announced. We priced the car to be affordable. We priced it for mass adoption
Opel already has big plans for its restructuring, despite the minor issue of being short a few billion dollars. According to an interview with Opel boss Nick Reilly in the print edition of Auto Motor und Sport, only a billion Euros of the €3.3b Opel turnaround plan is going to be spent on restructuring. The rest will be spent on new products like a city car, a “mini offroader,” and new high-tech drivetrains. According to Autocar, one of those high-tech drivetrain options is a a pairing that several firms including VW and Peugeot-Citroen already looked into but have yet to bring to market out of concern for the high cost: the diesel-electric hybrid. GM Europe’s Advanced Powertrain Chief Engineer Maurizio Cisternino explains “if you want the best fuel consumption, you have to go with the diesel-electric hybrid.” But there’s a tiny problem: Cisternino wants to get diesel-hybrid prices down to a €1,000 premium over gas-electric hybrids, a goal Cisternino admits “does not work at the moment.” Now if only GM had some government investment in the technology…