The Truth About Cars » EV http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sat, 29 Aug 2015 15:27:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.4 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 » EV http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Nissan, Toyota, Honda Team to Build Fuel-Cell Infrastructure in Japan http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/nissan-toyota-honda-team-build-fuel-cell-infrastructure-japan/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/nissan-toyota-honda-team-build-fuel-cell-infrastructure-japan/#comments Thu, 02 Jul 2015 17:00:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1106169 According to Toyota, three Japanese automakers — Honda, Toyota and Nissan — are working together to build hydrogen fuel stations around for future fuel-cell cars. The program, which will subsidize fueling stations up to 11 million yen ($89,500) per year for each station, is meant to boost the nation’s infrastructure for hydrogen-powered cars. The agreement […]

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According to Toyota, three Japanese automakers — Honda, Toyota and Nissan — are working together to build hydrogen fuel stations around for future fuel-cell cars.

The program, which will subsidize fueling stations up to 11 million yen ($89,500) per year for each station, is meant to boost the nation’s infrastructure for hydrogen-powered cars.

The agreement was formed in February between the large automakers, but began accepting applications July 1.

The program also boosts “awareness” of the FCVs by offering incentives for stations to stay open longer and offer more services.

A similar alliance between automakers in the U.S. could boost FCV participation rates, but maybe we can’t have nice things.

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Silent but Violent: Watch Rhys Millen’s All-Electric Run Up Pikes Peak http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/silent-but-violent-watch-rhys-millens-record-run-up-pikes-peak/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/silent-but-violent-watch-rhys-millens-record-run-up-pikes-peak/#comments Wed, 01 Jul 2015 18:00:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1104865 All-around fast driver and New Zealander Rhys Millen had roughly 20 miles of experience behind the wheel of his Latvian-made eO electric race car before Sunday’s race. That apparently didn’t matter as he piloted the first electric car to an overall win at the 93rd running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb on Sunday. Millen’s […]

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All-around fast driver and New Zealander Rhys Millen had roughly 20 miles of experience behind the wheel of his Latvian-made eO electric race car before Sunday’s race.

That apparently didn’t matter as he piloted the first electric car to an overall win at the 93rd running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb on Sunday.

Millen’s 9:07.222 final mark was a long ways from Sebastian Loeb’s incredible, insane and probably-never-coming-down 8:13.878, but it’s interesting to note that Millen’s qualifying time was some 30 seconds off of Loeb’s pace, and his electron-powered 1,368 horsepower car should only get faster toward the top.

Millen said during qualifying that there was “20 percent” in the car that he wasn’t using, and adjusting to the car’s pace would ultimately be the deciding factor on how quickly he could run up to the finish line at more than 14,000 feet.

Awful conditions at the top hampered this year’s race and underscored that the road to the top, which covers nearly 13 miles and more than 4,000 feet of elevation change, is a constantly changing racetrack.

It can’t be missed that this year’s Pikes Peak International Hill Climb was tragically marked by the death of 39-year-old motorcyclist Carl Sorensen during Thursday’s practice session.

Japanese veteran racer Nobuhiro “Monster” Tajima — who is 64 years old and infinitely cooler than most people his age — finished second in his Rimac E-Runner.

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Electric cars taking the top two positions is significant for motorsports, better for the automotive industry and could signal an era that the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is the new ‘Ring. 

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Used Tesla Values Could Be a Bubble Waiting to Burst http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/used-tesla-values-could-be-a-bubble-waiting-to-burst/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/used-tesla-values-could-be-a-bubble-waiting-to-burst/#comments Wed, 01 Jul 2015 17:00:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1104801 The National Automobile Dealers Association new electric vehicle retention list released last week has a tasty little tidbit in its roundup of value retention rates. Tesla’s Model S, which topped the 3-year value retention rate list for EVs in the new list, also sported a better value rate for most cars on a similar list released last year for all […]

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Tesla Model S Center Stage

The National Automobile Dealers Association new electric vehicle retention list released last week has a tasty little tidbit in its roundup of value retention rates.

Tesla’s Model S, which topped the 3-year value retention rate list for EVs in the new list, also sported a better value rate for most cars on a similar list released last year for all segments, including mid-size luxury cars. That includes BMW.

But the news may not be all good, all the time.

According to the most recent NADA study, Tesla’s Model S retains 57.2 percent of its original value after three years based on dealer trade-in values. That figure is tops among mid-size luxury sedans, including BMW’s 5-series, in a study conducted last year.

Also noted in the 2015 study, there is a significant cliff after three years when most EV manufacturers’ powertrain warranties expire, meaning there’s good chance that the Model S’s value plummets after that.

The 2014 study by NADA (which examined all segments – including EVs) was comprised of only the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf — the only two cars that had been on the market for three years by the time the study was conducted. The Volt and Leaf retained 41.6 percent and 38.2 percent of their values respectively, due partly to price drops from their manufacturers and increasing competition in the segment. The 2015 study had worse news for Volts and Leafs on trade-in: those values dropped to 31.3 and 25.3 percent respectively.

As Tesla prepares to release their Model X, there’s no doubt quite a few Model S owners will be looking to replace their sedans. This could trigger a market saturated with Model S’s (or is it “Models S”?) at or nearing the end of their warranty lives — and it’ll likely have legitimate competition in the near future as well, further driving down retained values.

Tesla Model X Teaser

It’s no secret that Tesla has no significant cash flow, hasn’t turned a profit for more than one fiscal quarter in five years, and probably won’t have a cash-positive year until 2020.

That all could mean the bottom falling out for Tesla Model S values soon. Or not.

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Tesla Ownership Vignettes http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/tesla-ownership-vignettes/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/tesla-ownership-vignettes/#comments Thu, 28 May 2015 15:00:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1064642 We’ve owned our 2013 P85 Tesla Model S since December, putting maybe 3,000 miles on it, so I thought TTAC readers would appreciate a long-term update. Overall it’s still the grin-inducing ride that all owners like to be smug about. That said, there have been more than a few unusual experiences. To that end, I thought it […]

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Tesla Model S

We’ve owned our 2013 P85 Tesla Model S since December, putting maybe 3,000 miles on it, so I thought TTAC readers would appreciate a long-term update.

Overall it’s still the grin-inducing ride that all owners like to be smug about. That said, there have been more than a few unusual experiences. To that end, I thought it would be useful to present this update as a series of individual stories, or vignettes, of the Tesla ownership experience.

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The Fused Door Handle
My daughter is fascinated with the door handles pushing themselves in and out. She was standing there, leaning on it before I got to the car, and once the car detected my key fob, it tried really hard to push out the handle. The car handle won, but then it wouldn’t actually open the door nor would it retract again. Arrggh! A quick search via Google, the Interwebs told me to pull fuse #40. Sure enough, that reset everything back to normal again.

Pulling the fuses on a Tesla, on one of the very few days of the year I happened to be wearing a proper suit and tie, made me a bit nervous. The last thing I wanted was car grease on my nice pants. The only hard part of the operation was pulling the plastic cover (between the frunk and the windshield). After that, pull and push back the fuse and *poof*, problem solved. I did the work while sitting cross-legged in the nicely carpeted frunk. My nice wool dress pants were unscathed in the operation and now my daughter hopefully understands not to do that again.

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Anti-Gymkhana Mode
I hate valets. When I go to restaurants or whatever that have mandatory valet, I’ll typically have a conversation like:

“Can I please park my own car?”

“But we’re a valet lot, sir.”

“Can I please park my own car?”

“Umm, okay.”

I’ve complained early and often that one of the big missing features from the Tesla was any sort of Valet Mode to restrict what valet nutjobs can do with the car. Finally, with the 6.2 software update, Tesla has responded. You select “valet mode” from the same drop-down menu where you might otherwise pick a driver. It asks for a four-digit pin and it’s locked in*. In addition to setting a max speed of 70 mph and limiting the power output to disable serious hoonage, valet mode also disables the frunk and glove box from opening and hides personal information (home address, etc.) from the nav system. It even disables the HomeLink garage door opener. Not bad.

Feature request: Teenager mode. Doesn’t need the privacy features, but does need the anti-hoonage. My daughter’s probably going to drive my Tesla one day, without this mode, and I don’t want her wrapping it around a telephone pole.

* Of course, being the paranoid sort, I initially put in “1234” to make sure it worked properly. Later on, when I wanted to change it to something non-trivial, it turns out that it’s a pain to change. You have to do the “oops, I forgot my PIN” dialog, which has you enter your username/password from the Tesla web site. Not that you’d know that without hunting around, once again, on the nets.

Unintended Drive-bys
I was driving home, around the corner from my house, and I came up behind a neighbor walking her dog in the middle of the street. I was crawling forward, waiting for her to notice me and get out of the way, but she didn’t hear the car. Eventually, she turned around and did a double-take. In hindsight, I guess I could have hit the horn, or maybe opened the windows and pumped up the jams, but the Tesla is just too damn quiet for these low-speed scenarios where there’s neither tire noise nor anything else coming from the Tesla. Something like this seems to happen about once a month.

You’ve probably heard that having some amount of car noise is about pedestrian safety. Much has been written about how it’s necessary for electric cars to make suitable noise to notify pedestrians and blind people. After watching Lieberman’s Tesla vs. Hellcat video, I’m firmly convinced that low-speed Teslas should be quietly playing The Girl From Ipanema. That conveys the chill vibe that says “it’s cool, but you know, I’d like to drive through, but hey, whatever.”

Tesla sunshade vanity mirrors

The ‘S’ Stands For Service
Tesla service is its own weird world. I called the local Houston shop and they said I had to call the national number. Because Texas. Really? Fine. After ten minutes on hold, I finally got to list my “concerns” (not “repair requests”, not “work orders” – no, they’re concerns). In this case, it’s fixing the cracked vanity mirror covers, fixing an annoying windshield wiper clicking noise (a well-known defect, err, concern), and installing the rear carbon fiber spoiler (ordered way back when the car was new in 2013 and only now finally arriving for me, the new owner). Fine – after a day, I get a call back from the local shop. Three weeks hence, they were to pick it up from my office, at no extra charge. They claimed the repairs would be done in a single day, but were giving me a loaner Tesla, just in case.

And indeed, they met me in the parking lot of my office around 9:30 a.m. and gave me a S85 (not as fast as my P85, but with the latest AutoPilot features my Model S lacks). Sadly, I still have my day job thing, so I didn’t have the time to give it a spin. I told the Tesla dude I was in meetings until 3 p.m. No problem, sir. They called around then and said they were on the way back with the car. I met them in the parking lot at 3:30 p.m. Everything fixed. Car washed, vacuumed, and charged. And while they had it, they did a bunch of courtesy things (tire pressure, fresh wipers, etc.). All covered under warranty, no charge.
Tesla lacks so many things that are seemingly obvious, like door map pockets, decent interior lighting, rear seat power ports, etc., but you let it slide because hey, I’m driving something special. Here’s the exception.

We park our Tesla in the garage, as one might, to charge it at night. My wife, for the Nth time, went out to the car to grab something she forgot to bring in, but the car’s locked. Arrrgghhh! You see, for me, my car keys are always in my pocket. Always. For my wife, they’re in her purse, which tends to stay on a counter or other flat surface when she’s inside, so she can’t get into the damn car without it. Feature request: if you can do geo-fencing for the suspension settings, then you should also be able to come up with geofencing options for when you’re at home, charging, in a locked garage. Then it’s safe to leave it unlocked.

(Good security ninjas will suggest that advanced bad guys can spoof GPS signals with cheap equipment, and could thusly trick your car into unlocking itself. Other security ninjas would point out that radio-based car keys are generally not robust against attackers with radios either. Anyway, there are lots of ways the car can know it’s in my house, such as the fact that it’s paired with my WiFi. Also, even if you leave the doors unlocked, you still don’t need to let somebody turn the car on and drive away. Principle of least privilege vs. psychological acceptability, baby. Saltzer and Shroeder know what’s up.)

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(Free) Power To The People
Tesla recently announced their PowerWall home energy storage battery. I did a detailed writeup for a Houston-local buddy’s political blog, where I presented numbers from my rooftop solar system. Bottom line? If you want to go completely off-grid, you would need to radically super-size your solar system for cloudy/rainy/awful days, and you’d then be wasting all of that excess capacity on sunny days. On the other hand, if your electric utility would offer you variable-pricing, a storage battery would let you avoid paying the high dollars in hot afternoons, instead time-shifting your grid power draws to the evening when power is cheaper. Too bad, despite the 300+ different electrical plans available to me in Houston via Texas electricity deregulation, precisely none of them offer anything like this except for TXU’s “free nights” plan. I figure it’s a goner, since a battery storage system plus that plan equals totally free electricity. Yee haw, deregulation!

Speaking of electricity usage, I give you a preview of coming attractions. In my last Tesla piece, I mentioned how the previous owner of my car upgraded from a P85 to a P85D. After several months of driving it the same way he drove the P85, the net change in his mileage seems to be about 1%. Once he and I have had our respective cars for a year each, I’ll write up a longer discussion of electric car mileage. The long and the short of it, though, is that the mileage penalty for upping the RWD P85 to the AWD dual motor P85D is small enough to be negligible. No matter how you slice it, that’s an impressive feat.

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No Fixed Abode: Fruit Flies Of The Marketplace http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/no-fixed-abode-fruit-flies-marketplace/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/no-fixed-abode-fruit-flies-marketplace/#comments Fri, 01 May 2015 11:30:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1054169 I don’t know what you’re doing with your weekend, but I’m spending mine driving a Prius from the Midwest to the East Coast. Next week I’ll tell you all about my experience with the car, but I’ll say this: it hasn’t been what I expected. Not that my opinion on the subject matters to Toyota; […]

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I don’t know what you’re doing with your weekend, but I’m spending mine driving a Prius from the Midwest to the East Coast. Next week I’ll tell you all about my experience with the car, but I’ll say this: it hasn’t been what I expected. Not that my opinion on the subject matters to Toyota; I’m not a customer for a Prius or a hybrid of any type and I am unlikely to become one until the last car that can beat a Prius around a racetrack enters the loving jaws of the Crusher.

Existing hybrid owners, on the other hand, are near and dear to Toyota’s heart. Unfortunately, that affection is being returned in smaller and smaller doses.

It’s the kind of headline that generates clicks the way a Prius going down a hill generates battery power: Gas price fallout: People trading in hybrids for SUVs. And the facts, in this case, justify the hype:

So far this year, only 45% of people that traded in an environmentally-friendly hybrid car purchased another, according statisticians at Edmunds.com. In 2012, that figure was over 60% and this is the first time it has ever fallen below 50%…

Back in 2012, gas prices peaked at $4.67 a gallon. At that price, it would take five years for owners of a hybrid-powered Toyota (TM) Camry to make up for the $3,770 price differential with the brand’s gasoline-powered model. But with today’s gas prices at $2.27 a gallon, it would take about 11 years.

Admit it, your first reaction to the above was, “How stupid can people be? Do they think cheap gasoline will last forever?” That was certainly my reaction. Although many of the B&B picture me as being just to the right of Attila the Hun, I’m a bit of a closet progressive at times and the image my Brooklyn-born brain conjured up when I read the above was an endless line of fat Walmartians trading in their Hy-Higlanders for Yukon XLs while smugly telling their neighbors, “I reckon gas is gonna be cheap forevah.” It’s the kind of image that is thoroughly satisfying for anybody who enjoys thinking of themselves as smarter than the average American. After all, I would never be that stupid, and neither would you, right?

But what if those stupid hicks who can’t wait to get rid of their hybrids are actually pretty good at doing real-world math? After all, using the Camry analogy provided by CNN, even when fuel is close to five bucks a gallon, you’re still looking at five years to the breakeven point. That’s longer than a lot of people keep their vehicles, so if you’re going to keep your Camry for three years and you don’t think fuel will swing past five or six dollars a gallon there’s probably no point.

The problem with that Camry analogy, however, is the standard Camry four-cylinder gets outstanding gas mileage. Very few cars sold in this country are as good as a four-cylinder Camry at conserving fuel on the move. Are buyers really just trading in Camry Hybrids for Camrys, or are they moving to larger SUVs? That’s not something we can know without access to additional data, and it’s not a conclusion that’s directly supported by the CNN article.

What if that is the case, however? Let’s do a few moments’ worth of math, based on the idea of a 15,000-mile year.

Prius (50mpg) v $2.50 = $750/year
Tahoe (16mpg) v $2.50 = $2,343/year
Prius v $4.00 = $1,200/year
Tahoe v $4.00 = $3,750/year
Prius v $6.00 = $1,800/year
Tahoe v $6.00 = $5,625/year

I don’t think anybody expects gasoline to rise past six dollars a gallon in the next decade, assuming the world doesn’t erupt in flames.

With cheap gas, the Prius saves you $132 a month. With four-dollar gas, it’s $212.50. At six bucks, it’s $318.75. This is what I consider “real money” at all three amounts, but let’s put it in context by looking at how much extra car you could get if you put that same amount of money into paying a five year loan on a more expensive car.

At $2.50, you could afford to pay about seven grand more for your car if it has a Prius-Tahoe fuel advantage. At $4.00, it becomes eleven grand. At six bucks? Nearly seventeen thousand dollars. That, too, is real money. Since even the cheapest Tahoe costs twenty-two grand more than a base Prius, however, we can assume that our Prius-to-Tahoe people are ready to spend extra money to drive a Tahoe and that this additional fuel cost is just more money to burn. The math gets much more complicated when you start comparing fundamentally similar vehicles that are available in hybrid or conventional form. That’s the math that killed the Tahoe Hybrid and it’s the math that would kill it again were GM bold enough to bring it back.

After running about fifty more permutations of the above calculations, I’ve come to believe that people who trade in hybrid versions of Highlanders and Altimas for conventional versions are probably making a solid mathematical bet. And I’ve also come to believe that if you trade in a Prius for a Tahoe you’re going to take it in the shorts no matter what fuel costs are, said shorts-taking still being less than the additional amount you’re paying to drive a much more expensive vehicle in the first place. So our putative hybrid-traders are neither stupid nor bad at math, no matter how you slice it.

No, I think the lesson of the numbers is something else entirely. While looking at my fuel-economy spreadsheet, I kept thinking back to my Audi S5. Driven with some spirit, it had an 18-mpg appetite for fuel. Its supercharged replacement might fool the EPA but it doesn’t do much better in the real world. Nor do all the turbo near-luxury and luxury cars the Germans want you to buy. Pretty much anything that will arouse envy in your neighbors nowadays is also unlikely to do significantly better than 20mpg in the real world of mixed-use commuting and daily operation.

That means five thousand dollars a year or more to keep the tank full as fuel costs rise. Which they will. There is no way around it. If you think gasoline will be two dollars a gallon in the year 2035, you are either a drooling moron or the super-genius who will invent cold fusion and make petrol irrelevant for all but the most committed and particular of motorists.

Five grand a year is twenty-five grand in five years. So when I ask myself, “How much will people pay for the electric version of today’s luxury cars?” I now have a solid answer. And I have a second answer to a different question. The question is: “When will electric cars outsell gasoline-powered cars in the American marketplace?” The answer?

“Not as long from now as you think.”

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Review: 2015 Kia Soul EV (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/review-2015-kia-soul-ev-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/review-2015-kia-soul-ev-video/#comments Thu, 16 Apr 2015 13:00:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1042177   EV “conversions” make for strange bedfellows when it comes to competition. There is no gasoline Kia Soul that competed even slightly with Mercedes or BMW. Oddly enough however, when you electrify one of the least expensive cars in America, you end up with with a Kia on the same cross-shop list as the i3 […]

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

Exterior

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

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

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

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

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Interior

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

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

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

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

Infotainment

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

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

IMG_7118

Drivetrain

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

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

IMG_7063

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

IMG_7127

Drive

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

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

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

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

Specifications as tested:

0-30: 3.3 Seconds

0-60: 8.5 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 16.8 Seconds @ 82 MPH

 

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A Few Reasons an Electric Car Might Not Be For You http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/reasons-electric-car-might-not/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/reasons-electric-car-might-not/#comments Tue, 14 Apr 2015 18:38:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1044146 When you live in a place like the San Francisco Bay Area, owning or leasing an electric vehicle is fairly simple to justify. The state allows you to use HOV lanes with only one person aboard. Some cities allow you to park in metered parking spots for free. Charging your electric vehicle at the mall […]

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2015 Nissan Leaf white

When you live in a place like the San Francisco Bay Area, owning or leasing an electric vehicle is fairly simple to justify. The state allows you to use HOV lanes with only one person aboard. Some cities allow you to park in metered parking spots for free. Charging your electric vehicle at the mall can be free. Some businesses might offer electric vehicle charging. There are additional rebates on top of the $7,500 federal tax credit for buying an electric car. Electric companies provide discounted power rates for electric car owners for charging in off-peak hours. Some counties offer rebates for installing 240V home charging systems for electric vehicles.

But sometimes, an electric vehicle may not be for you. Range anxiety is a big issue. Another large issue depends on where you live, either if you live in an apartment complex in Berkeley or a ranch in Killeen. It also depends on what you do for a living, whether you’re a high-tech worker in Silicon Valley or a homemaker in Kansas City. Some of the reasons below might not apply if you own a Tesla Model S, with its 200 mile range, a home charger, access to Superchargers, and its $60,000+ price. They also might not apply if the office is only 10 miles away and offers charging stations.

You live in an apartment complex.

Unless you live in one of those high-end condominium complexes that have garages in their underground parking garages for their residents, it’s difficult to own an electric vehicle when you live in the typical American apartment complex. Usually, a resident is allocated one spot in the carport and there are no other parking amenities. To install a 240V home charging station or using the charger that came with the car, it helps to have a dedicated power outlet nearby. You could plug in the charger to an extension cord leading from your apartment, but that would be unsafe. If you live fairly close to your workplace with charging facilities or have a nearby downtown with dedicated electric vehicle charging spots, having an electric vehicle is workable, but will require plenty of planning.

Your workplace doesn’t have (enough) charging stations.

This is big issue in the San Francisco Bay Area. Many of the large companies like Google and Facebook have many charging stations for their employees. It minimizes range anxiety for their employees, makes sure the employees can drive in the carpool so they spend less time in traffic, gets the company some good PR coverage for being environmentally friendly, and also nets the company a healthy tax break. Now, even if your office does have charging stations for the employees, there might not be enough of them, leading to what the San Jose Mercury News calls “charge rage.” Since some people need to charge their electric car is make sure they get home, they might unplug another car in order to charge theirs. This has led to company-wide e-mails on charging etiquette and people angry that their car was unplugged. So if you can’t guarantee that you can charge the car once you arrive at the office and you wouldn’t be able to get home on what was left, an electric vehicle might not be the best choice.

Your daily errands consist of driving over 70 miles.

If you’re a stay-at-home parent with at least two kids who aren’t old enough to drive, covering over 70 miles in one day is possible. Even though most electric vehicles have at least 80 miles of range on a full charge, it’s helpful to have 10 miles in reserve. If you need to drive two kids to different schools and many different activities (“I think doing fencing, robotics club, karate, and volunteering at the hospital should be enough to get into Harvard these days”), drop off dry cleaning, pick up groceries, maybe a doctor’s appointment, and a trip to the mall, you might be pushing the limits of your electric vehicle range. Since a new errand might come up at any time, unless there is an SAE Combo or a CHAdeMO fast charging station nearby (even if you live in the Bay Area, there usually isn’t), an electric car isn’t the best vehicle in spur-of-the-moment tasks come up and your daily driving is already straddling the daily range.

You live in a rural area.

If you live in Wyoming on a 1,000+ acre farm, an electric vehicle probably isn’t for you. The nearest shopping center might be 50 miles away. The local high school likely isn’t as local as most Americans might think. Macy’s might be an authentic travel destination. Using the Plugshare app, when I look for charging stations in Sturgis, South Dakota, only one station is available, and it’s a 120V outlet at a local hardware store. But Sturgis is a town of less than 10,000 people. Meanwhile, northeast of Sturgis, in Fargo, North Dakota, a place with a population of over 100,000 people, the Plugshare map shows only one public electric charging station in the entire city, and it’s at the Nissan dealership. So most rural areas might not be the best environment for electric vehicle ownership.

Your state doesn’t have electric vehicle incentives.

Most American states provide some sort of benefits to electric car buyers in the form of additional tax credits, use of the HOV lane with a single passenger, and/or sales tax exemptions. The websites of Plug In America and the National Conference of State Legislatures provide a good breakdown of electric vehicle benefits by state, with some state providing income tax credits as high as $5,000. However, if you live in states such as Wisconsin, Kansas, or New Mexico, there’s much fewer reasons to buy an electric car, as they offer no incentives for electric vehicle buyers. There are no HOV lane benefits or tax credits, two benefits that would really push people towards electric vehicles. As a result, buying a gas-powered vehicle makes more sense in those states.

You don’t own another, gas-powered car.

Sometimes you need a vehicle to travel 100 to 200 miles in one day. Short of a Tesla Model S, there are few other electric vehicles that can accomplish the task. In my opinion, most electric vehicles currently on the market are good second or third cars. For many people, an electric vehicle is a good alternative for 80% to 90% of the driving they do every year. However, that 10% of high car use occurs on road trips or round-trip drives to the nearest international airport. FIAT has tried to address the issue by offering 12 days per year of free rental car access with its 500e, which is 3% of the year. Therefore, having a gasoline-powered car as a back-up or recreational vehicle provides the certainty that you’ll can drive long distances when you absolutely need to.

You’re on edge whenever there’s 50 miles’ worth of gas remaining in your car.

These are the people most susceptible to range anxiety. At any given point, there must be at least 100 miles worth of range in their car no matter where they go. To them, whenever their car shows them the range is 50 miles, they immediately head for the nearest gas station. That’s usually because 50 of miles of range in a normal car means a reserve of 1 to 2.5 gallons of gas left in the tank, which means it’s time to fill up with both gas and regain some peace of mind. Even though there may be a charging station at their home, these people with range anxiety might panic and possibly suffer a nervous breakdown.

Ultimately, an electric vehicle might be not for you. Any of the above could force you to look at fuel-efficient gas-powered cars, hybrids, or plug-in hybrids, the last of which might be the best compromise. As long as you live in a single-family home with a garage and nearby shopping malls in a state that provides many electric vehicle benefits, have access to a gas-powered vehicle, and don’t drive over 70 miles per day, having an electric car can be very convenient. But if you live in an apartment in Iowa where the nearest McDonald’s is 40 miles away with no other cars to use, your new car shouldn’t be electric. In fact, you’d better have range anxiety in those circumstances.

Satish Kondapavulur is a writer for Clunkerture, where about a fifth of the articles are about old cars and where his one-time LeMons racing dreams came to an end once he realized it was impossible to run a Ferrari Mondial. Though he lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, he knows electric cars aren’t for everyone, something he learned the hard way when his Spark EV had 22 miles of range when delivered and couldn’t use it for a lunch date.

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Review: 2015 Volkswagen e-Golf (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/review-2015-volkswagen-e-golf-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/review-2015-volkswagen-e-golf-video/#comments Sat, 11 Apr 2015 19:24:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1037841 Because I live in California, it seemed only fitting that my first taste of the new Golf arrived in electric form: the 2015 VW e-Golf. (Why e-Golf? Because “Golfe” just sounded silly.) The Golf isn’t just the first Volkswagen EV in the US, it’s also the first VW built on the new MQB platform which […]

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2015 Volkswagen eGolf Exterior-001

Because I live in California, it seemed only fitting that my first taste of the new Golf arrived in electric form: the 2015 VW e-Golf. (Why e-Golf? Because “Golfe” just sounded silly.) The Golf isn’t just the first Volkswagen EV in the US, it’s also the first VW built on the new MQB platform which promises reduced weight and lower development costs. While MQB isn’t a dedicated EV platform like Nissan’s LEAF, it was designed to support electrification from the start rather than being converted like the Fiat 500e. While that may sound like a quibble, the difference is noticeable as the e-Golf feels like a regular VW that happens to be electric. The e-Golf also demonstrates just how rapidly EVs have evolved since the LEAF launched in 2010.

Exterior

Volkswagen has always been a company that prefers restrained elegance when it comes to design and the new Golf is no different. While some described the look as boring, I generally appreciate design evolution more than design revolution because the latter leads to products like the Aztek. The downside to VW’s design evolution is that the Golf doesn’t look all that different from the last Golf, but VW owners tell me that’s how they like it. Park it next to the last VW hatch and you will notice a difference. The 2015 model is longer, wider and lower than its predecessor with a longer hood and a shorter front overhang. The result is a more grown-up hatch than ever before that also schleps more stuff than ever before.

For EV duty, VW swaps in their first US-bound LED headlamps, and (according to a product announcement released when we had the e-Golf) will swap them back out if you opt for the new starting trim of the e-Golf which is coming soon. We also get a revised DRL strip of LEDs curving around the front bumper that gives the electric version a distinctive look in your rear-view mirror. Finishing off the transformation are blue accents here and there, EV specific wheels and unique badging. From a functional standpoint, the electrically heated windshield (ala Volvo and Land Rover) helps reduce energy consumption by heating the glass directly instead of heating the air and blowing it on the glass.

2015 Volkswagen eGolf Interior.CR2

Interior

Changes to the new interior are as subtle as the exterior. It was only after sitting in a 2012 Golf that I realized that parts sharing appears to be somewhere near zero. Although the shapes are similar, everything has been tweaked to look more cohesive and more up-scale. The console flows better from the climate controls, infotainment screen and knick-knack storage all the way to the armrest. The dashboard design is smoother and more Audiesque and the door panels have improved fit and finish with slightly nicer plastics. Keeping in mind that the Golf competes with the Hyundai Elantra GT, Ford Focus, Mazda3, Chevy Sonic, and Fiat 500L, this is easily the best interior in this class.

When it comes to the e-Golf things get murky. Since most auto companies have just one EV model, the electric Golf competes with a more varied competitive set spanning from the Spark EV and 500e to the BMW i3 and Mercedes B-Class Electric. In this competitive set, the VW still shines with an interior that isn’t that far off the B-Class or the i3 in real terms. The only oddity here is that the e-Golf does not offer leather in any configuration. The new base model gets cloth seats which are comfortable and attractive but the top end trim we tested uses leatherette which is attractive but doesn’t breathe as well as leather or cloth. Breathability is a problem the Spark’s leatherette seats also suffer from and is especially important in an EV where you frequently limit AC usage to improve range. Kia’s Soul EV is a stand-out in this area by offering real leather and ventilated seats which consume less power than running the AC.

2015 Volkswagen eGolf Interior-0031

Infotainment

The redesign of the Golf includes a refresh of VW’s infotainment lineup. Sadly however, this is the one area where revolution would have been preferable to evolution. The VW infotainment software, even in our up-level unit with nav, still lags behind the competition. The unit features expanded voice commands, finger gestures (like scrolling), snappier navigation software and a proximity sensor to clean up the interface when your digits aren’t near the screen. Most of the system’s graphics have been improved and the media interface is more attractive than before. Sadly however the system still lacks the ability to voice command your media library and the screen is notably smaller than the huge 8-inch screen in the Kia Soul.

2015 Volkswagen eGolf Interior Gauges

Instead of giving EV models a funky disco-dash like most EVs, VW keeps the four-dial analog cluster  and monochromatic multi-information display with a few changes. Instead of a tachometer we get a sensible power meter showing how much oomph you are commanding. Instead of an engine temperature gauge VW drops in an “available power” gauge that tells you how much power you can draw from the battery pack. In cold weather, or when the battery is too hot or too cold the discharge rate will slow.

I appreciate the simplistic gauge cluster, it’s classier than disco-dash in the LEAF while displaying essentially the same information. On the downside, the rest of the e-Golf’s systems lack the EV-specific features we have come to expect in EVs and hybrids. The extent of the EV information in the infotainment system is a single screen that shows your range. Most of the competition provides insight into how much energy your vehicle’s systems are consuming, how much additional range you’d get by turning your AC off or how long your battery would take to charge on various power sources. In fact the only way you’d know how long the e-Golf would take to charge is by plugging it in and reading the display that flashes the time to charge briefly. For more information VW directs you to their smartphone app, but those looking for a more integrated solution should look elsewhere.

2015 Volkswagen eGolf Motor-001

Drivetrain

Powering the e-Golf is a 115 HP synchronous AC motor capable of delivering 199 lb-ft of torque at low RPMs. That’s 55 fewer ponies, but the same amount of torque as the regular Golf’s 1.8L turbo engine. Logically the performance is lazy when compared to the turbo Golf thanks as much to the single-speed transmission as to the added weight of the e-Golf’s battery pack. 60MPH happens in a Prius-like 10.03 seconds, about 2-seconds slower than the TSI. Because the MQB platform was designed with EVs and hybrids in mind, the large 24.2 kWh (estimated 21.1 kWh usable) battery fits entirely under the vehicle with no intrusion in the passenger compartment and little overall compromise in terms of cargo capacity.

Early reports indicated that VW was going to liquid cool the battery pack like GM does in their EVs but the production e-Golf uses a passive battery cooling system instead. VW engineers tell us that the lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide (NMC) cells from Panasonic lend themselves well to packs of this nature and it ultimately helps them reduce weight and complexity. Like most manufacturers VW will warrant the pack for 8 years and 100,000 miles against capacity drop larger than 30%. This means that your EPA range starts at 83 miles and would have to drop to around 53 miles in that window to get it repaired or replaced.

Charging is always a concern with EV shoppers so VW dropped in one of the faster chargers available (7.2kW) which can charge the battery in three hours if you have an appropriate 240V EVSE. Should you have access to one of the new SAE DC Fast Charge stations (also known as CCS), you can zip from 0-80% in under 30 minutes. On the downside, finding a CCS station proved a little tricky in the SF Bay Area where the older competing CHAdeMO standard is more common by at least 5:1. On the up-side if you can find a station it’s unlikely to be occupied since there are few vehicles on the road that support the new connector.

2015 Volkswagen eGolf Interior Gauges-001Drive

According to VW, our e-Golf tips the scales at a svelte 3,391 lbs with 701 of that coming from the battery pack. For those that are counting, that’s only 300lbs heavier than the carbon fiber and aluminum BMW i3 REx which is significantly more expensive and actually has a smaller battery and 359lbs heavier than the Golf TSI. I should also mention that the Golf also scores better in crash tests than BMW’s light weight EV. In addition to being light for an EV, the weight is more evenly distributed than in the gasoline Golf. VW has not released exact details, but the pre-production Golf EV had a perfect 50:50 weight balance and that’s likely true for the 2015 e-Golf as well.

Although VW puts 205-width low rolling resistance tires on the e-Golf, it actually handles better than the base Golf TSI. Some of that is because the TSI gets 195s in base form, but the lower center of gravity and the improved weight balance play a large role as well. This means that unlike other EV conversions, the electric Golf isn’t the least fun trim, it actually ends up middle of the pack between the base Golf and top end TSI and TDI trims. The improved balance is obvious in neutral handling where the EV plows less than the base Golf. The added weight has a positive impact on the ride which seemed a hair more refined than the TSI a dealer lent for comparison. Steering is typical modern VW: moderately firm and accurate but lacking any real feedback.

2015 Volkswagen eGolf Charging Connector

Pricing on the e-Golf initially started and ended at $35,445 due to VW’s one-trim strategy. If you qualify for the highest tax incentives available (state and local) the price drops to an effective $25,445. That’s only a hair more than a comparable gasoline model (the e-Golf SEL Premium’s feature set slots between the TSI S and TSI SE model) but higher than many of the recent mass market EVs. To solve this VW announced the arrival of the “Limited Edition” which cuts $1,995 from the price tag by de-contenting. Cloth seats replace the leatherette (I actually think that’s an upgrade), the LED headlamps are dropped and steel wheels replace the 16-inch alloys. None of those changes are a deal-breaker for me, unfortunately however the last thing on the chopping block is the heat pump. Heat pumps are much more efficient than resistive heating elements so this will mean reduced range in colder climates.

The e-Golf is less of a compromise than the 4-seat Spark and a better deal than the 4-seat i3. Nissan’s LEAF provides a little more passenger and cargo room for less, but the trade-offs include lackluster handling, fewer features and a much slower charger. When cross-shopping Fiat’s 500e you realize just how large the Golf has grown over the years. As you’d expect in a segment that is evolving this rapidly, the toughest competition is found in the other new model: the 2015 Kia Soul EV. Priced from $33,700-35,700 (before incentives) the Soul is slightly more expensive than the VW but you get considerably more for your money. The delta is most pronounced in the Soul EV + which gets real leather, cooled seats, a heated steering wheel, power folding mirrors, an 8-inch touchscreen, and about 20% more battery capacity for $225. Highlighting Kia’s deft hand at cutting the right corners, you will notice that the Soul forgoes LED headlamps, the heated windscreen and has a slightly slower charger. As impressive as the e-Golf’s curb weight is, the Soul EV manages to be a hair lighter at 3,289lbs despite the bigger battery, this weight reduction and deeper gearing allow the Soul EV to scoot to 60 one second faster. This leaves me with a split decision, the e-Golf is the better car but the Soul is the better EV with a longer range, EV focused infotainment software and niceties like the cooled seats and heated steering wheel that extend range by reducing your HVAC consumption. If VW adds a third model sporting cooled seats, real leather and drops back in the gas-Golf’s power seats, they’d have a solid alternative to the Soul EV and even the Mercedes B-Class. Just be sure to check with your tax professional before depending on those EV credits and rebates.

Volkswagen provided the vehicle, insurance and a charged battery for this review.

Specifications as tested:

0-30: 3.44 Seconds

0-60: 10.03 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 17.2 Seconds @ 82 MPH

Average Economy: 4.3 Mi/kWh

2015 Volkswagen eGolf Cargo Area.CR2 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Cargo Area 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Cargo Area1 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Charging Connector SAE CCS DC Fast Charge 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Charging Connector 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Exterior.CR2-001 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Exterior.CR2-002 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Exterior.CR2-003 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Exterior 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Exterior-001 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Exterior1 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Exterior-002 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Exterior-003 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Exterior-004 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Exterior-005 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Exterior-0011 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Exterior-0021 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Exterior-0031 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Exterior-0041 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Exterior-0051 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Interior Gauges 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Interior Gauges-001 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Interior.CR2 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Interior.CR2-001 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Interior 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Interior-001 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Interior1 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Interior-002 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Interior-003 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Interior-004 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Interior-005 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Interior-006 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Interior-007 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Interior-008 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Interior-009 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Interior-010 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Interior-0031 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Interior-0041 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Motor 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Motor-001 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Wheel.CR2

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Here’s Why an Electric Car Could Be the Best First Car http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/heres-electric-car-best-first-car/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/heres-electric-car-best-first-car/#comments Tue, 07 Apr 2015 12:37:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1039377 Across the country, thousands of high school students will be completing their sophomore year of high school. Many of them are about to turn 16. Many of them want a car. Many of them have activities like after-school sports, community service, SAT test prep, chess club, and possibly even a job. Many of them have […]

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2015 Chevrolet Spark EV

Across the country, thousands of high school students will be completing their sophomore year of high school. Many of them are about to turn 16. Many of them want a car. Many of them have activities like after-school sports, community service, SAT test prep, chess club, and possibly even a job. Many of them have parents who have become tired of driving their kids everywhere and want to spend some time towards their own pursuits. Many of those parents are worried about the costs and responsibility of their kids having a car. Many of those parents are afraid at the places their children could go without their knowledge with a car.

Well, parents of America, I have a solution: Lease an electric vehicle for your teenage son or daughter. Most parents will either hand their kids down a car or buy them something brand-new. Usually, the new car is a Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Hyundai Elantra, anything from Scion, and so on. Something safe, fuel-efficient, reasonably priced and something to take to college. A hand-me-down vehicle could be an old truck, old minivan, a 10+ year old car which gets very good fuel mileage, or maybe an old Volvo. But you have to pay for gas, insurance, maintenance (which gets seriously expensive on Volvos), as well as car payments if you buy a new car.

By the way, I stress the leasing part since some teenagers tend to move far away from their parents for college. Some of these campuses might not be car-friendly either, especially for undergraduate students. In cases like those, buying an electric vehicle probably won’t be the best option, since you might not want an extra car in the driveway that nobody is using.

Now, many of you might think it’s a bad idea to for a teenager to have a new electric car. It might be easy for them to sneak out of the house, for instance. Or it could be easy for them to sneak back into the house when it’s past curfew. It might be too expensive because you’re getting them a new car. You might believe on principle that a teenager shouldn’t have access to a new car. You might receive some criticism from your friends, neighbors, and coworkers for getting a teenager a new car. You also believe that range anxiety might not be the best thing for a teenager to handle.

However I, a 24-year-old car enthusiast whose first car was a MkV Volkswagen Jetta 2.0T (in hindsight, it shouldn’t have been), think an electric vehicle is an excellent starter car for a teenager. In that vein, I’ve come up with three reasons about why getting a teenager an electric car is a viable option.

  1. There’s actually a radius to where they can travel.

Most electric cars on the market have a range of 80 to 100 miles on a full charge. That isn’t very far, especially when traveling round-trip to the city from the suburbs. Now, as a parent, there might be range anxiety and you would hate your child to run out of battery in the middle of a busy road. But considering most electric vehicles have a range of at least 70 miles on a full charge, that’s more than enough range for a teenager’s typical day. Other than the usual drive to school and back, there’s still range for going to the mall, traveling to a friend’s house for a project, going to where they do community service, or drive to an after-school job.

For most parents, it minimizes the chances that their children will take unexpected “detours,” unless that particular destination has a quick charging station present. Some parents will complain that the “silence” of an electric vehicle will permit the kids to sneak out of the house, but unless their destination is within 15 miles round-trip, they may have some trouble getting to that full charge for the following morning. That range will also teach them responsibility when it comes to planning trips, since how they travel depends on whether they’ve charged it or not. At most, school will be 25 miles away (I actually know people who travel that far to get to high school), so the car has to be charged every night. (And in some states, electric vehicles get to travel in the HOV lane, so no more driving the school carpool!) It’ll be a bad day if he or she forgot to plug in the car. In addition, when going to activities that fall outside the daily routine, they’ll have to plan their trips and check whether there are places to charge nearby.

  1. The costs of ownership are reasonable.

Thankfully, there won’t be an extra car to add to the gasoline costs for the month. If the electric car is replacing a vehicle that could barely achieve 20 miles per gallon, leasing an electric vehicle could be more cost effective than handing down an old pickup. For example, the FIAT 500e, though available in California and Oregon only, has an advertised lease rate of $139 a month for 36 months with $1,999 down including the first lease payment and a 36,000 mile limit. Even a base model Nissan Leaf, which is more widely available, has a lease rate of $199 a month for 36 months with $2,399 due at signing including the first lease payment with a 36,000 mile limit. Without including taxes, insurance, maintenance and charging cost, that’s around $10,000 for three years of ownership of a car with a warranty and one that you can give back (with a $395 disposition fee).

Also, money is saved from all that gas you or your high school student doesn’t have to buy. Going on fueleconomy.gov, for most electric vehicles it costs under $1 to travel 25 miles. While the average 2015 vehicles gets 24 miles per gallon, on average, gas varies between $2 and $3.50, the $3+ mark being achieved thanks to California and Hawaii. The website estimates that most EV operators will spend between $500 and $600 on “fuel cost” for 15,000 miles per year.

Additionally, insurance costs tend to be less for an electric vehicle compared to a similarly priced gas vehicle. One study showed that on average driver’s saved $200 per year on insurance when they switched to electric. Considering how much a family’s car insurance shoots up when a teenage driver is added, the reduction in annual insurance premiums will be welcomed. Overall, if it comes to less than $5,000 a year to have your teenager driving, getting an electric vehicle might be a good car.

  1. Electric vehicles are safe.

No, I’m not thinking of the Tesla Model S and its exceptional crash test rating when I wrote the above. Electric vehicles like the Spark EV and Focus Electric are Top Safety Picks by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety. The Leaf and 500e, which will undoubtedly be considered, don’t achieve that distinction due to their “Poor” rating in the small overlap front crash test. (But from 2013-2014 the Leaf was a Top Safety Pick before inclusion of the front overlap crash test.) However, electric vehicles are just as safe as normal new vehicles that are popular with teenagers such as the Toyota Corolla, Hyundai Accent, Chevrolet Sonic, Audi A4, and the Scion xD or xB.

Compare that to a 10+ year-old hand-me-down Accord, Maxima, or Jeep, which probably don’t come close to 2015 safety standards. Moreover, when the speed question comes up, most electric vehicles have a difficult time staying above 80 miles per hour, and even then, staying at those speeds quickly depletes the battery. As a result, there’s an incentive to stay at reasonable speeds. Leasing an electric vehicle means you won’t take a big hit if the car is totaled, too. Most lease agreements should have gap insurance (and seriously, ensure you have the gap coverage when leasing the car) for making up the difference in value that the insurance company will pay out.

So there you have it. The answers to most of your concerns of giving a car to your teenager. They’ll probably stay within 50 miles of the house or face being stranded. After all, most teenagers don’t have to drive over 100 miles a day over 90% of the time. They’ll learn responsibility in planning their trips. It could be the most cost effective solution at a cost of under $5,000 a year. And most importantly for parents, they’ll be safe if they get into an accident. And while the only detriment is that they could sneak out of the house, you know they won’t get far. Sometimes range anxiety helps.

Satish Kondapavulur is a writer for Clunkerture, where about a fifth of the articles are about old cars and where his one-time LeMons racing dreams came to an end once he realized it was impossible to run a Ferrari Mondial. If his first car had been electric, he’s fairly certain he would’ve created an autocross course from the streets in his neighborhood.  

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Capsule Review: Chevrolet Spark EV http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/capsule-review-chevrolet-spark-ev/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/capsule-review-chevrolet-spark-ev/#comments Thu, 02 Apr 2015 14:00:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1034073 There comes a moment when it’s time to try something new. Like switching to an iPhone after using a Nexus and promptly learning that the iPhone can bend. Or wearing a mechanical watch rather than a quartz watch, only for it to stop ticking after it was on a nightstand for the weekend. Moving to […]

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There comes a moment when it’s time to try something new. Like switching to an iPhone after using a Nexus and promptly learning that the iPhone can bend. Or wearing a mechanical watch rather than a quartz watch, only for it to stop ticking after it was on a nightstand for the weekend. Moving to a house from an apartment and dealing with the perils of home ownership, such as property taxes, having to clean gutters, and the inability to have the building manager fix the broken kitchen faucet. My trying something new involved testing an electric vehicle for a week.

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After all, I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, home to Tesla Motors and ZAP (the hard-core TTAC B&B should know them; there’s even a road test on here of their cars from way back when), and home to dinner parties with prolonged debates about whether electric car ownership is worthwhile. “What if you’re coming home from work and you forgot your phone? You’ll run out of charge retrieving the phone and then there’s no way of getting home.” an attendee might say, while his counterpart might reply, “Well, I’ve saved hundreds of dollars on gas and I haven’t had to visit a gas station. And are these chips and dip vegan?” Since I get asked the electric car question a lot as the “car guy” among my friends, I decided once and for all to test an electric car.

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To live out my electric car experience, Chevrolet had a Spark EV available in the Northern California press fleet, which was delivered to me with 301 miles on the odometer. 55 of those miles involved delivering the car to my driveway from the press car place. So I was effectively testing a brand-new car. Additionally, it should be noted at this point of the review that most of the country cannot buy the Spark EV. It’s only sold in California and Oregon, where the metropolitan areas tend to have a more developed electric vehicle infrastructure. As a result, this review applies to less than fifteen percent of the population, so those of you not within a 10-hour drive of San Francisco don’t have to care as much.

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The first thing I did when I got the Spark was test the performance of the car using the 22 miles of range it arrived with. Its performance was surprisingly good thanks to the torque from the electric motor. It could go from 0-60 miles per hour in around seven seconds, which is on par with most six-cylinder midsize sedans. Chevrolet also got the suspension tuning very right, making the Spark quite fun to drive at low speeds. There’s even a “Sport” button which sharpens up throttle response. With this car, it’s actually possible to create an autocross course around your housing development, and have actual fun doing it, without waking up the neighbors. Just make sure there isn’t too much tire squeal.

Secondly, since spirited driving tends to use up much of the battery, I needed to ensure I could charge it at home. Now, to make electric car ownership worthwhile, it helps to have a 240V outlet in your home to ensure your electric vehicle charges faster. Usually, an electric car can go from empty to fully-charged in one night (usually within 8 hours) with the 240V setup. Thankfully I had the means to “improvise” a home charging facility for the Spark with the 120V outlet that came with the Spark. However, most homes have 120V outlets, which is what my house had. With a 120V setup, it usually takes about 12 to 18 hours to go from empty to a full charge.

Regarding styling, the Spark EV more or less looks like any other Chevy Spark on the road. For me, that’s not necessarily a good thing, as many people will believe your car is a lot cheaper than it actually is. Most people will also believe that you’ll be driving a rental car. I had the fortune to have a Jaguar XF Sport in the driveway before I got the Spark EV, and most of my neighbors did a double take when passing by and noticing the red Spark in place of the XF. Personally, I don’t think homeowners’ associations will tolerate a Spark EV in the driveway.

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Inside, the Spark is airy and has plenty of visibility. It is a narrow car though, with the potential to rub shoulders with your front passenger and the rear seat only accommodating two people, but there is plenty of headroom. The trunk only has enough space for two airplane carry-ons. My test car had the “leatherette” (I consider it vinyl) seats that I didn’t like, largely because of how the material felt and I didn’t like sitting in them after the car had been out in the sun. Personally, I’d try to get cloth seats, but that involves “downgrading” to the 1LT trim level for around $400 less, though the steering wheel won’t be leather-wrapped.

On the highway, the Spark had no trouble keeping up with other cars or getting up to speed quickly. However, you will definitely hear the road noise at speeds above 45 mph. If you’re driving on the highway in periods of low traffic with speeds of 65 to 70 miles per hour, you will hate being in the car. I tried to turn up the stereo to compensate for all that road noise, but it didn’t help things and added to the noise pollution. As a result, the Spark EV is a car you’ll prefer in traffic jams and off-highway environments.

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I have to admit I didn’t use OnStar with the car (the OnStar Turn-by-Turn navigation is free for 3 years), so I don’t know if it’s a viable alternative to an actual navigation system. To get navigation maps projected onto the dashboard screen, Chevrolet MyLink can connect to your smartphone and garner the necessary information using the BringGo app. Downloading and installing the app on my smartphone would have been $50 so I didn’t try it out.

As for the money saved on fuel costs by buying the Spark, the car’s Monroney sticker states that it’s possible to save $8,500 in fuel costs over 5 years compared to the average new vehicle which gets 24 mpg and costs $11,000 to fuel over five years. The $8,500 figure comes from driving 15,000 miles per year at 12 cents per kilowatt-hour. On the other hand, when researching potential cost savings on FuelEconomy.gov, the website gives me an estimate of $5,250 saved over five years, but that’s based on “45% highway, 55% city driving, 15,000 annual miles and current fuel prices.” I’m assuming the Monroney value estimates the price of gas becoming higher with time while the FuelEconomy.gov number tends to fluctuate. But only you can estimate how much money you can save based on your driving habits and knowledge of local charging stations.

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When I had to ensure the Spark had a full battery, I fully charged the Spark EV at my house twice during the week I had it, and the electric bill only went up $10 compared to the same period last year. I’m not quite sure if the Spark contributed the extra money to the electric bill, but I did charge it during peak usage hours once, which may have contributed to the total. Also, many of my local hangouts had charging stations where I could park and charge the car for free for a limit of 2 or 3 hours. As a result, I largely didn’t have to pay for the car’s electricity when running errands. (On a side note, the Plugshare app came in handy when finding charging stations.)

Also, my test car had the “fast provisions” charging capability option, it enables the Spark EV to recharge 80 percent of the battery within 20 minutes utilizing the SAE Combo DC fast charging stations. Unfortunately, there were no SAE Combo DC fast chargers near me to sample. Nevertheless, having one of these nearby will help tremendously with range anxiety, especially if your daily commute is more than 60 miles round-trip.

The MSRP of my test car was $28,785 (before the $7,500 tax credit), with the sole option being the $750 “fast provisions” charging capability and an $825 destination charge. It also includes two years of maintenance. At that price point, Nissan has the Leaf which starts at $29,860 including destination, Ford has the Focus EV at $29,995 with destination, and FIAT’s 500e at $31,800. With the $7,500 federal tax credit and a California tax credit of $2,500, the Spark EV can easily come in below $20,000. (Unfortunately, Oregon doesn’t offer an electric vehicle tax credit.) Furthermore, the Spark EV’s lease rates are reasonable and close to the lease rates of the aforementioned electric vehicles, though their advertised leases are for 36,000 miles. On Chevrolet’s website, the current offer is $176 a month (plus taxes and fees) with $0 due at signing for a 3 year, 30,000 mile lease.

All in all, if you’re among the fifteen percent of the American population considering the Spark EV, I would advise buying it as strictly a commuting and errands car. It would make the perfect second or third vehicle if fuel costs are getting out of hand, you drive around 50 miles every day, and you would like to minimize trips to the gas station. With its $176 per month lease deal with $0 due at signing, the Spark EV is worth thinking about if considering a Leaf, the lease rate of which doesn’t come close. Even if you plan to buy an electric car, the Spark is a good candidate as the net price can go below $20,000 with the federal and California tax rebates.

And if you don’t live in California and Oregon and you’re still considering the Spark, come to nice and sunny California and make a vacation out of test driving the Spark EV. Though be wary of any dinner party invites you come across if you tell people your reason for visiting California. The menu has a good chance of being completely vegan.

Satish Kondapavulur is a writer for Clunkerture, where about a fifth of the articles are about old cars and where his one-time LeMons racing dreams came to an end once he realized it was impossible to run a Ferrari Mondial. He also learned that it’s surprisingly easy to sneak up behind people in an electric car, especially cyclists. 

 

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

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

 

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

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

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Construction

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

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

2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior Turn Signal

Exterior

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

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

2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Interior Seats Doors Open

Interior

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

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

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

2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Instrument Cluster

Drivetrain

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

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

Battery Flow

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

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

2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Shifter

Drive

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

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

BMW i3 One Pedal Operation Concept Brake Neutral Go

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

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

2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Instrument Cluster-001

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

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

2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Interior Dashboard

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

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

 Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.0 Seconds

0-60: 7.0 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 15.5 Seconds @ 86 MPH

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

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Morgan Stanley’s Equity Research Clickbait “Tesla Stock Could Go Up 10x…Or Get Cut In Half” http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/morgan-stanleys-equity-research-clickbait-tesla-stock-go-10x-get-cut-half/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/morgan-stanleys-equity-research-clickbait-tesla-stock-go-10x-get-cut-half/#comments Fri, 20 Mar 2015 14:08:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1025913 Thursday was a gift from the blogger gods for anyone slaving away at $25/post plus traffic-related bonuses. Rather than having to cook up clickbait headlines on Tesla, the equity research arm of Morgan Stanley did it for them. In a video released to the public, MS made the typical hyperbolic case about Tesla, which mostly […]

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Black Tesla Model S

Thursday was a gift from the blogger gods for anyone slaving away at $25/post plus traffic-related bonuses. Rather than having to cook up clickbait headlines on Tesla, the equity research arm of Morgan Stanley did it for them.

In a video released to the public, MS made the typical hyperbolic case about Tesla, which mostly focuses on how cool Elon Musk is and how much they’d like to sit at his lunch table in the cafeteria. The voiceover asserts that Tesla is the only company they cover that could see its stock rise ten times…but, they caution, it could also be cut in half.

Well, which one is it? MS should know, given that they helped underwrite Tesla’s IPO, and one of their debt offerings, and have written countless notes breathlessly praising the company.

I am not a CFA charterholder and the following is not intended as investment advice. But I do know that this is a company that consistently over-promises and under-delivers, that markets a six-figure car that doesn’t even have Lane Departure, Forward Collision Warning or any other feature that would be mandatory in a traditional auto maker’s flagship, that has yet to turn a profit despite a $25 billion market cap, that loses money on every single Model S and has no revenue stream except for a shaky ZEV credit sales scheme, the value of which will be cut from roughly $4,000 per credit to a little over $1,000 per credit by 2017. If Tesla doesn’t get their mass market Model 3 out by then, they’re in big trouble. We haven’t even seen the long promised Model X yet, so it’s not looking good. Until then, they are nothing more than taxpayer subsidized playthings for the 1 percent.

Oh, and that long awaited announcement about ending range anxiety? Turns out it was a “trip planner” that plots charging points on your GPS screen. Nissan introduced that on the Leaf half a decade ago. Somehow, Elon Musk gets a pass for being some brilliant visionary when his accomplishments so far have been 1) the greatest Svengali the automotive world has ever seen 2) inventing an online payment method that half the world seems to despise. But as long as the tech press can keep living vicariously through him, he’ll be fine.

My own call for Tesla is “sell” with a price target of $0, based on their inability to generate sustainable revenue streams, the constant delays in product development, the obfuscation of key data and concerns regarding company management. Unfortunately, even the activist investors have been swayed by the relentless hype. Where’s Bill Ackman when you need him?

Disclosure: Author holds no position in Tesla but is long the entire S&P 500 via index funds.

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Review: Revenge Of The Electric Car http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/review-revenge-electric-car/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/review-revenge-electric-car/#comments Sun, 15 Feb 2015 14:15:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=996770 Living in Northern California, electric cars are a common sight – all you have to do is look in the left lane. There are numerous Tesla Model S’s, Nissan Leafs, and the occasional Ford Focus or Chevrolet Spark EV. Plug-in hybrids like the Chevy Volt, Ford Fusion and C-MAX Energi, and the Prius hybrid can be […]

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gm_ev1

Living in Northern California, electric cars are a common sight – all you have to do is look in the left lane. There are numerous Tesla Model S’s, Nissan Leafs, and the occasional Ford Focus or Chevrolet Spark EV. Plug-in hybrids like the Chevy Volt, Ford Fusion and C-MAX Energi, and the Prius hybrid can be seen every day. BMW is planning on releasing plug-in hybrids of its core models like the 3-Series and the X5 in 2016. Four years ago, that wasn’t the case.

Back in 2011, when the documentary Revenge of the Electric Car was released, Tesla was attempting to sell the last of their Roadsters and the Model S was still a prototype. The Volt and Leaf were about to go on sale in electric car-friendly states (like California). Gas was never below $3 a gallon that year. In 2015, there are at least 15 electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles with more on the way. Tesla is worth billions of dollars, even though it sells only one car, the Model S which in the documentary then-Jalopnik editor-in-chief Ray Wert refers to as “vaporware.” Today, gas is less than $2.50 in California.

In the Revenge of the Electric Car, director Chris Paine creates a follow-up documentary to 2006’s Who Killed the Electric Car?, which focused primarily on the mothballing of General Motors’ EV1 and investigating the reasoning behind automakers’ investing less money in electric vehicles. Paine wants to explore why large automakers like GM and Nissan are placing large bets on electric as well as find out what’s driving Tesla as well as an individual working out of a small warehouse to play in the electric vehicle market.

From 2007, the documentary follows three people who are leading the push into electric cars, Bob Lutz, Carlos Ghosn, Elon Musk, and Greg Abbott. Bob Lutz and Carlos Ghosn are portrayed as “The Man” at the world’s largest automakers, who are putting their jobs on the line in order to create electric car models. Elon Musk is illustrated as the visionary Silicon Valley CEO who is ‘disrupting’ the auto industry with his electric sports cars. Greg Abbott is the hippie who runs a cottage-industry business installing electric powertrains in classic cars, with an electrified Porsche 356 Speedster serving as a showcase of his skills.

The documentary emphasizes that building an electric vehicle is a difficult task that involves plenty of money and other resources. Bob Lutz discusses the effort he put in to get GM executives to green-light the Volt into production as GM lost plenty of money on the EV1 project. Ghosn extols the virtues of the Leaf’s affordability and mass-market appeal rather than discussing the possibilities of the project going sour. Musk expresses his views on how Tesla is the car company of the future. Abbott stresses that his electric cars are the best for the environment since he puts electric powertrains into existing cars. But none of these men know when they talk about these subjects about whether their bets would pay off.

Paine shows that not everything goes smoothly. In the case of Tesla, the documentary shows a warehouse full of Roadsters with defects that range from defective powertrains to dents on the cars’ bodies during shipping. There are meetings where Musk has to address Tesla’s cash flow problems. In GM’s case, the Volt needs to go for extra aerodynamic testing even though it debuted at GM’s 100th anniversary celebration. It also didn’t help that GM was being bailed out in 2008 and had to answer to Congress and government representatives. Abbott’s warehouse for his electric cars is burned down and his equipment is uninsured.

By 2011, when the documentary was released, Tesla had received its $400+ million loan from the Department of Energy. The Volt and Leaf were on sale and customers were just learning about their technology. Greg Abbott had finally found a place to rebuild his electric-vehicle conversion shop. Numerous other automakers such as BMW and Toyota were readying their electric vehicles. Gasoline prices weren’t seeming to go down anytime soon, and the federal and state incentives for electric vehicles were increasing. Meanwhile, America’s electrical grid was progressively turning to alternative sources of energy, making the operation of an electric vehicle cleaner. America largely knew the electric car was making a comeback.

It must be written that TTAC doesn’t come off well in Revenge of the Electric Car. During the time this documentary was being made, TTAC editor-in-chief Robert Farago was writing his “Tesla Death Watch” series of posts, screen caps of which appeared in the documentary while describing Tesla’s troubles. Though Tesla Motors was teetering on the brink when Robert Farago was writing his posts (and it took a loan from Daimler to keep Tesla afloat), the “Tesla Death Watch” comes off as shortsighted. When Paine films Musk’s reaction to Tesla’s initial public offering, Musk specifically references the “Tesla Death Watch” posts and says the people writing those posts will have to wait longer.

In my opinion, if there’s any individual who comes off as an electric car visionary, it’s Carlos Ghosn, not Elon Musk. From the start of the documentary, he seems very confident about the Leaf, allowing the film crew to shadow him to important meetings and discussions. In one conversation, he dismisses Mitsubishi’s i-MIEV, saying that it’s too expensive and won’t sell. At the 2009 Tokyo Motor Show, he evaluates other companies’ approach to electric vehicles and allows the press to hear his opinions on them. Even his answers to the press come off much better than those of Elon Musk in the documentary, when asked about the sales potential of the Leaf.

If you watch the documentary, most people who follow the automotive industry won’t be fazed by the content exhibited. Considering that GM did not go out of business, that Tesla did not fail, that the Leaf is on sale, and Greg Abbott still has his electric Speedster, and more than 20 electric and plug-in vehicles on the market, we know the electric car worked out fine. Left lanes across California during rush hour are full of them. But you should watch Revenge of the Electric Car (it’s on Netflix right now) as it illuminates the challenges endured by manufacturers to get electric vehicles onto the market. You’ll see firsthand the amount of stress, sweat, and anxiety that went into creating today’s electric vehicles.

Satish Kondapavulur is a writer for Clunkerture, where about a fifth of the articles are about old cars and where his one-time LeMons racing dreams came to an end, once he realized it was impossible to run a Ferrari Mondial. He still hasn’t driven a Nissan Leaf, despite his neighborhood being full of them.

 

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Comparison: 2013 Tesla P85 vs. 2015 Tesla P85D http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/comparison-2013-tesla-p85-vs-2015-tesla-p85d/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/comparison-2013-tesla-p85-vs-2015-tesla-p85d/#comments Tue, 10 Feb 2015 17:32:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=995426 I’ve got a buddy who was once a titan of industry, a computer geek in the C-suite who never forgot his roots. Let’s call him Professor Zorkmid. He never needs to work another day in his life, but he enjoys hanging out with students, telling grand tales of his adventures in the Great Underground Empire, […]

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Tesla charging

I’ve got a buddy who was once a titan of industry, a computer geek in the C-suite who never forgot his roots. Let’s call him Professor Zorkmid. He never needs to work another day in his life, but he enjoys hanging out with students, telling grand tales of his adventures in the Great Underground Empire, swinging his sword at trolls and making his way through the maze of twisty corporate passages, all alike.

Two years ago, Zorkmid was planning to upgrade his C6 Corvette Convertible to a C7, but then he developed a fancy for the Tesla. Being a rational fellow, he developed spreadsheets with detailed cost models, agonizing over whether it was worth the extra bump for the P85+ (a tighter sport suspension on crappy Houston roads?), the larger 21″ wheels (more opportunity for curb rash?), or the panoramic glass roof (versus the pounding summer heat). The catalyst for him was the August 2013 refresh, when Tesla added parking sensors and made a handful of other small tweaks to the car. He took delivery later on in the year, and fell in love with the car.

Fast forward to the recent announcement of the P85D and Tesla’s various “AutoPilot” features. Zorkmid was sitting in my office, going back and forth about the relative costs and benefits of the new P85D. The extra performance? Certainly desirable. The extra features like the AutoPilot? Seriously beneficial for his commute to campus from his white house, out in a distant field. Sure, it’s got the latest Frobozz technologies, but are you willing to eat the first-year depreciation? He had to think about that. Because if you want to sell it, I might want to buy it. And that’s what leads us to this TTAC exclusive comparison of two Teslas.

Two Teslas (front)

First, since everybody else is writing articles about the 0-60 launch of the P85D, I thought it would be worth chiming in. Yes it’s fast. Yes it’s brutally fast. And if you’re faced with the choice between the 2015 S85(-D or not) and the 2015 P85D (they got rid of the P85 non-D), then that extra oomph is going to be a big selling point, assuming price is no object. If your budget however, like mine, is finite, I highly recommend you find yourself another Zorkmid willing to eat the first-year depreciation, because the regular P85 is still very, very fast, and one of them can be yours for 80% of the original sale price.

This is the place where the buff books would start waxing poetic about the “well-controlled oversteer driving at 9/10ths into an off-camber sweeper” and other such nonsense. I’m totally unqualified to write that sort of prose, but hopefully we’ll be able to get Jack Baruth down here at some point to do the honors. Instead, once I’ve had the car long enough, I hope to bring to TTAC discussions with data. Kilowatt-hours. Operating costs. Integration with SpaceX’s Merlin engines. That sort of thing.

Tesla AutoPilot cruise control

Tesla rolls out its new software to all of its cars, which is a great thing, but old cars don’t get new hardware features. Here’s a dashboard photo showing several new things that require the AutoPilot hardware. You can see that the Tesla’s forward-facing camera recognized a speed limit sign and displayed it front-and-center for a few seconds. That eventually goes away, but notice where the blue arc on the left turns grey? That indicates how much you’re going above the posted speed. Likewise, if you’ve got the adaptive cruise control on and something gets in your way, there’s a line left behind so you know where the car’s going to accelerate to if and when the slowpoke in front of you gets out of the way. Tesla has also implemented a lane departure warning feature (it makes an unhappy buzz at you if you drift toward the lane lines without signaling), but the real “auto pilot” goodness is still to come in some future update at an unspecified time.

Tesla 19" wheels

Aside from the rear badge, there isn’t much to help you tell these cars apart from the outside. Zorkmid’s new car (on the right) has the “turbine” wheels (which might improve mileage by a tiny percentage) and red brake calipers (whoopie!). Mine, on the left, has curb rash (my fault, not his). Okay, that’s fine and all, but what are all the other differences between these cars? Ever wonder how Tesla has improved all the little details in the past two years? Here we go. Cue the split-screen graphics. (Click for larger versions.)

Tesla turn signals

In 2013, Tesla had the cruise control stalk on top and the turn signal stalk below. This messed me up for a few weeks but I’m used to it now. They fixed this in their newer cars, which has of course caused Zorkmid no end of cognitive dissonance.

Tesla front seats

The new Tesla “sport” seats have noticeably larger side bolsters. They feel great. The old ones are fine as well, although other reviewers have complained about them. If you’re seriously planning to track your car, then yeah, you want the sport seats, but you can totally live your life without them.

Tesla rear seats

But the rear seats? Oy vey. Those overstuffed bolster bumps aren’t going to help in any meaningful way if you’re hauling ass, but they’re sure going to be annoying if you’re trying to get a slightly oversized kid booster seat to fit in the back. Still, can you live with it? Maybe, but here’s the bigger problem with the new rear seats:

Tesla rear visibility

Those new rear seats chew up a ton of the space in your rear view mirror, and the headrests don’t fold down. Apparently this is also true for the “version 2″ regular seats, whereas I apparently have the “version 1″ regular seats. I’m sure there’s a safety reason for the huge headrests, but unless Tesla implements the Volvo flip-down thing, there’s a safety cost now, with the rearview mirror giving you a lot less information. So maybe you think this is just micro nit-picking? Isn’t that what TTAC is all about? Anyway, here’s another interesting point of comparison.

Tesla interior roof

Zorkmid originally got the solid roof (paying extra for the Alcantara headliner) but he decided to spring for the glass roof on his new ride. This photo gives you an idea of just how much tinting is included with the roof, but the jury’s still out on how much extra heat the car will accumulate on hot summer days. While I’m here, I’ll also call your attention to the seat belts. Notice anything missing? Yup, you can’t adjust the shoulder height. I was really hoping they’d have fixed this in the 2015 so I could somehow retrofit it to my 2013. Alas, my seatbelt will continue to not fit quite right.

Tesla window controls

Diving deeper into the minutae, you might notice that the newer Teslas have a new mirror button. This lets you fold the mirrors in with the push of the button. They’ll even automatically fold when you turn the car off. There’s no such feature on my 2013 mirrors, which can at least be manually flipped in and out; a retrofit is apparently available if you really want it. (Another cool trick of the newest Tesla: the battery charging door will automatically close itself after you remove the charger cable.)

Tesla center console decking

Tesla apparently decided to make the formerly optional “yacht decking” between the front seats into a standard feature. Zorkmid prefers the carpeted deck in my car. I can see the style benefits of the new approach, but my real problem is that there’s precisely one enclosed storage location: the glove compartment. That’s it. The big center console doesn’t open. There are no map pockets (okay, a tiny pocket on the front-edge of the driver’s seat on my 2013, gone from the new 2015). My daughter even complained that there’s nowhere to in the back seat to store her stuff. I will note, for the sake of journalistic completion, that Tesla does offer an “executive rear seating” option. That replaces the three-across rear bench with two nice bucket seats and an arm-rest (with enclosed compartment!) between.

Tesla dash cover

This shot shows you the wood dash versus the carbon fiber dash. I think they’re both very attractive, but I’m not sure I would have been willing to pay extra for either of them. You’ll also notice that Tesla changed one of the leather dashboard panels to be fuzzy Alcantara instead. Either way, you don’t want to leave this car out in the heat on a daily basis. My old BMW Z3 had a leather-wrapped dashboard that had to be repaired three times in the seven years I owned it, since I had to park it in the hot sun every day and the leather eventually shrank and pulled up from the edges. (And yes, I used a sun shield on the front window and I garaged it at night.) I’m now paying extra to park my car in an underground lot, so I can avoid spending the money on replacing my Tesla’s dashboard later on. This works for me, but it’s not an option for everybody.

Tesla frunks

Moving on, here’s a view of the “frunk” of the two Teslas. You’ll notice that the front motor and its associated machinery render the frunk into more of a curiosity than a functional storage space. With RWD comes a much bigger frunk. That said, you’re not going to use the frunk on a daily basis on either car, largely because they really blew it on the way the frunk latches.

Tesla frunk latch

The old latch is exceptionally finicky. You have to mostly close the frunk, slowly and carefully, then place one palm on each side and apply a solid push. You get a really unpleasant sound and the frunk latches. (Apparently, many owners trying to slam it shut, like you’d do for every other car hood in the history of car hoods, would sometimes miss the latch point and deform the aluminum hood — an expensive mistake.) For the newer Tesla, they replaced the two hooks with one, which does yield a smoother latch action, but it’s still not something you’re going to want to slam shut. Hopefully they’ll eventually make it a push-button motorized thing, just like the tailgate.

Tesla sunshade vanity mirrors

Lastly, I want to point out some of the dumb things that make you think “surely there’s an automotive supplier who can do this properly for an entirely modest amount of money”. Our first example is the vanity mirror cover. On the right, you might notice the right hinge is busted. Zorkmid reports it’s already been replaced once. They’re broken like this on both sides despite very infrequent use. This repair will be on the list for my next scheduled maintenance. On the left, you can see a modest redesign of the hinge mechanism. Maybe it’s better now? I hope so. Also, there’s this:

Tesla key

The Tesla keyfob normally stays in your pocket, but you want to keep it on your keychain, right? On the right, you can see how I solved this problem: with a cheap plastic tie-wrap. You can’t otherwise thread a standard metal keyring through the hole in a Tesla keyfob. Newer Teslas include the leather keyfob pouch, on the left, and there are a variety of third-party pouches as well. But really, a keyfob you can’t put on a standard keyring?

Summarizing things: the 2015 Tesla P85D is a stupendously fast and fun car. If you’ve got the bucks and you’re ready to spend them, fire away! If you don’t have the bucks, there are a whole bunch of Tesla early adopters looking to upgrade. So long as you don’t feel you need the newest features, now’s the time to be gunning for a used P85.

I’ve been trying to understand why Tesla doesn’t offer the P85 (non-D) any more, since there’s a pretty big hole in their product line between the S85/S85D and the P85D. My theory: “soak the rich”. Tesla is steering buyers like Zorkmid toward their highest-dollar highest-spec car. Assuming they’re running the production line flat out, why not use it to make the variant that generates the most profit, never mind the most buzz in the news with its outrageous performance? If/when demand softens on the P85D, they can always reintroduce the P85 RWD version.

Side note: When you own a fast Tesla, all your friends want to experience the launch. My daughter and her friends (9-10 years old) all love it. My daughter even once asked me, “daddy, why don’t you do that more often?” Anybody who’s concerned that the children of the future won’t care about fast cars because they’ll instead be glued to their brain-implanted smartphones while droning around in 25mph self-driving Googlemobiles… Don’t worry. Teenagers will definitely continue to be attracted to fast cars. Which reminds me… Dear Mr. Musk: I’ll still have this Tesla when it’s time for my daughter to get her driver’s license. I’d like a software hack please to “detune” it so she doesn’t do anything too stupid. (Ditto for those evil joyriding car valets.)

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New 200-Mile Chevrolet Bolt CUV To Debut At NAIAS http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/new-200-mile-chevrolet-bolt-to-debut-at-naias/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/new-200-mile-chevrolet-bolt-to-debut-at-naias/#comments Sat, 10 Jan 2015 05:04:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=975161 TTAC was the first to report on a new 200-mile EV being developed by GM, based on the Chevrolet Sonic. This low volume model, said to be a compliance car, is getting closer to reality, with the Wall Street Journal  reporting that a concept version will debut at Monday’s Detroit Auto Show – though according to […]

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TTAC was the first to report on a new 200-mile EV being developed by GM, based on the Chevrolet Sonic. This low volume model, said to be a compliance car, is getting closer to reality, with the Wall Street Journal  reporting that a concept version will debut at Monday’s Detroit Auto Show – though according to the WSJ, plans have changed.

The model will apparently be dubbed the Chevrolet Bolt, and be designed as a competitor to Tesla’s upcoming volume EV. The Bolt will apparently not be an “economy car” per the WSJ, but a crossover-like vehicle big enough to carry a family of four, but smaller than a Model S. The battery will still be built at the LG Chem plant as previously reported. A crossover-style Volt has previously been shown, but this would be a pure EV vehicle. Mules based on the Orlando have been spotted testing, giving further weight to the rumors.

While there’s no word on whether the vehicle will still be made in the United States, doing so would allow GM to claim regulatory credits for building such a vehicle in a domestic plant, something that will help them offset vast sales of trucks and SUVs.

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Question Of The Day, Grandma Edition: Why Are EVs So Odd Looking? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/question-day-grandma-edition-evs-odd-looking/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/question-day-grandma-edition-evs-odd-looking/#comments Mon, 05 Jan 2015 16:46:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=971530 Today’s QOTD comes from Grandma, who is on vacation in Florida. Grandma writes: i have a a chevy sonic rental.  i parked it, it is so small it was a breeze   lots of 2014 mercedes sitting in dealer lots here.  saw 2 bmw electric cars.  the back lights look like the kia soul.  it […]

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Today’s QOTD comes from Grandma, who is on vacation in Florida. Grandma writes:

i have a a chevy sonic rental.  i parked it, it is so small it was a breeze   lots of 2014 mercedes sitting in dealer lots here.  saw 2 bmw electric cars.  the back lights look like the kia soul.  it looks cute, but none of the beemer [sic] sophistication.  don’t know why they have to make electric cars look so quirky.
Upon further questioning, it appears Grandma was asking about the BMW i3. Sixt is now renting out the i3 in the South Florida area, complete with burnt orange paint and giant Sixt logos. I didn’t really have a good answer for her, other than “people want to be seen driving an electric car”. In her mind, a Bimmer is still something you buy to show that you’ve “arrived” – but it’s not as good as a “Jag-you-are”.

 

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Chart Of The Day: ExxonMobil Predicts Long Reign For The Internal Combustion Engine http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/chart-day-exxonmobil-predicts-long-reign-internal-combustion-engine/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/chart-day-exxonmobil-predicts-long-reign-internal-combustion-engine/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 15:38:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=962202 The next 25 years of automotive powertrain technology belongs to the internal combustion engine, according to oil & gas giant ExxonMobil. While many will dismiss this as the wishful thinking of an industrial dinosaur, it’s worth remembering that 25 years isn’t that long of a timeframe in the automotive world. As we speak, automakers are already […]

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The next 25 years of automotive powertrain technology belongs to the internal combustion engine, according to oil & gas giant ExxonMobil. While many will dismiss this as the wishful thinking of an industrial dinosaur, it’s worth remembering that 25 years isn’t that long of a timeframe in the automotive world.

As we speak, automakers are already planning for what products will be on the market within the next decade. As it stands now, they must meet increasingly stringent emissions targets in the United States and the European union by 2025, in the form of both CAFE and the next round of Euro regulations that call for a fleet average of 95 grams of CO2 per kilometer (for comparison, a Toyota Prius emits about 100 grams per km).

One way of meeting this target is through the use of hybrid technology – a sector that ExxonMobil sees as making rapid, substantial gains over the years. At this point, every single OEM has some kind of hybrid technology that can be adapted to their volume models in a way that is efficient in terms of both packaging and cost. This is sure to be the case for plug-in hybrid technology as well.

The zero-emissions front is substantially more fraught. The battle between battery electric vehicles (BEV) and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles has barely begun, but supporters of the two camps are already locked into a Betamax vs. VHS style conflict. As it stands, there is minimal infrastructure for both systems, and a combination of low oil prices and consumer skepticism is likely to stall its growth for the foreseeable future. And while BEVs technically have a head start on hydrogen, their market share is, in real terms, negligible.

In 2013, BEVs had a market share of just 0.28 percent, or about 260,000 units. Even the relatively scarce plug-in hybrid segment managed to best pure electrics, with 0.31 percent of the new car market. Only in Norway, where BEVs receive heavy subsidies in the form of tax breaks, have electric cars made any real headway, and even then, they have barely cracked 6 percent.

While tales of daring and disruption and averting cataclysmic climate change make for great headlines, the reality is that technological progress, especially in the automotive sector, moves at a much more gradual pace – otherwise, we’d likely have seen a major breakthrough in EV battery technology by now, one that would allow for significant range and negligible refueling times. Utopian visions of a fleet of silent, zero-emissions vehicles are just that. Instead, we are likely to see a proliferation of hybrid technology throughout new model lineups – and much of this will likely be driven by regulatory inputs, as a means of helping vehicles meet government mandated fuel economy targets, even if consumers don’t necessarily care.

Advances in the internal combustion engine are also on the horizon. Homogenous Charge Compression Ignition (HCCI) engines, which allow for diesel-like combustion while running on gasoline, are expected to debut on Mazda cars by 2020. Mazda claims that they will provide a 30 percent fuel economy boost, while significantly lowering emissions. Between HCCI, increasingly cleaner diesel engines and incremental improvements to traditional engines, the ICE powertrains are likely to be ubiquitous due to their familiarity and what is sure to be a cost advantage. Barring any major, prolonged spike in energy prices or a wholesale shift in attitudes towards climate change and the environment, dollars and cents (not to mention sheer convenience) will remain the primary motivating factor in new car purchases. And that means that the internal combustion engine is well placed to continue its dominance through the next quarter century.

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Junkyard Find: Electric-Powered 1988 Ford Ranger Custom http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/junkyard-find-electric-powered-1988-ford-ranger-custom/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/junkyard-find-electric-powered-1988-ford-ranger-custom/#comments Fri, 10 Oct 2014 13:00:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=926825 I’ve just driven a couple of modern electric cars, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV and the Tesla Model S, and they’re real cars. Actually, the i-MiEV is a perfectly serviceable short-distance commuter and the Model S is the best street car I’ve ever driven, but I was ready to hate both of them a lot, because all […]

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15 - Electric 1988 Ford Ranger Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinI’ve just driven a couple of modern electric cars, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV and the Tesla Model S, and they’re real cars. Actually, the i-MiEV is a perfectly serviceable short-distance commuter and the Model S is the best street car I’ve ever driven, but I was ready to hate both of them a lot, because all my previous experience with EVs had involved growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1970s and hearing a lot of eat-yer-vegetables talk from earnest green types about how electric cars are good for you, when in fact those cars sucked stringwart-covered pangolin nodules. Then, of course, there are all the flake-O electric conversions from the 1980-2000 era that I’ve seen, a fair number of which appear in self-service wrecking yards as long-abandoned EV conversions are towed out of back yards and driveways. In this series, we’ve seen this EVolve Electrics 1995 Geo Metro and this 1988 Chevrolet Sprint Electric Sport, and there have been others too stripped to be worth photographing. Today we’re going to look at a California-based Ford Ranger that still has just about all its electric running gear.
14 - Electric 1988 Ford Ranger Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinSome EVs like this were put together for driving around in warehouses, others were built by government agencies trying to showcase green technologies, and still more were built by backyard electric-car fanatics. Ford even built their own electric Rangers later on.
04 - Electric 1988 Ford Ranger Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinSince the battery box (or what I am assuming is the battery box) is so small, my guess is that this truck was made for short-distance indoor use. Running parts inside hangars at nearby Oakland Airport?
Note: Crab Spirits did some research and found this truck on the North Bay Electric Automobile Association website for us. It turns out to be a veteran of the 2004 North Bay Eco-Fest, i.e., it was admired by a lot of earnest Marin County green types, all of whom probably abandoned their 20-mile-range EVs the moment they could buy a Leaf.
17 - Electric 1988 Ford Ranger Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinI thought about buying these gauges for eBay reselling later, but it didn’t seem worth the hassle.
09 - Electric 1988 Ford Ranger Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinThe motor was still there when I visited this yard about a month ago, but the value of the copper inside it means that this is one part that will not go to The Crusher.
06 - Electric 1988 Ford Ranger Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinGreat big Bycan battery charger under the hood.
16 - Electric 1988 Ford Ranger Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinI doubt that the sight of this truck had Chevron execs trembling.
19 - Electric 1988 Ford Ranger Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinI didn’t check underneath to see if the original automatic transmission was still installed. The shifter might have been just used to control forward and reverse.

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Generating Content http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/generating-content/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/generating-content/#comments Tue, 16 Sep 2014 14:16:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=913042 A heretofore unknown publication dubbed Gadget Review published a video outlining  “How to Charge BMW’s i3 Electric Car in a Desert (or Any Where)” using a Honda generator. I’m sure that somebody somewhere thought that this would be a great concept for “shareable” content (including the part where the host attempts to run the generator […]

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Click here to view the embedded video.

A heretofore unknown publication dubbed Gadget Review published a video outlining  “How to Charge BMW’s i3 Electric Car in a Desert (or Any Where)” using a Honda generator. I’m sure that somebody somewhere thought that this would be a great concept for “shareable” content (including the part where the host attempts to run the generator inside the vehicle). The actual idea didn’t yield a ton of juice for the i3’s battery, but the idea of using generators to assist EV charging isn’t entirely unknown.

Long before the Chevrolet Volt, GM’s EV experimented were far cruder, and involved, you guessed it, Honda generators rigged to battery packs as an ersatz range extender. According to a former GM engineer and friend of TTAC, the generator would kick in as the batteries depleted themselves, allowing the prototype vehicle (a Geo Storm) to recharge the batteries and make its way home. “Some of those guys ended up working on the EV1 and are still at GM,” he told us. “I bet that’s where the inspiration for the Volt came from.”

This begs the question – why not just get the i3’s optional from the get-go, and avoid this problem altogether?

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France To Provide $22,000 Subsidy For Diesel Drivers Who Switch To EVs http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/france-provide-22000-subsidy-diesel-drivers-switch-evs/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/france-provide-22000-subsidy-diesel-drivers-switch-evs/#comments Thu, 21 Aug 2014 14:27:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=897386 While France already offers a subsidy of $8,400 for consumers who purchase a new electric vehicle, a proposed piece of legislation would see that figure expand for drivers of diesel cars, bringing the total subsidy to a staggering $22,000. The bill, proposed by Segolene Royal (France’s minister for ecology, sustainable development and energy, and a one-time […]

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While France already offers a subsidy of $8,400 for consumers who purchase a new electric vehicle, a proposed piece of legislation would see that figure expand for drivers of diesel cars, bringing the total subsidy to a staggering $22,000.

The bill, proposed by Segolene Royal (France’s minister for ecology, sustainable development and energy, and a one-time Presidential candidate) would provide enhanced subsidies for drivers of diesel-powered cars, according to the International Business Times

With diesel cars being extremely popular in France, the bill would likely give drivers an incentive to scrap their oil-burner in favor of a new electric vehicle – and how convenient it is that French automaker Renault currently offers a range of EVs to suit every purse and purpose.

Although the Twizy is a niche city car, Renault’s Zoe and Kangoo EVs neatly cover the compact hatchback and commercial van markets, both of which are important segments and commonly powered by diesel engines. If a diesel driver took full advantage of the available subsidies – which, under the plan, would amount to an extra 10,000 euros on top of the 6,300 euros already available -, then a 20,700 euro Renault Zoe would cost just 4,400 euros.

While the program is undoubtedly cloaked in environmental benefits, the real gain here is for Renault, and France’s new car market. It’s hard to imagine that legions of diesel car owners wouldn’t be compelled to make the switch to a 4,400 euro new car, even with the limitations that come with owning an EV. Year to date, EV sales are down 12 percent in France, with Renault sales down 6 percent. This move should reverse things tout de suite.

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California Bill Would Cap EV Subsidies By Income http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/california-bill-cap-ev-subsidies-income/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/california-bill-cap-ev-subsidies-income/#comments Fri, 08 Aug 2014 14:30:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=884217 One of the bloodiest battlegrounds in the electric car wars is the topic of government subsidies for EV purchases. In the American case, it’s the $7500 federal tax credit for EVs and the various state incentives including California’s current $2500 rebate. In Europe and Asia, a variety of EV promotion schemes have frequently been the […]

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One of the bloodiest battlegrounds in the electric car wars is the topic of government subsidies for EV purchases. In the American case, it’s the $7500 federal tax credit for EVs and the various state incentives including California’s current $2500 rebate. In Europe and Asia, a variety of EV promotion schemes have frequently been the subject of acrimonious debate.  Much of the disagreement arises regarding the perceived “fairness” of rebates: defenders of subsidies generally claim that they help put EVs in the hands of middle-class consumers, with critics charging that they only serve to line the pockets of the wealthy. Now one California lawmaker wants to revamp the state’s subsidy program by capping the income level for households receiving EV rebates.

The LA Times reports that State Senator Kevin de Léon of Los Angeles has introduced a bill that would restrict who is eligible to receive EV subsidies by income level. Under California’s current statute, anyone who purchases a new EV is eligible for a $2500 cash rebate on top of the $7500 federal subsidy. De Léon’s bill, which has passed the California Senate and now waits to be reviewed by the Appropriations committee, would authorize the state’s Air Resource Board to limit eligibility for the program by income. It would also increase the incentives available to middle-class and lower-income consumers. This would include $1500 for junking a “high polluting” vehicle, and $3000 for purchase of a “clean air vehicle,” in addition to the $2500 already on offer for an EV. In addition, incentives would be weighted so that residents in areas with poor air quality (such as Los Angeles) might be eligible for more money.

De Léon and the bill’s other supporters cite research showing that under California’s current system, 90% of EV subsidy recipients are households making over $100,000 a year. Almost half of Tesla Model S buyers make $300,000 a year. By shifting rebate money away from those who arguably don’t deserve it and would buy expensive cars like the Model S anyway, de Léon and the environmental groups supporting him believe they can put more EVs within reach of the middle class. It would also save money in what has turned out to be an underfunded program: thousands of people are currently on a waiting list to receive rebates after program funds ran dry. If the Air Resource Board wants to increase the portion of zero-emission vehicles on California roads to 15% of the vehicle fleet by 2025, it will certainly take more effort. As of now, EV’s make up a little more than 1% of new vehicle sales in California, with plug-in hybrids adding an additional 1%.

Although de Léon’s intentions are admirable, they’re also misplaced. California is currently the headquarters and sole manufacturing location for Tesla, the hottest EV brand on the planet. Although a rep for Tesla was quoted as saying that the company has no official position on subsidies and that “there is a fair argument that wealthy people have less of a need for rebates than others,” there’s no point in being coy. If rebates help move more Teslas off the showroom floor and into the garages of consumers, it’s a huge win for an economy that has led the country in high-tech manufacturing for decades. It’s no secret that Tesla’s bitterest critics have come from some of the states that poured hundreds of millions of dollars into attracting and subsidizing their own auto plants. The debate over EV subsidies is largely an extension of that same regionalist backslapping, where committed state boosters (especially in the Southeast) are more than willing to spit fire on industry rivals behind a fog of poorly articulated “principles.” Giving back a small rebate to some of the state’s biggest taxpayers is hardly more odious than diverting education funds for industrial recruitment.

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2016 Chevrolet Volt Will Debut At Next Edition of NAIAS http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/2016-chevrolet-volt-will-debut-next-edition-naias/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/2016-chevrolet-volt-will-debut-next-edition-naias/#comments Thu, 07 Aug 2014 16:57:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=883777   The first teaser shot of the Chevrolet Volt has emerged, with the car debuting at the 2015 North American International Auto Show. GM is investing nearly $450 million into production facilities for the next-gen Volt, which will remain at GM’s Hamtramck plant. The investment will be split between the plant and GM’s battery facility in […]

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2016-Chevrolet-Volt-Teaser   The first teaser shot of the Chevrolet Volt has emerged, with the car debuting at the 2015 North American International Auto Show. GM is investing nearly $450 million into production facilities for the next-gen Volt, which will remain at GM’s Hamtramck plant. The investment will be split between the plant and GM’s battery facility in Brownston Township, which will assemble a next-generation battery that should pack greater range than the current Volt’s 38 mile electric-only range.

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Opel-Badged Chevrolet Volt Killed In Europe http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/opel-badged-chevrolet-volt-killed-in-europe/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/opel-badged-chevrolet-volt-killed-in-europe/#comments Mon, 21 Jul 2014 19:01:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=870161 The Opel Ampera, an Opel-badged Chevrolet Volt, will be killed off in Europe due to slow sales. The Ampera will be axed after just one generation – with a new Volt being launched in the second half of 2015, an Opel (and presumably Vauxhall) version will not be produced. Automotive News Europe reports that Ampera […]

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The Opel Ampera, an Opel-badged Chevrolet Volt, will be killed off in Europe due to slow sales.

The Ampera will be axed after just one generation – with a new Volt being launched in the second half of 2015, an Opel (and presumably Vauxhall) version will not be produced.

Automotive News Europe reports that Ampera sales slid dramatically in 2013. In Germany, the Ferrari F12 supercar has sold nearly twice as many units as the Ampera.

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Reader Ride Review: 2013 Nissan Leaf http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/reader-ride-review-2013-nissan-leaf/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/reader-ride-review-2013-nissan-leaf/#comments Tue, 24 Jun 2014 11:30:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=850682 Let’s play a little word association, shall we? Okay, great! I will say the name of a car, and you describe its owner. Nissan Leaf S. Got it? Cool. Here’s what I came up with: LeMons-racing, Glock-owning, Libertarian-leaning, father of four, mechanical engineer. Wait, that’s not what you came up with? Well then you don’t […]

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Let’s play a little word association, shall we? Okay, great! I will say the name of a car, and you describe its owner.

Nissan Leaf S. Got it? Cool.

Here’s what I came up with: LeMons-racing, Glock-owning, Libertarian-leaning, father of four, mechanical engineer. Wait, that’s not what you came up with? Well then you don’t know Brian, TTAC reader and owner of today’s Reader Ride Review, a black 2013 Nissan Leaf S.

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Who is the smartest guy you know? Okay, in true Niles Standish fashion, “Double it!” Brian’s brilliant engineering mind led him to lease the Leaf about eight months ago. Although certainly not opposed to the ecological benefit, he leased the Leaf because “I did the math on it. I had a PT Cruiser before this, and when I calculated the cost of the lease after the available subsidies, subtracted fuel cost, and added in the twenty bucks a month to charge it, it worked out to be a significant savings for us.” As a father of four, Brian also owns a Pentastar minivan for kid-hauling duty, and he races a ’75 LTD in LeMons (which Bark M. said was a pain in the butt to pass, at Carolina Motorsports Park earlier this year).

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As opposed to most Leaf owners who are city dwellers, Brian and his family live in a rural area known as Greer, SC. It’s a little ways out from the city, which we southerners like to say is out in the sticks. When I arrived at his house to check out the Leaf, the little black car was plugged into a standard garage outlet, charging back up from a day’s worth of commuting.

My initial impressions of the car upon seeing it were…well, I will let Brian say it.

“It’s not an attractive car,” Brian said. “I didn’t buy it for the aesthetics.” He’s right. In the Leaf, Nissan managed to do the impossible—they made a car that’s uglier than the Cube. In the base level S trim, the Leaf’s ugliness is borderline charming, though. Brian’s had cop-spec black steel wheels with no wheel covers, almost like that kid you used to know who wore black military boots to school. This particular Leaf had a unique decoration, placed on the left side of the rear windshield by Brian—a Glock window sticker. “I wanted everybody to know that this car doesn’t belong to a hippie,”he explained. Duly noted!

Sitting behind the wheel of the Leaf requires a bit of re-education. First of all, I realized that the Leaf would be silent upon start-up, but I subconsciously expected to hear SOMETHING when I pressed the Start button. Nope…total silence, like a golf cart. The gear shift in the center console had only two settings—Reverse and Drive, with a button in the middle for Park. The Leaf’s instrument display shows all sorts of things that this author had never seen before. Squarely in the middle sat a gauge that showed how much electricity was either being used under acceleration or being generated by the regenerative braking system. In the bottom right of the display was a miles to empty gauge—it showed 37 miles when I started our drive out of Brian’s driveway. I immediately and needlessly sensed a bit of range anxiety. What would happen if we got stuck in traffic? Or had a detour? Or had an emergency ice cream run? One never knows about these things.

My first impressions upon driving the Leaf? It’s not slow. Not at all. In fact, the instant torque delivered by the electric motor makes it pretty quick off the line. “It’s as fast from 0-45 as a BRZ,” explained Brian from the passenger seat. Granted, that’s not saying a whole lot, but it’s definitely sufficient to move the Leaf around comfortably in city traffic. The low-rolling-resistance tires didn’t inspire cornering confidence, but grip was sufficient for everyday driving.

The one thing that surprised me was a light whistling sound the car made when you would slow down to a stop. Brian explained to me that because the Leaf makes nearly no noise when going slowly, Nissan added the whistle to alert pedestrians amend other motorists of its presence in city situations to satisfy some pending legislation. Too cool!

Visibility from the main cabin was excellent, aided by some cut outs in the A pillar; it felt as if I was driving a windshield, not an EV. In comparison to my Sonic, it was spacious and comfortable. The back seat was big enough for an average adult to sit quite comfortably in, and the rear storage area was surprisingly large—a week’s worth of groceries for this single gal would fit, no problem. The S trim level meant that the bells and whistles of the car were pretty limited, but it still had Bluetooth connectivity (which Brian used to connect his flip phone…engineers!) and steering wheel audio controls. Black and gray plastic is abundant throughout, but the spartan nature of the interior almost added to the functional charm of the car.

As we drove, I asked Brian what else he had considered in addition to the Leaf. “Honestly, other than Tesla, there isn’t another truly electric car on the market. In South Carolina, neither the Spark EV or the Focus EV is available for sale. Plus, Nissan just did this car correctly. Everything about it is right.” Upon entering the highway, I found it hard to disagree with him. I had no trouble coaxing speeds well over the 65 MPH limit out of the Leaf—in fact, the single gear transmission and lack of engine noise make it easy to nose the car past 80 without even realizing it. It never struggles or whines or roars…it just goes, and it does so without difficulty or complaint.

I kept watching the miles to empty tick down closer to zero, and as we got under ten, it no longer gave me an actual number. Instead, it just blinked at me. Brian said that it has been surprisingly accurate,over the course of his ownership, especially considering how difficult it can be to measure such things. He launched into a very technical explanation of why that was, but as a mere mortal, I just took his word for it.

I saved my final and most important question for last: If you only had two kids, would you consider making this your only car?

Brian hesitated slightly, and answered reluctantly. “No. I still like to go on trips every now and then, and the range of the Leaf just isn’t sufficient for that.” I couldn’t agree more. If you buy an EV then you are consciously making a choice that will change your lifestyle and fact is, some lifestyles are not made for conformity.

So, does Brian have any regrets about the decision to lease a Leaf?

“Not one. It’s been great. It’s exactly as advertised, and, again, Nissan did everything right when it came to this car.”

After my thirty-seven miles in the Leaf, I came to the same conclusion. Yes, it is, for all intents and purposes, an appliance. However, it doesn’t pretend to be anything but, and it also happens to be a damned good appliance. Everything about the car is exactly as it should be. Everything just works.

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My only complaint is the price. $28K before subsidies, and in South Carolina, about $21K after, which puts it squarely in the realm of some cars that might be more enjoyable to drive, still deliver good fuel economy, and have many more standard features (Fiesta, Sonic, Fit). That being said, it’s not a penalty box by any means, and if you drive enough to make the math work for you, then I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it. I liked it much more than I expected to, and if you aren’t “too cool” for it, you would, too.

Many thanks to Brian, who provided his car and a tank of…er, some electricity!

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BMW Crushes ActiveE Units En Masse http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/bmw-crushes-activee-units-en-masse/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/bmw-crushes-activee-units-en-masse/#comments Fri, 23 May 2014 04:01:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=828945 Recalling the fateful end of GM’s EV1 program, BMW has decided to crush a number of their 1-Series based Active E after the pilot program finished. The 1,110 Active E units were leased to customers as a means of vetting electric drivetrain technology in advance of the i3 and i8. Due to the nature of […]

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CrushedRecalling the fateful end of GM’s EV1 program, BMW has decided to crush a number of their 1-Series based Active E after the pilot program finished.

The 1,110 Active E units were leased to customers as a means of vetting electric drivetrain technology in advance of the i3 and i8. Due to the nature of the lease program, crushing the cars at the end of their lifespan is standard operating procedure.

Despite the many conspiracy theories and complex explanations for the crushing of EVs, Occam’s Razor can often be applied to these situations: OEMs (in this case, BMW and GM) do not want to be on the hook for replacement parts and servicing obligations, which, by law, can last for over a decade after the end of the vehicle’s production.

Creating a parts and service network for such a small-volume vehicle is prohibitively expensive, and often times, taking back the cars and crushing them is a more economical alternative. Of course, there’s also the potential for the technology to fall into the hands of a competitor, which could be another unfavorable outcome that the OEM wants to avoid, but that’s a smaller concern.

Fortunately, the Active E will live on. Jalopnik reports that a number of units will be put to work as part of a Bay Area car-sharing service. And of course, there’s the all new EVs being introduced by BMW in the near future. Not a bad tradeoff.

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