The Truth About Cars » plug-in hybrid http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 19 Oct 2014 11:58:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » plug-in hybrid http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com 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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Cadillac ELR Sales Double After Price Drop http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/cadillac-elr-sales-double-price-drop/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/cadillac-elr-sales-double-price-drop/#comments Mon, 04 Aug 2014 14:04:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=881106 How do you help move the Cadillac ELR? Simple: drop the price down to one that the market will bear. GM’s generous incentives – which have lead to ELR’s being listed as low as $52,000 – appear to have helped spur sales of Cadillac’s plug-in hybrid. In June, GM sold just 97 units of the […]

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How do you help move the Cadillac ELR? Simple: drop the price down to one that the market will bear.

GM’s generous incentiveswhich have lead to ELR’s being listed as low as $52,000 – appear to have helped spur sales of Cadillac’s plug-in hybrid.

In June, GM sold just 97 units of the ELR.  In July, sales nearly doubled, with 188 units sold. With 1,600 units in inventory right now, Automotive News estimates that as of July 1, there is a 396 day supply, down from 883 days.

With a Tesla-rivaling $76,000 MSRP, the ELR’s prospects seemed bleak from the outset. The ELR may be positioned as Cadillac’s green flagship, but the brand simply isn’t strong enough to sell a car that competes with the Tesla Model S, while offering less prestige and a similar sticker price. At the $50,000 mark? Now they might be getting somewhere.

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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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Volvo’s Newest SUV Is Cleaner Than A Prius http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/volvos-newest-suv-is-cleaner-than-a-prius/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/volvos-newest-suv-is-cleaner-than-a-prius/#comments Tue, 08 Jul 2014 15:08:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=861689   Volvo’s newest SUV, the 2015 XC90, will have a wide range of powertrain options, including a a twin-charged 4-cylinder engine making 400 horsepower, with fewer CO2 emissions than a Toyota Prius. The range topping T8 (as it will be known – presumably to symbolize V8 power) will make 400 horsepower and 472 lb-ft of […]

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Volvo’s newest SUV, the 2015 XC90, will have a wide range of powertrain options, including a a twin-charged 4-cylinder engine making 400 horsepower, with fewer CO2 emissions than a Toyota Prius.

The range topping T8 (as it will be known – presumably to symbolize V8 power) will make 400 horsepower and 472 lb-ft of torque from a 4-cylinder engine that is both turbocharged and supercharged. The T8 will also utilize a plug-in hybrid system to give it 24 miles of electric range and CO2 emissions of 60 grams per kilometer – about 33 percent better than a Toyota Prius.

Also on tap are two non-hybrid four-cylinder engines, a T6 four-cylinder making 320 hp and a T5 unit making 254 hp. Two diesels will be offered as well, but likely for world markets.

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QOTD: How Long Will The Cadillac ELR Last? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/qotd-how-long-will-the-cadillac-elr-last/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/qotd-how-long-will-the-cadillac-elr-last/#comments Thu, 03 Apr 2014 11:00:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=785913 So far, Cadillac has moved just 180 units of the ELR in 2014 – at that pace, Cadillac stands to sell just 720 units in 2014, far short of the often-stated 2,000-3,000 unit annual sales target. Even worse is the inventory picture. According to Cars.com, there are 1,077 ELRs available at dealers, which could translate […]

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Click here to view the embedded video.

So far, Cadillac has moved just 180 units of the ELR in 2014 – at that pace, Cadillac stands to sell just 720 units in 2014, far short of the often-stated 2,000-3,000 unit annual sales target.

Even worse is the inventory picture. According to Cars.com, there are 1,077 ELRs available at dealers, which could translate to almost a year’s supply of the $76,000 plug-in hybrid.

The ELR is unequivocally a flop: between the absurd price tag, the fiasco erupting over Cadillac’s now-infamous TV ad and the early recall of the car, the launch of Cadillac’s “green” halo car could not have gone any worse. The only question is, how long will it last?

Personally, I think that it won’t make it past the 2015 model year. Dealers are already inundated with inventory, including multiple examples of the Saks Fifth Avenue tie-in cars, and the market for a $76k Cadillac version of the Volt is just not that large.

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“I” Before “E”, Except After “D” http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/i-before-e-except-after-d/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/i-before-e-except-after-d/#comments Fri, 21 Feb 2014 02:46:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=750841 Joining the Volkswagen GTI and GTD is the new Golf GTE, a performance plug-in hybrid that puts down as much power as a GTI. According to AutoExpress, a prototype they drove last year hit 62 mph in 7.6 seconds while emitting 60 percent less CO2 than a Toyota Prius. Power comes from a 1.4L TSI 4-cylinder […]

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Joining the Volkswagen GTI and GTD is the new Golf GTE, a performance plug-in hybrid that puts down as much power as a GTI. According to AutoExpress, a prototype they drove last year hit 62 mph in 7.6 seconds while emitting 60 percent less CO2 than a Toyota Prius. Power comes from a 1.4L TSI 4-cylinder engine making 148 horsepower, mated to a 108 horsepower electric motor.

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QOTD: They Want How Much For A Cadillac ELR? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/qotd-they-want-how-much-for-a-cadillac-elr/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/qotd-they-want-how-much-for-a-cadillac-elr/#comments Fri, 11 Oct 2013 19:55:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=621833 Pricing for the Cadillac ELR has been announced, and the swoopy Caddy coupe with the Voltec powertrain has been stickered at an astonishing $75,995, not including the $7,500 federal tax credit as well as other incentives. One can make the argument that there will be a market for a premium plug-in that wealthy buyers can […]

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Pricing for the Cadillac ELR has been announced, and the swoopy Caddy coupe with the Voltec powertrain has been stickered at an astonishing $75,995, not including the $7,500 federal tax credit as well as other incentives.

One can make the argument that there will be a market for a premium plug-in that wealthy buyers can write off as an expense in one form another, personally, I think GM is out of their mind.

While the ELR gets a more powerful powertrain, Cadillac’s CUE system, improved regen braking capabilities and Batmobile-esque looks, the nearly $76k sticker price puts it within a few thousand dollars of the Tesla Model S 85 kWh Performance model. Fans of the Voltec powertrain can argue that the plug-in system is superior with respect to range and not being stranded on the side of the road, but I’d argue that in the green car space, nothing can touch a Tesla as far as image, cachet and status are concerned. And many people shopping for such a car are cognizant of that. I’m not sure that the ELR, positioned as a “green flagship” for Cadillac can command that kind of money.

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Review: 2013 Chevrolet Volt (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/review-2013-chevrolet-volt-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/review-2013-chevrolet-volt-video/#comments Mon, 22 Jul 2013 13:00:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=495593 The Chevrolet Volt may be the most maligned and least understood car on the market. After a week of strange questions and bipolar reactions to GM’s plug-in hybrid, I came to a conclusion. GM’s marketing of the Volt stinks. By calling the Volt an “Electric Vehicle (EV) with a range extender,” a huge segment of […]

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2013 Chevrolet Volt Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

The Chevrolet Volt may be the most maligned and least understood car on the market. After a week of strange questions and bipolar reactions to GM’s plug-in hybrid, I came to a conclusion. GM’s marketing of the Volt stinks. By calling the Volt an “Electric Vehicle (EV) with a range extender,” a huge segment of the population can’t get past “Electric” and immediately cross the Volt off their list. There is also [strangely] a segment of the population that says, “that’s great but I want a hybrid.”  Guess what? The Volt is a hybrid.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

Aerodynamics dictate the shape of modern high-efficiency cars, and as a result, the Volt has a profile very similar to the Honda Insight and Toyota Prius. Like the Japanese hybrids, the Volt is a liftback design which is more practical than your typical trunk lid for carrying large items from the home improvement store.

The Volt’s styling isn’t for everyone, but I find the overall style aggressive and attractive. There is a caveat. Since the shape is dictated by wind-tunnel testing (just like the Prius and Insight) the Volt reminds me of NASCAR cars. Why? Because they all have the same shape and teams paint / add decals to “brand” their car. The Volt/Prius/Insight reminds me of this tactic and parked next to one another in the dark you’d be hard pressed to differentiate them by silhouette.

For its first refresh since it launched as a 2011, GM decided to ditch the somewhat awkward black roof and black painted liftgate opting for a more harmonious body-matching hue. There are also subtle tweaks to the rear tail lamp modules this year.

2013 Chevrolet Volt Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Interior

Hybrids have long suffered cheaper looking and feeling interiors than their “normal” counterparts. That is true for the Prius, Insight and the Volt. The reason is two-fold. The first is obviously cost. Motors and batteries aren’t cheap and the Volt has 288 batteries jammed into a “T” shaped battery pack that runs the length of the car and across the back of the car behind the rear seats. With a nominal 16.5kWh capacity, this battery is about four times larger than the Prius Plug-In’s pack and nearly twice the size of Ford’s Energi. The second reason is weight. Hard plastics weigh less.

Hard plastics included, the Volt is a nicer place to spend your time than a Prius but Ford’s C-MAX takes top position in terms of interior parts feel. Style is subjective, but I would rank the Volt between the Prius’ funky interior design and the C-MAX’s mainstream interior. Part of this is because 2013 brings more sedate and mainstream choices to the Volt’s interior. Gone are the funky orange door panels with “circuit board” patterns replaced by a dark silver plastic panels on the black interior. New for 2013 is some brown love, a color combo that brings the Volt’s interior feel up a substantial notch without actually improving the quality of the plastics.

Front seat comfort slots between the Ford and Toyota alternatives up front, in the rear there is less headroom and legroom than in the Prius or C-MAX. There is also one less seat. The lack of a 5th seat seems to be a common reason given for choosing something else over the Volt, but the battery had to go somewhere so the Volt trades more cargo room with the seats in place vs the C-MAX Energi for that 5th seat. Pick your poison.

 

2013 Chevrolet Volt Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Infotainment & Gadgets

When it comes to infotainment and trendy gadgets, the Volt scores big. Sure the 7-inch LCD gauge cluster isn’t as snazzy as Land Rover’s 12-inch readout, but the Prius is stuck in a 1980s Chrysler LeBaron electrofluorescent-time-warp and one 7-inch readout trumps Ford’s twin-4.2″ display setup in my mind. That’s before I comment that the Volt’s gauges are where they belong, in front of the driver…

The Volt gets Chevy’s latest MyLink infotainment system with some slight tweaks for 2013. GM’s mid-market  entertainment operating system is one of my favorites. The graphics are slick, the display is easy to read and GM offers a touchscreen and a joystick/knob controller so you can use whatever comes naturally. Unlike MyFord Touch and Cadillac’s CUE, the Chevy is virtually crash-free and always responsive. 2013 brings improved voice commands for your USB/iDevice allowing you to command your tunes at the press of a button, and unlike Toyota’s similar system, MyLink doesn’t have a problem with large music libraries. If you opt for nav software, destination entry is quick and the map software uses high-resolution maps with satellite traffic info.

On the safety gadget front 2013 brings collision and blind spot warning systems from the Cadillac XTS. The system is camera based so you can’t get radar adaptive cruise control, a system that is offered on the Prius and the Fusion Energi but not on the C-Max Energi.

2013 Chevrolet Volt Drivetrain, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drivetrain

Before we dive into the Volt, it’s important to know how hybrid systems work. GM’s Belt-Alternator-Starter, Mercedes’ S400 Hybrid and Honda’s IMA hybrids are all systems where the engine is always connected and even if the car is capable of “EV” mode, the engine is spinning. Porsche, VW, Infiniti and others use a pancake motor and clutch setup to disconnect the engine from the motor and transmission allowing a “pure EV” mode. Honda’s new Accord has a 2-mode setup where the motor drives the wheels via a fixed ratio gearset, the engine drives a motor and above 45MPH a clutch engages, linking the engine and motor together at a ratio of roughly 1:1. Ford, Toyota and the Volt use a planetary gearset “power splitting” device. Yes, the Volt uses a hybrid system that although not identical, is thematically similar to Ford & Toyota’s hybrid system.

Say what? I thought GM said it was a serial hybrid? Yes, GM did at some point say that and I think that has caused more confusion than anything else about the Volt. The bankrupt Fisker Karma is only a serial hybrid. The engine drives a generator, the generator powers the battery and the motor to move the car forward. At no point can the engine provide any motive power to the wheels except via the electrical connection.

The Volt’s innovation is that it can operate like a Fisker Karma or like a Prius. It is therefore both a serial and a parallel hybrid. To do this, GM alters the power split device power flow VS the Ford/Toyota design. Then they add a clutch allowing the gasoline engine to be mechanically isolated from the wheels. And finally they add software with a whole new take on a hybrid system.

volt-tranmission, Courtesy of MotorTrend.com

The Volt has four distinct operating modes.

  1. Starting off from a stop, the Volt draws power from its 16.5kWh (10.8 usable) battery pack to power the 149HP main motor.
  2. At higher speeds, the car will connect the 72HP secondary motor/generator via the planetary gearset. This is not to increase power, but to reduce the main motor’s RPM therefore increasing efficiency. Maximum horsepower is still 149.

When the battery is low, or when “hold” or “mountain modes are engaged, the system switches to one of two hybrid modes.

  1. The system starts the 1.4L 84 HP gasoline engine and uses it to turn a 72HP motor/generator. The system feeds the power to the battery and primary motor. Maximum horsepower is still 149. When more than 72HP is being consumed, the balance is drawn from the battery.
  2. When more power is required, the system disengages the clutch pack and the system functions very much like a Ford/Toyota hybrid with the gasoline engine assisting in the propulsion both mechanically and electrically via the power split device. Maximum horsepower is still 149 BUT this mode alters the torque curve of the combined system and in this mode acceleration is slightly faster than in any other mode.

2013 Chevrolet Volt Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drive

Why do I mention the four modes? Because you can easily encounter all four modes in a single trip. Which mode the Volt uses is determined by the car, it is not user-selectable. Starting off at home with a full battery, I was able to drive 32 miles in EV mode. That’s about 22 more than the Prius Plug-In and 18 more than the C-MAX Energi. How is that possible with a battery that is so much larger? Allow me to digress for a moment.

GM takes an interesting and very conservative approach to battery life. Rather than charging and discharging the battery nearly completely as Nissan and Tesla’s EVs do, the Volt will only use the “middle” 65% of the battery. This means that when the display says it is “full,” the battery is really only 85% charged. When it reads empty, the true state of charge is around 35%. Why? Because batteries degrade more rapidly when they are at high or low states of charge. By never operating the battery at these extremes and having an active thermal management system, I expect the Volt’s battery to have a longer life than other vehicles on the market with the same battery chemistry.

Back to those modes. We clocked 0-60 in 8.72 seconds when the Volt was operating as an EV (slightly faster than the C-MAX Energi and much faster than a Prius). In parallel hybrid mode, the broader torque curve dropped this to 8.4 seconds. Transitions between modes is practically seamless unless you are driving the Volt aggressively on mountain roadways. On steep inclines when you’re at a lower state of charge, the Volt will switch from serial-hybrid to parallel-hybrid modes to keep from draining the battery below the minimum threshold. Transitioning from one mode to the other causes a momentary delay in power application as the transmission disengages the clutch pack and synchronizes the speeds of the motors and engine. This transition is more pronounced than a typical gear shift in a traditional automatic.

2013 Chevrolet Volt Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

When it comes to road holding, the porky 3,899lb C-MAX Energi is the winner thanks to its wide 225-width rubber and the chassis’ Euro origins. The Volt is a close second at 3,781lbs with the standard 215 low rolling resistance rubber. The Prius? A distant third despite being the lightest at 3,165lbs. Admittedly handling better than a Prius isn’t a terribly high bar to leap, but in the grand scheme of things the Volt handles as well as the average compact sedan. Overall wind and road noise slot (yet again) between the quieter C-MAX and the noisier Prius.

Fuel economy is the most important part of a hybrid, and this is the area where the Volt starts having problems. Starting with a full battery (at my rates, this cost $1.52) the first 32 miles were in EV mode followed by 26 miles in hybrid mode. My average economy was 90 MPG, a few better than the Prius plug-in’s 72 on the same trip and 60 for the Ford. Being unable to charge the Volt at my office due to construction, these numbers fell rapidly on my way home. On this single-charge round trip, the Prius averaged 62 MPG, the C-MAX averaged 50 and the Volt dropped to 46. What’s going on? Once under way the Volt’s four-mode hybrid system seems to be less efficient than the C-MAX. The exact reasons for this I’m not sure, but on a round-trip commute without charging, I averaged 32-33 MPG vs the 40.7 in the C-MAX Energi and 52 in the Prius Plug-In. The longer you drive your Volt without charging it, the more it will cost to run than the Ford or Toyota.

2013 Chevrolet Volt Charging Port

On the flip side if your commute is within 30-35 miles of a charging station you will almost never use the gasoline engine. (The Volt will run it now and then to make sure the gasoline doesn’t go bad in the plumbing.) Unlike the alternatives, the Volt will also stay pure electric even under full throttle acceleration giving you a driving experience that is very much like a LEAF/Tesla until you deplete the battery.

This brings us full circle to the EV vs hybrid question. What is the Volt? In my opinion it’s a plug-in hybrid. I also think this is the best marketing angle for GM because when you explain to people that there is no range anxiety in the Volt and you can use the HOV lane in California solo, they seem to “get it.” The fly in the ointment is the price, The Volt starts at $39,145 and ends just shy of 45-large. The “that’s too much to pay for an electric Cruze” is a hard rep to shake, and even GM throwing cash on the Volt’s hood isn’t helping. Factor in the $8,000 premium over the C-MAX Energi and Prius Plug-In and you start to see the rest of the problem. At the end of my week with Chevy’s car with a plug I came to the conclusion that the Volt is the most misunderstood car on the market right now. But with a high sticker price and only four seats I’m not entirely sure that understanding GM’s conflicted EV/Hybrid will help them sell.

 

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.285 Seconds (EV Mode)

0-60: 8.72 Seconds (EV Mode), 8.4 Seconds (hybrid mode)

1/4 Mile: 16.66 Seconds @ 84 MPH (EV Mode)

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 48MPG over 565 miles, 32-33MPG hybrid mode

 

2013 Chevrolet Volt Charging Port 2013 Chevrolet Volt Drivetrain 2013 Chevrolet Volt Drivetrain, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chevrolet Volt Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chevrolet Volt Exterior-001 2013 Chevrolet Volt Exterior-002 2013 Chevrolet Volt Exterior-003 2013 Chevrolet Volt Exterior-004 2013 Chevrolet Volt Exterior-005 2013 Chevrolet Volt Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chevrolet Volt Exterior-007 2013 Chevrolet Volt Exterior-008 2013 Chevrolet Volt Exterior-009 2013 Chevrolet Volt Interior 2013 Chevrolet Volt Interior-001 2013 Chevrolet Volt Interior-002 2013 Chevrolet Volt Interior-003 2013 Chevrolet Volt Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chevrolet Volt Interior-005 2013 Chevrolet Volt Interior-006 2013 Chevrolet Volt Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

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Review: 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/review-2013-ford-c-max-energi-plug-in-hybrid-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/review-2013-ford-c-max-energi-plug-in-hybrid-video/#comments Fri, 25 Jan 2013 13:48:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=474057 In 2005, ABC News Polls claimed the average daily commute in America was 16 miles, a number borne out in our own Facebook poll. If you have a commute like that and want an EV for commuting and a hybrid for road tripping, you’re the target demographic for a plug-in hybrid. Since I’m not a […]

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In 2005, ABC News Polls claimed the average daily commute in America was 16 miles, a number borne out in our own Facebook poll. If you have a commute like that and want an EV for commuting and a hybrid for road tripping, you’re the target demographic for a plug-in hybrid. Since I’m not a trust fund baby, and neither are most of TTAC’s readers, I’m going to forget about the Karma while we dive deep into Ford’s first (and interestingly spelled) Energi.

Click here to view the embedded video.

C-MAX and C-MAX Energi

“Energi” is Ford-speak for “plug-in hybrid.” On our shores, the C-MAX competes with the Prius V and to some extent the Prius, while the Energi targets the Prius Plug-in and Volt. Let’s cover the basics first. “Our” C-MAX is an Americanized version of the European C-MAX. Aside from making the requisite changes for American safety legislation and some bumper cover tweaks, the difference boils down to one major change: the American C-MAX is hybrid only while its Euro twin get a traditional gasoline/diesel mix.

The C-MAX strikes an interesting pose on American roads looking like the product of crossbreeding a Focus and a Windstar. The hatchback’s tall greenhouse, tall roof-line and crossover styling cues were no doubt penned to confuse entice the suburban set. I find the design as a whole more attractive than the Prius, but less exciting than the Volt. At 173 inches long, the C-MAX is 2 inches longer than a Focus hatchback, but 3 inches shorter than the Prius and 3.5 inches shorter than the Volt. Exterior dimensions are a tough comparison however since the Prius and Volt have a more sedan-like profile.

Interior

The Energi shares most of its dashboard with the new Escape. The only major change is a unique instrument cluster with twin LCDs like the Fusion hybrid. Since this cabin wasn’t designed with weight savings in mind, it has a more premium feel than the Prius or Volt thanks to Ford’s dedication to squishy dash bits and color matching plastics.

Perhaps due to the non-hybrid roots, you won’t find anything futuristic or weird in this cabin. There are no centrally mounted gauges, no acres of touch-buttons and no all-LCD instrument cluster. That’s not to say the Energi has a sumptuous cabin per se, but it is the only cabin in this trio that could pass muster in a “normal” $37,000 vehicle. Barely. (Our tester rang in at $37,435.) The Prius on the other hand is full of plastics and fabrics more at home in a $16,000 econo-box.

Ford offers two interior colors on the Energi: black-on-black-on-black, or a greyish tan and your choice of fabric or leather. (I recommend the lighter shade as it makes the cabin feel less claustrophobic.) Front seat comfort is good thanks to an upright crossover-like seating position, wide seats and a decent range of motion. The tilt/telescopic steering wheel extends further than I had expected and made finding a comfortable driving position easy for a variety of driver sizes. The tall cabin and upright seats didn’t fool me into thinking the Energi was a crossover, but my back and legs appreciated the seating position and it means the Energi offers considerably more headroom than the Prius or Volt.

The rear seats are a bit close to the floor for adults but are the right height for most children. Despite looking narrow, the Energi is more than 3 inches wider than the Prius and 1.5 wider than the Volt which translates into a wider cabin. Sitting three abreast is more comfortable in the Energi than the Prius and more legal than the Volt which only has belts for four. If you routinely carry adults in the rear, the Energi provides 4 inches more headroom and a 2 inches more legroom than the Volt.

When cargo schlepping, the C-MAX’s non-hybrid roots are obvious because of where the battery is located. As you can see in the photo above, the battery pack takes up the entire spare tire well and about 7 inches of the trunk floor as well (4 more than the C-MAX without the plug). The reduced hold is a few cubes smaller than the Prius Plug-in (19.2 vs 21.6) but about twice the size of the Volt’s 10.6. Keep in mind that 19.2 cu-ft is larger than most sedans, but because Ford didn’t adjust the roller-cargo-cover position, you can only put three carrry-on roller bags under the cover. Without the cover it was possible to fit four such bags (rotated 90-degrees) and still see out the rear window.

Infotainment

All Energi models come with Ford’s MyFord Touch system with SYNC voice commands. The system combines climate, entertainment, telephone and navigation chores into one integrated system that looks snazzy and responds to your every whim via voice commands. When it landed in 2010 the press (and owners) soon discovered the system had more bugs than a bag of 5-year-old flour, thankfully Ford has corrected the majority of the flaws although the system remains sluggish at times. Ford’s system used to be unique in its ability to voice command your tunes and climate control but Toyota’s Entune and Chevrolet’s MyLink systems now offer very similar features without the bugs or “laggy” graphics.

Ford’s decision to make the C-MAX look and feel like a normal car has a downside. While the “normal” displays will make hybrid virgins feel at ease, they do little to tell you what’s going on under the hood. Instead of a tachometer you’ll find a configurable kW gauge showing how much power the engine and motor are providing. You’ll also see a small battery icon that displays your state of charge and your EV range. The system provides a “braking coach” display that grades you on your ability to recover energy but it does so after the fact rather than helping you adjust your foot while braking.

Drivetrain

The heart of the C-MAX and the C-MAX Energi drivetrain is a 2.0L Atkinson cycle four-cylinder engine producing 141HP and 129lb-ft of twist and a Ford designed hybrid transaxle that combines a 118HP traction motor and a smaller motor/generator. When working together, the system delivers 188 system horsepower and a TTAC estimated 200-220lb0ft of torque.This is considerably more than the Prius’ 134 system HP and the Volt’s 149HP. Like the Prius, the Ford sips regular unleaded while the Volt demands premium.

The Energi model uses a 7.6kWh battery pack (7.2 usable) which slots between the Prius Plug-in’s 4.4 (4.2 usable) kWh and the Volt’s 16.5kWh (10.8 usable) packs. If you look at those numbers you’ll notice something, the Volt has a bigger battery but uses less of it. There’s a reason. Battery life is reduced by a number of factors but one of the big ones is being at either a high or low state of charge. By using a “larger” battery and never charging it beyond 85% or discharging it below 20% GM is treats their cells with kid gloves. Because of this I believe the Volt’s battery is likely to last longer than the competition. Ford claims the Energi is good for 21 miles of EV driving while the Volt claims 38 miles and the Prius lasts only 11. In my testing, the real world numbers drop to 16 for the Energi, 29 for the Volt and 9 for the Prius.

Charging times for the Energi vary from 7 hours when plugged into a regular 120V outlet to 2.5 hours if you have access to a 240V “Level 2″ charging station. This (yet again) slots between the Prius Plug-in’s 2.5/1.5 hours (120/240V) and the Volts 16/4 hours (120/240V). As with the Prius and the Volt, you don’t have to charge the car if you don’t want to. (Although why you would spend $8,500 for the bigger battery and never use it is beyond me.)

On the road

Like the Prius Plug-in, what allows the Energi to operate as an EV has nothing to do with what’s under the hood. The battery’s discharge rate is what limits EV travel. The C-MAX’s battery tops out at 46HP while the Energi increases the discharge rate to 91HP. As with the rest of the drivetrain metrics, the Energi’s output slots between the Prius Plug-in’s 51HP and the Volt’s 149HP. Think of the Volt vs Energi in this way: In normal EV driving they operate very similarly, but while the Volt delivers 149HP with or without the engine running, the Energi offers 91 or 188 ponies depending on how far you press the go pedal.

As a result, the Energi isn’t a “Ford Volt” but it is “more EV” than the Prius Plug-in. Unlike the Volt, the Energi will also use its engine to augment cabin heating rather than relying solely on its electric heater in cold weather. While this exacts an MPG toll, defrosting is considerably faster than in the Volt. However, unlike the Prius plug-in, the Energi doesn’t need to run the engine to accelerate to highway speed or climb a mountain pass. The Energi is part of a new breed of car where locomotion blends fuel sources allowing you to trade a portion of the gasoline you pay $4.35 a gallon for in California for electricity at $0.10-$0.15 per kWh.

The C-MAX already heavy at 3,600lbs. Add 6.2kW more battery and the Energi’s 3,860lb curb weight is a cheeseburger shy of a Jaguar XJ. In comparison, the Prius Plug-in weighs a svelte 3,165lbs and even the porky 3,781lb Volt is lighter. The C-MAX’s cub weight and 225/50R17 tires define every aspect of on road performance from how it handles to how it sips fuel.

Thanks to its Focus roots, the C-MAX proved a competent handler with a well composed ride when we had it for a week in November. Thankfully the Energi doesn’t depart much from this formula, simply feeling like a C-MAX that has an extra 260lbs in the trunk. While the extra battery weight no doubt improved the weight balance, no vehicle equipped with low rolling resistance rubber is going to be a corner carver. That being said, it is more engaging than the Prius or the Volt. On the bright side, the Energi rides like a larger vehicle displaying none of the “crashy” tendencies the Prius is known for. While the electric power steering robs the hatch of 99% of its road feel, it manages to be more engaging than a Prius – admittedly not high bar to jump.

Stomp on the Energi’s go-pedal and 60MPH arrives 0.86 seconds later than the C-MAX Hybrid. If you keep your foot on the gas, the Energi recovers some composure finishing the 1/4 mile 0.6 slower. Any way you slice it, that’s considerably faster than any flavor of Prius. While we haven’t had a Volt in our garage to test, most publications seem to place it around 8.5 seconds to 60.

Hybrid systems, batteries and plugs can’t change the fact that weight and fuel economy are mortal enemies. While the C-MAX wears a decidedly optimistic 47/47/47 MPG (city/highway/combined) badge, the Energi model drops that figure down to a more believable 44/41/43 MPG. On my commute the C-MAX averaged 41.5 MPG and the Energi averaged 40.7 MPG without charging the battery. On the same commute, a regular Prius scored 50 and the Prius Plug-in scored a slightly higher 52 (thanks to its ability to recapture more energy on my mountain commute.) Meanwhile the Volt delivered a somewhat unimpressive 34 MPG in the same test.

With a full battery on either end of my 60-mile one-way commute, the numbers jump to 72 MPG for the Prius, 60 for the Energi and 45 for the Volt. The observant will note that a regular Prius delivered 50 MPG. If saving money on gasoline is your goal, consider the payback time vs a standard Prius is going to be decades.

According to my calculations, if your commute is under 25 miles total, at $0.15/kWh, the Volt is cheaper to run, but only by a few cents. According to the EPA, 25 miles would cost you $1.31 in the Volt, $1.37 in the Ford and $1.47 in the Prius. If your trip goes beyond 30-35 miles, the Prius is cheaper to operate because of its gasoline-only MPGs. The more expensive the gasoline, the greater the difference between the Prius and Volt (and to a lesser extent the Energi) thanks to the Volt’s lower fuel economy and thirst for premium gasoline.

With a price range of $32,950-$37,685 (not including $795 destination or the current $3,750 cash on the hood deal), Ford obviously has a limited market in mind. Still, if you’re shopping for a Prius Plug-in ($32,000-$40,285) or a Volt ($39,995-$43,750) you either want the latest in technology or you’re willing to spend nearly $10,000 to use the HOV lanes solo. There are tax incentives available, but they depend on your tax situation and I’m not an IRS insider. Be sure to consult a tax guru before you bet on credits to balance your books.

While it is theoretically possible to save money vs the standard C-MAX, it will take an Eterniti, serious number crunching, and low electricity rates. For instance, on my commute it would take around 300,000 miles, or 11 years. Assuming the battery and car last that long. If your commute is the national average, you’ll have to leave the car to your heirs. Maybe they will realize a savings. Still, there is that HOV lane to consider. On my route the HOV stickers would cut my commute time by 40 minutes or 14 hours a month. How much is that worth to you? If $8,700 is your answer, then Ford’s C-Max Energi will do nicely. Personally, I’d skip the plug and get a Fusion Hybrid.

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.1 Seconds (non-plugin: 2.9)

0-60: 7.91 Seconds (non-plugin: 7.05)

1/4 Mile: 16.15 Seconds @ 87 MPH (non-plugin: 15.55 Seconds @ 92 MPH)

Average Fuel Economy: 52 MPG over 523 miles (non-plugin: 41.5 MPG over 625 miles)

 

2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Exterior, Grille, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Exterior, Energi badge, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Exterior, Wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Exterior, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Exterior, Rear 3/4 View, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Interior, Cargo Area, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Interior, Cargo Area, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Interior,  Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Interior, Cargo Area, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Interior, Cargo Area, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Interior, Rear Seats Folded Cargo Area, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Interior, Rear Cargo Area Seats Folded, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Charging Connector, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid-020 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Engine, 2.0L Atkinson Plug-In Hybrid, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Engine, 2.0L Atkinson Plug-In Hybrid, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Engine, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Interior, Shifter and HVAC Controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Interior, Driver's Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Interior, Seat Controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Interior, Steering Wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Exterior, Charging Plug, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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Vauxhall Offers 30-Day Return Policy For Ampera http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/12/vauxhall-offers-30-day-return-policy-for-ampera/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/12/vauxhall-offers-30-day-return-policy-for-ampera/#comments Fri, 21 Dec 2012 13:00:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=471324 Swedish clothing store H&M offers a generous 30-day return policy that urges customers to Buy It Now, Return It Later. Looks like Vauxhall will be following suit. Customers in the UK will have the opportunity to return the Vauxhall Ampera, aka the Chevrolet Volt, after 30 days if they’re not satisfied with the car. Vehicles […]

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Swedish clothing store H&M offers a generous 30-day return policy that urges customers to Buy It Now, Return It Later. Looks like Vauxhall will be following suit.

Customers in the UK will have the opportunity to return the Vauxhall Ampera, aka the Chevrolet Volt, after 30 days if they’re not satisfied with the car. Vehicles with 1,500 miles or less will be eligible for the program and any damage must be paid for.

Chevrolet runs a similar scheme for the Spark supermini, although buyers are allowed 4,000 miles and a maximum of 60 days. Nevertheless, the program is an interesting way to promote a technology and a vehicle that many motorists are weary of to begin with. Now close your eyes and imagine if this program were put in place in the United States.

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Cadillac ELR Greenlit For Late 2013, Detroit-Hamtramck Gets $35 Million Investment http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/cadillac-elr-greenlit-for-late-2013-detroit-hamtramck-gets-35-million-investment/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/cadillac-elr-greenlit-for-late-2013-detroit-hamtramck-gets-35-million-investment/#comments Wed, 17 Oct 2012 13:00:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=463932 GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck plant will get a $35 million investment to build the Cadillac ELR, a luxury coupe that uses the Chevrolet Volt’s gasoline-electric drivetrain. Automotive News reports that the announcement was made by GM North America President Mark Reuss at an SAE Conference in Detroit. The ELR will bow at the 2013 Detroit Auto Show […]

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GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck plant will get a $35 million investment to build the Cadillac ELR, a luxury coupe that uses the Chevrolet Volt’s gasoline-electric drivetrain.

Automotive News reports that the announcement was made by GM North America President Mark Reuss at an SAE Conference in Detroit. The ELR will bow at the 2013 Detroit Auto Show resemble the Cadillac Converj concept. With the Voltec powertrain in use, performance and range statistics should be similar to the Volt, while providing Cadillac with a reasonable facsimile of a Tesla Model S or Fisker Karma competitor. But hey, plug-in cars count for more than regular cars under CAFE (but not as much as a pure EV) so why the hell not?

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Fisker Atlantic Delayed Until 2015 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/fisker-atlantic-delayed-until-2015/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/fisker-atlantic-delayed-until-2015/#comments Wed, 17 Oct 2012 12:00:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=463943 A presentation held Monday saw Fisker announce a delay for their smaller sedan, dubbed the Atlantic. The Atlantic will hit the market in late 2014 or 2015. The beleagured automaker needs the $55,000 Atlantic to generate cashflow and provide underpinings for future offerings. Fisker execs have also discussed sharing their technology with other OEMs. Readers […]

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A presentation held Monday saw Fisker announce a delay for their smaller sedan, dubbed the Atlantic. The Atlantic will hit the market in late 2014 or 2015.

The beleagured automaker needs the $55,000 Atlantic to generate cashflow and provide underpinings for future offerings. Fisker execs have also discussed sharing their technology with other OEMs. Readers of TTAC are have been familiar with Fisker’s foibles for some time. The timing of the announcement, combined with A123’s bankruptcy, is an ominious sign.

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BMW’s Front Drive Plug-In Hybrid http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/bmws-front-drive-plug-in-hybrid/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/bmws-front-drive-plug-in-hybrid/#comments Fri, 14 Sep 2012 15:26:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=460396 Here it is, the car that will be regarded by gearheads as the anti-Christ when it makes its debut later this month at the Paris Auto Show; the BMW Concept Active Tourer, a hybrid crossover which previews BMW’s front-drive 1-Series. While not quite as radical as the BMW i3, the Concept Active Tourer uses the […]

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Here it is, the car that will be regarded by gearheads as the anti-Christ when it makes its debut later this month at the Paris Auto Show; the BMW Concept Active Tourer, a hybrid crossover which previews BMW’s front-drive 1-Series.

While not quite as radical as the BMW i3, the Concept Active Tourer uses the long-rumored 1.5L 3-cylinder turbocharged engine with an electric motor, for a total of 190 horsepower and 147 lb-ft of torque. The lithium-ion battery is said to be good for up to 20 miles of EV driving, while hitting 60 mph in under 8 seconds.

BMW hasn’t confirmed that this car is front-drive, but based on its proportions and previous comments by BMW brass, it’s almost a certainty.

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QOTD: Is This The Ugliest Car Coming Out In 2013 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/qotd-is-this-the-ugliest-car-coming-out-in-2013/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/qotd-is-this-the-ugliest-car-coming-out-in-2013/#comments Wed, 05 Sep 2012 16:32:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=459061 When I first got wind of the new 2013 Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid, I was pretty optimistic about its viability. An improved hybrid system from Honda, a plug-in no less, mated to the practical, decent-to-drive package of the Accord? For a city dweller that gets electricity from clean hydroelectric power sources like me, it is, […]

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When I first got wind of the new 2013 Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid, I was pretty optimistic about its viability. An improved hybrid system from Honda, a plug-in no less, mated to the practical, decent-to-drive package of the Accord? For a city dweller that gets electricity from clean hydroelectric power sources like me, it is, on paper, a decent choice for an everyday car. Until I saw it.

The 2013 Accord, in regular gasoline trim, looks a bit like a Hyundai Genesis. The plug-in version, shown above, is so awful that it was prohibited by Yaweh in the book of Leviticus as an abomination.

What the hell was Honda thinking?

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

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

Click here to view the embedded video.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Fuel economy average over 583miles: 65

Percent of time in EV mode: 20%

Performance statistics as tested:

0-30: 3.4 seconds

0-60: 10.0 seconds

¼ Mile: 17sec @ 79 MPH

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Plug-In Car Sales Breakdown: June 2012 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/plug-in-car-sales-breakdown-june-2012/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/plug-in-car-sales-breakdown-june-2012/#comments Thu, 05 Jul 2012 16:32:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=451427 Now that the dust has settled, it’s time to take a look at our favorite automotive urination competition, the epic battle between the Chevrolet Volt, Nissan Leaf and the Toyota Prius Plug-In. Chevrolet emerged as July’s victor, as well as the year-to-date champion. With 1,760 Volts sold in June, the General is leading the plug-in […]

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Now that the dust has settled, it’s time to take a look at our favorite automotive urination competition, the epic battle between the Chevrolet Volt, Nissan Leaf and the Toyota Prius Plug-In.

Chevrolet emerged as July’s victor, as well as the year-to-date champion. With 1,760 Volts sold in June, the General is leading the plug-in sales stakes with 8,817 units sold in the first six months of 2012. Still not the kind of volumes that GM was hoping for. In second was the Toyota Prius Plug-In, with 695 units sold in June and 4,347 in the first half of 2012. The Nissan Leaf finished third, with 535 sold in June, and 3,148 cumulatively.

Nissan is blaming a marketing mishap for the Leaf’s slow sales. Rather than selling them directly to customers via a waiting list, the cars can now be bought off the lot, and a Nissan spokesman told Bloomberg that they “…miscalculated the marketing that had to go behind it.” The Volt, on the other hand, seems to have from a boost in sales in California, now that the car can be driven in the HOV lane without a passenger.

Regardless of the surrounding factors, adoption of plug-in cars is growing, albeit at a slower than anticipated pace. Chevrolet dealers still had a 90 day supply of Volts on June 1st, and breakdowns for the Prius Plug-In and Leaf weren’t available at time of publication. Leaf sales are down 69 percent year-over-year and 19 percent versus the first half of 2011. The Volt, of course, is doing much better.

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April Plug-In Car Sales: Toyota Prius Wins, Chevrolet Volt Takes Second, Nissan Leaf Third http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/april-plug-in-car-sales-toyota-prius-wins-chevrolet-volt-takes-second-nissan-leaf-third/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/april-plug-in-car-sales-toyota-prius-wins-chevrolet-volt-takes-second-nissan-leaf-third/#comments Thu, 03 May 2012 13:07:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=442768 It was a good month for the Toyota Prius Plug-In, with the newest plug-in car outselling the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf in April. Pent-up demand and the desire to outdo your neighbors in Marin County likely had something to do with the Prius Plug-In’s 1,654 units sold in April. How long will the demand […]

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It was a good month for the Toyota Prius Plug-In, with the newest plug-in car outselling the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf in April.

Pent-up demand and the desire to outdo your neighbors in Marin County likely had something to do with the Prius Plug-In’s 1,654 units sold in April. How long will the demand last? We’ll have to wait a while to see how it all shakes out.

Chevrolet Volt sales were down from March’s record of 2,289 sales, but with 1,462, the Volt still had one of its better months so far. Indeed, the biggest loser in April, 2012 was the Nissan Leaf. With just 370 sold, the Leaf was down year-over-year (with 573 sold in April 2011) and way off of its best month ever (1,708 sold in June, 2011).

Prius and Leaf inventory data was unavailable via Automotive News, but the Volt had a 61 day supply as of April 1, down from 154 on March 1st.

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Citroen Tells China How To Say “Panamera” En Francais http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/citroen-tells-china-how-to-say-panamera-en-francais/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/citroen-tells-china-how-to-say-panamera-en-francais/#comments Fri, 13 Apr 2012 17:12:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=439674 Save for some French cabinet ministers, you aren’t likely to find any of the global elite tooling around in French luxury sedans. Citroen is hoping to reverse this trend with a made-for-China luxury limo, seen above. Dubbed the “DS Numero 9″. We suppose that’s French for “Panamera lookalike”. As beautiful as the Ctiroen C6 may […]

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Save for some French cabinet ministers, you aren’t likely to find any of the global elite tooling around in French luxury sedans. Citroen is hoping to reverse this trend with a made-for-China luxury limo, seen above. Dubbed the “DS Numero 9″. We suppose that’s French for “Panamera lookalike”.

As beautiful as the Ctiroen C6 may be, it’s always been a poor seller, in part because the car’s aesthetic potential is likely hampered by the stodgy tastes of the European bureaucrats who are the car’s target audience. Since the DS Numero 9 was designed expressly for the Chinese market, Citroen can take a few liberties with the shape.

Officially, this car is a concept, but Citroen has slowly been going down this road for a few years. 2009 brought about the Metropolis concept car, and the DS9, with its Germanic looks and plug-in hybrid drivetrain, seems to be the latest evolution. The DS Numero 9 will get an official reveal at the Beijing Auto Show next month.

a d citroen-nemero-9-concept-3 d a a s b j s s b citroen-nemero-9-concept-13 citroen-nemero-9-concept-14 citroen-nemero-9-concept-15 citroen-nemero-9-concept-16 citroen-nemero-9-concept-17 citroen-nemero-9-concept-18 citroen-nemero-9-concept-19 citroen-nemero-9-concept-20 citroen-nemero-9-concept-21 citroen-nemero-9-concept-22 citroen-nemero-9-concept-23 citroen-nemero-9-concept-24 citroen-nemero-9-concept-25 citroen-nemero-9-concept-26 citroen-nemero-9-concept-27 citroen-nemero-9-concept-28 citroen-nemero-9-concept-29 citroen-nemero-9-concept-30 citroen-nemero-9-concept-31 citroen-nemero-9-concept-32 citroen-nemero-9-concept-33 citroen-nemero-9-concept-34 citroen-nemero-9-concept-35 citroen-nemero-9-concept-36 citroen-nemero-9-concept-37 citroen-nemero-9-concept-38 citroen-nemero-9-concept-39 citroen-nemero-9-concept-40 citroen-nemero-9-concept-41 citroen-nemero-9-concept-42 citroen-nemero-9-concept-43 c citroen-nemero-9-concept-45 citroen-nemero-9-concept-46 citroen-nemero-9-concept-47 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail citroen-nemero-9-concept-101 citroen-nemero-9-concept-100 citroen-nemero-9-concept-99 citroen-nemero-9-concept-98 citroen-nemero-9-concept-97 citroen-nemero-9-concept-96 citroen-nemero-9-concept-95 citroen-nemero-9-concept-94 citroen-nemero-9-concept-93 citroen-nemero-9-concept-92 citroen-nemero-9-concept-91 citroen-nemero-9-concept-90 citroen-nemero-9-concept-89 citroen-nemero-9-concept-88 citroen-nemero-9-concept-87 citroen-nemero-9-concept-86 citroen-nemero-9-concept-85 (4) citroen-nemero-9-concept-85 (3) citroen-nemero-9-concept-85 (2) citroen-nemero-9-concept-85 (1) citroen-nemero-9-concept-85 citroen-nemero-9-concept-84 citroen-nemero-9-concept-83 citroen-nemero-9-concept-82 citroen-nemero-9-concept-81 citroen-nemero-9-concept-80 citroen-nemero-9-concept-79 citroen-nemero-9-concept-78 citroen-nemero-9-concept-77 citroen-nemero-9-concept-76 citroen-nemero-9-concept-75 citroen-nemero-9-concept-74 citroen-nemero-9-concept-73 citroen-nemero-9-concept-72 citroen-nemero-9-concept-71 citroen-nemero-9-concept-70 citroen-nemero-9-concept-69 citroen-nemero-9-concept-68 citroen-nemero-9-concept-67 citroen-nemero-9-concept-66 citroen-nemero-9-concept-65 (1) citroen-nemero-9-concept-65 s d a citroen-nemero-9-concept-61 citroen-nemero-9-concept-60 citroen-nemero-9-concept-59 citroen-nemero-9-concept-58 c citroen-nemero-9-concept-56 citroen-nemero-9-concept-55 citroen-nemero-9-concept-54 citroen-nemero-9-concept-53 citroen-nemero-9-concept-52 citroen-nemero-9-concept-51 citroen-nemero-9-concept-50 citroen-nemero-9-concept-49 citroen-nemero-9-concept-48 Citroen DS Numero 9. Photo courtesy Citroen

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Detroit-Hamtramck Shutdown Extended, Chevrolet Volt Production Slowed Again http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/detroit-hamtramck-shutdown-extended-chevrolet-volt-production-slowed-again/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/detroit-hamtramck-shutdown-extended-chevrolet-volt-production-slowed-again/#comments Tue, 03 Apr 2012 15:46:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=437858 The Detroit-Hamtramck plant that builds the Chevrolet Volt will be shut down for three weeks instead of the standard two weeks this summer, and according to GM, that’s just business as usual. Even when it’s not. According to the Detroit Free Press “This is (a) normal part of business as managing to market demand,” GM […]

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The Detroit-Hamtramck plant that builds the Chevrolet Volt will be shut down for three weeks instead of the standard two weeks this summer, and according to GM, that’s just business as usual. Even when it’s not.

According to the Detroit Free Press

“This is (a) normal part of business as managing to market demand,” GM spokeswoman Michelle Malcho said in an e-mail. Malcho confirmed that GM sold more than 2,000 Volts in March. Full sales figures will be released this morning.

Hmm. We’ve heard the whole “managing demand” thing before, in references to shutting down the plant. Let’s see how these sales figures pan out.

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A123 Systems Recalling Battery Packs Used In Fisker Karma, Other Cars http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/a123-systems-recalling-battery-packs-used-in-fisker-karma-other-cars/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/a123-systems-recalling-battery-packs-used-in-fisker-karma-other-cars/#comments Mon, 26 Mar 2012 16:35:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=436508 A123 Systems will be replacing battery packs built at their Livonia, Michigan plant that contain prismatic cells – the same type used in the Fisker Karma. The recall is estimated to cost A123 about $55 million. The defective batteries are linked to the recent problems experienced by Fisker Karma owners, according to A123 CEO David […]

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A123 Systems will be replacing battery packs built at their Livonia, Michigan plant that contain prismatic cells – the same type used in the Fisker Karma. The recall is estimated to cost A123 about $55 million. The defective batteries are linked to the recent problems experienced by Fisker Karma owners, according to A123 CEO David Vieau.

The Karma is the single largest customer of prismatic cells from the Livonia plant. Green Car Reports claims that other cells built in China for different applications are not affected. John Voelcker of Green Car Reports describes the problem as

“…defect [that] was traced to a miscalibration in an automatic welding machine at the plant, which resulted in a misaligned component was not detected visually.

When the cells were compressed, interference could be created although the cells functioned properly at first. A123 says the defect does not cause a safety issue, and has had no reports of any safety concerns in any of the products.”

Vieau said that A123 will have to adjust their fundraising strategy to pay for the recall, but was forthcoming about accepting responsibility for the matter. “We make no excuses and we accept full responsibility for this action,” he said.

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Consumer Reports Finally Gets To Drive Their Fisker Karma http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/consumer-reports-finally-gets-to-drive-their-fisker-karma/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/consumer-reports-finally-gets-to-drive-their-fisker-karma/#comments Tue, 20 Mar 2012 13:30:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=435596 Consumer Reports has their Fisker Karma back from the dealership, and has finally been able to get their driving impressions. The folks at CR are apparently being cautious with their new six-figure sports sedan, for fear that another breakdown could happen far from home, rather than within their compound. CR’s chief complaints center around the […]

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Click here to view the embedded video.

Consumer Reports has their Fisker Karma back from the dealership, and has finally been able to get their driving impressions. The folks at CR are apparently being cautious with their new six-figure sports sedan, for fear that another breakdown could happen far from home, rather than within their compound.

CR’s chief complaints center around the car’s mass; the big, heavy battery pack allegedy makes for a cramped rear seat, while also hurting the Karma’s performance. The staff are also hesitant to take the car on any sort of long trips, since any breakdowns would leave them stranded in an area with poor cell phone coverage. CR’s claim that “It is expected we’ll be revisiting the dealership soon. We’ve had cars in the past that have been troublesome, but never anything like this,” should tell you everything you need to know.

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Geely Plug-In To Use Same Battery Supplier As Fisker http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/geely-plug-in-to-use-same-battery-supplier-as-fisker/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/geely-plug-in-to-use-same-battery-supplier-as-fisker/#comments Thu, 15 Mar 2012 20:47:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=435137 Geely has chosen their battery technology partner for their new plug-in hybrid vehicle, and their supplier, A123 Systems Inc., may not be a familiar name to everyone, but their wares have been used by other vehicles like the Fisker Karma. Advanced Traction Battery Systems, A123’s Chinese joint venture partner, will supply batteries for the Geely […]

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Geely has chosen their battery technology partner for their new plug-in hybrid vehicle, and their supplier, A123 Systems Inc., may not be a familiar name to everyone, but their wares have been used by other vehicles like the Fisker Karma.

Advanced Traction Battery Systems, A123’s Chinese joint venture partner, will supply batteries for the Geely plug-in. The car is expected to go on sale in 2014. No word on whether A123 will play a role in future development of Volvo’s plug-in hybrids. A123’s stock price has fluctuated wildly over the last year or so, and recent news of Fisker battery problems (not to mention this article from the end of 2011) hasn’t helped the Mass.-based battery maker’s fortunes.

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Consumer Reports Fisker Karma Gets New Battery Pack http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/consumer-reports-fisker-karma-gets-new-battery-pack/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/consumer-reports-fisker-karma-gets-new-battery-pack/#comments Wed, 14 Mar 2012 18:43:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=434998   The Fisker Karma that broke down shortly after Consumer Reports took delivery is up and running again, thanks to a new battery pack replaced under warranty. While calibrating the Karma’s speedometer (a routine procedure at CR), the car triggered a warning light. After coming to a stop, the car shifted would only shift from […]

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The Fisker Karma that broke down shortly after Consumer Reports took delivery is up and running again, thanks to a new battery pack replaced under warranty.

While calibrating the Karma’s speedometer (a routine procedure at CR), the car triggered a warning light. After coming to a stop, the car shifted would only shift from Neutral to Park and would not go into gear. The problem disappeared after an hour, only to reappear, necessitating a flatbed truck and a trip to the dealer.

As for the fix? Here’s CR’s explanation.

The dealer’s repair invoice says the problem was “duplicated repeatedly.” A “fault was found in the battery and inverter cable. Both were replaced as a unit.” In other words, we now have a brand-new lithium-ion drive battery pack provided under warranty, though likely costing as much as a small, fuel-efficient car. Throughout the process, the dealer’s service department kept us up to date on the progress. And they were courteous enough to wash the car and charge it up before shipping the luxury sedan back to us.

Yes, emphasis is mine there. It’s nice that Fisker replaced the battery in a hassle-free manner but we can only wonder what went so wrong that such a drastic replacement was necessary.

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Geneva 2012: Mitsubishi Outlander Gets Plug-In Variant, 31 Mile EV Range http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/geneva-2012-mitsubishi-outlander-gets-plug-in-variant-31-mile-ev-range/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/geneva-2012-mitsubishi-outlander-gets-plug-in-variant-31-mile-ev-range/#comments Wed, 07 Mar 2012 17:33:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=434286 The Mitsubishi Outlander, a vehicle nobody cared about, is now sort of interesting, thanks to the addition of a Plug-in Hybrid system that is also compatible with the vehicle’s 4WD system. With an EV range of 31 miles, the Outlander can run in Pure EV mode (only the front and rear electric motors), Series EV […]

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The Mitsubishi Outlander, a vehicle nobody cared about, is now sort of interesting, thanks to the addition of a Plug-in Hybrid system that is also compatible with the vehicle’s 4WD system.

With an EV range of 31 miles, the Outlander can run in Pure EV mode (only the front and rear electric motors), Series EV mode (where the gasoline engine assists the twin electric motors, which play a primary role in powering the car) and Parallel EV mode (where both systems work in tandem – this mode is used for higher speeds like freeway driving). There’s also a Battery Charge Mode, which, obviously, allows the battery to charge via the gasoline motors.

An on-sale date and pricing haven’t been announced, but the Outlander’s all-electric 4WD system and plug-in hybrid drivetrain look interesting. Mitsubishi’s precarious history and financial situation means that we’ll have to see it on dealer lots to believe it.

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2011 Chevrolet Volt: Take Three http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/07/2011-chevrolet-volt-take-three/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/07/2011-chevrolet-volt-take-three/#comments Wed, 20 Jul 2011 18:47:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=403180 Truth seeking is difficult considering the controversy, misinformation and flat-out lies surrounding the Chevrolet Volt. But this is a product with set attributes, some are better or worse than our collective expectations.  The performance reminds me of live music: everyone has an opinion as to how much it rocked.  And the Chevrolet Volt is Jimi […]

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Truth seeking is difficult considering the controversy, misinformation and flat-out lies surrounding the Chevrolet Volt. But this is a product with set attributes, some are better or worse than our collective expectations.  The performance reminds me of live music: everyone has an opinion as to how much it rocked.  And the Chevrolet Volt is Jimi Hendrix on wheels: an American likely to influence popular culture for decades after leaving the limelight.  But more importantly, like the influences of jazz and blues in Jimi’s work, the Volt combines Detroit’s future with memorable elements of the past.  It’s true.

Which is painfully obvious in the styling: a mishmash of boring econocar elements with styling cues from the lovely cab-backward design of the Volt concept.  GM Design worked hard to fit the original’s unique bits on the Delta II platform, even the “black eye” window surrounds are crafted nicely enough to look more like a tu-tone paint job, not a cop-out from the concept’s wild window treatment.  That said, it’s another tall and boxy sedan with a big nose, mediocre coefficient of drag and an afterthought-looking hatchback that does little to improve visibility.  Black is certainly the best color.

Not necessarily true inside: the Volt embraces its passenger sedan platform from within, adding CB2-worthy flair to keep the Corolla references at bay.  GM’s corporate center stack gets an extreme iPod makeover with Volvo’s signature negative space just for fun. The buttonage is less intuitive than your average cell phone, but it’s a short learning curve.  Speaking of, the dual-cove dash comes with hard, bright plastic accents that follow around the door’s armrests in a distinctly elbow-averse manner. No matter, the dashtop cubby, (optional) lime green trim and stitched armrests make excellent fodder for Hybrid-owner smugness.

Seat comfort is almost plush, with Corvette-like leather wrapping and matching lime green contrast. Speaking of, there are squidgy plastics where needed and (much to the Chevy Vega’s dismay) the best trimmed glove box in GM’s portfolio.  While rear seat legroom isn’t plentiful, there’s space for two adults between the low-slung console. Perhaps the Volt’s derivative platform is to blame again, taller rear passengers benefit from a warning before closing the hatchback: crushed hats and squashed hair Über Alles.

Driving requires no such precautions. Aside from the “green ball in a tube” efficiency gauge a la economy meter on BMWs, a drive around downtown Houston was an afternoon in the Land of the Lotus Eaters. The ride is controlled, close to silent, and luxury car plush with minimal suspension crashing on bad bumps.  Credit the almost 3800lb curb weight and cushy suspension for that.

Natural-feeling torque management (yes, really) reduces the Volt’s gutsy powertrain to that of a normal vehicle. Steering is lifeless on-center, but turns to the slow and confident responses expected from an American sedan with a few degrees of input.  The brakes are a surprise: light and linear with no grabbing sensations from the battery regeneration hardware.  I couldn’t push the Volt hard, but it’s clear that this ride subscribes to the straight line school of thought.

This is more relevant on America’s stock in trade: the Interstate. Freeway sweepers highlight the smooth and confident steering/braking/handling of many a US-spec sedan. And the Volt is no exception.  Merging in traffic is accomplished with diesel-like effort with only a hushed “whir” from the engine compartment.  It was an absolutely thrilling, if subtle, change to my commute. And that was the wakeup call: the Volt’s unique-but-expected driving demeanor is everything America loves from Detroit’s cushy ride, torque-rich V8 past with everything we expect from our energy independent future. Clarkson’s grinding his xenophobic axe, but Hendrix fans appreciate the duality.

Which instills a (hopeless?) optimism that things can only get better from here, even if both Volts I tested showed MPG figures in the high 30’s. Which was what I earned via hypermiling a $14,000 Cobalt XFE that was far more entertaining in a corner. So I’m not here to complain about/justify the Volt’s numbers, either on a MPG or kWh basis. It’s a moot point since the manufacturing justifications, limited production, loyal fan base and limitless potential in the second generation are in the Volt’s favor.

And I never drove long enough to kick-on the underhood ICE, as Chevy recharged their Volt fleet whenever possible, using hotels that willingly pay extra for Texas’ Green-sourced power. Okay, I made that last part up.

Should you fork over $35-ish grand (incentivized) for a Volt? Being on the bleeding edge of technology is a thrill for many. And this is the 1953 Corvette for a new generation, with its antiquated kingpin suspension and stop-gap straight six motor intact. And that implies a promise: the Chevy Volt has limited production with unlimited appeal. Like any other Detroit Icons from yesteryear, it is an instant classic that must be experienced to fully appreciate.

(I attended the Chevy Volt tour as a registered guest, not a media participant. It was held in Houston’s version of Central Park, building awareness with Texans who avoid the long commutes of a suburban dweller. Thanks to my brother giving hot laps in his Corvette ZR1 for the Volt staffers, TTAC got a closer look. Shockingly, a Chevy Volt arrived at our door the next evening to experience on roads that encompass my normal commute, including highways, light traffic and piss-poor pavement in less-than-desirable neighborhoods.)

DSC_0257 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail DSC_0294 DSC_0288 Images from the Volt launch (courtesy: Edward Niedermeyer) voltstack DSC_0284-thumb DSC_0277 DSC_0293 DSC_0266 2011 Chevrolet Volt 2011 Chevrolet Volt



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