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.
Outside North America, this little blue pill of an A-segment car is known as the Daewoo Matiz Creative. It may look an obsolete computer peripheral (or a pregnant roller skate), but GM claims that the Chevrolet Spark has more torque than a Ferrari 458 Italia. As a self-described technology lover, and card-carrying resident of the Left Coast, I had to check it out.
Remember this piece from the Honda Summer 2008 Hydrogen Collection? It was supposed to point the way to future of green fuel technology before the Tesla brought plug-in sex appeal down the ramp with their Roadster and, later on, the S, as well as the trend of compliance EVs from Chevrolet, Volkswagen and Kia.
But with sales of plug-in hybrids advancing far slower than originally expected regulators are taking another look at alternative ZEV powertrains.
Despite accounting for an incredibly small percentage of new car sales in America, the EV is all the rage in California. Rather than starting from scratch and designing an all-new car from the ground up (like Nissan), Honda chose the more economical route and electrified the second-generation Honda Fit. On the surface, the recipe sounds like a slam dunk, since the Fit is one of Honda’s most attractive and most fun to drive models now on sale. To prove to the masses that Honda has what it takes to go green, they flew me out to Pasadena to sample the all-new, all-blue Fit EV.
The WSJ [sub] reports
California regulators want zero-emission vehicles—those that don’t run on petroleum—to comprise up to 5.5% of new-car sales in the state, or roughly 81,300, in 2018. The target would rise annually to 14%, or more than 227,600, by 2025…
Tom Cackette, chief deputy executive officer of the California Air Resources Board, says his agency’s goal is to test whether electric cars can become mainstream vehicles, or wind up serving a “niche” market. Mr. Cackette said the state is investing in charging stations and other infrastructure, and he pointed to the sales of new plug-ins on the market to show that there’s a demand for the vehicles. He said he believes the California targets are feasible.
“That is a question we’ll only find out by trying,” he said. “I think [car companies] are making a pretty big investment in these vehicles, and they wouldn’t be doing that if they didn’t think there was a market there.”
Industry lobby groups are pushing California to roll the ZEV mandate into the forthcoming national CAFE standard. Small automakers like Mazda complain that placing a California ZEV mandate on top of national emissions standards would create a “costly burden…in light of the uncertain marketplace and infrastructure for electric vehicles.” And since CARB is leading the federal government by the ear towards a national standard anyway, it could simply push for a higher CAFE rate, which would at least allow firms the flexibility to comply on their own terms. Adding a major ZEV mandate won’t fundamentally change the national standard, but it absolutely will force automakers to spend huge amounts of money to develop a kind of vehicle that has major shortcomings, is only as green as local electricity generation, and has yet to prove itself with consumers. Whatever you think of emissions standards increases, it should be clear that consumers should determine what mix of technologies can best serve their needs while lowering fuel consumption and pollution.
Earlier this week, Tesla reported a $38.5m Q2 net loss, up from its $29.5m in the first quarter of the year. The good news was that revenue rose by about $8m over Q1, to $28.45m, but development and selling/general expenses rose countering the higher receipts. Other good news came on the Model S front, as Tesla claims that body and powertrain development is complete for the forthcoming sedan. But with the company losing about $5 per share (currently valued at $19.70 each), there’s more bad news coming. In a piece at Wired Autopia, Tesla’s former PR boss Darryl Siry points out that a key revenue stream for Tesla is being closed.