The electric vehicle onslaught from Kia continues with the introduction of its 2019 Kia Niro EV. A far larger battery than the Niro PHEV and fast-charge capability conspire to give owners more time behind the wheel and less time juicing up.
We suppose one of the goals of Kia’s Niro EV is to offer an all-electric alternative to those not enamored by the Soul EV’s inspired-by-a-toaster styling cues. After, all both share a lot when it comes to their powertrains.
While electric vehicles get better every year, they remain beholden to battery technology. This results in a few inherent shortcomings – the most noteworthy being limited range and extended downtime while charging. While this has helped throw a wet blanket EV adoption, it isn’t the technology’s only fault. Modern car batteries are also dependent on relatively rare metals that are both morally contentious and prohibitively expensive to procure.
Cobalt, mined almost exclusively in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and often by children, is likely the worst offender. Prices skyrocketed after EV manufacturing went mainstream, and analysts have long predicted a shortage that could severely impact the long-term popularity of zero-emission vehicles. Fortunately, a new way to build batteries may be on the horizon, though this particular application could create as many issues as it solves – since it involves removing an element that’s paramount to a battery’s long-term stability.
Remember when McDonald’s used to put a running total of the “Billions Served” on its golden arches? EV makers may soon be able to do the same for their sales efforts. According to Wards Auto, total sales for plug-in hybrid or electric vehicles over the last ten years will soon reach the 1 million mark.
And, like McDonald’s, manufacturers of cars which run solely on electrons are all serving up variations on what’s essentially the same dish, but adding different ingredients here and there.
Last year, Mercedes-Benz committed to a Tuscaloosa treat in the form of a billion-dollar upgrade to its existing Deep South facility. Details have surfaced on how that cheddar will be spent, including the construction of a new battery factory for the company’s future EV endeavors.
Mercedes has been entrenched into Alabama for about 20 years now, making SUVs and crossovers that are both sold here and exported to other markets. With this investment in electrification, there’s every chance they’ll be in the area for another two decades.
While Part I of the Fisker Karma story introduced the car and its tech, and Part II reviewed the interesting combination of features and design mandates which accompanied the advanced tech, Part III is the one you’ve really been waiting for.
It’s all flames, floods, and failures.
To my recollection, we’ve only had one EV-type vehicle thus far in the Rare Rides series, and it was Toyota’s ill-fated and corporately sabotaged RAV4 EV. That changes today, with another plug-in vehicle that crashed and burned.
Today’s Rare Rides is the first installment in a three-part trilogy of the life and times of the Fisker Karma.
Established automakers have finally decided they have the stones to challenge Tesla. Over the last few months, premium manufacturers have issued a glut of product announcements on vehicles targeting the premium EV segment. Audi dabbled in electrification earlier than most before scaling back a bit. However, it’s now positioning three new battery-electric models for production — the E-Tron Gran Turismo, Quattro SUV, and Sportback crossover.
The “e-tron” branding (obnoxiously styled by the automaker in all lower case) has been affixed to countless concept hybrid and battery-electric vehicles. But with the R8 e-tron killed off (in 2016), the only production model currently wearing the badge is the A3 Sportback. Audi claims this will change when its first round of fully electric vehicles arrive later this year. Unfortunately, the E-Tron GT isn’t supposed to commence production until “early next decade.” At that point, Tesla’s Model S will be nearly a decade old.
Between the release of Who Killed the Electric Car and the availability of real-world-capable full-electric vehicles for reasonable prices, golf-cart-esque electric LSVs (Low Speed Vehicles) sold in sufficient quantities that you might spot one humming down your street on a short journey.
Now that electric cars have become, you know, cars, machines like the ZENN Electric seem like amusing relics of a distant past. Here’s an ’07 ZENN, spotted in a Northern California pull-it-yourself yard last month.
Earlier this year, Tim tested the new Kia Niro, finding it to be a perfectly non-offensive crossover, one that goes about its business with little fuss – which, let’s be honest, is what a good slice of the buying public looks for in a new car.
At the Consumer Electronic Show in Vegas this week, Kia added to the Niro’s lineage with an all-electric version of the compact machine, saying it will offer a range of 238 miles. If that number sounds familiar, it should. It is the exact figure Chevrolet promises for the Bolt.
On Sunday at CES, Chinese-backed car startup Byton officially unveiled its first drivable prototype. The all-electric crossover, dubbed the SIV, arrived with its dashboard-encompassing touchscreen intact. Byton says the car will be available near the end of 2019 with the 49-inch “shared-experience” display, touchscreen steering wheel, Amazon’s Alexa, and Level 3 autonomy.
Despite a demo video featuring some cringe-worthy acting, Byton’s unveiling went off without a hitch. The company even released footage of the SIV putting around a parking lot a day early to prove that it had, in fact, build a functional prototype. But it’s promising quite a bit on a relatively narrow timeline, and we’ve seen how poorly that can play out for a Chinese-backed EV startup.
Even though automotive trade shows are becoming more tech-focused, its still a difficult environment for a fledgling carmaker to break into. That’s one reason the Consumer Electronics Show, now just called “CES,” has hosted so many Chinese startups these last few years. One of the newest is the e-car manufacturer Byton, formerly known as Future Mobility.
While Byton sounds more like the name of a vehicle than a brand — especially since it was, two months earlier — it’s infinitely better than mashing two of the auto industry’s most-popular buzzwords together and pretending it means something. The company was also wise to get away from any moniker that might allow the public to confuse it with Faraday Future.
However, adopting the name of its singular model means Byton had to come up with something new for the vehicle scheduled to make its world debut at CES next week. Now dubbed the SIV (smart intuitive vehicle), the Chinese-brand is promising a “next generation smart device” that is “uniquely built for the coming era of truly shared, smart mobility and autonomous driving.”
The previous-generation all-electric Nissan Leaf (technically “LEAF,” but that acronym sends my MacBook Air into a snit befitting Peter Frampton), with toenail clippings for headlights and a face only a mother could slug, has historically done very well for itself, selling well over 100,000 units in America since its introduction eight long model years ago.
For 2018, the Japanese automaker set out to prove an all-electric car doesn’t have to look like a science experiment. In the past, new models were denoted by the holy trinity of longer, lower, and wider. In the EV sphere, that trio takes the form of longer (range), lower (charge times), and wider (infotainment screens).
The first-generation Toyota RAV4 arrived on the market at the beginning of the compact crossover boom. While almost all first-generation models had four cylinders under the hood, there were exceptions. If you were fortunate enough to live in the People’s Republic of California, you could pony up for the electric version and show all your neighbors how conscientious you were. But that’s only part of the story.
The rise and fall of the RAV4 EV is an interesting historical aside, because it shows you exactly what corporate treachery can do.
“This is not some vision of the distant future,” Honda CEO Takahiro Hachigo says of the Honda Urban EV Concept that debuts at the Frankfurt Motor Show. “A production version of this car will be here in Europe in 2019.”
Be a skeptic if you like. Honda’s recent history is full of pie-in-the-sky small car concepts that never came to production fruition: Remix, Step Bus, IMAS, Puyo, P-Nut, Gear. But there are also Honda concepts that ended up in the real world. The Model X Concept became the Element, the CR-Z Concept became the CR-Z, the SUT Concept arrived as the Ridgeline.
Honda has every intention to introduce the delightfully retro-modern Urban EV, albeit most assuredly without suicide doors, gigantic wheels, a front bench, or the unusually minimalistic interior. Yet if Honda can maintain the silhouette, a blend of early Civic and Mk1 Golf GTI, we’ll begin to wonder whether Honda’s lost decade – in which mistakes were made and costs were cut — is about to produce evidence of a reinvigorated Honda.
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