By on September 14, 2021

Chrysler/Stellantis

Mainstream hybrid cars have been with us for more than twenty years – at least since the first Toyota Prius hit the market in 1998 – and their image has evolved considerably. When they first arrived on the scene, for example, they were hailed as the car to be seen in if you wanted to be seen saving the planet, and there were a lot of celebrities who wanted to be seen in the things in the early Aughts. Over time, the virtue-signaling vehicle of choice switched from the Prius to the Tesla, but the Prius soldiered on with considerable green cred, eventually spawning an entire line of Priuses (Prii?) in the process. These days, however, the green crowd doesn’t want to talk about hybrids in a positive light, with some journalists calling for an end to the “era” of hybrids to come – now.

From climate crusader to internal-combustion enabler in the span of just two decades, then. That’s kind of impressive, I think, but it got us thinking about plug-in hybrids. Were they really a transitional technology that could hold the hands of overly cautious consumers as they tiptoe from internal combustion to battery power, or were they a flawed, compromised technology by definition – the worst of all possible worlds, combining the pollution and maintenance needs of internal combustion with the added weight and electrical complexity of electric, with nary a benefit over either to be found?  (Read More…)

By on June 1, 2020

toyota

By bestowing a name once associated with the Prius on its top-selling RAV4 crossover — while adding beefed-up electric motors, battery pack, and charging port for good measure — Toyota catapulted the compact CUV’s power and price.

For those looking to get off the line in a hurry while using less fuel, what kind of pocketbook pain awaits them in a new RAV4 Prime? (Read More…)

By on April 20, 2020

2018 Lexus NX 300h front quarter

Overseas trademark applications are nice, but the significant differences between those markets and our own often make such appearances a harbinger of not much. Europe is far more likely to go green, while American buyers, depending on state, don’t see nearly as much punishment for choosing the least efficient models.

Less taxation and far cheaper fuel conspire with geographical and cultural realities to make green cars a tough sell stateside, even a decade after things really kicked off in earnest.

Which is why the recent appearance of a plug-in hybrid in trademark filings an ocean away were worthy of interest, but no guarantee of U.S. availability. Until now. (Read More…)

By on April 17, 2020

2019 Land Rover Range Rover Sport HSE P400e

Even Range Rovers need to go green.

Or, at the very least, offer “green” engine options to accrue cred with the right kind of well-heeled buyers.

While I believe some of the greenies with plenty of green in their bank account are sincere about their intentions to save the planet (and I definitely believe the climate is changing, and we’re at fault), other green types are simply signaling virtue. Still others think they’re doing the right thing, without considering that not all hybrids are the same.

Some hybrids aren’t even meant to maximize fuel economy – their electrified hardware strives mainly for enhanced performance.

(Read More…)

By on April 15, 2020

Image: Steph Willems/TTAC

With a new Lexus NX compact crossover expected to arrive next year, trademark applications on both sides of the Atlantic point to increased powertrain diversity — and more available power for U.S. customers.

Overseas, at least, the little Lexus (but not the littlest Lexus) CUV stands to go even greener. (Read More…)

By on April 9, 2020

If you’re a greenie who loves hauling your compostable tote to the grocery store in search of climate-conscious vegan food, Volkswagen’s U.S. lineup likely leaves a lot to be desired. For now, anyway. The automaker’s domestic offerings are pretty heavily skewed in favor of larger, gas-powered utility vehicles, with the promised lineup of electrics has yet to materialize.

Overseas, VW product news would have this hypothetical buyer up at night, unable to sleep due to all of the cortisol rushing through their bloodstream. Knowing the jump to EVs might be too wide a gap for some, the automaker is readying a range of performance plug-in hybrids to placate the nervous and sell them on the idea of electricity. (Read More…)

By on January 27, 2020

2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV front quarter

The only hybrid vehicle in Mitsubishi’s meager lineup, the Outlander PHEV, will don a larger gasoline engine when it arrives for the 2021 model year. In a nod to the Gretas of the world, Mitsu will offset the boosted displacement with additional gas-free range.

Documents filed to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reveal details of the upcoming midsize crossover, which should be the first Mitsubishi-branded vehicle to borrow serious kit from its alliance partners. (Read More…)

By on November 20, 2019

toyota

It seems the automotive industry has learned that the instant torque and potency potential afforded by electric motors can be a selling feature all its own, relegating the usual save-the-planet messaging to the back burner. Even the traditionally staid and sensible Toyota is getting in on the game.

Not just Toyota, but even the RAV4 — a compact and newly revamped crossover most often associated with placid nuclear families boasting at least one parent who works for the public sector. Toyota is eager to tell you that an upcoming variant, revealed this week at the L.A. Auto Show, will get you to 60 mph quicker than any RAV4 that came before.

And it’ll do so without using gas. (Read More…)

By on October 21, 2019

Image: Audi

If the realm of bad — or at least confusing — model naming, no one hits it out of the park quite like Cadillac and Audi. Both automakers, already fond of foisting alphanumeric nameplates on their respective lineups, recently introduced new naming schemes drawn from a model’s individual power output.

Cadillac’s gambit sees a rounded-up three-figure number sourced from a model’s torque figure (in Newton-Meters, amazingly) placed after the model name. Audi, on the other hand, will use double-digit figures pertaining to the range of horsepower output. In other Audi name news, the brand opted to place the “e-tron” label only on fully electric cars, scrapping their use on plug-in hybrids.

And so it became that the new plug-in hybrid A6 does not carry the e-tron name. Instead, people will know it as the Audi A6 55 TFSI e quattro — just not here. (Read More…)

By on June 10, 2019

Despite the recent development of a high-MPG, low-emission gasoline four-cylinder, Mazda’s future depends on lowering its emissions footprint even further. With regulators — especially those in Europe — backing ever more stringent environmental standards, Mazda hopes to avoid Fiat Chrysler-like penalties by adding a product at odds with the brand’s heritage. An electric vehicle.

With the help of its partners, Mazda’s new EV will make an appearance next year, followed up with a crop of plug-in hybrids buyers are more likely to take home. (Read More…)

By on May 17, 2019

As per its $11 billion investment in electrification, Ford intends to have 40 electrified vehicles — 16 of which will be battery-only — on sale by 2022. That includes the widespread hybridization of trucks, crossovers, and SUVs. As towing has not historically been a great strength of hybrids, the automaker is developing a new transmission system it calls “modular hybrid technology.”

The system, which debuts on the 2020 Explorer, is said to incorporate an electric motor, clutch and torque converter to help vehicles deliver superior fuel economy without sabotaging a vehicle’s ability to haul ass or whatever customers choose to hitch up behind the tailgate.  (Read More…)

By on May 6, 2019

2019 Chevrolet Volt rear

February 15th was a sad day, even for those who hate cars. On that day, General Motors’ Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant produced the last Chevrolet Volt — a green car born at the dawn of a new era that didn’t take off exactly as envisioned.

In the truck-loving land of (relatively) cheap gasoline, electric vehicles are only just now eating up more than 1 percent of the market, thanks mainly to the Tesla Model 3 and what ownership of said vehicle says about your lifestyle and viewpoints. Plug-in hybrids are struggling, however, and the most famous of them all is now dead. A victim of falling sales, though your author would be curious to learn the model’s margin.

Despite offering the most practical combination of conventional gas-powered driving and electric ability, many claim the Volt’s failure was one of marketing, not engineering. (Read More…)

By on April 17, 2019

By now, you’ve all had a chance to digest Lincoln’s new take on a compact CUV. Underpinned by a platform shared with the equally new 2020 Ford Escape and boasting a model-specific rear multi-link type setup (“integral bush suspension” in Lincoln parlance), the 2020 Corsair is the brand’s latest attempt to restore Lincoln’s faded lustre.

“We are American luxury,” said brand boss Joy Falotico during the model’s New York Auto Show debut. Surely, the Corsair embodies this mantra better than its MKC predecessor, with a stronger commitment to interior trappings and exterior style. But what of the plug-in variant that wasn’t a part of today’s debut? (Read More…)

By on March 5, 2019

FCA

Fiat Chrysler’s reputation as an automaker that scoffs at fuel economy mandates is slowly being chipped away. Never mind the much-loathed Fiat 500e; it was the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid that really got the ball rolling, with eTorque-engined Ram 1500s upping the company’s green cred for 2019.

At this week’s Geneva Motor Show, the high-flying Jeep brand revealed the next salvo in its bid to lower corporate emissions while wooing eco-conscious (or heavily taxed) overseas buyers: Two crossovers, each bearing a plug-in hybrid drivetrain. (Read More…)

By on January 7, 2019

2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV front quarter

The idea was as obvious as it was brilliant. Take the hottest segment of motor vehicles on the market and stick an improbably high fuel economy figure on the window sticker. The hybrid revolution made the ungainly Prius a certified success — so why not a crossover? And why not add a plug to it, letting it run on battery power for a longer distance?

In 2013, Mitsubishi did just that, only overseas. Americans would have to wait.

Finally, the 2018 model year brought the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV to stateside showrooms. Boasting around 22 miles of all-electric driving range, this plug-in hybrid crossover could meet many drivers’ commuting needs without using a drop of fuel. Was it worth the wait?

(Read More…)

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