Road Test: 2017 Chevrolet Volt

Road Test: 2017 Chevrolet Volt

It Really Is the Game Changer GM Proclaimed

Now there’s an all-new 2017 Chevrolet Volt. It is better in nearly every way than the first one—more electric driving range, more hybrid fuel efficiency, more comfortable, more attractive and even more affordable.

Will Chevrolet make a genuine effort to sell the Volt this time around?

The First Round

2017 Chevrolet Volt, plug-in hybrid

The leader in plug-in hybrids from the start

As one observer commented, the Chevrolet Volt is one of the most politically “charged” cars ever produced. Politics aside, the Volt is a remarkable automobile that delivered exactly what General Motors said it would when the concept was introduced at the 2007 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

While the Volt has been the world’s best-selling plug-in hybrid since it was introduced in late 2010, sales haven’t set off any fireworks at GM’s Detroit headquarters. The electrified plug-in that paved the way for others to follow finally reached the 100,000 U.S. sales mark less than 30 days ago (this was written in August 2016).

Why hasn’t the Chevrolet Volt sold well? Why not more?

The Volt’s main nemesis is the technology under the hood; it’s more complicated than a five-word headline. As the driving public attempted to understand planetary gear sets (hint, the sun gear is in the middle) and high-speed generator motors, the Volt got parked in a confused haze of what percentage of torque from the gas engine turned the wheel. The Volt represented a major change in the automobile, and lots of people find change frightening.

Yet, here we are today and many potential buyers still don’t understand that you can plug a Volt into an ordinary home socket outlet to charge the battery or that the car’s gas engine will take over when the battery’s electrons are gone thus, eliminating the dreaded EV “range anxiety.”

This deficit of knowledge is squarely on the back of Chevrolet, who failed to properly market the Volt or train its dealers properly. Of course, this can be said about all car companies who sell plug-in hybrids (as well as pure EVs).

Enter the 2017 Chevrolet Volt

There are two trim levels available. A base 2017 Volt LT starts at $34,095 including destination charges, while the Premier has a sticker price starting at $38,445. Neither price reflects any Federal, state, or local incentives that may apply to a purchase.

Our Premier test car arrived sporting a Heather Gray Metallic exterior and Jet Black interior. An Safety Package added $1485, which gave a total vehicle price of $39,930.

All-New Voltec Electric Drive System

2017 Chevrolet Volt, Voltec engine

Under the hood–some petrol to go with the electrons

Chevrolet doesn’t position the Volt as a plug-in hybrid, but as an “extended range electric vehicle” (EREL). In practice, this means it falls somewhere between an electric car and a standard gasoline-powered car.

The Volt operates entirely as an electric car for its first 52 miles after a full charge of the battery. In some driving situations—accelerating with a depleted battery, passing and climbing steep hills—the engine chips in to assist the electric motors.

The engine’s main purpose is to power a generator motor that produces electricity to sustain a battery charge, which is then directed to an electric motor that powers the front wheels. Once the battery is depleted, the 8.9-gallon fuel tank adds an additional 367 miles of total range.

Chevrolet has dubbed the electric system “Voltec.” It has changed significantly from the original version and consists of the battery, electric drive unit, range-extending gasoline engine and power electronics. Here’s a quick look at what’s new.

Externally, the new liquid-cooled and heated lithium-ion battery pack appears to be no different than the first one; it is still T-shaped. Internally it is a different story.

A new lithium-ion chemistry formula increases the battery’s storage capacity by 20 percent compared to the original Volt. Additionally, the number of cells has been reduced to 192, down from 288, decreasing the weight by 30 pounds.  Total battery capacity jumps from 17.1 kilowatt-hours to 18.4 kWh.

To fully recharge a depleted battery, budget about four and half hours for a 240-volt home charging station; double the time using a standard 120-volt outlet.

Two smaller electric motors replace a single large motor and can work individually or together to drive the front wheels. One can act as generator, and at times both can sleep while the engine

2017 Chevrolet Volt

Volt 2.0 takes the battle up a notch

locks into an efficient single-gear ratio connected with the wheels.

Electric motor output is increased from 111 horsepower and 273 pounds-feet of torque to 149 horses and 294 pounds feet. The ability to use both motors helps deliver acceleration from zero to 30 mph in 2.6 seconds, which is Tesla territory. Chevrolet says the run from stop to 60 mph is 8.7 seconds; however, a couple of automotive publications have posted 7.1 seconds.

A new direct injection 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine adds 101 horsepower. It serves as the generator to keep the battery charged and powers the electric drive unit. In other words, the Volt operates as an electric car all of the time. To save a few dollars, premium gasoline is no longer required (as was the case on Volt 1.0).

A continuously variable transmission (CVT) directs all the energy to the front wheels.

While computer programming decides the powertrain’s most efficient operation, the driver can play a role with four different driving modes: Normal, Sport, Mountain and Hold.

Paddle shifters borrowed from the ELR operate “on demand” regenerative braking. Rather than the standard brakes, this system slows the car by using the electric motor and captures braking energy normally lost as friction heat to add electricity to the battery.

So what does all this electrical and mechanical wizardry mean to a Volt owner? Here are the official EPA numbers:

  • Electric only driving range is 53 miles, up from 38 miles.
  • Gasoline fuel economy is now 42 mpg, increased from 37 mpg.
  • MPGe is 106 versus 62 MPGe.
  • Energy Impact Score is just 2.0-barrels of oil used yearly.
  • CO2 emissions of 0.8 tons is close to paradise.

What these numbers say is—this is General Motors at its best engineering.

Chevrolet Volt—New Insides

2017 Chevrolet Volt, interior

Volts gets classy inside

While the first generation Volt resembled Honda’s previous Insight hybrid and the Toyota Prius, the 2017 edition is more akin to the 2017 Chevy Cruze. While it’s not a daring design, I like its

clean shape and balanced proportions. Carved body sides and fenders blend into the hood, and up front a revised split-faux grill sits lower to the ground.

For 2017, the car continues with a hatchback body style, which made for easy loading and unloading. The cargo area has 10.6 cubic feet of space with the rear seats up; the rear seatbacks fold down to give the Volt substantially more cargo space than any sedan in its class.

The first thing I noticed when sliding into the driver’s seat was the generous helping of refinement to the cabin. Tossed was the swath of white plastic on the center console along with the touch sensitive center screen, which, without intimate familiarity, could result in driving down the road like a drunken sailor.

Everything in the interior is new: seats, steering wheel, door panels, headliner and refined materials. The new eight-inch screen features Chevrolet’s MyLink system, one of the best in the auto industry, and the dash layout is more pedestrian with easy-to-use controls.

One thing is a carry over—no power seats. But, a manual height-adjustable driver’s seat and tilt/telescopic steering wheel make it easy to adjust for a good driving position. Plus, heated seats are available whether they are fabric or leather.

The 2017 Chevrolet Volt on the Road

2017 Chevrolet Volt, plug-in hybrid,mpg

Ready to roll–beyond EV range

The Volt whirred to life when I pushed its start button to pull away from our driveway. The instrument panel glowed, and a meter promised I could cover 53 miles on the battery’s charge.

After more than an hour of stop-and-go driving city streets and the rolling rural countryside, the car’s onboard generator switched on. I’d driven almost exactly the 53 miles Chevy says a full charge should cover.

Perhaps the most impressive part of the Volt ride is how quiet it is. When the gas engine kicks on, it purrs only so slightly. The stop-start system on the gas engine is flawless, making it difficult to tell when exactly the engine has turned over.

The Volt didn’t major in driving excitement, but it is surprisingly fun to drive and dispenses predictable front-wheel drive handling. It scoots quickly when merging on to freeways, and once up to highway speed it is nearly as silent as a Lexus ES 300 luxury sedan.

Like a good conventional automobile, the Volt steered nicely with decent on-center feel and some driver feedback. It rounded corners with sufficient agility to satisfy drivers whose other car isn’t a Mazda Miata or Corvette. It stopped promptly, the new regenerative brake system feeling more like a standard car.

Engineers have tuned the independent strut-type front and a semi-independent torsion beam rear axle with soft spring rates and matching shock rates for good comfort and control. The setup absorbs the bumps and potholes of everyday driving quite well.

The Volt isn’t without flaws. The snug interior and very large front A-pillars can cause difficult visibility for some drivers. Also, the rear bench seat is really only adequate for two adults and a car seat or small child.

Your Fuel Economy May Vary

Every window sticker label pasted on new vehicles reminds us that fuel economy may vary depending on a number of variables. With the Volt, I think, if you drive reasonably it will vary upwards.

Getting those 53 miles of EV range is no quip. I drove the Volt like I would any other car, accelerating quickly when necessary and slipping through traffic when called for.

On one reasonably flat driving route of 78 miles I achieved 61 miles of EV driving before the engine kicked in. During our week with the Volt we drove 396 miles—40 percent in town, 30 percent in the countryside on moderate speed roads and 30 percent on freeways, Our gasoline fuel economy was 42.3 mpg, three-tenths above the EPA estimate and our MPGe was 104, two less than the government’s rating. I call those numbers dang good.

Final Word

2017 Chevrolet Volt

After six years–an established brand

Since its introduction the Chevrolet Volt has been a party of one. It was and is the plug-in hybrid standard. Almost six years later the best the competition can muster is 27 miles of electric driving range—and that’s not the new Toyota Prius Prime plug-in, it’s the Hyundai Sonata plug-in, which starts at $34,600.

If the new 2017 Volt is something you would consider purchasing—you are taking it for a test drive, aren’t you—comparing the price of the Volt with other plug-in hybrids will be a deceptive activity. Because of its large battery size, the Volt is eligible for the full $7,500 federal plug-in tax credit. All of the other plug-in hybrids with smaller batteries are capped at a $4,200 incentive or less.

Chevrolet got it right the first time and the 2017 Volt is even better. The Voltec powertrain system is an innovative engineering design that provides drivers with an all-electric car to use for city driving that will function as a normal economy car when the battery runs out of electricity.

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Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class. We also feature those that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

Road Test: 2016 NISSAN LEAF SL

Road Test: 2016 NISSAN LEAF SL

Longer Range, Improved Battery

2016 Nissan Leaf SL

Longer extension cord not needed

A short six years ago Nissan launched the Leaf during a time when electric vehicles (EVs) were a curiosity and under no stretch of the imagination guaranteed to still be around in 2016. Fast forward to today where one auto manufacturer (Tesla) offers only EVs, another dozen offer at least one, there is an international racing series that uses all-electric cars, and city buses, trash trucks and delivery vehicles are being electrified. Even the Port Of Los Angeles is pushing to require that all of the trucks that haul containers from ships to over-the-road carriers be electric-powered. Please, no jokes about not knowing that extension cords could stretch that far.

When Clean Fleet Report first reviewed the 2013 Leaf, we noted that Nissan may be the most honest car company out there because you would actually hear them say a Leaf may not be the right car for you. When we did an update on the launch of the 2016 Leaf, we brought the news of longer battery life and driving range. So did the improvements on battery charge and driving distance change Nissan’s candor that the Leaf might not be for you? Maybe they didn’t go that far, but we feel an EV is getting closer to your garage than you may think.

The biggest change for the 2016 Nissan Leaf SL is that the EPA-estimated driving range has increased from 84 to 112 miles on a full charge, a 33-percent increase compared to the 2015 model. To get this increased range you have to opt for the Leaf SL or SV models (the base model Leaf S with the smaller battery has an 84-mile driving range).

Operating and driving the 2016 Leaf SV or SL with the 112-mile driving range remains the same as the 2015 Leaf with the 84-mile range.

The New Battery

The SV and SL now have a 30kWh Lithium-Ion battery, up from a 24kWh battery, and a 6.6 kW onboard charger with a Hybrid System heater. All models have an 80 kW AC Synchronous motor with 107 hp and 187 lb-ft of torque. Charging the Li-ion battery is accomplished through a regenerative braking system and two plug-in ports offering three charging speeds:

  • Trickle 110V – 21 hours: Discharged to a full charge
  • Normal 220V – 4 – 7 hours: Discharged to a full charge
  • Quick 480V – 30 minutes: Discharged to an 80% charge

The regenerative braking system converts braking or coasting into electricity, which charges the battery. The 2016 Nissan Leaf offers three forward drive options—Normal, ECO and B-mode, with

2016 Nissan Leaf SL, mpg, fuel economy, EV , electric car

Faster charging, bigger battery

B-mode engaging the regenerative braking more aggressively when decelerating. You will come to enjoy monitoring the battery charge and mileage range (metered instantly with dashboard gauges) when driving around town or coasting down hills.

It is quite common to start an in-town journey of stop-and-go driving only to return with more or only a few miles depleted from the beginning range. However, where the regenerative braking system does not offer any help in charging the battery or adding to the driving range is the open freeway. Cruising along at 55 – 65 mph over an extended period will result in the battery charge and driving range being depleted right before your eyes. And if you decide to drive like everyone else on the freeways (at least in SoCal where I live), then you will be tempted to drive upwards of 75 mph, which will have a decidedly negative effect on your battery charge and driving range.

Leaf Driving Is Different

So how do you drive a Leaf efficiently? The first goal is to keep it as close as possible to fully charged before starting out on any length trip. Then, before even getting into the car, do some simple math to calculate the distance you will be driving before you will have the ability and time to plug-in again. With the regenerative braking system, if you hit enough slow traffic or traffic lights, either during rush hour or in-town driving, you might use very little of your starting driving range. If you are driving on the freeway in the 55 – 65+ mph range, then your range and battery life will be depleted in direct correlation to how fast you are driving.

Nissan’s “No Charge to Charge” program, offered in 48 cities, allows new Leaf owners free charging for the first two years of ownership. These fast charge stations can get you up-to 80-percent battery capacity in as little as 30 minutes.

If you live in California and are a AAA member (check your State’s local AAA club), one other safety net is that you can get an emergency quick charge from one of the organization’s service trucks. Just like if you ran out of gasoline and AAA dumped a five-gallon can of gas in your tank, select AAA trucks are equipped with a 480V generator that will give you about 20 miles driving to get you to a dealer or other charge station.

Driving Impressions

2016 Nissan Leaf SL,mpg,performance, road test

With road-hugging battery weight

The 2016 Nissan Leaf SL comes with 17-inch, five-spoke aluminum-alloy wheels, all-season tires, MacPherson independent strut front suspension and torsion beams in the rear, with stabilizer bars at both ends and electronic stability and traction control. Combine this with a low center of gravity (because the batteries are under the seats) and this car handles very well without body roll, even on the tightest of corners. The tight turning radius of 17 feet handles most neighborhood streets without resorting to a three-point turn.

Regenerative braking systems can sometimes be grabby as they are not only stopping the car but converting energy to electricity. But the Leaf’s four-wheel antilock, vented disc brakes with ABS, brake assist and electronic brake force distribution stopped straight and true.

The Leaf gets-up-and-goes with smooth acceleration and 100-percent torque at any speed through the direct drive single-speed reduction gear, an EV’s version of a transmission. Merging onto SoCal freeways and getting up to 65 mph were not an issue. Once cruising at freeway speeds, the Leaf is quiet—more like silent—and smooth with only minor wind noise. The low 0.29 drag coefficient comes from underbody flat panels and diffusers, a rear roof spoiler and those “bug” headlights that are designed to redirect the airflow away from the car. The result of all this, with the lightweight wheels and low rolling resistance tires, delivers an aerodynamic and extremely fuel efficient driving experience.

At low speeds the Leaf emits a whirring sound to alert pedestrians that this completely silent car is nearby. In reverse, a pleasant version of the annoying beeper found on trucks lets people know the Leaf is backing up. Both are very useful as driving an all-electric car includes the responsibility of realizing that no one knows you are there and that you need to protect them.

Interior

2016 Nissan Leaf SL, interior

Inside the Leaf can accommodate adults comfortably

Finding a comfortable seating position with the leather-appointed (SL trim level only), heated, six-way, manually adjustable driver’s seat (the front passenger gets a four-way manually adjustable seat) and adjustable steering wheel was easy. Headroom in the front is ample, even for the tallest drivers. The front bucket/rear bench seats can accommodate five adults with good head and leg room, especially since the batteries are located under the seats and the charger is up front. One interesting feature of the heated rear seat, which folds 60/40, is that the bottom cushion is raised a few inches above the front seat height, providing for an almost theater experience for your friends riding out back. The large glass area provides an open, airy feeling with good visibility.

Pushing the Start button results in a pleasant chime that lets you know the car is ready to be driven. You need to wait a few seconds and read the dash to make sure you are ready to set off as there is no indication from noise or vibrations that the Leaf is good-to-go. The two-level dash layout includes all the gauges necessary to monitor driving range and battery charge levels with the video screen centered for easy reach and viewing. The gear selector is a round knob in the center console that gives you the aforementioned four options—Park, Drive, B-Mode and Reverse—and is operated similar to a joystick. Nissan has designed a simple to understand and use cockpit with all buttons, knobs and switches within easy reach.

As mentioned earlier, the 2016 Nissan Leaf is quiet to operate as there are no engine or transmission noises. With the power windows closed, the cold A/C running and the excellent Bose Premium sound system providing cool tunes, this all adds-up for a very quiet cabin environment. I was driving the fully optioned SL model which came with voice activation in a seven-inch color LCD display, the BOSE Premium seven speaker audio system with USB port for iPod and other mobile devises, HD AM/FM/CD/Aux and Pandora, telephone and hands-free text messaging via Bluetooth, Homelink and SiriusXM, which comes with a three-month complimentary service. Intelligent Key allows for locking/unlocking the front doors with the push of a button on the door handle.

Navigation is part of the Nissan Connect service, which includes mobile apps and the ability to connect with the car remotely. Through Nissan’s Carwings Telematics technology you can monitor the battery’s charge status and charge start time and even turn-on the HVAC system.

The seven-inch monitor also provides views from the rearview camera and Nissan’s Around View Monitor system, which is a series of cameras strategically located on the exterior of the Leaf that allows the driver to see completely around the vehicle, as if looking down from above.

Exterior

2016 Nissan Leaf SL, aerodynamics

It’s all about the aero

When you look at the 2016 Nissan Leaf SL one thing comes to mind: aerodynamics. This car was built to slip through the wind with the least amount of resistance. The most critical comments center around the headlight design, but just like the Mini dash and the Nissan Juke front end, all styling tastes are personal and you will either like the Leaf headlights or not. Otherwise, the car has an identifiable contemporary shape with four doors and rear hatch. The charging door on the nose has a lock and light.

Safety, Comfort and Warranties

When taking delivery at the dealership, there is a lengthy education and introduction process provided by a Nissan factory trained Leaf Specialist. You will learn about all the systems, charging, driving and safety aspects of owning an all-electric vehicle.

The SL model has all the comfort and safety features you would expect on a nicely optioned car such as front, side and roof-mounted (curtain) air bags, anti-theft alarm system with engine immobilizer, automatic temperature control, cargo cover, carpeted floor mats, heated and tilting steering wheel, power and heated outside mirrors, power door locks and one-touch power windows, fog lights, LED headlights and a Photovoltaic solar panel (for charging the 12V battery) mounted on the roof spoiler, tire pressure monitor system with the Easy Fill tire alert, vehicle dynamic control and traction control systems.

The 2016 Leaf comes with these warranties:

Basic – Three years/36,000 miles

Li-ion Battery – Eight years/100,000 miles

EV System – Five years/60,000 miles

Powertrain – Five years/60,000 miles

Corrosion/Perforation – Five years/Unlimited Mileage

All 2016 Leafs have earned a US Government National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) 4-Star Overall Vehicle Score, where 5 Stars is the highest safety rating, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the Leaf an overall Good rating.

Pricing

Clean Fleet Report tested the fully optioned 2016 Nissan Leaf SL model with a MSRP of $38,540. Depending where you live and your taxable income, you could potentially

2016, Nissan Leaf, SL, EV, electric vehicle, aerodynaics

Big changes under the belt

reduce your final cost by as much as $10,000 through Federal and State programs. It is recommended contacting your CPA before considering a Leaf purchase so you are completely clear on the tax credits. Not relying on the dealer to provide this information will serve them and you best.

Leaf pricing before any federal or state incentive programs or the destination charge of $850 is:

Model S       $29,010

Model SV     $34,200

Model SL      $36,790

For those in California, the Leaf automatically qualifies for the coveted HOV sticker, which allows driving in the Carpool lane even with just the driver. If you haven’t heard the stories, people buy the Leaf just for this benefit.

Observations: 2016 Nissan Leaf SL

2016 Nissan Leaf SL,EV, electric car,mpg,fuel efficiency

Far from the end of its cord (rope?)

The 2016 Nissan Leaf SL drives and handles as good, or better, than a conventionally powered car and is very, very quiet. Therefore, placing it on your shopping list comes down to how far do you drive and would this be your primary vehicle. If you fall into that 90-100 mile round trip (or a similar distance one-way with a charging station already picked out) driving range, then the Leaf should be seriously considered.

You will enjoy the smooth ride with tight turning and the instant torque at any speed. The Leaf delivers a comfortable ride experience with peppy acceleration and can comfortably carry four full-size adults.

What you will enjoy and embrace is whizzing by gas stations and not having to pay attention to the odometer for your next oil change or major service appointment.

Much debate continues on whether owning an electric or hybrid vehicle makes financial sense, and the payback timeline. Early EV and hybrid owners were trendsetters, but that has all changed. Because of improved range and technological advances, consumers today are buying an EV (or hybrid) because of its drivability, comfort, performance and, of course, its low impact on the environment and the reduction of the use of fossil fuel. This “Statement Ownership” has been recognized and encouraged by the government through tax breaks on electric vehicles and home fast-charging systems.

So, where do you fit in as a future EV owner? If the majority of your driving is the in-town or close-in freeway and you have access to a conventionally powered car, then you are the perfect candidate to purchase an EV. Make sure to take a lengthy test drive, which replicates your longest and most common trip, as this is the only way to truly see if the Nissan Leaf is right for your lifestyle.

And of course…Happy Driving!

Related Stories You Might Enjoy:

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Top 10 Electric Cars

Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class. We also feature those that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

Feature: Top 10 Eco-Friendly Maintenance Tips

Feature: Top 10 Eco-Friendly Maintenance Tips

Saving Money While Saving the Planet

No matter how new or well-maintained your vehicle might be, it should come as no surprise it can wreak havoc on the environment. According to the California Energy Commission, even minor changes to one’s car such as correctly inflating the tires could save U.S. drivers over $1 billion every year while reducing C02 emissions by 2.7 million tons. Here are some tips you can use to reduce your vehicle’s carbon footprint while saving some money on gas and repairs.

  1. Check and Replace the Air Filters

Top 10 eco-friendly maintenance tips, air filter

Dirty filter=Dirty air

All modern engines require a fresh flow of air in order to ignite the gas. When a clogged filter  prevents air from entering the system, it can result in a gasoline-rich mixture that reduces the car’s efficiency. Checking and replacing the air filters is a simple way to ensure that your vehicle’s air-fuel ratio is right where it needs to be.

  1. Maintain the Cooling System

Engines that run too hot use much more gasoline than those that are kept at the correct temperatures. Excessive temperatures also increase the risk of a catastrophic breakdown. In addition to checking the air filters, you should also check the coolant levels in your radiator. This will keep your car working at maximum efficiency and potentially increase your MPG by two or three percent.

  1. Inspect Your Tires and Consider Upgrading to Eco-Friendly Tires

When it comes to the efficiency of a car or truck, few variables are as important as the tires. Tires with too much or too little air can cost a driver nearly 10 extra cents per mile while drastically

Top 10 Eco-friendly maintenance tips

Tires can make a big difference

increasing their risk of a blowout. That is due to the additional resistance taking place when extra rubber comes into contact with the road. For those who are willing to invest a little bit of money into their vehicle, high-efficiency (low rolling resistance, technically speaking) tires often pay for themselves in as little as a few months due to the improved MPG.

  1. Look Over the Spark Plugs

An old spark plug cannot efficiently ignite the gasoline mixture when it enters the engine’s cylinders. This can lead to misfires, unusual noises, and a good amount of wasted fuel. Each of your vehicle’s spark plugs should be relatively clean and free of any unusual debris. Spark plugs with burnt or damaged tips should be replaced immediately.

  1. Take Care When Filling the Gas Tank

Top 10 Eco-friendly maintenance tips

Pay attention to the pump

Not many drivers realize just how much fuel can be wasted when filling up a vehicle. Even just a few drops of spilled gas can be incredibly damaging to the local environment and add up to hundreds of dollars of wasted fuel over the course of a few years. When fueling up your car, you should also check the gas cap for any signs of visible damage such as cracks.

  1. Inspect the Air Conditioning System

When a vehicle’s AC system is turned on, it puts quite a bit of strain on the engine. This can reduce the engine’s efficiency by upwards of 25 percent depending on the age and style of the vehicle. Taking a few simple steps such as parking in the shade, using reflective window coverings, and keeping the AC off whenever it is not needed will significantly reduce your car’s fuel consumption and carbon footprint.

  1. Maintain the Fuel System

Every driver should take some time to check his or her car’s fuel system at least three or four times a year. This includes inspecting the filter for any signs of damage or extreme wear-and-tear. As a general rule, fuel filters should be changed at least once every two years. You should also have your fuel injectors cleaned by a mechanic two or three times a year to prevent buildup that could hurt your car’s efficiency.

  1. Check the Emission System

Oxygen sensors tend to be one part of a vehicle that most drivers ignore until their “check engine” lights come on. These sensors are a vital component of the mechanical system, and a faulty

Top 10 Eco-friendly maintenance tips, sensors

Up-to-date technology makes a difference

sensor can drop a vehicle’s efficiency by as much as 40 percent. Within most vehicles, the oxygen sensors can be checked with an on-board diagnostics (OBD) device. These can be purchased at most hardware and mechanic stores for just a few dollars.

  1. Use Environmentally Friendly Fuel and Oil

Converting your vehicle to eco-friendly fuel sources such as biodiesel, renewable diesel or ethanol might be much easier than you think. Many gasoline vehicles (Flex-Fuel) are designed to run on up to 85 percent ethanol and most diesel engines can accept low-level (five to 20 percent) blends of biodiesel or up to 100 percent of renewable diesel. Not only are these fuel sources better for the environment, but they can often be purchased for less than traditional gasoline. Upgrading your vehicle to recycled oil is another excellent option to help save the environment.

  1. Washing Your Car

Top 10 Eco-friendly maintenance tips,car washing

There’s more to cleaning than meets the eye

Before washing your car or truck, you should carefully think about what products you are using and where the water is going. Many of the leading car washing companies now use “green” cleaners that are much better for the environment. They also must carefully follow the laws regarding where their used water goes. Drivers who plan on washing their own car should try to find eco-friendly products that will enrich their lawn instead of hurting it.

When it comes to maintaining a vehicle, a little extra work can have a big impact. Hopefully, these few tips will help you drive your car with the knowledge that you are doing everything in your power to keep your car efficient and eco-friendly.

 

There’s much to learn about taking car of your car, both for enhancing its efficiency and keeping up its performance. One resource you might check out is the extensive digital library of learning resources for future mechanics called ‘How Cars Work’ here

Garage Mate for Your EV: 2016 Mazda CX-5

Garage Mate for Your EV: 2016 Mazda CX-5

Fuel Economy and Functionality

This is the second in my series, “Garage Mate for Your EV.” The purpose is to help select a companion for your electric car that meets your household’s needs. That might be a small sedan, a minivan, a pickup truck or, in this case, a delightful crossover SUV.

2016 Mazda_CX-5,mpg,fuel economy

Upping the zoom quotient

There are many reasons the 2016 Mazda CX-5 crossover is an excellent choice to share the garage with your battery-electric car. At or near the top of the list is fuel economy.

With what Mazda calls Skyactiv Technology, the CX-5 earns inclusion in our All-Wheel Drive 30 MPG Club. It applies not just to the base 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, but also for the larger 2.5-liter four.

Equipped with the smaller 2.0-liter engine and automatic transmission, the EPA estimated fuel economy for front-wheel drive models is 33 mpg highway/26 city/29 combined. There is a small fuel economy penalty when choosing the 2.5 all-wheel drive versions, but the numbers only drop to 30 mpg highway/24 city/26 combined.

Three models are offered: Sport, Touring and Grand Touring. The base front-drive Sport with manual transmission starts at $21,795, plus $820 destination charges.

The balance of the front-drive models are equipped with an automatic transmission starting at $23,195 for the Sport, followed by the $25,215 Touring and $28,220 Grand Touring.

All-wheel drive models are the Sport, which starts at $24,445; Touring at $26,465; and Grand Touring with a sticker price of $29,470.

What Is Skyactiv Technology?

Insightful, creative engineering is the core of Skyactiv. It’s holistic approach with innovative engineering that benefits not only fuel economy, but also performance, handling and safety as well.

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The heartbeat of Skyactiv

The result is—Mazda accomplished so much with so little, yet retained its acclaimed Zoom Zoom driving behavior.

At the heart is the Skyactiv-G Engine, a lightweight, efficient four-cylinder that uses direct fuel injection, sequential intake valve timing and a high 13:1 compression ratio. These, along with other innovations, achieve excellent power performance while delivering exceptional fuel economy running on 87-octane fuel.

The 2.0-liter produces 155 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 150 pounds-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm. The larger 2.5-liter engine pushes the output to 184 horsepower at 5,700 rpm and 185 pounds-feet of torque at 3,250 rpm.

Connected to the engine is the Skyactiv-Drive six-speed automatic transmission. It uses a small torque converter that delivers smooth starts and shifts attributed to torque transfer efficiency.

Updated Outside And Inside

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Five bars for 2016

Mazda followed the old adage of “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it” approach to the 2016 CX-5’s exterior update. Other than a revision of the five-bar grill, it still has a swept-back SUV look, with the raked front A-pillar matching the fastback design of the rear C-pillar. Hinting at the CX-5’s performance bent is a pair of chrome exhaust tips.

The mild refresh was focused on the cabin where interior details are classier with upgraded material and tasteful accent trims on the dash and console. The visual effect is near-Audi.

The prevailing sight from the driver’s seat is a streamlined swathe of dashboard that tapers over a setback multimedia center, with touchscreen functions that operate intuitively. Below a larger seven-inch screen, climate control switchgear turns with a gratifyingly solid soft click.

Mazda’s switch from a conventional hand parking brake to electric frees up space on the console, and now there are two USB ports and an auxiliary jack in an accessible open storage bin beneath the center stack.

Front seats are supportive as well as comfortable, and the CX-5 has one of the roomiest cabins in the small crossover segment. Driver and front passenger have a generous 40.1-inches of headroom and 41.0 inches of legroom. Six- or eight-way power-adjustable driver seats are offered on all but the Sport trim.

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A small SUV with the ability to swallow

Comfort extends to rear seat passengers who have a plentiful 39.3-inches of legroom and 39.0-inches of headroom. Thoughtfully beneath the front seats, second row occupants have plenty of foot space.

Touring and Grand Touring models come standard with 40/20/40-split rear seats. When folded flat, they extend the cargo space from 34.1 cubic feet to a cavernous 6

5.4 cubic feet.

A major upgrade is Mazda’s Connect infotainment system on all but the base model. It has a multifunction control wheel on the console, eliminating the need to lean forward to access some of the old infotainment display’s hard buttons.

For those who want them, the 2016 Mazda CX-5 offers a host of safety technologies such as adaptive cruise control, collision-mitigating braking, lane-departure warning, and automatic high-beam control, as well as the low-speed automatic braking Smart City Brake Support.

Zoom-Zoom Road Test

When introduced in 2013, the CX-5’s sole engine was the 2.0-liter four. While it was adequate and smooth running, the performance is best described as a single Zoom.

Mazda added the 2.5-liter in 2014 giving it the credentials to rightfully claim Zoom-Zoom in its advertising. Our Grand Touring all-wheel drive test vehicle approached life with zest not found in other small crossovers, with the exception of the Ford Escape with its 240-horsepower 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder.

The engine was quiet and I could feel some muscle when accelerating from a stop or punching the pedal when merging or passing. Power is demonstrated in a refined, enthusiastic way rather than brute-force manner. There’s plenty of energy from the mid to the upper ranges of the power band. Launch to 60 mph is a tick under eight seconds, admirable for a vehicle that weighs in at 3,532 pounds.

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The place where change is happening

The six-speed automatic proved to be a smooth partner to the 2.5-liter four. Shifts—up or down—were as smooth and quick as any automatic-equipped small crossover I’ve driven.

What made me appreciate the engine and transmission’s performance was the sweet handling, thanks to the Skyactiv’s attention to chassis details.  The suspension is divided between MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link arrangement at the back. The latter has been mounted higher than usual to improve damper efficiency.

Our CX-5 was composed under hard acceleration and deceleration, stayed flat as it danced through tight, fast corners and kept its poise right up to the limits of tire adhesion. Although the suspension is skewed toward athletic achievement, the little SUV still dispensed a comfortable, well-behaved ride whether it was on the Interstate or city streets.

As is becoming the norm in this class and others, the steering rack is an electrically assisted system that has a feel close to the Miata roadster. It is communicative, quick and precise at higher speeds, yet light when parking.

The only demerit I gave the CX-5 was a sensitive, slightly grabby brake pedal. I did become used to it and, sensitive or not, during an urgently needed panic stop, the brakes came through as required.

As for fuel economy, I managed to eke out a little more than the EPA rating. The week’s driving totaled 238 miles (the majority was in town) and the fuel economy read out indicated 27.2 mpg.

The Garage Mate for You?

The compact crossover SUV segment is overflowing with some of the best-selling vehicles in the country, starting with the Honda CR-V, the leader in the sales category. Then there’s the number

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A worthy companion for your battery car

two-selling Ford Escape. Others fighting for a piece of the market include Toyota’s RAV4, the Chevy Equinox, Nissan Rogue, Kia Sportage and Hyundai Tucson.

With the exception of the Escape, none of the above comes close to the CX-5’s fun-to-drive personality. The Ford has seductive European styling but isn’t as roomy as the Mazda. Also, options can push the price close to $40,000.

As for the Honda, well, repeat CR-V owners are not likely to even consider another make. As for new-to-the-segment buyers, they will be tempted by its number-one sales ranking, as they should be.

Where the 2016 Mazda CX-5 stands out from the crowd is its combination of fuel economy, Zoom-Zoom driving behavior, and a competitive price with good value for the dollar spent.

That makes it a relative bargain among the compact class and a good garage mate choice for your EV.

Related Stories You Might Enjoy:

Road Test: 2016 Ford Escape

Road Test: 2015 Honda CR-V

Road Test: 2016 Nissan Rogue

Road Test: 2015 Mazda CX-5

Garage Mate for Your EV: 2016 Honda Fit

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Disclosure: Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class. We also feature those that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

How Far Can You Go on $50 of Gas?

How Far Can You Go on $50 of Gas?

A Look Back at Potential Road Trips During the Past Decade.

It’s a cliche to say gas prices are volatile, but this fine series of maps from our friends at Howmuch.net gives graphic display to what we’re all experienced in the past decade. Our ability to travel has varied greatly as gas and diesel prices have fluctuated from 2005 to 2016. Keep in mind these trips are based on the American fleet average of 24 mpg; for those of you running more efficient hybrids, diesels and plug-in hybrids, the range can be up to double! Use E85 or renewable diesel and your environmental impact can shrink even as the miles increase. While we don’t encourage driving for the sake of driving, these maps show the amazing capability of the modern automobile when paired with the powerful low-carbon fuels available.

Just Think How Much Further You Could Go at 54.5 MPG!

The $50 American Road Trip – Then and Now: 2005-2016 via Howmuch.net