Flash Drive: 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf

Flash Drive: 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf

Still the Most Affordable Fun

It seems like a simple equation. Take a solid, popular, respected hatchback. Add in a state-of-the-art electric powertrain. Improve often. The best example I can think of that fits this equation is the 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf.

2017 Volkswagen e-Golf

The e-Golf keeps the fun and adds some range

We’ve been in this model before and have very little negative to say about it. We’ve loved the Golf through it’s multiple generations and the electric version is icing on the cake. It loses none of the great handling of the gas or diesel models (maybe even gains a little from the battery weight).

In our view the e-Golf is one of the best EVs out there. Competition from new models has made me modify my previous “best” to “one of the best.” But that’s because of the advances of new models from Chevy and Tesla, not through any deterioration from the VW.

Most Improved?

In fact, I could make an argument for a new title for the 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf—most improved EV. Only three years after its introduction, VW has upgraded the battery pack in this compact sedan and booted its range beyond the magic 100 miles. I’ll be the first to admit these arbitrary milestones don’t really mean anything in the real world, but I’ll almost be first in line to admit the 2017 e-Golf just feels better than its previous version.

2017 Volkswagen e-Golf

A modest nod to VW’s new direction

Those extra miles change the equation on so many trips, it changes the viability of the car and its appeal. Like the similar upgrade by Nissan with its 2018 Leaf, this is a gamechanger. Not as big of a gamechanger as the Chevy Bolt or Tesla Model 3 with their 230-mile-plus ranges, but still significant.

Cars are still about how we use them and more range means more useability. This takes the e-Golf, already a great EV choice, into new territory.

The Good Stuff

2017 Volkswagen e-Golf

Like any good driver’s car, the cockpit is all about you behind the wheel

The Golf is a wonderful platform to start with. Crisp handling and a great road feel is the starting point. Feedback from the steering wheel is immediate and the car tracks true. For a small car, it’s quiet (and even quieter due to the electric drivetrain). This is a car that seems to know where it’s going and is eager to get there.

The eight-inch touchscreen is a great size and contains a wealth of information about the car and the technology included. On some screens, it becomes a great training ground to teach you how to become a better EV driver.

The Range

I made a point about how the longer range (EPA rated at 125 miles, a number I saw on several recharges). Here are the caveats, which will be familiar to most EV drivers. Drive fast, drive in extreme cold or extreme heat, push acceleration, take on big hills—all result in diminished range. Of course, with the e-Golf’s strong regen capabilities, coasting, driving down hill and gentle braking puts energy back into the battery. When the disclaimer says “your mileage may vary,” that’s pretty much the subtitle of every electric car on the road. Drivers deal with it, but it does come back to a fundamental lifestyle change. Every time you get in an EV, you have to calculate how much range you have left on your battery, where you’re going and auxiliary factors like the weather and traffic patterns.

The good news is the 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf pushes these considerations to a lower level. More of your life will more easily fit the EV lifestyle. We won’t even delve into the 119 MPGe (mles per gallon equivalent) rating of the e-Golf since that number means a whole lot less than the range. (If you’re keeping score, the e-Golf comes in at 126 MPGe city/111 highway/119 combined.

The e-Golf Choices

Like most cars on the market, the 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf comes in several flavors. The entry-level model is the SE, which starts at $30,495. Next step up is the Limited Edition at $33,795. The top-of-the-line is the SEL Premium, which we tested, at $36,995.

2017 Volkswagen e-Golf

Open up. Not all EVs give you this kind of storage

Even at the top level, options were available, including a $1,395 technology package that included forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking w/pedestrian monitoring, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitor w/rear traffic alert, high beam control (light assist), parking steering assistant and the VW digital cockpit. All good stuff that, along with the destination charge of $850, brought the bottom line on our tester to $39,240.

Clean Fleet Report recommends leasing all plug-in vehicles because of the rapid advance of these vehicles (as demonstrated by the quick refresh of the e-Golf), so taking advantage of lease deals (latest one we saw was $159/month for 36 months with $2.349 down). A lease gives you the opportunity to do a reality check after two or three years. Imagine buying an e-Golf with an extended payment plan a year or two years ago and then seeing this new higher-range model coming out now.

The Basic Package

2017 Volkswagen e-Golf

VW’s motor cranks out the torque for the 3,430-pound e-Golf

The 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf comes with a good package of standard equipment. It’s 100 kW electric motor delivers 134 horsepower and an all-important 214 pounds-feet of torque to get you off the line. It’s capable of taking you from 0-60 in less than nine seconds.

VW’s battery packaging keeps the 35.8-kWh pack out of site and not taking up any of the hatchback’s great storage space (52.7 cubic feet with the back seats folded down). The boost in the battery size was a big part of the range boost for this year’s e-Golf.

The 7.2 kWh on-board charger allows fast charging (an option on the base model, but standard on the upper trim levels). Even with a level 2 charger, you could bring the e-Golf up to full charge in about four hours.  

The Bottom Line

The EV choices out there are increasing and starting to feel more like traditional cars. If you want maximum range and good utility in a mildly styled package, there’s the Chevy Bolt. If you want the range and some cachet, there’s the Tesla Model 3. Bargain basement fun is the Fiat 500e. Luxury cred comes with the BMW i3, Mercedes-Benz B-Class or either of the two big Teslas. Modest sedan competence is the Ford Focus Electric, Honda Clarity Electric, Hyundai Eoniq EV or Nissan Leaf. Then there’s the quirkiness of the Kia Soul EV or Smart ED.

2017 Volkswagen e-Golf

We still think the e-Golf has the edge

In this crowd I see the 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf as one that cuts its own path—a fun-to-drive, affordable, reasonable-range compact EV. I could think of no more higher recommendation. While we’d love to say wait for the upcoming Volkswagen I.D., that’s far enough down the road that a three-year lease of an e-Golf will be long over before you’re tempted to move on to the new generation.

Flash Drive: Clean Fleet Report “Flash Drives” are concise reviews of vehicles that include the major points and are easy and quick to read. A “Flash Drive” is often followed later by a comprehensive test drive review.

Road Test: 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf (John’s view)

Road Test: 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf (Steve’s view)

First Drive: 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf

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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, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles 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.

10 Best Car Sharing Programs in USA

10 Best Car Sharing Programs in USA

The Evolution of Car Sharing

Car sharing has changed dramatically since Clean Fleet Report first reported on it a decade ago. While it was picking up steam at that point, in the years since it has morphed and been influenced by changing technology, both in vehicles and in the software that enables the service. Some big players have jumped in and then retreated. Some small players were gobbled up by bigger companies. Where car sharing once resembled a rent-by-the-hour system that was a more decentralized version of the traditional car rental, it has now become a ubiquitous system that includes shared use and even cars that drive themselves. The changes keep coming as illustrated in this recent update. We recently took a look at a brand-new local iteration run by the local auto club, but using software developed and being used by many others. 

Is Ridesharing Eco-Friendly

Car sharing and ride sharing are blurring together

Car sharing allows households to own only one car, instead of two or three, or for some to forgo car ownership completely, using the variations of car sharing and services to pick a vehicle or ride for a given task and location. For some Americans it gives a chance to drive and experience a different car, maybe an electric car they might be thinking of purchasing.

Like they say about real estate, with car sharing it is location, location, location. The best program for you is a function of where you live and your mobility requirements. But take a look at the variety of program available. One of the gurus of car sharing, Dr. Susan Shaheen of UC Berkeley, says we are in the age of shared mobility where new modes of alternative transportation services are making great changes. “Pushed primarily by demographic shifts, societal attitudes toward ownership, and advances in mobile technology, these modes are growing rapidly and becoming more numerous,” she commented recently. She outlines the variety of choices available in a white paper. For her car sharing had subcategories of:

car sharing,uber, lyft,mobility

Car sharing is expanding our mobility

  • Roundtrip
  • One-Way
  • Personal Vehicle Sharing (which can include fractional ownership models)

Then there’s scooter sharing and bike sharing (also with subcategories of public, closed campus and peer-to-peer [P2P]). Autonomous technology can overlay much of this as well.

Competing with car sharing are alternative transit services (shuttles or microtransit), ride sharing (carpooling or vanpooling), on-demand ride services (ridesourcing, ridesplitting or e-hail services) and courier network services (P2P delivery services and paired on-demand passenger ride and courier services).

The choices can be almost overwhelming, so services like Yelp can help you sort out the consumer-facing side of the choices. Where it used to be Hertz or Avis–or the taxi–the choices now are much more complex.

According to Navigant Research, it’s not going to change soon. Their take on car sharing and related services was just published.  They found: “Mobility as a service (MaaS) solutions such as carsharing, ride-hailing, and micro transit provide much more flexibility while also enabling the replacement of 5-20 individually owned vehicles depending on the use cases. According to Navigant Research, global revenue generated by ride-hailing services is expected to grow to almost $1.2 trillion in 2026.”

Although the carshare service model has been well established over the past 15 years, there have been some significant innovations in the market recently. The success of one-way car sharing services is prompting more companies to consider offering this service model. Such services can increase utilization since members can use one-way car sharing for shorter, spur of the moment trips. Automakers have entered this market with good results, building substantial membership levels in only a few years. Meanwhile, the adoption of plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) in car sharing services is expected to increase as automakers promote this technology. 

Car companies are aware of these shifts, as you can see below, and are doing their best to try to keep up. This is a subject we’ll keep checking in on as it evolves. 

Lyft

If there was any question about the changing landscape, General Motors’ $500 million investment in the ride sharing company Lyft. The stated goal is to experiment in autonomous on-demand vehicles, hedging the reduction in vehicle sales caused by ride sharing by making GM the preferred vehicle provider for Lyft drivers and integrating connectivity tools like OnStar. Lyft claims it is the fastest-growing ride share service and is available in 190 cities worldwide. Lyft also has rolled out multiple-rider sharing that creates an on-demand carpool.

Uber

Uber,car sharing, ride sharing

Coming to get you

Uber is the Hertz to Lyft’s Avis. It’s available in more than 300 cities around the world and offers a variety of vehicles to fit the needs of your trip, whether its an eco-friendly model or the full black limo experience. Uber’s value proposition is that it is cheaper than using a taxi and much cheaper than using a personal car.

Zipcar

Zipcar bills itself as the world’s largest car sharing and car bluc service. It views itself as the logical alternative to car ownership (own the trip, not the car) and traditional car rentals. The company was purchased by Avis in 2013 and operates as a subsidiary of the traditional car rental company. Zipcar has more than one million members worldwide who can reserve and use 10,000 cars in 500 cities in nine countries. In the U.S. Zipcars can be found in Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, New York, Philadelphia, Providence, Sacramento, San Diego,

Zipcar

Zipcar users have a card that unlocks their local cars

San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C. as well as universities throughout the country. Zipcar offers more than 50 makes and models of vehicles, including Audis, BMWs, Mini Coopers, pickup trucks, Prius hybrids and more. Each vehicle has a home location: a reserved parking space located on a street, driveway, or neighborhood parking lot in the member’s area, to which it must be returned at the end of the reservation. 

Enterprise Car Share

Although Enterprise is known as a car rental giant, they have expanded into cars sharing 10 years ago, featuring a program rich in hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and electric cars. Just as UPS has gone beyond delivery to offer large customers complex logistic services, Zipcar offers fleets a growing range of services. For example, the City of Houston better manages vehicle use by adding 50 existing city-owned fleet vehicles, including 25 Nissan LEAFs, with Zipcar’s FastFleet® proprietary fleet sharing technology. Enterprise acquired Philly-Car Share and its 13,000 users, then Mint Cars On-Demand, a car-sharing company serving more than 8,000 members in New York City and Boston. It later added Chicago’s 15,000 IGO car sharing service members and now operates on 130 college campuses, 40 government programs and has 300 business accounts in 35 states, Canada and the U.K.

Hertz on Demand–A Cautionary Tale

Hertz tried to leverage its huge presence to expand into car sharing. Hertz has 8,500 locations in 150 countries. A growing number of hybrid and electric cars are offered in the Hertz Green Travel Collection. Its car share program, Hertz on Demand, launched in December 2008 and grew to more than 1,000 vehicles, 85,000 members and more than 500 locations worldwide, including corporate fleets, airports, hotels, utilities, government, and universities. However, the company pulled the plug on U.S. operations citing a “low return on investment” after a half-dozen years of operation. 

2013 smart,low price, electric car

Car2Go features short-term Smart ED drives

Car2Go

Car2go, owned by auto giant Daimler, is the world leader in one-way car sharing. Car2go is in 15 North American cities. Car2go is a point-to-point car sharing service. You pay 41 cents a minute. And all without running fixed costs or deposits, parking charges, fuel costs, or recurring annual fees. No surprise fees are charged for being early or late, like some other car sharing services. You can take any of the car2go vehicles you find distributed around you, or you can reserve an available vehicle 30 minutes before you want to drive. That way, you can get to your destination faster. Once you reach your destination, you can either end your trip in accordance with your city’s Parking Rules, or you can keep it if you want to drive further.

Maven

GM's Maven Gig

A day in the life at Maven Gig

General Motors has got into car-sharing in a big way with Maven, which is now operating in 17 cities. Beyond basic car sharing, Maven has moved into more of a hybrid operation with Maven Gig, where cars, led by the new Chevrolet Bolt EV, are available for all-inclusive weekly rentals for folks working for other car sharing or delivery services. We just interviewed Maven’s chief growth officer and found she’s got bold plans for expansion in this new gig economy. 

ReachNow

ReachNow

ReachNow cars now show up on Seattle transit screens

German executives see an increased global interest in using cars as a service, with consumers and fleet managers paying by the minute, hour, and day. BMW ran a successful pilot program of EV car sharing in SF, based on its European model, but went on hiatus because of a lack of progress in securing parking permit regulatory change. ReachNow is starting to ramp up in Portland, Seattle, Brooklyn and other cities. It is big in major German cities where the program also includes the bike sharing that inspired one-way car sharing. They’ve also explored using an app that gives the user alternative transportation options, calculating time and cost for each variable. In addition, it offers options of driving yourself or being picked up and driven to your destination–a blending of car sharing and ride sharing. ReachNow uses the Ridecell technology platform for its service.  ReachNow has a fleet of 700 vehicles in Seattle, 360 in Portland and 260 in Brooklyn. Models include the BMW 328xi and 330xi sedans, the electric i3, the BMW X1 SUV, the Mini Cooper (in both 2-door and 4-door configurations) and the Mini Clubman. 

Ford SmartMobility/Chariot

Ford,emobility,Chariot,

Your Chariot awaits–check your phone

Like GM, Daimler and BMW (and other car companies), Ford is taking a big picture view of the car sharing business and has dipped into it by buying the microtransit company Chariot, which is is rapidly expanding around the world. Chariot seeks to supplement mass transit services by providing first/last mile transportation along regular routes based on consumer demand. Ford’s paired this and augmented it with a bike-sharing service. We covered the start-up here.

RelayRides/Now Turo

RelayRides’ peer-to-peer car sharing is part of an emerging trend of the sharing economy. RelayRides enables personal car sharing with web listings, $1 million liability insurance, and GM OnStar support. Investors in RelayRides include Google Ventures and GM Ventures. RelayRides is a leading example of peer-to-peer that is also embraced by other innovators including Wheelz, Getaround, Whipcar, IGO, non-profits, and even pilots among some auto service giants.

vRide

Ridesharing to work carries more people each day than transit. Sharing cars and rides is challenging among strangers. Trust is natural for people who work together. vRide makes it easy for individuals, employers, and transportation managers to facilitate carpooling, vanpooling, and park and ride. Similar organizations that help with facilitating, lunch-and-learns, vehicles, insurance, and ride matching include 511.org and Rideshare by Enterprise.

 

Getaround

Getaround is free to join. Choose from 1000s of cool cars shared by great people in your neighborhood is the pitch of this peer-to-peer car sharing operation. Convenient hourly and daily rentals. No monthly or annual fees. All Getaround rentals include insurance coverage and 24/7 roadside assistance.

& More

A number of billion dollar giants, venture backed players, and innovators see a major opportunity in the transition for vehicle sales to transportation services. With Daimler, GM and BMW now in the business, Toyota and others are evaluating whether to have their own car sharing program or strengthen partnerships. Audi just invested in Silvercar, what it calls a “next generation” car rental company. Because cars haring is capital intensive, the business is a natural for banking and financial service giants. Sharing, peer-to-peer, and fractional ownership have risk and liability management challenges. Who better to solve these than insurance giant entering the business? With information technology and social networking being integral to innovative mobility sharing, look for new strategic alliances and partnerships.

Bookmark this site and check back as we continue to update this list.

John Addison: Meeting of the Car Sharing Minds

At a meeting several years ago, I (John Addison, founder of Clean Fleet Report) lunched with Zipcar President Mark Norman gave me a good idea of why members prefer the range of carsharing services to owning a car. A member can try an electric car one day, use a larger van to transport 6 people the next, then take an AWD to the mountains on the next. Zipcar’s potential is enormous. By succeeding at a university such as USC in Los Angeles, Zipcar has a base to expand in Southern California’s over 10 million car drivers and massive fleets. I expect Zipcar to soon have over one million members.

Google,self-driving car,autonomous car

Google autonomous car may be the next thing in car sharing

Just as UPS has gone beyond delivery to offer large customers complex logistic services, Zipcar offers fleets a growing range of services. For example, the City of Houston better manages vehicle use by adding 50 existing city-owned fleet vehicles, including 25 Nissan LEAFs, with Zipcar’s FastFleet® proprietary fleet sharing technology. By using Zipcar’s FastFleet technology, the City of Houston configures its fleet footprint in real time for optimal utilization; manages preventive maintenance, fueling, billing, and fleet distribution; and uses Zipcar’s analytics with data automatically captured during every trip. Zipcar’s FastFleet technology is used in Washington DC, Boston, and Chicago where DC officials estimate that they save approximately $1 million per year using FastFleet technology.

I talked with Rick Hutchinson, CEO City CarShare, at Meeting of the Minds. As a non-profit, City CarShare actively works to make urban mobility more effective as people combine walking, bicycling, transit, and carsharing. For 11 years, they have modeled best practices, which others learn from including Zipcar, Enterprise, and independents. City CarShare promotes equity with CommunityShare and AccessMobile. They promote sustainability by taking cars off the road and adding electric vehicles.

Susan Shaheen, Co-Director of Transportation Sustainability Research Center (TSRC), has probably done more research about shared-use mobility than anyone. TSRC studies have determined that each carshare membership has resulted in at least 9 vehicles being sold, removed, or purchase-postponed. The biggest shift is one car households becoming car-free due to cars haring; 2 cars to one is another big segment. Her insights greatly helped with this article.

One million U.S. carsharing members will soon become 2 million as people save thousands per year owning one less car. University students, city dwellers, and fleets have new flexibility in getting the right vehicle when needed including roomy sedans, pickup trucks, and even electric cars. Just as we are transitioning from owning expensive computers and software to mobile use of cloud services, transportation has moved beyond just owning a car to a rich menu of transportation services.

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Flash Drive: 2017 Ford Fusion Energi

Flash Drive: 2017 Ford Fusion Energi

A Practical, Functional Plug-in Choice

Let’s get the disclosures up front on this. I like the Ford Fusion Energi enough that I’m putting my own money into a lease on a 2016 model already. So to say I’m predisposed positively to a look at the 2017 Ford Fusion Energi is a given. That said, I’m also aware of the shortcomings of the car from extensive experience.

2017 Ford Fusion Energi

2017 Ford Fusion Energi drips style and squeezes out fuel economy

The key question for this review is what changes the 2017 model offers compared to the previously solid offering.  The answer is—not much, which is a good thing. Ford appears to be sticking with its winning hand. Winning as in its non-plug-in hybrid version that has challenged the venerable Toyota Prius for the sales lead of hybrids during 2017. The plug-in Fusion has not had as strong of a year, though it’s still a strong third after the Toyota Prius Prime and Chevrolet Volt in the plug-in hybrid category.

The Good

The 2017 Ford Fusion Energi is, to my eye, one of the best-looking mass market sedans available. The current design was stunning when it first appeared in 2013 and still looks fresh today. It’s due for a change soon, but for now this midsize sedan can hold its own style-wise with anyone in the pack.

2017 Ford Fusion Energi

The nameplate says mainstream, but the interior swims upscale

The car delivers fuel economy as advertised, but the 2017 model bumps up the numbers from the previous year by about 10 percent. If you’ve got a short commute of about 20 miles and a place to plug in at home and work, you could run all-electric all the time. It continues to be eligible for a coveted solo HOV lane sticker in California. It also qualifies for federal tax credits and most state incentives.

The interior of the Fusion matches the upscale exterior. Leather trimmed, comfortable, but supporting seats are standard throughout the line. Technology abounds from Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment system to available advanced driver assistance tools like lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control, blind spot detection and cross traffic alert.

The Bad

The 2017 Ford Fusion Energi is not a purpose-build vehicle and all you have to do is look in the trunk to see that. What should be a spacious storage space is gobbled up by the 7.6 kWh lithium-ion battery. Next generation this should be solved, but the current models have spacious interiors for five adults, but are challenged in trying to carry luggage for more than a couple passengers.

2017 Ford Fusion Energi

In back the Energi comes up short

Even at 22 miles (in the 2017 model), all-electric range is not the Energi’s strong suit. The relatively small battery can be charged in 2 ½ hours (on 240-volt, Level 2 charging), but if you travel like I do, you’ll be running in hybrid mode most of the time (still not bad at 43 mpg).  

The Ugly

Sorry, I’m coming up blank in this category for this car, except maybe pricing. The MSRP for the Energi has been stable over the years and even dropped for 2017. It starts at just above $32,000 and tops out with the Platinum model I tested at just a shade under $40,000. I’d recommend going for the high-end model because it has all of the advanced technology standard (it’s optional at the lower levels, but will then take the price up almost to the Platinum level. In addition, I’d recommend leasing rather than buying the Energi—or virtually any plug-in model. Technology is advancing so rapidly that even it is isn’t cheaper in three or four years, it will be much better for the same money.

The Real World Test

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the Fusion is Ford’s best-selling car. Besides being good-looking, it’s functional (with plenty of room for passengers at least) and delivers good performance and great fuel economy.

2017 Ford Fusion Energi

Inside you could mistake this for pricier digs

After spending time in smaller all-electric or plug-in sedans, the 2017 Ford Fusion Energi feels positively spacious. You can fill it up with five full-size American adults and not feel cramped (remember my caveat if they’re bringing luggage, though).

On the road, the car drives as good as it looks. Ford continues to respect its drivers by giving them good road feel, responsive and supple handling and enough power to hold their own on the open road. The long wheelbase of the Fusion helps deliver a luxury-like ride while the low-profile 17-inch tires and aluminum wheels (upgradable to 18-inchers) allow you to tackle challenging roads without disclosing you’re driving a fuel-efficient vehicle.

The 2-liter Atkinson-cycle inline-four is augmented by an electric motor and they operate quite well together, straining only when asked to perform high-speed passing tricks. Such maneuvers point out the limitations of this size normally aspirated engine and also its continuously variable transmission.  It gets the job done, but will let you know it’s not happy.  

I plugged in the Fusion whenever I could (I don’t have a home/work charger but there is one in the neighborhood) and managed an average of 53.2 mpg for my week in the car. EPA says you’ll get an average of 42 mpg in hybrid mode and 97 MPGe counting the battery energy. That wonkish number doesn’t mean much in the real world, where you can run 22 miles on electricity and then default to hybrid mode unless you plug in. I still found when handled with a light foot, the Fusion was capable of running at freeway speeds with the air on and still delivering almost 50 mpg.

Some of the credit for good fuel economy goes to Ford’s instrument panel programmers. The readouts for fuel economy, braking, etc., are great teaching tools. The instant feedback from driving in an eco-friendly mode was good reinforcement.

Bottom Line

I’ve got to say Ford just keeps making the Fusion better. It’s not perfect, but it’s an incredibly fuel-efficient car you can live with every day. Most important is because of its internal combustion engine, it doesn’t have the limitations of most pure electrics.

2017 Ford Fusion Energi

The displays and info are a big help

Here are the price points for the three trim levels (I recommend aiming high because all of the advanced technology you want is included), including destination and delivery charges:

  • 2017 Ford Fusion Energi SE $32.180
  • 2017 Ford Fusion Energi Titanium $33,180
  • 2017 Ford Fusion Energi Platinum $40,180

A full complement of safety equipment is standard, but as mentioned earlier, some of the advanced driver assistance technology is optional on the lower trim levels. Opt for the Platinum level and the only options left are some paint and floor mat upgrades.

2017 Ford Fusion Energi

The ring tells you how charged up you are

The 2017 Ford Fusion Energi is not alone in the marketplace. Its main competitors are the Chevrolet Volt, Toyota Prius Prime and the Hyundai-Kia twins—the Optima and Sonata Plug-in Hybrids.

All are worth a look, but you’ll find the Chevy is a smaller package and a hatchback. The Toyota also is smaller, though it does bring Toyota’s solid reputation along with its badge. The midsize Optima and Sonata are the closest in size and intent. We’ve tested them both here and here, but recommend you take a look for yourself. There are no bad choices among this group—and expect more coming soon.

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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, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles 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.

Tech: Engine Variable Compression Gamechanger

Tech: Engine Variable Compression Gamechanger

Nissan Introduces Variable Compression Ratio Engine in 2019 Infiniti QX50

Too often at auto shows the external hardware of the car gets all the attention, when we know its what’s under the hood that counts. At the recent Los Angeles Auto Show, Nissan introduced a break-through engine technology that shows great potential to improve the efficiency and power of current engines—variable compression.

2019 INFINITI QX50

Under the hood of the new QX50 is the world’s first variable compression ratio engine

This is not some science experiment. The engine will debut in the 2019 Infiniti QX50, which will arrive in 2018. To illustrate the dramatic change possible with this technology:

  • It will arrive in a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that will replace a 3.7-liter V-6
  • The new engine will have a 27 percent fuel economy boost compared to the old one.
  • The new engine will deliver 268 horsepower and 288 pounds-feet of torque, resulting in 0-60 acceleration one seconds faster than competitors.
  • Early reports from press drives of early pilot-builds of the QX50 with the new engine said it was “impressive” in both power and refinement—and it was transparent to the drive.

What It Does

Nissan said it has been working on variable compression technology for 20 years, piling up more than 300 patented technologies along the way. Formula 1 racers even played a role in the engine development.

Until this engine, all pistons traveled the same distance up and down in their cylinders, whatever speed and load the vehicle they were tasked with motivating had. The compression ratio of an engine is determined by the amount of space (smaller spaces lead to higher compression) left at the top of a piston’s travel. That is the way it’s been forever.

The pistons in the VC-Turbo (Nissan’s name for the QX50 engine) are connected to rods that are attached to one end of an elliptic device Nissan calls a multi-link, which replaces the normal connecting rod connection on the crankshaft. An electrically controlled actuator twists a shaft, which causes the multi-link to tilt up or down slightly. Depending on the tilt angle, the compression ratio goes up or down.

The compression ratio varies from 8:1 to 14:1. The engine’s turbocharger kicks in to boost power with the lower ratio, while the higher compression ratio approaches that of a diesel engine and the efficiency it brings.

2019 INFINITI QX50

This new engine technology promises to extend the life of the ICE

As with many recent engine advances, Nissan chief powertrain engineer, Shinichi Kiga, told reporters that modern engine control technologies were the key to getting this engine into production. In addition to the turbocharger, it features both port and direct fuel injection, variable valve timing and a cooling system with four circuits. The computer brain runs the show and tells the actuator when to spin.

The Bottom Line

Nissan said the engine is more expensive than conventional ones, but only about 10 percent more, so the increased fuel economy should bring payback relatively quickly. The engine, mated to a continuously variable transmission, will be the only one offered in the new QX50. It will require premium fuel.

2019 Infiniti QX50

The package the new technology will come in is a good fit

The bigger question is where the technology might end up next as Nissan seeks to amortize the development cost by bumping up production. The company touts it as a lower cost route to diesel power and fuel efficiency, which might point the engine toward use in its larger vehicles.

Assuming the durability of the system is solid, which 20 years of development should assure, logically the engines may start showing up in larger, heavier vehicles. With those, a six mpg fuel economy improvement is quite an achievement, and its low cost creates an even steeper hurdle for electric drive to overcome.

To echo Mark Twain’s remarks, recent pronouncements of the death of the internal combustion engine may have been premature.

 

News: Volkswagen EV Onslaught to Begin in 2020

News: Volkswagen EV Onslaught to Begin in 2020

VW Announced I.D. Crozz Electric SUV Will Come to U.S. First

At this week’s Los Angeles Auto Show automakers introduced a mixture of environmentally friendly, advanced technology vehicles along with traditional high-performance models appealing to a different market segment. At Clean Fleet Report we think there’s some high performance worth noting in the first group. This is one of several stories that will highlight the most significant news out of the show.

Volkswagen ID Crozz

VW is having fun with its EV lights

Volkswagen has been very aggressive with its concept electric vehicles, but has been very light on details of when production versions of those vehicles will come to the United States. In August the company said the I.D. Buzz, an electric reincarnation of the iconic Microbus, would not come to America until 2022. At a media program in Los Angeles this week held in conjunction with the LA Auto Show they promised that a version of the recently introduced crossover—the I.D. Crozz—would be the first of the new generation of electric cars to hit these shores.

The swoopy SUV will likely retain some, but not all of the flashy features of the concept car, which was shown at the Frankfurt Motor Show a few months ago. Among the sketchy details from VW’s announcement were:

  • Exterior dimensions will be similar to the current compact SUV Tiguan.
  • Interior dimensions will be closer to the midsize Touareg.
  • Its price will be “affordable.”
  • It will be produced in the U.S., presumably at the Chattanooga plant.
  • It will have more than a 300-mile range (possibly as an option).
  • Electric motors will offer 300+ horsepower and AWD.

The 4motion system in the I.D. Crozz uses the rear motor as the default driving force; allowing the front motor to automatically engage when needed for traction, or it can be switched on for off-road use or snowy conditions. The low position of the lithium-ion battery pack also helps to improve handling, adding a low center of gravity and 48/52 front-rear weight split. All Volkswagen I.D. vehicles will be designed to speed recharging time compared to today’s models; the Crozz is designed to recover 80 percent of its charge in 30 minutes via a 150 kWh DC charger.

Volkswagen ID Crozz

The Crozz’ interior echoes the tech direction seen in some other EVs

But There’s More

Not announced publicly, but reported by others at the event—Volkswagen will launch an all-electric sedan in the U.S. at the same time.

The third electric model on stage at the event was the original I.D., a complete rethinking of the e-Golf compact hatchback. VW said it has no plans to bring it to this market, but we find that a little hard to believe as it is such a clear upgrade to the e-Golf, which is one of Clean Fleet Report’s favorite EVs

VW ID family

The family got together for the first time in North America

Having its three EV concepts together on stage in the U.S. for the first time gave VW an opportunity talk further about its new MEB platform, which underpins all of them. Like it’s MQB for conventional vehicles, it has great flexibility (as shown by the three quite different vehicles) and the opportunity for cost-savings by using the common architecture.   

VW’s news was not all about EVs, for it made a point of noting that it’s sales for 2017 were up almost 10 percent compared to last year, a number better than the industry average, which was attributed in part to the introduction of two new SUVs—the all-new Atlas and restyled Tiguan . The executives also mentioned that a new, more fuel efficient internal combustion engine was coming next year, along with an all-new Jetta compact sedan and a replacement for the CC sedan.

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