The enthusiast group Plug In America noted that, for the first time, U.S. sales of plug-in electric cars (either pure electrics or plug-in hybrids) market will pass a significant milestone this month (May). The 100,000th mark was reached just past two years after their introduction to the market.
Mercedes, the traditional automaker, offers choice to its customers while the upstart Tesla bets on one power source–electricity. The early returns for the year show the newcomer charging ahead, but this is a long race and one being fought on a worldwide stage.
Sport utility vehicles and crossovers (crossovers being sport utility vehicles based on a car rather than truck chassis) are popular even as the general trend toward higher MPG vehicles moves forward. The reason is simple: they are functional. One trip to Costco is enough to convince many families that a Prius won’t cut it. Regular trips up to the mountains in the winter to ski could similarly motivate a car buyer to look for an all-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive vehicle rather than the front-wheel drive found on most high-mileage hybrids. Cars don’t always cut it.
All of which leaves the environmentally conscious consumer with some tough choices. If your lifestyle points you toward an SUV or crossover, you still want to do what you can to minimize your contribution to further CO2 in the atmosphere. There are no electric SUVs, no plug-in hybrids (yet) and only a few hybrid and clean diesel models, so the key is to check out the most fuel efficient models that fit your needs. Since one of those needs with this class of vehicles usually entails a good amount of distance travel, we’re using the highway fuel economy as the benchmark for our Top 10 list.
Compared to last year, hybrid sales for the first four months are up 12.3%, almost double the overall market’s gain. Plug-ins are on a tear with 130% growth, but on relatively small numbers. Diesels have taken a dip so far this year, dropping 6.2%, but are expected to rebound when high-volume cars like the Chevy Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel, Mazda6 SkyActiv-D, Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ram 1500 hit showrooms later this year. Both the hybrid and plug-in electric segments are also adding models as well.
For all the twists and turns that the auto industry undergoes, it looks like 2013 will be a clear milestone for electric cars. The point here is to look at how far we have come and note the arrival of the electric car industry. It’s no longer a model or two, but a substantial variety of vehicles from major manufacturers that the EV-conscious consumer can choose from.
I ride this new e-bike past thousands strolling along the San Francisco Bay. Travelers ferry to Tiburon, Sausalito, and Alcatraz. Large catamarans race the wind as they prepare for the America’s Cup. The Golden Gate Bridge majestically displays our gateway to Asia. I am test riding a new Specialized Turbo electric-assist bicycle. For the first time, when I leave bicycle paths and merge into traffic I can maintain the same speed as the cars.
High-mileage cars are off to a great start for the year with sales up 18% in these three categories in for the first three months of the year compared to last year. The monthly sales average continues to creep up so it is conceivable that sales could edge closer to a million units if the trend continues, which would definitely solidify the market for alternatives to conventional gasoline engines. The first quarter indicates it could be a very good year for high-MPG cars.
When speaking recently at a “Open Garage” talk at Stanford’s Automotive Innovation Center, Nissan-Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn pointed with pride that his Alliance has put 70,000 EVs on the road around the world (of the roughly 100,000 pure battery electrics currently out there). He said that in spite of failing to hit his own targets for volume, he believes electric vehicle technology will be the winner as it approaches scale production – and he believes that is inevitable. The secret ingredient, he said, was emotion.
You need look no further than the 2013 New York International Auto Show media preview this last week to see that automakers are aggressively laying out multiple paths to get to the fuel economy goals of the U.S., Europe and Japan. Electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids, hybrids, diesels and advanced gasoline engines (as well as other technologies) point to a diverse future.
Ford is making a concerted push towards electrification, a key part of its strategy to boost fuel economy across its lineup. The Ford Fusion Energi, which Clean Fleet Report recently had the opportunity to sample for a brief test drive, is the centerpiece of a five-vehicle electrified fleet.
While many recent headlines paint a grim picture of electric vehicle sales and the market future for those vehicles, in reality consumer acceptance of the new vehicles has been stronger than hybrids and can be expected to grow in the future.
Rebuttal of a misleading Wall Street Journal op-ed that trashes clean cars.
Clean Edge, Inc., in its Clean Energy Trends 2013 report, cites the trend to microhybrids as one of the more positive and lasting movements in the transportation sector. While much attention is focused on electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids, the group sees microhybrids, also known as start-stop, idle-stop-go, idle elimination, mild hybrid or other names, as contributing more to increased fuel efficiency than any other technology.
The technology has been on the market for more than a decade and at least 40 percent of the new cars in Europe and Japan already use it, but it’s on its way to the U.S. as well. The attraction for the auto industry is that this is a relatively cheap technology that delivers tangible fuel economy improvements and helps them along the way to the goal of 54.5 mpg by 2025.
The goal is reducing petroleum use. ZeaChem gets California grant to produce ethanol to blend with gasoline from woody biomass and agricultural residue. They have a demonstration plant in Oregon producing ethanol from locally grown poplar trees.
MPG is still on consumers’ minds as car and truck sales of hybrids, plug-in cars and clean diesels continued to outpace the overall market in February 2012. High mileage hybrids, plug-ins and diesels had their second good month to begin the year, bettering the high bar set by the overall market. Hybrids continued to be above 3 percent of the market and both hybrids and diesels accelerated sales beyond a strong overall market (up 16.1% and 23.3% respectively compared to the overall market rise of 14.3%).