News: SF Motors Enters Electric Car Market

News: SF Motors Enters Electric Car Market

Chinese-backed Start-up Unveils Crossover EVs; Touts Technology

Silicon Valley witnessed yet another automotive coming out party last week as SF Motors unveiled an upscale crossover electric vehicle and showed off some of the company’s technology. While the car itself may be a bit of a me-too (high-power, connected, autonomous-capable in a conventional SUV coupe-like shape), the back story of the technology this well-funded formerly stealth start-up has developed tells a much more interesting story.

SF Motors

The story underneath

The most intriguing part of the SF Motors is the vertically integrated nature of the company. It showed off a modular home-grown electric motor (in nominal 100, 200 and 400 kW trim), proprietary battery cells and packs, gearboxes and controllers. It also announced an intent, perhaps with a little hubris, to not only put its components in its own cars, but sell them to other automakers.

SF Motors is affiliated with Chongqing Sokon Industry Group, one of many privately held car companies in China. Chongqing Sokon provides financial backing and a plant in China capable of producing 150,000 cars annually. Currently the company produces a variety of models in China.

T0 bolster the company’s move into electric vehicles, SF Motors has set up its headquarters in Santa Clara, California, in Silicon Valley. The company has R&D centers in China, the U.S., Germany and Japan. It acquired the old AM General plant in Indiana as a U.S. production site. The nominal annual production capacity of that plant is 50,000 vehicles. It plans to launch its cars in the U.S. market first and then migrate to China and other markets. 

The First Car

SF Motors showed off two of its expected three models to press and investors last week—the SF5 midsize crossover that it plans to have on the market in 2019 and the full-size SF7 crossover that will follow. Details were sketchy on the cars, which follow the styling trend being set by the BMW X4 and X6 and the Mercedes-Benz GLC and GLE SUV coupes.

SF Motors

The SF5 midsize crossover will be SF Motors’ first vehicle

The cars looked good as concept cars usually do (well, maybe Faraday Future’s FF91 is the exception that proves the rule). SF Motors plans to start taking orders for the SF5 later this year. Media reports put its price at about $60,000 while the SF7 may hit $95,000. Of course, getting the 1000-horsepower version that will do 0-60 in under three seconds could be a little more. And that kind of performance may keep you under the 300-mile range the company said the cars will be capable of. 

The specs released last week by Dr. Yifan Tang, SF Motors’ CTO, were that the motors would deliver 5.5 kW and 10 Newton-meters of torque per kilogram of weight, which would put it in the top end of electric motors for that metric, Tang said the battery packs would delivery 280 kWh per kilogram.

Future Tech

Of course, it’s not just about automobiles in Silicon Valley so SF Motors also laid down some markers for its technology. By 2020 they will be introducing “protective autonomy with connectivity,” according to Tang. The company reported it is already testing systems with computer vision, deep neural networks and Lidar.

SF Motors

SF Motors showed its AV tech on a Lincoln

SF Motors will also be building on existing relationships with suppliers, including Bosch, Dürr, Siemens, Samsung SDI, Infineon Technologies, LGC and AFT. The company has also purchased Tesla co-founder Martin Eberhard’s battery start-up, and made Eberhard chief innovation officer of SF Motors.  

In its technology display, the company also showed off its 21700 cells for a solid state cylindrical battery. The company also intends to get into the battery recycling business, creating energy storage products that would allow second use in homes and offices for batteries no longer functional for automotive use.

SF Motors

SF Motors is making its own battery cells

It’s an ambitious plan, but SF Motors believes it is well on its way toward becoming a producer of high-end and affordable electric cars and potentially an industry supplier. As is the case with other recent EV introductions, such as Lucid Motors and Faraday Future, the proof will be not only delivering the first or the 100,000th car to paying customers, but doing so at a profit. That’s something first-mover Tesla is still struggling with after 10 years. We’ll be keeping an eye on their progress.

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Flash Drive: 2018 Nissan Leaf

Flash Drive: 2018 Nissan Leaf

New Tech, Styling, More Range Added to the World-Leading EV

The Nissan Leaf is the first and most successful mass market all-electric car, with more than 300,000 sold worldwide. Introduced in 2010 as a 2011 model, it was a pioneer, won the 2011 World Green Car award, and just repeated that feat for 2018. However, with much more competition today, it needed a major update. The 2018 model is the result, as validated by the World Green Car award and our early drive.

2019 Nissan leaf A Pair of Aces

2019 Nissan leaf

I sampled two models of the new Leaf at the recent Western Automotive Journalists Media Days event. I grabbed it for the first drive of the day, 23+ miles that included some freeway, some in-town, and some open road travel, including the climbing the winding Laureles Grade in Monterey County.

The car is all new, but contains some remnants of the old model, including its hatchback shape. However, all the rounded shapes of the original Leaf are tightened up and the nose wears a much more conventional grill and headlamps, in Nissan’s corporate V shape. The rear pillar is partially blacked out to give the impression of a floating roof panel, just like the competing BMW i3 and Chevrolet Bolt EV (and several other models like the Lexus RX).

New Inside & Out

The new interior, like the outside, is more restrained than the exuberantly flowing original. The steering wheel looks very traditional and the instruments ahead are clear and easy to understand. The rectangular center panel gives you access to the entertainment, information, apps and provides knobs for volume and tuning. The shapes are gently curved, but overall sensible and familiar. Nearly all surfaces are at least slightly padded, creating a comfortable and slightly more upscale feel.

2019 Nissan leaf

The room inside the Leaf is great

I dropped into the seat and was pleased at how comfortable it felt. The Chevrolet Bolt EV, a leader in the category now, has firm, narrow chairs that work for me, but have generated complaints from some drivers.

On the road, the Leaf starts out smartly, with a 147-horsepower motor pulling smoothly and silently. While no rocket, it feels completely, well, normal. Handling is predictable and pleasant. The ride is firm, but not harsh.

The new Leaf offers e-Pedal, which provides stronger regenerative braking. Much like the L setting in a Bolt EV or the default setting in a Tesla, this means you can use one-pedal driving, pressing your right foot down to move forward and lifting it to slow down. Like the Bolt EV, the Leaf can come to a complete stop without touching the brake pedal (the Tesla cuts the regen at a few mph). You can drive the Leaf like a regular car by turning e-Pedal off.

The New Tech

The new ProPilot Assist feature allows you to choose one of three following distances and set a speed on the highway. Your Leaf will follow the car in front at the set distance, and brake and accelerate to retain that distance—as you’d expect with adaptive cruise control. But it also gently stations you in the center of the lane. You must keep your hands on the wheel—this is low-level autonomy—but it is more relaxing when traveling on the freeway and busy roads. It worked perfectly when I tested it on Monterey County highways in the second Leaf.

2019 Nissan leaf

The gauge support is there to tell you what’s happening 

The new Leaf has significantly improved battery range. It’s up to 150 miles now, much better than the 2017 model’s 107, but still well below the Chevy Bolt EV’s 238 miles. Nissan says a 200+ mile range battery is coming, but for now, is 150 miles enough for most drivers’ needs?

Why did Nissan go with the 40-kWh lithium-ion battery instead of a 60 kWh one like the Bolt EV uses? It’s about value, says Paul Minahan, Jr., Sr. Manager, Electric Vehicle Fleet Operations. Leaf customers wanted a lower price—and batteries are still expensive. The new Leaf starts at $29,999 for the S model, before federal and state rebates and tax breaks. The SV and SL add more to the price, but also to the features list. I tested the better-equipped SV and SL. The SL’s price of $36,200 still undercuts the $37,500 base price of the Bolt LT, while offering more features, including leather seats. Other EVs, such as the Tesla Model 3 and BMW i3, are simply more expensive.

Nissan has a huge base of existing customers; some will trade up for this significantly better car. More people may be willing to consider the new Leaf with its less controversial styling and overall improvement in everything it is and does.

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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.

News: Nissan IMx Electric CUV One of Eight New EVs

News: Nissan IMx Electric CUV One of Eight New EVs

Nissan Targets 1 Million Electrified Vehicle Annual Sales By 2022

With more than 300,000 global sales, the Nissan Leaf is the bestselling electric car in history. The 2018 Nissan Leaf has launched with an EPA-rated 151-mile driving range. A second version for 2019 is coming with more than 200 miles of range. The big question now is, where will Nissan go from here?

One of the missing pieces of the electric car portfolio is the crossover. Most current EVs are sedans with Tesla’s Model X and Jaguar’s I-Pace the only electric crossovers available, although others are coming from luxury automakers Audi and Mercedes-Benz.

Given the popularity of crossover SUVs, an electric crossover utility based on the IMx concept shown at the Tokyo Motor Show in 2017 will be added in 2020, according to an interview published last week in the British magazine Autocar. It will stay true to the striking concept.

Stylish and More Than an EV

“Of course, we have the new Leaf, but I think the [production version of the] IMx concept will become a breakthrough model,” Mamoru Aoki, Nissan’s European design chief told Autocar.

Nissan IMx concept

Nissan previews future EV design in the IMx

Aoki told Autocar that the exterior of the IMx is a clear indication of Nissan’s next-generation design language and the intention is to be closer to the company’s Japanese roots. He said the IMx “does not have a masculine look or a heavy appearance” of the type that is now common for mainstream combustion-engine CUVs. “It has a light feel and sheer surfaces,” he said. “The exterior is very Japanese in its details–expressive, but with purity and an expensive feeling.”

Aoki added: “The interior is notably bigger than with a conventional vehicle and there’s much more usable space, thanks to the totally flat floor allowed by the [underfloor] battery pack. The dashboard is also pushed right back [towards the windscreen] because the HVAC [heating, ventilation and air-con] unit is under the bonnet.”

The overall cabin concept reflects Japanese architecture and interior design, he said, because traditional Japanese houses are tiny, and some rooms have to be multi-purpose in their use.

Aoki was also keen to point out the unusual interior trim in the IMx, which is an alternating laminate of wood and translucent plastic that can be illuminated from behind—a hint, perhaps, that the finish is heading for production.

The IMx Concept offers a sleek crossover utility shape and a pair of motors, one per axle, to provide all-wheel drive. Combined power of the two drive motors is quoted at 430 horsepower and a substantial 516 pounds-feet of torque. Its quoted battery range on the Japanese test cycle was more than 370 miles, although we’d expect that to be closer to 250 miles in U.S. EPA testing.

But there’s more! The IMx is the “future of mobility,” according to Nissan. It features a future version of ProPilot, Nissan’s autonomous car technology. When engaged, it will retract the steering wheel, recline the seats and take over control of the car. The featureless (no knobs or switches) dash is designed to respond to gestures, eye movement and spoken commands. Whether this advanced ProPilot will appear in the 2020 production car is at the moment questionable.

One Million Electrified Vehicles Annually by Fiscal Year 2022

Nissan pledged to maintain its leadership in electric vehicles as the automaker outlined plans to launch eight new EVs and hit annual sales of 1 million electrified vehicles by March 31, 2023. The eight new EVs will come on top of Nissan’s current offerings, the Leaf and eNV200 van. One will be the all-electric crossover based on the iMx concept, while four of the new EVs will be directed to China.

The automaker’s sales goal of one million EVs, includes pure electrics and plug-in hybrids. The tally will get a boost from the introduction of Nissan’s new e-Power setup, a range-extender hybrid system it is already selling in Japan and will bring to other markets. Sales of vehicles equipped with e-Power will account for more than half the total.

The components of Nissan’s goals were presented last Friday at the company’s global headquarters, offering details of the M.O.V.E to 2022 midterm plan unveiled by CEO Hiroto Saikawa last fall for six years running through the fiscal year ending March 31, 2023.

Nissan’s luxury arm, Infiniti, won’t be left in the dark, either. All Infiniti models will be electrified starting in 2021. Chief Planning Officer Philippe Klein said, “This electrification trend will be deeper and quicker for Infiniti. Our objective is to position Infiniti as the No. 1 challenger brand in the premium segment.”

“We have more EV customers than any other automaker,” Klein said. “You can count on us to defend our EV leadership.”

 

 

 

Comparison Test: 2018 Volkswagen Atlas V6 SEL Premium 4Motion vs. Atlas 2.0T SE

Comparison Test: 2018 Volkswagen Atlas V6 SEL Premium 4Motion vs. Atlas 2.0T SE

VW’s Seven-Passenger Large SUV Siblings

Volkswagen is a latecomer with its three-row Atlas SUV. Designed for the American market, the Atlas lives up to its name–it’s big, which is a good thing if you need to seat up-to seven people. For most, this is something very few of us do on a regular basis. However, if you have a growing family and need the extra storage space for all their (and their friends’) gear, the 2018 Atlas should be on your wish list.

2018 Volkswagen Atlas

VW wants to play with the big boys

VW designed the Atlas interior to be open and inviting, even for passengers venturing into the third row. You need to be a Cirque du Soleil contortionist to access or comfortably sit in the far back of many seven-passenger SUVs. Not so with the Atlas, as VW has made the access easy with fold-and-slide second row seats, and a third row bench with good thigh support and a comfortable angle for the seat back. Maybe six-footers would not want to spend a few hundred miles back there, but anyone shorter would do just fine. A nice feature is that a child car seat can remain attached to the second row when it slides forward for access to the third row. The Nissan Pathfinder has this same convenience.

The beauty of the Atlas interior is how efficient the space is. Achieved by having near squared-off sides and a tall roof, shoulder room is expansive and leg room is good for even the tallest passengers. If you do not want a second row bench seat, Captain’s Chairs are a $625 option.

Available in five trim levels, you can get into a nicely equipped base 2018 Atlas S for about $31,000. This is a compliment to VW, knowing they have to be aggressive on pricing and content to gain awareness in the crowded large SUV segment. As for discriminating consumers, they will be rewarded with a well-built vehicle that can accommodate the complete family.

2.0L Turbo or 3.6L V6/FWD or 4Motion AWD

Clean Fleet Report had the opportunity to drive two Atlases (Atlasi?)—the Atlas SE with the 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 and front-wheel drive (FWD), and the Atlas SEL Premium with the 3.6L V6 with 4Motion (VW’s term for all-wheel drive). Both models had an eight-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission. Volkswagen’s 4Motion is a permanent all-wheel-drive system engineered to eliminate wheel spin under almost all conditions. It’s also designed to automatically decouple the rear wheels when the driving load and conditions don’t require the additional traction, saving fuel. It also comes with four drive modes: Highway, Off-road, Snow and Custom. So, what are the differences between the two engines and drive systems?

2018 Volkswagen Atlas

Ready to take the whole gang on or off-road

Here are some stats to get started.

  • 2.0L Turbocharged I4
  • 235 horsepower (hp)
  • 258 pounds-feet (lb.-ft.) torque
  • 22 mpg city/26 highway/24 combined (EPA)

 

  • 3.6L V6
  • 276 hp
  • 266 lb.-ft. torque
  • 17/23/19

It is clear from these numbers that an Atlas, with either engine, is not winning any fuel economy ribbons. Of course, the big trade-off that places an * next to the fuel economy is being able to transport up-to seven people and their gear. Had it not been for the recent diesel scandal, VW most likely would have offered the Atlas with its 3.0L TDI engine, which would have lifted the fuel economy numbers into the low 30 mpg range. The 18.6 gallon fuel tank means that, at a 25 mpg average, your family road trip could rack up more than 450 miles before refilling the tank.

The choice for performance between the two engines is a toss-up. The V6 accelerates smoothly, pulls strong and will be your primary choice if you plan on doing any towing, as it is rated up to 5,000 pounds. Both engines have Stop/Start technology that, while noticeable when the engine kicked in, it was not jarring or loud. The 2.0L Turbo gave peppy performance with good low-end torque, and a bit better fuel economy.

In what we believe afflicted only the car we were driving, Clean Fleet Report’s 2.0L Turbo suffered from stumbling upon acceleration from a stop. No matter how hard we tried, we were unable to find a pressure on the accelerator pedal that would result in a smooth launch. Was this a combination of the Stop/Start, turbo lag, the differential locking or the transmission searching for a gear? We never could figure it out. But, once off the line the 2.0L turbocharged four cylinder was a joy to drive. The turbo did exactly what turbos do by giving instant power when needed, out performing the V6 in all timed categories. We especially liked how we were able to merge onto Southern California freeway traffic with ease and confidence with both engines.

Driving Experience: On the Road

The 2018 Volkswagen Atlas is balanced nicely and grips the road well. However, the suspension on the 2.0L Turbo FWD was soft, at times suffering from a rolling, sloppy feel. The V6 4Motion did not have this issue, possibly because it weighed-in at 4,502 lbs., while the 2.0L came at 4,222 lbs. (280 lbs. lighter). In both vehicles there was noticeable body roll on hard corners at high speed, but it did not affect confidence because it was easy to predict. Plus taking those corners a bit slower was a good idea anyway.

2018 Volkswagen Atlas

The two models are similar, but with different capabilities

Both FWD and 4Motion Atlas models have identical independent suspensions of front struts, coil springs and an anti-roll bar, while the rear has multi-link with coil springs and telescopic dampers. The 2.0L had 245/60R Continental Cross Contact all-season tires on 18-inch alloy wheels, while the 3.6L had the same tires but on 20-inch alloy wheels.

Driving Experience: Exterior

A couple of years back Volkswagen began standardizing its vehicles on the MQB (Modular Transverse Matrix) architecture. The 2018 Atlas, at 200-inches in length, is easily the largest VW to be adapted to this platform. So how to design a large SUV that did not actually look so large? VW accomplished this nicely with a classic design of pleasing proportions that should hold up for many years. The Atlas is modern with soft, clean lines, but also bold in that it holds a commanding presence on the road.

Volkswagen CrossBlue

VW showed where it was going in the CrossBlue concept SUV

First shown in 2013 as the CrossBlue concept vehicle, Volkswagen retained much of the CrossBlue design by not squaring-off the corners or adding all sorts of scoops and vents. The Atlas is refreshing, clean and simple. The very respectful 0.34 drag coefficient helped the Atlas cut quietly through the wind, even at freeway speeds.

Driving Experience: Interior

The 2018 Atlas has a neat and pleasant interior with a clean fit and finish. Nothing fancy, trendy or quirky. The usual German simplicity, with a good mix of soft and hard plastics, was complimented by tasteful wood-grained and brushed aluminum trim. The white backlighting for the dash gauges added a premium element, which went along with the overall quality materials used throughout the interior.

The center stack features VW’s Car-Net infotainment (information and entertainment) system. Our Atlas SE model had an 8.0-inch color touchscreen for the eight-speaker audio system

2018 Volkswagen Atlas

The VW interiors had an upscale feel

for the AM/FM/HD radio and CD player, with MP3 playback. Also part of the infotainment system is SiriusXM, Bluetooth for telephone and streaming music, and VW’s Media Device Interface (MDI), which includes a SD card and USB slots. Clean Fleet Report’s Atlas SEL Premium had the same screen, but with a Fender audio system and its 12 speakers and subwoofer. Clean Fleet Report is a big fan of knobs. VW makes it easy to operate the radio and the multi-zone climate control system with the turn of a few well placed knobs.

Our Atlas SE had seats covered in VW’s V-Tex Leatherette while the SEL got leather for the front and outward second row seats. Leatherette is a durable fabric technology that is comfortable to the touch and provides good air circulation. Both had heated and power adjustable front seats. There was a good choice of seat settings that, when combined with the height adjustable and telescoping steering column, made it easy to find a comfortable position for the driver. Separating the front seats is a center console offering ample storage and an USB charge-only port. A nice upgrade is the multi-function steering wheel wrapped in leather.

The 60/40 split-folding second row seats were heated on the SEL. Both models had the convenient fold-and-slide second row that made getting to the 50/50 split-folding third row an ease. Storage configurations abound, all depending on how many seats are folded. If you are looking to tote an eight-foot kayak or surfboard, the Atlas can handle it.

Interior conveniences, standard or optional, include remote start, a power tilting and sliding sunroof, remote power lift gate, power windows, keyless access, multi-function steering wheel with audio and telephone controls, power adjustable and manual folding heated exterior mirrors, multiple power ports, front and rear reading lights and carpeted floor mats.

Safety and Convenience

The 2018 Volkswagen Atlas has standard or available safety features such as eight airbags, tire pressure monitoring system and an Intelligent Crash Response System (ICRS). In case of an accident, the ICRS turns off the fuel pump, unlocks the doors and activates the hazard lights. But the real stand-out coming from Volkswagen is its Automatic Post-Collision Braking System, which is pretty self-explanatory. Working in conjunction with the airbag sensors in a collision, the brakes are applied automatically after an accident so your car does not continue moving where it could strike another vehicle or object.

2018 Volkswagen Atlas

There’s room for big stuff in back

Additional safety features include adaptive cruise control, power-assisted anti-lock brakes, park assist, stability control, overhead view and rear view cameras, blind spot monitor, lane departure warning, rear traffic alert, forward collision warning and autonomous emergency braking. If you have never driven a car with these last two safety features, have your Volkswagen sales representative demonstrate them to you on the highway. Once you have used them, you will feel naked when driving a car that is not similarly equipped.

The 2018 Volkswagen Atlas earned a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety and a 5 Star Overall rating by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. These are the highest ratings by each organization.

Pricing and Warranties

The 2018 Volkswagen Atlas ranges in base price from $30,750 to $48,740. Clean Fleet Report’s Atlas with the 2.0L Turbo and FWD had an MSRP of $33,590, and the 3.6L V6 with 4Motion came in at $48,490. All prices are before any options and the $925 Destination Fee.

The 2018 Volkswagen Atlas comes with these warranties:

  • New Vehicle/Powertrain – 72 months/72,000 miles
  • Corrosion Perforation – 84 months/100,000 miles
  • 24 Hour Roadside Assistance – 36 months/36,000 miles         

Observations: 2018 Volkswagen Atlas V6 4Motion and Atlas 2.0L Turbo FWD

Volkswagen is in the same position as all auto manufactures needing to get the attention of consumers to even consider buying their cars, trucks and SUVs. In the case of the 2018 Atlas, the task for VW is even greater as several competing well-known large SUVs are already on the market . So the question looms of why an Atlas should be in your driveway?

2018 Volkswagen Atlas

A third row for adults!

To start, you won’t be disappointed owning an Atlas as the build quality on Volkswagens is second to none. Choosing either engine, front wheel or all-wheel drive, will be based on your lifestyle and where you live. Will you be going off pavement or pulling a trailer? With the Atlas, Volkswagen gives you good options when needing to transport up-to seven people.

The only way you will know is by going to your local Volkswagen dealer and take all three engine and drive models out on the open highway, around town and if necessary for your intended use, off-road. You may feel the front-wheel-drive Atlas suits your commuting and around town needs, while the Atlas 4Motion fits your adventurous lifestyle just a bit better.

Whatever you end up buying, Happy Driving!

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Competitive Three-Row SUVs

Road Test: 2018 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

Road Test: 2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

Road Test: 2017 Nissan Pathfinder

News: 2018 Lexus RX 450hL Hybrid

Road Test: 2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid

Road Test: 2017 Mitsubishi Outlander

Top 10 Best MPG AWD SUVs/Crossovers

First Drive: Tesla Model X P100D

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.

 

 

Interview: Chevrolet Bolt EV at One Year

Interview: Chevrolet Bolt EV at One Year

One Year Update for the First Affordable 200+-mile Range EV

Is ‘Game Changer’ over used, or maybe even a bit passé, because everything and anything of late is considered the greatest? Just as actors can be celebrities, but all celebrities are not stars, the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV whooshed right past the celebrity tag and quickly became a star. How else would you categorize an all-electric car that goes 238 miles on a single charge and costs in the mid-$30,000 range? That qualifies as a game changer—and a star.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt

The Bolt story starts with the gauge that tells you there are 200 gas-free miles ahead of you when fully charged

The five-passenger small car market is increasingly being populated by all-electric offerings, with the Volkswagen e-Golf, Nissan Leaf, Hyundai Ioniq, Kia Soul, Ford Focus and Fiat 500e among the top sellers in this category. To design the Bolt from a clean sheet, Chevrolet knew they had to do something far different than these other EVs that topped-out in the 130-mile range and also cost in the mid-$30Ks. And no, they weren’t looking at them for inspiration.

Chevrolet looked higher and went after Tesla. The Tesla S and X can go between 208 and 335 miles on a charge, depending on which model you buy, but you will pony-up between $70K and $120K. The much anticipated (and delayed) Tesla Model 3 is rated at a 310-mile range (for the big battery pack), but the base price is somewhere around $44,000. The latest word out of Palo Alto is that the $35,000, 220-mile range “Standard” Model 3s won’t begin production until the end of 2018.

So, could Chevrolet produce an all-electric car that costs roughly the same as their main five-passenger small car competitors, but has the range of the larger and more expensive contenders? Yep, they did. The Chevrolet Bolt has been on the market for a little more than a year. It is on sale in all 50 states. We thought it was time to catch up with one of the people behind this ground-breaking electric car.

Bolt Philosophy and Importance

Clean Fleet Report had the opportunity to speak with Darin Geese, Chevrolet cars customer segment leader. We covered a range of topics including the Bolt and the electrification of vehicles at General Motors. It was a fascinating conversation.

CFR: What is the importance of the Bolt and its technology within Chevrolet and General Motors?

Geese: The Bolt for Chevrolet and General Motors is the first long-range, affordable electric vehicle in the industry. We are pretty proud we delivered on the three promises made to Mary Barra (General Motors CEO) at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show, that we would be over 200 miles (of range); under $30,000; and available to be onsale by the end of the year. We delivered on all three with a 238-mile EV range, a price of $29,995 (less the Federal tax credit) and the first retail deliveries were December 13, 2016.

As we look forward to what role it is playing, the Bolt is the halo. It provides advanced zero emissions technology, and gives a look at what electric vehicles could be in the future. By packaging the battery pack beneath the floor, this opens the passenger compartment because, with a flat floor you don’t have tunnels and footwells. By not having an engine under the front hood, more components can be placed up there, and the windshield can be pushed forward. The Bolt seems smaller on the outside than it really is on the inside.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt

The hatchback makes the Bolt a crossover in some folks’ view

CFR: How does this apply to other General Motors vehicles?

Geese: This opens it to different vehicles, body styles and types, and let’s us ask “what are the possibilities?”

CFR: What statement did you want to make about the Bolt?

Geese: We wanted to say: we are an all-electric vehicle, providing enough range that pretty much gets rid of range anxiety, as 238 miles will take you through many days of normal driving activities. We still see the average American driving around forty miles daily, round trip. So at 238 miles, this is five day’s worth of driving before needing to recharge. We do encourage people to treat the Bolt like their cell phone and plug it in overnight.

CFR: The EPA estimates a 238-mile range. What feedback have you received from owners about real-world driving distances?

Geese: The majority of our customers are getting more miles than they expected, with reports of over 300 miles. For Chevrolet, it is good to hear back from an average perspective that we are delivering and exceeding on our promises.

CFR: Any first year warranty issues?

Geese: There has been nothing abnormal to the regular vehicles we produce. It is nits and nats, and mostly customers not understanding how the vehicle is supposed to operate. We get people not knowing how to pair their Bluetooth phone, but nothing at all about the electric vehicle technology.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt

In its first year on sale the Bolt vaulted to the head of the affordable plug-in cars

CFR: How have sales been in the first year? Is the Bolt EV sold in all 50 states and at all dealers? What percentage of Bolt sales are in California?

Geese: Sales through November 2017 have been 20,649 units (ed. note: full year sales were 23,297, second only to the Tesla Model S in plug-in cars), with 50-percent of Bolt sales in California. The Bolt EV is sold in all 50 states, but we do not require all dealers to sell the vehicle. It does take some investment on the dealer’s part, such as putting in charging stations and all the tools and equipment and training they need to sell and service the vehicle. So, we see about a third of our dealers have signed-up, which is good as they are focused and committed. These are the kind of dealers we want to see.

CFR: When the Bolt was being developed, was the Tesla Model 3 a prime competitive target? What, if any, strategies were designed for the Bolt with the Model 3 in mind?

Geese: There was a strategy to be there (in market) ahead of them, which we did before their first units were produced. This is the first mover advantage. But we had to look at them not as a direct competitor, because they are offering a different body style, sort of like a compact luxe sedan. The Bolt is a small crossover and that kind of buyer does not cross shop between sedans and crossovers. It’s going to be interesting how the consumer reacts to their vehicle, their likes and dislikes, especially the packaging from the standpoint of rear headroom and rear leg room. We think we are very competitive in these areas with the Bolt EV.

CFR: You mentioned the Bolt is a crossover. I see it as a compact car.

Geese: When we do our product research, that is exactly one of the things we try to understand: What would you call this vehicle? How would you describe it? And for the most part customers said

2017 Chevrolet Bolt

This small wagon that plugs in is popular in California

it is a cross between a SUV and a passenger car. It’s a funny thing, because there is no official SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) definition of a crossover. When we submit our information to the EPA, they also do not have a crossover segment. They have SUVs and they have wagons, so the Bolt ended-up being classified as a small wagon, just like the Kia Soul, Toyota Prius V and Nissan Juke. It’s kind of a mixed bag of what is in there. For the most part, we do feel confident in the crossover designation as you do sit up higher with a bit more commanding view of the road, you have a tremendous amount of cargo space and the flexibility of the vehicle being able to manage both passenger and cargo. We even have the optional Rear Camera Mirror that is geared towards when there is a lot of cargo in the back and blocking your vision.

CFR: Let’s talk about the General Motors autonomous vehicle program. Is Bolt the go-to vehicle for self-driving cars within GM?

Geese: At this time we are utilizing the Bolt EV as the platform to develop our autonomous vehicle technology. And that is pretty much all we can say about it.

CFR: In closing, what are your thoughts on the past year, the next big thing for the Bolt, the Bolt platform, and electric vehicles within Chevrolet and General Motors?

Geese: We are very happy with the Bolt EV at our one-year anniversary. Month-over-month sales increases and everything about the vehicle, from production to customer satisfaction, has been good. You know, these buyers are very tough critics sometimes, very specific about what they want. So, when you hear great feedback and satisfaction, especially with the number one reason they are buying the vehicle, which is the EV range, we are knocking that one out of the park.

We are always looking out for the next big thing, like do we want to do a sedan, or more of a SUV? This market is so new that defining the sweet spot is anyone’s guess at this time. It was very interesting to see all the other manufacturers come out with different types of EVs, with different body styles and how they present those, and the consumers’ reactions.

So, it is very exciting times at this point. We are excited to continue on.

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News: 12 Greenest Cars Of 2018 Revealed

News: 12 Greenest Cars Of 2018 Revealed

ACEEE Says You Can’t Go Wrong With This Mix Of Green Cars

Choosing a car that meets your household’s needs is one thing, but if you are environmentally conscious your selection might go beyond comfort, cargo room and available options. If you want to reduce your environmental impact, minimize fuel costs or cut the petroleum pipelines from foreign countries, then buy the greenest vehicle that still meets your transportation needs.

To help shoppers choose a greener car, the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) in Washington, D.C. compiles an annual survey of what it determines is the most environmentally friendly cars on American roads. Not surprisingly, battery-powered electric and gasoline-electric hybrids are the sole winners for 2018, the 21st year for the list.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Green Vehicle Guide only looks at traditional tailpipe pollutants, the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) produced per mile and fuel economy. The ACEEE uses a complex formula that considers the emissions associated with a vehicle’s entire life cycle–from manufacturing to disposal impact–and the fuel it uses, whether gasoline, diesel or electricity.

The Council also analyzes automakers’ test results for fuel economy and emissions as reported to the EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB), along with other reported specifications. In addition, the group looks at lifecycle impacts of the car, taking into consideration criteria pollutants, greenhouse gas emissions, looking at upstream emissions of the vehicle’s fuel and also manufacturing and disposal impacts. Four basic data points form the core of the ratings—tailpipe emissions, fuel economy, vehicle curb weight and battery mass and composition (for the hybrid and plug-in vehicles). Finally, they factor in an environmental damage index that tallies the gram-per-mile pollutant rate multiplied by a cents-per-gram of damage costs.

If you’re ready to go shopping for an Earth-friendly new car, here’s the list of the 12 Greenest Cars Of 2018. We are noting their green scores and fuel economy, including the “MPGe” equivalent for EVs. (Beyond the list of 12 environmental winners, the ACEEE also provides car shoppers with lists of more environmentally friendly choices in all car classes at: https://aceee.org/. To add some more data to the mix, we’ve also included links to our road tests and news stories about these models.

Base prices are before any federal, state or local incentives.

  1. Hyundai Ioniq Electric

2017 Ioniq Electric Vehicle

2017 Ioniq Electric Vehicle

 

Leading the pack for the second year in a row is the midsized Hyundai Ioniq Electric. It compiled a “Green Score” of 70 out of a 100, which is the highest rating for a passenger car ever recorded by the ACEEE. The all-electric version of the Ioniq hatchback leads all comers with a class-leading fuel economy equivalent. Base Price: $29,500. EV Range: 124 miles: MPGe: 150 city/122 highway.

  1. Smart ForTwo Electric Drive

Smart Fortwo Electric Drive

Smart Fortwo Electric Drive

Slotting into the number two ranking with a Green Score of 69 is the two-seat Smart ForTwo Electric Drive. Not only is this the cheapest car built by Mercedes-Benz, it is among the greenest rides on the road. However, it is hampered by a limited driving range, a seating capacity of two and a small cargo capacity, but it offers something no other electric car does: the option to drop the top. Base Price: $23,800. EV Range: 58 miles; MPGe: 124 city/94 highway.

  1. BMW i3 BEV

BMW i3

BMW i3

A Green Score of 68 was high enough to earn the BMW i3 BEV third on the list in ACEEE’s 12 Greenest Cars Of 2018. This rating is for the odd-shaped i3’s newly available 94 amp-hour battery pack. The i3 is also offered with a small range-extender gasoline engine with fewer EV miles (97), but can travel an additional 83 miles on gasoline. Base Price: $47,650. EV Range:114 miles; MPGe: 129 city/106 highway.

4. Tesla Model 3 Long Range

 

Tesla Model 3

Tesla Model 3

 

While a Green Score of 67 places the Tesla Model 3 Long Range in fourth place, the wait time for this new car could take up to a year or longer, due to production delays and pre-production demand. This is for the $9,000 optional long range battery Model 3. Base Price: $44,000. EV Range: 310 miles; MPGe:136 city/123 highway.

  1. Chevrolet Bolt

 

2018 Chevrolet Bolt EV

Chevrolet Bolt EV

One of America’s favorite EVs, the Chevrolet Bolt’s 66 Green Score places it in the number five position. The hatchback compact car offers the latest tech and safety features along with a spacious interior, and an operating range that is sufficient for a typical week’s commute. Base Price: $36,620. EV Range: 238 miles; MPGe 128 city/110 highway.

  1. Kia Soul EV

The Hampster lovin’ Kia Soul EV tallied a 66 Green Score to tie the Chevy Bolt. The boxy Soul EV is roomy and comfortable with a nicely appointed interior. However, it is only available in California and nine other states. Base Price: $32,250. EV Range: 111 miles; MPGe: 124 city/93 highway.

Kia Soul

Kia Soul

  1. Hyundai Ioniq Blue Hybrid

2017 IONIQ Plug-In Hybrid

Hyundai Ioniq Blue Hybrid

With a Green Score of 65, the Hyundai Ioniq Blue is the top hybrid on this year’s ACEEE’s list of greenest cars. With handsome styling inside and out, the compact Ioniq hybrid tops all hybrids with its impressive fuel economy. It’s also available in plug-in hybrid and electric models. Base Price: $22,200. MPG: 57 city/59 highway.

  1. Toyota Prius Eco

 

Toyota Prius Two Eco

Toyota Prius Two Eco

The Toyota Prius Eco slipped into second place among conventional hybrids on this year’s ACEEE’s list with a Green Score of 64.  Still America’s best-selling hybrid, the Prius Eco Two trim offers the top fuel economy in the Prius lineup. Base Price: $25,165. MPG: 58 city/53 highway. 

  1. Ford Focus Electric

 

2017 Ford Focus Electric

Ford Focus Electric

A Green Score of 64 lands the Ford Focus Electric in the number eight spot. This compact electric hatchback is affordable, thanks to the one-time $7,500 frederal tax credit and the large cash rebates from Ford. Base Price: $29,120. EV Range: 115 miles; MPGe: 118 city/96 highway.

  1. Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid

 

Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid

Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid

Kia’s Niro Plug-in Hybrid tops the plug-in hybrid class with a Green Score of 63. Also available as a standard hybrid (52 city/49 highway mpg), the plug-in version gains battery-only range, but is less efficient in hybrid mode. Base Price: $27,900. EV Range: 26 miles; MPGe: 105; MPG gas: 46 combined.

  1. Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid

 

Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid

Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid

Honda made this year’s ACEEE list with the Clarity Plug-in Hybrid that had a Green Score of 62.  The plug-in-hybrid version joins EV and fuel-cell Clarity variants, and it’s the only version of this premium sedan that can be purchased outright. Base Price: $33,400.  EV Range 48 miles; MPGe 110; MPG gas: 42 combined.

  1. Chevrolet Volt

2018 Chevrolet Volt

Chevrolet Volt

 

Chevrolet’s Volt is among the dozen “greenest” cars for 2018 with a Green Score of 62. The Volt is equipped with a small range-extending gasoline engine that provides a virtually unlimited operting range, as long as you can find a sas station. But the first 53 miles comes solely on electricity. Base Price: $33,320. MPGe: 106; Gas: 42 highway.

The tally of the Top 12—seven electrics, three plug-in hybrids and two hybrids. Four from Hyundai-Kia, two from General Motors and one each from BMW, Daimler, Ford, Honda, Tesla and Toyota.