Personal: Batting 1,000

Personal: Batting 1,000

Clean Fleet Report Hits Milestone

Something special happened this week and we just want to let you know. Clean Fleet Report published its 1,000th story. That’s quite a landmark for a start-up, but we’re just getting going. We published more than 200 stories last year as we moved into more in-depth coverage of fuel economy and advanced technology news. The 1,000th story—and the two that bracket it—are a good way of telling the Clean Fleet Report story.

2017 Toyota Mirai

2017 Toyota Mirai–a fuel cell pioneer

Story 1,000 – Toyota Mirai Hits 3,000 Sales

This news story is a good shorthand for the biggest change of this past year’s expanded coverage. In order to bring you more information on the fast-changing world of zero and near-zero emission vehicles. In 2006, when this publication started, fuel cells were essentially science experiments. They worked, but any vision of them as a day-to-day vehicle seemed like some science fiction fantasy. Fast forward to today and, in California, you have a choice of three FCEVs you can lease (or even buy in the case of the Mirai). More models are on the horizon and the fueling infrastructure continues to grow. Several of our staff have had the chance to drive and live with hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (John in the Tucson and Mirai, Steve in the Mirai, me in the Clarity). We have a feeling we’ll be reporting on fuel cells more and more as we head to the end of the decade.

Story 999—Road Test of the 238-mile Range Chevrolet Bolt EV

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV–breaking through the 200-mile range barrier

The breakthrough Bolt is celebrating it’s first full year on the market, which we celebrated with our first full road test. Of course, we haven’t been ignoring Bolt news during the year as it racked up more than 23,000 sales. Beyond the test drives and news stories, Clean Fleet Report has been bringing a more personal story about this amazing car through staff Steve Schaefer, who put his own money on the line to lease a Bolt a little more than a year ago. His journey with the car illuminates more details of where the EV market is going.

Story 1,001—Road Test of the Toyota Highlander Hybrid

2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

Hybrids keep expanding their reach–and capabilitie

The first story of our second millennium of stories is a good window into how far industry has come. SUVs are hot and even though gas prices are low, companies remain focused on turning out more and more efficient models. The Highlander Hybrid is one of eight in the Toyota lineup (one of which, the hot-selling Prius Prime, is a plug-in hybrid). More important, it’s one of more than a dozen SUVs available as hybrids, plug-in hybrids, full electric or fuel cell vehicles. This changing world is the one we’re here to document, offering you insight into the choices that are out there in vehicles and technologies.

In those three stories you can see a bit of the breadth of news we’ll be covering this year. We’ll add in event coverage and exclusive interviews from our experienced staff. Enjoy the ride!

We always welcome your thoughts and insights as well at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com. 

Road Test: 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier

Road Test: 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier

The First Mainstream Electric Car that Can Go the Distance

Ever get the feeling Chevrolet is daring you not to buy an all-electric Bolt? With the average purchase price of a new car in 2017 being about $31,000, you can get into a Bolt with all tax credits and incentives (Federal and State) included, in the high-$20,000 range for the base model. Oh, and of course you will not spend a penny on gasoline or oil, nor will you have the regular maintenance associated with a gasoline-powered car. Sounds pretty good? So what’s not to like? Could it be an unfounded perception that an EV keeps you from going where you want to go? Or maybe it is not accepting the fact that a pure electric car will satisfy 90-percent of your driving needs and lifestyle. If you are like most people and drive solo or with one passenger, under 50 miles daily, the reasons to own a gasoline-powered car are decreasing daily. This is Range Anxiety debunked.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

The Bolt goes further

The 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV is fun-to-drive and quiet, but why shouldn’t it be? With no internal combustion engine (ICE) or transmission gears, the all-electric Bolt simply whooshes along with smooth efficiency at any speed.

238-Mile Range Technology

It is hard to believe that General Motors, known for big trucks and SUVs, would be the first full-line auto manufacturer to come out with an all-electric car that can travel 238 miles on a single charge. The EPA arrived at this number as the Bolt gets 110 MPGe on the highway and 128 MPGe in the city. MPGe is an EPA measurement of how far a car can travel, electrically, on the same amount of energy as is contained in one gallon of gasoline.

Charging and Stopping

The 60-kWh lithium-ion battery is charged by the 7.2-kW onboard charger. A plug-in port offers three charging speeds. The batteries, going from discharged to a full charge, the approximate times would be:

2017 Chevrolet Bolt

Charging three ways

  • 120V (Level 1)            20 hours
  • 240V (Level 2)           10 hours                 
  • 480V DC Fast Charging 90 miles of range in 30 minutes

Additional charging is through the regenerative braking system that converts braking or coasting into electricity that is stored in the battery. Driving around town, stuck in stop-and-go rush hour freeway traffic or coasting down hills will recharge the battery. The battery charge and mileage range are metered instantly by dash gauges.

The Driving Experience: On the Road

Powered by a 150-kW electric motor driving the front wheels, the 200 horsepower and 266 pounds-feet of torque zips the Bolt around with great fun. Chevrolet claims a 6.8-second 0-60 time and 91 mph top speed. We matched the former but didn’t even attempt to get anywhere near the latter. At 3,560 pounds, the 2017 Bolt is quiet and smooth. The batteries located under the seats made for a sure-footed driving experience that truly shines in city maneuvers and around tight corners. Considering it comes with all-season, Michelin Energy Saver 17-inch tires that are designed for low rolling-resistance, Chevrolet designed the Bolt with a very good road feel. The electric power steering was not too light, and body roll, even when pushed above recommended corner speed limits, was predictable and minor. Highway 65+ mph cruising was solid and confident.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt

The batteries create road-hugging weight

There is a choice of driving modes that affects the regenerative braking. Selecting the Drive mode, the brake pedal is used as normal for slowing and stopping. But using the Low mode, you can control braking with your fingertips, which is a very cool and useful technology. Found on the left side behind the steering wheel is a paddle “shifter” that, when blipped, initiates regenerative braking. What is cool about this is, once you get the hang of it, driving around without using the brake pedal—even coming to a complete stop. This technique, called “one-pedal driving,” lends itself to getting the most electricity from regenerated braking, as fingertips are far more sensitive than a foot tromping on the brake pedal. It is an especially fun technique to master when driving on curvy roads as it gives the ability to slow with your fingers and accelerate with your foot.

A good handling car is nothing without good brakes. The Bolt comes standard with an anti-lock braking system, power-assisted front vented and rear solid discs. Handling and driving confidence was aided by dynamic rear brake proportioning and electronic stability control.

Driving Experience: Exterior

Chevrolet likes to say the Bolt is a small crossover. The EPA (which classifies all vehicles into categories) says the Bolt is a small wagon. Does the difference matter? To Chevrolet it does, as crossovers are hot sellers and wagons not so much. But if Chevrolet really wanted the Bolt to be a true crossover size, why didn’t they design it as such and eliminate any confusion?

2017 Chevrolet Bolt

Non-stand-out styling

The Bolt has a very common hatchback design, a sloping roof-to-windshield-to-bumper profile, that has slim LED projector headlamps wrapping onto the fender, with LED daytime running lights in the lower fascia. The roof, with rack and side rails, never finds a flat surface as it gently arcs to an integrated spoiler over the rear hatch window. Large LED tail lamps wrap onto the fenders. From the side view, the window design is eye-catching and unique, with blacked-out B-pillars and just the lightest touch of a chrome accent strip. The Bolt is clean and looks smaller than it is, partly because of the visual perception from the wide-set wheel placement and the roof height.

Driving Experience: Interior

The Bolt interior gives a feeling of spaciousness, with four full-size adults fitting comfortably, or two adults upfront and three children in the rear. The big issue with the Bolt interior is the materials. There is an abundance of hard plastics and surfaces that should be soft, like the armrests and seats, which were, well, to be kind–hard. Recaro racing seats are firm: Bolt seats are hard. We even noticed the “leather appointed seats” were covered in a leather we had never seen before. For a $43,000 car (the top-of-the-line Bolt Premier model tested by Clean Fleet Report), the interior fit and finish was a disappointment. Also, the seven-shape shifting pattern of the console-mounted gear shifter made getting into reverse a stop-and-think-about-it process.

Now, onto what is good about the interior. The front seating position is higher than would be expected for what looks like a compact car. Sight lines are excellent. This is how Chevrolet came to the conclusion that the Bolt is a crossover, as all vehicles in this class raise the front seats to a road-commanding view height.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

An interior not quite up to its price range

All controls are within easy reach of the driver, including the 8.0-inch instrument cluster, viewed through the steering wheel, with a white background on the gauges making them easy to read. The 10.2-inch color touchscreen housed Chevrolet’s MyLink infotainment system (information and entertainment) that featured navigation and a Bose, six speaker AM/FM/HD radio and CD player, with USB slots. Also part of the infotainment system is SiriusXM (90-day trial included), Bluetooth for telephone and streaming music and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto from Google. Other nice features are wireless device charging, assuming your device has this ability, rear charge-only USB ports, and a front storage area that can swallow a tablet or laptop.

The heated front seats are manually adjustable for height, sliding and lumbar. When combined with the height adjustable and telescoping steering column, a comfortable driver position could be found. Especially noticeable was how far back the driver’s seat slides: no circus contorting for the six-foot plus crowd. The rear seats are heated in the outboard positions. Exterior road and wind noise were very low.

Storage space with the rear seat up, accessed through the rear hatch, is ample, but not as much as others in this class of EVs such as the Hyundai Ioniq, Volkswagen e-Golf and Toyota Prius Prime. If the driver and front-seat passenger are on a long weekender, the rear seat back splits 60/40 and lays flat, providing 56.6 cu. ft. of cargo capacity – large enough for a full-size bicycle. Additional storage comes in the guise of a false floor, that when removed, allows for the hauling taller objects.

Other features are a leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel with radio and telephone controls, power windows with one-touch operation down/driver one-touch up, remote start, power adjustable and manual folding exterior mirrors with turn signals, and a multi-function car analytics and trip computer display.

Safety and Convenience

The Bolt Premier is well equipped with convenience features including power door locks, adaptive cruise control, automatic HVAC, heated outboard rear seats, wireless charging, 4G LTE Wi-Fi Hotspot with a three-month trial subscription, tire pressure monitoring system, keyless push button on/off and OnStar. A unique safety feature is the Rearview camera mirror that replaces the regular image with an 80-degree image applied over the inside rearview mirror.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

Maybe not sport, but utility

Hotspot with a three-month trial subscription, tire pressure monitoring system, keyless push button on/off and OnStar. A unique safety feature is the Rearview camera mirror that replaces the regular image with an 80-degree image applied over the inside rearview mirror.

A note regarding OnStar: a simple push of a button connects you with a friendly General Motors representative to handle emergencies, directions and general assistance to make your driving experience safer and more enjoyable. This is one area where GM is the industry leader, and after the one-year service plan expires it is well worth renewing.

The Bolt EV has 10 airbags, a tire pressure monitoring system, forward collision alert, front automatic braking, lane assist, blind spot monitoring and park assist and rear parking distance control sensors.

Pricing, Warranties and Safety

There are two 2017 Chevrolet Bolt models.

  • LT                   $37,495
  • Premier         $41,780

Clean Fleet Report tested a Bolt Premier with option packages of DC Fast Charging, Driver Confidence II and Infotainment. That added $1,730. The MSRP of our test Bolt Premier was $42,635. All prices do not include the $875 destination charge.

The 2017 Chevrolet Bolt has not been rated by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The 2017 Bolt comes with these warranties:

  • Complete Care – Two years/24,000 miles
  • Bumper-to-Bumper – Three years/36,000 miles
  • Powertrain – Five years/60,000 miles
  • Electric Propulsion Components – Eight years/100,000 miles    

Observations: 2017 Chevrolet Bolt Premier

New in 2017 and with few changes for the 2018 model year, Chevrolet says the Bolt EV is “every reason to drive electric.”  Clean Fleet Report agrees.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

Leader of the pack

The Bolt has made it possible to go 238 miles on a single charge in a car costing about $30,000 after incentives are applied. Before December 2016, when the Bolt debuted, you would need to spend at least twice that amount for a vehicle with comparable range.

The Bolt is a comfortable and well-designed car, with good handling in a spirited all-electric driving experience. It is also practical in many ways, starting with the ability to handle a full week’s worth of 40-mile per day commuting without recharging. Notice we didn’t say using any gasoline? Well, that also drives home another practical point that zero dollars will ever be spent on gasoline or the usual maintenance that comes with an internal combustion engine.

Other mass market, five seat all-electric compacts that sell against the Chevrolet Bolt are the Volkswagen e-Golf and Nissan Leaf, with only the Leaf joining the Bolt as a car that can be purchased in all 50 states. The Fiat 500e says it can seat five adults, but we have tried and it is more like four. The Tesla Model 3 can also seat five, but it will cost more than $50,000 when optioned equally to the Bolt Premier—and is still trying to deliver vehicles promised to those on the waiting list who have put down deposits.

With our only negatives on the Bolt being the interior, we are confident you can easily overlook these quirks to enjoy miles and miles of silent running, non-polluting electric driving.

All major auto manufacturers are announcing plans for electrifying their models, with an impressive number being released before the year 2025. In eight short years it will be nearly impossible to find a mainstream manufacturer that does not have a hybrid, plug-in hybrid, EV or hydrogen fuel cell. So, getting a Bolt EV now will set you up for that next generation of electrified cars that will cost around $35,000, but go 400+ miles on a charge. It is an exciting time to be a car buyer.

Whatever you end up buying, enjoy your new car and as always, Happy Driving!

Related Stories You Might Enjoy:

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Road Test: 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf Premium

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Flash Drive: 2018 Nissan Leaf

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Buyer’s Guide: Tesla Model 3, Chevrolet Bolt or other EV?

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: Volvo Announces Electric Trucks To Come To North America–Sometime

News: Volvo Announces Electric Trucks To Come To North America–Sometime

Europe To Get Electric Trucks Next Year; the U.S. Later

Last year, beverage industry giant Anheuser-Busch InBev announced that, by 2025, it would purchase only 100 percent renewable electricity; proving that corporations are beginning to realize that fish don’t drink beer and rising sea levels could be very bad for business. This year, InBev followed that commitment by placing an order to receive 40 of Tesla’s new electric semi-trucks (whenever Tesla gets around to making them). But Tesla is not the only automaker looking to capitalize on the green corporate shift. 

Electric Volvo Trucks

Volvo’s not saying which model, but here’s one likely candidate already in the city

Not to be outdone by the playground upstart, industry giant Volvo Group announced this week that it will also sell electric trucks in North America; but it’s not saying when. While Europe will get electrified medium-duty Volvo trucks in 2019, the auto maker has not released a firm timeline for bringing its trucks across the pond.

“By using electrically powered and quieter trucks for goods transport in urban areas, we meet several challenges simultaneously,” said Claes Nilsson, President of Volvo Trucks. “Without disturbing noise and exhaust gases, it will be possible to operate in more sensitive city centers.”

Urban Delivery Focus

However, urban truck mobility is not the only positive electrified trucks would bring. Less noise means trucks can operate during more hours of the night, reducing the number of trucks on city roads during daytime rush-hour traffic.

Electric Volvo Trucks

The first electric semis will likely be found making short runs in town

Electric range and mandatory recharge periods could also help prevent driver fatigue, a problem that has been blamed for causing many accidents involving semi-trucks. But the path to electrified product transportation could be a long one; especially in the U.S.

“Enabling long-term sustainable transport is a complex issue that requires a holistic and wide range of measures,” said Jonas  Odermalm, Head of Product Strategy for Medium Duty Vehicles at Volvo Trucks. “We are working closely with customers, cities, suppliers of charging infrastructure and other key stakeholders to create the necessary framework for electrical trucks.”

Potential range, powertrain specifications and price have not yet been released. 

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News: GAC Shows EV Crossover Concept in Detroit

News: GAC Shows EV Crossover Concept in Detroit

The Chinese May Finally Be Coming—With Electric SUVs

Guangzhou Automotive Corporation (GAC) unveiled a surprising battery-powered compact crossover and a compact sedan, the GA4, as part of their display at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this week. The Chinese manufacturer plans to start selling cars in the U.S. by the end of next year.

CAC Electric SUV concept

While the scissor doors may not make it, most of the rest of the car appears ready for American roads

The pure-electric Enverge crossover concept boasts a 71-kWh battery good for a range of 370 miles, according to Zhang Fan, GAC vice president of engineering. The zero-to-60 time is a quick 4.4 seconds, and top speed is about 99 mph. Fan claims the car has off-road ability as well.

The EV concept features butterfly doors typical of a concept car, rooftop storage and detachable fog lamps that can be used as flashlights. The interior “feels like a floating space capsule,” according to Fan.

While the Enverge attracted the most attention with its extreme styling and features, the more traditional looking GA4 sedan could be sold in the U.S. as well. GAC likely will start with its competitive GS8 three-row crossover.

As it begin to build its dealer network, GAC is also planning facilities in Los Angeles and Detroit after opening an R&D center in Silicon Valley last year.

GAC, the sixth largest Chinese automaker, sells cars and SUVs in China under the Trumpchi name, but will use a different English brand name in the U.S. The company, founded in 2008, is growing fast, and hopes to sell a million cars worldwide in 2020, which would represent a 25 percent growth from its current sales numbers.

More Stories from NAIAS 2018:

News: Ford To Reintroduce Mach 1 for New EV

News: 2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Introduced

News: Chevrolet Silverado Diesel Signals Resurgence

News: Infiniti Q Inspiration Concept Introduced

News: Smart Releases 10th Anniversary Edition

News: All-new 2019 Honda Insight Coming

News: 2018 Ford F-150 Gets a Diesel

News: Ford To Resurrect Mach 1 Nameplate for Electric Vehicle

News: Ford To Resurrect Mach 1 Nameplate for Electric Vehicle

New Century To See New Interpretation of Performance

Car enthusiasts of a certain age will likely recall the Ford Mustang Mach 1 pony car. Offered on the 1969 fastback model, it was a wicked-looking machine with window louvers and optional shaker hood scoop. Well, Ford is going to resurrect the nameplate for a 2020 vehicle.

FORD MACH 1 LOGO

The scene of the tease

However, it won’t be a Mustang and won’t have a V-8—or any engine. It will be a “Mustang-inspired” crossover, and it will be electric.

Ford’s executive vice president, Jim Farley, revealed the bold plan at a pre-event prior to the opening of the Detroit auto show after announcing the next-generation F-150 pick-up will be available with a hybrid powertrain option, claiming Ford “won’t stop there. We’re also thinking about performance vehicles. Mach 1, a performance battery electric [vehicle is] coming in 2020 and we can’t wait. It’s the beginning of a whole new world for our customers and electrifying the best of Ford.”

He then pointed to a big screen behind him where a Mustang and an Explorer drive into Ford’s secretive Detroit area Corktown “Team Edison” electric vehicle facility, suggesting that the Mach 1 will combine the best attributes of its legendary sports coupe and the practicality of its popular SUV. The company then simply rolled a short teaser video about the project, which showed the Mustang and Explorer pulling into the Corktown building just before a bolt of lightning strikes. The garage doors begin to come back up, but the video cuts before anything is revealed.

Rather than offering any details, Farley asked the assembled media, “Can a battery electric vehicle stir the soul?”

Appropriately, the Mach 1 reveal came at an event where Ford also showed off a performance gas SUV in the Edge ST and a “Bullitt” special edition of the Mustang. Whatever Mach 1 is, it appears the Tesla Model X will face some competition in 2020.

$11 Billion Electrification Investment

During the same event, Ford announced it would more than double its investment in the production of electric vehicles, promising to spend $11 billion on the technology by 2022. The Detroit automaker said it will roll out 16 fully electric cars within five years, the first of which would arrive in 2020.

FORD MACH 1 LOGO

All we have for now

This was seen to be a response to crosstown rival General Motors, who last week said it plans to roll out at least 20 new electric cars by 2023, a goal that puts it in a position to bring battery-powered driving to the mainstream, joining Volkswagen, Hyundai-Kia and Toyota in strong electrification drives. Last week GM also unveiled a concept electric autonomous car without steering wheel or pedals.

Other Stories from NAIAS 2018:

News: 2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Introduced

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News: Infiniti Q Inspiration Concept Introduced

News: Smart Releases 10th Anniversary Edition

News: All-new 2019 Honda Insight Coming

News: 2018 Ford F-150 Gets a Diesel

News: Smart Releases Special Edition for 10th Anniversary in the U.S.

News: Smart Releases Special Edition for 10th Anniversary in the U.S.

Smart Fortwo Electric Marks a Decade

Ten years ago, the Smart car arrived stateside, after a successful run in Europe. To commemorate that milestone, a Special Edition of the Fortwo will premiere at the 2018 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. It’ll be available for a limited time during the 2018 model year.

2018 Smart

Am I blue?

The Special Edition starts with an exclusive new color—a handsome Sapphire Blue Metallic—that’s sprayed on the plastic body panels, tridion safety cell and grill. The dark monochrome look adds dignity to the 8.8-foot-long car.

Available on the coupe in the Passion and Prime trim lines, the upgrades start with exclusive 10th Anniversary badging. Inside, Brabus supplies a shift knob and floor mats with custom stitching; outside, you get Brabus Monoblock VII wheels in Matte Anthracite Gray along with the Sport package, which includes a leather-wrapped steering wheel and brushed steel pedals with rubber studs.

The Smart Story

Tiny cars are way less relevant or popular in the land of the Interstate Freeway system than along the narrow streets of Europe; volumes have not been huge for the Mercedes-Benz owned brand. Per carsalesbase.com, only 6,211 units were moved in 2016, and about half that in 2017. Smart has opted for an all-electric lineup this year to focus its marketing efforts on a narrower, more sympathetic target audience. (ed. Note: As a former Smart owner, the move to all electric drive only came long after the public presumed the cars were EVs. I can’t tell you the number of times during my three years of ownership that people stopped me to ask—is that electric?)

The special edition features, while attractive, don’t change the car’s 58-mile range, 11.4-second zero-to-sixty sprint, or 81 mph top speed, so this car is very much designed for the city. Appropriately, the only San Francisco Bay Area smart dealer, for example, is in downtown San Francisco.

The special edition adds $1,950 to the little French-built car. That means that you can buy a Passion model with no extra options except for the special edition for $27,790 retail. Subtract the $7,500 Federal tax credit (and $2,500 from the State of California) and you’re looking at an $18,000 EV. At that price, it would be fun to have one around just for the heck of it.

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