The 2014 Chevrolet Volt which uses a plug-in battery and gasoline engine technology to deliver a smooth, quiet and comfortable driving experience that will most likely get you to work and back without buying any gasoline, but then can take you across the USA – all while delivering in excess of 40 mpg.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency spends a good portion of its time and manpower compiling a guide that compares like vehicles’ fuel economy, spaciousness (interior space) and engine technology. The result for 2014 vehicles (cars and trucks) is now available on www.fueleconomy.gov and has a new benchmark – the Top 10 cars in fuel economy all feature a plug. Some are pure electrics and others are plug-in hybrids. The fuel economy numbers are astronomical by historical standards, but are setting the new benchmark for what a modern automobile needs to achieve to be considering a state-of-the-art environmental leader.
Tesla has spurred more serious activity in the high-end of electric cars than has ever been seen. Its success has other automakers bringing new models onto the market and promises to boost attention on EVs the same way high-end sports cars highlight attention on some of their lesser companion models. At any rate, it looks like we’re in for some fun, high-performance, luxury electric cars in the near future.
To sum up the day-long program and paraphrase the philosopher Heraclitus, the only thing constant about the future will be change. The 100-plus year-old auto industry is heading into uncharted territory as it grapples with change inside and out of the vehicle. Electronic technology promises to radically alter the interaction of the driver and vehicle, even as the propulsion technology and fuel shifts to new ground and, in some cases, necessitating new lifestyles. One thing is clear, “Future Cars, Future Technology” will be an ever-changing topic for years to come.
This week saw two of the largest auto companies in the world going two different ways when it comes to pricing their showcase plug-in electric cars. General Motors announced that it would price its extended-range electric Cadillac ELR at $75,995 when it goes on sale in January 2014. In contrast, the same week Toyota announced that it was dropping the price on its 2014 Prius Plug-in, which it considers the epitome of its current offerings. Price drops ranged from $2,000 on the base model to $4,620 on the Advanced version. With the price reduction, the Prius Plug-in now has a starting price before government incentives just north of $30,000.
While price cuts and low lease rates have been moving electric cars like never before, resulting in “sold out” models and tight supplies at some dealerships, there may be a dark side to the deals. When discounts like this happen in the rest of the auto market and residual values drop, the impact on auto companies is clear. Profits on the discounted vehicles drop and the models are often dropped or given a redesign aimed at revitalizing or repositioning them in the eyes of the consumer. For new models, it is often the kiss of death.
To transform the vehicle fleet, you need to work on both ends — accelerating the purchase of cleaner new vehicles and the retirement of old clunkers. The California legislature is sending a package of bills to Governor Brown’s desk that does just that. Taken as a whole, these policies will ensure Californians at all income levels enjoy the environmental, public health, and financial benefits of cleaner, more efficient vehicles.
Consumers interested in plug-in cars got more good news this month as the Mercedes-built Smart and Chevy Volt both joined the recent moves to drop prices on their models. The Smart dropped lease prices to $139/month, substantially below much of the competition, and GM lowered the 2014 Chevy Volt price by $5,000.
Cut-throat price wars are common enough in the auto industry, but ones that include green cars are pretty rare. Remember, these are the cars that several auto makers have been quick to say they would lose money on and, on top of that, were not sure consumers would buy at any price.
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.
Sport utility vehicles and crossovers are popular because 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. All of which leaves the environmentally conscious consumer with some tough choices.
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.
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.