While overall sales languished a mere 1.3 percent above the first quarter of 2013, high-mileage electric cars, plug-in hybrids, and clean diesels continued a torrid pace similar to what they were experiencing during most of last year. The only laggard in this group was gas-electric hybrids, which dropped almost 16 percent compared to last year, based heavily on declining sales of several Prius models.
Mixing cars that need to be plugged in with traditional vehicles has created a whole new interaction. Here are some of the rules.
The global drive to reduce greenhouse gases and increase vehicle fuel efficiency is pushing automakers to reduce the size of their engines – while trying to keep all of attributes consumers expect from their cars. Engineers from GM, Porsche and VW have pushed the limits of technology to produce engines that are more efficient, meet increasingly stringent pollution standard and yet make better horsepower and torque than previous generations.
ACEEE ranks the Top 10 environmental cars and finds smaller is better and small hybrids are best, although it found the smallest electric car sold in America as the best of the best.
These are the 10 or more cars and trucks I’m looking forward to spending some time with in 2014. I hope they all make, but I probably should also have saved a spot or two on the list for some surprises. In 2013 we had a few of those and I’m expecting more in 2014.
These things do take time. Wishful thinking won’t get us there. Government money can help, but ultimately it can only play a minor role if the goal is the transformation of a fleet. Cars and trucks that are better alternatives to gasoline ones in every way will be the only way to make it happen. That’s the way gasoline won out over electricity and steam 100 years ago. That’s why diesel won out over gasoline in Europe 15 years ago. That’s why the Toyota Prius is the 10th best-selling car of 2013.
No one should doubt that 2013 was a breakthrough year for advanced technology vehicles, whether running on electricity, gasoline, diesel or some combination of the three. The choices expanded, prices dropped and infrastructure exploded (for plug-ins). This year presents an abundance of riches; as I wrote earlier, we (at least we in California) now have 10 pure electric vehicles to choose from–and 2014 promises and expanded roster of choices. I had the opportunity this year to sample more than half of those available. Add in plug-in hybrids and the list of EV choices almost doubles, while traditional hybrids, clean diesels and high-MPG gasoline vehicles ranks keep growing both in number and popularity.
The year 2013 is almost over and the auto industry is moving toward the best sales year in half a decade. High mileage electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and clean diesels are drafting along with the positive sales year and going beyond, with each segment besting the overall market as new models enter and draw attention. The expectation is for aggressive selling to continue through the rest of the year, but it’s a good time to regroup and declare the Top 10 winners for the year.
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.