Road Test: 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid

Road Test: 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid

Best of Both Worlds

The new 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid combines 47 miles of pure electric motoring with an efficient gasoline engine for a 340-mile range, letting you have your EV and drive it (anywhere). It’s affordable, too.

2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid

There’s a lot to like with the Honda Clarity PHEV

The midsized Clarity is essentially the same size and shape as the ubiquitous and newly redesigned Accord (although it weighs just over two tons). It’s one of the roomiest hybrid sedans, positioning it favorably against competitors such as the more compact Chevrolet Volt and Toyota Prius Prime.

The Clarity PHEV pairs an efficient 1.5-liter gasoline engine with an electric motor, which uses a 17-kWh battery. The engine produces 103 horsepower (hp) and 99 pounds-feet (lb.-ft.) of torque, while the motor contributes 181 hp and 232 lb.-ft. of torque, for a total system horsepower of 212.

The Real World of Electric Miles

With a real 47 electric miles available, you can drive on electricity nearly all of the time, but if you stretch out your trip, the engine kicks in when your battery’s empty, or will join the motor anytime if you need an extra boost for quick acceleration.

This was borne out in real life. During my test week, I commuted to and from work and used the Clarity PHEV for all my domestic errands without consuming a drop of gas. However, when I drove 130 miles round trip to visit relatives over the holidays, the battery emptied about two thirds of the way to my destination and I just kept going as a hybrid, switching back and forth between gas and electrons, and generating energy every time I cruised downhill or applied the brakes.

Clean Inside, Too

The cleanly designed instrument panel of this all-new Honda displays a maximum-efficiency of 199.9 mpg when you’re driving in all-electric mode. As soon as the engine starts contributing to

2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid

Honda Clean Here

forward motion, that number begins to drop. By the time I got home from my 130-mile trip, it had diminished to below 100 mpg (still amazing for a hybrid). As I drove back and forth to work the following few days, the average crept back up again, until it achieved a remarkable 160.8 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent) when I turned in the test car. It’s hard to argue with the wonderfulness of that.

One day, with combined errands, I was down to one mile of battery left, and watched the display hit 0. Then, the engine came on, just before I reached home. A 47-mile EV range is about perfect, but here, a 48-mile one would have done the job petrol-free.

According to EPA tests, a standard gasoline-powered sedan emits about 400 grams of CO2 per mile. The 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid, per www.fueleconomy.gov, puts out just 57. Other important numbers are 110 MPGe—the way EV energy use is measured with gasoline equivalent—and on gasoline alone, a still respectable 44 City, 40 Highway, and 42 Combined mpg. The green EPA scores are a perfect 10 for Greenhouse Gas; the Smog score wasn’t available yet, but is likely to be a 9 or a 10 as well.

Drive Choices

You can drive your Clarity every day without thinking about which fuel you’re using, but you can also take things into your own hands with three different driving modes, set with buttons on the center console.

  • The EV mode disconnects the engine entirely, making the Clarity a pure EV (as long as there’s juice in the battery).
  • Hybrid Mode means both halves of the powertrain run as needed based on driving and battery conditions. The gasoline engine is coupled and, along with the generator motor, either helps drive the car or charges the battery.
  • Engine Drive mode hooks up the engine directly to the drivetrain fulltime, and is useful for cruising at medium to high speeds.
2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid

The usual helpful gauges

Then, there are three operating modes—Normal, Econ, and Sport, which allow you to configure your car for your personal priorities. Sport provides more responsive acceleration. Econ focuses on pure electric driving, and when the engine does come on, reduces throttle response to use less gas. Normal uses what Honda’s engineering team thinks is the best overall driving experience.

There’s another choice too—HV mode. Normally, the Clarity runs as a pure EV until the battery is depleted, except when a strong accelerator push turns on the engine for a quick burst of power. With a quick tap of the HV mode button, the car starts out as a hybrid and saves the electricity for later. This is ideal, for example, if you want to use engine power on 80 mph runs down Interstate 5 and then switch to pure EV driving around town when you arrive in Los Angeles.

In case you want to use the HV mode but your battery has a low charge, hold down the button longer, and the 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid will accumulate battery charge up to about 58 percent without using the electricity, after which it switches back to the normal HV mode, saving that charge until you need it.

New Tech Twists

Despite showing D, N, and R on the center console controls and instrument panel display, the Clarity PHEV doesn’t use a conventional transmission at all, saving weight and complexity. The controls and display do help you to select which way you’re going to move when you tap the accelerator.

Charging up is a snap. If you have access to a Level 2 (240-volt) charger, you can fill the battery from empty in just 2.5 hours. If you’re using Level 1 (120-volt) household current, it’ll take longer, but can easily be done overnight. I tried both. If you’re diligent, you can live in EV mode practically all the time. On the opposite end, if you drive the Clarity without charging at all, you’re still piloting a 40+ mpg hybrid.

2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid

Style is part of the Clarity package

The 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid is an all-new, fresh design. The styling itself is futuristic and, to my eye, a bit overdone, although I did get used to looking at it. My tester came in Moonlit Forest Pearl, an exclusive color to the PHEV version of the Clarity. It looks black until sunlight hits it, when you see it’s really an elegant very dark green. It helps to mitigate some of the odd body shapes.

There are two trims—the well-equipped standard model and the Touring, which adds navigation, leather-trimmed seats and steering wheel, and power seat adjustments—eight-way for the driver and four-way for the passenger, with two-way driver memory.

All cars feature handsome 18-inch alloy wheels; LED lights all around, a sweet-sounding eight-speaker, 180-watt audio system, Bluetooth, rearview camera, dual automatic climate control and more. The upgraded tan suede dash panels on my Touring test car provided a real sense of luxury.

Interior Touches

The interior of the 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid feels big and wide, with a chiseled, sweeping dashboard running from door-to-door in this 73.9-inch wide car. You can fit three people comfortably in the rear seat. The trunk measures a generous 15.5 cubic feet because the batteries are relatively small and are under the car, not taking up cargo space.

2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid

A functional trunk

The interior boasts a Volvo-inspired flying bridge console, with room below for a purse or a small parcel. The doors and dash are all nicely padded and the materials are fairly upscale and nicely coordinated. The only sour note for me was the grained plastic fake wood, which stood out as inauthentic amidst the otherwise posh accommodations. The doors slam with a satisfying “thunk.”

The instrument panel exhibits the clean look you expect from Honda. A silvery trim shape surrounds the gauges and is oddly asymmetrical to allow the “transmission” and EV information to display.

In town and on the highway, this Clarity rides whisper quiet. Honda engineers spent considerable time in the wind tunnel tweaking the aerodynamics, keeping airflow from being disturbed as it passes over the car. For example, the rakish cut of the partially covered rear wheel wells is meant to keep the air flowing smoothly over the rear wheels. Even the taillamps are aerodynamically tuned. Acoustic laminated windshield and front door glass help muffle outside noise as well.

Invisible Engineering

So many invisible engineering choices collectively make a difference. The Clarity uses an array of advanced materials in construction to make it about 15 percent lighter than a conventional midsize sedan. These include greater use of aluminum and plastic, and about 40 percent of the car is built from ultra-high-strength steel. You can’t see it, but it’s helping make the Clarity more efficient.

There’s a little startup sound when you press the Start button. Apple CarPlay popped up when prompted on the eight-inch center screen, although it did go on hiatus one of my test days. My wife thought the center display, which floats over the suede panel, to be intrusive, but car designers today seem to like the “here’s your tablet” look.

2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid

The Clarity PHEV has flair everywhere

The instrument panel features the usual Charge/Power gauge front and center, so you can monitor your driving behavior. A center panel display shows where the energy is coming from and when the battery is charging, if you’re curious.

I noticed that the steering wheel would sometimes pulse in my hands. I discovered it was a form of lane departure warning, letting me know I was near a line. Otherwise, the electric power steering felt smooth and neutral.

The Price Point

Pricing starts at $34,290 for the standard trim and $37,490 for the Touring. Both prices include an $890 destination and handling charge. Those numbers are competitive, especially considering the spaciousness the car provides.

2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid

Honda plugs in once again

The Clarity currently offers three versions: Pure EV, Hydrogen Fuel Cell, and this new PHEV. The PHEV is likely to be the volume seller, as it’s practical for anyone who wants a highly efficient sedan, while the other two models appeal mostly to true believers. The EV model ekes out a disappointing 89 miles of range, while the Fuel Cell version is hampered by both a very limited fuel station infrastructure and fuel that is expensive compared to gasoline or electricity.

The Clarity trio just won Green Car Journal’s 2018 Green Car of the Year award, in recognition of offering three clean ways to go in one package.

Although pure electric vehicles will likely become the norm for most driving in the future, for now, plug-in hybrids like the 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid, with a decent electric-only range, offer a pain-free way to drive an EV most of the time and eliminate any excuse for not getting a green vehicle.

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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: Honda Clarity Named 2018 Green Car of the Year

News: Honda Clarity Named 2018 Green Car of the Year

Clarity Family Wins Honor for Three Models

Green Car Journal awarded its 2018 Green Car of the Year trophy to the Honda Clarity family of vehicles, which comes as a fuel cell electric, battery electric or plug-in hybrid. The magazine noted that “Honda’s Clarity sedan is a future-thinking model that redefines how to deliver what drivers desire today, while also anticipating the shifting needs of a more environmentally positive driving future.”

2018 Green Car of the Year

Honda’s Clarity Fuel Cell was one-third of the winners

The Clarity was picked from an all-Asian nameplate field of contenders, including the Honda Accord, Hyundai Ioniq, Nissan Leaf and Toyota Camry. The award was announced during Automobility/LA, the media preview to the Los Angeles Auto Show.

The jury for the award includes Jean-Michel Cousteau, president of Ocean Futures Society; Matt Petersen, president and CEO of Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator and board member of Global Green USA; Dr. Alan Lloyd, president emeritus of the International Council on Clean Transportation; Mindy Lubber, president of CERES; and Kateri Callahan, president of the Alliance to Save Energy, plus celebrity auto enthusiast Jay Leno and Green Car Journal editors. 

2018 Green Car of the Year

The Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid may have closed the deal for the award

“The Green Car of the Year award is further validation of Honda’s approach to electrification with the Clarity family of vehicles,” said Steven Center, vice president of connected and environmental business at American Honda. “The Clarity Plug-in Hybrid, Clarity Electric and Clarity Fuel Cell offer the power of choice to consumers who want to step in to an electrified vehicle without the compromise. We are proud to deliver on that promise to offer these three advanced powertrains you can only find from Honda in a roomy five-passenger sedan with all the creature comforts that consumers expect today.”

Clean Fleet Report has spent time in all three models and concurs that they have accomplished quite a feat by offering such a variety of powertrains in one model. Our test drive of the Clarity Fuel Cell is here and one of the Clarity Electric is here. A full road test of the Clarity Plug-in Hybrid is here. We’re not sure the individual Clarity models are the best in each of their categories, but the unique offering of three powertrain choices definitely stands out.

2018 Green Car of the Year

The Honda Clarity Electric is the third member of the family

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Welcome to 2018!

We wish all of you a very Happy New Year! We hope 2017 was as good for you as it was for us here at Clean Fleet Report. We published more articles than in any previous year, covered breaking news of new models and tested cars of all shapes and sizes. The team of John Faulkner, Larry Hall, Steve Schaefer and Nick Zatopa dug deep and brought you up close to all of the important stories this year.

It’s a great time to be focused on green cars as the number of EVs, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and high-mileage gas and diesel vehicles continues to climb. And autonomous technology and connected vehicles promise to become a part of our daily lives. This has been a great year for us, but we think 2018 promises to be even more exciting. Glad to have you along for the ride.

Look for some surprises in January!

Michael Coates

Editor & Publisher

Clean Fleet Report

Tesla Model 3

The Mode 3 is just one of the stories we’ll be covering in 2018

News: BMW Electrification Push Bearing Fruit

News: BMW Electrification Push Bearing Fruit

BMW Leads in EVs/PHEVs in Europe

BMW is a relatively small company in the auto world, but it’s creating a big footprint in electrified vehicles. The BMW i3 is the best-selling electric car in the premium compact segment in the U.S., and the best-selling EV in Germany.

BMW iPerformance

BMW celebrates an electrified holiday

BMW delivered 100,000 pure electrics and plug-in hybrids during 2017, reaching its goal for the year. According to the independent POLK/IHS Report (published on Dec. 7, 2017), the BMW Group is leading its competitors in registrations of new fully-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles in Europe, with a market share of 21 percent. That’s three times BMW’s market share for its traditional models. The company celebrated by turning its Munich headquarters into a replica of a battery.

In the U.S. the current electrified BMW Group lineup includes the i3, available in full-electric and range-extended versions, and plug-in hybrid versions of the i8, 3-Series, 5-Series, 7-Series, X5 SUV and Mini Countryman. Currently, six percent of BMW’s sales are electrified vehicles, double or triple the percentage at its competitors.

A Sportier i3

BMW has just introduced a new variation of the i3–the i3s. It’s a performance upgrade for what was a fairly pedestrian (though pricey and packed with some exotic features) EV. The basic i3 also received a refresh and upgrade with a 94 Ah/33 kWh lithium-ion battery good for what BMW calls an “everyday range” of 124 miles.   

BMW iPerformance

The i3 is BMW’s lead electric vehicle

The new i3s gets some external paint treatment and badging to distinguish it from its non-s brethren, but the real story for the upgrade lies in a motor upgrade and some suspension tuning.

On its way to 25 electrified models across its different platforms by 2025, BMW plans to add the i8 Roadster in 2018, an all-electric Mini in 2019, an electric X3 in 2020, followed by the new electric flagship iNext in 2021, which will combine autonomous capability with electric drive.

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10 Best Car Sharing Programs in USA

10 Best Car Sharing Programs in USA

The Evolution of Car Sharing

Car sharing has changed dramatically since Clean Fleet Report first reported on it a decade ago. While it was picking up steam at that point, in the years since it has morphed and been influenced by changing technology, both in vehicles and in the software that enables the service. Some big players have jumped in and then retreated. Some small players were gobbled up by bigger companies. Where car sharing once resembled a rent-by-the-hour system that was a more decentralized version of the traditional car rental, it has now become a ubiquitous system that includes shared use and even cars that drive themselves. The changes keep coming as illustrated in this recent update. We recently took a look at a brand-new local iteration run by the local auto club, but using software developed and being used by many others. 

Is Ridesharing Eco-Friendly

Car sharing and ride sharing are blurring together

Car sharing allows households to own only one car, instead of two or three, or for some to forgo car ownership completely, using the variations of car sharing and services to pick a vehicle or ride for a given task and location. For some Americans it gives a chance to drive and experience a different car, maybe an electric car they might be thinking of purchasing.

Like they say about real estate, with car sharing it is location, location, location. The best program for you is a function of where you live and your mobility requirements. But take a look at the variety of program available. One of the gurus of car sharing, Dr. Susan Shaheen of UC Berkeley, says we are in the age of shared mobility where new modes of alternative transportation services are making great changes. “Pushed primarily by demographic shifts, societal attitudes toward ownership, and advances in mobile technology, these modes are growing rapidly and becoming more numerous,” she commented recently. She outlines the variety of choices available in a white paper. For her car sharing had subcategories of:

car sharing,uber, lyft,mobility

Car sharing is expanding our mobility

  • Roundtrip
  • One-Way
  • Personal Vehicle Sharing (which can include fractional ownership models)

Then there’s scooter sharing and bike sharing (also with subcategories of public, closed campus and peer-to-peer [P2P]). Autonomous technology can overlay much of this as well.

Competing with car sharing are alternative transit services (shuttles or microtransit), ride sharing (carpooling or vanpooling), on-demand ride services (ridesourcing, ridesplitting or e-hail services) and courier network services (P2P delivery services and paired on-demand passenger ride and courier services).

The choices can be almost overwhelming, so services like Yelp can help you sort out the consumer-facing side of the choices. Where it used to be Hertz or Avis–or the taxi–the choices now are much more complex.

According to Navigant Research, it’s not going to change soon. Their take on car sharing and related services was just published.  They found: “Mobility as a service (MaaS) solutions such as carsharing, ride-hailing, and micro transit provide much more flexibility while also enabling the replacement of 5-20 individually owned vehicles depending on the use cases. According to Navigant Research, global revenue generated by ride-hailing services is expected to grow to almost $1.2 trillion in 2026.”

Although the carshare service model has been well established over the past 15 years, there have been some significant innovations in the market recently. The success of one-way car sharing services is prompting more companies to consider offering this service model. Such services can increase utilization since members can use one-way car sharing for shorter, spur of the moment trips. Automakers have entered this market with good results, building substantial membership levels in only a few years. Meanwhile, the adoption of plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) in car sharing services is expected to increase as automakers promote this technology. 

Car companies are aware of these shifts, as you can see below, and are doing their best to try to keep up. This is a subject we’ll keep checking in on as it evolves. 

Lyft

If there was any question about the changing landscape, General Motors’ $500 million investment in the ride sharing company Lyft. The stated goal is to experiment in autonomous on-demand vehicles, hedging the reduction in vehicle sales caused by ride sharing by making GM the preferred vehicle provider for Lyft drivers and integrating connectivity tools like OnStar. Lyft claims it is the fastest-growing ride share service and is available in 190 cities worldwide. Lyft also has rolled out multiple-rider sharing that creates an on-demand carpool.

Uber

Uber,car sharing, ride sharing

Coming to get you

Uber is the Hertz to Lyft’s Avis. It’s available in more than 300 cities around the world and offers a variety of vehicles to fit the needs of your trip, whether its an eco-friendly model or the full black limo experience. Uber’s value proposition is that it is cheaper than using a taxi and much cheaper than using a personal car.

Zipcar

Zipcar bills itself as the world’s largest car sharing and car bluc service. It views itself as the logical alternative to car ownership (own the trip, not the car) and traditional car rentals. The company was purchased by Avis in 2013 and operates as a subsidiary of the traditional car rental company. Zipcar has more than one million members worldwide who can reserve and use 10,000 cars in 500 cities in nine countries. In the U.S. Zipcars can be found in Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, New York, Philadelphia, Providence, Sacramento, San Diego,

Zipcar

Zipcar users have a card that unlocks their local cars

San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C. as well as universities throughout the country. Zipcar offers more than 50 makes and models of vehicles, including Audis, BMWs, Mini Coopers, pickup trucks, Prius hybrids and more. Each vehicle has a home location: a reserved parking space located on a street, driveway, or neighborhood parking lot in the member’s area, to which it must be returned at the end of the reservation. 

Enterprise Car Share

Although Enterprise is known as a car rental giant, they have expanded into cars sharing 10 years ago, featuring a program rich in hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and electric cars. Just as UPS has gone beyond delivery to offer large customers complex logistic services, Zipcar offers fleets a growing range of services. For example, the City of Houston better manages vehicle use by adding 50 existing city-owned fleet vehicles, including 25 Nissan LEAFs, with Zipcar’s FastFleet® proprietary fleet sharing technology. Enterprise acquired Philly-Car Share and its 13,000 users, then Mint Cars On-Demand, a car-sharing company serving more than 8,000 members in New York City and Boston. It later added Chicago’s 15,000 IGO car sharing service members and now operates on 130 college campuses, 40 government programs and has 300 business accounts in 35 states, Canada and the U.K.

Hertz on Demand–A Cautionary Tale

Hertz tried to leverage its huge presence to expand into car sharing. Hertz has 8,500 locations in 150 countries. A growing number of hybrid and electric cars are offered in the Hertz Green Travel Collection. Its car share program, Hertz on Demand, launched in December 2008 and grew to more than 1,000 vehicles, 85,000 members and more than 500 locations worldwide, including corporate fleets, airports, hotels, utilities, government, and universities. However, the company pulled the plug on U.S. operations citing a “low return on investment” after a half-dozen years of operation. 

2013 smart,low price, electric car

Car2Go features short-term Smart ED drives

Car2Go

Car2go, owned by auto giant Daimler, is the world leader in one-way car sharing. Car2go is in 15 North American cities. Car2go is a point-to-point car sharing service. You pay 41 cents a minute. And all without running fixed costs or deposits, parking charges, fuel costs, or recurring annual fees. No surprise fees are charged for being early or late, like some other car sharing services. You can take any of the car2go vehicles you find distributed around you, or you can reserve an available vehicle 30 minutes before you want to drive. That way, you can get to your destination faster. Once you reach your destination, you can either end your trip in accordance with your city’s Parking Rules, or you can keep it if you want to drive further.

Maven

GM's Maven Gig

A day in the life at Maven Gig

General Motors has got into car-sharing in a big way with Maven, which is now operating in 17 cities. Beyond basic car sharing, Maven has moved into more of a hybrid operation with Maven Gig, where cars, led by the new Chevrolet Bolt EV, are available for all-inclusive weekly rentals for folks working for other car sharing or delivery services. We just interviewed Maven’s chief growth officer and found she’s got bold plans for expansion in this new gig economy. 

ReachNow

ReachNow

ReachNow cars now show up on Seattle transit screens

German executives see an increased global interest in using cars as a service, with consumers and fleet managers paying by the minute, hour, and day. BMW ran a successful pilot program of EV car sharing in SF, based on its European model, but went on hiatus because of a lack of progress in securing parking permit regulatory change. ReachNow is starting to ramp up in Portland, Seattle, Brooklyn and other cities. It is big in major German cities where the program also includes the bike sharing that inspired one-way car sharing. They’ve also explored using an app that gives the user alternative transportation options, calculating time and cost for each variable. In addition, it offers options of driving yourself or being picked up and driven to your destination–a blending of car sharing and ride sharing. ReachNow uses the Ridecell technology platform for its service.  ReachNow has a fleet of 700 vehicles in Seattle, 360 in Portland and 260 in Brooklyn. Models include the BMW 328xi and 330xi sedans, the electric i3, the BMW X1 SUV, the Mini Cooper (in both 2-door and 4-door configurations) and the Mini Clubman. 

Ford SmartMobility/Chariot

Ford,emobility,Chariot,

Your Chariot awaits–check your phone

Like GM, Daimler and BMW (and other car companies), Ford is taking a big picture view of the car sharing business and has dipped into it by buying the microtransit company Chariot, which is is rapidly expanding around the world. Chariot seeks to supplement mass transit services by providing first/last mile transportation along regular routes based on consumer demand. Ford’s paired this and augmented it with a bike-sharing service. We covered the start-up here.

RelayRides/Now Turo

RelayRides’ peer-to-peer car sharing is part of an emerging trend of the sharing economy. RelayRides enables personal car sharing with web listings, $1 million liability insurance, and GM OnStar support. Investors in RelayRides include Google Ventures and GM Ventures. RelayRides is a leading example of peer-to-peer that is also embraced by other innovators including Wheelz, Getaround, Whipcar, IGO, non-profits, and even pilots among some auto service giants.

vRide

Ridesharing to work carries more people each day than transit. Sharing cars and rides is challenging among strangers. Trust is natural for people who work together. vRide makes it easy for individuals, employers, and transportation managers to facilitate carpooling, vanpooling, and park and ride. Similar organizations that help with facilitating, lunch-and-learns, vehicles, insurance, and ride matching include 511.org and Rideshare by Enterprise.

 

Getaround

Getaround is free to join. Choose from 1000s of cool cars shared by great people in your neighborhood is the pitch of this peer-to-peer car sharing operation. Convenient hourly and daily rentals. No monthly or annual fees. All Getaround rentals include insurance coverage and 24/7 roadside assistance.

& More

A number of billion dollar giants, venture backed players, and innovators see a major opportunity in the transition for vehicle sales to transportation services. With Daimler, GM and BMW now in the business, Toyota and others are evaluating whether to have their own car sharing program or strengthen partnerships. Audi just invested in Silvercar, what it calls a “next generation” car rental company. Because cars haring is capital intensive, the business is a natural for banking and financial service giants. Sharing, peer-to-peer, and fractional ownership have risk and liability management challenges. Who better to solve these than insurance giant entering the business? With information technology and social networking being integral to innovative mobility sharing, look for new strategic alliances and partnerships.

Bookmark this site and check back as we continue to update this list.

John Addison: Meeting of the Car Sharing Minds

At a meeting several years ago, I (John Addison, founder of Clean Fleet Report) lunched with Zipcar President Mark Norman gave me a good idea of why members prefer the range of carsharing services to owning a car. A member can try an electric car one day, use a larger van to transport 6 people the next, then take an AWD to the mountains on the next. Zipcar’s potential is enormous. By succeeding at a university such as USC in Los Angeles, Zipcar has a base to expand in Southern California’s over 10 million car drivers and massive fleets. I expect Zipcar to soon have over one million members.

Google,self-driving car,autonomous car

Google autonomous car may be the next thing in car sharing

Just as UPS has gone beyond delivery to offer large customers complex logistic services, Zipcar offers fleets a growing range of services. For example, the City of Houston better manages vehicle use by adding 50 existing city-owned fleet vehicles, including 25 Nissan LEAFs, with Zipcar’s FastFleet® proprietary fleet sharing technology. By using Zipcar’s FastFleet technology, the City of Houston configures its fleet footprint in real time for optimal utilization; manages preventive maintenance, fueling, billing, and fleet distribution; and uses Zipcar’s analytics with data automatically captured during every trip. Zipcar’s FastFleet technology is used in Washington DC, Boston, and Chicago where DC officials estimate that they save approximately $1 million per year using FastFleet technology.

I talked with Rick Hutchinson, CEO City CarShare, at Meeting of the Minds. As a non-profit, City CarShare actively works to make urban mobility more effective as people combine walking, bicycling, transit, and carsharing. For 11 years, they have modeled best practices, which others learn from including Zipcar, Enterprise, and independents. City CarShare promotes equity with CommunityShare and AccessMobile. They promote sustainability by taking cars off the road and adding electric vehicles.

Susan Shaheen, Co-Director of Transportation Sustainability Research Center (TSRC), has probably done more research about shared-use mobility than anyone. TSRC studies have determined that each carshare membership has resulted in at least 9 vehicles being sold, removed, or purchase-postponed. The biggest shift is one car households becoming car-free due to cars haring; 2 cars to one is another big segment. Her insights greatly helped with this article.

One million U.S. carsharing members will soon become 2 million as people save thousands per year owning one less car. University students, city dwellers, and fleets have new flexibility in getting the right vehicle when needed including roomy sedans, pickup trucks, and even electric cars. Just as we are transitioning from owning expensive computers and software to mobile use of cloud services, transportation has moved beyond just owning a car to a rich menu of transportation services.

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Flash Drive: 2017 Ford Fusion Energi

Flash Drive: 2017 Ford Fusion Energi

A Practical, Functional Plug-in Choice

Let’s get the disclosures up front on this. I like the Ford Fusion Energi enough that I’m putting my own money into a lease on a 2016 model already. So to say I’m predisposed positively to a look at the 2017 Ford Fusion Energi is a given. That said, I’m also aware of the shortcomings of the car from extensive experience.

2017 Ford Fusion Energi

2017 Ford Fusion Energi drips style and squeezes out fuel economy

The key question for this review is what changes the 2017 model offers compared to the previously solid offering.  The answer is—not much, which is a good thing. Ford appears to be sticking with its winning hand. Winning as in its non-plug-in hybrid version that has challenged the venerable Toyota Prius for the sales lead of hybrids during 2017. The plug-in Fusion has not had as strong of a year, though it’s still a strong third after the Toyota Prius Prime and Chevrolet Volt in the plug-in hybrid category.

The Good

The 2017 Ford Fusion Energi is, to my eye, one of the best-looking mass market sedans available. The current design was stunning when it first appeared in 2013 and still looks fresh today. It’s due for a change soon, but for now this midsize sedan can hold its own style-wise with anyone in the pack.

2017 Ford Fusion Energi

The nameplate says mainstream, but the interior swims upscale

The car delivers fuel economy as advertised, but the 2017 model bumps up the numbers from the previous year by about 10 percent. If you’ve got a short commute of about 20 miles and a place to plug in at home and work, you could run all-electric all the time. It continues to be eligible for a coveted solo HOV lane sticker in California. It also qualifies for federal tax credits and most state incentives.

The interior of the Fusion matches the upscale exterior. Leather trimmed, comfortable, but supporting seats are standard throughout the line. Technology abounds from Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment system to available advanced driver assistance tools like lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control, blind spot detection and cross traffic alert.

The Bad

The 2017 Ford Fusion Energi is not a purpose-build vehicle and all you have to do is look in the trunk to see that. What should be a spacious storage space is gobbled up by the 7.6 kWh lithium-ion battery. Next generation this should be solved, but the current models have spacious interiors for five adults, but are challenged in trying to carry luggage for more than a couple passengers.

2017 Ford Fusion Energi

In back the Energi comes up short

Even at 22 miles (in the 2017 model), all-electric range is not the Energi’s strong suit. The relatively small battery can be charged in 2 ½ hours (on 240-volt, Level 2 charging), but if you travel like I do, you’ll be running in hybrid mode most of the time (still not bad at 43 mpg).  

The Ugly

Sorry, I’m coming up blank in this category for this car, except maybe pricing. The MSRP for the Energi has been stable over the years and even dropped for 2017. It starts at just above $32,000 and tops out with the Platinum model I tested at just a shade under $40,000. I’d recommend going for the high-end model because it has all of the advanced technology standard (it’s optional at the lower levels, but will then take the price up almost to the Platinum level. In addition, I’d recommend leasing rather than buying the Energi—or virtually any plug-in model. Technology is advancing so rapidly that even it is isn’t cheaper in three or four years, it will be much better for the same money.

The Real World Test

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the Fusion is Ford’s best-selling car. Besides being good-looking, it’s functional (with plenty of room for passengers at least) and delivers good performance and great fuel economy.

2017 Ford Fusion Energi

Inside you could mistake this for pricier digs

After spending time in smaller all-electric or plug-in sedans, the 2017 Ford Fusion Energi feels positively spacious. You can fill it up with five full-size American adults and not feel cramped (remember my caveat if they’re bringing luggage, though).

On the road, the car drives as good as it looks. Ford continues to respect its drivers by giving them good road feel, responsive and supple handling and enough power to hold their own on the open road. The long wheelbase of the Fusion helps deliver a luxury-like ride while the low-profile 17-inch tires and aluminum wheels (upgradable to 18-inchers) allow you to tackle challenging roads without disclosing you’re driving a fuel-efficient vehicle.

The 2-liter Atkinson-cycle inline-four is augmented by an electric motor and they operate quite well together, straining only when asked to perform high-speed passing tricks. Such maneuvers point out the limitations of this size normally aspirated engine and also its continuously variable transmission.  It gets the job done, but will let you know it’s not happy.  

I plugged in the Fusion whenever I could (I don’t have a home/work charger but there is one in the neighborhood) and managed an average of 53.2 mpg for my week in the car. EPA says you’ll get an average of 42 mpg in hybrid mode and 97 MPGe counting the battery energy. That wonkish number doesn’t mean much in the real world, where you can run 22 miles on electricity and then default to hybrid mode unless you plug in. I still found when handled with a light foot, the Fusion was capable of running at freeway speeds with the air on and still delivering almost 50 mpg.

Some of the credit for good fuel economy goes to Ford’s instrument panel programmers. The readouts for fuel economy, braking, etc., are great teaching tools. The instant feedback from driving in an eco-friendly mode was good reinforcement.

Bottom Line

I’ve got to say Ford just keeps making the Fusion better. It’s not perfect, but it’s an incredibly fuel-efficient car you can live with every day. Most important is because of its internal combustion engine, it doesn’t have the limitations of most pure electrics.

2017 Ford Fusion Energi

The displays and info are a big help

Here are the price points for the three trim levels (I recommend aiming high because all of the advanced technology you want is included), including destination and delivery charges:

  • 2017 Ford Fusion Energi SE $32.180
  • 2017 Ford Fusion Energi Titanium $33,180
  • 2017 Ford Fusion Energi Platinum $40,180

A full complement of safety equipment is standard, but as mentioned earlier, some of the advanced driver assistance technology is optional on the lower trim levels. Opt for the Platinum level and the only options left are some paint and floor mat upgrades.

2017 Ford Fusion Energi

The ring tells you how charged up you are

The 2017 Ford Fusion Energi is not alone in the marketplace. Its main competitors are the Chevrolet Volt, Toyota Prius Prime and the Hyundai-Kia twins—the Optima and Sonata Plug-in Hybrids.

All are worth a look, but you’ll find the Chevy is a smaller package and a hatchback. The Toyota also is smaller, though it does bring Toyota’s solid reputation along with its badge. The midsize Optima and Sonata are the closest in size and intent. We’ve tested them both here and here, but recommend you take a look for yourself. There are no bad choices among this group—and expect more coming soon.

Related Stories You Might Enjoy:

Road Test: 2017 Chevrolet Volt

Road Test: 2017 Toyota Prius Prime

Comparison Test: 2017 Ford Fusion Hybrid & Eneergi

Road Test: 2017 Hyundai Sonata Plug-in Hybrid

Comparison Test: 2016 Kia Optima Plug-in Hybrid & Hybrid

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.