Once a year automotive journalists from the San Francisco Bay Area gather to test drive some of the newest models on the market. This is my selection of the Top 10 I experienced at this year’s program.
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.
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.
Ward’s 10 Best Engines contest hits its 20th anniversary but the field of contestants has changed. Winners this year were led by three diesel engines, an electric motor and a three-cylinder gas engine.
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.
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 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.
The Nissan Leaf was the best selling plug-in car in July and has just lost the lead for the year-to-date electric car sales to the hot-selling Tesla Model S, another pure electric. It’s fair to say that where the Leaf is selling well, electric cars are selling well. Here are the Top 10 markets for Nissan Leaf sales.
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.
For all the twists and turns that the auto industry undergoes, it looks like 2013 will be a clear milestone for electric cars. The point here is to look at how far we have come and note the arrival of the electric car industry. It’s no longer a model or two, but a substantial variety of vehicles from major manufacturers that the EV-conscious consumer can choose from.
Superstorm Sandy, “Snowmegeddon,” El Nino. You need a great car or crossover SUV when that 100-year storm hits. These new all-wheel drive (AWD) cars, crossovers, and SUVs have the best AWD mileage in the United States in 2013. The range from fun, yet thrifty, from Subaru to luxury turbo diesels and hybrids from Audi. We’ll also give you a peak at future plug-in hybrid AWD wonders from Tesla, BMW, and Mitsubishi.
New hybrid cars can save you thousands of dollars in gasoline over the years that you drive. The Toyota Prius Liftback and new Prius c continue to top the list at 50 mpg. There is now a Prius Family (Prii) including the new Prius V SUV. Lexus and Lincoln battle for luxury hybrid leadership. Hybrid buyers have growing choices in sedans, hatchbacks, sports cars, and new crossovers with the room of small SUVs. This year’s top 10 all deliver 40 mpg or better in combined highway and street driving.
The best selling all-electric car in 2012 is the Nissan LEAF. The Chevrolet Volt is the best selling plug-in hybrid. In 2013, Toyota, Ford, and Tesla have intensified the battle for electric car leadership. How will U.S. electric buyers vote with their pocketbooks for electric cars? See the list of Best Electric Cars and Plug-in Hybrids for 2012 and 2013.
Automakers continued to increase our choice of plug-in hybrid and all-electric cars and crossovers in 2013. Competition is intense for electric car United States leadership. Electric car sales triple in the U.S. each year – 20,000 in 2011, 60,000 or more in 2012, 180,000 or more in 2013. The Chevrolet Volt leads plug-in hybrid sales. The Nissan LEAF leads pure electric sales. Ford has multiple electric car and plug-in hybrid offerings. 20,000 Teslas are on the road. The Smart Electric starts at $25,000.