Top 10 Electric Cars

Top 10 Electric Cars

 

2017 Is Here: Here Are the Top 10 Electric Car Companies

We update this list regularly because the market is changing so quickly. The new models we’ve driven have caused us to rethink the Top 10.

Picking the Top 10 electric car makers now involves making some choices as the number of vehicles available increases. Plug-ins are trending in key markets around the country, although much of the action remains focused in California and other West Coast states. By the end of 2016 the total number of plug-in vehicles (that’s pure battery electrics and plug-in hybrids) sold this year topped 150,000. It’s a year of exponential growth with the expectation this 2017 will be another just like it. We think we’ll see many more miles driven on electrons this year.

This list is subjective and weighted toward functionality with an emphasis on fun, but also factors in sales numbers. Enjoy! Let us know what you think.

  1. Our New Favorites — the Volkswagen e-Golf & Audi A3 e-tron

These little electric rocket ships have now been on the market long enough to establish a good coterie of adherents. While the Golf holds down the 5th spot in pure electric car sales for 2015, we put it at number one for several reasons.

2016,Audi,e-tron,A3,plug-in hybrid

Audi expands its plug-in options

German engineering – das electric

First, it’s a Golf, which is a great small car package. Its cousin, the plug-in hybrid (PHEV) Audi A3, is a similar delight to drive and has been holding its own in that market segment.

The Volkswagen e-Golf is very maneuverable, bringing all of the good suspension work of the seventh generation Golf into an electric car. The packaging of the Golf is another plus. It’s got a decent-size interior with room for five (in a pinch, or four comfortable adults) plus storage behind the hatch in back. While the move to electric drive in an existing platform hasn’t allowed Volkswagen the opportunity to really optimize for the new powertrain, we have no complaints about the standard Golf layout. Then there’s performance: it’s fast, as most electrics are, smart with different regen levels and driving settings, and handles like all the other gas and diesel Golfs, which is to say—great! And the $33,450 e-Golf has been joined by a distant cousin, the Audi A3 e-tron plug-in hybrid, which we recently tested and came away very pleased with what we found. VW has made it clear more plug-ins are coming. We’ve driven recent versions of the e-Golf and everything we said in 2014 still holds true. Road Test: 2014 VW e-Golf. First Drive: 2015 e-Golf. Road Test: 2016 Audi A3 e-tron.

     2.   Tesla – the 4,800-pound Gorilla

Tesla is described as disruptive technology, but in reality the company has done what auto companies have done for a little more than a century—build great cars and match them up with owners who appreciate them. The Model S is the best-selling plug-in car in the U.S. for 2016, followed by the Model X. Almost two-thirds of the battery electric cars sold in the U.S. had Tesla badges on them. We recently spent some time in a brand-new ludicrously loaded Model X P100D and can verify the appeal of the cars.

The roomy Model S luxury sedan starts at about $66,000 with four battery pack configurations, but now offers five all-wheel drive version that feature even faster acceleration, topping out with the P100D model. Production of the Roadster, the company’s initial product, ended after deliveries totaling 2,500. The Model S electric range goes from a nominal 219 miles to 331 miles per charge in its big battery configurations.

Tesla Model X

X marks the spot of Tesla’s expansion

Tesla helped former shareholder Toyota to bring back the Toyota RAV4 EV, an electric SUV and also aided its other OEM shareholder, Daimler (which also has since divested its Tesla shares), with the Smart ED and B-Class Electric.

Now known as simply Tesla (not Tesla Motors since its merger with Elon Musk’s Solar City), has booked more than 350,000 reservations for its upcoming Model 3, its affordable ($35,000) smaller model due to start production in 2017. Tesla continues to battle with auto dealers in many states as it tries to establish a direct-sales model, although founder Musk has admitted his sales plan may not work when they move to the more mass-market Model 3, which he hopes to sell in volumes of up to 500,000 per year. Tesla News, Tesla News & More Tesla News. First Drive: 2017 Tesla Model X P100D.

  1. Chevrolet Bolt/Volt – One-Two Punch in the Electric Gut

General Motors has done something remarkable, enough so that we were tempted to jump them up to the top of this chart. They have done two major things to deserve the attention they’re getting. First was to introduce the second generation Chevrolet Volt range-extended electric car (which gets tossed in with plug-in hybrids even though its system really takes a different approach). It followed the new Volt with the all-electric 238-mile range Bolt this year.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt LT

Bolts jolts the market with 200+ miles of range and an affordable price

Beating Tesla to the market with the Bolt was quite a coup, particularly with a car as well-executed as this EV is. And that takes nothing away from the redesigned Volt hatchback that has 50+ miles of electric range and more than 400 miles per gasoline fill-up range in its second generation.

The Bolt is priced at $37,495 before various rebates and incentives kick in while the Volt has a starting price of about $34,490, but also is eligible for federal and state incentives. Sales of the Bolt just started in December, but we predict it will likely be the best-selling in 2017. If the Volt continues it reign atop the PHEV group that would be quite a two-fer for Chevy and GM.

We’ve spent quite a bit of time in this car and think it’s a keeper. It’s won more than a few accolades. The versatility to drive around town and potentially commute as an electric car (Chevy has documented that most drivers will go more than 1,000 miles between fill-ups), coupled with the ability to take longer trips relying on the gasoline “range extender” makes it a great choice for a one-car household.

Also at GM, but phasing out are the all-electric Chevrolet Spark EV; it’s a fun city car with 80-mile range between charges. Sales are tapering off for the Cadillac ELR, which uses a plug-in hybrid drive system similar to the Volt, as it goes out of production.

With all of its Bolt/Volt news, rumors keep circulating that GM may expand its offering to include other brands. It will introduce a Cadillac CT6 PHEV in spring 2017, but more models may be in the offing.

Here are some of our road tests/news stories on GM plug-ins—First Drive: 2017 Chevrolet Bolt; News: First Bolt Owner; Road Tests: 2017 Chevy Volt2016 Chevy Volt; News: 2017 Cadillac CT6 PHEV; 2014 Chevy Spark EVCadillac ELR.

  1. Nissan Leaf – the Standard Bearer

Nissan is the sales leader of affordable pure electric cars and is staying the course in its commitment to this technology. Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn reiterated recently that his company will support electric drive while also offering plug-in hybrids and fuel cell electric cars and hybrid-electric models.

2016 Nissan Leaf

Leaf led the way and promises more changes soon

The company’s flagship car is the Leaf, a five-door, five-seat hatchback that is the right size and range for many who drive around 100 miles daily. Nissan makes the Leaf and its batteries in Tennessee for the U.S. market and bumped up the range this last year. It is promising a 200+ mile range version soon. Used Leafs are now coming off lease and onto the market, presenting another option for eco-buyers.

The Leaf was refreshed in 2016 with a larger (30 kWh) battery pack and longer range. We tested it twice and liked the extra miles. Road Test: 2016 Nissan Leaf; Test #2.

     5.  BMW – the Ultimate Electric Driving Machine?

2016 BMW X5 xDrive40e

BMW starts adding plugs throughout its lineup

BMW has charged into the electric car space with two strong contenders—the hot-selling i3 and the i8 plug-in hybrid supercar. We’ve driven both and are impressed by both, as are many others.

The i3 (which actually comes in two versions—a pure battery electric and a ranged-extended EV) is the fourth best-selling plug-in car in the U.S. in 2016, behind only the two Teslas and the Leaf.  The i8 is no slouch, either, sitting solidly in the Top 10 plug-in hybrids. Not bad for a car that lists for $136,500. The i3 starts at $42,400. Like most manufacturers, BMW has begun to launch more plug-in models, including the 2016 X5 xDrive40e that we tested, and plug-in versions of the 3-Series and 7-Series. Road Test: 2014 BMW i3. First Drive: 2015 BMW i8.

     6.  Ford – Variety Is Their Spice of Life

Ford has made a commitment to fuel efficiency that starts with their widely used EcoBoost engines (basically smaller turbocharged direct-injection engines that can replace larger non-turbo port-injection powerplants). Ford has a trio of plug-in vehicles that are the tip of the spear for its environmental efforts. They start with the full-electric Ford Focus and two plug-in hybrids, the Fusion Energi and C-Max Energi (both of which also come in a plain-Jane hybrid version).

2016 Ford Focus Electric, EV

Ford offers and expansive range of plug-ins, including the Focus Electric

Sales have been steady, but the Fusion Energi in particular had a great year and the pair were the second and third best-selling models in the PHEV sales behind the Volt. They sacrifice some trunk space for the added batteries (compared to the hybrid models), but deliver solid performance and enough for 21 miles of electric-only driving (which is being bumped up slightly in 2017). Ford is adding a hybrid version of the best-selling vehicle in the U.S., the F-150 pickup as well.

But that’s not all. Ford is also pushing strongly into the mobility space while also using its electrified vehicles like the Fusion as the test-bed for its autonomous vehicle projects. It’s recent smart mobility projects included adding a crowd-sourced shuttle service, Chariot, and an e-bike sharing program.

Road Test: 2016 Ford Focus Electric. Road Test: 2016 Ford Fusion Energi. First Drive: Ford C-Max.

  1. Toyota – Big in Hybrids; Betting on Fuel Cells & Electrics

Toyota, passing nine million hybrid sales worldwide at mid-2016, has dabbled in both plug-in hybrids and all-electric cars, but then seemed focused on fuel cell electric cars, which uses hydrogen to produce electricity on board and power the electric motors.

2017 Prius Prime

The Prius Prime becomes Toyota’s leader with a plug

Toyota’s Prius Plug-In Hybrid has been renamed the Prius Prime and is more distinguished from the standard Prius than in the past. The new model has a longer EV range than its predecessor. Toyota has had some sales success, and has noe promised a new push into electric vehicles. Clean Fleet Report tested the original model, comparing it with the better-known non-plug-in version.

Toyota also offered a limited model in California: the only all-electric SUV, the RAV4 EV, with an advertised 150-mile electric range (produced with some help from Tesla, in which Toyota was a shareholder) and earlier did a limited EV run of its minicar, the iQ. Now on the market is the Mirai, a fuel-cell sedan with a 350-mile range and a $57,000 price tag (it delivered more than 1,000 Mirais in 2016). Toyota offers 12 hybrid models (Toyota & Lexus) with similar electric motors and advanced battery packs, sometimes shared with its electric cars. We’ve tested most of those. First Drive: 2013 RAV4 EV. Road Test: Plug-In Prius and Prius Liftback.  First Drive: 2016 Toyota Mirai Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle. First Drive: Toyota iQ

 

  1. Kia/Hyundai – Coming on Strong

Don’t forget the Korean plug-ins

2017 Hyundai IONIQ Hybrid

There’s a new badge in town

Kia has its Soul EV on the market and its making its presence know. We’ve had a chance to test it. Along with its parent company Hyundai, Kia is scheduled to launch two plug-in hybrids (the Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima)  and a Hyundai Ioniq sub-brand that, like the Ford Fusion, will have a hybrid and plug-in hybrid, but also will add a pure electric model. We covered the introduction. In addition, the ambitious company already has launched the Kia Niro dedicated hybrid, which impressed us as well. Hyundai has been leasing its Tucson fuel cell electric vehicles in Southern California for several years now. Road Test: 2015 Kia Soul EV; Road Test: 2017 Hyundai Sonata PHEV.

 

  1. Daimler Begins an Electric Onslaught

In America only with electric motors

Daimler is the automotive giant that owns Mercedes-Benz and Smart and also was a Tesla stockholder. While it has had two pure EVs on the market for a while, this year it added three plug-in hybrids—the C350We, GLE 550e and S550 Plug-in.

2016 Mercedes-Benz B250e

Daimler leads with a B250e, but promises many more electrics

The two-seat Smart ED has been selling in small numbers (many to the company’s Car2Go car-sharing subsidiary). The Smart ED minicar went through three generations and we’ve driven the latest version, but only with the gas engine. Mercedes has two versions of its subcompact B-Class, a pure electric with 87 miles of range that we recently had a chance to drive and a fuel cell electric vehicle with a more than 300 miles of range, the only versions of that car available in the U.S. The electric B-Class and Smart ED are at the bottom of the sales list for 2016, selling less than 1,300 units between the two models. The company has announced a massive investment in electric drive vehicles so the expectation is that every year more plug-ins will be coming to the market. The next generation fuel cell car also should surface soon. First Drive: First Drive: 2016 Mercedes-Benz B250e; Smart Fortwo ED.

  1. Fiat – Small, But a Mighty Fine, Fun EV

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) is selling the Fiat 500e somewhat reluctantly, but don’t let that turn you away. Even though FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne famously claims the company

2016 Fiat 500e, safety

The Fiat 500e is full of fun

loses $14,000 on every $32,780 500e it sells, they do need to sell quite a few of them to meet California’s ZEV (zero emission vehicle) mandate so take advantage while you can.

It’s a fun all-electric city car. We thought it was the most fun car of the EV bunch until the e-Golf came out and trumped it both in functionality and fun.  Very affordable (sub-$100/month) lease deals have been available for this spunky EV in California (its main market). It manages to carry through the Italian charm and personality found in its gas models. The major drawback, which could be an advantage in an urban location, is the small size of the vehicle. As a two-door with a small back seat, its capability of carrying four adults is limited. Road Test: Fiat 500e.

The Rest

That’s the Top 10, but the good news is there are even more models on the market and some have come and gone already. Coda Automotive, with its warmed-over Chinese sedan, has departed, but Fisker (now Karma) Automotive has revived its high-end plug-in hybrid under new Chinese ownership.

Honda sold a limited number of its Fit EVs and similarly stopped selling the Accord Plug-in Hybrid. Like Toyota and Hyundai, it is focusing on Clarity fuel cell electrics as its main EV strategy going forward, but could return to a pure EV and PHEV depending on market trends.  It continues to promote ideas like an integrated car and home energy system that would depend on a plug-in car.

Volvo has just started selling its plug-in hybrid version of the XC90 SUV, though numbers are expected to remain low. We tested it recently and came away very impressed. Volvo has indicated more plug-in models will follow.

Mitsubishi still offers the i (formerly i-MiEV), though the company skipped the 2015 model year, but the 2016 we tested wasn’t much different than earlier models. The i fits into tight parking spaces and tight electric car buyer budgets, starting at about $29,000. It’s a very Japanese model five-door, four-passenger hatchback. The i has an electric range of 62 miles (EPA adjusted) with a 16kWh lithium battery. Although it’s been modified for the US market it still feels very much like the Japanese-market original, which is to say, less substantial than many of its competitors. Mitsubishi also reiterated its intent to bring a plug-in version of its popular Outlander SUV to the U.S. this coming year (as has been promised for several years).

Then there’s Porsche (another VW affiliate) with its plug-in Panamera sedan, Cayenne SUV and 918 sports car also in the market. Other companies have teased plug-ins, but we’ll wait until we see hardware before

A plug-in Porsche

adding them to any list.

California and seven other states reaffirmed their goal to have 3.3 million electric cars (including plug-in hybrids and fuel cells) on the road by 2025. The numbers are basically accounted for in the ZEV (Zero Emission Vehicle) mandate that the states have in place, but rely on a steep ramp up of sales after 2020. Based on sales reports, more than 500,000 plug-in vehicles have been sold in the U.S. since the Tesla roadster was introduced in 2008. More than half of them were in California.

There is a lot of innovation from around the world that did not make this Top 10 List, which focuses on the current U.S. market. Please bookmark this Top 10 List and check back as we update. Exciting new electric cars are being driven on the U.S. streets and freeways. Nissan is an early mover with battery-electric cars, now eclipsed by Tesla and General Motors has led the way with plug-in hybrids, but competition is heating up and new models due during the next year or two could dramatically alter the field. The winner will be the customer.

Related stories you might enjoy:

How Long Will It Take To Convert The U.S. Fleet To Electric?

Road Test: 2015 Volkswagen e-Golf

First Drive: 2017 Chevrolet Bolt

Road Test: 2014 Chevy Volt

Road Test: 2016 Nissan Leaf

Road Test: 2016 Fiat 500e

The Top 10 Electric Cars You Can Buy

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. We also feature those 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Electric Cars with Lowest U.S. Prices

Electric Cars with Lowest U.S. Prices

Smart electric drive in car2go

Smart fortwo electric drive can be purchased from dealers in Spring 2013 for $25,000. After a federal tax credit of $7,500, the net cost is only $17,500. There are 300 of these 2-seat all-electric city cars in San Diego’s Car2Go car sharing and more in other cities such as Portland, Oregon. I was impressed with my test drive of the 2013 smart electric drive, now with a larger motor and new lithium battery pack.

 

2013 Nissan LEAFNissan LEAF is the sales leader of all-electric cars. This 5-door, 5-seat, hatchback has the right size and range for many who drive under 100 miles daily, or for households with more than one car. Nissan is now making the 2013 LEAF in Tennessee for the U.S. market with options that include Level 1 charge, Level 2 charge at 6.6 kW/hour, and 25-minute DC fast charge. The LEAF is the first electric car to earn five stars from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.Nissan delivers great value with the new 2013 price starting at $28,800. LEAF Test drive.

 

Mitsubishi iMitsubishi i MiEV is an all-electric city car starting at $29,125, before federal tax credit. This fun-to-drive 4-seat 5-door micro-compact will still be able to get those precious city parking spaces that few U.S. cars can take. The more powerful U.S. version has an electric range of EPA adjusted 62 miles with a 16kWh lithium battery.

 

Pruis Plugin HybridToyota Prius Plug-in starts at $32,000. The Prius Plug-in cost about $7,000 less than the Chevrolet Volt, a plug-in hybrid with a 40-mile electric range in comparison to the Prius PHV’s 15-mile. After federal tax credits, the difference narrows to only $3,000. The Prius Plug-in costs about $8,500 more than the classic Prius Liftback, but the difference narrows to  $6,000 after Federal Tax Credit. Prius PHV Test Drive and Review

 

Chevrolet Spark EVChevrolet Spark EV is less than $32,500 and eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit. This sleek 4-seat all-electric city car shares much of the drive system design of the best selling and award winning electric Chevrolet Volt. 2013 sales will only be in California, Oregon, and Korea.

 

Ford C-Max EnergiFord C-MAX Energi, an exciting new Crossover SUV can seat five. C-MAX Energi offers 550 miles of overall driving range using the Sanyo lithium-ion prismatic battery, electric motor, and gasoline engine – more than any other plug-in. Ford offers the passenger room and cargo space of the Prius v. Its 20 miles of electric range beats the Prius Plug-in, but falls short of the Chevrolet Volt. The C-MAX Energi starts at $33,745.  Ford C-MAX Energi

 

2013 Ford FusionFord Fusion Energi is a beautiful 5-seat sedan with more safety and telematics features than any other car on this list. Drive this plug-in hybrid for 20 miles of electric range, then a small efficient gasoline engine extends your range by hundreds of miles. The Fusion Energi goes on sale in early 2013 starting at $38,700, a big premium over the Fusion Hybrid’s $27,625.

 

Fiat 500eFiat 500e goes on sale in Spring 2013 and prices have not yet been announced. This 4-seat all-electric version of the popular Fiat 500 city car should have an electric range of 80 miles and be fun to drive.

 

Honda Fit EVHonda Fit EV looks just like the popular Honda Fit 5-door, 5-seat subcompact hatchback. The 2013 Fit EV officially has an MSRP of $36,625. Only in select pilot programs can it be leased f or $389 per month. The Fit EV Level 2 charges at double the speed of the Nissan LEAF and Mitsubishi i.  Honda Fit Electric

 

CODA is $37,500, but discounts of over $14,000,  for an all-electric car with a larger lithium battery than offered by Nissan and Ford. My test drive of the new CODA showed that this new electric car is similar in handling and performance to the Nissan Leaf and Ford Focus Electric which I have also driven. CODA has more electric range than the LEAF and Focus Electric which each have 24 kW lithium batteries in comparison to CODA’s 31 kW lithium iron phosphate battery. CODA Review

 

ford focus electricFord Focus Electric starts at $39,200 with double the charge speed of the LEAF. You can go online and configure your car, select a dealer and place your order. Although Nissan and Chevrolet have been getting most of the electric car media attention, both automakers are worried about Ford who will give customers the widest choice of electric and plug-in hybrid cars and vans. Ford has also partnered with SunPower to offer an affordable rooftop solar system that will allow Focus Electric owners and other electric car drivers to “Drive Green for Life,” and charge with solar. Ford Focus Electric

 

Chevy VOLTChevrolet Volt was awarded Car of the Year by Motor Trend and Automotive Magazine and awarded Green Car of the Year by Green Car Journal. General Motors is the current plug-in hybrid leader with the Chevrolet Volt, a plug-in hybrid with 40 miles of electric range and total range of 400 miles by engaging a small gasoline engine that is coupled with an electric generator. Our Volt Test Drive showed that this is plug-in hybrid is sportier to drive than regular hybrids and a great 4-door, 4-seat sedan for those who want to minimize fill-ups and avoid range anxiety. The Volt starts at $39,145 with nice tax credits or $350 monthly lease.

 

The above list of all-electric and plug-in hybrid cars expected to be selling and/or leasing in the United States in 2013 with the lowest cost. Our apologies to Honda Accord, Tesla, Fisker and others that did not make the price cut.

Future Electric Cars

Small electric city cars are becoming popular in car sharing, campuses, and cities with parking space challenges. The Smart Electric Drive is popular in car2go car sharing in San Diego and Portland. The new Scion iQ-EV was fun to drive, but Toyota is only putting 90 into U.S. car sharing and campus programs. The Mitsubishi i is in car sharing programs and city dwellers are buying this micro-compact. BMW has 70 Active E coupes in DriveNow’s San Francisco car shring program and is preparing for sales of the i3 hatchback.

Nissan, GM, Toyota, Honda, and Ford will all expand the number and variety of electric vehicle offerings. All major automakers are all testing electric cars for 2013 and beyond. Tesla and Fisker are working at more affordable electric cars that fit on this “lower cost” list, although Tesla is selling the Model S with 265 mile electric range for $79,900 as fast as it can make them.

By 2020, Europe with higher fuel prices and fewer oil subsidies is forecast to have more electric cars by 2020 than the United States. Better Place may deliver 100,000 of the Renault Fluence with its switchable battery to Israel, Denmark, and other countries. Volkswagen may teach everyone how to extend range by making vehicles light. The concept Up Light weighs just over 1,500 pounds, but it’s only a concept. We loved test-driving the Volkswagen Golf Blue E-Motion, but don’t plan on buying it in the U.S. before 2014.

For three years, we have read about China’s plans to bring electric cars to the U.S. Although China’s U.S. ambitions have slipped badly, its automakers cannot be ignored. China has over 100 million light electric vehicles, e-bikes and e-scooters in daily use. It’s new 5-year plan calls for 100 million electric charging stations in China by 2020. BYD, with gold-plated investors such as Warren Buffett, has only put a few hundred electric vehicles on the road in China and continues to delay introduction to the United States. Volvo, now owned by China’s Geely has the new C30 Drive E Electric, but the Volvo electric car will be selling only in Europe in the short-term. SAIC, Chery, and hundreds of players are also preparing EVs for China.

Japan and China will not be the only Asian electric car competitors. Hyundai and Kia are now selling impressive hybrids with lithium batteries. In the years ahead, Hyundai plans to offer electric cars and even a hydrogen fuel cell SUVs for under $40,000. India might bring us a Maharinda Reva or Tata EV that under prices everyone, but not by 2012, the basis for this report.

What is certain is that you have a growing selection of electric and plug-in hybrid cars expected to be sold with starting prices between $29,125 and $39,995 in the U.S.

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid Test Drive and Review

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid Test Drive and Review

By John Addison (9/19/11)

This new 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in (PHV) looks just like the classic Prius Liftback except in rear exterior is the cover for the electric charge port; the gasoline cap is on the left.

Sitting behind the wheel of this new Toyota Prius Plug-in (PHV), I wonder how the driving experience will compare with the Chevrolet Volt, my Nissan LEAF, and other members of the Prius family. Next month, Toyota starts the online order process for the Prius PHV with a starting price of $32,000 for dealer deliveries in early 2012.  Online, buyers can configure their Prius PHV, start the order, and then select a Toyota dealer to continue the process.

When I touch Start the useful LED displays light and I’m ready to drive. The car’s default driving mode is ECO for fuel economy. At any time while driving, three buttons on the dash allow convenient driving mode selection – EV, ECO, and Power. I touch EV, step lightly on the accelerator and glide away.

In EV mode, the Prius PHV is only propelled by one of two electric motors. One motor is for propulsion, the other for electricity generation. This Prius PHV is quieter than a Liftback, but unlike the Nissan LEAF, I hear the gasoline engine, which can sometimes idle even in EV mode. I accelerate up to 45 mph before the Prius PHV automatically switches me to ECO mode; 45 is better than I achieved in my previous PHV test drive, thanks to coaching from my test drive partner, Bill Moore, Publisher of EV World. In theory, the Prius PHV has a maximum of 62 mph in EV mode, but reaching that requires adequate lithium battery charge, and a couple of other journalist had already taken this car for a spin.

When not driving in EV mode, the Prius PHV delivers about the same fuel economy as the Prius Liftback. The Prius PHV averages 49 mpg in ECO hybrid mode and is rated at 87 mpg overall.  In ECO mode the hybrid drive system will at times only use the electric motor. The Prius PHV is designed to be in EV mode 15 miles per charge.

I smoothly drive over railroad tracks. This Prius has good shocks. The steering is effortless. Stopping and starting are transparent.

As I accelerate on to the freeway, I could select the Power mode. Instead, I let the Prius PHV do it automatically. I accelerate up the graded onramp and reach 65 mph before merging with traffic.

After five miles of driving, I must sadly return this beautiful car so that the next auto journalist can take it for a spin.  This Prius PHV feels like the two million other Prii (yep, that’s the official plural of Prius) now on the road. The Prius Plug-in is ready for prime time.

Prius Plug-in Drive System and Lithium Battery

The Prius PHV now has an estimated 15-mile electric range, a modest improvement from 13-mile prototype range. The Prius PHV drive system is based on the proven Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive well in its hybrids for over a dozen years. The full series-parallel hybrid drive system uses imbedded computer chips to automatically engage, as needed the 80-horse power (60 kW) electric motor and/or the 1.8L 98-horsepower (73 kW) gasoline engine.

Managing the engagement of electric motors and engine is a Hybrid Transaxle, which combines power split planetary gear set ring with speed reduction planetary gear set ring. The car gets great mileage because energy is captured, whenever possible, from braking and energy resistance. On a long downhill, you can shift into “B” for added regen.

The Prius PHV includes a 4.4 kW lithium-battery pack, a bit smaller than the pack tested in 600 vehicles. A second electric motor (MG1) is used to generate electricity. Both motors are air-cooled permanent magnet.

Prius PHV drivers will most fuel with gasoline. Chevrolet Volt drivers are mostly fueling with electricity. Pure-electric drivers like me only fuel with electricity. For my Nissan LEAF, I had a Level 2 charger installed in the garage so that I charge at the rate of about one hour for each 12 miles of driving. Before the Level 2 charger was installed we use the Level 1 charger and a garage outlet and charged at the rate of about 4 miles per hour.

In some communities, electric utilities and building inspectors are friendly towards the installation of electric vehicle chargers. In other places, and especially for those living in large apartments or co-ops, adding a charger can be difficult, expensive, and/or impossible. Since the Prius PHV only takes 3 hours max to charge Level 1 and only 1.5 Level 2, many Prius PHV buyers will skip the hassle of installing a charger and simply Level 1 charge from any 15 amp dedicated circuit. Toyota is partnering with Leviton to offer a Level 2 charger installed for $995, but be careful to get a quote for any added electrical work. Whether or not a home charger is installed, the Prius PHV can use public Level 2 chargers.

Prius Plug-in Features and Price

The Prius PHV is a 5-door, 5-passenger, liftback with a midsized interior. Inside and out it is as roomy as the best-selling Prius Liftback. The PHV’s 4.4kW lithium battery is well-placed, so that the 60/40 back seats can be lowered to provide plenty of room for trips to big box stores, luggage, work boxes, skis and boards, even a couple of bicycles. The small lithium pack enabled Toyota to make the PHV only 123 pounds heavier than the Liftback. When the backseats are up, a convenient armrest can be lowered.

The Prius PHV is priced starting at $32,000 but you should be eligible for a $2,500 federal tax credit. This plug-in hybrid may be eligible for added incentives from your employer or from your state.

The Prius PHV Advanced starts at  $39,525, with a Premium HDD Navigation with Entune, plug-in hybrid apps, LED headlamps with auto level control, Safety Connect, dynamic radar cruise control, head up display (HUD), and pre-collision system.

There was a time when people would pay up to $3,500 extra in California for a Prius with an HOV sticker, allowing them to save hours of commuting gridlock. As an incentive for early adopters, only so many HOV stickers were issued. In California that old HOV Yellow Sticker is gone, but there is a new HOV White sticker for plug-in cars. The Prius Plug-in Hybrid qualifies, the classic Prius Liftback does not.

Is the Prius PHV the best car for you?

You now have a choice of three different Prius models. This time next year, you will have four choices:

  • Prius Liftback – Midsized interior, 50 mpg, starts at $23,500
  • Prius V – Crossover SUV, 42 mpg, starts at $26,400
  • Prius C – smaller hatchback, best hybrid mpg, priced Summer 2012
  • Prius PHV – Midsized interior, 87 mpg, starts at $32,000

Prius Family – the Prius PHV will be the best if you want a plug-in hybrid. Its starting price is $8,500 more than the best-selling Prius Liftback. The gap narrows to $6,000 after a federal tax credit. Your employer or state may give you added incentives to get the plug-in. The Prius PHV includes a touch-screen navigation system with backup camera and other features, which would be optional extras on the base Prius Liftback. If you get stuck in nasty rush-hour commutes an HOV sticker can have real value. Electric charging is cheap; gasoline fill-ups are expensive. The Prius PHV might pay for itself in a few years compared to the Liftback.

Chevrolet Volt will be tough competition for the Prius PHV.  GM will deliver 16,000 plug-in hybrids in 2011 and 65,000 in 2012. The Prius Plug-in cost about $8,000 less than the Chevrolet Volt, a plug-in hybrid with a 40-mile electric range in comparison to the Prius PHV’s 15-mile. After federal tax credits, the difference narrows to only $3,000. Prius PHV drivers may neglect to always recharge. Volt drivers that I interview always recharge. The extra $3,000 for the Volt may pay for itself in less than five years of saved gasoline. The Prius PHV seats five, the Volt only four. I have been impressed test-driving both. They are both worth your taking a test drive.

Ford C-MAX Plug-in Hybrid. Later next year, Ford will start selling a five-door, five seat plug-in hybrid hatchback that will compete head-on with the Prius PHV.  The Ford C-MAX Plug-in is expected to have a 40 mile electric range versus the Prius PHV’s 15. Ford has not yet announced pricing. Ford is also selling the Focus Electric with 100-mile pure electric range.

Nissan LEAF is the best selling electric car, delivering 50,000 in 2011. My experience as an owner is that this pure battery electric has an electric range of up to 140 miles on 30 mph streets, but only 60 miles when cruising the freeway while running your air conditioner. My wife and I share the LEAF and also have a hybrid which we use a couple of days weekly and on long-trips. By itself, the LEAF with its limited range would only meet 80 percent of our needs, but with two cars it has never been a problem. It cost us $40 monthly in electricity to run the LEAF, the cost of one fill-up at a gas station. The 2012 LEAF starts at $3,200 more than the Prius V, but after federal tax credits is $1,800 less and can save you about $500 to $1,000 annually in gasoline.

As the world leader in hybrid cars, Toyota is fighting to extend that leadership in both plug-in hybrids and battery electric cars. In plug-in hybrids, GM plans on first mover advantage with the Chevy Volt. In electric cars, the Nissan LEAF has a sizable lead over the Toyota’s 2012 pure-electric offerings, the Toyota RAV4 EV and the Scion IQ EV. But Toyota has more cars on the road with electric motors, advanced batteries, and electric drive systems than all competitors put together. Toyota does not like second place.

In 2012, will have no trouble selling the 15,000 Prius PHV planned for production. The 2012 Prius PHV will be an appealing alternative to many who first consider the less expensive Prius Liftback. With only a 15-mile electric range the PHV will not be for everyone. Toyota Motor Corporation is now offering customers a wide-range of choices including the Toyota RAV4 EV, the Scion IQ EV, a family of four Prii, the Camry hybrid, the Highlander 4WD hybrid, five Lexus hybrids, and a growing range of fuel economy offerings for most drivers.

2012 Prius Plug-in Hybrid SPECIFICATIONS

Hybrid Drive System

  • Hybrid Net System 134 horsepower
  • ENGINE
  • 2ZR-FXE (Atkinson cycle)
  • 4-cylinder aluminum block and head, double overhead cam (DOHC) 16-valve VVT-i
  • 4-valve/cylinder with VVT-i
  • Displacement 1,798 cc
  • Bore x Stroke 3.17 x 3.48 in.
  • Compression Ratio 13.0:1
  • Horsepower (SAE Net) 98 horsepower @ 5,200 rpm
  • Torque 105 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm
  • Recommended Fuel 87-octane unleaded
  • Emission Certification SULEV (with AT-PZEV) Tier 2 Bin 3
  • Toyota Estimated Fuel Economy*
  • 87+ MPGe
  • Hybrid 49 MPG
  • Electric driving range 15 miles
  • Charging time 1.5 hours (240V) / 3 hours (120V)

Electronically Controlled continuously Variable Transmission (ECVT)

MOTOR GENERATOR TWO

  • Drives front wheels, regeneration during braking
  • Permanent Magnet AC Synchronous Motor
  • Max Voltage DC650V
  • Electric Motor Power Output 80 hp/60 kW
  • Torque 153 lb.-ft.

HYBRID BATTERY PACK

  • Lithium-ion
  • Weight (lb.) 176
  • Capacity (kWh) 4.4

* 2012 Toyota MPG estimate. Actual mileage will vary.

CHASSIS AND BODY
Suspension – Front Independent MacPherson strut suspension with stabilizer bar
– Rear Torsion beam
Electric Power Steering (EPS); power-assisted rack-and-pinion
– Turning circle diameter, curb to curb (ft.) 34.2 ft.
Brakes –

  • Ventilated front disc (hydraulic with power assist) with standard Anti-Lock Brake (ABS) system and integrated regenerative brake system
  • Front Diameter 10.0 in. rotor
  • Rear Solid disc (hydraulic with power assist) with standard Anti-lock Brake System (ABS)
  • – Rear Diameter 10.2 in. rotor
  • Parking Pedal brake
  • Anti-lock Brake System (ABS)
  • Standard Wheel Size 6J x 15 in.
  • Wheel Type and Material 10-spoke aluminum alloy
  • Tire Size P195/65 R15
  • Tire Type All-season
  • Spare Tire/Wheel = Tire repair kit

EXTERIOR DIMENSIONS

  • Overall Length 176.4 in.
  • Overall Width 68.7 in.
  • Overall Height 58.7 in.
  • Wheelbase 106.3 in.
  • Tread Width (Front/Rear) 60.0/59.8 in.
  • Front Overhang 36.4 in.
  • Rear Overhang 33.7 in
  • Ground Clearance 5.3 in.
  • Coefficient of Drag 0.25

INTERIOR DIMENSIONS

  • Seating Capacity 5
  • Headroom (Front/Rear) 38.6/37.6 in.
  • Legroom (Front/Rear) 42.5/36.0 in.
  • Shoulder Room (Front/Rear) 54.9/53.1 in.
  • Hip Room (Front/Rear) 52.7/51.2 in.
  • Passenger Volume 93.7 cu. ft.
  • Cargo Volume 21.6 cu. ft.

WEIGHTS AND CAPACITIES

  • Curb Weight 3165 lbs.
  • Fuel Capacity 10.6 gal.

STANDARD EXTERIOR FEATURES

  • 15-in. 10-spoke alloy wheels and P195/65R15 tires
  • Color-keyed power outside mirrors with folding feature
  • Projector-beam halogen headlamps with auto-off feature
  • LED tail and stop lamps
  • Rear spoiler with LED center high-mount stop lamp
  • Rear window defogger with timer
  • UV reduction glass windshield
  • Washer-linked variable intermittent windshield wipers
  • Intermittent rear window wiper
  • Charge port with illumination and charging indictor light
  • Prius Plug-in Hybrid Advanced (in addition to or in place of standard grade features)
  • LED headlamps with auto level control, auto-on/off feature and headlamp cleaners
  • Integrated fog lamps

STANDARD INTERIOR FEATURES

  • Tilt/telescopic steering wheel with audio, climate, Multi-Information Display and Bluetooth® hands-free phone and voice-command controls
  • Multi-Information Display with fuel consumption history, average fuel economy, distance to empty, average speed, trip distance, charger timer, EV Driving Ratio, Hybrid System Indicator, ECO Savings Record and energy monitor
  • Digital instrumentation with speedometer, fuel gauge, odometer, instant fuel consumption, shift-position indicator and EV/ECO/POWER mode indicators
  • Automatic climate control with air filter, dust and pollen filter/filtration mode, electric compressor, humidity sensor and push button controls
  • Remote Air Conditioning System
  • Power windows with auto up/down, jam protection in all positions and retained power features
  • Remote keyless entry system with lock, two-stage unlock and panic functions
  • Smart Key System on three doors with Push Button Start and remote illuminated entry
  • Front door storage pockets with sculpted bottle holders
  • Fabric-trimmed heated front seats with seatback pockets; 6-way adjustable driver’s seat; 4-way adjustable front passenger seat
  • 60/40 split fold-down rear seat with adjustable headrests
  • Fold-forward rear outboard headrests
  • Rear fold-down center armrest with two cup holders
  • Dual sunvisors and illuminated vanity mirrors
  • Power door locks with shift-linked automatic locking feature with anti-lockout feature
  • Two front 12V auxiliary power outlets
  • Cruise control
  • Touch Tracer Display
  • Overhead console with driver and front passenger maplamps and shift illumination
  • Electronic shift lever with Hybrid Synergy Drive® blue accent
  • Center console with armrest, storage compartment, front dual cup holders, removable utility tray, wire-management feature and 12V auxiliary power outlet
  • Passenger-side dual glove compartment
  • Remote hood and fuel-filler releases
  • Charge cable for 120V outlet
  • Rear dome lamp and cargo area lamp
  • Retractable assist grips at all doors
  • Cargo area under-floor storage and side panel storage
  • Cargo area tonneau cover with clasp for under-floor stowage

Prius Plug-in Hybrid Advanced

(in addition to or in place of standard grade features)

  • Tilt/telescopic steering wheel with audio, climate, Multi-Information Display, Bluetooth® hands-free phone, voice-command and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC) controls
  • Dynamic Radar Cruise Control
  • Auto-dimming rearview mirror with HomeLink® universal transceiver
  • SofTex-trimmed heated front seats with seatback pockets; 8-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with power lumbar support; 4-way adjustable front passenger seat

 

Display Audio with Navigation and EntuneTM — includes 6.1-in. touch-screen with integrated backup camera display, AM/FM CD player with MP3/WMA playback capability, six speakers, SiriusXM™ Satellite Radio (includes 90-day trial subscription to XM Select Package), HD RadioTM with iTunes® Tagging, auxiliary audio jack, USB port with iPod® connectivity and control, vehicle information with customizable settings, hands-free phone capability, phone book access, advanced voice recognition, text-to-speech with programmed and customizable text responses, and music streaming via Bluetooth® wireless technology

EntuneTM — includes BingTM and Pandora®; real-time info including traffic, weather, fuel prices, sports and stocks. Apps available spring 2012 at no charge include iHeartRadio, MovieTickets.com and OpenTable®. Access to EntuneTM services is complimentary for three years. See toyota.com/entune for details.

PREMIUM AUDIO SYSTEM
Prius Plug-in Hybrid Advanced (in addition to or in place of standard grade features)

Premium HDD Navigation with EntuneTM, Plug-in Hybrid Applications and JBL® — includes 7-in. touch-screen with split-screen capability and integrated backup camera display, AM/FM CD player with MP3/WMA playback capability, eight JBL® GreenEdgeTM speakers with amplifier, SiriusXM™Satellite Radio (includes 90-day trial subscription to XM Select Package), HD RadioTM with iTunes® Tagging, auxiliary audio jack, USB port with iPod® connectivity and control, vehicle information with customizable settings, hands-free phone capability, phone book access, advanced voice recognition, text-to-speech with programmed and customizable text responses, and music streaming via Bluetooth® wireless technology

EntuneTM — includes BingTM, iHeartRadio, MovieTickets.com, OpenTable® and Pandora®; XM Data Services including NavTrafficTM, NavWeatherTM, Fuel, and Sports & Stocks; EntuneTM Plug-in Hybrid Applications include Charge Management, Remote Air Conditioning System, Charging Station Map, Vehicle Finder and Eco Dashboard. Access to EntuneTM services and Plug-in Hybrid Applications is complimentary for three years. See toyota.com/entune for details.

STANDARD SAFETY AND SECURITY

  • Star Safety System™ – includes Enhanced Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Traction control (TRAC), Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist (BA), and Smart Stop Technology (SST).
  • Daytime Running Lights (DRL) with on/off feature
  • Driver and front passenger Advanced Airbag System
  • Driver and front passenger front seat-mounted side airbags, driver knee airbag and front and rear side curtain airbags
  • Driver and front passenger active headrests
  • Tire Pressure Monitor System (TPMS)
  • Front and rear energy-absorbing crumple zones
  • Side-impact door beams
  • 3-point seatbelts for all seating positions; driver-side Emergency Locking Retractor (ELR) and Automatic/Emergency Locking Retractor (ALR/ELR) on all passenger seatbelts
  • Adjustable front seat shoulder anchors, driver and front passenger seatbelt pretensioners with force limiters
  • LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren) includes lower anchors on outboard rear seats
  • Child protector rear door locks
  • Energy-absorbing collapsible steering column
  • Engine immobilizer
  • Tire Repair System
  • Vehicle Proximity Notification System
  • Additional year of roadside assistance for a total of three years of roadside from date of purchase
  • Prius Plug-in Hybrid Advanced (in addition to or in place of standard grade features)
  • Safety Connect® — includes Emergency Assistance, Stolen Vehicle Locator, Roadside Assistance and Automatic Collision Notification. Available by subscription. (Complimentary three-year trial subscription).
  • Pre-Collision System (PCS)
  • Head-Up Display (HUD)

AVAILABLE EXTERIOR COLORS
– Blizzard Pearl
– Sea Glass Pearl
– Winter Gray Metallic
– Classic Silver Metallic
– Clearwater Blue Metallic
BASIC LIMITED WARRANTY COVERAGE

  • Basic: 36 months/36,000 miles (all components other than normal wear and maintenance items).
  • Lithium Battery and Hybrid-Related Component Coverage: Hybrid-related components, including the HV battery, battery control module, hybrid control module and inverter with converter, are covered for 8 years/100,000 miles. The HV battery may have longer coverage under emissions warranty. In states that have adopted the California Emission Control Warranty, coverage is 15 years/150,000 miles for performance and defect, and the hybrid battery is covered for 10 years/150,000 miles. Refer to applicable Warranty and Maintenance Guide for details.
  • Powertrain: 60 months/60,000 miles (engine, transmission/transaxle, drive system, seatbelts and airbags).
  • Rust-Through: 60 months/unlimited miles (corrosion perforation of sheet metal).
  • Emissions: Coverages vary under Federal and California regulations. Refer to applicable Warranty and Maintenance Guide for details.
  • Toyota Care – Complimentary maintenance plan with the purchase or lease of every new Toyota. For 2 years or 25,000 miles, whichever comes first, every new Toyota will be covered for all normal factory scheduled service, as well as 24/7 roadside assistance
Tesla Roadster Test Drive – Smooth and Stealth

Tesla Roadster Test Drive – Smooth and Stealth

By John Addison (1/20/11)

It’s easy to slide behind the steering wheel of this Tesla Roadster because the top’s removed for this January day. I don’t mind. It’s 70 degrees here in Palm Springs, California. A perfect day for a test drive.

Tesla gives me the ground rules for the drive – have fun. Yes, I can floor it if I pay for my own traffic ticket. I can take tight turns. Hit the brakes hard. Yes, I can go 20 mph over that speed bump that would trash many low-profile speed bumps.

Handling S-curves is smooth and effortless even though this sports car has no power steering. I go over a speed bump at 20 mph. No scraping sounds. No damage. These shocks are worthy of a race track.

On the highway, I press lightly on the accelerator and I’m going 60. Yes, the Roadster 2.5 can go zero to 60 in 3.7 seconds. There was no screeching tires, no whining engine, and no swerving. Just a light touch and stealth speed.

Any downsides? The Roadster that I’m driving cost over $120,000. The premium stereo is extra, as is the backup camera. Yes, only two seats and very little cargo. You’ve got room for your golf clubs, a travel bag, and your attaché. Unlike the Nissan LEAF the GPS display will not show you nearby charging stations, but the Roadster has a 245 mile range between charges thanks to the light aluminum frame, carbon fiber body, and 56 kWh lithium battery pack. One owner set a record of over 350 miles. The Roadster that I’m driving went from Orange County to Los Angeles to Palm Springs on one charge.

If you can afford to enjoy a luxury sports car, then take the Tesla Roadster for a drive. You will enjoy the smooth handling, stealth acceleration, and 245-mile electric range. After the ride, you can have fun explaining to friends about why you’re still smiling.

Tesla Roadster Specs

The AC induction motor and single speed gear box create instant torque from 0 rpm. Up to 295 lbs-ft of torque and 288 horsepower are produced as the car smoothly accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds.

Motor

375 volt AC induction air-cooled electric motor with variable frequency drive.

Roadster          Roadster Sport

  • Torque             273 lb-ft at 0-5,400 rpm           295 lb-ft at 0-5,100 rpm
  • Horsepower     288 hp (215 kW) at 5,000-6,000 rpm 288 hp (215 kW) at 4,400-6,000 rpm
  • Max rpm          14,000 rpm      14,000 rpm

Acceleration

Roadster          Roadster Sport

  • Top Speed       125 mph           125 mph
  • 0 to 60 mph      3.9 seconds      3.7 seconds

Transmission

  • Single speed fixed gear. Reverse drive uses reverse direction of motor, limited to 15 mph.
  • Overall Final Drive        8.28:1
  • Final Drive Ratio           3.12:1

Battery

  • Custom microprocessor-controlled lithium-ion battery with 6,831 individual cells. 3.5 hour charge time from empty to full using the Tesla High Power Wall Connector at 240 Volts and 70 Amps.
  • Range   245 miles
  • Expected Battery Life   Seven-years or 100,000 miles
  • Battery heater for cold weather charging to -20 degrees Celsius             Standard

Exterior Dimensions

  • Overall Length 155.1 in.
  • Width Across Mirrors   72.9 in.
  • Overall Height (mid-laden)        44.35 in.
  • Wheel Base      92.6 in.
  • Front Track      57.7 in.
  • Rear Track       59 in.
  • Curb Weight     2,723 lbs.

Interior Dimensions

  • Leg Room        42 in.
  • Front Head Room        36.7 in.
  • Front Shoulder Room   26 in.
  • Heated Seats    Standard
  • Three-spoke leather-wrapped sport steering wheel        Standard
  • Cruise Control Standard
  • Vehicle information touch screen           Standard
  • Power windows and door locks            Standard
  • Retractable cup holder Standard
  • Air Conditioning           Standard
  • Premium Leather or Microfiber Seats    Optional
  • Executive Leather Package       Optional
  • Executive Leather and Carbon Fiber Package   Optional
  • Infotainment Group: includes large, in-dash touchscreen featuring GPS navigation, back-up camera, HD Radio, Sirius Satellite Radio, amplified 400 Watt 7-speaker sound system, Bluetooth connectivity and Homelink door opener             Optional
Toyota’s 11 New Hybrids and 3 Electric Cars

Toyota’s 11 New Hybrids and 3 Electric Cars

Toyota RAV4 EV By John Addison (updated 9/17/11; original 11/19/10 from LA Auto Show)

No other hybrid comes close to the 50 miles per gallon (mpg) of the Toyota Prius. Customers have bought over 2 million Prii; no other hybrid comes close. No other automaker now offers more choices in hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and electric vehicles.

Auto makers have had 11 years since Toyota introduced the Prius to the U.S. to surpass Toyota’s best mileage and lowest carbon emissions. As I look at hundreds of cars in this vast L.A. convention center, no hybrid comes close. Only the more expensive electric cars and plug-in hybrids, including several models from Toyota can beat the Prius. Toyota customers also continue to buy the Toyota Highlander Hybrid SUV and the Toyota Camry Hybrid.

Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) is not resting on its laurels. TMC plans to introduce 11 hybrids by the end of 2012, consisting of all-new models and redesigned models.  Of the planned new models, one is a compact with achieving a jaw-dropping 94 mpg (40 km/L) under the 10-15 Japanese test cycle.

The Prius is now a family of four with the official name of Prii – the best selling Prius Liftback, the larger Crossover SUV Prius V, and the smaller better mpg Prius C.

Five Stunning Lexus Hybrids

Lexus, a TMC company, now offers five different hybrids for premium car buyers looking for hybrid mileage or extra performance. The beautiful new Lexus CT200h will deliver 42 mpg EPA combined mileage. Deliveries start in March 2011. Premium SUV drivers can get 30 mpg with the RX450h. The electric motor in a hybrid can be used for performance, rather than fuel economy, as I learned last year taking the Lexus HS250h around the track at Laguna Seca. Performance enthusiasts can get their own custom kit GS450h or LS600h hybrids.

Toyota Readies 3 Electric Cars for 2012 Dealer Sales

Prius Plug-in Hybrid starts at $32,000. The fully loaded Advanced is $39,525. Toyota will start taking online reservations in a few weeks with an online configurator allowing selection of options and colors. The Prius Plug-in cost about $8,000 less than the Chevrolet Volt, a plug-in hybrid with a 40-mile electric range in comparison to the Prius PHV’s 15-mile. After federal tax credits, the difference narrows to only $3,000. The Prius Plug-in costs about $8,500 more than the classic Prius Liftback, but the difference narrows to  $6,000 after Federal Tax Credit.

The RAV4 EV Powered by Tesla was Toyota’s center stage announcement here at the Los Angeles Auto Show. In 1997, 1,484 RAV4 EVs were sold. Remarkably half of these early EVs are still in use and their owners love them. Toyota, which owns 2 percent of Tesla, is bringing back this popular SUV in a stylish new body. It will have an electric range of 80 to 110 miles using 30 to 40 kWh of Panasonic battery cells integrated into a Tesla pack – impressive for an SUV. The body will be built by Toyota in Canada, the drive system by Tesla in California, and the final assembly site has yet to be determined.

In 2012, the Scion IQ EV, a stylish city car will also be introduced in the U.S., Japan and Europe to compete with the Mitsubishi i, the Honda Fit EV, and the Smart ED.

Toyota’s Future Advanced Energy Storage

Toyota is putting 100 electric SUVs on the road each with a range of over 400 miles. Fleets will include the Port Authority of New Jersey, San Hydro, my Alma Mater University of California at Irvin and other fleets that have 10,000 psi hydrogen fueling stations. TMC is continuing development of a sedan-type fuel-cell hybrid vehicle (FCHV), with sales aimed to start in around 2015 in Japan, the U.S. and Europe. I was impressed with my test drive of the previous generation Toyota FCHV.

TMC is researching development of next-generation secondary batteries with performance that greatly exceeds that of lithium-ion batteries.  Such research is aimed to help bring about the revolutionary advances in battery performance that will be necessary for the broad adoption of electric-motor-propelled eco-cars.

  • Solid-state batteries: TMC has successfully reduced what is known as particle resistance and has made progress toward creating full solid-state batteries in a promising compact package.
  • Metal-air batteries: TMC has determined the reaction mechanism of lithium-air batteries and has clarified its research policy regarding the batteries as rechargeable secondary batteries.
  • TMC established a division charged with studying production of next-generation batteries.  The division, with a staff of approximately 100 researchers, is accelerating its research.

TMC believes that eco-cars can have a positive impact on the environment only if they are widely used.  TMC will continue to improve the fuel efficiency of its conventional combustion-engine cars, which account for the majority of its sales, while raising performance, reducing costs and expanding the company’s product lineup.  Within these efforts, hybrid technologies—consisting of the basic technologies necessary for development of various eco-cars—are positioned as key technologies to achieve both high fuel efficiency and driving performance, and to facilitate the use of various fuels with the aim of creating a low-carbon society through response to the need to diversify energy sources.

Toyota plans to extend its leadership in hybrid cars, to being the market share leader in plug-in hybrids and electric cars.