By John Addison (10/5/10)
I settled for a test ride in the CODA, not a test drive. CODA was taking people for rides at the Santa Monica Alt-Car Expo, but not letting them drive, in contrast to hundreds of potential buyers test-driving the Nissan LEAF.
Sorry, but CODA did not appear to be worth $44,900 in contrast with the more sexy, more fully appointed Nissan LEAF priced at only $32,780. Both pure battery-electric cars are targeting 100-mile ranges. CODA with 33.8 kWh lithium battery pack is likely to have a better real world range than Nissan with 24 kWh battery pack. You can also charge the 2011 CODA twice as fast at 6.6 kW/h, instead of 3.3 kW/h with the 2011 LEAF. With the 2012 LEAF both will have the same charging speed.
Riding in the CODA felt like being in my Civic Hybrid, a nice but an ordinary 4-door 5-seat sedan. OK features, but nothing special. The ride felt like a conventional sedan, but nothing special. The legroom was a little more cramped than in the LEAF and Chevy Volt. With CODA you get an off-the-shelf chassis and assembled drive system; with Nissan you get a car built from the ground-up to be a unique battery-electric, right down to the ECO mode and driver telematics. At least CODA is using respected drive system suppliers such as Borg Warner, UQM electric motors, Energy CS, Delphi DC-DC, and Lear on board charger.
CODA currently has batteries made in China in a joint venture with Lishen Power Battery. The CODA sedan is sub-assembled in Harbin, China, and shipped to the US for final assembly in California. CODA is trying to secure DOE loans for at least $400 million to build a battery and vehicle assembly plant in Columbus, Ohio, for production starting 2014. The company’s pitch is that this could create 2,000 jobs in the U.S., although these might be at the expense of 2,000 Nissan LEAF battery and assembly jobs in Tennessee, or 2,000 Ford electric car and battery jobs in Michigan. Competition will get intense. The good news is that more lithium batteries and electric cars will be built somewhere in the U.S.
VCs and private investors such as former Secretary of Treasury Hank Paulson are making $100 million bet on CODA getting fed funding and having an IPO. Tesla’s market cap of $2 billion has encouraged investors. But without fed money the limited vehicle warrant of 3 years or 36,000 miles might be safe, but customers may have doubts about the company being there for the 8-year or 100,000 mile battery warranty.
Buyers who can afford to pay $45K for an electric car with extra range are more likely to step-up to the Tesla Model S at $57,000 and get more range, upgradeability, premium features, and a certain wow factor. If car drivers want extended range, and balk at $45K, then they may go with a plug-in hybrid.
CODA needs to weigh its strategy options. It’s pricing demonstrates that China partners will not help it win the cost battle with companies that make cars by the millions such as Nissan, Ford, and soon Toyota and Honda. The range issue may get CODA a few thousand buyers, if it can deliver much better range than the LEAF, Ford Focus Electric, and other EVs coming to market at savings of $12,000. CODA needs to be more distinctive for consumers, or to deliver custom vehicles for fleets like taxis and emergency responders, to justify the big price premium. There will be multiple winners in the electric car market. The race is on.
- Vehicle range 90 to 120 miles
- Top Speed 80 mph (electronically limited)
- Charge Time 6 hours from 220V (30AMP) 2
- Occupancy 5 passenger
- Limited Vehicle Warranty 3 years / 36,000 miles
- Limited Battery Warranty 8 years / 100,000 miles
- Battery Chemistry Lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4)
- Battery Configuration 728 cells (104s7p)
- Battery Energy 33.8 kWh
- Nominal Battery Voltage 333V
- Motor Power 100 kW/134 hp
- Motor Torque 300 Nm /221 lb-ft
- Single gear transmission
- Drive Ratio 6.54:1
- DC:DC Converter 2.2 kW @ 13V output
- Charger 6.6 kW / 240VAC input or 1.3 kW / 110 VAC input (back-up charging)
- Air Conditioning 2.0 kW cabin cooling
- Steering Four-wheel independent with front and rear MacPherson struts
- Wheels 17-inch 5-spoke wheels with 205/45/RF17 tires
- Rack-and-pinion with electric power steering
- Turning Radius 17.5 ft (curb)/18.6 ft (wall)
- Wheelbase 102.3 inches
- Headroom (front/rear) 38.7/36.6 inches
- Shoulder Room (front/rear) 53.0/52.0 inches
- Legroom (front/rear) 42.3/31.7 inches
- Overall Length 176.1 inches
- Trunk Space 20 cubic ft
- Overall Width 68.5 inches
- Passenger space 82 cubic ft
- Overall Height 57.6 inches
- Curb Weight 3,682 lbs
- Entertainment Standard features = satellite-ready AM/FM/XM radio with MP3, iPod,® iPhone® and USB connectivity
- 8-inch color touch-screen featuring turn-by-turn navigation with available real-time weather and traffic updates
- GreenScreenTM system that monitors driving efficiency
- Bluetooth® hands-free phone system
- vehicle security system
By John Addison (7/30/10)
I shift the 2011 Nissan LEAF into its normal drive mode, touch the accelerator and start driving down the San Jose streets. The electric car is always silent. It only has an electric motor, therefore I never hear the sound of a gasoline engine.
The 5-door, 5-seat compact hatchback has plenty of room. Sitting behind me is an electric utility executive who is 6″5″. I did not need to move the driver seat forward; his legs are not pressing against my seat. If the car had 4 people his size, it would be a 4-seater, not 5. On our both of the split back seats can be lowered to carry lots of cargo, be it luggage, work equipment, or everything for your favorite sport.
Driving the car was a no brainer. The friendly joy-stick knob gives me the choices of P (park), R (reverse), N (neutral) and D (drive). Touch ECO for the electricity saving mode.
Nissan engineers have been working hard to get all the software controls ready for market. Acceleration, steering, and braking are smooth. Having driving two early prototypes, this time the LEAF felt ready for the average driver who wants the car to respond just like a conventional gasoline powered car. The car feels ready for delivery to the 17,000 who have made $99 deposits with Nissan.
I did not get the chance to push the car to its limits, since a long line of journalists and utility executives were waiting for their turn to drive. My 2 miles of driving on flat city streets did give me the impression that this beautiful car is ready for the roads. In normal mode the LEAF has acceleration to smoothly enter a freeway. The LEAF did not accelerate as quickly as my test drive of the Chevrolet Volt.
Your Mileage May Vary
The LEAF is designed for an average range of 100 miles on a full charge (LA4 drive cycle). Carlos Tavares, Executive Vice President of Nissan Motor explained that the LEAF range estimate varies widely with type of driving. When not running air conditioning or heating, 138 mile range is expected in leisurely driving with slow acceleration and slow stopping. Drive on the highway while running the AC during summer heat, and only expect 70 miles. Blast the heat during cold winter expressway driving, and only expect 60 miles per charge. Sustain 80 miles per hour uphill, and the range is even less.
I put the LEAF in ECO mode which provides about 10 percent more electrical range. Push the accelerator to the floor and I automatically leave ECO mode. To encourage electron-efficient driving, the dash board provides encouraging driving feedback. My telematics display grew lots of trees when I drove with careful acceleration and deceleration. Ford was the first with this type of display, growing leaves on cars like the Fusion Hybrid. So in a LEAF, you grow trees.
While driving, visibility was good in the front, side mirrors, and rear view. The LEAF has two large LCD displays, one behind the steering wheel, the other central on the dashboard.
This car is high-tech. The LEAF included an advanced GPS navigation system with icons for 8 choices. For the test drive, I used the map navigation. You can control and monitor battery charging and even pre-heat/pre-cool and charging control with your smart phone. If the charge indicator warns you that your range has diminished, you can even map display the nearest charging stations.
The LEAF has Internet/smart phone connectivity to the vehicle, intelligent-key with push button start, Sirius/XM satellite radio capabilities, and roadside assistance with the vehicle wirelessly notifying a support center. The SL model which I drove includes a back-up camera.
We Will Buy the LEAF
I love the look and feel of the car. The test drive reinforced earlier impressions. In fact, we will buy one. My wife and I were one of the first to complete the online reservation for Nissan LEAF SL including our $99 refundable deposit. Living in a city, Marci only needs a 40-mile range for her speech therapy work at two schools; living two blocks from transit and car sharing, I rarely need one. For long-trips, or times when we both need a car, we will probably keep our hybrid as a back-up and for driving longer trips rather than flying.
We hope to place an order with a dealer in September. Nissan plans to start delivering the LEAF before the end of 2010, and deliver over 20,000 next year. Nissan may not catch-up with orders until 2012. Initial production is in Japan. In 2012, Nissan’s Smyrna, Tennessee, plant begins with an eventual capacity of making 150,000 LEAFs per year.
Initial deliveries will be in five states: Oregon, California, Washington, Tennessee, and Arizona. An on-board fast charge receptacle will be included in models delivered as part of the DOE supported program in five cities. Nissan is likely to make fast charging an extra priced option starting 2012. Nissan, like all automakers, needs SAE fast charge standards which are still being debated. My test drive model included a 50 kW DC fast charger. The car was sufficiently recharged in 20 minutes to accommodate the day’s ongoing test drives.
The LEAF is ideal for many like us who live in a city where range is rarely an issue, and where transit, car sharing, and car rental are also available. The average U.S. suburban household has two vehicles, so the EV could be ideal as one of those two.
If you are not ready to order a LEAF, next year you may get to rent one or use one in a car sharing program. Enterprise Car Rental has ordered 500 LEAFs. For many people however, the LEAF will not be the best vehicle because the range limitation will not meet their work or personal demands. These people should consider a plug-in hybrid like the Chevy Volt which was equally impressive to drive. For many people who live in multi-unit dwellings with no ability to install a garage charger, one of the Top 10 hybrid cars might be a better choice.
By John Addison (updated 11/3/11; original 5/20/10)
May 2010, I enjoyed driving the new Ford Focus Electric. I had just finished my presentation to the Western Automotive Journalists and wanted to get behind the wheel of this new electric car. The 4-door sedan felt just like driving a regular gasoline Focus 4-door sedan, except it was more quiet and accelerated faster due to the torque of the electric motor. Although it was just a prototype, and Ford assured me that it would get better as the software controls are tuned, it felt more ready to go than my previous prototype test drive last October.
The handling was smooth while driving the Focus Electric. Unlike some electric car prototypes, when I hit the brakes, it stopped evenly and quickly. The coordination between regeneration and disc braking was effective. It’s not surprising that Ford is this far along. For several years, fleets have been driving the Ford Focus with an electric drive system and a hydrogen fuel cell to extend the electric range. The Ford Focus Electric will compete with the Nissan LEAF and others makers of electric cars and plug-in hybrids – Top 10 Electric Car Makers. Nissan will deliver 50,000 Nissan LEAFs before Ford starts delivering its electric Focus.
The 2012 Ford Focus Electric can now be ordered starting at $39,200. Since Ford is only planning on limited production in 2012, they can afford to price this electric car at $4,000 than the popular 2012 Nissan Leaf. The Focus Electric is fully $10,000 more than the smaller city electric Mitsubishi i.
Both the Focus Electric and Nissan LEAF are beautiful 5-door hatchbacks with passenger room and cargo flexibility that stretches their compact classification. Both have effective displays to select favorite music, navigate with dynamic maps to your preferred destination or nearest public charger. The LEAF display includes a back-up camera.
The Ford Focus Electric can be Level 2 charged at twice the speed of the 2012 Nissan LEAF. Although this will rarely matter when charging at home, it makes a big difference when using public charging. To get home, the Focus Electric might only require an hour of waiting at Starbucks; the 2012 LEAF could take 2 hours. The 2013 Nissan LEAF will charge at the same 6.6kw/h as the 2012 Ford Focus Electric. The LEAF, at no added cost, does included a second DC Fast Charge port for an 80 percent charge in about 26 minutes; although few such fast charge stations are currently available in the United States. Both can also be trickle charged from a normal dedicated 110 volt garage outlet.
Both cars qualify for the $7,500 federal tax credit and strong incentives in many states. Nissan has a head start with individuals, but Ford is likely to take the lead with its long time fleet buyers. Fleets own over 14 million vehicles in the U.S.
The electric car is ideal for many who live in a city where range is rarely an issue, and where transit, car sharing, and car rental are also available. The average U.S. suburban household has two vehicles, so the electric car could be ideal as one of those two. For many people, this will not be the best vehicle because the range limitation will not meet their work or personal demands. These people should consider a plug-in hybrid or car with great mileage.
Electric Drive System
The Ford Focus Electric that I drove had a Magna drive system and a 23 kWh Ford designed battery pack using LG Chem Compact Power lithium-ion tri-metal cells with over 17 kWh available in the charge-discharge cycle. Ford is likely to match Nissan’s 100 mile range per electric charge. The battery currently weighs 500 pounds. Ford has a roadmap that envisions the battery eventually being reduced to a size of the current Focus gas tank and a weight of only 125 pounds using new battery chemistry.
Although some express concern about the long-term availability of lithium, Ford’s Nancy Gioia, Director, Sustainable Mobility Technologies and Hybrid Vehicle Programs, said that Ford’s analysis is that there will be no shortage through 2050. Battery makers expect to recycle 98 percent of the lithium in batteries.
Made in the USA
The Focus Electric will be made in America – Warren, Michigan. Ford is investing $550 million to transform its Michigan Assembly Plant into a lean, green and flexible manufacturing complex that will build Ford’s next-generation Focus global small car along with a new battery-electric version of the Focus for the North American market. The Focus EV is part of the new Focus family available in the United States late 2010.
“The new Ford Focus is a clear demonstration that our ONE Ford strategy is providing global consumers with great products that harness the best of Ford Motor Company,” said Alan Mulally, Ford’s president and CEO. “The efficiencies generated by our new global C-car platform will enable us to provide Ford Focus customers with an affordable product offering quality, fuel efficiency, safety and technology beyond their expectations.” Ford is planning on a Global C platform for 12 to 14 different vehicles with a volume of 2 million units per year. Such volume, common chassis and many common components, can give Ford improved profit margins and room to price hybrid and electric cars competitively.
(March 30, 2010)
Sale, Lease and Reservation Details for the Nissan EV
Nissan announced U.S. pricing for the 2011 Nissan LEAF electric car, which becomes available for purchase or lease at Nissan dealers in select markets in December and nationwide in 2011. Nissan will begin taking consumer reservations for the Nissan LEAF April 20, months ahead of other electric cars in this price range.
Including the $7,500 federal tax credit for which the Nissan LEAF will be fully eligible, the consumer’s after-tax net value of the vehicle will be $25,280. The Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for the 2011 all-electric, zero-emission Nissan LEAF is $32,780, which includes three years of roadside assistance. Additionally, there is an array of state and local incentives that may further defray the costs and increase the benefits of owning and charging a Nissan LEAF – such as a $5,000 statewide tax rebate in California; a $5,000 tax credit in Georgia; a $1,500 tax credit in Oregon; and carpool-lane access in some states, including California.
As a result of aggressive pricing and the availability of the $7,500 federal tax credit whose benefit is immediately included, Nissan will be able to offer a monthly lease payment beginning at $349, not including state or local incentives, which could further reduce the net cost of the Nissan LEAF.
The vehicle at the standard SV trim level is well-equipped with a variety of standard features, including an advanced navigation system and Internet/smart phone connectivity to the vehicle, including pre-heat/pre-cool and charging control. Nissan LEAF is equipped with energy-efficient LED headlights and makes extensive use of recycled and recyclable materials, such as seat fabric, instrument panel materials, and front- and rear-bumper fascias. Other standard amenities include Bluetooth connectivity; Intelligent-key with push button start; Sirius/XM satellite radio capabilities and roadside assistance. Safety features include vehicle dynamic control (stability control), traction control and six airbags. The SL trim level, available for an additional $940 (MSRP), adds features including rearview monitor, solar panel spoiler, fog lights, and automatic headlights.
Reservations on April 20
In order to ensure a one-stop-shop customer experience, Nissan is carefully managing the purchase process from the first step, when consumers sign up on NissanUSA.com, until the customer takes the Nissan LEAF home and plugs it into a personal charging dock.
■Nissan begins accepting reservations on April 20 first from people who have signed up on NissanUSA.com, and, after a brief introductory period, to all interested consumers.
■Consumers will be required to pay a $99 reservation fee, which is fully refundable.
■Reserving a Nissan LEAF ensures consumers a place in line when Nissan begins taking firm orders in August, as well as access to special, upcoming Nissan LEAF events.
■Rollout to select markets begins in December, with nationwide availability in 2011.
In tandem with the purchase process, Nissan will offer personal charging docks, which operate on a 220-volt supply, as well as their installation. Nissan is providing these home-charging stations, which will be built and installed by AeroVironment, as part of a one-stop-shop process that includes a home assessment.
■The average cost for the charging dock plus installation will be $2,200.
■Charging dock and installation are eligible for a 50 percent federal tax credit up to $2,000.
■Using current national electricity averages, Nissan LEAF will cost less than $3 to “fill up.”
■Nissan LEAF also will be the sole vehicle available as part of The EV Project, which is led by EV infrastructure provider eTec, a division of ECOtality, and will provide free home-charging stations and installation for up to 4,700 Nissan LEAF owners in those markets.
This major announcement gives Nissan a lead over Toyota, General Motors, Ford and others that will also be offering electric cars. Top 10 Electric Car Makers 2011 U.S. Offerings
By John Addison (3/5/10)
Ford Takes Hybrid Customers from Toyota, Plans Plug-in Leapfrog
Ford outsold Toyota in February in the United States. Ford’s monthly sales of 140,319 vehicles were up 43 percent over February 2009, while Toyota sales dropped 9 percent to 100,027 vehicles. Part of Ford’s success is that its hybrids are taking on Toyota’s. Next year, Ford will try to leapfrog Toyota with electric cars.
Ford’s growing success comes at a time when Toyota is recalling millions of vehicles, and suspending sales of key models, due to accelerator pedal problems. More customers now feel safer in a Ford, Mercury, or Lincoln than in a Toyota or Lexus.
“The good news is we have even more new products and fuel-efficient powertrains coming this year, and we expect our progress to continue,” said Ken Czubay, Ford vice president, U.S. Marketing Sales and Service. In January and February, Ford sold 28,638 Fusions, closing in on Toyota’s Camry with 32,344 in U.S. sales; in light-trucks, Ford dominates with the F Series selling 60,525, and the Escape selling 25,909. With renewed interest in fuel economy, the Fusion Hybrid and Escape Hybrid are a growing part of Ford’s success.
Toyota commands four of the top 10 positions of Clean Fleet’s 2010 Hybrids with Best Mileage. Toyota’s four are the Toyota Prius, Lexus HS 250h, Toyota Camry Hybrid, and Lexus RX450h. Ford commands two slots with the Ford Fusion Hybrid and the Ford Escape Hybrid.
Hybrid SUVs are part of the battle. With better SUV fuel economy, the Ford Escape Hybrid is taking market share from the larger Toyota Highlander Hybrid and the pricey Lexus RX450h. In 2012, Toyota will try deliver the best hybrid mileage with a new RAV4 Hybrid. Ford, however, keeps improving the Escape’s MPG and has added hybrids planned.
Toyota will fight hard to remain the hybrid leader. Its plans include a sexy CR-Z sports car hybrid, a hybrid minivan, and lower cost sedan offerings such as a hybrid Yaris and/or Auris.
Toyota is putting 500 Prius Plug-in Hybrids into test. When I last saw the Plug-in it looked almost identical to the best selling hybrid Prius. The Plug-in will only have a 14 mile electric range before the engine is engaged. Ford’s 2012 plug-in offering is likely to have a 40 mile range, but at the expense of needing at least double the lithium battery capacity of the Prius Plug-in. We could see a price versus electric-range battle, with both companies doing well.
So far, electricity is proving to be a safer fuel than gasoline. The industry does fear a lithium thermal runaway making the evening news. Toyota has been ambivalent about switching to lithium batteries. A renewed caution at Toyota, delay its plug-in offerings, thereby creating an opportunity for Ford, GM, and others.
Ford is rolling out a family of plug-in offerings. I have been impressed with my test drives of the Ford Focus EV and Ford Transit Connect Electric. By next year, you can order either of these battery-electric vehicles.
Ford’s strategic direction is to offer families of cars where the customer can select the preferred drive train including a performance gasoline-engine, Ecoboost fuel saving engine, hybrid, plug-in hybrid, or pure battery electric. Clean Fleet Report forecasts that in 2012, Ford will offer a new Ford Focus with all of these options. The Fusion many not be far behind. The global family approach has the compelling potential of expanded customer choice and improved profit margins.
Toyota Hits the Breaks
After repairing over one million vehicles, on March 4 Toyota received another setback when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) notified Toyota that some owners have reported unintended acceleration after receiving the accelerator pedal recall remedies.
Toyota’s accelerator pedal recall and suspension of sales is confined to the following Toyota Division vehicles:
• Certain 2009-2010 RAV4,
• Certain 2009-2010 Corolla,
• 2009-2010 Matrix,
• 2005-2010 Avalon,
• Certain 2007-2010 Camry,
• Certain 2010 Highlander,
• 2007-2010 Tundra,
• 2008-2010 Sequoia
Which models are involved in the floor mat pedal entrapment recall?
2007 – 2010 Camry
2005 – 2010 Avalon
2004 – 2009 Prius
2005 – 2010 Tacoma
2007 – 2010 Tundra
2008 – 2010 Highlander
2009 – 2010 Corolla
2009 – 2010 Venza
2009 – 2010 Matrix
2006 – 2010 IS 250
2006 – 2010 IS 350
2007 – 2010 ES 350
Toyota is just getting started with repairs to recalled vehicles. With only one million repaired, over six million await work. Details at Toyota FAQ
Ford Chases GM’s Market Share Leadership
Not only did Ford pass Toyota in February, Ford almost passed GM to take #1 market share leadership. Ford sold 140,319 vehicles to GM’s 141,551. Ford wants the number one position ahead of GM, Toyota, Honda, Chrysler, Nissan, and all the others. Impressive is that Ford has been able to grow without the $70 billion bailout that went to GM and Chrysler.
Hybrids and electric cars will be a growing part of the battle for market share. Nissan will be the first to deliver 10,000 electric cars with the Leaf, but Nissan has been weak in offering hybrids. GM plans to be the plug-in leader with the Chevy Volt, followed by the Cadillac Converj, but GM has been weak in offering hybrids with real fuel savings.
In the short-term the battle will be fought with price promotions, quality, and safety. In the long-term the battle will also be fought with fuel economy, electric drives, and lifetime operating cost for the customers.