Over the past few days, a debate has unfolded between the start-up electric vehicle company, Telsa, and the New York Times on the subject of a test drive that ended with the car running out of juice. Telsa has released data logs that undercut the reporter’s account, the newspaper is standing by the story, and a group of Tesla owners is hitting the road to prove the Times wrong. Putting the unfortunate dispute aside, there’s a few lessons to be learned. As with any new technology, there’s a learning curve, but the fact is drivers of all-electric cars quickly become accustomed to their vehicle’s limitations and strengths, and are amongst the most satisfied owners on the road.
Firstly, it’s worth noting that the majority of plug-in cars today are plug-in hybrids, whose drivers have no range limitations at all. If you want one car to do it all, a plug-in hybrid like the Chevy Volt, Toyota Plug-in Prius, Honda Accord Plug-in, Ford Fusion Energi, or Ford C-Max Energi, is a great option. For your daily driving needs, you can drive on electricity, a cleaner fuel, at a price that’s equivalent to driving on buck-a-gallon gasoline, and after you’ve gone beyond the all-electric range, the car operates as an efficient gasoline hybrid.
Most all-electrics, such as the Nissan Leaf, Ford Focus EV, Mitsubishi-i, BMW Active-E, Fiat 500 EV, Coda, Chevy Spark EV, or Honda Fit EV, have ranges between 60 and 100 miles. Most households in America have multiple vehicles. An all-electric is perfect for the daily commuter, providing significant savings relative to gasoline and the convenience of refueling at home. When it comes time to go to Grandma’s on the weekend, you can always take the other car.
The Tesla Model S offers range, luxury and performance without gasoline
The all-electric Telsa Model S, Motortrend Car of the Year, comes in packages that offer EPA certified ranges between 208 and 265 miles. Regardless of your view on the dispute between the New York Times and Tesla, it’s clear the reporter behind the wheel was not accustomed to the vehicle’s technology. There’s an important difference between taking a car on a test drive and taking one home.
Researchers from UC Davis found that drivers who leased an all-electric version of the Mini Cooper for a year quickly progressed through a discovery phase, in which they became accustomed to the car’s range, rapid acceleration, sporty handling, and regenerative braking that allows for “one-pedal” driving. After living with the cars, every participant in the study reported that electric vehicles are suitable for daily use.
Those findings jive with similar research done on the other side of the pond. After three months, 95% of drivers participating in a field trial in the UK found that all-electric cars were just as easy to use as gasoline cars. Likewise, during the course of those three months, drivers became much more confident exploring the limits of the car’s range.
Beyond academia, there’s clear evidence that those who buy electric cars are happy with their decisions. The all-electric Nissan Leaf and plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt rank at the top of Consumer Report’s Owner Satisfaction Survey, with the Volt taking first prize for the last two years.
My parents just bought their first smart phones. I’ve had to act as tech support a few times as they explore a device that can do almost anything, but they’re learning quickly and they didn’t grasp for rotary phones the first time something went wrong. They love the things and can’t imagine how they ever lived without them. Ask an electric car owner, and you’ll get a similar story. In fact, if you go to drivingelectric.org, you can ask an owner near you any question you’d like and even take a spin in a plug-in.
Auto shows always present a confusing story to the general public because the messages being transmitted through the media are intended for a variety of audiences – everyone from those interested in cheap, basic transportation to the enthusiast looking for the hottest, most-up-to-date muscle machine to the high-roller with money to burn on something exotic. At Clean Fleet Report, we know our job is to sort through those disparate messages and deliver to you the ones focused on the cars that deliver the best fuel economy and the most advanced technology designed to enhance MPG.
The North American International Auto Show (NAIAS, aka the Detroit Auto Show) is the premier auto show on this continent, beginning the year by entertaining thousands of journalists from all over the world and showcasing more than 50 of the latest vehicles from American and foreign automakers. This year’s show is predicted to push the envelope with a record-breaking number of new high-MPG vehicles. Here are some of the expected highlights:
Cadillac ELR plug-in
Cadillac will unveil General Motors second model based on Volt technology, the ELR. It promises to be a coupe (compared the Volt’s four-door sedan configuration but technically should be very similar with 40 miles of EV-only range and a small gas range-extender engine that will allow it to travel about 300 miles on one tank of fuel.
Toyota has already teased its Furia concept, which is seen as a preview of the new Corolla model. No details, but the current model delivers mid-30s MPG so expect the new version to top 40 MPG if it is to remain competitive in the compact segment. Toyota could add a hybrid model to continue the proliferation of its Hybrid Synergy Drive.
Acura’s NSX Hybrid
Acura is expected to introduce the production version of the new NSX mid-engine sports car. In concept versions it had a V-6 engine augmented by an electric motor. The combination in a lightweight mid-engine all-wheel-drive car will likely produce not only excellent performance but good fuel economy for this class of vehicle.
VIA Motors will show three full-size plug-in vehicles. Expanding on their current range-extended pickup models, they will show a 4WD pickup, 4WD SUV and a 12-passenger van aimed at ride-sharing and shuttle operations. The typical VIA setup combines a gasoline V-6 engine with a series hybrid electric drivetrain (similar to the Chevy Volt setup) and give 40 miles of EV range along with an extended range of up to 300 miles with average fuel economy of more than 100 MPG.
VIA Motors Plug-in SUV
Mercedes-Benz will present a redone version of its best-seller, the E-Class, introducing a hybrid version (the E400) to join its gas and BlueTEC diesel models, both delivering highway fuel economy in the low 30s. Both models will feature 7-speed automatic transmissions and options 4Matic all-wheel-drive.
BMW will introduce several concept and production models and continue its focus on “Efficient Dynamics” that includes electric drive, its “ActiveHybrids” and new high-mileage diesels. The company will have its eDrive electric models on display at the show, including the i3 that will go on sale this year (2013).
Jeep is planning to showcase its new diesel engine in the Grand Cherokee. The V-6 VM Motori engine should deliver fuel economy close to 30 MPG in the 4WD SUV.
Volkswagen is expected to present a new Passat-based 7-seat all-wheel-drive SUV that will fit in size between the current Tiguan and Touareg. It’s expected to have both advanced gasoline and diesel engines that should put it near or at the top in fuel efficiency for that class of vehicle.
Tesla, Nissan, Hyundai, Honda, Kia, Ford and others all have press conferences scheduled so it is likely there will be even more EV, plug-in, hybrid, advanced gasoline and clean diesel announcements of high mileage vehicles at the show. Clean Fleet Report will bring all of the highlights as they happen.
In addition to individual model introductions, the Detroit Auto Show also will be the site of the announcement of the North American Car and Truck of the Year winners. As one juror said, have one thing in common–efficiency. The three car finalists are the Cadillac ATS compact luxury sedan; Ford Fusion (which won the Green Car of the Year award in Los Angeles in November), which comes in gas, hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions; and the Honda Accord, which also comes in gas, hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions. The truck competitors are the Ford C-Max, which is available as a hybrid or plug-in hybrid; the Mazda CX-5 SUV with its fuel-efficient Skyactiv technology; and the Ram 1500, which boasts 25 MPG from its standard V-6 engine mated to an 8-speed transmission.
Posted Jan. 2, 2013
Ford Motor Company made a clean sweep by capturing both the North American Car of the Year and North American Truck of the Year awards for the 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid and 2010 Ford Transit Connect, respectively, at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS). It is only the third time in 17 years that one manufacturer has won both titles. The awards demonstrate Ford’s leadership in hybrid cars and in fuel economy.
The North American Car and Truck of the Year awards recognize vehicles based on factors including innovation, design, safety, handling, driver satisfaction and value for the dollar. A jury of 49 automotive journalists in the United States and Canada vote for the vehicles.
The Fusion Hybrid edged out finalists including the Buick LaCrosse and Volkswagen Golf/GTI to win the North American Car of the Year award. The Fusion Hybrid is also winner of MOTOR TREND Car of the Year. The Fusion Hybrid is #4 on Clean Fleet Report’s Top 10 Hybrids for 2010.
The Transit Connect bested finalists including the Chevrolet Equinox and Subaru Outback to win the North American Truck of the Year award. It also is the second year in a row that Ford has captured the title. Last year, top honors went to the 2009 Ford F-150.
Ford Fusion Hybrid Delivers 39 MPG
The Fusion Hybrid is appealing to those who want a made in America midsized sedan. This roomy 5-seater delivers 39 mpg and 4.7 tons of CO2e per year. The Fusion Hybrid and its first cousin the Mercury Milan Hybrid may travel up to 47 miles per hour in pure electric mode. The Advanced Intake Variable Cam Timing allows for more seamlessly transition between gas and electric modes, making for a smooth and quiet ride.
The Fusion Hybrid also offers drivers a way to be more connected to the hybrid driving experience thanks to Ford’s SmartGauge™ with EcoGuide, a unique instrument cluster execution that helps coach them on how to optimize the performance of their hybrid. The Fusion Hybrid includes Blind Spot Information System (BLIS®), Ford SYNC®, SIRIUS Travel Link™ and more total passenger and luggage capacity than the Toyota Camry.
Despite the slump in overall industry sales, 2009 was a record-breaking year for the Ford Fusion. Sales are at an all-time high, with the Fusion Hybrid accounting for almost 20 percent of total Fusion retail sales. Perhaps even more significant, more than 60 percent of Fusion Hybrid sales have been to customers coming from import brands – mostly Toyota and Honda.
Transit Connect Saves Small Business Money
The Transit Connect was brought to the U.S. to fulfill the unmet needs of small business owners and entrepreneurs, offering them a new vehicle choice with significantly improved fuel economy, generous and accessible cargo space, and the agility and maneuverability to operate in crowded urban areas.
Powered by a 2.0-liter I-4 engine with a four-speed automatic overdrive transmission, the Transit Connect offers double the fuel economy of full-size vans, delivering an EPA-estimated 22 mpg city and 25 mpg highway.
The Transit Connect also has more than double the cargo-carrying capacity of the Chevrolet HHR Panel, making it suitable for a broader range of commercial-use applications. And it offers commercial users a cargo payload of up to 1,600 pounds.
The Transit Connect also is available with the industry-exclusive Ford Work Solutions™, a suite of affordable technologies that provides customers with connectivity, flexibility, visibility and security to better run key aspects of their business. On Transit Connect, Ford Work Solutions delivers three innovative features:
•A wireless in-dash computer that provides full high-speed Internet access, Bluetooth-enabled hands-free calling and navigation. The system also allows customers to print invoices, check inventories and access documents stored on their home or office computer networks right on the job site.
•Tool Link™, a Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) asset tracking system that enables customers to maintain detailed real-time inventory of the tools or equipment.
•Crew Chief™, a fleet tracking, telematics and diagnostics system that provides dynamic location and performance data fleet owners need to more efficiently manage their vehicles, quickly dispatch workers to job sites, monitor driver performance for safety and economy, and keep detailed vehicle maintenance records.
Ford is the first major automaker to offer a pure electric with the 2010 Transit Connect battery-electric commercial vehicle. Businesses and governments can deliver and haul goods all day long without ever needing a drop of gasoline.