News: Second Generation Nissan Leaf Introduced

News: Second Generation Nissan Leaf Introduced

More Dynamic Design, More Range & Tech, Cheaper Price

The 2018 Nissan Leaf was unveiled to the world today and it marks a strong competitive move in a market full of new rivals. Context is everything. Leaf 2.0 launches in a world with two key competitors that have shaped Nissan’s flagship eco-car. The Chevrolet Bolt has been on the market since December. While not tearing it up in sales, it has sold steadily (and outsold the Leaf) this year and this month is available across the U.S. Last month the first of Tesla’s Model 3 rolled off the line, posing another mid-market challenge (and that model has almost a half-million reservations).

2018 Nissan Leaf

Nissan’s new Leaf takes a sport sedan stance

Those two models frame the new Leaf’s announcement. The Bolt’s appeal is an affordable mid-$30,000 price tag with an abundance of advanced technology. The Model 3 has more cache and more of a luxury and performance appeal. Both boast 200+ mile ranges in entry-level models.

The 2018 Nissan Leaf undercuts the price of both the Bolt and Model 3, sacrificing the extended range of both of those models, but strives for an image aligned on one hand with performance and the other with technology. Looking more like a performance sedan than the upright, pragmatic design of the original Leaf, the 2018 model will start at $29,990, below the price of the 2017 Leaf.

Although the Leaf model introduced in Japan touted a 400 kilometer (250-mile range), the U.S. model only claims 150 miles. That’s still twice the range of the 2010 Leaf. The new model will have Nissan’s ProPilot autonomous technology, which will allow for hands-free freeway driving. Also added is ProPilot Park, a parking-assist app and an e-Pedal, which allows for one pedal driving (you don’t have to use the brake as lifting on the accelerator dramatically slows the vehicle. While not unique to the Leaf, having all these features on a sub-$30,000 EV is a great move forward.

The 2018 Leaf goes on sale in early 2018 calendar year in all 50 states. It will carry an enhanced powertrain compared to the previous model, improving energy efficiency and delivering more torque and power. The announced numbers for the new car are 147 horsepower (110 kW, up 38 percent from the previous generation) and 236 pounds-feet of torque (up 26 percent).

The Heart of the New EV

The heart of the car is its new battery 40 kWh design. While delivering extended range, the laminated lithium-ion cells’ packaging remains the same as the first generation battery, but has a 67 percent increase in energy density.

2018 Nissan leaf

The rear hatch offers function and styling

Nissan is also teasing a “high-performance” version of the Leaf for next year.

The 2018 Nissan Leaf’s exterior design takes it out of the realm of the quirky and makes it closer to a mainstream sedan. The front end adopts the corporate Nissan look while overall the shape is closer to a sport sedan. The new model now has a Cd (coefficient of drag) of .028.  It retains the functional hatchback and appears to have similar interior dimensions to its predecessor, though with an interior with more luxury aspirations.

When the Leaf become the first mainstream EV on the market in 2010, the automotive world was quite different. As the model moved through the years to become the best-selling plug-in car in the world (almost 300,000 sold), times have changed. We can’t wait to get behind the wheel to get a better feel for this second generation EV.

Here are some stats to compare with those offered by Tesla for its Model 3.

Vehicle Dimensions

Wheelbase: 106.3 inches (compared to Model 3’s 113)

Overall Length: 176.4 (185)

Overall Width: 70.5 (73)

Overall Height: 61.4 (57)

Storage Space: 23.6 cubic feet (15)

News: Report Says Buick Will Get EV Crossover Based on the Bolt EV

News: Report Says Buick Will Get EV Crossover Based on the Bolt EV

GM Set to Expand EV Lineup

Even though General Motors technically won the race to release an affordable electric vehicle with over 200 miles of range, their golden child–the Chevrolet Bolt EV–has not sold quite as well as GM had hoped. Maybe it is still a little early to tell for sure, but it seems that GM is wasting no time in giving its buyers more options.

According to a recent report from InsideEVs, an all-electric Buick crossover based on the Bolt EV may be on its way. The report is based on information obtained from a “very trusted/known source” who attended a focus group in California.

Buick EV

Buick EV

According to the source, the future Buick EV will be essentially just a body and badge swap, with a few caveats. Most importantly, the Buick EV will share the same 60 kWh battery and motor as the Bolt which means it will be front-drive only.

With the interior of the car, it seems that GM is really trying to separate this vehicle from the Bolt as it will feature a floating roof and entirely new center console with larger touchscreen display. The Buick EV is also said to have about three inches more rear legroom.

Buick Encore-like

From the outside, the body of the future Buick EV was described by the source as “next generation Buick Encore-like.”

Buick Velite 5 Extended-Range Electric Vehicle

One Chevrolet (the Volt) has already become a Buick in China (the Velite 5)

Buick Velite 5 Extended-Range Electric Vehicle

One Chevrolet (the Volt) has already become a Buick in China (the Velite 5)

While it is common knowledge that GM plans to build a variety of vehicles based off the Bolt EV platform, this report is the first to suggest that the first Bolt EV sibling will be a Buick. This is not surprising, as any attempt to compete with the Tesla Model 3 (the other “affordable” EV that is just starting production—the quotes indicating that so far that means a $44,000 model) must fall further into the luxury category than the Bolt EV.

If Buick does release an EV crossover, look for it to cost around $3,000 more than the Chevrolet Bolt, and to hit the U.S. and Chinese markets first. The Chevy Volt had already been translated into the Buick Velite 5 for the Chinese market.

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News: First Tesla Model 3 Deliveries

News: Chevrolet Bolt EV Will be Available Nationwide

News: First Tesla Model 3 Deliveries

News: First Tesla Model 3 Deliveries

Real Customer Deliveries Start in Late October

Say what you will, Elon Musk and his team at Tesla know how to manage excitement and entertainment. Friday night, July 29, at 9 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time, Musk and a variety of Tesla folks spent 36 minutes hyping Tesla and, finally, showing off 30 new Tesla Model 3s being charged for their waiting new owners (all Tesla employees). During the show more details of the Model 3’s two trim levels were revealed along with future iterations. You can rewatch the whole thing here

In spite of the promise of an affordable, $35,000 compact electric car, the initial Model 3s produced will all be the high-end model (dubbed the Long Range because of its larger battery). It has a starting price of $44,000 (options such as any color other than black—just like with the Model S and Model X—or a power driver’s seat or leather) and could reach almost $60,000 with all the option boxes checked.

Model 3 Specs

During what Tesla called the Handover Party the two flavors of the new Model S gained some details. The base $35,000 car is called the Standard. It will have:

  • 220-mile range
  • 0-60 in 5.6 seconds
  • 130 mph top speed
  • Single motor on rear wheels
  • Charging capability of adding 30 miles of range an hour on 32-amp 240-volt chargers
  • 130 miles of range at Tesla Superchargers in 30 minutes (charge for use)
  • 15-inch touchscreen
  • Dual-zone climate control
  • Hybrid steel/aluminum body
  • Tesla Model 3

    Colors cost extra at Tesla

    Double wishbone, virtual steer axis front suspension with coil over twin-tube shock absorbers and stabilizer bar

  • Independent multi-link rear suspension with twin-tube shock absorbers and stabilizer bar
  • Variable ratio, speed sensitive electronic power steering
  • Electromechanically boosted four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes with electronic brake force distribution
  • Eight airbags
  • Wi-Fi/LTE
  • Standard 18-inch wheels
  • All this in a package that is 185 inches long, 73 inches wide and 57 inches high.
  • Wheelbase is 113 inches
  • 15 cubic feet of trunk space

The $44,000 Long Range model adds this:

  • 330-mile range
  • 0-60 in 5.1 seconds
  • Top speed of 140 mph
  • Charging capability of adding 37 miles of range an hour on 40-amp 240-volt chargers
  • 170 miles of range at Tesla Supercharger in 30 minutes (charge for use)

Option costs beyond the $9,000 for the upgraded battery pack are:

Tesla Model 3

The early production Model 3s will be high-end versions

  • Paint: $1,000 for any color other than black
  • Wheels: $1,500 for 19-inch wheels
  • Interior upgrades: $5,000 (premium materials, power seats in front, premium audio+more)
  • Enhanced Autopilot: $5,000 (adaptive cruise control, lane keeping, automatically change lanes, transition from one freeway to another, exit the freeway and self-park at your destination)
  • Full Self-Driving Capability: $3,000 (an add-on to Enhanced Autopilot due

More Details Coming Later

We expect more details, such as the battery pack size, will be released prior to the late October start of deliveries to customers outside Tesla. Musk said 50 initial models had been built with 20 going to engineers for validation. I guess that would mean the 20 delivered to supposed paying Tesla employees are not fully validated.

The timeline for the Model S, as laid out by Musk, is:

  • Late October 2017, customer deliveries
  • November 2017, start of Standard production
  • Spring 2018, all-wheel drive production to begin
  • Second half 2018, left-hand drive international deliveries to begin
  • 2019, production of right-hand drive models to begin
Tesla Model 3

Engineering validation appears to be taking place alongside early deliveries

At the “party” Musk said the company had more than a half million reservations in hand. He indicated that any new reservations could expect to have their Model 3 built and delivered in late 2018. He then added that the aggressive production ramp-up planned for this car (Musk has targeted a 5,000-unit/week goal for the end of the year) will lead to “at least six months, maybe longer” of “production hell.” He pledged to ramp up production “as fast as we can,” but noted that it is a complex machine with 10,000 unique parts sourced from all over the world (one-third from outside the U.S.). The other linchpin of the ramp-up is the parallel ramp-up of production at the company’s Gigafactory outside Reno, Nevada, that is to produce the batteries and electric drivetrains for the car. Anticipating the cars getting on the road, Musk also pledged that the company would be tripling the number of outlets in its Supercharger network by the end of 2018.

Musk also added a brief sales pitch for the current Tesla models—S and X—saying the could be custom ordered and delivered in one-to-two months (the company’s website said some could be delivered in seven days). Purchases of Models S and X “make the Model 3 possible,” he noted.

In the electric car world, the Model 3 era has begun, even though it won’t begin in earnest for several months. Clean Fleet Report will continue to report on the model’s progress (or lack thereof) as things progress. In the meantime, the Chevrolet Bolt EV (with models starting at $37,495 and a 238-mile range) will be available nationwide starting next month (August 2017). More models from other automakers are around the corner. The EV world may never be the same.

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News: Chevrolet Bolt EV—Your Price May Vary

News: Chevrolet Bolt EV: Your Price May Vary

News: Chevrolet Bolt EV: Your Price May Vary

Bolt Prices Are All Over the Map

With an all-electric range of 238 miles and a price tag right around $35,000, the new Chevrolet Bolt EV shouldn’t have any competition in its price range; surprisingly its biggest competitor is itself.

Just seven states into Chevrolet’s incremental rollout of the new Bolt, some dealerships, especially those in California, are already marking down prices in order to move their product, according to the trade publication Automotive News.

2017 Chevrolet bolt

Some, like Clean Fleet Report‘s Steve Schaefer, found their Bolt deal

As a quick reminder for those of you that may not know, almost all auto dealerships are independently owned and operated. This creates competition between nearby dealerships as they work to keep their sales numbers up.

This competition greatly contributes to the varying prices of the Bolt at different dealerships in the seven states currently selling it. One San Francisco Bay Area dealership, for example, was advertising an equally equipped Bolt for $5,198 less than another dealership only 40 miles away.

Add the $7,500 federal tax incentive a

nd $2,500 California rebate that the Bolt qualifies for (which may or may not be available depending on state funding priorities), and buyers could effectively pay less than $25,000 for the base model; well below the $30,000 number General Motors was said to be looking for as the car’s target price. GM is not offering any incentives to consumers or dealers on the new car, other than discounted financing.

Sales Prices Are Rising

According to TrueCar, the average amount consumers paid below sticker price grew from $1,400 in January (a 3.4 percent discount from MSRP) to $2,200 in February (a 5.3 percent discount).

In some areas, however, dealerships are doing the opposite and marking up prices of the Bolt to as much as $5,000 above sticker price. Most of these dealerships are in rural areas and have less competition from other dealerships.

These price mark-ups could also be the result of a new market product meeting old market sales strategy. This is why Tesla Motors has, controversially, refused to franchise its dealerships and sells its product directly to the customer, albeit in limited retail outlets.

“Existing franchise dealers have a fundamental conflict of interest between selling gasoline cars, which constitute the vast majority of their

2017 Chevrolet Bolt LT

The 2017 Chevrolet Bolt is making its mark in the market

business, and selling the new technology of electric cars,” Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors, wrote in a 2012 blog post explaining his company’s retail model. “It is impossible for them to explain the advantages of going electric without simultaneously undermining their traditional business.”

The contrast here is that General Motors. For all of its efforts through bankruptcy and downsizing, it remains with more dealers than needed in many markets. So, rather than competing with other makes, they often find themselves battling with each other over discounts on the same vehicles.

The bottom line is that as hot as the Chevy Bolt is (leapfrogging into the top eschalon of EV sales), there are deals to be had.

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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.

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Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class. 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.