Tesla Draws High-End Electric Car Competition
Tesla Model S Leads the Luxury EV Market
Early on, in spite of the high volume of positive press and spectacular performance claims, the Tesla Model S was largely ignored by mainstream auto makers. the world’s first mass production luxury electric car was a sensation in Silicon Valley, where it was conceived, but the “big boys” in the business were unconvinced that this start-up posed any threat in the market – or would even survive. After all, its business proposition was that it would produce only electric vehicles, starting with a limited production sportscar and following with a large rear-drive sedan.
Nevertheless, two automakers hedged their bets and took a small position in Tesla in order to gain access to its technology. Those two companies, Daimler and Toyota, have since incorporated Tesla technology into their production electric cars, using it to leapfrog internal development in order to get their electric cars on the market sooner than they would otherwise.
Fast forward a couple years and the situation has shifted. Tesla is now producing its cars at the rate of more than 500 per month (still small volumes compared to the major manufacturers, but respectable). The cars continue to gather accolades and are now moving into overseas sales, while Tesla plans for a SUV-style model for next year followed by a smaller, more affordable model the year after that. The major auto makers are now viewing Tesla as a genuine threat and preparing their own response.
Up to this point most of the electric cars brought to market by the major automakers have been small, relatively affordable models. In fact, discounted leases under $200 a month have been one of the tactics that have started moving the sales needle for EVs. Tesla, with its large car and rave reviews, hasn’t had to resort to any promotional marketing as it continues to fill existing and new orders for its Model S, which has a starting price of more than $70,000.
BMW & Cadillac Enter the Market
Taking notice of this well-heeled market, BMW and Cadillac have models coming on the market this coming year while Audi and Mercedes appear to have similar projects in the works based on concept cars they have shown.
BMW i8 Combines Sportscar & EV
But neither of the first two new Model S contenders are all-in on electric drive. Both the BMW i8 and Cadillac ELR are essentially plug-in hybrids with internal combustion engines to augment their electric drive capabilities.
BMW has put its imprint on the i8 with an emphasis on performance. The $135,000 coupe will accelerate with a 96 kW electric motor driving the front wheels augmented by a twin-turbo 1.5-liter three-cylinder gas engines with 170 kW (231 horsepower) at the rear wheels. As might be expected of a BMW, the car is designed to accelerate from 0-100 km/h (62 mph) in 4.4 seconds but will deliver the equivalent of 94 mpg.
Cadillac enters the fray with the ELR, a range extended coupe using the proven Chevy Volt technology, but wrapped in a higher-tech, more luxurious package. The ELR combines a 1.4-liter four-cylinder gas engine with front-wheel electric motors producing a total of 154 kW (207 horsepower) of power. The ELR will run up to 35 miles on electricity alone before the gas engine kicks in. The ELR also boasts advanced chassis tuning with features like Continuous Damping Control that adjusts damping every two milliseconds for optimal ride and handling.
Cadillac’s ELR Rides Into Model S Territory
Both BMW and Cadillac are wrapping their luxury electrics in marketing aimed at the same high-end territory that the Model S plays in. Cadillac launches with a Saks Fifth Avenue promotional model while BMW is selling its “i Collection” of sustainable lifestyle products like mobile phone solar chargers.
Mercedes & Audi Ready Models
Mercedes is preparing a potent SLS AMG Electric Drive model that was originally due on the market this year. The all-wheel-drive all-electric sports coupe carries 552 kW (751 horsepower) and is expected to deliver a 250 km range (150 miles) on a full charge. No prices have been announced, but it can be expected to be in the supercar realm based on its specifications.
Audi has show its e-tron, which the luxury arm of Volkswagen views as eventually encompassing a series of models. The first model on the market, the A3 e-tron, was just introduced at Los Angeles Auto Show. But Audi has also shown an R8-based coupe version of the e-tron that would be more along the lines of a Tesla fighter. That concept had four electric motors totaling 230 kW (309 horsepower) driving all four wheels. No production date has been announced, but the movement from BMW, Cadillac and Mercedes is likely to spur Audi into action.
If nothing else, Tesla has spurred more serious activity in the high-end of electric cars than has ever been seen. Its success has other automakers bringing new models onto
Audi e-tron Show EV Direction
the market and promises to boost attention on EVs the same way high-end sports cars highlight attention on some of their lesser companion models. At any rate, it looks like we’re in for some fun, high-performance, luxury electric cars in the near future.
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Hyundai, Honda, Toyota Lead With Zero Emission Contenders
Hyundai First Fuel Cell In The Showroom
Story & Photos (except Toyota) By Michael Coates
Electric cars running on hydrogen, creating their own electricity as they drive, are officially no longer the cars of the distant future. As Hyundai Motor America president and CEO John Frafcik said last week: “The future is much closer than you think.” Come spring, you can go to a select Southern California Hyundai dealer (one near the growing hydrogen station infrastructure), put down $2999 and drive away in a Tucson fuel cell car, a compact SUV with water as its only tailpipe emission, a 300-mile range on a tank of free (for the life of the $499/month loan) fuel, and free Concierge Service (like that offered with the Equus model). In other words, Hyundai is ushering in the hydrogen age and doing its best to make it an easy transition for the early adopters who choose to shift to zero emission driving. It made the announcement at the Los Angeles Auto Show, creating a stir among the more mundane introductions of conventional cars and trucks.
Hyundai, which has made a commitment to produce several thousand Tucson FCEVs on the same assembly line as its gas-powered cousin, is not alone as both Honda and Toyota will have their own fuel cells on sale in 2015. Both companies showed off concept cars hinting at the look of their 2015 FCEV sedans. Honda’s car, shown at the LA Auto Show a few hours before Hyundai’s announcement, was a futuristic design that will probably be tamed down for production, but clearly takes a page from its initial foray into hybrids with the 2000 Insight. Toyota’s FCEV, which was introduced at the Tokyo Auto Show, featured more conventional styling but carried the same promise as Hyundai of a consumer-friendly market approach.
Others Will Join In The Fuel Cell Parade
Of course, Mercedes, General Motors, Nissan, Ford, BMW and Volkswagen are not far behind the three leaders. All have their fuel cell cars ready to roll out (and some have done limited marketing as have Hyundai, Honda and Toyota) and are expected to hit the market prior to 2020.
The big hang up for fuel cells has been the refueling infrastructure. Unlike pure electric cars, which can rely on the ubiquity of electricity for easy, if slow, refueling, FCEVs need a network of stations to truly become a technology that can replace the internal combustion engine. Governments in Germany, Japan and Korea (and a few other spots in the world) have committed to build that infrastructure and California fell in line this year when it passed a bill to fund up to 100 stations, most of which will be located in Southern California where the cars will see their initial rollout.
Early adopters opting for the 2015 Tucson FCEV will get quite a deal. For comparison, we ran the numbers for a base gas-powered 2014 Tucson in Southern California. A 36-month lease with $2,999 down would give you $544/month payments – and you’d have to pay for your own gas and service!
Honda and Toyota didn’t have the retail details that Hyundai offered, but they made it clear that 2015 would be the introduction date of their fuel cell vehicles, which in the U.S. also will be targeted to the Southern California region with an infrastructure to support the cars.
The Hyundai Fuel Cell Deal
At the introduction, Hyundai’s Krafcik ticked off the advantages his company sees in fuel cell vehicles, compared with pure battery electrics. He also said there was plenty of room in the market for both types of zero emission vehicles, but FCEVs offered:
- Driving range of 300 miles,
- Capable of refueling in less than 10 minutes,
- Minimal reduction in daily utility compared with its gasoline counterpart,
- Minimal cold-weather effects, and
- Extensive crash, fire and leak testing.
What fuel cells share with battery electrics is instantaneous torque from its electric motor, good daily reliability and long-term durability, few moving parts, quiet operation and zero greenhouse gas emissions from operation. Krafcik noted that a UC Irvine study done this year found the well-to-wheels emissions of fuel cell vehicles to be lower not only than gas or diesel vehicles, but also battery electrics.
In addition to the straight sales pitch, Krafcik also said that the Tucson FCEVs will be available as rentals through Enterprise.
Honda Fuel Cell Concept
Honda Gets Zoomy With Its Next Fuel Cell
Honda, while adamant about the 2015 launch of its next generation fuel cell car, was less committal about planned volumes or price at the LA Auto Show. Honda has been leasing its FCX Clarity fuel cell for several years, but in very small volumes. Honda reviewed its history getting the public into its fuel cell cars, noting that the next generation’s fuel cell stack (the “engine” for an FCEV) will have a 60 percent power density improvement over the one used in the Clarity. The stack also is 30 percent smaller than its predecessor and costs have been reduced.
The Honda FCEV is a five-passenger sedan, similar in exterior size to its current FCX Clarity, but with a more spacious interior because of the smaller fuel cell stack. Honda didn’t release exterior dimensions of the concept, but said its stack would yield more than 100 KW of power output and would deliver a driving range of more than 300 miles.
Toyota Fuel Cell Concept
Like Honda, Toyota chose an auto show to unveil a concept version of the fuel cell sedan it will launch in 2015. The Camry-size four-passenger sedan, unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show last week, is a less radical design than Honda’s, appearing to be much closer to the production intent for the production version. Its released dimensions indicate it is slightly longer overall than a Camry (191.7 inches compared to 189.2 for for the Camry), has a wheelbase that is almost identical and is about a half-inch narrower. Toyota said its new fuel cell stack has a power density similar to Honda’s at 3 kW/liter, which they said represents more than twice that of its current stocks. The company also claimed reduced size and costs. Automotive News quoted Toyota officials as saying that fuel cell cars by 2020 will cost roughly the same as a plug-in hybrid to produce.
Toyota’s 2015 FCEV Concept
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By John Addison (10/5/11)
As many as ten battery-electric and plug-in hybrid cars selling for under $40,000 will be at this year’s LA Auto Show, open to the public November 18 to 27. The most groundbreaking categories, when it comes to technological advancements, continues to be the hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric vehicle categories.
The Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt were the early movers in the electric car category, but now a whole pack of EV’s are entering production and will be available at dealerships soon. On display will be the Mitsubishi’s all-electric i, which boasts 112 MPGe and has a single-charge range of 85 miles (62 EPA adjusted) starting at $29,125, over $5,000 less than the popular Nissan LEAF. City electric car competitors will also be on display including the Honda Fit Electric, Smart Fortwo ED, Fiat 500EV and the Scion IQ Electric.
BMW will debut two all-new concept vehicles that are part of BMW i sub-brand initiative. The high-tech and futuristic-looking, all-electric i3 Concept is actually close to becoming a reality and it is scheduled to enter production in 2013. The i8 Concept, scheduled for production in 2014, is a plug-in hybrid sports car with dual power sources-the i3’s electric motor over the front axle paired with a high performance three-cylinder combustion engine producing 164 kW/220 horsepower at the rear. Working in tandem, they deliver the performance of a true sports car while achieving up to 62 mpg.
The most popular hybrid vehicle in the world, the Toyota Prius, will showcase its production, plug-in hybrid version, which has a total all-electric range of 15 miles and an expected total range of 475 miles. According to Toyota, the Prius Plug-in will be rated at 112 MPGe. If you are looking for an all-electric SUV, check out the new Toyota RAV4 EV.
Fisker will debut its all-new sport wagon prototype, the Surf, slated to go on sale in mid-2012. Fisker’s luxury plug-in hybrid sports car, the Karma, will also be at the show. Karma customer deliveries have finally started.
Ford plans to introduce five electric cars over the next three years. Vehicles featured at this year’s Show include Ford’s first all-electric, the 2012 Ford Focus Electric which is now on sale, and the C-MAX Energi Plug-in Hybrid, a 5-seater crossover SUV (2012).
The entire Prius family of four models will be presented – Prius Liftback, Prius PHV, Prius V Crossover, and fuel economy hybrid champion Prius C. Honda will be going after Toyota with their latest hybrid improvements in the new Civic Hybrid and the more fuel-efficient Insight Hybrid.
A number of exciting turbo diesel cars will be on display that deliver 40 mpg in real world highway driving. Smaller cars with 40 mpg and without the cost of being a hybrid will be on display.
With 13 million vehicles globally running on natural gas, alt-fuel vehicles will be more visible at the LA Auto Show including the natural gas (CNG) Honda Civic GX. Ford has added CNG versions of light-trucks and the Transit Connect.
Hydrogen-powered vehicles have also been tested in various scenarios for over a decade and several will be featured at this year’s Show. Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEV), are one of the most promising technologies, and are currently being tested by BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Honda, General Motors and Toyota. Hyundai is already testing a third-generation FCEV, the Tucson.
Bright Green Cars at LA Auto Show
- BMW i3 Concept
- CODA Sedan
- Ford Focus Electric
- Fiat 500 EV
- Mitsubishi i
- Nissan LEAF
- Smart Fortwo ED
- Toyota RAV4
- DOK-ING XD
Hybrids and Plug-in hybrids
- BMW i8 Concept
- BMW ActiveHybrid 7
- BMW ActiveHybrid X6
- Buick LaCrosse eAssist
- Buick Regal eAssist
- Cadillac Ciel concept
- Cadillac Escalade Hybrid
- Chevrolet Malibu Eco
- Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid
- Chevrolet Volt
- Ford C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid
- Ford Fusion Hybrid
- Fisker Karma
- Fisker Surf
- GMC Yukon Hybrid
- GMC Yukon Denali Hybrid
- Honda CR-Z Sport Hybrid Coupe
- Honda Civic Hybrid
- Honda Insight
- Honda Plug-in Hybrid concept
- Hyundai Sonata Hybrid
- Infiniti M35 Hybrid
- KIA Optima Hybrid
- Lincoln MKZ Hybrid
- Lexus CT 200h
- Lexus GS 450h
- Lexus LS 600h L
- Lexus RX 450h
- Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid
- Porsche Panamara S Hybrid
- Toyota Camry Hybrid
- Toyota Highlander Hybrid
- Toyota Prius
- Toyota Prius v
- Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid
- Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid
- Audi A3 TDI
- Chevrolet Cruze Eco
- Chevrolet Sonic
- Ford Focus SFE
- Ford Fiesta SFE
- Honda Civic GX
- Honda Civic HF
- Hyundai Accent
- Hyundai Elantra
- Hyundai Veloster
- Kia Rio (2012)
- Mazda3 SKYACTIV (2012)
- Smart ForTwo
- Volkswagen Jetta TDI
- Volkswagen Jetta SportWagon TDI
- Volkswagen Passat TDI
- Volkswagen Golf TDI
Turbo Diesel Cars
- Audi A3 TDI
- Audi Q7 TDI
- BMW 335d Sedan
- Mercedes-Benz S350 BlueTEC
- Volkswagen Jetta TDI
- Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen TDI
- Volkswagen Passat TDI
- Volkswagen Golf TDI