The federal Environmental Protection Agency spends a good portion of its time and manpower compiling a guide that compares like vehicles’ fuel economy, spaciousness (interior space) and engine technology. The result for 2014 vehicles (cars and trucks) is now available on www.fueleconomy.gov and has a new benchmark – the Top 10 cars in fuel economy all feature a plug. Some are pure electrics and others are plug-in hybrids. The fuel economy numbers are astronomical by historical standards, but are setting the new benchmark for what a modern automobile needs to achieve to be considering a state-of-the-art environmental leader.
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 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.
The energy density of your fuel — whether it is electricity or gasoline/diesel — determines how far you can go on a “tank” but is measured on a per kilogram basis. As Elon Musk explained following a fire in one of his Tesla Model S cars, there is less potential “combustion” in a battery pack than in gasoline. But that is why electric cars have a shorter range than gasoline or diesel ones.
To sum up the day-long program and paraphrase the philosopher Heraclitus, the only thing constant about the future will be change. The 100-plus year-old auto industry is heading into uncharted territory as it grapples with change inside and out of the vehicle. Electronic technology promises to radically alter the interaction of the driver and vehicle, even as the propulsion technology and fuel shifts to new ground and, in some cases, necessitating new lifestyles. One thing is clear, “Future Cars, Future Technology” will be an ever-changing topic for years to come.
The past 40 years of our automobile’s fuel efficiency has been largely helped – and hurt by our government. Here we graphically break down the past 4 decades of MPG ratings and how they were determined.
This week saw two of the largest auto companies in the world going two different ways when it comes to pricing their showcase plug-in electric cars. General Motors announced that it would price its extended-range electric Cadillac ELR at $75,995 when it goes on sale in January 2014. In contrast, the same week Toyota announced that it was dropping the price on its 2014 Prius Plug-in, which it considers the epitome of its current offerings. Price drops ranged from $2,000 on the base model to $4,620 on the Advanced version. With the price reduction, the Prius Plug-in now has a starting price before government incentives just north of $30,000.
Nissan may be the most honest car company out there today because you will actually hear them say that the 2013 Leaf may not be the right car for you. So if the Leaf isn’t for everyone, who is it for and are you one of those that should own one? This is where the fun begins because if your lifestyle and driving pattern falls within the Leaf’s sweet spot, then the answer is a resounding–YES!
To transform the vehicle fleet, you need to work on both ends — accelerating the purchase of cleaner new vehicles and the retirement of old clunkers. The California legislature is sending a package of bills to Governor Brown’s desk that does just that. Taken as a whole, these policies will ensure Californians at all income levels enjoy the environmental, public health, and financial benefits of cleaner, more efficient vehicles.
August was a high-water mark for some of the pure electric cars and plug-in hybrids, stoking hopes that these alternatives were starting to gain traction in the market. The year 2013 is two-thirds over and auto industry sales overall are doing quite well (up 14 percent compared to July 2013, up 17 percent compared to August 2012 and up 9.6 percent over the year-to-date compared to last year). The record sales this month by the Passat TDI, Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf show that high mileage vehicles are definitely high on consumers’ shopping lists. More models continue to come onto the market, broadening consumer choices and adding to the ongoing discussion of fuel economy.
Consumers interested in plug-in cars got more good news this month as the Mercedes-built Smart and Chevy Volt both joined the recent moves to drop prices on their models. The Smart dropped lease prices to $139/month, substantially below much of the competition, and GM lowered the 2014 Chevy Volt price by $5,000.
The final decider between the Focus Electric and Nissan Leaf could be styling. For those who don’t want to show off their environmental leanings, the Focus EV is designed for the generic aisle of the dealership. Its styling is edgy, sporty, decidedly European and its green credentials are incognito. Tough choice, huh? But if you want to drive one of the sharpest-looking cars on the road while smiling to yourself because you have no personal connection to OPEC, the Focus Electric might be the EV for you.
The Fiat 500e is flat-out the most fun of the pack of electric cars that I have driven over the past two decades. It’s got the sportiness of the original EV1 with a hip Italian package.
Toyota’s 2013 RAV4 EV is the automaker’s second go round of converting its small gasoline powered sport utility to an electric vehicle. From 1997 to 2003, 1,484 RAV4 EVs were leased or sold. Of those, Toyota says approximately 449 are still on the road. This time around, rather than develop the electric RAV4 on its own, Toyota joined forces with upstart Silicon Valley electric carmaker Tesla Motors in a collaboration to develop and engineer the latest all-electric RAV4.
Compared to last year, hybrid sales for the first four months are up 12.3%, almost double the overall market’s gain. Plug-ins are on a tear with 130% growth, but on relatively small numbers. Diesels have taken a dip so far this year, dropping 6.2%, but are expected to rebound when high-volume cars like the Chevy Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel, Mazda6 SkyActiv-D, Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ram 1500 hit showrooms later this year. Both the hybrid and plug-in electric segments are also adding models as well.
For all the twists and turns that the auto industry undergoes, it looks like 2013 will be a clear milestone for electric cars. The point here is to look at how far we have come and note the arrival of the electric car industry. It’s no longer a model or two, but a substantial variety of vehicles from major manufacturers that the EV-conscious consumer can choose from.