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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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 Volt; 2016 Chevy Volt; News: 2017 Cadillac CT6 PHEV; 2014 Chevy Spark EV; Cadillac ELR.
- 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.
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?
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).
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.
- 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.
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
- Kia/Hyundai – Coming on Strong
Don’t forget the Korean plug-ins
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.
- 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.
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.
- 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
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.
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.
Related stories you might enjoy:
How Long Will It Take To Convert The U.S. Fleet To Electric?
Road Test: 2015 Volkswagen e-Golf
First Drive: 2017 Chevrolet Bolt
Road Test: 2014 Chevy Volt
Road Test: 2016 Nissan Leaf
Road Test: 2016 Fiat 500e
The Top 10 Electric Cars You Can Buy
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 email@example.com.
Electric Car Price Wars — Part 2
Chevy Volt Drops Its Price for 2014
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. General Motors in turn announced the Volt’s price was being lowered by $5000. The actions follow similar moves by Nissan for the Leaf, Honda for its Fit EV and Fiat with the 500e, among others, and the announcement that the all-new BMW i3 electric car would start at $41,350 in the U.S.
That latter price was thought to be the catalyst for the Volt move, although it is very early in the electric car market to be attributing pricing countermoves to automakers. That said, the Smart price drop was clearly a reaction to the $199/month lease prices being promoted by Fiat (for the 500e), GM (for the Spark EV) and Nissan for the Leaf. In the same way the gasoline-powered two-passenger Smart is generally priced below the gasoline versions of those four-passenger competitors (or in the EV-only Leaf’s case, the Nissan Versa), it’s clear that Smart needed to drop its lease price to keep consideration of its Smart ED in the mix.
2013 Smart Electric Drops Lease Price
The Smart ED is the third generation electric car from the Mercedes-Benz sub-brand. It’s substantially improved from earlier versions with stronger performance, but is likely to struggle as its gasoline sibling does since the market for two-passenger cars is limited. Its appeal right now is as the lowest price electric car you can buy. Since most pure electrics are urban-oriented, limited use vehicles (with Tesla’s Model S the pricey exception), the diminutive Smart could yet find a niche. Dealers are reportedly getting additional marketing incentives that could lower prices even more.
Volt Price Drop
They Chevy Volt is in a different place. Since their almost simultaneous introductions, The Volt and Leaf have battled for sales leadership in the plug-in category, though this year the Tesla Model S has been challenging them. Nissan moved Leaf production from Japan to its Nashville, Tenn., plant this year and has started battery production there as well. The moves allowed Nissan to drop the Leaf price by $6,400 this year, which boosted sales by 2-3 times 2012’s level. Nissan also just announced that they have the capacity to increase Leaf production if sales remain strong or improve.
The Volt with its range-extending technology jumped out to an early lead over the pure-electric Leaf in sales last year, but the race has tightened this year with GM offering lease deals on the Volt to keep it competitive with the Leaf. GM claimed the price drop was possible because of manufacturing efficiencies, but it appears that market pressures may have been the prime motivator of the move. Along with the announcement of the $5,000 price drop for the 2014 model, GM also instituted a comparable $5,000 consumer rebate on 2012 and 2012 models that are still on dealer lots.
General Motors has consistently said it doesn’t expect to make any money on its first generation of the Volt, but hopes to change that with increased volumes and reduced costs with the next generation, due in 2015.
Getting the Same Treatment
As we noted in an earlier article, plug-in cars are starting to get the same treatment in the marketplace that conventional vehicles regularly do – garnering incentives and price adjustments based on consumer response to the vehicle. The additional pressure that electric cars face is that at present none of the models on the market are creating profits for the automakers, so incentive money or price drops add to an existing deficit. As is the case with any model, that strategy cannot play out long term.
In the interim consumers have a great opportunity with little risk (particularly in lease offers). Federal and state incentives added to lowered prices and special deals have brought electric cars into the same prices range as not only hybrids, but even regular gas models, particularly when operating costs are factored in. So the bargain choices are as follows (this is for pure electrics; of course, some of the models have limited availability at present) along with some of the variety now offered (most of the initial EVs on the market are subcompact or smaller cars):
Lowest Price: Smart ED, $139/month lease
Lowest Price 4-passenger: Chevy Spark EV, Fiat 500e, Ford Focus EV, Nissan Leaf – all at $199/month lease
Convertible Electric Car: Smart ED Cabriolet
Electric SUV: Toyota RAV4 EV
If you expand your search to include plug-in hybrids such as the Volt, your choices expand significantly with wagons such as the Ford C-Max Energi, midsize cars such as the Ford Fusion Energi or Honda Accord Plug-In or a plug-in version of the best-selling hybrid, the Toyota Prius Plug-In.
And next year the market will expand even more with new plug-in cars from Volkswagen, Mitsubishi, Cadillac, Porsche and Infiniti, among others.
Other similar articles you might find interesting:
Electric Car Price Wars
The Top 10 Electric Cars You Can Buy
Top 10 Best-Selling High-MPG Cars
Electric Cars Are Cleaner Today & Will Only Get Cleaner
Tesla Model S Sales Hit Mark
For all the twists and turns that the auto industry undergoes, it looks like 2013 will be a clear milestone for electric cars. There are caveats, but we’ll deal with them later. 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 from which the EV-conscious consumer can choose. Even with some drop-offs, by this summer we’ll have at least 10 all-electric EVs to choose from; sorry, plug-ins, if you have an internal combustion engine you can’t make this list. This is for the hardcore – consumers who want to divest their transportation of the direct use of fossil fuels.
Some of these models are available in limited numbers or in limited locales (there’s one big caveat), but they are almost all from major manufacturers, backed with warrantees and dealer service. And this group, while small now, is destined to grow exponentially in the coming years as the market builds. For now, 10 EVs represents an achievement. Here’s a run-down what’s on the market now (or very soon) as well as some we’ve lost and some new entries due next year.
1. Tesla Model S – You have to start with this model. Though priced in the stratosphere, it was one of the best selling EVs of the first quarter of 2013 on the strength of solid reviews and pent-up demand. Its sales propelled Tesla into cash-flow positive territory and backs up its goal of selling 20,000 units this year.
2. Nissan Leaf – One could make a good argument that this car should be the first mentioned in any EV list. It was the first mass-produced EV on the market and streams into 2013 with both a lowered starting price as well as new high-end features. The combination appears to be working as sales hit a new high in March 2013, a trend that Nissan hopes to extend throughout the year as its has shifted production of the car and its battery pack to the U.S.
3. Ford Focus EV – Ford’s leading electric-only model is not making a big dent in sales, but it is a clear indication of Ford’s intent to remain active in the plug-in segment, augmenting the better-selling Energi models.
4. Toyota RAV4 EV – Toyota has revived an electric-only RAV4 model (it’s first foray was in the 1997-2003 model when several hundred were produced and sold in California to meet the state’s zero emission vehicle mandate). The compact SUV features a battery pack developed by Tesla, but sales will be limited as the vehicle is being used only to comply with California ZEV mandate, much like the first version.
5. Mitsubishi i (or i-MiEV) – This diminutive EV from Mitsubishi was redesigned for the U.S. market and has garnered some sales, but continues to lag behind the competition.
6. Honda Fit EV – Honda’s entry into the EV market, like Toyota’s, is available in only limited numbers and only for lease, but sales don’t appear to yet be anywhere near the projected number the company is going to build. Reviews of the car indicate it acquits itself well.
7. BMW ActiveE – The ActiveE is BMW’s second round in the EV wars, following on the MINI-E. Although it is only available for lease, the vehicle’s performance in a short drive appeared to meet the BMW brand’s image. It features the powertrain that will be in next year’s i3.
Fiat & Smart offer small, fast EVs
8. Smart Fortwo ED – Mercedes is now on its third generation of the electric version of its two-seat minicar. They’ve jettisoned the Tesla battery pack of the second generation and replaced it with one from SB LiMotive (which also supplies the Fiat 500e and BMW i3) along with a more powerful electric motor. With its increased top speed, it appears the only thing holding this low-priced EV back is its small size and limited seating.
9. Fiat 500e – Just on the market is another small EV from Europe, an electric version of Fiat’s 500 model. Early reviews indicate it carries over the performance and image of the gasoline version of the car.
10. Chevy Spark EV – Due this summer is another small EV, this one from General Motors. Based on the company’s Daewoo-designed model, the Spark EV is going to be assembled in the U.S. Early reviews of the car have described a car that delivers substantial power for its diminutive size.
GM’s Chevy Spark EV will be on the market this summer.
There you have it. Ten models offering a variety of configurations and price ranges, but all powered only by electricity. With a list like this, even with their limited availability, it appears we have passed out of the earliest phase of the EV and are steadily moving toward the category’s establishment as a permanent part of the automotive landscape.
Note that this is the EV-only list; it’s augmented by a growing list of plug-in vehicles, led by the Chevy Volt, that also promote the electrification of the automobile and move away from petroleum as a primary transportation fuel.
More to Come
While this group is impressive, there are more to come. Sometimes new model introduction timetables slip, especially when dealing with advanced technology, but these appear to be heading to market in 2014:
• BMW i3
• Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive
• VW e-Golf
Others are likely coming as well if the market begins to pick up momentum.
Without going back a decade to recall the first generation of modern EVs that came and went quite quickly (and not always with any sadness), it should be noted that several EVs of recent vintage are already gone, a measure of the brutal nature of the consumer automotive marketplace. The previously mentioned MINI-E is out of production as is the Tesla Roadster. The companies producing the Think City and Ford Transit Connect EV have gone into bankruptcy, followed most recently by Coda Automotive of Los Angeles.
Other similar stories you might like
–Best Selling High-MPG Cars of March 2013.
–Nissan’s Ghosn Bets on Electric Cars Winning on Emotion.
–10 Best Green Cars on New List.
The ACEEE (American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy) has been singling out the greenest vehicles for a decade and a half, so their list is eagerly awaited for those focused on fuel efficiency and low pollutant emissions. The 2013 list has some familiar models, but has more new vehicles than any previous list, which shows the rapid shift the market has taken to high-efficiency vehicles.
Here’s the list:
1. Toyota Prius c Hybrid
2. Honda Fit EV
3. Toyota Prius Hybrid
4. Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid
5. Honda Civic Hybrid
6. Honda Insight Hybrid
7. Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid
8. Smart fortwo convertible/coupe
9. Scion iQ
10. Ford Focus EV
High-scoring cars like the Nissan LEAF and Chevrolet Volt are not on the above list of 2013 model years, because ACEEE has only scored the 2012 models.
Rigorous Evaluation on Paper
Compared with some of the vehicle awards, such as those from enthusiast magazines or even Consumer Reports, the ACEEE awards are based on information submitted by the manufacturers rather than physical testing of the vehicles. The group weighs tailpipe emissions of criteria pollutants, fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions (or conversely, fuel efficiency). This year the organization also factored in emissions related to manufacturing, upstream fuel emissions for gasoline, diesel and natural gas as well as the environmental impact of electricity production for electric and plug-in vehicles. Though the ACEEE scale theoretically goes to 100, the best vehicles generally are only slightly above the mid-point. This year, the best 10 were only seven points apart, ranging from 51 to 58, an indicator of both the advances of technology and relative greenness of many vehicles today.
Of course the downside of using submitted information is that real world performance, such as recent complaints about hybrid fuel economy falling short of official EPA numbers, does not show up. On the other hand, ACEEE brings a wealth of data beyond what appears on a vehicle’s Monroney label in their evaluation. The group also takes into account different classes of vehicles and notes the greenest of each category as well as the overall top models highlighted above. And it did update its scores on 2011 and 2012 Hyundai/Kia models when that manufacturer admitted it had submitted inflated fuel economy numbers for several of its cars.
For comparison, the EPA on its FuelEconomy.gov website shows its Top 10 as electric cars since it ranks emissions only by greenhouse gas emissions including CO2, nitrous oxide, and methane. ACEEE 2013 ranks are based on 70% CO2 and 30% criteria pollutants, and appears to consider added lifecycle emissions. When they split up the top fuel economy winners by type of vehicle they end up with a mixture of EVs, plug-in hybrids and hybrids.
This Year’s Winners
The crop of Best 10 winners this year includes five hybrids, three plug-in vehicles (one hybrid and two EVs) and two small conventional gasoline internal combustion engine models. Half of the vehicles on the Top 10 list are new models evaluated for the first time. ACEEE noted that the number of models scoring 45 points or above (considered an above-average score for the 1000+ configurations that they evaluate) is at a record level this year with 150 models hitting that mark. Included in the larger group are additional hybrids, plug-in hybrids and EVs, clean diesels, a CNG model and additional internal combustion engine models. The proliferation of different technologies all hitting the mark for “greenness” is a sign of how far the auto industry has come already toward meeting future targets for fuel efficiency and reduced emissions of both greenhouse gases and criteria pollutants.
As the ACEEE says, the “greener choices” are multiplying and are not the province of any one manufacturer or even manufacturers from one country. The group noted that half of their Top 12 picks were from domestic manufacturers as an example. ACEEE also offers a tool on the subscription portion of its website where consumers and configure and compare different models as part of their shopping process.
Picking winners and losers in the “green” space is always fraught with difficulty, but in reality no more than any award process. There are always those who will agree or disagree with the picks and many more who will nit-pick the selection criteria or perceived bias. In ACEEE’s case it should be noted that several highly efficient vehicles didn’t make their Best 10 list because the organization set a minimum threshold of 1,000 units of sale to be considered, which took the Mitsubishi iMiEV and Tesla Model S out of consideration. For us, we believe more is better and any contest that highlights fuel efficient vehicles, as ACEEE definitely does, is to be encouraged.
Published – Jan. 17, 2013
New Ford Focus owners can learn a thing or two about driving skills that can maximize their miles per gallon – and they can have a little fun in the process. EcoMode is a handy software application aimed at helping coach customers in the art of eco-driving – and then rewards those that practice more fuel-efficient driving skills with in-car kudos displayed on the instrument cluster.
The new Ford Focus Electric is expected to have a range of about 100 miles per charge. EcoMode can greatly help people get better range. Those buying new gasoline powered Focus can save hundreds of dollars at the pump each year.
“The foot of the driver has one of the biggest impacts on real-world fuel economy of a vehicle and was the starting point for the development of EcoMode,” said Thomas Schick, an engineer with the Ford of Germany Core Vehicle Integration team who helped design the software. “This is a useful tool that creates awareness between personal behavior and fuel consumption and offers up hints on how to improve. Applying those hints and recommendations is all up to the driver.”
Eco-driving refers to specific on-road behaviors that can improve fuel economy, save money and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In recent internal tests, Ford found that eco-driving skills can improve fuel economy by an average of 24 percent. The nationwide Auto Alliance-supported EcoDriving initiative further claims that if every American put eco-driving skills to work on the road and achieved just a 15 percent benefit in fuel economy, more than 22 billion gallons of gas would be saved each year. Practices most often preached within the eco-driving world include:
- Using the highest drivable gear
- Smooth accelerations and decelerations
- Maintaining constant speeds and anticipating traffic flow
- Using cruise control on the highway
- Avoiding excessive idling
- Avoiding short trips with a cold engine
EcoMode generates a personalized driver operation scorecard by monitoring engine rpm, vehicle speed, accelerator position, clutch position, selected gear and engine temperature related to three of these categories:
- Gear shifting (when applicable): Is the driver using the highest drivable gear appropriate for the road conditions
- Anticipation: Is the driver adjusting vehicle speed and distance to other vehicles without the need for heavy braking or acceleration
- Speed: Is the driver using a cruising speed on open roads that enables high fuel efficiency
People can have fun reaching record scores. Friendly competition between family members can add to the fun. Within the driver information menu on the instrument cluster, Focus drivers can review their generated score against the software’s optimized patterns for each of these disciplines. When drivers do their eco-best, EcoMode rewards them with on-screen kudos that include championship cup icons and playful titles such as Advanced ECO driver or the top prize of ECO champion.
Throughout a drive, the scoring system generates hints on how to gain more leaves for each discipline. A driver looking at the advice screen for Anticipation, for example, may see the hint “Smooth driving saves fuel” displayed on the cluster if he or she is accelerating, decelerating or braking unnecessarily. In Gear Shifting, driver advice might include “Early shifting saves fuel,” if the driver is not shifting up as early as possible in conjunction with their acceleration.
The new Focus also offers an optional map-based navigation application called Eco-Route available with MyFord Touch that gives drivers the ability to choose the most fuel-efficient route, versus with the traditional navigation system defaults of fastest and shortest routes.
A member of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, Ford has supported the nationwide eco-driving effort at www.EcoDrivingUSA.com since 2008, and has also developed an eco-driving module for its popular Driving Skills for Life educational program designed for new drivers.