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.
Update: We’ve linked to the most recent tests or news of these cars, including some 2014 models.
Nissan LEAF is an all-electric car with 70 to 100 mile range. 50,000 have been delivered globally. Nissan delivers great value with the new 2013 price starting at $28,980. Drive it at 30 mph and you might get 140 miles; drive it at 70 mph running the air conditioner, 60 miles. LEAF Test drive. This 5-door, 5-seat, hatchback has the right size and range for many who drive under 100 miles daily, or for households with more than one car. The LEAF is the first electric car to earn five stars from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. The Leaf has had its price dropped since introduction and dealers offer some attractive lease programs.
Chevrolet Volt was awarded Car of the Year by Motor Trend and Automobile Magazine and awarded Green Car of the Year by Green Car Journal. General Motors is the current plug-in hybrid leader with the Chevrolet Volt,which has 38 to 40 miles of electric range and total range of 380 to 400 miles by engaging a small gasoline engine that is coupled with an electric generator. GM has a complete Voltec Propulsion System roadmap, which envisions added offerings of pure battery-electric and diesel plug-in hybrids. Our Volt Test Drive showed that this is plug-in hybrid is sportier to drive than regular hybrids and a great 4-door, 4-seat sedan for those who want to minimize fill-ups and avoid range anxiety. The Volt has dropped its retail pricing and typically offers very generous leases. GM has augmented the Volt with a sister model, the much more expensive Cadillac ELR, in 2014 and also introduced the diminutive, but powerful pure electric Chevy Spark EV.
Ford Focus Electric starts at $39,200 with double the charge speed of the LEAF. You can go online and configure your car, select a dealer and place your order. Although Nissan and Chevrolet have been getting most of the electric car media attention, both automakers are worried about Ford who will give customers the widest choice of electric and plug-in hybrid cars and crossovers. Ford has also partnered with SunPower to offer an affordable rooftop solar system that will allow Focus Electric owners and other electric car drivers to “Drive Green for Life,” and charge with solar. Ford Focus Electric Test Drive
Ford C-MAX Energi, an exciting new crossover with more room than a small SUV. The 5-seat C-MAX Energi offers 550 miles of overall driving range using the lithium battery, electric motor, and gasoline engine – more than any other plug-in. Ford offers the passenger room and cargo space of the Prius V. Its 20 miles of electric range beats the Prius Plug-in, but falls short of the Chevrolet Volt. The C-MAX Energi starts at $33,745. Ford C-MAX Energi
Ford Fusion Energi SE is a beautiful 5-seat sedan with more safety and telematics features than any other car on this list. Drive this plug-in hybrid for 20 miles of electric range, then a small efficient gasoline engine extends your range by hundreds of miles. The Fusion Energi is a strong contender since its a midsize sedan with a good reputation for handling and reliability. According to EPA testing, the Fusion gets a combined 58 MPGe (combining its electric and gas modes). Models start at $34,700.
Toyota Prius Plug-in starts at $32,000. The Prius Plug-in cost about $8,000 less than the Chevrolet Volt, a plug-in hybrid with a 40-mile electric range in comparison to the Prius PHEV’s 15-mile. The Prius Plug-in costs about $8,500 more than the classic Prius Liftback, but the difference narrows to $6,000 after Federal Tax Credit. In California, Toyota Motor Corp also offers the all-electric SUV, the RAV4 EV. Toyota Prius Plug-in Test Drive and Review vs. the classic Liftback.
Honda Fit EV. 2013 Fit EV can be purchased for $36,200 or leased at a rate competitive with other EVs on the market. The new compact 5-door 5-passenger hatchback electric car uses Blue Energy lithium-ion battery pack for a 100-mile all-electric range. The new 2014 Honda Accord Plug-in Hybrid is a premium midsized sedan, also available as a hybrid, which we tested.
Tesla Model S Sedan has delivered its first 20,000 Model S electric cars and is still going strong, now charging into overseas markets. This luxury all-electric sedan that starts at $69,900 and has an optional battery pack for $20,000 more that gives the car a 265-mile range. Tesla will compete against these less expensive competitors with a luxury interior, electronics like a 17-inch display, 5 + 2 passenger capacity, switchable battery option, and up to triple the electric range of competitors. Tesla is now taking reservations for 2015 delivery of the new Model X SUV with all-wheel drive from two electric motors, breathtaking styling including winged doors, and the same roomy seating capacity as the Model S. Tesla Model S and Model X
Smart Fortwo Electric is driven daily by thousands of Car2Go car sharing members in San Diego and Portland and cities around the world. The new Smart Electric can be purchased for only $25,000 ($17,500 after federal tax credit). The 2-seat Smart Electric has a range of about 70 miles, which is great for dense urban areas, where its small footprint also helps with parking. The new third-generation Smart Electric has a more powerful 55kW EM-motive motor and 17.6kWh ACCUmotive lithium battery.
BMW is now selling the all-electric i3 (which also comes in a range-extended version) cars. The i3 builds on the company’s experience with the ActiveE (which featured the i3 powertrain in a 1-Series body) in San Francisco’s DriveNow car sharing program and with lease customers. In 2014, you can order the BMW i8 plug-in hybrid sports coupe that dazzled movie audiences in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. BMW will extend range with innovative super-strong, yet lightweight materials including an aluminum frame and carbon fiber reinforced plastic, or CFRP for short. The i3 body consists of two independent modules: the Drive Module consists of an aluminum chassis and the powertrain with the lithium-ion battery, the performance electronics and a compact but powerful electric motor.
Mitsubishi i (official name with small “i”) is bigger and with more zip for the U.S. market compared with its Japanese-market predecessor. This pure-electric city car is selling starting at $29,125. Mitsubishi will challenge the Nissan LEAF, Ford Focus Electric, and Honda Fit Electric. This fun-to-drive 4-seat 5 door, will have a wheel base 5 inches wider for the U.S. market, but the micro-compact will still be able to get those precious city parking spaces that no other car can take except the Smart. The more powerful U.S. version will have an electric range of 62 miles (EPA adjusted) with a 16kWh lithium battery. Mitsubishi Electric Test Drive
Fiat division of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles surprised everyone with the 500e, an all-electric version of the Fiat 500 that is in the
2013 Fiat 500e
process of reintroducing the Italian automaker to America. The car surprised everyone because it was so good! While being presented to the media as a compliance car (i.e., the company would only build enough of them to meet California’s zero emission vehicle mandate and only sell them where credits toward that mandate would count), the early returns (including ours) lauded the car as exactly what an electric car should be – full of fun and projecting a personality commensurate with the significance of the vehicle for the environment.
EV Forecasts and Renewable Energy
Electric car sales will triple in the U.S. each year from 20,000 in 2011 to 60,000 in 2012 to 180,000 in 2013. This report is about freeway-speed U.S. available all-electric and plug-in hybrid light-duty vehicles. Accenture forecasts 1.5 million electric vehicles in the United States by 2015. Over 10 million electric vehicles are possible by 2020, especially if oil prices rise as battery prices fall. Single electric utilities have scenarios for charging over one million electric vehicles in their own service area by 2020. With renewable energy investment required of utilities in 30 states, these utilities are most interested in night time charging of electric vehicles with wind, geothermal, and hydropower. Utilities are also implementing smart grids and incentives for off-peak charging. More than 100 large and small competitors are fighting for share of the U.S. electric car and truck market. Some may be struggle to get significant share due to time delays and cost of safety and other regulatory approvals, delays in funding, or unpleasant surprises from a supplier. It’s a tough business. Even Tesla had to add 700 pounds and two years to get the first Roadsters in customers’ hands. We’ve been impressed with the performance of the VW e-Golfs that we’ve driven over the past few years and it is due to arrive late in 2014. Mercedes is in the process of preparing a B-Class electric for sale in the U.S. Electric cars with range extended by fuel cells continue to make progress. Hyundai is building 1,000 Tucson fuel cell vehicles and they are on sale in Southern California as of mid-2014. Mercedes has put 200 of the new F-Cell B-Class on global streets; Toyota putting 100 of its 400-mile range FCHV into fleet applications and has shown a concept of what the 2015 model will look like when it goes on sale; Honda also has shown its 2015 model in concept form and other auto companies are also moving forward with fuel cells. China could have several EV models delivered to U.S. customers in the near future from BYD or possibly other companies, but Coda’s experience trying to sell an electric version of a dated, poor quality Chinese model was not encouraging.
Adding eMobility To Zero Carbon Living
Honda has a view of the future that might include not only plugging your electric car into your house, but supplying power to the grid from the car and house when needed. In Honda’s view, that makes it a Honda Smart Home US, since it’s located in Davis, California.
In a nutshell, this high-efficiency home produces more power than it uses, including enough to power a Honda Fit EV for a daily commute. The prototype version of this home showcases a potential Honda move beyond the automobile into energy management systems. While some companies talk about emobility as their new venture, Honda is taking it a step further by integrating the emobility with zero carbon living.
Honda worked with the University of California, Davis, and local utility PG&E to design a home that showcases the potential of living not off-the-grid, but integrated to the grid in a positive way. The home, which will become the residence of a member of the UC Davis community, is envisioned as a living laboratory for Honda, PG&E and UC Davis to test and evaluate new technologies and business opportunities at what they describe as the intersection of housing, transportation, energy and the environment.
Fit EV Integrated
The home, which will come with a Honda Fit EV, is located in UC Davis’ West Village, a community designed as the country’s largest planned zero net energy housing development. While Honda senior project engineer Michael Koenig described it as an “R&D experiment,” the Honda Smart Home looks like it will provide a road map for the potential of building homes that change not only Honda’s business model, but PG&E’s as well. With the house and car providing as well as using energy, but needing the grid support only in exceptional situations, the utility’s role becomes one of energy management as opposed to supply. Koenig added that one of the key elements to pushing this kind of integrated technology forward is a “distributed renewable (solar) energy system supplying energy to homes and EVs.”
The Honda Smart Home has a variety of features that, when integrated, lead to the exceptional house on display:
- Honda’s proprietary home energy management system (HEMS), which is a combined hardware and software system, is at the core of the home. It monitors, controls and optimizes electrical generation and consumption throughout the home’s microgrid. It manages a Honda-supplied 10 kWh lithium-ion storage battery on site, which is augmented by the Fit’s 20 KWh battery.
- The Smart Home has a 9.5 kW solar photovoltaic system on its roof, which by itself will generate more energy than the home and Fit EV consumer annually.
- To enhance the Fit EV’s charging, the car was modified to accept DC direct charging, enabling a full recharge in about two hours.
- The home also features geothermal radiant heating and cooling, utilizing a system that employs eight 20-foot deep boreholes in the backyard.
- The Smart Home used pozzolan-inflused concrete to decrease use of greenhouse-gas intensive concrete.
- Advanced LED lighting is used throughout the house; it mimics natural light shifts and could potentially have a positive impact on the home’s residents’ health as well as saving energy.
- The house’s orientation incorporates “passive design,” which takes into account local weather conditions, sun direction and home’s outer shell to optimize heating and cooling.
- During construction, local and sustainable materials were used, helping the entire project meeting the U.S.’s goal of a net zero energy home, which was set for 2020.
Of course, a key feature of this modern home is its “brains.” Energy data generated by sensors throughout the house will be shared with PG&E and UC Davis. The home has quite a few smarts and hopes to teach others how make homes smarter and more ready to move to an electrified mobility system.
EPA Rates Them All; Finds Plug-ins Best;
100 MPGe May Be The New 40 MPG.
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 fuel economy cars 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.
The side story to this list is that being a high-mileage hybrid or diesel (or gas-powered car) is fine, but it doesn’t set you apart as a true leader in the fuel economy department anymore. Not that long ago we were talking about
Spark EV-King of the HIll
40 MPG being the floor for an efficient vehicle; already, it looks like 100 MPGe (equivalent to gasoline miles per gallon on an energy basis) is now the ticket to be among the leaders.
Here are the Top 10 for 2014, with some commentary about each. Of course the biggest caveat is that these fuel economy numbers by design are miles per gallon equivalent, since some of these cars use no gas at all and others are capable to running for a significant amount of time without any petroleum.
1. Chevy Spark EV – 119 MPGe – Chevy’s spunky little electric car takes top honors in the fuel economy race with its efficient electric powertrain. When we tested it, the Spark EV lived up to its billing.
2. Honda Fit EV – 118 MPGe – Honda comes close to Chevy with its slightly larger Fit EV, though neither car has scored significant sales this year. Price cuts brought buyers into the showroom, but sales are still averaging less than 50 per month.
3. Fiat 500e – 116 MPGe – Right in the mix (after all, what a few MPGe’s when you’re into triple digits) is the fun little Fiat electric car. We gave it a spin and came away very impressed with the Italian approach to the EV.
4. Nissan Leaf – 115 MPGe (2013) – Even though it’s the best selling pure electric car, the Leaf was not included in the EPA listing for 2014 models since its 2014 model doesn’t launch until next month, but it is unlikely its
Best-seller and Top 4 MPGe
MPGe will change so we’ve included the 2013 numbers. We have spent plenty of time in the Leaf and find it to be well-suited to the task of almost replacing your internal combustion car.
5. Honda Accord PHEV – 115 MPGe – Honda’s engineers have scored a very impressive feat by producing a plug-in hybrid that turns in fuel efficiency numbers on par with pure electrics. Well received in the marketplace – and just named Green Car of the Year – we were impressed when we first had a chance to drive the Accord.
6. Mitsubishi i-MiEV – 112 MPGe (2013) – Another model missing from the 2014 EPA listing is Mitsubishi’s quirky electric car. As is the case with most plug-ins, it has struggled to find customers (although selling twice as many as the Fiat 500e or Honda Fit EV), which led to a price drop in the new model.
7. Smart fortwo ED coupe/conv – 107 MPGe – The diminutive Smart has a couple things going for it – it’s the only convertible electric car on the U.S. market right now, and it’s on its third generation and shows the lessons learned from earlier iterations. The zippy two-seater is primarily found in car-sharing programs.
8. Ford Focus Electric – 105 MPGe –
9. Ford Fusion Energi PREV – 100 MPGe –
10. Ford C-Max Energi PHEV – 100 MPGe (2013) – We can close out the Top 10 with a triumvirate of Ford models – its pure electric Focus and two plug-in hybrids (dubbed Energi), the Fusion sedan and C-Max wagon. having three models gives Ford the most variety of any automaker in the high-MPG stakes, although even with three models its cumulative sales still trail the single model sales of the segment leaders – the Leaf, Chevy Volt and Tesla Model S. That said, they are competent vehicles and have been building sales. They also represent a piece of Ford’s strategy that has the plug-in models offered along with non plug-in hybrids.
Ford Offers 3 Ways to Plug-in
Bubbling under the Top 10: While the task of being in the Top 10 in MPG (or MPGe) is getting more difficult every year, three models that are right below the No. 10 cutoff can claim other marks that may be even more impressive. They represent three of the top four best-selling plug-in cars (the other is No. 4 Nissan Leaf) of the most recent month (October 2013), a mark that in some ways is more impressive than their still-hefty fuel economy numbers. The three are:
- Chevy Volt – 98 MPGe
- Toyota Prius PHEV – 95 MPGe
- Tesla Model S 60/85 – 95 MPGe/89 MPGe (2013 numbers)
BMW’s i3 will probably land in the Top 10
Two more to keep an eye on: Two vehicles (with three models) appeared to have not made the testing deadline for inclusion in the EPA guide, but can be expected to be in the mix as soon as their numbers are finalized. BMW’s new i3 (which will have a pure electric as well as a range-extended version with a small gas engine) will probably make it into the top 10 and bump out one of the Fords. Cadillac’s ELR coupe, since it is based on the Chevy Volt architecture, will probably turn in similar numbers to its four-door cousin so not crack the Top 10.
Missing in action: Gone from last year top fuel economy list are the Scion iQ electric, Coda sedan and BYD e6. None of the three made much of an impact although the latter two did represent the first Chinese cars on sale in the country and BYD is still likely to return with more models later in the decade.
Two new cars for 2014 that didn’t have reported numbers in the EPA guide and probably won’t make the Top 10 are exotic hybrids – the McLaren P1 and Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid. Both are wonderful examples of technologies but are unlikely to have the efficiency of the more mundane models on the list. The price for the Porsche starts at $100,000 while the McLaren will run a staggering $1.15 million.
Story & Photos by Michael Coates
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Cars & Technology of the Future
How To Find the Best Price For an Electric Car
Nissan Leaf Is Selling Well in Some Cities
The Nissan Leaf was the best selling plug-in car in July and has just lost the lead for the year-to-date electric car sales to the hot-selling Tesla Model S, another pure electric. It’s fair to say that where the Leaf is selling well, electric cars are selling well. So, when Nissan shared a list of the top cities for Leaf sales, you can bet that’s where you’ll find Teslas – and Ford Focus Electrics, Mitsubishi i-MiEVs, Fiat 500es, BMW Active-Es, Chevy Spark EVs, Smart EDs, Toyota RAV4 EVs, Honda Fit EVs – and all of the EVs coming on the market in the next couple years.
Not coincidentally, this is also where the EV charging infrastructure is being developed the fastest. In fact, in many parts of California, the popularity of electric cars has so far outstripped the ability of the charging infrastructure to keep up with it.
Empirically, this is true, skewed somewhat by the fact that several manufacturers are limiting the availability of their electric cars to states following California’s Zero Emission Vehicle Mandate, which places the majority of them in California. That explains why four of the top sales cities for electric vehicles are in the Golden State. What is interesting is that no cities show up from the so-called Section 177 states that follow California’s ZEV mandate.
Beyond four cities in California, the other cities for top electric car sales are ones with either a strong environmental focus (like Seattle, Portland and Honolulu) or ties to manufacturers (like Nashville, where the Nissan Leaf is now manufactured) or having strong local incentives (Atlanta and St. Louis). Here’s the list:
- San Francisco
San Francisco-#1 in EVs
- Los Angeles
- San Diego
- St. Louis
We suspect that the four California cities would be in the Top 10 for most electric car sales. The recent prices wars for EVs have focused on California and some manufactures (such as Fiat and Honda) have already announced their limited production runs are already sold out, which should add to the burgeoning electric car population in the state. California benefits from the manufacturers’ discounted prices, strong (though shrinking) state financial incentives and the powerful access to the HOV (high-occupancy vehicle) lane with a single driver. The value of the latter incentive is strong, as seen in other cities as well, but in California it has been cited historically as worth as much as $2,000 on the price of a vehicle (the citation was from the time was HOV lane access stickers were sold out for hybrids such as the Toyota Prius). A similar time could come for electric cars as the market expands, but that could take several years at current sales rates.
Other cities bubbling under the Top 10, according to Nissan, are Chicago, Denver, Washington DC, Dallas-Ft. Worth and New York City. None of these are surprises since they are some of the more populous cities in the country and all tend to have good incentives for electric cars.
For more reading on this subject, check out:
How To Find the Best Price for an Electric Car
Top 10 Best-Selling High-MPG Cars for Jan-June 2013
Top 10 Electric Cars You Can Buy Today