ACEEE Says You Can’t Go Wrong With This Mix Of Green Cars
Choosing a car that meets your household’s needs is one thing, but if you are environmentally conscious your selection might go beyond comfort, cargo room and available options. If you want to reduce your environmental impact, minimize fuel costs or cut the petroleum pipelines from foreign countries, then buy the greenest vehicle that still meets your transportation needs.
To help shoppers choose a greener car, the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) in Washington, D.C. compiles an annual survey of what it determines is the most environmentally friendly cars on American roads. Not surprisingly, battery-powered electric and gasoline-electric hybrids are the sole winners for 2018, the 21st year for the list.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Green Vehicle Guide only looks at traditional tailpipe pollutants, the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) produced per mile and fuel economy. The ACEEE uses a complex formula that considers the emissions associated with a vehicle’s entire life cycle–from manufacturing to disposal impact–and the fuel it uses, whether gasoline, diesel or electricity.
The Council also analyzes automakers’ test results for fuel economy and emissions as reported to the EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB), along with other reported specifications. In addition, the group looks at lifecycle impacts of the car, taking into consideration criteria pollutants, greenhouse gas emissions, looking at upstream emissions of the vehicle’s fuel and also manufacturing and disposal impacts. Four basic data points form the core of the ratings—tailpipe emissions, fuel economy, vehicle curb weight and battery mass and composition (for the hybrid and plug-in vehicles). Finally, they factor in an environmental damage index that tallies the gram-per-mile pollutant rate multiplied by a cents-per-gram of damage costs.
If you’re ready to go shopping for an Earth-friendly new car, here’s the list of the 12 Greenest Cars Of 2018. We are noting their green scores and fuel economy, including the “MPGe” equivalent for EVs. (Beyond the list of 12 environmental winners, the ACEEE also provides car shoppers with lists of more environmentally friendly choices in all car classes at: https://aceee.org/. To add some more data to the mix, we’ve also included links to our road tests and news stories about these models.
Base prices are before any federal, state or local incentives.
2017 Ioniq Electric Vehicle
Leading the pack for the second year in a row is the midsized Hyundai Ioniq Electric. It compiled a “Green Score” of 70 out of a 100, which is the highest rating for a passenger car ever recorded by the ACEEE. The all-electric version of the Ioniq hatchback leads all comers with a class-leading fuel economy equivalent. Base Price: $29,500. EV Range: 124 miles: MPGe: 150 city/122 highway.
Smart Fortwo Electric Drive
Slotting into the number two ranking with a Green Score of 69 is the two-seat Smart ForTwo Electric Drive. Not only is this the cheapest car built by Mercedes-Benz, it is among the greenest rides on the road. However, it is hampered by a limited driving range, a seating capacity of two and a small cargo capacity, but it offers something no other electric car does: the option to drop the top. Base Price: $23,800. EV Range: 58 miles; MPGe: 124 city/94 highway.
A Green Score of 68 was high enough to earn the BMW i3 BEV third on the list in ACEEE’s 12 Greenest Cars Of 2018. This rating is for the odd-shaped i3’s newly available 94 amp-hour battery pack. The i3 is also offered with a small range-extender gasoline engine with fewer EV miles (97), but can travel an additional 83 miles on gasoline. Base Price: $47,650. EV Range:114 miles; MPGe: 129 city/106 highway.
Tesla Model 3
While a Green Score of 67 places the Tesla Model 3 Long Range in fourth place, the wait time for this new car could take up to a year or longer, due to production delays and pre-production demand. This is for the $9,000 optional long range battery Model 3. Base Price: $44,000. EV Range: 310 miles; MPGe:136 city/123 highway.
Chevrolet Bolt EV
One of America’s favorite EVs, the Chevrolet Bolt’s 66 Green Score places it in the number five position. The hatchback compact car offers the latest tech and safety features along with a spacious interior, and an operating range that is sufficient for a typical week’s commute. Base Price: $36,620. EV Range: 238 miles; MPGe 128 city/110 highway.
The Hampster lovin’ Kia Soul EV tallied a 66 Green Score to tie the Chevy Bolt. The boxy Soul EV is roomy and comfortable with a nicely appointed interior. However, it is only available in California and nine other states. Base Price: $32,250. EV Range: 111 miles; MPGe: 124 city/93 highway.
Hyundai Ioniq Blue Hybrid
With a Green Score of 65, the Hyundai Ioniq Blue is the top hybrid on this year’s ACEEE’s list of greenest cars. With handsome styling inside and out, the compact Ioniq hybrid tops all hybrids with its impressive fuel economy. It’s also available in plug-in hybrid and electric models. Base Price: $22,200. MPG: 57 city/59 highway.
Toyota Prius Two Eco
The Toyota Prius Eco slipped into second place among conventional hybrids on this year’s ACEEE’s list with a Green Score of 64. Still America’s best-selling hybrid, the Prius Eco Two trim offers the top fuel economy in the Prius lineup. Base Price: $25,165. MPG: 58 city/53 highway.
Ford Focus Electric
A Green Score of 64 lands the Ford Focus Electric in the number eight spot. This compact electric hatchback is affordable, thanks to the one-time $7,500 frederal tax credit and the large cash rebates from Ford. Base Price: $29,120. EV Range: 115 miles; MPGe: 118 city/96 highway.
Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid
Kia’s Niro Plug-in Hybrid tops the plug-in hybrid class with a Green Score of 63. Also available as a standard hybrid (52 city/49 highway mpg), the plug-in version gains battery-only range, but is less efficient in hybrid mode. Base Price: $27,900. EV Range: 26 miles; MPGe: 105; MPG gas: 46 combined.
Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid
Honda made this year’s ACEEE list with the Clarity Plug-in Hybrid that had a Green Score of 62. The plug-in-hybrid version joins EV and fuel-cell Clarity variants, and it’s the only version of this premium sedan that can be purchased outright. Base Price: $33,400. EV Range 48 miles; MPGe 110; MPG gas: 42 combined.
Chevrolet’s Volt is among the dozen “greenest” cars for 2018 with a Green Score of 62. The Volt is equipped with a small range-extending gasoline engine that provides a virtually unlimited operting range, as long as you can find a sas station. But the first 53 miles comes solely on electricity. Base Price: $33,320. MPGe: 106; Gas: 42 highway.
The tally of the Top 12—seven electrics, three plug-in hybrids and two hybrids. Four from Hyundai-Kia, two from General Motors and one each from BMW, Daimler, Ford, Honda, Tesla and Toyota.
Choice & Deals Are Out There
With more electric cars entering the market, there is greater choice available for the consumer. As technology develops, and newer, better options become available, there is now real value to be had in owning an electric car.
This list considers the Top 10 Best Value battery electric cars that are on the market right now–based on the publicly announced lease prices, along with the range you get at the price. All the lease prices listed here are for 36-months, and based on the manufacturer’s price. They do not include down payments, and these costs may vary between different dealerships and locations. Deals can be had, as anyone who’s shopped EVs knows.
The range listed for each car is also based on the EPA guidelines, though these will vary in the real world depending on speed, weather and terrain (amongst other factors). While these figures are only guidelines, therefore, they offer a good indication of what you’re getting for your money.
We’ve added links to some of Clean Fleet Report’s test drives and news of the listed models.
Lease price: $329/month, range: 238 miles
Bolts top our list
Boasting the best range on this list, the Chevy Bolt is the first “affordable” car to compete with Tesla’s range. While it is more expensive than the other cars on this list, its enormous range makes the Bolt a potential game-changer for the electric car market. We like it a lot; one Clean Fleet Report writer even leased one.
Lease price: $275/month, range: 124 miles
Available in various configurations, including traditional and plug-in hybrids, as well as electric, the Ioniq is extremely flexible. Despite its lease price and range, the Ioniq seems to have gone under the radar compared to others on this list, but is a steal at $275/month.
Lease price: $279/month, range: 125 miles
Featuring a big range boost from the previous model, the 2017 e-Golf now has a 125-mile range compared to 83 before, and at $279/month is a bargain for a car with this range.
Lease price: $204/month, range: 115 miles
With an increased range and lower price, the 2017 Focus Electric is a big upgrade on the previous model, and is a good value, sporty car.
Lease price: $89/month, range: 84 miles
First in the style-stakes, the Fiat 500e is pretty much a design classic – combining retro charm with bright and quirky colours. While other cars on this list offer a superior range, none can compete with the 500e in the price-stakes.
Lease price: $199/month range: 107 miles
2017 Nissan Leaf
The best selling electric car of all time, the Leaf is still the standard-bearer and is a roomy compact with a good range. With the Focus Electric outperforming it at a similar price, however, there is better value to be had in an increasingly busy market. Leaf deals may increase before the longer-range, restyled 2018 model hits dealers.
Lease price: $159/month, range: 93 miles
The Soul EV is a spacious car, with room for five passengers and plenty of cargo space. Boasting one of the lowest lease prices in the market and a decent range, this is a real bargain.
Lease price $289/month, range: 81 miles
The popular i3 is a good looking and luxurious electric car, with a competitive price for a prestige brand. WIth the 2017 range extender, the i3’s performance is boosted even further to 125 miles, for $329/month, a good price for a quality vehicle.
Lease price: $269/month, range: 89 miles
Performing well since its release in August, the Clarity EV is a big, spacious sedan. While there are better value cars on this list in terms of range and lease price, this is still a quality vehicle.
Lease price: not released, range: 215 miles
While Tesla are having some issues with production, the Model 3 represents the manufacturer’s first foray into the affordable market. With a range matched only by the Bolt, the Model 3 is a luxurious sedan at a great price (the base MSRP is $35,000). Expect this car to shoot up the list once Tesla releases leasing details.
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 Cars, Fuel Cells; Diverse Paths to Fuel Efficiency Highlighted
Here at Clean Fleet Report we had a great year, seeing and reporting to you on a record number of cars, trucks, SUVs and even some two-wheel fuel-efficient vehicles. We had plenty of stories on electric cars, plug-in hybrids, conventional hybrids, clean diesels and very efficient gas-powered vehicles. Beyond that, we reported on significant news and trends you need to know about to plan your next car purchase—or just keep up on the conversation about what’s happening on the leading edge of the automotive world.
So, here, in reverse order, are our Top 10 stories for the year from among the record 69 we published in 2014.
10. Two Wheels Go Electric. We had a sneak peak at the Tesla of electric motorcycles, the aptly named Energica Ego. It has a price up in the “if you have to ask” territory, reflecting its Formula
Two wheels go electric, too!
1 engineering roots and extensive use of carbon fiber and top-brand components. We also noted that Harley-Davidson showed off an electric Harley concept that could indicate they’re looking at the same territory.
9. Ford’s Aluminum Pickup. Ford spent a good portion of the year talking about one of the most revolutionary moves in the truck sector—a weight reduction campaign for its best-selling F-150 pickup that involved a move to an aluminum body and the use of lighter weight high-strength steel. With a lighter pickup, Ford was able to drop in a smaller EcoBoost engine and still maintain expected towing and hauling capacities. The truck has just gone on sale at the end of 2014, but the move boosted fuel economy by almost 30 percent, a move needed to counteract competitors like the Ram, which took the diesel route to the top fuel economy in the sector. Not to be left out, GM introduced a pair of new midsize pickups that also will be adding diesel power in 2015.
8. Compact SUVs Crack the 30 MPG Mark. It was hard to pick just one of new breed of compact SUVs/crossovers. We may need to up the ante for the 30 MPG Club because these guys are making it look easy. This year’s batch was led by the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape and Mazda CX-5, but you could throw in a Subaru or two and not be disappointed. The combination of fuel economy, interior utility, high-tech features and all-wheel-drive capability should help this class to continue to be popular in 2015.
7. Tesla on the Battlefield. We didn’t dive too deeply into the almost daily drama emanating from Palo Alto (just up the road from our headquarters) because we like to focus on the hardware and the significant news that affects that hardware. But we couldn’t avoid a couple articles on Elon Musk’s battle to establish a different sales model of direct sales. He had some success, some losses (sort of like the company’s balance sheet). We’ll continue to follow the company’s progress on this front and any developments on product, which will likely be led by the introduction of the Model X late in 2015.
6. Clean Diesel’s Leader—VW Jetta. Let’s be honest, we love great fuel economy, but really don’t want to give up the fun of driving. Diesel engines are one of the best methods of having the best of both worlds. Hundreds of miles of driving on a tank and the power to effortlessly take on anything the road has to offer. We sampled several diesels this year, but have settled on the Volkswagen Jetta as the standard-bearer of this segment. We like the compact size, the power, the upscale appointments and most of all, an easy 40+ mpg out on the road.
5. The Prius Quartet. You can’t know the Prius. It has led the way for a decade and a half and blazed fuel-economy trails that most other cars have not been able to match. So Toyota decided to make it a family and there are now four variants, all four of which Clean Fleet Report road-tested this year. It’s a challenge figured out which might work the best, but ranging from the diminutive c to the wagon-like V with the traditional Liftback and Plug-In sandwiched in-between, Toyota figures to have the market well-covered.
4. Fuel Cell Electric Cars Arrive! Of course we’ve heard this one before. But this time they mean it! Consider this the second coming of the fuel cell car. We’ve had prototypes running around
An aggressive year for fuel cells
for a decade or more, but now you can buy an FCEV. That is, if you live near the just-beginning refueling infrastructure. Hyundai hit the market first, but Toyota is close behind and Honda not long after them. Mercedes already has dozens on the road and VW and Audi showcased potential challengers. We’ll be keeping an eye of these cars, but from what we’ve driven so far, there is no question about the seriousness of the automakers in bringing FCEVs to market. Hyundai’s fuel cell “engine” was even named by WardsAuto as one of the 10 Best of the year.
3. Kia Soul EV. Cue the hamsters! Electric cars are now cool. The Korean automaker is dipping its toes in the all-electric market (they’ve got a hybrid on the market and a plug-in hybrid coming) with its popular little mini-wagon. We had a fun first drive with the Soul EV and expect to spend some more time in it in 2015.
2. BMW i3. We should have seen this one coming as the Bavarian merchants of speed first dropped a cobbled Mini-E on us, followed up by a pedestrian-
Here come the hamsters!
looking but competent performer in the Active-E. Finally, the real deal arrives and it is every bit the BMW we would expect. Except maybe in its looks, which are more squat than BMW’s SUVs.
When it comes to performance and technology, the i3 is ground-breaking and delivers the driving experience you would expect from a BMW, but without the gasoline (unless you get the REX version that carries a small engine and extends the range 50 miles).
1. Top 10 Electric Cars. This is the big story. We have to choose to pick the Top 10 electric cars available today. It’s still a mix of pure electrics and plug-in hybrids, but the list is growing quickly and the variety of vehicles is looking better than ever. Everything from two-seat mini-sedans to six-figure luxury sports cars are now crowding this list, which we keep updated on a regular basis. The progress being made by automakers is encouraging and the response of the public has been likewise. It’s getting easier to find an electric car that works for your lifestyle and pocketbook. The new players like the VW e-Golf, Kia Soul EV and BMW i3 are making a statement that this is a segment destined to hold a growing portion of the market. Clean Fleet Report will continue to be there in 2015 to make sure you have all the latest news on this group and all of the others out there.
Happy New Year!
Here on links to our Top 10 Stories of 2014
- Top 10 Electric Cars.
- BMW i3.
- Kia Soul EV.
- Fuel Cells Cars Arrive!
- The Prius Quartet: The c and V; Liftback and Plug-In.
- Clean Diesel’s Standard-Bearer—the VW Jetta (2014/2015).
- Tesla’s Battles at the Dealership—two engagements.
- Compact SUVs Crack the 30 MPG Barrier: Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5.
- Ford’s Aluminum Pickup. Pickups Pick Up MPG. First Drive: Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon.
- Two Wheels Go Electric.
Good, Clean Fun
Kia dipped its toe into the green car world a few years ago with the Optima Hybrid and now digs into the Crayon box for even a deeper shade of green with the all-new 2015 Soul EV. This fun, zip-around-town car is a kick to drive and, of course, you won’t spend a dime on gas and oil.
The front-wheel drive 2015 Soul EV is powered by an 81kW electric motor good for 109 hp and 210 lb-ft of torque with an EPA range estimate of 93 miles. This range is better than EV competitors Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Spark EV and Fiat 500e. Only the Tesla Model S, which costs three times as much as the Soul EV, can go further on a charge.
Ready to quietly roll
Available in two models, Base and Plus, the Soul EV gets you to 60 mph in about 12 seconds with an electronically limited top speed of 90 mph.
The Soul EV is currently (October 2014) only available in California so be warned there is little dealer support outside of the Golden State. The Soul, which also comes in a gasoline version, is a small car, sometimes also classified as a city, urban or sub-compact. Similar diminutive cars are the Scion iQ, Nissan Versa, Toyota Prius c and Mitsubishi Mirage, to name a few.
A Lithium-Ion battery (Li-Ion for short) packs the power for the Soul EV with charging accomplished through a regenerative braking system and two plug-in ports offering three charging levels (based on a fully discharged battery):
• 120V (Level 1) 24 hours To a full charge
• 240V (Level 2) 5 hours To a full charge
• 480V (Level 3) 33 minutes To an 80% charge
The regenerative braking system converts braking or coasting into electricity, charging the battery. The charge and mileage range is shown by dashboard gauges. It is quite common to start an in-town journey of stop-and-go driving, to return with more or only a few miles depleted from the beginning range. However, where the regenerative braking system does not offer any help in charging the battery or adding to the driving range is on the freeway. Cruising along at 55 – 65mph over an extended period will result in the battery charge and driving range depleting right before your eyes.
Initially, at least 17 Kia dealers in California will have Level 2 chargers available for free quick charge, which brings the total number of public Level 2 chargers in California to 215 (as of November 2014).
A safety net in California, if you are a AAA member, is a limited area program where you can get an emergency charge from one of their service trucks. Just like if you ran out of gasoline and AAA dumped a five-gallon can in your tank,
Road worthy–for a distance
select AAA trucks are equipped with a 480V generator that will give you about 20 miles of driving range to get you to a dealer or charge station. But do not rely on AAA to get you to your destination, just plan better.
Driving Experience: On the Road
The Soul EV weighs in at 3,289 lbs. which is evenly distributed as the Li-On batteries are located low (under the seats). This balance helps with good handling, even though the 16-inch aluminum wheels and super low rolling resistance tires aren’t the best combination for spirited corning. To help get around the corners you have an electric motor-driven steering system coupled to front independent MacPherson struts and coil springs, along with a rear torsion beam suspension. Overall, the car felt sprightly and was fun to drive.
Stopping comes from front and rear active hydraulic boost-assisted, vented disc brakes, with ABS, which are part of Kia’s regenerative braking system. The stops were straight and consistent and, as can be common with regenerative braking systems, the brakes were not touchy nor did they produce an unpleasant whine.
Driving Experience: Exterior
The Soul EV has the same body design as the gasoline-powered version with a few tweaks differentiating the two. Changes include two-toned paint schemes with the roof carrying a different color than the body, unique wheel covers, “eco
Badged with pride
electric” fender badging, LED head and taillights and a different front fascia that includes the charge port door centered in the grill. Overall, the Soul EV has an identifiable shape that is unique among hatchbacks.
Driving Experience: Interior
The Soul EV is very nicely equipped as a base model with the Plus version Clean Fleet Report drove having just the right finishing touches.
Standard equipment includes a six-speaker SiriusXM/FM/CD/AMHD with MP3 playback capability, two-toned cloth seats (the Plus has leather) with accent piping and stitching, voice-command navigation with an 8-inch screen, rear
Very nice, as Borat would say
back-up camera, Bluetooth for hands-free telephone operation and music streaming, power windows, outside mirrors and driver seat, heated and leather-wrapped steering wheel with cruise control and audio/telephone controls, push button start/stop, automatic climate control, tilt and telescopic steering column and Kia’s UVO infotainment system.
Room for more than hamsters
Our Plus model had two-toned heated and ventilated leather seats for the driver and passenger with the driver’s being power six-way adjustable. The rear outboard seats are heated and split 60/40. Cup holders abound and soft-touch dash and upper door panels had a good feel and look.
The cockpit design is driver friendly with the gauges in easy sight and the controls within easy reach; all are easy to understand. A unique feature aiming to reduce energy use is the button that isolates the ventilation only to the driver, therefore eliminating running the climate system for the full interior when it is not needed.
Kia has equipped the 2015 Soul EV with active and passive safety features including six air bags, TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System), Hill Start Assist Control (HAC), Pedestrian Warning System, Electronic Stability Control (ESC), Vehicle Stability Management (VSM) and the aforementioned four-wheel disc with ABS and push button start/stop.
Depending on your taxable income, you could potentially reduce your final purchase cost by as much as $10,000 through Federal and California State programs. It is recommended contacting your CPA before considering a Soul EV purchase so you are completely clear on the tax credits. Not relying on the dealer to provide this information will serve them and you best.
2015 Soul EV pricing before any Federal or State tax programs, but including the Destination Charge of $800 is:
In California the Soul EV automatically qualifies for the coveted HOV sticker, which allows driving in the Carpool lane even with only the driver. If you haven’t heard the stories, people buy electric vehicles just for this benefit. Also expect some competitive lease deals to help move these cars.
The 2015 Soul EV comes with these warranties:
• 10 year/100,000 mile Powertrain
• 5 year/60,000 mile Basic
• 10 year/100,000 mile Electric Vehicle System
• 5 year/60,000 mile Roadside Assistance
• 3 year/36,000 mile Non-impact paint repairs (fading, cracking, chipping or flaking)
• 5 year/100,000 miles Anti-Perforation
Observations: 2015 Kia Soul EV
The biggest electric vehicle purchase considerations are how far you drive daily and if, when you get to your destination, you can recharge the battery. It doesn’t sound like much, but these factors are no small thing when owning a fully electric car.
Before starting the Soul EV, you need to do some simple math. Your days of leaving the house with a 1/4 tank of gas knowing you can fill up at dozens of stations in mere minutes are over. If you run out of electricity in the Soul EV you will
Blue is the new green
need to find a charging station and wait until the car has sufficient battery charge to get you to your destination. So, is this enough to scare you away from considering owning a Soul EV? Let’s talk about the car and what to consider before pushing the Start button, then we will come back to if a Soul EV should be in your garage.
If you are not familiar with electric vehicle technology, let’s lay down some basics:
• There is no engine (gasoline, diesel, natural gas) so there are no tune-ups, filters and belts to change, oil to check or add, etc.
• There are no transmission fluids or filters to service
• You will never, ever buy any type of petroleum product to make your car go down the street
The gasoline use part of an EV purchase is significant, especially if you are currently spending $200 – $500 monthly on gasoline for your work commute and around town driving. If 90-percent of your driving is within 60 miles of your house, a Soul EV could be right for you as you would never need to buy gasoline again. Ever. But what about a longer trip where the Soul EV range can’t get you there and back? In this case, the Soul EV is probably your second car or you would rent a car for the day, weekend or week.
Before visiting your local Kia dealer, call ahead and make an appointment with one of their certified EV sales representatives. Do not speak with anyone at any dealership, regardless of brand, who has not gone through the factory training and education programs of what makes an electric vehicle unique, which includes its benefits and limitations. Once at the dealership, make sure to take a lengthy test drive, which replicates your longest and most common trip, as this is the only way to truly see if the 2015 Soul EV is right for your lifestyle.
Whatever you end up buying, enjoy your new car and as always, Happy Driving!
Related Stories of Kia Soul EV Competitors You Might Enjoy:
Best Electric Cars and Plug-in Hybrids for 2014
Road Test: Chevy Spark EV
Road Test: Fiat 500e
Road Test: Nissan Leaf
Road Test: Mitsubishi Mirage
Road Test: Toyota Prius c
Road Test: Nissan Versa Note