News: 2018 Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid Introduced

News: 2018 Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid Introduced

26-Mile Electric Driving Range For New Model

At this week’s Los Angeles Auto Show automakers introduced a mixture of environmentally friendly, advanced technology vehicles along with traditional high-performance models appealing to a different market segment. At Clean Fleet Report we think there’s some high performance worth noting in the first group. This is one of several stories that will highlight the most significant news out of the show.

The 2018 Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV) took a bow at the Los Angeles Auto Show on Thursday, complementing the Korean automaker’s existing Optima PHEV and the Soul EV plug-in vehicles. With an estimated 26 miles of all-electric range, the Niro Plug-in is in the same league as most other plug-in hybrid models like the Toyota Prius Prime (25 miles), Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in (29 miles) and Kia’s own Optima Plug-in (29 miles).

2018 Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid

The big difference from the other Niro

When the battery is depleted, the Niro Plug-in automatically switches to gasoline-electric hybrid operation where is obtains an EPA estimated fuel economy of 48 mpg city/44 highway/46 combined, slightly less than Niro Hybrid model. The estimated mile-per-gallon-equivalent rating is 105 MPGe. With a fully charged battery and a full tank of gasoline, Kia estimates a total range of 560 miles.

This is all achieved by pairing an all-aluminum, 1.6-liter gasoline direct injection four-cylinder engine with an 8.9-kWh lithium-polymer battery pack and a 60-horsepower (hp) electric motor with a combined output of 139 hp and 195 pounds-feet of torque. That compares to the regular Niro Hybrid’s 1.56-kWh battery pack and 43-hp motor. The Niro PHEV employs the same six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission as the Niro Hybrid. Drivers can choose from several driving modes, including EV mode, Hybrid mode, Eco mode or Sport.

With a Level 2, 240-volt charger, the Niro PHEV can be fully charged in 2.5 hours. Using a Level 1, 120-volt standard home electrical outlet, charging time is around nine hours, making for effective overnight charging at home.

Looks Like the Niro Hybrid

Side by side, the new Kia Niro PHEV and Niro Hybrid are near identical twins. The Niro Plug-in can be spotted by the charging port, which is blended into the driver’s side front fender. There’s also a slight change to the grille along with some blue accents. Not noticeable, in an effort to keep weight down, Kia uses aluminum to construct the hood, hatchback, some suspension parts and the brake calipers.

2018 Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid

The plug-in keeps the interior dimensions intract

Inside, the company offers a seven-inch instrument panel display with a digital tachometer. A wide range of safety tech is standard, as is adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning and autonomous emergency braking. Kia continues with driver-only air conditioning, which conserves energy by only keeping the driver cool. Although the battery has a larger capacity, it is neatly tucked under the cargo floor and rear seat so the car maintains the same cargo capacity as the Niro hybrid.

When it goes on sale, the Kia Niro Plug-in will be offered in three trim levels: LX, EX and EX Premium. Pricing has not yet been announced, but Kia needs to hurry up—it is expected to roll into showrooms this month, which means any day now. 

Related Stories You Might Enjoy:

Road Test: 2017 Kia Niro FE

Road Test: 2017 Kia Niro Hybrid (Larry’s view)

Road Test: 2017 Kia Niro Hybrid (Steve’s view)

Road Test: 2017 Kia Niro Hybrid (John’s view)

News: Hyundai-Kia’s Future Is Electric Powertrains

News: New Jeep Wrangler Gets Mild Hybrid in 2018, Diesel in 2019, Plug-In Hybrid in 2020

News: New Jeep Wrangler Gets Mild Hybrid in 2018, Diesel in 2019, Plug-In Hybrid in 2020

LA Auto Show First Public Showing of Redesigned SUV

At this week’s Los Angeles Auto Show automakers introduced a mixture of environmentally friendly, advanced technology vehicles along with traditional high-performance models appealing to a different market segment. At Clean Fleet Report we think there’s some high performance worth noting in the first group. This is one of several stories that will highlight the most significant news out of the show.

The all-new 2018 Jeep Wrangler JL made its debut Wednesday at the Los Angeles auto show as one of the show’s most-anticipated reveals. And yes, the new off-roader, in either two- or four-door versions, looks pretty much like the outgoing Wrangler JK. If it didn’t, there would be a massive revolt of Wranglerphiles. The vehicle is designed to have better aerodynamics, improved performance, increased fuel economy, and features some nice tech updates along with new powertrains.

Carryover and New Powertrains

The 2018 Jeep Wrangler will first be available with the carryover Pentastar 3.6-liter V-6 engine that ponies up 285 horsepower (hp) and 260 pounds-feet (lb.ft.) of torque with the option of a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic transmission. All of Wrangler’s engines will now come standard with stop-start technology.

2018 Jeep Wrangler

Jeep redesigns the iconic Wrangler and promises engine upgrades

Taking baby steps towards electrification, Jeep will also offer the 2018 Wrangler with a mild hybrid powertrain with its 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder gas engine. Called eTorque, the hybrid adds regenerative braking, stop-start and electric power assist. This system makes 270 hp and 295 lb.ft. of torque.

For the first time ever (in the U.S.), Jeep will also offer a diesel engine. The diesel version will have a 3.0-liter turbocharged V-6 EcoDiesel engine that exerts 260 hp and 443 lb.ft. and has an eight-speed automatic transmission. Given its extra torque, this will likely be the most appealing option for those serious about off-roading and towing. Those who opt for the diesel model, though, will also have to wait until 2019 and it will only be available in four-door models.

At the end of Jeep’s second-best selling model reveal, brand head Mike Manley announced that the Wrangler will get a plug-in hybrid model in 2020 in a move he says is “future proofing” the legendary off-roader. “A full plug-in electric Jeep Wrangler will be available in 2020, furthering our commitment to all those who value the responsible, sustainable enjoyment of the great outdoors and very importantly, future proofing this Wrangler for generations to come,” he said.

New Exterior Styling, Sort Of

The redesigned 2018 Jeep Wrangler may look strikingly similar to its immediate predecessor, but above the skid plates and beneath the removable top, longtime fans will notice the upgrades incorporated into the first Wrangler redesign since 2006.

The grille combines the best of past eras of design, while being able to stand on its own. It has returned to the classic keystone shape with new, larger headlights intruding on the outboard slats, reminiscent of the first post-war flat-fender Jeeps. Keen eyes might also notice the return of the kink in the grille, which was last seen on YJs and XJs, a once-stalwart Jeep styling cue that retakes its rightful home at the front of the JL.

2018 Jeep Wrangler

There are little details–like the taillights–that translate the Jeep fun factor

Overall length for the two-door is 166.8 inches, a growth spurt of a little over two inches. The four-door grows 3.5 inches compared to the JK, for an overall length of 188.4; a little over an inch of that is used to improve rear-seat legroom. The Wrangler JL’s track width grows one inch to 62.9 inches, while ground clearance is up across the board. Likewise, approach, breakover and departure angles are increased compared to standard JKs.

A Classy Interior

Inside the cabin, the Wrangler’s once-a-decade overhaul really takes off, starting with long-overdue upgrades of its infotainment system and information cluster. A five-inch touchscreen will be available on the low-end Sport models, with either seven- or optional 8.4-inch touchscreen displays available on upper trims, including optional Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The instrument cluster will feature either a 3.5-inch or seven-inch information screen, depending on the trim level. The new Wrangler will get push-button start for the first time, while its seats will have adjustable bolster and lumbar supports, and available heated front seats and steering wheel.

2018 Jeep Wrangler

The interior gets a much-needed upgrade

Window controls are still in the center stack, as are a set of four auxiliary switches ready for lights, compressor or other electric needs. The dashboard grab handle even has a flat spot to mount a radio mic or other device. A new powered Sky one-touch system allows a driver to retract the Wrangler’s canvas soft top with the touch of a button.

Also included are 75 active and passive safety features, including a backup camera and available blind-spot monitoring, rear cross path detection. Plus, Jeep didn’t ignore rear seat passengers, with an additional inch of legroom, a seat back angled more deeply and, for the first time, a center armrest with cup holders.

So far, fuel economy ratings have been revealed only for the four-door Wrangler Unlimited models with the carryover engine. It earned mpg ratings of 18 city/23 highway/20 combined with the eight-speed automatic, and 17 city/23 highway/19 combined with the six-speed manual transmission. Pricing will be announced closer to its arrival in dealer showrooms in January.

Honda Clarity Production Fuel Cell Model Introduced

Honda Clarity Production Fuel Cell Model Introduced

On Sale in Late 2016; Competes with Toyota Mirai, Hyundai Tucson

The slow roll-out of fuel cell vehicles continues, as if the chicken-or-egg discussions about whether the vehicles or infrastructure should has slowed down all forward progress. With Asian rivals Hyundai and Toyota on the market in California with their fuel cell cars, it was only a matter of time until Honda entered the slowly unfolding race to get hydrogen-fueled cars into the mainstream.

Honda clarity,fuel cell,styling,LA Auto show

New, but not radical looks

At the November 2015 Los Angeles Auto Show Honda showed off the version of its Clarity fuel cell car that will go on sale in about a year. It is similar in size to the Toyota Mirai it will join in the marketplace, with an understated design that we’ve come to expect from Honda. Some of the more radical styling  features of the concept versions shown earlier have been dropped and the Clarity will easily fit in the showroom alongside Accords and CR-Vs and barely attract attention from anyone who doesn’t follow advanced technology.

For those who do follow what we consider the most exciting part of the automotive world, the new Honda Clarity (it continues the nomenclature of Honda’s last generation fuel cell car) offers

honda,clarity,fuel cell,FCEV,

The shrinking fuel cell

some updated technology and the kind of features normally found in Hondas. The company has shrunk the fuel cell stack by 33 percent compared to the last generation and given the recovered room to the interior, resulting in more seating space than is found in a midsize Accord. Honda’s also porting its infotainment technology over, offering Apple CarPlay and Android Auto in the Clarity. The suite of safety/technology features known collectively as Honda Sensing also will show up in the fuel cell car. Honda expects the Clarity to deliver more than 300 miles from a full tank of hydrogen and be able to be refueled in less than three minutes.

honda,clarity,fuel cell, interior

A touch of FCEV luxury

Of course, only water vaper comes out of the Clarity tailpipe, which is the car’s biggest environmental selling point. From Clean Fleet Report’s drives of previous generations of Honda fuel cell cars, Clarity drivers can expect performance like that of most electric cars—that is, quiet, responsive driving with a good road feel. If the interior characteristics of the model on display in LA are carried into production, buyers can also expect some luxury touches and a classic Honda interior with well-laid-out gauges and controls.

The bigger question about fuel cell cars remains—where do you get fuel? California is investing tens of millions of dollars into building stations to supply hydrogen for FCEVs in Southern and Northern California. All appears to be roughly on pace to keep up with the sluggish fuel cell vehicle rollout. Other hydrogen vehicle activity is taking place in a couple other spots in the U.S. as well as in Korea, Japan and Europe. It’s going to be a slow ride as this new technology seeks to displace not only traditional gas and diesel vehicles, but also electrics and plug-in hybrids by offering a vehicle

honda,clarity,3rd generation,fuel cell

The last generation

that is a closer approximation of the type of driving and fueling experience we’re used to. There may be room for all of these technologies to co-exist, but it does create a complicated marketplace for consumers. Initially, FCEVs like the Honda Clarity will likely appeal to early adopters and tech-savvy folks willing to trade off the embryonic infrastructure for a chance to experience cutting-edge technology. It’s much like the first EVs. That phase is expected to carry the cars toward the next generation of smaller, cheaper powerplants that should help expand the cars’ reach while a growing infrastructure makes them easier to use in the real world. Navigant Research predicts we’ll see 228,000 fuel cell cars on the road by a decade from now. It’s going to be fun to watch and will undoubtedly not be a smooth ride, but expect some memorable cars along the way.

Related Stories You Might Enjoy:

Toyota Mirai Hits the Market

First Drive: 2016 Toyota Mirai

2014 LA Auto Show: A Hydrogen Milestone

LA Auto Show 2014 Review: Plug-in Hybrid Best Bets for 2015

LA Auto Show 2014 Review: Plug-in Hybrid Best Bets for 2015

The 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show was full of plug-in hybrids (PHEV). I investigated details both for this article and because I’m interested in buying a new PHEV, which surprises friends because I have been driving an all-electric Nissan Leaf for close to 4 years.

Range has rarely been an issue with our all-electric, and we have never run out of charge. The Leaf has been great because my wife and I share two cars. Now, living in a the city with good transit, carsharing, Uber, walking and other options, we only need one car.

Yes, a Tesla has enough range and charging stations to meet our needs, but it is way out of our price range. To meet all our needs, and keep the price after tax credits below $40,000, the new car will most likely be a plug-in hybrid. There are several exciting PHEV that fit our needs and probably yours. So here’s a run-down of what I found at the recent LA Auto Show 2014.

Chevrolet Volt Leads

More than 70,000 Chevrolet Volts have been sold. The 20 owners who I’ve interviewed have all been happy with their Volts. Drivers meet most of their needs with low-cost home charging; only filling with gasoline for long trips. The Volt

Chevy,chevrolet,volt,plug-in hybrid

Chevy Volt leads plug-in hybrid sales

has a 38-mile electric-charge range and 380-mile total range. It normally operates as a series plug-in, with only the electric motor turning the wheels.

An improved 2016 Volt is expected to be announced in January at the Detroit Auto Show. Speculation abounds about more than one model, giving customers a choice in price, range, and fuel-efficiency. I speculate that it will have a more compact battery pack of LG Chem lithium-polymer cells. With a smaller pack, the new Volt will seat five with more cargo space. I also predict that the new 2016 Volt will boost its electric range to 50 miles. Online ordering is likely on the day of announcement. I expect the Volt to remain the best selling PHEV in next year.

If you buy the current model at the dealer, you can probably negotiate a discount. The 2016 model may involve a long wait.

BMW i3 is Green Car of the Year

The BMW i3 with Range Extender delivers 80 miles of electric range in real world before its gasoline engine engages. Although priced at over $42,000, it is selling well. Unlike other PHEV offerings, it is a true electric car with a small engine and gas tank to extend range another 50 miles as a series PHEV. The i3 is great for city driving, but compromised in long-distance highway driving. Unlike the other choices in this article, the i3 can be ordered with DC Fast Charge.

2014,BMW,i3,plug-in hybrid

New entry into the plug-in market

BMW also offers a hot i8 PHEV for well over $100,000. In future years, BMW does plan to offer an optional PHEV drive system for a growing number of its models, including the popular 3-Series.

BMW, like Daimler (Mercedes), also sees a big future in car sharing, including the ability to drive a car to a destination without returning it to the starting point. BMW owns DriveNow with 350,000 members in 20 cities (mostly in Europe at present). the BMW i3 is being added to Drive Now in several cities.

Ford and Toyota Offer Less Electric Range

Ford will continue to succeed with its two plug-in cars, the C-Max Energi and the Fusion Energi. Both cars are beautiful and fun to drive. Personally, I prefer the C-Max because of the hatchback’s flexibility to lower back seats for added cargo space. In real-world driving of these cars I got 14 miles of electric range, compared to 40 with the Volt. However, Ford offers over 620 miles of total range, a plus for long distance drivers.

Ford, like most auto makers (except GM and BMW), uses a parallel drive system that blends power from both the electric motor and gasoline engine.

The Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid continues to be popular even though only delivering a 12-mile electric range in my test drive. In hybrid mode it delivers 50 miles per gallon, more than 20 percent better than Ford

Toyota,Prius,Plug-in, EV, HOV lane

The Prius models plug along

and 30 percent better than Chevrolet. The Prius and Ford seat five, the Chevy only four.

In many states, solo drivers of these PHEV can use the HOV lane, giving buyers another reason to buy a plug-in car, even with limited electric range.

Volvo Announces New 7-Seat SUV PHEV with AWD

For the first time, there will be a roomy seven-passenger plug-in hybrid SUV – the new Volvo XC90 PHEV. With a garage charge, the first 20 miles can be electric, although real-world EV range is likely be closer to Ford and Toyota. You can order now, but pricing is still to be announced. It’s due to hit the market in the spring.

The Volvo XC 90 PHEV is AWD, providing added safety in snow and ice. It has an electric motor on each axle to manage the AWD. Volvo offers many of advanced safety features such as adaptive cruise control, lane-drift warning and assistance, and automatic braking. It offers a larger display for drivers than other plug-ins.

Dealers will sell you PHEVs from Chevy, Ford and Toyota for around $30,000, before generous federal and state tax credits. Most automakers also offer lease programs. My guess is that the Volvo SUV PHEV will be at least $50,000, yet definitely appeal to SUV drivers with its three rows of seats and large cargo area.

In addition to the best-selling plug-in hybrids I have discussed, there are several others on the market and more in the works: Honda has its Accord available now (as are high-end models from Cadillac and Porsche), while Mitsubishi, Volkswagen, Mercedes Benz, Audi. Hyundai and Kia all are expected to lauch PHEV or at least add details in 2015.

According to a new report from Navigant Research, plug-in EVs (which include plug-in hybrids and battery EVs), are expected to make up 2.4 percent of total worldwide light-duty vehicle sales by 2023. Adoption of plug-in vehicles has occurred at a similar pace to the adoption of hybrids that started 15 years ago.

Electric Cars to Match Your Needs

The best car is the one that best matches your needs and budget. If you live in a household with two or more vehicles, you have great flexibility. One vehicle could be pure electric and the other a larger SUV offering more seating, cargo, and long-distance capability. One could be pure electric and the other a plug-in hybrid. You could have a plug-in car for daily driving of under 60 miles and a fuel-sipping hybrid or diesel for long-distance fuel economy.

For many, the plug-in hybrid is the best choice for meeting all needs, especially if it is to be your only car. The Volt continues to be the best seller because its optimal mix of electric range, flexible cargo, and good styling. For those wanting maximum electric range, the BMW i3 is their first choice. For those who want some electric range and good long-distance fuel economy, Ford and Toyota offer good choices. For those who have needed seven seats and AWD for icy roads, Volvo offers a PHEV SUV.

Test drive several models. Bring your cargo needs, such as two bicycles or suitcases or work items and see if they fit. Try a plug-in for a day through car rental or car sharing. Enjoy the electric drive.

Related stories you might enjoy:

Road Test: 2014 Chevrolet Volt

Road Test: 2014 BMW i3 & i3REX

Road Test: 2014 Ford Fusion Energi

Road Test: 2014 Toyota Prius Plug-In





Hydrogen Fuel Cell Cars Go On Sale in 2014!

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Cars Go On Sale in 2014!

Hyundai, Honda, Toyota Lead With Zero Emission Contenders

Hyundai-fuel cell-hydrogen-Toyota-Honda

Hyundai First Fuel Cell In The Showroom

Story & Photos (except Toyota) By Michael Coates

Electric cars running on hydrogen, creating their own electricity as they drive, are officially no longer the cars of the distant future. As Hyundai Motor America president and CEO John Frafcik said last week: “The future is much closer than you think.” Come spring, you can go to a select Southern California Hyundai dealer (one near the growing hydrogen station infrastructure), put down $2999 and drive away in a Tucson fuel cell car, a compact SUV with water as its only tailpipe emission, a 300-mile range on a tank of free (for the life of the $499/month loan) fuel, and free Concierge Service (like that offered with the Equus model). In other words, Hyundai is ushering in the hydrogen age and doing its best to make it an easy transition for the early adopters who choose to shift to zero emission driving. It made the announcement at the Los Angeles Auto Show, creating a stir among the more mundane introductions of conventional cars and trucks.

Hyundai, which has made a commitment to produce several thousand Tucson FCEVs on the same assembly line as its gas-powered cousin, is not alone as both Honda and Toyota will have their own fuel cells on sale in 2015. Both companies showed off concept cars hinting at the look of their 2015 FCEV sedans. Honda’s car, shown at the LA Auto Show a few hours before Hyundai’s announcement, was a futuristic design that will probably be tamed down for production, but clearly takes a page from its initial foray into hybrids with the 2000 Insight. Toyota’s FCEV, which was introduced at the Tokyo Auto Show, featured more conventional styling but carried the same promise as Hyundai of a consumer-friendly market approach.

Others Will Join In The Fuel Cell Parade


Of course, Mercedes, General Motors, Nissan, Ford, BMW and Volkswagen are not far behind the three leaders. All have their fuel cell cars ready to roll out (and some have done limited marketing as have Hyundai, Honda and Toyota) and are expected to hit the market prior to 2020.

The big hang up for fuel cells has been the refueling infrastructure. Unlike pure electric cars, which can rely on the ubiquity of electricity for easy, if slow, refueling, FCEVs need a network of stations to truly become a technology that can replace the internal combustion engine. Governments in Germany, Japan and Korea (and a few other spots in the world) have committed to build that infrastructure and California fell in line this year when it passed a bill to fund up to 100 stations, most of which will be located in Southern California where the cars will see their initial rollout.

Early adopters opting for the 2015 Tucson FCEV will get quite a deal. For comparison, we ran the numbers for a base gas-powered 2014 Tucson in Southern California. A 36-month lease with $2,999 down would give you $544/month payments – and you’d have to pay for your own gas and service!

Honda and Toyota didn’t have the retail details that Hyundai offered, but they made it clear that 2015 would be the introduction date of their fuel cell vehicles, which in the U.S. also will be targeted to the Southern California region with an infrastructure to support the cars.

The Hyundai Fuel Cell Deal


At the introduction, Hyundai’s Krafcik ticked off the advantages his company sees in fuel cell vehicles, compared with pure battery electrics. He also said there was plenty of room in the market for both types of zero emission vehicles, but FCEVs offered:

  • Driving range of 300 miles,
  • Capable of refueling in less than 10 minutes,
  • Minimal reduction in daily utility compared with its gasoline counterpart,
  • Minimal cold-weather effects, and
  • Extensive crash, fire and leak testing.

What fuel cells share with battery electrics is instantaneous torque from its electric motor, good daily reliability and long-term durability, few moving parts, quiet operation and zero greenhouse gas emissions from operation. Krafcik noted that a UC Irvine study done this year found the well-to-wheels emissions of fuel cell vehicles to be lower not only than gas or diesel vehicles, but also battery electrics.

In addition to the straight sales pitch, Krafcik also said that the Tucson FCEVs will be available as rentals through Enterprise.

Honda Fuel Cell Concept

Honda-fuel cell-electric car

Honda Gets Zoomy With Its Next Fuel Cell


Honda, while adamant about the 2015 launch of its next generation fuel cell car, was less committal about planned volumes or price at the LA Auto Show. Honda has been leasing its FCX Clarity fuel cell for several years, but in very small volumes. Honda reviewed its history getting the public into its fuel cell cars, noting that the next generation’s fuel cell stack (the “engine” for an FCEV) will have a 60 percent power density improvement over the one used in the Clarity. The stack also is 30 percent smaller than its predecessor and costs have been reduced.

The Honda FCEV is a five-passenger sedan, similar in exterior size to its current FCX Clarity, but with a more spacious interior because of the smaller fuel cell stack. Honda didn’t release exterior dimensions of the concept, but said its stack would yield more than 100 KW of power output and would deliver a driving range of more than 300 miles.

Toyota Fuel Cell Concept


Like Honda, Toyota chose an auto show to unveil a concept version of the fuel cell sedan it will launch in 2015. The Camry-size four-passenger sedan, unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show last week, is a less radical design than Honda’s, appearing to be much closer to the production intent for the production version. Its released dimensions indicate it is slightly longer overall than a Camry (191.7 inches compared to 189.2 for for the Camry), has a wheelbase that is almost identical and is about a half-inch narrower. Toyota said its new fuel cell stack has a power density similar to Honda’s at 3 kW/liter, which they said represents more than twice that of its current stocks. The company also claimed reduced size and costs. Automotive News quoted Toyota officials as saying that fuel cell cars by 2020 will cost roughly the same as a plug-in hybrid to produce.

Toyota-fuel cell-electric vehicle

Toyota’s 2015 FCEV Concept







More Stories On This Subject:

Suddenly Hydrogen Cars Are Back

Hyundai To Produce 2,000 Fuel Cell Cars

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Buses In Service