News: Second Generation Nissan Leaf Introduced

News: Second Generation Nissan Leaf Introduced

More Dynamic Design, More Range & Tech, Cheaper Price

The 2018 Nissan Leaf was unveiled to the world today and it marks a strong competitive move in a market full of new rivals. Context is everything. Leaf 2.0 launches in a world with two key competitors that have shaped Nissan’s flagship eco-car. The Chevrolet Bolt has been on the market since December. While not tearing it up in sales, it has sold steadily (and outsold the Leaf) this year and this month is available across the U.S. Last month the first of Tesla’s Model 3 rolled off the line, posing another mid-market challenge (and that model has almost a half-million reservations).

2018 Nissan Leaf

Nissan’s new Leaf takes a sport sedan stance

Those two models frame the new Leaf’s announcement. The Bolt’s appeal is an affordable mid-$30,000 price tag with an abundance of advanced technology. The Model 3 has more cache and more of a luxury and performance appeal. Both boast 200+ mile ranges in entry-level models.

The 2018 Nissan Leaf undercuts the price of both the Bolt and Model 3, sacrificing the extended range of both of those models, but strives for an image aligned on one hand with performance and the other with technology. Looking more like a performance sedan than the upright, pragmatic design of the original Leaf, the 2018 model will start at $29,990, below the price of the 2017 Leaf.

Although the Leaf model introduced in Japan touted a 400 kilometer (250-mile range), the U.S. model only claims 150 miles. That’s still twice the range of the 2010 Leaf. The new model will have Nissan’s ProPilot autonomous technology, which will allow for hands-free freeway driving. Also added is ProPilot Park, a parking-assist app and an e-Pedal, which allows for one pedal driving (you don’t have to use the brake as lifting on the accelerator dramatically slows the vehicle. While not unique to the Leaf, having all these features on a sub-$30,000 EV is a great move forward.

The 2018 Leaf goes on sale in early 2018 calendar year in all 50 states. It will carry an enhanced powertrain compared to the previous model, improving energy efficiency and delivering more torque and power. The announced numbers for the new car are 147 horsepower (110 kW, up 38 percent from the previous generation) and 236 pounds-feet of torque (up 26 percent).

The Heart of the New EV

The heart of the car is its new battery 40 kWh design. While delivering extended range, the laminated lithium-ion cells’ packaging remains the same as the first generation battery, but has a 67 percent increase in energy density.

2018 Nissan leaf

The rear hatch offers function and styling

Nissan is also teasing a “high-performance” version of the Leaf for next year.

The 2018 Nissan Leaf’s exterior design takes it out of the realm of the quirky and makes it closer to a mainstream sedan. The front end adopts the corporate Nissan look while overall the shape is closer to a sport sedan. The new model now has a Cd (coefficient of drag) of .028.  It retains the functional hatchback and appears to have similar interior dimensions to its predecessor, though with an interior with more luxury aspirations.

When the Leaf become the first mainstream EV on the market in 2010, the automotive world was quite different. As the model moved through the years to become the best-selling plug-in car in the world (almost 300,000 sold), times have changed. We can’t wait to get behind the wheel to get a better feel for this second generation EV.

Here are some stats to compare with those offered by Tesla for its Model 3.

Vehicle Dimensions

Wheelbase: 106.3 inches (compared to Model 3’s 113)

Overall Length: 176.4 (185)

Overall Width: 70.5 (73)

Overall Height: 61.4 (57)

Storage Space: 23.6 cubic feet (15)

Events: Celebrate National Drive Electric Week 2017

Events: Celebrate National Drive Electric Week 2017

September 9-17 Offers Opportunity to Learn More About EVs

Since the beginning of the current decade, electric cars have been available in many countries and at various dealerships. But, chances are, if you aren’t driving one now, you may not know much about them. That’s why, every September, National Drive Electric Week (NDEW) breaks out all across the country. It’s designed to build awareness of the advantages and pleasures of driving plug-in electric cars without asking people to step into a sales experience. Electric car owners bring their cars to the events and you can get the straight scoop from them directly.

The event began in 2011 as National Plug In Day, with the goal of staging events across the country on a single day to boost awareness of the new electric cars. Fast forward to 2017 and, looking at the map on the Drive Electric Week website, every state except South Dakota is hosting at least one event this year. As you’d expect, the activities are concentrated along the coasts.

Fittingly, 2011 was also the year that the Nissan Leaf and the Chevrolet Volt arrived—the first plug-in cars with serious corporate backing and volume intentions. Along with the growth of the electric car market itself, the annual event has expanded to a week and been appropriately renamed.

My Plan This Year

This year is my first year to attend, and I’m thrilled to be bringing my own car–a 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV that I leased in January. I’ll be giving people rides in my car at an event on Saturday, September 9, a few miles from my office in San Mateo, California. The following Wednesday, I’m hosting an event at my office building, where we EV drivers will display our cars and share with

I’ll be bringing my Bolt to the party

our colleagues the joys and advantages of electric motoring. Of course, most of us EV folks already know each other from conversations at the 12 charging stations out front or on our own Slack channel—electriccars—which I started last year when I was testing a Fiat 500e for three months.

On September 16, the next to last day of NDEW, I’ll drive my blue Bolt down to Cupertino—in the heart of Silicon Valley—where a much larger crowd will view more than 50 assorted EVs—new and historic. This year, we’ll see a rare GM EV-1, the original electric car, and star of “Who Killed the Electric Car.” As the sad story tells, GM crushed almost all of them. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the long-awaited 2018 Nissan Leaf will make an appearance, although it isn’t for sale quite yet. If someone could sneak in a real early Tesla Model 3, that would be a treat.

The electric car supporters of this growing event are Plug In America and the Electric Auto Association, along with the Sierra Club. The Platinum level sponsor is the Nissan Leaf, the EV pioneer that has done so much to bring affordable electric motoring to the masses.

Plan Your Own EV Event

You can go big or small with your NDEW event, but you do want to set it up with them online. That way, local people can find you, and any information your registered attendees provide—both the ones who bring a car or not—gets tallied to show how many miles are now being driven with electrons instead of carbon and how much interest is being generated. Added together, it’s a formidable number.

My event will likely feature no more than 10 cars, and it’s only for my fellow employees, other tenants in our three office buildings, and anyone who sees our signs or reads about the event on the

2017 Fiat 500e

Fiats and other plug-ins will be there

NDEW website. We aim to have at least one each of the main EVs and plug-in hybrids on sale today, including the Chevrolet Bolt and Volt, BMW i3, Nissan Leaf, Fiat 500e, Volkswagen e-Golf, and the Tesla Model S and Model X.

I’m finding that it’s taking some effort to get hardworking software company employees to reserve a 90-minute lunch break to stand by their cars and field questions. We are using our local café as a caterer to provide free sandwiches or wraps to attendees, hoping that the lure of a free lunch will at least get them to the south side of the parking lot to check out our cars.

It’s important to get the word out. Electric cars have a few limitations, but those may not be relevant to most people’s actual driving needs. A Chevrolet Bolt EV can travel about 240 miles between charges, for example, meaning you really don’t need to worry about finding a charging station every time you take a ride somewhere. Charging at home while you’re sleeping works just fine.

Electric cars are wonderfully smooth and quiet, and some offer quick acceleration. My Bolt zips from 0-60 in 6.5 seconds—sports sedan territory—and, with the heavy battery along the bottom, is wonderfully stable in corners. Electricity is cheaper and certainly cleaner than gasoline, depending on how and where it’s generated, of course (rooftop panels recommended). Service is practically nonexistent—no oil changes, radiator fluid, etc. In fact, with regenerative braking, you may practically never change brake pads!

See the National Drive Electric Week website for an event near you. Maybe next year, you can attend as an EV driver yourself!

Analysis: Lack of Model Choices Hampers Plug-in Sales

Analysis: Lack of Model Choices Hampers Plug-in Sales

Battery Electrics & Plug-in Hybrids Lack Most Popular Models

Here are three lists (from Automotive News and Hybridcars.com) to ponder from the first six months of 2017:

Top 5 Best-Selling Vehicles in the U.S.

  1. Ford F-Series full-size pickup
  2. Chevrolet Silverado full-size pickup
  3. Ram full-size pickup
  4. Nissan Rogue compact crossover
  5. Honda CR-V compact crossover
Chevrolet Bolt six-month test

The Bolt is being pushed as a crossover, but it’s really a hatchback sedan

Top 5 Best-Selling Full Electric Vehicles

  1. Tesla Model S luxury full-size sedan
  2. Tesla Model X luxury midsize SUV
  3. Chevrolet Bolt compact hatchback
  4. Nissan Leaf compact hatchback
  5. BMW i3 luxury subcompact hatchback

Top 5 Best-Selling Plug-in Hybrids

  1. Chevrolet Volt compact hatchback
  2. Toyota Prius Prime compact hatchback
  3. Ford Fusion Energi midsize sedan
  4. Ford C-Max Energi compact wagon
  5. BMW X5 xDrive40e luxury midsize SUV

Different Volumes; Different Models

Of course, I didn’t include the volume numbers here, but here are the top sellers in each of the three charts to give you some perspective:

Overall best-seller – 429,860

Ford Electrification

The best-selling vehicle in the U.S. does not plug in–yet

Overall best-seller EV – 11,100

Overall best-seller PHEV – 10,932

Not exactly in the same league.

But there is another significant point to be gathered from these charts. There is zero overlap in the top-selling models. Most important, none of the five best-selling conventional models (though some diesel pickups and a few non-plug-in hybrid Rogues may be in the mix) has a counterpart in either list of the best-selling plug-in vehicles. If the most popular type of cars aren’t available in plug-in versions, that becomes a major factor organically reducing their market appeal.

The Loyalty Factor

2017 Kia Niro Hybrid

This shape seems to inspire loyalty

Another factor that the lack of affordable popular models brings to the plug-in market is a lack of buyer loyalty. A study from the research firm HIS released this month (July 2017) outlined the problem. The most loyal car buyers (those who returned to buy a similar model) were SUV, crossover and pickup owners. Further down the list (and dropping from previous studies) were sedan buyers. Even further down, hatchback owners (which is what seven of the top 10 plug-in top selling models were).

The IHS study found that sedan buyers were defecting to SUVs and crossovers. They numbered 300,000 in the first four months of 2017. For comparison, all plug-in sales for the first six months of 2017 totaled less than 90,000 cars.

Or Is It Just the Price

Finally, an ongoing complaint about plug-in cars is their high prices. With government and automaker incentives and generous lease programs, we know the total cost of ownership for electric cars is not that far off comparable gas models. In spite of that, the sales charts indicate plug-ins are appealing to the high end of the market with four luxury models in the two lists. Probably the most popular configuration in the plug-in charts is the Tesla Model X, a midsize SUV, but it starts at $85,500. In contrast, the top 10 sellers in the overall market all have models available that start well under the list price of the cheapest plug-in, including some under $20,000.

Tesla Model X

Popular and configured right, but pricy

If there’s a silver lining in these charts it’s in the big picture trend line. Total sales in the U.S. have been down for six straight months. Analysts say last year (2016) may end up being the peak sales year ever. Meanwhile, plug-in hybrid sales for the first half of 2017 are up 44 percent from the previous year and battery electrics are up 29 percent, albeit working from a smaller base. And prices for plug-in vehicles appear to be coming down as battery development accelerates.

More popular models are in or coming to the market soon, including the Pacifica plug-in hybrid minivan, the Kia Niro crossover (in both plug-in hybrid and full electric versions) and possibly a plug-in version of the best-seller of all—the Ford F-150 pickup.

Related Stories You Might Enjoy:

First Drive: 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid  

Road Test: 2017 Kia Niro Hybrid

Interview: Ford’s Electrified Future

First Drive: 2017 Tesla Model X

Top 10 Electric Cars

Top 10 Electric Cars

 

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.

  1. 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.

2016,Audi,e-tron,A3,plug-in hybrid

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.

Tesla Model X

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.

  1. 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.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt LT

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 Volt2016 Chevy Volt; News: 2017 Cadillac CT6 PHEV; 2014 Chevy Spark EVCadillac ELR.

  1. 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.

2016 Nissan Leaf

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?

2016 BMW X5 xDrive40e

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).

2016 Ford Focus Electric, EV

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.

  1. 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.

2017 Prius Prime

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

 

  1. Kia/Hyundai – Coming on Strong

Don’t forget the Korean plug-ins

2017 Hyundai IONIQ Hybrid

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.

 

  1. 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.

2016 Mercedes-Benz B250e

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.

  1. 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

2016 Fiat 500e, safety

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.

The Rest

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

Disclosure:

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 publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top 10 2016 Best-Selling High-MPG Cars & Trucks

Top 10 2016 Best-Selling High-MPG Cars & Trucks

Record Sales in 2016 Didn’t Translate to Hybrids

Clean Fleet Report occasionally takes a look at how the vehicles we focus on—electric cars, hybrids, plug-in hybrids, clean diesels and high-mpg gasoline cars—are doing in the marketplace. The end of the calendar year is always a good time to take stock. Let’s look back at 2016 and see how they treated our favorite vehicles.  In this case we’ll leave out the pure gas cars since they don’t have similar charts.

  1. Toyota Prius – Still number one, but sliding. Toyota redesigned the Prius this year to give it a little more personality—and even improved the fuel economy, which already stands at the top of non-plug-in cars. The market response has not been overwhelming. Prius sales dropped 13 percent year-over-year and failed to cracked 100,000 units. But Prius sales of 98,863 still dwarf anything else on this list, outselling the entire category of battery electric vehicles. Two Clean Fleet Report staff took a spin in the new Prius and left their opinions here and here.
  2. Ram 1500 EcoDiesel – With Volkswagen out of the diesel picture, a new sales leader has emerged—the Ram pickup. Probably reflecting the market shift to trucks, the Ram outsells what the VW sedans did in their heyday. In 2016 55,209 Rams were sold, down slightly from 2015 (3.2 percent). Word in the industry is that production capacity of the 3.0-liter V6 is the only thing limiting Ram diesel sales. We drove a model recently and were impressed.

    2016 Ford Transit

    Ford Transit buyers are taking the diesel option

  3. Ford Transit – Ford claims the number three spot with the diesel models of its European-based passenger/cargo van. Three engine options are offered, two gas V6s and the five-cylinder inline turbodiesel featured here. The 3.2-liter diesel’s more than holding its own, selling 50,127 units last year. Its sales were a 22 percent boost from 2015. We’ve been in the Transit, but haven’t had a chance to fully test one yet.
  4. Toyota RAV4 Hybrid – The RAV4 Hybrid is a newcomer to this list, confirming three things—Toyota’s continuing expansion of its hybrid offerings, buyers’ shift to crossovers and SUVs and the popularity of Toyota compact crossover. The fact that the RAV4 Hybrid outsold the established Camry Hybrid may be one of the biggest news stories of the year in out part of the market. Toyota moved 45,070 RAV4 Hybrids in 2016. We tested the model recently.
  5. Ford Fusion Hybrid – Ford’s leader in the hybrid market had a good year in 2016, posting a 36 percent sales gain and ending with 33,648 sales. The midsize car, which Ford offers in regular, hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions, is Ford’s best-selling car model. We’ve spent plenty of time in both the hybrid and plug-in hybrid models and understand their popularity.
  6. Tesla Model S – Here’s where this chart gets interesting. This is the high-water mark for all-electric cars to this point. And it is happening with a car that retails for twice what any of the others on the list cost. There’s no question the Model S has made an impression, even while it is not on sale in every state. We’ve ridden in the car, but haven’t had the chance to put the car to a full test. Its owners love them, Consumer Reports and Motor Trend both raved about them, and the company has great plans to continue to expand its model lineup. Model S sales of 29,156 in 2016 were up 16 percent compared to the previous year.
  7. Chevrolet Volt – The second generation Volt has been a big success for GM, boosting sales by 60 percent compared to 2015 to 24,739. We’ve had a chance to spend some time with the new
    2016 Chevrolet Volt

    The Chevy Volt plug-in gets a big boost in 2016

    model and like the upgrade from the previous edition in both looks and performance. We aren’t surprised at the sales jump, but wonder what happens when the all-electric Bolt joins the showroom.

  8. Toyota Camry Hybrid – The best-selling midsize car (actually the best-selling car–#4 again this year outsold only by the top three pickups from Ford, Chevrolet and Ram) dropped 9.5 percent in sales in 2016 from 2015. The Hybrid model dropped more than 27 percent, ending up with 22,227 sales. The sales drop is even harder to take as the car received some solid upgrades this year, as we noted in our road test.
  9. Toyota Prius c – The “baby” Prius, like its Prius siblings, suffered a big drop in sales in 2016, ending up selling only 20,452 units. That’s a drop of 47 percent from last year for the little economy car, probably a clear commentary of the low price of gasoline and a move away from sedans. We tested the c awhile ago.
  10. Hyundai Sonata Hybrid – Hyundai joined this hit parade by selling 18,961 of its hybrid Sonatas. Like the Fusion, the Sonata now comes in three flavors—regular, hybrid and plug-in hybrid—and is edging up in sales, though it had a slight dip in 2016. Unlike the Camry, though the Sonata Hybrid’s drop was on par with the regular gasoline version’s sales drop. We think we know why, this version of the Sonata Hybrid fixes many issues we found in earlier models. We also liked the plug-in hybrid version.

So that’s the Top 10, an eclectic mix of six hybrids, two diesels, one plug-in hybrid and one pure electric model. Also of note is the inclusion of three trucks in the mix. It wasn’t the strongest year for our favorite cars:

  • The biggest category, hybrids, dropped almost 10 percent from last year, ending at just over 347,000 units.
  • The second biggest category, diesels, continued to suffer from the absence of VW, Audi and Porsche from the market, dropping30 percent to just over 137,000 vehicles.
  • Plug-in hybrids were the stars of 2016, boosting sales by 69 percent compared to 2015 and ending up selling more than 72,000 vehicles.
  • Battery electric cars also had a good year, up 18 percent from last year and selling more than 84,000 cars.
  • Besides low gas prices, the increased fuel economy from gas models makes picking an alternative with a different powertrain a more difficult choice. We’re seeing more and more 40 mpg sedans and 30 mpg AWD models that don’t need electrification or diesel engines.
  • In spite of that, more electric, plug-in hybrid, hybrid and diesel models will be hitting the market during the coming years.

Five More Bubbling Under

2016 Nissan Leaf SL,EV, electric car,mpg,fuel efficiency

The Nissan Leaf continues to sell the EV life

Some interesting cars are bubbling right below the Top 10 and could punch into the top rung next year. The next five in sales are the Ford Fusion Energi, a plug-in hybrid, the Tesla Model X, a battery-electric SUV, the hybrid Toyota Prius V, the all-electric Nissan Leaf (which we took an additional look at) and the hybrid Ford C-Max. We’ve linked to our tests of these models, which are all worth a look.

Other new models to look out for in 2017 are the previously mentioned Chevrolet Bolt EV and the Toyota Prius Prime plug-in hybrid. We’ll have more news on them when they hit the market. The Chevrolet Cruze diesel also should return to the market with a new edition.

As always, we tip a hat to Hybridcars.com and Baum and Associates for digging into the numbers, which are not always readily available from the manufacturers.

Related Stories You Might Enjoy:

Road Test: 2016 Toyota Prius

Road Test: 2016 Toyota Prius (Second Look)

Road Test: 2016 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel

Road Test: 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

Road Test: 2014 Ford Fusion Energi

Road Test: 2016 Chevrolet Volt

Road Test: 2016 Chevrolet Volt (Second Look)

Road Test: 2016 Toyota Camry Hybrid

Road Test: 2014 Toyota Prius c

Road Test: 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

Disclosure:

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 publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.