The Top 10 Electric Cars You Can Buy–Finally!

The Top 10 Electric Cars You Can Buy–Finally!

Tesla,Model S,EV

Tesla Model S Sales Hit Mark

For all the twists and turns that the auto industry undergoes, it looks like 2013 will be a clear milestone for electric cars. There are caveats, but we’ll deal with them later. The point here is to look at how far we have come and note the arrival of the electric car industry. It’s no longer a model or two, but a substantial variety of vehicles from major manufacturers from which the EV-conscious consumer can choose. Even with some drop-offs, by this summer we’ll have at least 10 all-electric EVs to choose from; sorry, plug-ins, if you have an internal combustion engine you can’t make this list. This is for the hardcore – consumers who want to divest their transportation of the direct use of fossil fuels.

Some of these models are available in limited numbers or in limited locales (there’s one big caveat), but they are almost all from major manufacturers, backed with warrantees and dealer service. And this group, while small now, is destined to grow exponentially in the coming years as the market builds. For now, 10 EVs represents an achievement. Here’s a run-down what’s on the market now (or very soon) as well as some we’ve lost and some new entries due next year.

1. Tesla Model S – You have to start with this model. Though priced in the stratosphere, it was one of the best selling EVs of the first quarter of 2013 on the strength of solid reviews and pent-up demand. Its sales propelled Tesla into cash-flow positive territory and backs up its goal of selling 20,000 units this year.

2. Nissan Leaf – One could make a good argument that this car should be the first mentioned in any EV list. It was the first mass-produced EV on the market and streams into 2013 with both a lowered starting price as well as new high-end features. The combination appears to be working as sales hit a new high in March 2013, a trend that Nissan hopes to extend throughout the year as its has shifted production of the car and its battery pack to the U.S.

3. Ford Focus EV – Ford’s leading electric-only model is not making a big dent in sales, but it is a clear indication of Ford’s intent to remain active in the plug-in segment, augmenting the better-selling Energi models.

4. Toyota RAV4 EV – Toyota has revived an electric-only RAV4 model (it’s first foray was in the 1997-2003 model when several hundred were produced and sold in California to meet the state’s zero emission vehicle mandate). The compact SUV features a battery pack developed by Tesla, but sales will be limited as the vehicle is being used only to comply with California ZEV mandate, much like the first version.

5. Mitsubishi i (or i-MiEV) – This diminutive EV from Mitsubishi was redesigned for the U.S. market and has garnered some sales, but continues to lag behind the competition.

6. Honda Fit EV – Honda’s entry into the EV market, like Toyota’s, is available in only limited numbers and only for lease, but sales don’t appear to yet be anywhere near the projected number the company is going to build. Reviews of the car indicate it acquits itself well.

7. BMW ActiveE – The ActiveE is BMW’s second round in the EV wars, following on the MINI-E. Although it is only available for lease, the vehicle’s performance in a short drive appeared to meet the BMW brand’s image. It features the powertrain that will be in next year’s i3.

Fiat,Smart,Mercedes,EV

Fiat & Smart offer small, fast EVs

8. Smart Fortwo ED – Mercedes is now on its third generation of the electric version of its two-seat minicar. They’ve jettisoned the Tesla battery pack of the second generation and replaced it with one from SB LiMotive (which also supplies the Fiat 500e and BMW i3) along with a more powerful electric motor. With its increased top speed, it appears the only thing holding this low-priced EV back is its small size and limited seating.

9. Fiat 500e – Just on the market is another small EV from Europe, an electric version of Fiat’s 500 model. Early reviews indicate it carries over the performance and image of the gasoline version of the car.

10. Chevy Spark EV – Due this summer is another small EV, this one from General Motors. Based on the company’s Daewoo-designed model, the Spark EV is going to be assembled in the U.S. Early reviews of the car have described a car that delivers substantial power for its diminutive size.

GM,Chevy,Spark, EV

GM’s Chevy Spark EV will be on the market this summer.

There you have it. Ten models offering a variety of configurations and price ranges, but all powered only by electricity. With a list like this, even with their limited availability, it appears we have passed out of the earliest phase of the EV and are steadily moving toward the category’s establishment as a permanent part of the automotive landscape.
Note that this is the EV-only list; it’s augmented by a growing list of plug-in vehicles, led by the Chevy Volt, that also promote the electrification of the automobile and move away from petroleum as a primary transportation fuel.

More to Come

While this group is impressive, there are more to come. Sometimes new model introduction timetables slip, especially when dealing with advanced technology, but these appear to be heading to market in 2014:
• BMW i3
• Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive
• VW e-Golf
Others are likely coming as well if the market begins to pick up momentum.

RIP

Without going back a decade to recall the first generation of modern EVs that came and went quite quickly (and not always with any sadness), it should be noted that several EVs of recent vintage are already gone, a measure of the brutal nature of the consumer automotive marketplace. The previously mentioned MINI-E is out of production as is the Tesla Roadster. The companies producing the Think City and Ford Transit Connect EV have gone into bankruptcy, followed most recently by Coda Automotive of Los Angeles.

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Ford and Toyota Partnership for Hybrid Trucks and Hybrid SUVs

Ford and Toyota Partnership for Hybrid Trucks and Hybrid SUVs

Ford Toyota HybridBy John Addison (updated 8/23/11; original 8/22/11)

Look for Major MPG Gains in Ford F150 and Toyota Tacoma Trucks; Toyota Highlander and Ford Escape SUVs

Ford and Toyota– the world’s two leading manufacturers of hybrid vehicles –announce that they will equally collaborate on the development of an advanced new hybrid system for light truck and SUVs.

In the past, Ford licensed 21 patents from Toyota related to the hybrid drive system in exchange for patents relating to emissions technology. The licensing included a financial transaction. This new memorandum of understanding (MOU) creates the foundation for serious collaboration in new product development. This type of collaboration has been successful in the information technology field for decades, where core technology is jointly developed and then companies compete with final products in the market place. The term “coopetition” is often used.

Toyota has sold over 3 million hybrids, leading with the Prius, to achieve significant hybrid market share leadership. Ford has taken hybrid market share from Honda with the Ford Fusion Hybrid and achieved impressive SUV mileage with the Ford Escape Hybrid. Toyota, Ford and Honda dominate our list of the 10 Hybrids with Best Mileage.

Toyota has also partnered with Tesla to bring to market the exciting new 2012 Toyota RAV4 EV, a 100% electric full-function SUV. Ford and Toyota are expanding their use of advanced lithium batteries in new hybrids, plug-in hybrids and electric cars. The new powerful and fuel-efficient trucks and SUVs from this partnership will almost certainly use lithium batteries, thereby increasing lithium battery volume and lowering cost for all future hybrid and electric vehicles.

Both companies have been working independently on their own future-generation rear-wheel drive hybrid systems. The two now have committed to collaborate as equal partners on a new hybrid system for light trucks and SUVs. This new full  hybrid powertrain will bring exceptional fuel efficiency improvements to a new group of truck and SUV. Ford and Toyota believe that their collaboration will allow them to bring these hybrid technologies to customers sooner and more affordably than either company could have accomplished alone.

Takeshi Uchiyamada, Toyota executive vice president, Research & Development, said: “In 1997, we launched the first-generation Prius, the world’s first mass-produced gasoline-electric hybrid. Since then, we have sold about 3.3 million hybrid vehicles. We expect to create exciting technologies that benefit society with Ford – and we can do so through the experience the two companies have in hybrid technology.”

The two companies also agreed to work together on enablers to complement each company’s existing telematics platform standards, helping bring more Internet-based services and useful information to consumers globally.

The two companies will bring the best of their independently developed hybrid powertrain technology and knowledge to a new co-developed hybrid system, which will be used in rear-wheel-drive light trucks arriving later this decade. The MOU states that Ford and Toyota will:

  •     Jointly develop as equal partners a new rear-wheel drive hybrid system and component technology for light trucks and SUVs
  •     Independently integrate the new hybrid system in their future vehicles separately

Ford CEO Alan Mulally and Toyota President Akio Toyoda

“By working together, we will be able to serve our customers with the very best affordable, advanced powertrains, delivering even better fuel economy,” said Ford President and CEO Alan Mulally. “This is the kind of collaborative effort that is required to address the big global challenges of energy independence and environmental sustainability.”

Toyota President Akio Toyoda added: “Toyota is extremely proud to join Ford in developing a hybrid system for pickup trucks and SUVs. Not only is this tie-up clearly one aimed at making automobiles ever better, it should also become an important building block for future mobility in the U.S. By building a global, long-term relationship with Ford, our desire is to be able to continue to provide people in America automobiles that exceed their expectations.”

This rear-wheel-drive hybrid system will be based on an all-new architecture to deliver the capability truck and SUV customers demand while providing greater fuel economy.

While the rear-wheel-drive hybrid system will share significant common technology and components, Ford and Toyota will individually integrate the system into their own vehicles. Each company also will determine the calibration and performance dynamics characteristics of their respective light pickups and SUVs.

Telematics Partnership for Better Safety and Infotainment

In addition, as telematics plays an increasingly more important role in the in-car experience, both companies have agreed to collaborate on standards and technologies needed to enable a safer, more secure and more convenient in-car experience for next-generation telematics systems.  The telematics collaboration relates only to standards and technologies, and each company will continue to separately develop their own in-vehicle products and features.

Ford has partnered with Microsoft to more quickly bring better telematics to its vehicles. Now Ford will also partner with Toyota. “Ford has made tremendous progress in the area of telematics,” Kuzak said. “We have unique and very good solutions today with SYNC and MyFordTouch. Working together on in-vehicle standards can only enhance our customers’ experience with their vehicles.”

Uchiyamada added: “Toyota has also invested heavily in telematics in various countries around the world, with services like the G-BOOK and G-Link. In the U.S., we have just introduced the accessible, easy-to-use Entune. By sharing our know-how and experience, we would like to offer even better telematics services in the future.”

The Promise of Electric Vehicles – Save Gas, Save the Planet Excerpt

The Promise of Electric Vehicles – Save Gas, Save the Planet Excerpt

Excerpt from Chapter 2 of Save Gas, Save the Planet: John Addison’s book about hybrid and electric cars, pathways to low carbon driving, and the future of sustainable transportation. © 2009 John Addison. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

Growing up in northern California has had a big influence on my love and respect for the outdoors. Unfortunately, I have witnessed in my lifetime a great loss of wilderness areas. I hope that the world gains an appreciation for what’s here and does everything it can to protect it. I want for my children and all of their children to enjoy the same wonders I experienced as a boy.
Tom Hanks
Academy Award Winning Actor, Director, Producer,
Electric Vehicle Driver

Tom Hanks has supported improving the environment for years both with words and actions such as driving electric vehicles. “I still have a Toyota RAV4 EV and never spent a penny on gasoline for it,” he said. Happy with his Toyota EV, he added a second electric car.

Tom Hanks purchased a Scion and had a specialty company, AC Propulsion, convert it into an electric vehicle, replacing the engine and drivetrain with an electric motor and electric drive system. The converted Scion accelerates from zero to 60 in 7 seconds and has a top speed of 95 mph. The range is 140 to 180 miles, meeting the needs of a couple with more than one car. An on-board charger makes it perfect for garage and other AC outlet charging. In only 30 minutes it can be charged for at least 20 more miles. A fast recharge takes 2 hours; a normal recharge takes 5 hours. In all, Hanks probably spent $75,000 for the Scion and the conversion.

“What AC Propulsion is doing is fantastic. I drove their tzero electric sports car a few years ago, so when they put the same technology in a four-door I wanted one for myself. It has double the range, goes fast, uses Li Ion batteries, and is incredibly roomy and comfortable.”

Many other people are experimenting with conversions to electric. The most notable are hybrid owners. But because of the do-it-yourself cost and warranty concerns, most are waiting for EVs from a major automaker. Several exciting freeway speed choices should be available by the end of 2010 including the Nissan LEAF and Chevrolet Volt.

Kacey Childers enjoys driving her electric vehicle around Davis, a university town in California. The Chrysler GEM electric vehicle’s 25-mph speed limit is a perfect match with driving speeds in town. Many of these low-speed electric vehicles are in the $10,000 to $15,000 price range. Most states limit these low-speed electric vehicles (EV) to streets with speed limits no greater than 35 mph. Although their owners love these neighborhood electric vehicles, their speed and range restrictions discourage many.

The Childers’ vehicle is also a good match with the environmental consciousness found in many university towns. EVs are also a good fit for the stretched pocketbooks of university students. Because of Davis’ progressive culture, electric vehicles are cool. Kacey’s daughters, Katelyn and Callie, like arriving at school in an electric vehicle.

Their EV’s 20-mile range is fine for getting around town. With a four-hour recharge, they are ready to go another 20 miles. The car can be charged from an ordinary electric outlet in their garage and at over 60 public charging stations in the nearby area,# making 40-mile round-trips possible.

The electric vehicle is the family’s primary car. For long distance, they own a gas-powered vehicle, which usually sits unused in the garage. The Childers’ EV has four seats and a locked trunk that can store about 100 pounds of groceries and goods.

Finding a downtown parking space in Davis can be a problem as students, locals, and Sacramento commuters vie for spots on the streets. There is also a two-hour parking limit, unless you are lucky enough to be driving an electric vehicle. In that case, charging stations are available with four-hour time limits, and some without any limit. With policies like these, cities around the world are encouraging zero-emission vehicles and discouraging gas guzzlers. These cities are a major reason that automakers have reconsidered offering an EV.

Not only does Kacey find driving the EV fun and convenient, she likes the money it saves. She spends less than six dollars a month for electricity to charge it. How does six dollars a month compare to what you spend on gasoline?

Hundreds own electric vehicles in this university town. The city’s parks and recreation department saves money using EVs that displace expensive gasoline cars and trucks. The university is a major user of electric vehicles.

The Childers’ are a two EV family. Kacey’s husband, Craig, often drives to work in Sacramento in a three-wheel light electric vehicle, which is legally classified in California as a motorcycle. At work, he recharges in a preferred parking space for EVs. Craig, an engineer for the State of California, is also a member of the employee pool that drives hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. These are electric vehicles with the fuel cell generating electricity for added range. At times, Craig zips down the freeway in the types of fuel cell vehicles detailed in the hydrogen chapter.

Although his primary vehicle is the light electric vehicle, Craig enjoys driving fast electric vehicles. He formerly drove the GM EV1, which was famously recalled by GM and crushed. At the time, automakers stated that batteries were not ready and that being regulated would hurt their profitability. Years later, GM CEO Richard Wagoner stated that his worst decision at GM was in “axing the EV1 electric-car program and not putting the right resources into hybrids.”

Living nearby in Davis is Jamie Knapp who drives a freeway speed Toyota RAV4 EV. The Toyota is charged with the 3.2 kW of solar power that graces Jamie’s house, providing for zero emission transportation. This beautiful electric vehicle is the primary car for Jamie and her husband. Jamie works at home writing about environmental and energy issues. She chairs a nonprofit group, which has greatly contributed to reducing emissions – The Coalition for Clean Air. About twice monthly, Jamie needs to travel beyond the 80-mile range of her EV. Only in those situations does she use their second vehicle that is powered with gasoline.

In addition to being an environmental leader and a writer, Jamie is a musician. She has proven that an electric vehicle can have adequate storage. She has removed one of the back seats from her RAV to make room to carry everything she and her husband regularly need for gigs, including a complete PA system, multiple acoustic instruments, and an upright string bass.

Battery electric vehicles, like those used by Kacey Childers and Jamie Knapp, never need a drop of gasoline.

Tesla’s Progress with Model S and 300-Mile Electric Car Range

Tesla’s Progress with Model S and 300-Mile Electric Car Range

Tesla S SedanBy John Addison (5/6/11)

Tesla recent quarterly financial results show progress on several fronts. Over 1,650 customers are now driving the Tesla Roadster, the impressive electric car with a 240-mile range per charge. Customers have driven these 100-percent electric cars more than 11 million miles. Tesla will soon have over 2,000 customers who have paid over $100,000 for their Roadster.

The Model S Sedan is on track for completion and customer deliveries mid-2012. A much bigger market is expected for this premium sedan that starts at $57,400 and has an optional $20,000 battery pack with that gives the car a 300-mile range. When Tesla begins delivery of the Model S, over 50,000 electric car customers will be driving their Nissan LEAF, Chevrolet Volt, Ford Focus Electric and other electric sedan competitors. Tesla will compete against these less expensive competitors with a luxury interior, electronics like a 17-inch display, 7 passenger capacity, switchable battery, and options to triple the electric range of competitors. A new generation of lithium batteries is at the heart of the vehicles range of 160 miles with optional packs that provide 230 and 300 miles of range per electric charge. 4,600 customers have already placed reservations for the Model S with a starting price of $57,400.

CEO Elon Musk stated, “Our Model S alpha build proceeded as scheduled during the quarter. In fact, our engineering and manufacturing teams have now completed the construction of all of our Model S alpha vehicles, having finished the final alpha in April. These vehicles are successfully undergoing the planned cold weather brakes testing, ride and handling evaluation, safety validation, electrical integration, and noise, vibration and harshness evaluation,” continued Musk. “As has been our plan, we will continue testing this quarter with a particular focus on durability and systems integration as we prepare for our beta build later this year. Overall, we remain on track for first customer deliveries of the Model S in mid-2012.”

Tesla Progress with Toyota RAV4 EV and Daimler Electric Cars

Tesla is also making significant progress as a battery and electric drive system provider. Tesla delivered a record number of production battery packs and chargers for both Daimler’s Smart fortwo and A-Class vehicles for the fourth quarter in a row. Daimler increased its total orders for the Smart fortwo electric drive components from 1,800 to 2,100 sets. All of these will be delivered in 2011. Daimler owns 5 percent of Tesla.

Tesla successfully completed the initial milestones for the development of the powertrain system for the Toyota RAV4 EV and remains on schedule for the completion of the development portion of the program. The powertrain system includes a battery, power electronics components, motor, gearbox and associated proprietary software. Toyota owns 2 percent of Tesla stock. Toyota RAV4 EV Test Drive

Meeting product deadlines will depend on staying on-track in opening its new factory in Fremont, California – The Tesla Factory. Intensive site preparations are underway at each of the stamping, plastics, and paint shops as the facility is being prepared for the upcoming Model S beta build. Equipment testing in carefully controlled manual modes of operation has begun in both stamping and plastics shops, with robots and other automation equipment scheduled for installation later this year. Installation of the hydraulic press line remains on schedule for manual operation in the second quarter.

Tesla Motors (Nasdaq: TSLA) announced its preliminary unaudited financial results for the quarter ended March 31, 2011. Revenues for the first quarter of 2011 were $49.0 million, a 35% increase from the $36.3 million reported in the prior quarter. Gross margin improved to 37%, up from 31% for the prior quarter. Net loss for the quarter was $48.9 million as compared to $51.4 million in the prior quarter on a GAAP basis.

Like its Roadster, Tesla has been growing the company at zero to 60 in four seconds. Revenues are strong, but profitability is not in sight as the company invests for high growth and big plans for the Model S and Model X.

Tesla Model S Electric Car and Model X SUV

Tesla Model S Electric Car and Model X SUV

Tesla S SedanBy John Addison (updated 5/5/11; original 1/25/11)

Elon Musk discussed the new Model S Sedan and hinted about the Tesla Model X SUV when he keynoted the Clean-tech Investor Summit. He then gave me an interesting answer about Tesla’s future.

Tesla Model S with New Lithium Batteries

Elon Musk, Tesla’s CEO and Founder, showed us a video of the Model S test drive. This premium four-door sedan easily seats 5 and with small kids could seat 7. The sedan aluminum body and frame Tesla EV is a new design in contrast with the Roadster which uses a Lotus body.

A new generation of lithium batteries is at the heart of the vehicles range of 160 miles with optional packs that provide 230 and 300 miles of range per electric charge. Tesla has reduced the cost of battery packs by integrating consumer 18650 sized lithium batteries. Panasonic, a Tesla stockholder and partner, has developed a new dedicated automotive cell 18650 sized that will give the Model S a 50 percent improved energy density over the Roadster. The Roadster has a 56kWh pack, stated Musk,  for a 245 mile range. The larger and heavier Model S can have up to a 90kWh pack, stated Musk,  for up to 300 mile range.

To make the Model S sedan roomy, the slim designed pack will be under the floor of the car for plenty of leg room. The battery pack endows Model S with an exceptionally low center of gravity, enhancing stability and minimizing corner roll. Musk committed that the pack would be removeable, a potential advantage in countries like Israel and fleet applications like limos where battery switch stations are being installed.

Tesla plans to continue to provide all sales and service, rather than use dealers. He feels that most customers find buying a car their worst experience. In contrast he wants the experience of getting a Model S to be so positive that someone would buy the vehicle even if it were not electric. 4,600 customers have made reservations for the Model S with a starting price of $57,400.

Model X SUV and Tesla’s Future

Later this year Tesla will formally announce the new Model X SUV. Other than smiling like a proud father, he offered few hints about the new SUV which will be announced towards the end of this year. My guess is that it will have significant differences from the Toyota RAV4 EV Power by Tesla. The Model X could use the Model S chassis, frame, and under the floor battery pack. Clean Fleet Report speculates that the Model X is likely to have extended range options, cost more, and have more aerodynamic crossover features.

By 2015, Tesla also plans on selling a smaller sedan for under $30,000. The future car will need to continue to differentiate itself with styling and range. By 2015, several auto makers are likely to offer electric cars at less than $30,000 including Honda, Ford, Mitsubishi, Toyota, and new Chinese competitors.

I asked Elon Musk how he could manage two different business models: (1) making and selling cars and (2) being a tier 1 supplier to competitive automotive companies. Musk answered that both are consistent with Tesla’s vision of being the catalyst for electric vehicles. If he ever had to choose between being an auto maker and a supplier, he would choose auto maker. In technology fields, however, “coopetition” has long been successful with companies licensing technology, adding innovations to open source platforms, supplying on one day, and competing the next.

Elon Musk a Role Model for Entrepreneurs

Like Google’s founders, Elon Musk is another Stanford University grad student drop out. He left to help found PayPal which netted him $180 million after taxes when it was sold to EBay. Barely 30 years old, Elon considered what to do with the rest of his life. Elon asked himself, “What would make the world better?” The internet, sustainable energy, and space exploration all topped his personal list.

With the money Musk invested in SpaceX and Tesla. He reminisced, “Tesla went close to death on many occasions.” After putting in more personal money to keep Tesla alive, he had gone through all $180 million, and had to borrow money from friends at times.

Auto industry history is littered with visionaries that built a better car only to go bankrupt. Speaking to over 400 executives at the The Clean-Tech Investor Summit, co-produced by International Business Forum and Clean Edge,  Elon Musk gives this advice to all entrepreneurs, “If you are convinced that you are correct, you should never give up.”

Elon knew that there was passionate enthusiasm for electric cars when he saw the movie Who Killed the Electric Car. “A candle light vigil for crushing of EV1 was unusual.” He added dryly, “Especially for a GM car.”

The Tesla team overcame the obstacles and built an electric car for windy roads, icy streets, and high-speed freeways. Over 1,500 are driving the Tesla Roadster. A greater number have made deposits for the new Model S. Tesla is now a public company and a battery and powertrain provider for global giants Toyota and Daimler.

Elon Musk envisions a major transformation for the one billion vehicles now on the roads of this earth. By 2020, battery technology and possibly solid-state capacitor technology will make electric cars inexpensive. By 2030, he predicts that the majority of new car sales will be pure electric, not plug-in hybrid, hybrid, or ICE. By 2050, Elon Musk predicts that the majority of cars on the road will be pure electric

Tesla cannot be dismissed as a one-car wonder as it brings out drive system for the Toyota RAV4 EV, the Tesla Model S, and the Tesla Model X. Yes, Elon Musk has stellar ambitions, but the company is executing.

Tesla Motors is the first American automobile company to have an IPO since Ford Motor in 1956. Industry and media accolades continue to be received. Daimler, Toyota, and Panasonic have all invested in the company. While critics say that Elon Musk’s vision of electric cars will not happen, some of the industries best and brightest are betting millions that he and the Tesla team will make it happen.