News: Utility Creates One-Stop EV Shopping for its Employees

News: Utility Creates One-Stop EV Shopping for its Employees

Electric Vehicle Day brings out 15 different models for test drives

Electric Vehicle Day,EVs,plug-in vehicles

PG&E employees got a chance to try out pure EVs and plug-in hybrids

If one of the 20,000 employees of the giant Northern California utility, PG&E, was interested in taking advantage of the federal, state and company incentives to buy a plug-in vehicle, a recent program gave them a chance to have some hands-on experience to figure out which vehicle they might want. A recent Electric Vehicle Day program drew representatives from almost all of the companies with pure electrics and plug-in hybrids on the market, giving employees a chance to test drive vehicles and learn more about how they work.

A PG&E spokesman said more than 1,000 employees had already taken advantage of the company’s vehicle purchase incentive program and 315 had booked appointments midday on a Friday to take a look at the more than a dozen different vehicles, either as a new buy or replacement.

Almost all EVs where there

At the Fair, in alphabetical order, were the:

Tesla was out in force, bringing eight vehicles, while other manufacturers brought one to four models to drive or display. The program was busy for its duration of almost four hours. PG&E holds several similar events each year as it encourages its employees to “walk the walk” of automotive energy consciousness.

PG&E has a plug-in truck

Electric Vehicle Day,plug-in truck,hybrid,PG&E

PG&E brought its own portable charger

PG&E also brought out one of their own electric vehicles, a modified Ford F-550 heavy-duty work truck that had been converted into a plug-in hybrid by Efficient Drivetrains Incorporated (EDI) of Dixon, CA. PG&E has added 10 of those trucks to its fleet, using them most recently when supporting communities affected by forest fires, where it was used to power evacuation camps.

The truck, which retains its powerful diesel engine to keep things charged up, is capable of supplying enough electrical power to keep the lights on in 100 homes. In addition, it has charge ports so electric vehicles can use it for Level II (240-volt) charging and also has ports to charge personal electronics. The truck itself can also plug in to recharge its battery, which is capable of exporting 120 kW of power to the grid. It’s also capable of running more than 30 miles on EV power only. The company also has deployed similar hybrids that use electric power to run auxiliary operations like buckets and booms.

In recognition of its far-flung service territory (PG&E’s area of service covers 70,000 square miles, a land area larger than all but 16 states), PG&E is in the process of changing out its CNG-

Electric Vehicle Day,Tesla,Model X,EV,

The Tesla Model X continues to draw a crowd

powered light-duty vehicles for plug-in hybrids like the Chevy Volt and Ford C-Max Energi. The company also offers charging at most of its facilities (it has installed 451 charging points at company sites according to its spokesman) for what it says is the equivalent of $1/gallon gasoline.

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Clean Fleet Report has driven and tested most of the vehicles mentioned in this article and will be updating many of those tests soon.

Road Test: Audi A3 e-tron

Road Test: BMW i3

Road Test: Cadillac ELR

Road Test: Chevrolet Volt

Road Test: Fiat 500e

Road Test: Ford Focus Electric

Road Test: Ford Fusion Energi

First Drive: Kia Soul

Road Test: Nissan Leaf

Road Test: Volkswagen e-Golf

Top 10 Best-selling Best Fuel Economy Cars

Top 10 Best-selling Best Fuel Economy Cars

Batteries Shine; Diesel Down, But Not Out of the Mix

We’re closing in on the end of the year, when sales traditionally slow down, so it’s a good time to take stock of what’s selling among the hybrids, plug-in hybrids, battery electric and clean diesel cars and trucks. Of course, this year’s high fuel economy models are complicated by two major developments.

Number one is the low cost of gasoline. Fuel economy has slipped from the top of many shopping lists. It’s still important to many folks, but gas under two dollars in some areas has some opting

2016, Toyota Prius,new model

A new Prius may spur the best-seller to new heights

for bigger vehicles. Low gas prices have persisted all year and are forecast to last well into 2016. The impact is clear when you look at the numbers. Hybrids sales for the first 10 months of the year are down 15.7 percent compared to the same period in 2014. Plug-in hybrids dropped twice that (30.6 percent), but that also may reflect some people waiting for the introduction of the 2016 Volt, which just hit the market. Battery electrics bucked the trend (although they’re also the lowest volume segment) and increased 8.2 percent compared to last year, beating the overall market increase of 5.9 percent.

The second impact is Volkswagen’s “clean diesel” emissions cheating scandal. The long-term impact is uncertain, but in the interim VW four-cylinder diesels were pulled off the market in October (the V-6 diesels followed suit this month). Even with the two top-selling car models off the market the last month and scathing anti-diesel headlines, the diesel market is only down 5.5 percent for the year and even in October outsold both plug-in hybrids and pure battery electrics.

Markets Carved Up in Different Ways

Tesla,Model S, best-seller

Tesla Model S -best-seller among the battery cars

While the overall automotive market remains quite diverse with seven major companies (GM, Ford, FCA, Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Hyundai-Kia) dividing up most the sales, when you move to the four segments we focus on, the competitive landscape changes dramatically. In hybrids, Toyota’s products (Toyota and Lexus) dominate with almost three-fourths of sales (71 percent). A similar trend was seen in diesels until this month when the four best-selling VW’s were pulled off the market, with Volkswagen typically taking more than half of segment’s sales. Plug-in hybrids are kind of a duopoly with GM and Ford dividing up 90 percent of the segment’s sales. Only the battery electric market seems to reflect the competitiveness of the general market Tesla, Nissan, BMW and Volkswagen dividing 86 percent of sales among themselves.

The Top 10 (and a second 10 as well)

Our Top 10 best-selling best fuel economy cars for the year so far has a familiar feel to it, but some of the players have shifted positions this time around. Sales figures are for the first 10 months of 2015 (January-October). We’ve linked to our road tests of the vehicles where available.

Top 10 Best MPG Cars

  1. Toyota Prius – The Prius Liftback continues to lead the high-MPG world in sales, well on the way to another 100,000+ sales year. Sales are off compared to last year, but a new model will soon hit the market and the expectation is that will provide a bump in sales. [95,389]
  2. Ram 1500 EcoDiesel – The Ram flies the diesel flag. In fact it flies it so high that the only reason sales numbers aren’t higher is that Ram can’t get more engines to stuff into its half-ton
    2016,Ram,Ecodiesel,mpg, fuel economy

    Solid top of the diesel market

    pickups. [48,789]

  3. Toyota Prius c – The “baby” Prius continues a strong performance as the quartet bearing the Prius brand (the original Prius liftback, the c, the V and the plug-in Prius) remain the most visible symbol of a fuel-economy focused automobile and have the numbers to back up their image. [33,022]
  4. Toyota Camry Hybrid – The hybrid variation of the strong-selling Camry midsize sedan has always sold well and continues to hold a spot in the Top 10. [26,815]
  5. Toyota Prius V – Closing out four of the top five spots for Toyota is the wagon version of the Prius, reinforcing a concern for functionality along with a desire for fuel economy. [24,607]
  6. Ford Fusion HybridFord has been charging hard into the fuel economy space and making a name for itself with EcoBoost engines, hybrids, plug-in hybrids and full electric cars. The Fusion Hybrid is the bestseller of the group. [21,333]
  7. Tesla Model S The big Tesla sedan continue to add U.S. sales while also expanding overseas and introducing its Model X SUV. [19,800]
  8. Hyundai Sonata Hybrid – The Korean automaker has moved up methodically in the rankings as the hybrid model of its strong-selling Sonata midsize sedan. [17,839] A little further down the ranks (at 17) the sister car to the Sonata, the Kia Optima Hybrid, has also been selling well.
  9. Volkswagen Passat TDI – VW’s midsize diesel sedan is off the market right now, but racked up enough sales through September to keep in the Top 10. [16,882]
  10. Volkswagen Jetta TDILike its bigger brother, the Passat, the diesel Jetta is off the market, but did well enough in the first nine months of the year to keep in the Top 10. The Golf Sportwagen TDI model also was fairly high on the charts (19). [16,183]

While we’ve called out the Top 10, we should also mention some models just bubbling under that deserve some attention, particularly as we look forward to a changing landscape where electrics and plug-in hybrids become more readily available.

2016, Chevrolet,Chevy,Volt,plug-in hybrid

The new Volt is top of the plug-in hybrid segmetn

Just missing the cut (11) is the second best-selling pure electric, the Nissan Leaf, followed by two hybrids—the Ford C-Max and the Lexus CT200h, then the best-selling plug-in hybrid, the Chevy Volt, (which is introducing a redesigned model) and the Honda Accord Hybrid round out the next five. In the next batch are Toyota Avalon Hybrid, Optima Hybrid, Lexus ES Hybrid, VW Golf Sportwagen TDI and the surging BMW i3 (available in both pure electric and range-extended electric versions). The Ford Fusion Energi, the second best-selling plug-in hybrid, rounds out the list. Of course there are another couple dozen models (cumulative) in all four categories that sell in small numbers.

It would be hard to go wrong with any of the cars on this list, although you do have to factor in your individual life situation to make sure the technology fits your needs.

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Top 10 Best-Selling MPG Cars of 2015 (First Half)

Top 10 Best-Selling MPG Cars of 2015 (First Half)

Winners and Losers from a Half-Year of Ups and Downs

We’re in a whole new game for those looking for an alternative to gasoline-powered transportation. The first half of 2015 paints a complex picture of where the market is heading.

Hybrids, the high-mileage darlings of the 1990s, are proliferating in number of models, but sales of the segment overall are dropping. Pure electrics and plug-in hybrids are adding models and gaining market share, but working off of low numbers and not hitting a consistent mark. Diesels are outpacing the market in growth, but mainly on the strength of truck and SUV models.

The good news is the choices out there are more plentiful and better than ever—the Top 10 only skims the surface of the 95 models out there. The number of EV, plug-in hybrid, hybrid and clean

2015, VW, Volkswagen, fuel economy, mpg, Sportwagen TDI, Golf Sportwagen

It’s all about the numbers

diesel models continues to grow. You could even argue that a high-mileage gas car may give you a better $/mile efficiency than some of the more exotic hardware and plenty of choices are available there as well. State and federal Incentives are still out there for many advanced technology models and automakers are not being shy about adding their own spiffs at the dealer level to keep moving models out of the showroom.

As usual, a tip of the hat to Jeff Cobb at hybridcars.com and Baum & Associates, who crunch the numbers each month.

Before we dive into some Top 10 lists, let’s look at the big picture. Was it a good year for our favorite vehicles? The overall auto market has done well, up 4.4 percent from a solid 2014 with sales clocking in at 8.49 million vehicles. Double that and you’re looking at an almost 17 million unit year, but second half sales don’t always work that way so we’ll need to see how things shake out. Overall, though, no one in the auto industry is complaining so far.

On the alternative side, the picture is not so smooth. Hybrids continue a slide that started last year, down 18 percent but still the volume leader among alternative technologies. Diesels flat in sales compared to last year, which also was a flat year for them (of course these sales numbers don’t include the popular heavy-duty pickups, a segment dominated by diesels). Pure electric cars are having a solid year as new models are added and some older ones drop off. Plug-in hybrids are off, but hopeful a couple refreshed models (Chevy Volt and Toyota Prius) will reinvigorate the segment.  Here are the charts for January-June 2015:

Hybrids                 46 models           Sales=190,970 down 18% compared to 2014

Plug-in Hybrids  9 models              Sales=18,509 down 36.5%

Battery Electrics  13 models         Sales=35,435 up 26.3%

Diesels                  27 models           Sales=89,180 down 0.4%

The total tally for these four segments (throw in a couple hundred CNG Honda Civics if you’d like) is just under 335,000 or about four percent of the overall market. Fuel economy and reduced petroleum consumption appears to remain high on the agenda of a good-size group of consumers.

Our Top 10 for the year so far in sales has a familiar feel to it, but some of the players have shifted positions this time around. We’ve linked to our road tests of the vehicles where available.

Top 10 Best MPG Cars

  1. Toyota Prius – The Prius in its traditional form continues to lead the high-MPG world in sales, appearing to be on the way to another 100,000+ sales year, clocking in at 54,173 for the first half of the year.
  2. Ram 1500 EcoDiesel – A newcomer to these charts is half-ton Ram pickup, which has been a strong seller since its introduction. It ended the first half of the year with 29,658 units sold.

    Toyota,Prius c,mpg,

    The smallest Prius can sneak into your heart

  3. Toyota Prius c – The “baby” Prius continues a strong performance as the quartet bearing the Prius brand (the original Prius liftback, the c, the V and the plug-in Prius) remain the most visible symbol of a fuel-economy focused automobile and have the numbers to back up their image. The c sold 18,921 vehicles in the first six months of the year.
  4. Toyota Camry Hybrid – The hybrid variation of the strong-selling Camry midsize sedan has always sold well and continues to hold a spot in the Top 10, selling 15,571 models during the first half of 2015.
  5. Toyota Prius V – Closing out four of the top five spots for Toyota is the wagon version of the Prius, reinforcing a concern for functionality along with a desire for fuel economy. The V sold 14,165 cars from January to June.
  6. Ford Fusion Hybrid – Ford has been charging hard into the fuel economy space and making a name for itself with EcoBoost engines, hybrids, plug-in hybrids and full electric cars. The Fusion Hybrid is the bestseller of the group, moving 12,683 units in the first half of the year.
  7. Tesla Model S The big Tesla sedan continue to add U.S. sales while also expanding overseas. New variations on the full electric car, including an all-wheel drive model and some performance enhancements, appear to be keeping sales up. Tesla sold 11,900 Model S during this time frame.
  8. Hyundai Sonata Hybrid – The Korean automaker has moved up methodically in the rankings as the hybrid model of its strong-selling Sonata midsize sedan hit 11,838 in sales from January to June. A little further down the ranks the sister car to the Sonata, the Kia Optima Hybrid, has also been selling well.
  9. Volkswagen Passat TDI – VW’s midsize sedan has passed up its compact brother to take the lead in diesel segment sales. In spite of a sluggish year for VW sales and diesel as well, the Passat TDI clocked 11,746 models sold in the first half of the year.
  10. Volkswagen Jetta TDIThe traditional leader of the diesel segment dropped notch while still selling 11,692 units in this period. The switch of the Sportwagen model to the Golf brand may have contributed to knocking it out of its leadership position.

While we’ve called out the Top 10, we should also mention some models just bubbling under that deserve some attention, particularly as we look forward to a changing landscape where electrics and plug-in hybrids become more readily available.

Just missing the cut is the second best-selling pure electric, the Nissan Leaf, followed by a trio of hybrids—the Ford C-Max, Lexus CT200h and Honda Accord—then the best-selling plug-in hybrid,

2014,BMW i3,range extender,electric car

Another newcomer to the list

the Chevy Volt, rounds out that group of five. In the next batch are the VW Golf TDI, which is surging in sales this year, the BMW i3 (available in both pure electric and range-extended electric versions) and the Ford Fusion Enegri, the plug-in version of Ford’s midsize sedan.

It would be hard to go wrong with any of the cars on this list, although you do have to factor in your individual life situation to make sure the technology fits your needs.

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A World View of What It Takes for Automotive Eco-Excellence

I am a believer that there is no such thing as too much good information, so in that spirit we presents a Top 10 list from the other side of the world from where we write (to be specific, India). What we find interesting is the thinking is pretty much in line with what we might come up with, should be asked to throw out our own Top 10. And we love the title—Eco-Excellence.

Truth be told, narrowing a field down to 10 without multiple caveats and qualifiers is quite difficult and getting more so every day. For your background, Eliza Lobo, who is listed as author or this list from Cartrade.com, said her perspective was world-wide, so not all of the cars are available in the U.S. But more than one of them could be on the horizon, which we’ll note in our commentary. It’s not clear if she was listing the cars in hierarchical order since they are no numbers on the original list. We’ll add numbers and our own ranking, of course starting with those available in the U.S.

  1. Volkswagen e-Golf (which Eliza describes by as the Blue-e-motion, a name I find that borders on the strangely ironic, and also in other ways it’s almost as comical as the Smart ED). We’ll put this first because it’s our favorite electric car of the moment. As we said in our review, the electric Golf is every bit a Golf, and that’s a good thing, but it has an electric drivetrain.
  2. BMW i3 is another one we really like, quirky enough in design to stand out and well-thought out enough not just to be recognized for looking different. It may be the Toyota Prius of the first EV generation (although the Nissan Leaf might want to challenge it for that title), containing enough well-executed, revolutionary good ideas (like its carbon fiber passenger shell) to easily justify inclusion on the list.
  3. Nissan Leaf, of course, finds a place on the list of Eco-Excellence. How could the best-selling full-function electric car not make it on the list. We’ve enjoyed it every time we’ve been in one. Like both the e-Golf and i3, it’s a functional, well-executed electric car that’s also demonstrated real leadership by not only entering the market first, but continuing to improve over the years.
  4. Toyota Prius Plug-in is another logical resident for this type of list and one in which we’ve spent some good times. The name Prius almost screams Eco-Excellence, or whatever the
    Toyota,Prius,Plug-in, EV, HOV lane

    The Prius models plug along

    Japanese translation of the term might be. It seems like a pretty simple scheme. Take the already uber-popular hybrid Prius, add a bigger battery and plug-in capability, and capture a new market segment. Of course, the Chevy Volt took a slightly different course to even better success (and probably is one model that should be on this list).

  5. BMW i8 takes up way too much Top 10 list space all over the internet. Let’s just call it for what it is— plug-in porn. The car is beautiful to look at and delivers the kind of performance you’d expect from a $100,00+ Bimmer, but if this is a list aimed at eco-excellent cars people can buy (and the rest of the cars fit that description), then the i8 has no place here.
  6. Ford Fiesta ECOnetic, which in the U.S. is the one-liter, three-cylinder version of Ford’s subcompact. We’ve tested one and will have the review up soon, but we can tell you this. It’s fun and we put it high up on any list for someone willing to look for eco-excellence in a small car with a stick shift. The peppy performance is backed with a solid suspension and a functional interior that gives you more room than you might expect in such tight quarters.
  7. Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is available in Japan and Europe and has been promised here for way too long. It’s coming soon, Mitsubishi says, but it may or may not be the first plug-in hybrid SUV when it finally gets here. It merits a place on this worldwide-scope list for being out there first, whether we got to benefit from it or not. When it does arrive, we can hope it will be tricked out as slick as the concept Mitsubishi showed at last year’s LA Auto Show.
  8. BMW 116d—Really, threeBMWs on a 10-car list? Eco-excellence, or what BMW terms Efficient Dynamics, is a key driver in most of BMW’s new cars, including this great little subcompact,
    BMW,116d,diesel, clean diesel,Eurospec

    The littlest BMW gets more fuel efficient in Europe

    but its super-efficient diesel engine is what boosts it onto this list. We’ve driven a Euro-spec version of the 1-Series, but with a larger diesel engine that almost overwhelmed the petite package. Not that it wasn’t fun and efficient, but it fell short of the eco-excellence that comes from this slightly less-powerful version of the engine.

  9. Volkswagen Polo Bluemotion is another non-U.S. car, but one that VW has considered bringing to the States, at least until gas and diesel prices dropped so steeply last year. With a peppy three-cylinder diesel, this car would slot below the Golf and provide a super high-mileage model in whatever form it came—gas, diesel or electric.
  10. SEAT Leon Twin Driver Ecomotove. The last one on the list is one we’ll never see. SEAT is one of VW’s entry-level brands in Europe, so this model is a bit of a surprise. The three-door (hatchback) model is small, of course, but features a plug-in powertrain that can deliver EV-only miles on top of an efficient normal operation.
SEAT,Leon,Twin Drive,EcoMotive,PHEV

Take a seat, we won’t see this one on our side of the Atlantic

Now, here’s the most important part of any Top 10 discussion. Who got left out? We have our biases, of course, but there are three models that really should be on any list of Eco-Excellence. Leading that list is the Tesla Model S. It is available in Europe and China as well as North America, and it represents the state-of-the-art when it comes to electric cars. With a starting prices just over $70,000, it is clearly not a car for everyone, but it also definitely deserves a spot on this kind of list.

Another one we’d add to the list is the little Fiat 500e, which, until the e-Golf hit the market, was our favorite electric car. Like the Golf, it sacrifices nothing other than driving range compared to its gasoline counterpart. It’s fun to drive while still being as excellent as an eco-car can be.

Finally, we’d add the Chevy Volt to this list. It’s the best-selling plug-in hybrid and getting even better in its second generation. If we took inventory of diesels available in Europe and the funky little hybrids and plug-ins in Japan, there might be a few more to add. We’d also probably stick a fuel cell vehicle on the list just because when you’re talking about eco-excellence, it’s hard to beat a car that takes in hydrogen and delivers 300 miles of electric driving range.

The bottom line is that these are 10 worthy vehicles, but there are plenty more out there to choose from.

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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.

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