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In the very early 1990s, GM was in the midst of translating its one-off Impact electric vehicle prototype into a car that could be readily manufactured. At the time it was toying with a variety of power schemes and motor combinations to determine the best for its new electric drive system. We experienced first-hand GM’s focus on developing a practical electric powerplant for its soon-to-come EV1 electric car at the GM Desert Proving Grounds in Phoenix, Arizona. Here, Green Car Journal editors drove several test cars for the EV program including an electrically-powered Chevrolet Lumina APV minivan and an electric Geo Storm.

What was unusual about the vehicles was the application of individual electric propulsion at each front wheel using a pair of motors. Clearly, there was work to be done. Synchronization imbalances in these test mules caused steering to be uneven, but the engineering direction was there. The EV1 eventually made its way to limited production but with a single electric drive motor. This appeared to relegate GM’s two motor effort to an historical footnote in its drive toward electrification.

As it turned out, this didn’t end GM’s exploration into motors power individual wheels. In 2004, the automaker created an innovative motor-in-wheel drive system that was quite unlike its earlier efforts. It demonstrated this technology in a Chevrolet S-10 hybrid electric pickup equipped with in-wheel motors at each rear wheel. This supplemented front-wheel drive power provided by the pickup’s 120 horsepower, 2.2-liter internal combustion engine.

Developed by GM's Advanced Technology Center and made in Italy, the motors generated about 34 hp (25 kilowatts) of power each and added 80 pounds total to the rear wheels. The automaker turned to Southern California-based Quantum Technologies, a vehicle integrator, to build the concept truck. Quantum modified the vehicle's coolant, power, and electrical systems, and developed its special electronic controller and related software.

Green Car Journal editors had the opportunity to test drive this motor-in-wheel equipped S-10 in Los Angeles back in the day. The result was affirmation of GM’s strategy. The S-10 exhibited significantly more power than a stock variant and acceleration was definitely impressive. According to GM engineers, these hub motors added about 60% greater torque at launch with that torque available instantly, a power scheme that enabled a four-cylinder engine to perform like a six-cylinder.

At the time of our test drive, this in-wheel motor concept was not viewed by GM as an electric vehicle drive system. It was a hybrid strategy that could potentially be added to any number of vehicle models to deliver higher performance and significant fuel economy improvements. The technology didn’t materialize as a popular hybrid application as the field evolved. Still, we see that in-wheel motors have very real potential today in the battery electric vehicle world as they are championed by some automakers and suppliers like Protean Electric and Elaphe Propulsion Technologies.

Alfa Romeo Tonale driving.

The all-new Tonale is a big deal for Italy’s Alfa Romeo. This automaker has been around the block – and the track – for some 110 years now, but we understand if Alfa Romeo is a name that’s escaped your new car shopping list. This storied brand offers intriguing style, a sporting nature, and the kind of attractive Italian design that calls for a second glance as one passes by. It’s just that Alfa Romeos don’t pass by nearly as often as, say, other mainstream European brands like Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Land Rover, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Volkswagen, or even MINI. British and especially German brands are ubiquitous on our highways. But Italian cars? Not so much in the scheme of things.

That isn’t to say that Stellantis, parent company of the Italian Fiat, Maserati, and Alfa Romeo brands, wouldn’t like to change that, especially when it comes to its hopefully rising star Alfa Romeo here in the States. It’s just that this nameplate isn’t ingrained in the American psyche like Stellantis’ indigenous-to-the-U.S. brands Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and RAM. So, Alfa Romeo sells in quite small numbers here relative to most of its European competitors.

Alfa Romeo Tonale crossover SUV.

There’s change in the wind. Alfa Romeo’s champion for an evolving auto market is its all-new 2023 Tonale, a compact all-wheel drive crossover SUV that expands the brand’s offerings here in a most important way. SUVs are huge sellers these days because of their desirable functionality and style. Compact crossover SUVs in particular are top-of-mind with buyers as fuel efficiency and lower carbon emissions play a larger part in the decision making process. Add to that the availability of a plug-in hybrid powerplant – a first for Alfa Romeo – and things really start to get interesting.

The All-New Tonale

The Tonale is a statement of high-fashion Italian design, perhaps not unexpected from a company born in Milan, Italy’s hub of fashion and industry. Attention to the senses pervades this SUV. The model is eye-appealing with its fluid, aggressive, and sensuous lines that take the expected compact SUV form and add artistic depth, contour, and flair. Of course, its distinctive nose features the marque’s signature, shield-like ‘scudetto’ grille that’s been integral to Alfa Romeo since its 1948 models. This grille is accented by a pair of horizontal grilles below and flanked by a three-LED headlight design at either side. Wrap-around taillights deliver an appealing look at the rear. Capping this off are very distinctive alloy wheels that further the aggressively stylish persona of this new model.

Inside is a driver-focused cabin finished in leather and Alcantara suede accented by aluminum trim. The black Alcantara on the well-bolstered seats integrates laser-drilled holes with red backing and contrast stitching to enhance the interior’s sporty and high-end look. Leather headrests are accented with contrast red stitching and red Alfa Romeo logos.

Drivers will appreciate the Tonale’s readily accessible controls on the instrument panel, center console, center display, and steering wheel, the latter also offering available aluminum shift paddles. Driver information is presented on a 12.3-inch instrument cluster screen ahead of the driver and a 10.5-inch center touchscreen display with Uconnect 5 infotainment features. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Amazon Alexa, and over-the-air update functionality come as a matter of course.

Advanced electronics is part of the package, as expected. Among the most desirable driver assist systems are standard  adaptive cruise control, intelligent speed assist, lane departure warning, and lane keep assist, with Level 2 autonomous driving and traffic jam assist available. Also standard are safety and convenience features including blind spot and rear cross path detection, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, and traffic sign recognition.

Two Engines, Including a Plug-In

This Alfa’s base powerplant is a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that’s said to provide best-in-class standard horsepower, delivering 256 horsepower and 295 lb-ft torque. It connects to a nine-speed automatic transmission. As is the case with many combustion powerplants today, engine stop-start technology is integrated to increase efficiency, though we don’t yet know what that fuel efficiency number will be. It connects to a nine-speed automatic transmission.

The big news is the Tonale’s plug-in hybrid powertrain that reportedly makes it the most efficient crossover PHEV in the segment. This hybrid system uses a 180 horsepower, 1.3-liter MultiAir four-cylinder turbo and high-voltage belt starter-generator to power the front wheels. Power at the rear axle is provided by a 121 horsepower electric motor that ups the ante to 272 total system horsepower for expected levels of performance. This power is delivered to the road via a six-speed automatic transmission. Both plug-in hybrid and conventionally powered Tonales offers standard Q4 all-wheel drive.

Tonale’s plug-in hybrid drivetrain is energized by a 15.5 kWh lithium-ion battery pack the maker says is good for a 30 mile all-electric driving range. After that, as battery power wanes, the Tonale reverts to its efficient hybrid drive. Three selectable driving modes – dual power/dynamic, natural, and advanced efficiency – are offered to tailor the driving experience via a DNA control. ‘Dual power’ is the performance mode, with both the motor and combustion engine providing maximum power. The ‘natural’ selection optimizes efficiency and driving performance with a balance of electric and mechanical power. All-electric driving, with variable range depending on current battery state-of-charge, is delivered with the ‘advanced efficiency’ mode.

Alfa Romeo’s new Tonale will be offered in base-level Sprint, uplevel Ti, and more sport- and luxury-oriented Veloce trim levels. While cost has yet to be disclosed, the aim is to be priced competitively in its compact crossover segment, which means a likely entry point in the mid-$30,000 range, rising to perhaps $50,000 or so for the top-of-the-line Veloce. We’ll know more as the model gets closer to its official launch expected late this year.

It wasn’t always electric vehicles dominating the news. In recent decades there was also great focus on hydrogen vehicles, which continues in the background today. One pioneer worth noting is the late Stanford Ovshinsky, who with his scientist wife Iris founded ECD Ovonics in 1960. Among the company’s technologies based on its discoveries are Ovonic nickel-hydride batteries, thin-film photovoltaics, and the Ovonic metal hydride fuel cell . In the early 2000s, ECD Ovonics showcased its innovative solid metal hydrogen storage in several second-generation Toyota Prius hydrogen-hybrid vehicles. Our report on these vehicles is excerpted just as it ran in Green Car Journal’s Fall 2005 issue.

Excerpted from Fall 2005 Issue: As the “hydrogen highway” vision takes form through incremental technology advancements and demonstrations on many levels, much of the glory is captured by hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. It’s true that they’re marvels of technology and are deserving of this attention. As shared in Green Car Journal’s Summer 2005 issue (Hydrogen/Where We Are on the Drive to the Future), automakers have come a long way and these vehicles are so good, they make it seem effortless to drive on this most environmentally positive fuel. But that’s far from the case.

Hydrogen hybrid Toyota Prius.

High-Price Experimental Vehicles

The vehicles are truly million dollar machines, using hand- built or limited production componentry handsomely packaged within normal-looking sedans, minivans, and SUVs. They drive seamlessly, for the most part, assuring us that the mission of bringing hydrogen vehicles to the highway can be accomplished. Still, there’s a lot of work ahead to make this vision workable – costs must come down, fuel cell durability must improve, and challenges that go beyond the vehicles themselves must be met. Creating hydrogen economically is one of them, as is developing a widespread refueling infrastructure. Storing hydrogen is yet another significant technical challenge, and that’s what this story is about, although a car once again appears to be the star.

This story begins and ends with Stanford Ovshinsky, an inventor of rarified stature who, many decades ago, made discoveries involving amorphous and disordered materials that created a whole new area of materials science. He was recognized with a Time Magazine “Heroes of the Planet Award” because of this work and how it led to many breakthrough applications, including his patented nickel-metal-hydride batteries (he and the company he founded, Rochester Hills, Michigan-based Energy Conversion Devices, hold the patents). As it turns out, this work has also led to the ability to store hydrogen in solid form at low pressure, a technology being developed by ECD business unit Ovonic Hydrogen Systems.

Fueling a hydrogen hybrid vehicle.

Liquid or Gaseous Hydrogen?

This is no small thing. Before we can buy a hydrogen-fueled vehicle in the showroom, some big technical hurdles need to be overcome in the lab, and one of the biggest is hydrogen storage. A hydrogen vehicle’s range depends directly on how efficiently this fuel can be converted to motive power and, more fundamentally, how much fuel can be stored on-board. Range will be especially important in the early years of hydrogen vehicle commercialization since a refueling infrastructure will still be in its infancy.

Automakers have been grappling with the issue for a long time. Liquid hydrogen, championed most visibly by BMW, is attractive because a much greater amount of liquid hydrogen can be stored in a given tank size than gaseous hydrogen. This translates to greater range. However, the downside is that hydrogen must be stored at -423 degrees F to keep it in liquid form, and getting it down to this temperature requires a lot of energy and special fueling equipment.

Most automakers use gaseous hydrogen in their developmental fuel cell and hydrogen internal combustion vehicles because of this. However, gaseous storage also has its challenges. Current 5,000 psi (pounds per square inch) hydrogen cylinders simply don’t hold enough fuel for a decent driving range. That has prompted many automakers to explore a new generation of even higher 10,000 psi hydrogen storage cylinders, which require additional changes to support this high pressure including 10,000 psi-capable lines, fittings, and dispensing equipment.

Solid Hydrogen Storage

Then there’s the approach offered by Ovonic Hydrogen Systems’ solid hydrogen storage, a concept so clever and intriguing it seems improbable...yet it works. A tank containing powdered metal alloys is filled with hydrogen at relatively low 1,500 psi. Removing heat during the process causes the metal to absorb hydrogen like a sponge, and a new material called a metal hydride is created. Hydrogen stored in solid form like this is in a safer state and can be stored within a tank at a lower 250 psi. On-board systems determine when hydrogen is needed by an engine or fuel cell, providing heat to reverse the process so gaseous hydrogen is released from the hydride and into the fuel system. In an interesting phenomenon, a greater volume of hydrogen can be stored in the same size cylinder with metal alloy than
without it, a consideration that provides better driving range.

Several years ago, Green Car Journal drove a 2002 Toyota Prius hybrid equipped with such a system. Operating as a hydrogen hybrid vehicle, it produced near-zero emissions and drove seamlessly. Ovonic Hydrogen Systems has now gone one better by offering several second-generation Prius hybrids equipped with a similar system to showcase its solid metal hydrogen storage. Some of these vehicles will operate as part of a hydrogen hybrid demonstration fleet at Southern California’s South Coast Air Quality Management District in Diamond Bar, California, a program that will prove the viability of hydrogen hybrids in everyday use.

Beyond the solid hydrogen storage, other modifications to these vehicles include vents and leak detectors to ensure safe operation, as well as hydrogen-compatible fuel lines, an engine management computer that operates new gaseous fuel injectors, and a variety of sensors. A turbocharger is used to compensate for the lower engine output that comes with combusting hydrogen. Extra battery modules are also added for better electric motor performance.

All this technology is wrapped within sharp-looking demonstration vehicles that promise to forward the company’s solid hydrogen storage message in a very high-profile way. These high-tech cars also demonstrate that hydrogen internal combustion could represent a more readily-achievable interim step toward the hydrogen highway as more complex and expensive fuel cell vehicles evolve in coming years. With potentially larger numbers of more affordable internal combustion hydrogen vehicles on the road, there’s also more incentive for building the hydrogen refueling infrastructure that will be needed for those fuel cell vehicles in the future.

Chevrolet Silverado EV driving on highway.

A coming electric Chevy pickup is no surprise given the intense competition in the pickup field and what’s at stake in this highly profitable market segment. Given that Rivian already has electric pickups on the highway, Ford has over 200,000 preorders for its coming electric F-150 Lightning, and other electric pickup competitors are on the horizon like the Ram 1500 EV and Tesla Cybertruck, an electric Chevy pickup was just a given. And now that it’s officially coming, GM’s bowtie brand is snaring that over 110,000 customers have already submitted preorders for its battery powered pickup.

While it’s true that GM already has its GMC Hummer EV pickup, it’s also true that this is a high-end product that’s not in the thick of the electric pickup battles. As a popular mainstream pickup, the Silverado is well-positioned to capture significant market share amid its electrified rivals.

2024 Chevrolet Silverado EV electric pickup.

Unlike the Ford F-150 Lightning, the 2024 Silverado EV is a ‘clean slate,’ all-new design with each component engineered to suit the electric pickup mission. As such, the engineering and design teams were able to include some very unique features well-suited to the electric pickup truck market. Even though the Silverado EV is a sizeable crew cab or two-row cab configuration, four wheel steering allows an impressive maneuverability and tight turning radius.

Multi-Flex Tailgate Adds Versatility

The pickup box is only 5.5 feet, but a pass-through in the rear cab wall called a Multi-Flex Midgate allows the back wall of the cab to fold down, allowing the pickup to haul cargo and gear up to 10 feet long. Chevy’s Multi-Flex Tailgate, already available on standard Silverado models, also adds work and cargo-carrying flexibility. Added storage can be found up front since there is no engine under the hood like on most trucks. This space on the Silverado EV features a lockable ‘frunck’ that can handle gear up to the size of a large hard-side suitcase.

The power output from the Silverado EV’s two electric motors is impressive. At the push of a button you enter Watts mode that provides an all-in effort of 664 horsepower and 780 lb-ft torque. The result is very un-pickup-like 0-60 mph acceleration in under 4 1/2 seconds.

Silverado EV offers standard automatic adaptive air suspension to even out heavy loads and improve overall ride quality. It can raise or lower the vehicle two inches. Ride quality is also enhanced thanks to a fully independent suspension front and rear. Tow rating on the Silverado EV is 8,000 pounds and it can carry 1200 pounds of cargo. Chevrolet will offer a fleet model with a 20,000 towing capacity after initial launch.

Inside, Silverado EV is designed to be comfortable and tech-savvy. The dash features a 17-unch diagonal LCD infotainment screen. Front and center for the driver is an 11-inch diagonal reconfigurable display along with a heads-up display. If you haven’t been in a pickup truck lately, they are light years away from pickup trucks of old with all the creature comforts you might desire.

GM Ultium for this Electric Pickup

Silverado EV utilizes GM’s Ultium Platform that’s the foundation for all GM EVs in the future. In the Silverado EV, Ultium uses a 24 module Ultium battery pack. The result is a very impressive driving range that GM estimates will deliver 400 miles between charges. Handily, the Silverado EV also offers DC public fast charging capability of up to 350W, allowing 100 miles of additional range to be added in just 10 minutes. Like its Ford Lightning competitor, the Silverado offers the ability to power a worksite, recreational campsite, or even a home during power outages with its available PowerBase charging system. It’s also capable of charging another EV using an available accessory charge cord.

Advanced electronics in the Lexus  NX.

Lexus says it has 20 new or updated models coming over the next four and a half years and all will be electrified. While we know that Lexus has a new all-electric crossover coming next year and the brand aims to offer only battery electric vehicles in North America, Europe, and China by 2035, this isn’t an instant shift. In fact, the majority of its electrified models in the short years ahead will no doubt be hybrids and plug-in hybrids.

Considering this, it’s no wonder that Lexus put great effort into its all-new, 2022 NX crossover, since this model’s hybrid variant is expected to represent some 23 percent of Lexus sales over that four-and-a-half year window. The new generation Lexus NX crossover is attractive and right-sized, representing an important update to this subcompact crossover that delivers a freshened exterior with a slightly more aggressive appearance. It’s also slightly longer, wider, and taller than the previous generation. Among the notable design elements are a more refined spindle grille, new headlights, and full-width taillamps.

Four Models Offered

Four distinct powertrains are offered in the NX line. Conventionally-powered models use either a 2.5-liter or 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, the former delivering 203 horsepower and the latter 275 horsepower. Powering the NX 350h is a fourth-generation hybrid drive with a 189 horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and two-motor transaxle at the front, providing a combined 239 horsepower. An additional electric drive motor at the rear engages as needed to enhance traction.

The NX 350h hybrid is the most likely sales leader in the new NX lineup since it’s actually priced $500 below the gas version of this trim level. This pricing strategy encourages more drivers to enjoy a hybrid’s lower carbon emissions and superior fuel efficiency without the typical price penalty faced with most hybrid models. In this case, Lexus NX hybrid gas mileage is a combined 39 mpg compared to the gas model’s 25 mpg, a significant jump. That efficiency, plus an estimated 565 mile overall driving range, makes the NX 350h a desirable vehicle for commuting and everyday life.

At $14,600 more than the 350h hybrid is the uplevel 450h+ plug-in hybrid. This model also adds a rear motor for more power and all-wheel drive, plus a larger 18.1 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. Along with its hybrid efficiency of 36 combined mpg and a total driving range of 550 miles, the 450h provides drivers an estimated 37 miles of all-electric driving at an EPA estimated 84 MPGe. While this is a crossover, drivers will be able to run with, and in some cases outrun, some sporty vehicles because the 450h+ goes 0-60 mph in six seconds flat. Its hybrid-only counterpart, the 350h, accelerates from 0-60 mph in a still very respectable 7.2 seconds. The 450h+ is distinguished by a muscular-looking power bulge on the hood that accommodates the 450h+ powerplant.

Excellent Driving Characteristics

During development, particular attention has focused on the inherent challenges that crossovers and SUVs face compared to lower profile cars that sit lower to the pavement. Recognizing these issues, like handling qualities in high winds and increased rollover potential compared to sedans, Lexus made this issue an engineering focal point for the new generation NX. This close attention found engineers addressing how suspension affects ride quality, handling, quietness, and overall driver confidence, and this attention has paid off with very confident handling characteristics in the NX.

The 2022 NX is nimble and very capable on twisty roads. Both hybrids in the lineup, the 350h and in particular the 450h+, instill confidence while carving sharp turns at speed without tire scrubbing or excessive lean and body roll. Ride quality is exceptional with no harshness over bumps or rough roads, and the cabin remains a quiet space along the way. Further enhancing its roadworthiness and all-weather capabilities is all-wheel drive, which comes standard on 350, 350h, and 450h+ models and is available on the base 250. Adaptive variable suspension is included on NX F Sport models to satisfy drivers seeking sports car handling relative to the NX’s size.

Inside, the model’s digital rear-view mirror is unique and another of the many very functional safety systems in this newly-designed NX 2022 line up. The cabin is well-appointed and comfortable, with four interior color offerings that can be selected in either leather or NuLuxe, a high-quality and eco-friendly synthetic leather alternative. Carrying capacity is increased by 14 percent in the new model’s cargo area for additional functionality. A standard Lexus Premium Audio system with 296 watts of power playing through 10 speakers has the sound quality to satisfy most owners. For audiophiles there is a premium 1800 watt Mark Levinson sound system with 12 channels powering through 17-speakers, something we think will outperform most drivers’ home audio system.

Advanced On-Board Electronics

Lexus NX is well-connected and equipped with the latest in infotainment and driver assist systems. It offers a standard 9.8-inch touchscreen featuring a new and intuitive user interface. A 14-inch touchscreen is optional. Standard on all NX models is Lexus Safety System+ 3.0, the automaker’s latest suite of driver assist features. Among its many features are dynamic radar cruise control with curve speed management, oncoming pedestrian detection and braking, left turn oncoming vehicle detection and braking, risk avoidance emergency steer assist, road sign assist, and lane departure alert with steering assist. Remote park and over-the-air software updates are two of the auto industry’s latest high-tech features that have found their way to the NX.

The 2022 Lexus NX price range features a spread of $17,700 between the base NX and the NX plug-in hybrid, so there’s some serious decision making to be made depending on budget, needs, and level of desire for electrification. Conventionally-powered NX models start at $39,025 for the front-drive 250, $42,625 for the 350, and $47,725 for the 350 F Sport. Electrification begins with the 350h hybrid at $42,125 and moves upward to the plug-in 450h+ at of $56,725. Clearly, there’s something for everyone in the NX lineup.

In the early 1990s, California’s coming zero-emission vehicle mandate drove major automakers to dive into battery electric vehicle development. The challenge was daunting and presented substantial obstacles including high costs and limited range. Then along came Volvo’s Environmental Concept Car. This innovative turbine-hybrid didn’t meet the letter of the law since it wasn’t fully zero emission, but it did illustrate there are diverse answers to environmental goals. This lesson lives on with today’s array of electrified vehicles. This report, presented as it originally appeared in Green Car Journal’s February 1993 issue, shares details on how Volvo proposed to bring hybrids to the highway.

Volvo turbine-hybrid Environmental Concept Car.

Excerpted from February 1993 Issue: It’s interesting to note the diverse ways the world’s automakers are responding to California’s ‘zero-emission’ vehicle mandate that takes effect in just five short years. By most accounts, the majority are involved in intense research and development of battery-powered electric cars that will meet the letter of the law.

Volvo, on the other hand, has a different view. This Swedish automaker, which built a stunning serial hybrid EV called the Volvo Environmental Concept Car, seeks a revision in the California legislative model that would specifically allow electric hybrids under the ZEV category. While this seems to make sense in some ways, it is also highly problematic in others. Some would argue that hybrids could present a regulatory nightmare since it would be difficult, if not impossible, to monitor whether drivers were actually running on straight electric or hybrid power in future urban zero-emission zones.

Volvo ECC turbine-hybrid electric car dashboard.

Innovative Approach to ZEV Mandate

“Our goal, of course, was to meet the zero emitting vehicle standard that California has set,” says Sylvia Voegele, general manager of Volvo’s Monitoring and Concept Center in Camarillo, Calif. “As we studied what consumers want, wish versus reality…we discovered that there were some fabulous pros for the electric car, but there was also a long list of negatives. Since we had to come up with a family vehicle which seats four people-plus, naturally we had a range problem. So our solution could not be with the given technology of today – the straight electric car – which appears to be the only solution to deliver a zero emission vehicle. So we settled for a hybrid.

“We felt that this hybrid solution gave us the best of both worlds,” continues Voegele. “It could be a zero-emitting vehicle for inner city driving or for shorter trips. Plus it could be, with a far better extender range, the vehicle you could drive to Las Vegas if you wish.” The ECC’s short 55 mile all-electric range is admittedly limiting, but may meet the requirements of those commuting average distances to the workplace. In this configuration the ECC does meet the strict ZEV standard.

Volvo ECC powered by a turbine-hybrid powerplant.

Turbine-Hybrid Driving Range

The benefit of Volvo’s hybrid approach is realized whenever lengthier drives are required. Using the ECC’s small gas turbine/generator to power the car’s 76 horsepower (56 kW) electric motor provides a range greater than 400 miles, and at emission levels that meet California’s ultra-low emission vehicle (ULEV) standard. Running on turbine-generated electrical power also provides 0-60 mph acceleration of about 13 seconds, much quicker than the ECC’s 23-second 0-60 mph acceleration times on battery power alone. Again, the slower acceleration would seem to be in a range acceptable within more crowded urban areas, while quicker turbine/generator-inspired sprints seem more in tune with the needs of open-road touring.

“The zero emitting vehicle to us is somewhat artificial because you still have emissions at the powerplants,” says Stephen Wallman, director of Complete Vehicle Product and Process at Volvo Car Corp. “Especially when you introduce global thinking, it doesn’t really matter too much if the powerplant is a little outside Los Angeles or in Los Angeles.”

Volvo ECC's distinctive rotary power control.

More Versatile than a Battery EV

Still, why would Volvo pursue development of a proof-of-concept vehicle that may not qualify to fulfill what could be a huge niche market for ZEVs? “One way of looking at it is that it’s driven by customer demand,” says Wallman of the ECC. “It is one way of overcoming the shortfalls of straight electric vehicles. It has the possibility, with a super-clean heat engine and very efficient energy conversion to electric power, to give very low emissions and good fuel economy levels. It still depends on battery technology, but to a much lesser extent. In our view this makes hybrid propulsion the most realistic alternative in the middle range.”

It remains to be seen how well a production vehicle like the Volvo ECC could weather the zero-emission regulatory climate already in place in California, New York, Massachusetts, and coming soon to other states. With many R&D efforts developing serial hybrid EVs, and the U.S. Department of Energy embarking on a funding program for their development, it seems at least plausible that hybrids may have a place in our future. What that place may be, and to what extent they’ll be used in a zero-emission strategy, is an interesting question that’s yet to be answered.

ELMS Urban Delivery electric van.

Electric Last Mile Solutions, appropriately named since its focus is on electrified specialty vehicles aimed at ‘last mile delivery’ of goods from regional warehouses or fulfillment centers, is currently offering the first of its planned products, the zero-emissions ELMS Urban Delivery van.

Classified as a light duty Class 1 (under 6000 pounds) vehicle, The $28,000 ELMS Urban Delivery electric panel van features specifications offering a good fit for a variety of applications like package delivery and service routes. Riding on a 120-inch wheelbase and measuring in at 186 inches long, 64 inches wide, and 75 inches tall, it has 157 cubic-feet of cargo volume accessible via dual sliding side doors or a tall rear liftgate. It features a curb weight of 3,133 pounds and can carry a maximum payload of 2,100 pounds. Turning radius us 20 feet, about the same as a Ford Transit van.

Front view of electric ELMS Urban Delivery Van.

The Urban Delivery offers an estimated 110 mile range on a charge courtesy of its 80 horsepower electric motor and 41 kWh CATL (Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Limited) lithium-iron-phosphate battery. ELMS has secured a long-term battery supply agreement with CATL, a major EV battery supplier with primary production in China and a new production base in South Korea, the latter supplying batteries for Hyundai’s next-generation E-GMP electric vehicle platform. ELMS provides an 8 year/100,000 mile warranty on the battery and a 4 year/48,000 mile warranty for the vehicle.

Based in Troy, Michigan, ELMS starts with vehicle bodies from China's Liuzhou Wuling Automobile Industry Co., then completes assembly at its 675,000 square foot facility in Mishawaka, Indiana, where AM General HUMMERS were once produced. Here, among other things, ELMS adds components including the battery pack, front and rear axles, front end modules, headlights, taillights, and seats. ELMS also upgrades the vehicle’s safety systems and energy absorbing bumper assemblies to meet federal safety standards.

Cargo area of the electric ELMS Urban Delivery van.

ELMS’ management team is a seasoned one with its senior leadership offering broad experience in the mainstream and emerging segments of the auto industry. Among these are executives who formerly held positions as CEO at HUMMER, CEO of Ford China, CFO of Byton and Ford China, global head of battery cells at Fiat Chrysler, VP of powertrain and EV systems at Karma Automotive, and VP of sales and service for Mahindra Automotive North America.

Initial vehicles have already been sold and delivered to customers. ELMS has also bolstered its service network through an agreement with Cox Automotive. This means owners of ELMS Urban Delivery vans have access to 800 mobile technicians, 6,000 service centers, and 3,000 partner locations nationwide for battery servicing, collision repair, and maintenance. A collaboration with EVgo also facilitates charging solutions for fleets operating ELMs products.

ELMS recently opened an Urban Mobility Lab in San Francisco to focus on advanced in-vehicle technologies and unveiled its second electric model, the ELMS Urban Utility, that’s aimed at those needing a zero-emission. medium-duty commercial vehicle. Production of this larger Class 3 commercial electric vehicle is planned to start in the second half of 2022.

Rivian electric delivery van.

Rivian delivered the first of its R1T trucks to customers late last year, becoming the first auto manufacturer to market with an electric pickup truck. Importantly, it also made initial deliveries of EDV 700 electric delivery van to Amazon.

The Amazon EDV 700 step-in van, which measures in at a 277 inch length and rides on a 187 inch wheelbase, provides a 700 cubic-foot cargo area and an estimated 200 mile driving range. It‘s powered by an electric motor energized by a lithium-ion nickel-cobalt-aluminum battery pack. The automaker plans to offer both single and dual motor, all-wheel drive versions of its commercial van product in the future.

Coming next is the smaller EDV 500,  entering the market later this year with a 500 cubic-foot cargo carrying ability. The EDV 500 has a length of 248 inches and a 157 inch wheelbase,. Following this will be the largest of Rivian’s three electrified vans, the EDV 900 that offers a length of 321 inches over a 205 inch wheelbase. This heavyweight hauler will feature an 840 cubic-foot cargo bay and a GVWR of 14,000 pounds.

Built on 'Skateboard' Platform

Rivian’s electric vehicles are built on an innovative electric ‘skateboard’ platform that integrates the vehicle’s motors, battery, cooling system, braking, and suspension. This strategy allows straightforward adaptation for varying models, wheelbases, and applications, including the company’s electric R1T pickup, R1S SUV, the EDV series it builds for Amazon, and other future Rivian models. This ‘skateboard’ approach is an advanced strategy being used for next-generation electric vehicles by a number of automakers.

Rivian electric delivery van skateboard platform.

The company has received substantial investment from numerous sources including Ford, and Amazon, along with major funding rounds that total some $10.5 billion. Adding to this is the Rivian IPO late last year that raised close to an additional $12 billion. Thus, Rivian is well-positioned to compete alongside legacy automakers and truck manufacturers as these companies begin to offer their own electric commercial vehicles to the market. The company reportedly has over 70,000 preorders for its R1T and R1S products, and importantly it is under agreement to deliver a total of 100,000 EDVs to Amazon by 2025, with the first 10,000 to be delivered by the end of this year.

Electric Delivery Van Focus

Given this, a significant amount of the company’s focus will presumably need to be directed at its Amazon delivery contract even as it scales up production of its initial product, the electric R1T pickup that was recently delivered to initial customers, and its soon-to-come R1S electric SUV. That’s a lot to handle for any start-up auto manufacturer, and juggling production priorities has potential to present challenges. In fact, Rivian announced the delay of its longest-range R1T and R1S models with the Max battery pack until 2023, no doubt as it finds its production sweet spot.

Even with its milestone order and production commitment with Amazon – a company that reportedly now owns 20 percent of this new auto manufacturer – Rivian has launched a fleet page for taking general orders for its Rivian Commercial Van (RCV) variant. The list of potential applications for its electric commercial van models goes well beyond the focused electric last mile delivery purpose of Amazon’s vans, ranging from field service and transport to construction and utility use. These configurable commercial models are designed to fit diverse needs with payload capacities ranging from 1,960 to 5,300 pounds. Rivian says deliveries of the RCV will begin in 2023.

Rivian is making strategic moves to increase production with a 623,000 square foot expansion of its manufacturing facility in Normal, Illinois – a former Mitsubishi assembly plant – to a total of 4 million square feet. The company is also moving forward with plans for a second production and technology facility near Atlanta, Georgia, with a potential build capacity of 400,000 vehicles per year. Representing a $5 billion investment, Rivian is hoping to begin construction of its Georgia facility this summer and start vehicle production there in 2024.

The past few decades have seen plenty of electrified concept vehicles come and go. Many were merely design or technology exercises to generate interest and excitement for an automaker’s future direction. Some concepts led the way to production vehicles in the short years ahead. One that stands out as being well ahead of its time is Volkswagen’s Space Up! Blue concept that was unveiled in 2007. The interesting thing about this concept is that it clearly shared a vision that has led the way to the VW I.D. Buzz concept of today, and the production version of this newest iteration of the microbus that’s being revealed soon. This article shares details of VW’s early exploration of an electric microbus some 15 years ago, presented as it originally ran in Green Car Journal’s Winter 2007 issue.

VW Space Up! Blue electric microbus concept.

Take a look at the Volkswagen Space Up! Blue concept car, and the company hopes you’ll conjure up fond memories of the 1950s VW Microbus. With four roof windows, butterfly doors, and a motor at the rear, the concept resembles a modern, 7/8th scale take on the original. But unlike the ‘hippy van’ of yore that came to symbolize the eco lifestyle, this concept’s powerplant actually bears it out.

Li-Ion Batteries for This Electric Microbus

Replacing the boxer engine is a 60 horsepower electric motor that draws its power from a dozen lithium-ion batteries. These batteries provide enough energy for a 65 mile all-electric trip. After that the Space Up! Blue is either refueled by  plugging into an electrical outlet or seamlessly powered by an on-board fuel cell for another 155 miles. A nice touch is provided by a large solar panel on the roof that feeds up to 150 watts to the battery.

Power illustration for VW Space Up! Blue electric microbus concept.

Fueled by an underbody compressed hydrogen tank, the fuel cell is a new high temperature unit developed by VW’s dedicated research center in Germany. A new high temperature membrane and electrodes allow operating temperatures of up to 320 degrees F, far beyond current low temperature fuel cells whose water-containing membranes are limited to water’s boiling point. VW points out that higher  operating  temperatures mean a much simpler cooling and water management system is needed, making the whole system more compact, affordable, and efficient.

The Space Up! Blue concept is the third variant of VW’s new small family of concept cars to appear at major auto shows in just a few months, following the Up! concept  from Frankfurt and the larger Space Up! concept from Tokyo. Despite the resulting unwieldy naming scheme, the concepts collectively offer VW’s vision for a new kind of small car that is cleverly packaged and simply styled. Now with electric drive, plug-in capability, and advanced fuel cell technology, we like where this vision is aimed.

Solar panels on the roof of the VW Space Up! Blue concept.

One of the most highly anticipated electric vehicles in recent memory is the F-150 Lightning, Ford’s all-electric pickup that’s making its way to our highways this spring. In fact, with almost 200,000 reservations on the books for the electrified F-Series, Ford now plans to nearly double its initial production plans and build 150,000 F-150 Lightnings annually. Another milestone is taking place as the first group of reservation holders is receiving e-mails inviting them to move forward and place orders for their trucks.

While the F-150 Lightning isn’t the only electric pickup to choose from – initial deliveries of small numbers of GMC Hummer EV and Rivian R1T electric pickups have already been made – it is the highest profile electric truck of the bunch. Others are in the wings as well like the coming Chevrolet Silverado EV and the oft-delayed Tesla Cybertruck.

None of those other companies– not even GM – has as much skin in the pickup game as Ford, which is proud of the fact that the F-Series has been the top-selling pickup truck for four decades and counting. FoMoCo has no plans to cede that ground, so an electric F-150 has to be a heart-of-the-market, genuine pick-’em-up, albeit one with enough cutting-edge technological features to appeal to the early adopters who are shopping for a vehicle with both bed and batteries.

Ford’s F-150 Lightning delivers. In the metrics that traditionally measure a pickup’s ability – towing and payload capacity – the F-150 Lightning lands in the middle of gas-powered F-150 SuperCab territory, able to tow up to 10,000 pounds and haul up to 2,000 pounds. Dual electric motors will, when hooked to the optional extended-range battery, produce a targeted 563 horsepower and 775 lb-ft torque, the most torque produced by any F-150, says Ford. That same extended-range battery should deliver 0-60 acceleration in the mid-4-second range and go 300 miles between charges. The standard battery’s range is estimated at 230 miles.

From the outside, the F-150 Lightning looks like a dressed-up version of the conventionally-powered, standard-bed F-150. In fact, the two trucks share the same cab. This traditional approach was based on customer feedback, we’re told. They wanted a truck that was ‘distinct, but not different,’ one that ‘didn’t look like a doorstop or a spaceship.’ (Cough, Cybertruck, cough).

Under the skin, though, Ford worked to maximize the Lightning’s utility and make the most of its lithium-ion battery pack, the largest one Ford has put into a vehicle. For example, when the Lightning is plugged into the optional Ford Intelligent Backup Power system, it can provide 9.6 kW of electricity to a household during a power outage for up to three full days. Once power is restored to the home, the system automatically reverts to charging the truck. Likewise, that 9.6 kW can be used through 11 onboard outlets to power tools, electronics, recreational gear, and so on. With Ford’s optional Pro Power Onboard system, the Lightning also offers vehicle-to-vehicle charging capability that can provide 240-volt, Level 2 charging to another electric vehicle.

Four outlets, plus two USB chargers, are found in the Lightning’s front trunk, which Ford calls the Mega Power Frunk. It’s a huge space, able to swallow 400 liters of volume and 400 pounds of payload. The dry, lockable compartment ‘gives you your cabin back,’ says Ford, though it also has a drain hole and can be hosed out after stowing wet or dirty gear. When the frunk opens (via dash-mounted button, key fob, or the Ford Pass smart-phone app), what was the conventional F-series grille rises with the hood, reducing load-in height to bumper, not over-the-fender, levels.

The Lightning seats five in a cab trimmed in light-colored materials. The premium Lariat and Platinum versions are equipped with a huge, 15.5-inch touchscreen in the center of the instrument panel to operate Ford’s new SYNC 4A infotainment system, which has voice controls, cloud-connected navigation, and wireless access to Apple Car Play and Android Auto. The Lightning can also receive over-the-air software updates to ‘add features, improve performance, and fix bugs,’ says Ford.

It’s expected these days that a battery-electric vehicle’s navigation system will include charging stations on a programmed route. The Lightning also has on-board scales monitoring the payload – including passengers – and provides that information to the nav system for accurate range calculations.

A feature called Pro Trailer Hitch Assist brings the same kind of technology that allows a vehicle to parallel park itself to the trailer hook-up process. Once the driver positions the Lightning relative to the trailer, guided by targets in the backup camera screen, the truck will control the steering, throttle, and brake to align the ball hitch under the trailer coupler.

The lithium-ion battery that drives all that computing power – and the Lightning itself – is housed in what Ford calls a metal exo-structure under the floor. It has its own cooling system and is further protected by skid plates to keep it safe when the Lightning ventures off-pavement. With inboard-mounted motors at both axles, the Lightning is a full-time AWD vehicle with independent suspension front and rear – the latter a first for a Ford pickup. The IRS is designed to be capable, Ford says, while also working in concert with the truck’s low center of gravity to improve the F-150’s ride and handling.

A terrain management system provides four driving modes: normal, sport, off-road, and tow/haul. Off-road mode activates an e-locker to maximize traction, while tow/haul mode maximizes energy recapture when the Lightning is decelerating or braking. One-pedal driving is available through the SYNC 4A screen.

The Lightning, like all Ford battery-electric vehicles, comes with a mobile charger that can be used on a 240-volt outlet with a 32-amp connector for an estimated 21 miles per charging hour, or with a 120-volt outlet with a 12-amp connector for about 3 miles per charging hour. The optional Ford Charge Station Pro (which powers the Intelligent Backup Power system) can add an average range of 30 miles per charging hour and can charge the truck from 15 to 100 percent in about 8 hours. On a 150-kW fast charger, a Lightning with the extended-range battery can add approximately 54 miles of range in 10 minutes or go from 15- to 80-percent charged in just over 40 minutes.

Ford is proud of the fact that the Lightning is being built in the USA, alongside the F-150 PowerBoost hybrid, at the Rouge Electric Vehicle Center in Dearborn. Ford has invested some $700 million into the historic Rouge assembly plant, transforming it into an environmentally friendly ‘step on the path’ of Ford’s plan to be carbon neutral by 2050.

One of the notable features of the F-150 Lightning is its approachable base cost, which is in stark contrast to its first few electric pickup competitors with their six-figure asking prices. Ford’s F-150 Lightning starts at a reasonable $39,974. Like all pickups these days, it can be seriously optioned up with an array of high-end packages and features, topping off at about $90,000. That under-40K base price, though, is a major attraction that’s no doubt motivating so many electric truck fans to sign up for the Ford brand.

Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid on a road trip.

Green Car Journal editors  had the opportunity to live with Mitsubishi’s third-generation Outlander PHEV over the course of two full years, the longest test conducted by the magazine. The experience was satisfying with this vehicle meeting every possible need. Our preference at all times was to drive on zero emission electric power whenever practical and this plug-in hybrid SUV allowed us to do that, since our daily drives were almost always within its 22 mile battery electric range. If we were consistent with plugging in overnight, which was the case unless another test car required a charge, then our drives around town were inevitably on electric power.

On those occasions when we drove beyond the Outlander PHEV’s electric range, we did so without thinking about it because the experience is seamless. There are no decisions to be made, other than start, shift into ‘drive,’ and head on out. During these drives, the switchover to combustion or hybrid power happened behind the scenes without any real indication it was taking place.

To Oregon in a Plug-In Hybrid

With that in mind, we headed out on an adventure from our base in California to the Oregon Coast. We’ve enjoyed the coastline in California for years, from Southern California’s Coronado Beach in San Diego and Newport Beach in Orange County to the environs of lesser known but delightful areas like the Central Coast’s Avila Beach, or the funky throwback beach town of Cayucas. Still, there’s just something about the rugged Oregon coast that calls to us. It offers dramatic and unspoiled coastal vistas that are compelling in a different way than the perennially sun-drenched, surfs-up beaches found in much of California. So, we packed up our Outlander PHEV tester and headed northbound on US 101.

Our northernmost area of interest was Tillamook, Oregon, the beginning of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge that protects some 1,800 rocks, reefs, and small islands over a thousand acres of coastline, running from Tillamook Head to the California border. Also calling us to the area was our appreciation of Tillamook cheeses and ice creams, so of course a visit at Tillamook Creamery was on our road trip agenda.

From our headquarters in San Luis Obispo, California, the trip to Tillamook is a direct drive of some 14 hours and nearly 900 miles. But being a road trip, that was just part of our unfolding story. There were many stops along the way and loads of opportunities for new experiences during our meandering, week-long journey. Our first overnight was in Ashland, Oregon, just north of the California border and about a nine hour drive from our starting point. A quaint city of 21,000 located at the southern edge of the Rogue Valley, Ashland has a college town feel with its Southern Oregon University and is home to the annual Shakespeare Festival.

To the Tillamook Cheese Factory!

Northward we headed, driving for some six hours before arriving at the century-old Tillamook Cheese Factory. At the time of our visit, Tillamook offered visitors self-guided tours, food and ice cream take-out service, and shopping for souvenirs and cheeses at its market gift shop. At the end of our visit, we left with collectible Tillamook-branded bowls and heaping portions of ice cream…offering the perfect break before continuing our Tillamook Road Trip.

After that it was a leisurely drive south along the scenic Oregon coast as we headed back toward California, with no particular plan in mind other than drive, stop to see interesting things, and stay at random hotels along the way. Our drive took us past Lincoln City, a self-proclaimed kite capital of the world, and then on to Yaquina Bay and Newport, Oregon, a city known for its Dungeness crab and home port to one of Oregon’s largest fishing fleets. Also located here is the Oregon Coast Aquarium where Keiko, killer whale star of the 1993 movie Free Willy, was rehabilitated before being relocated to Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland, and eventually released to freedom.

Oregon's Interesting Small Towns

After an overnight in the coastal town of Florence near the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, our drive took us through Coos Bay and then a quick stop in the town of Bandon, population 3,066. Bandon is the heart of Oregon’s cranberry production and home of the annual Cranberry Festival. A bit of sightseeing in Old Town found us appreciating Nora the Salman, a large sculpture made of plastic debris reclaimed from the sea by the group Washed Ashore. Apparently, Nora gets around, as she journeyed cross-country several years ago to the United Nations’ Ocean Conference in New York in support of the Clean Seas Campaign.

While in Bandon, we paid a visit to the small Face Rock Creamery, located at the original site of the Bandon Cheese Factory that thrived when cheesemaking was an important part of the local economy, and before Bandon became a brand of Tillamook Creamery. Here, you can watch craft cheesemaking in process and grab a meal for the road from the Face Rock deli if you’re so inclined. We were.

The drive south continued along Oregon’s Highway 101 Coastal Route that passes nearby Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint, which offers some pretty spectacular vistas. Next up was Port Orford for a photo op with a T-Rex. Really. Here we found Prehistoric Gardens, a must-see roadside attraction since its beginnings in 1955, situated in a rainforest replete with 23 life-size dinosaurs. Afterward it was a short drive to scenic Gold Beach where the Rogue River meets the Pacific Ocean, our last stop before reaching California. As with any road trip, there’s always the chance of unexpected surprises. Another of ours was about three hours later as we stopped to appreciate a herd of Roosevelt elk in the California Redwood National Forest off Highway 101, on our way to Arcata and an overnight there.

Enjoying the Outlander Plug-In Hybrid

Our final road trip stayover was a long-time favorite, California’s Monterey Peninsula. There is so much to see here it really requires more than a day, so we accommodated that with several nights at the Monterey Plaza Hotel while we explored Monterey, Carmel-by-the-Sea, and Pacific Grove. Among the top experiences here are strolling along Monterey’s Fisherman’s Wharf, enjoying the many seafood restaurants in the area, and of course a drive along the area’s spectacular 17 Mile Drive that winds its way along amazing ocean vistas on its way to Pebble Beach. At the end of our time here it was just a 2 1/2 hour drive back to our Central Coast home.

Our Tillamook Road Trip was everything we had hoped it to be, with fascinating stops along the way in the comfort of our Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV test car. We enjoyed this SUV’s accommodating ride, dependable performance, and confidence delivered by its sophisticated series-parallel hybrid system that allowed driving non-stop over great distances whenever needed, and charging up for times of all-electric driving when convenient. There was plenty of room inside for stowing all the gear and trappings of a road trip, and we enjoyed the array of features offered by the Outlander, from its heated steering wheel and seats on chilly mornings, to its handy navigation and many driver assist systems that make driving easier, like adaptive cruise control, blind spot warning, multi-view camera system, and automatic high beams.

While driving conditions during our trip were favorable and we ventured off road only briefly, it was confidence inspiring to know that Mitsubishi’s advanced S-AWC (Super All Wheel Control) system was there at the ready. The Outlander was fully equipped to provide whatever was needed on the road, a vehicle for all seasons and all reasons, as well. That makes us eager to try out the new-generation Outlander PHEV on another road trip when it hits our shores later in 2022.

Ford's all-electric E-Transit van.

Ford’s popular full-size Transit Van continues to evolve, and this year there’s a new and more environmentally compatible option for commercial buyers. While the conventionally-powered Transit will no doubt represent the bulk of Ford’s van sales for a while yet, it’s new electric 2022 E-Transit will surely find a welcome home with those companies and businesses where its zero-emissions operating parameters are a good fit.

The 2021 Ford E-Transit’s powertrain consists of an underfloor battery delivering energy to an electric motor that drives the rear wheels, delivering 266 horsepower and 317 lb-ft torque. A 67 kWh lithium-ion battery pack is located beneath the van’s floor so it’s out of the way and does not intrude on the E-Transit’s flat load floor. Charging is via a port located in the front grille, making it convenient to pull forward head-in to a charging station. Driving range varies from 108 to 126 miles depending on van configuration.

Three E-Transit Choices

E-Transit is available in Regular, Long, and Extended versions with low, medium, and high roof heights, plus a cab-chassis configuration for those wanting to adapt unique cargo boxes. The vans offer cargo volumes of 246 to 487 cubic feet and payload capacity of 3,240 to 3,800 pounds, depending on configuration. Driving range on battery power also varies between the models from 108 to 126 miles. While typical charging will be via a standard 240-volt Level 2 charging station in about 8 hours, the E-Transit is fast-charge capable and able to charge from 15 to 85 percent charge on a 50 kW charger in 65 minutes, and from 15 to 85 percent in just 34 minutes on a 115 kW DC fast charger.

The driver is placed well forward in the two passenger E-Transit cabin with a large windshield and expansive side glass for maximum visibility. Driver controls include a tilt and telescopic steering wheel, with a large rotary dial for drive mode selection just to the right of the steering column for easy access. Steering is electric-assist for easy maneuvering even when heavily loaded.

E-Transit Upfitting

Ford kept the interior configuration of the E-Transit compatible with traditional engine-powered Transit vans so existing aftermarket cargo racks and accessories should bolt right in. That’s a real plus for current Transit owners desiring a transition to electric. Since the view out the back of a cargo van is limited, the E-Transit comes standard with Reverse Brake Assist,  a rear vision obstruction sensing system that will stop the van before it hits objects behind the van while backing up. The system also provides help when backing around obstacles. Moving forward, E-Transit features both Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control and pre-collision braking assist.

In addition to delivery duties, the E-Transit is well-suited for construction and other traditional van applications. To that end, there’s an available Pro Power Onboard 2.4 kW electrical system that can be utilized run power tools and other electric needs at the jobsite. Convenient outlets are located just inside the rear doors.

Ford is promising a network of over 2,100 EV-certified dealerships if service is ever needed, something that not all electric vehicle manufacturers can offer. The E-Transit cargo van is now in production and starts at $47,185.

Hummer EV with topside tent accessory.

GMC’s Hummer EV Edition 1, the heavily-optioned model available at launch, is one powerful electric pickup. It incorporates an Ultium system consisting of a 24-module, double-stacked array of nickel-cobalt-manganese-aluminum (NCMA) batteries being produced in Lordstown, Ohio, through a joint venture with LG Energy Solution.

Power is delivered through three separate motors in two Ultium Drive units. One motor in the front unit drives both front wheels, while the motors in the rear drive unit independently power each rear wheel, with the ability to vary torque at each wheel to optimize traction under varying conditions. GM estimates the system will produce more than 1,000 horsepower, and when multiplied through the front and rear drive unit gear ratios, more than 11,500 lb-ft torque.

The Hummer EV is built on GM's Ultium electric vehicle architecture.
Driven by next-generation EV propulsion technology, the GMC HUMMER EV will be the first fully electric addition to GMC’s lineup and will bring GM another step closer to an all-electric future.

Hummer EV Drives 325 Miles

Driving range for the Hummer EV Edition 1 is estimated at over 325 miles, pretty remarkable for a heavy-duty electric pickup weighing in at over 9,000 pounds. Also impressive is that it’s expected to accelerate from 0-60 mph in about 3 seconds. Subsequent models available after launch, the Hummer EV 3x, Hummer EV 2x, and Hummer EV 2, will produce somewhat less power and, in the case of the 2x and 2 models, have two drive motors rather than three.

Among the features of the Hummer EV’s Ultium battery pack is technology that mechanically switches the batteries from parallel to series mode during recharging, which allows the pickup to use public fast-charging stations of up to 350 kW. At that rate, the Hummer EV can add 100 miles of range in about 10 minutes of charging, says GM.

The structural rigidity provided by the Ultium platform allowed GM designers to give the Hummer EV an optional Infinity Roof, which consists of four panels that can be removed for an open-air driving experience, enhanced with the lowering of the cab’s optional power back window. The Hummer EV’s cabin seats five. Amenities include a 13.4-inch central infotainment screen, 12.3-inch driver information display, driver-controlled Regen on Demand and one-pedal driving capability, and the latest generation of GM’s Super Cruise driver-assistance system.

An Off-Road Champion

Hummer EV Edition 1 is equipped to offer serious off-roading ability, from its 35-inch-tall mud-terrain tires to its independent front and rear suspension and locking front and rear differentials. It features five-mode Drive Control, an adaptive air suspension system with Extract Mode that raises the Hummer about 6 inches, UltraVision underbody cameras, and the ability to ‘crab walk’ around obstacles at low speeds thanks to four-wheel steering.

First up is GMC’s uplevel Hummer EV Edition 1 being delivered before the end of the year at a premium price of $112,595. Those looking for an entry-level Hummer EV should be prepared to pay $79,995 and be patient, since that model isn’t expected to be here until 2024. The $99,995 EV3x is coming in 2022 with the $89,995 EV2x hitting the market in 2023. Also coming is the 2024 Hummer EV SUV that’s expected in late 2023.

Reservations for Hummer Edition 1 are now full, but those wanting to get in on the action can reserve coming models at gmc.com/HummerEV.

Toyota's sleek Sienna minivan.

Toyota’s Sienna minivan is a winner…literally. Introduced as an all-new generation last year, the Sienna has continued into the 2022 model year with few changes other than the notable addition of an adventure-focused Woodland Edition, because honestly, no changes were needed. Sienna is a standout, distinguished as Green Car Journal’s 2021 Family Green Car of the Year™ in its launch year with a back-to-back win as 2022 Family Green Car of the Year™ this year. Green Car Journal had the opportunity to live with the Sienna over the course of a long-term test and found this vehicle indispensable for daily activities.

A look back at the van field’s interesting history lends some perspective on the Sienna’s accomplishment. Green Car Journal editors have a long relationship with vans, from the very beginning of the custom van era in the 1970s to the introduction of the minivan in 1984, then onward as the van field evolved. Stylistically, vans were often boxes on wheels since their mission was function rather than form. Full-size vans were made for work, though many found alternative lives as wild customs or camper vans over the years.

Compared to full-size vans, minivans have a more streamlined purpose. Since the minivan’s introduction, its job has been to conveniently transport families for whatever need, from everyday trips to school, weekend games, or the supermarket to long-distance road trips and quick-weekend getaways. Offering versatile two- or three-row seating to provide options for families of all sizes, minivans also deliver a comfortable riding experience since they feature passenger car-like unibody construction.

While changing exterior designs have been explored over the years and there were some notably futuristic-looking ones that didn’t catch on, most minivans have been predictably straightforward. Their makers focused on elements like family-friendly features, loads of seating, and convenient pass-through access between the seats so parents could tend to the needs of their small passengers in the second or third rows. Designers didn’t devote a lot of attention to soul-stirring style. Over time, families in increasing numbers moved on to sportier SUVs.

Toyota Sienna hybrid's angular front end.

Segue ahead and you’ll see how things have changed, with this change no more striking than the image presented by Toyota’s fourth-generation Sienna minivan. Toyota designers aimed high, giving the all-new minivan crisply-chiseled features with well-placed angles and curves, along the way creating a shape and a feel that’s pleasingly aggressive, sporty, and sophisticated for a minivan.

At the front, a large signature grille is striking but not overdone, complemented by angled, wrap-around headlights and a hard-edged lower air dam with LED lights. This sculpted design continues along the sides with angled rocker panels and a distinctive shoulder line. At the rear, there’s an artful blending of curves and angles with a distinctive and integrated spoiler. Matte black accents and darkly-tinted windows add to the Sienna’s sporty persona.

Inside is a spacious and accommodating interior great for daily family duties or longer-distance cruising. The driver is treated to an 8-way adjustable seat with lumbar control while the passenger gets a 4-way adjustable seat. An array of pushbutton controls along the dash complement controls within the vehicle’s 9-inch infotainment touch screen, which is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The instrument panel includes a 7-inch color multi-information display that shows hybrid system output and encourages efficiency driving. A whopping 14 cupholders are strategically placed throughout with eight accessible to the driver and passenger – two always present and visible in the center console, two beneath a lift-up console panel ahead of the gear shift, and two each in the driver and passenger doors.

All the latest safety and driver assist systems are provided with Toyota’s Safety Sense 2.0 suite of active safety features. Among these are dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist, pre-collision system with pedestrian and low-light detection, lane trace assist, and road sign assist. Also included as standard equipment is Toyota’s Star Safety System offering brake assist and smart stop, enhanced stability control, traction control, and more.

Seating and storage configurations and options are impressive with seven or eight passenger seating available. Second row seats can slide forward and back or recline, with either folding forward to allow access to the third row through powered sliding doors at either side. Privacy screens lift up at each sliding side door window as needed. Rear air conditioning controls are conveniently located on a ceiling panel at the mid-row. While not in our tester, there’s the option for heated second row captain’s chairs with ottomans and super-long slide adjustment, a real luxury feature for minivans. Recognizing that today’s minivan passengers want to be connected, an array of mini-USB and other power ports are located strategically throughout the interior.

Stowing family gear and transporting requisite necessities from home improvement centers is easy. When additional seating isn’t needed, the third row can fold down for more stowage behind the second row, or fold forward vertically to offer storage on the seatback with a deep rear storage well in the floor behind. For large or bulky items, Sienna’s second and third row seats can fold to deliver a flat load floor from behind the front seats to the rear liftgate.

The Sienna is a joy to drive. It’s quiet, offers confident handling, and all the power you need courtesy of its Toyota Hybrid System II powerplant that integrates a 2.5-liter engine and a pair of electric motors energized by a nickel-metal-hydride battery pack. This 243 horsepower hybrid system, the exclusive powertrain in the Sienna, connects to a constantly variable transmission with sequential shift mode. This delivers an EPA estimated 36 combined mpg in front-wheel drive Siennas, dropping slightly to 35 combined mpg on electronic all-wheel drive models. Three driving modes – Normal, Eco, and Sport – are driver selectable to tailer the driving experience.

This power enables additional functionality like the Sienna’s ability to tow up to 3500 pounds when equipped with an available tow hitch. Also available is a factory optional 120-volt AC outlet and 1500 watt inverter for power at campsites or other uses.

Our thousands of miles behind the wheel of the Toyota Sienna illustrated that this is no mere minivan. Sienna is a champion of family transport, a minivan presented in the guise of a long and low – and might we say quite stylish – luxury sedan that happens to feature three-row seating and a pair of power sliding side doors. Not once did we feel our sporting image challenged during our drives . In fact, along our travels we received many compliments on the Sienna's styling and also its distinctive Sunset Bronze Mica exterior.

In the not-so-distant past, if you were driving a minivan of any kind then you pretty much felt like you were driving…a minivan. Your role was clear: parent, family man, soccer mom, a person whose identity was defined by responsibility and not by your cool or sporty nature. Remember that time-worn adage, “You are what you drive?” By that measure, every time we carved a crisp turn, drove in welcome comfort, monitored our impressive mpg, or pulled up to any venue in our stylish Sienna we were driving in high style and feeling mighty sporty, indeed.

Tropical drinks in Hawaii.

Like all of us over the long course of lockdowns and varying degrees of COVID 19-related restrictions, my wife Sheree and I were yearning for the day we could travel somewhere…anywhere…that seemed safe, made sense, and transported us at least briefly beyond the everyday concerns of the pandemic that had literally stopped us all in our tracks. Hawaii was calling to us.

Visiting Hawaii when we did, as the pandemic was loosening its hold on life, was like vacationing during a sort of pandemic ‘shoulder season’ – the traditionally less crowded, less hectic months before and after the masses head to the most desired vacation destinations. While the Governor of Hawaii is now welcoming visitors back as the recent COVID 19 surge has passed in the islands, and things are much more ‘normal’ (read that ‘crowded’) with Hawaii once again a top destination, it was eerily quiet during our before-the-surge visit.

Duke Kahanamoku statue at Waikiki Beach.

Pandemic Travel Challenges

Traveling to Hawaii was no small logistics challenge, though that has eased now with changing visitor requirements . As we viewed our options before deciding on Hawaii, other favorite destinations like Italy seemed better left for another day once things are more sorted out. Australia was off the table since its borders were, and still are, closed to international visitors, though that country has just announced it is again allowing entry to international students and foreign workers. We've done road trips through the Pacific Northwest but were looking for something different. So what about Hawaii? That’s been a work in progress and travel there initially required a 14 day quarantine since March 2020, then a shortened 10 days of mandatory quarantine starting in December 2020 for travel to all of the Hawaiian Islands.

This policy relaxed late last year with the option for a quarantine exemption through the State of Hawaii’s Safe Travels portal, at https://travel.hawaii.gov. A video on the site presents an overview of the program and lists the steps to be completed, including the need for a negative COVID 19 test for non-vaccinated visitors traveling to Oahu. A recent change now grants a quarantine exemption for fully-vaccinated visitors who register with the Safe Travels portal, upload vaccination cards, and then have their vaccination cards confirmed during airport check-in. Other islands have had additional requirements, and the state’s rules continue to evolve, so it’s best to reference the latest requirements and restrictions at the State of Hawaii’s online COVID 19 portal, at https://hawaiicovid19.com/travel/getting-to-hawaii.

Pandemic caution sign in Hawaii hotel lobby.

Requirements for Hawaii Travel

Hawaii’s quarantine exemption process is clear but not entirely free from angst, though vaccinated travelers will find it easier than the non-vaccinated. For those who have not been vaccinated, timing is essential since a negative NAAT or PCR COVID 19 test is required from a Hawaii-approved lab. These labs are listed on the Safe Travels portal. After registering for an account through the portal and providing your travel information, including flight and hotel reservation numbers, your negative COVID 19 test can be uploaded and instantly verified.

This test must be done no more than 72 hours prior to your flight to Hawaii. Naturally, there’s a realistic concern that everything go well and the testing lab e-mails a negative test result to you in time. For those with connecting flights, the timeline is based on the final non-stop flight segment you take to Hawaii, not your originating airport.

Pre-Travel Testing

Though we are now fully vaccinated, our trip took place before Hawaii’s ‘vaccine passport’ option was in place. We knew that a number of testing options were available, including relatively new availability for testing on-site at some larger international airports, but decided to take our test at a local urgent care since they work with a Hawaii-approved lab partner. We timed it so the test was taken within the required 72 hour window, doing so on a walk-in basis, though other testing providers may offer appointments. We arrived, filled out the paperwork, and were called in for the Hawaii-approved nasal swab test. Then the anticipation began. We were pleasantly surprised when we received e-mails about 18 hours later with our negative results, quicker than promised. Then we uploaded the test PDFs to our accounts on the Safe Travels portal.

Once you’re within 24 hours of your flight, you need to log-in to the portal and answer a short health questionnaire. A QR code is issued immediately after the questionnaire is submitted, whether you're requesting exemption with a test or vaccination. This QR code allows screeners access to your Safe Travels quarantine exemption status during airport check-in. While you can access this QR code by logging in any time, Safe Travels recommends that you also make a printout of the QR code and carry it with you. Those seeking a quarantine exemption must bring their vaccine card with them. Since this trip involved an exemption with a COVID 19 test, we brought the PDF of our test results with us just to be safe.

Hawaii Pre-Clear sign at airport.

Hawaii Flight Check-In

We flew Alaska Airlines direct from San Jose, California, to Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport. At check-in in San Jose, we provided our tickets and then logged into the Safe Travels portal on our phones to show our QR codes. During check-in, status on our Safe Travels accounts was changed from Not Screened and Not Exempt to Screened and Exempt. This same process follows now for those who apply for a quarantine exemption with their uploaded vaccine card, with the physical vaccine card confirmed by the airline. With confirmation complete, Alaska Airlines issued Safe Travels wristbands that allowed breezing through the airport upon arrival in Oahu. Those without wristbands must endure long lines as their exempt status is manually confirmed once they arrive in Hawaii.

After check-in, we logged into our Safe Travels accounts on our phones to confirm the change to Exempt was made. A new QR code reflecting this change was shown. You will need to log-in and show this updated QR Code when checking in to your hotel to confirm exemption from quarantine.

Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon at Hilton Hawaiian Village.

(Then) Uncrowded Waikiki

This is a lot of work to go through for any trip. However, the yearning to experience this tropical paradise after a seemingly endless time of pandemic restrictions was compelling enough to make it worthwhile. Plus, we knew that once travel began in earnest later, the relatively uncrowded and reasonably priced Hawaii we wished to visit would likely experience rising costs and a crush of visitors. Following our 5 1/2 hour flight from San Jose to Honolulu, the promised benefit of wearing a Safe Travels wristband was immediately evident. Those without one went right at the entry sign for a long line and manual processing, while we went left and, with a quick flash of our wristbands at a check point, continued toward baggage claim. It was that simple.

We had arranged to be met with a ride and lei greeting because, after all, that’s really how you should arrive on the islands and it’s not that costly. It’s also a good plan because rental cars have been very expensive everywhere, including Hawaii, due to tight availability. We even found Uber prices to be higher than normal due to increased demand. The best bargain for travel needs, surprisingly, was an old-school cab since their costs are regulated. If you do want to rent, then you might consider going electric with a Tesla Model S, 3, X, or Y rented from WDT Luxury Tesla Rental Hawaii, though these can't be rented at the airport. The 14 Teslas in this company's growing fleet are currently renting from $125 to $350 per day, with the top-of-the-line Model S Plaid going for $849 daily. Speaking of Teslas, while strolling the main part of Waikiki be sure to head over to the Tesla showroom on Kalakaua Avenue to appreciate some electric car eye candy there.

Inside Tesla store in Hawaii.

Hawaii Hotel Choices

Over the years, our go-to hotel has always been the Hilton Hawaiian Village, a 22 acre resort located on a wide stretch of Waikiki Beach that’s much less crowded than the stretch of beach adjacent to Waikiki’s main hotels and shopping area. We’ve found the walk from HHV to the main bustle of Waikiki to be easy and enjoyable, with half the walk along the beach. This time, however, we started our vacation with two nights at the Moana Surfrider, a stately and historic hotel located in the heart of Waikiki Beach. We’ve been wanting to experience this hotel for some time and finally took the opportunity. We weren’t disappointed. The Moana Surfrider, like many hotels in Hawaii, closed down for months to weather the dearth of tourists and the unknowns of the early months of the pandemic. And like others, they have strived to reopen in ways that allow accommodating guests in true Hawaiian style.

We found check-in an easy process, with the only additional step involving confirmation of our quarantine exempt status through the Safe Travels QR code on our phones. The lobby, the rooms, the restaurants and bar, and overall experience were just as we had hoped. The Surfrider’s manager was even on hand in the lobby to welcome guests to Hawaii and the hotel, an unexpected touch.

At night, we were able to enjoy live music and drinks at the hotel’s iconic Beach Bar with its exceptional surf-and-sand view, and Vintage 1901, the hotel’s stately piano bar. There’s the Beachhouse fine dining restaurant if you’re so inclined, or you can order dinner from a more limited menu at Vintage 1901, as we did. We enjoyed breakfast at the hotel’s Verandah at the Beachhouse and pineapple smoothies at the Surfrider Café. While we didn’t get to enjoy Sunday afternoon tea at the Verandah because it was fully booked, we have done this high tea before and highly recommend it.

Rocking the Day Away

One of our favorite things in years past has been to stop by the Moana Surfrider just to spend some time on the rocking chairs that line its front porch, and just people-watch. This Moana Surfrider’s location in the heart of Waikiki Beach makes everything easily accessible. While restaurants and shops are capacity controlled due to COVID 19 restrictions, there were plenty of them ready and waiting to serve visitors.

We knew ahead of time that reduced capacity meant quite a few restaurants would be fully booked on many nights, so we made reservations in advance through the Open Table app, including the popular Hard Rock Honolulu. Some, like the always-in-demand Duke’s Waikiki beach bar and restaurant, had no reservations open for breakfast, lunch, or dinner during our stay. However, Duke’s sets aside half of its tables for walk-ins, so we gave it a try and lunch for the two of us involved just a 15 minute wait.

Waikiki Beach is often a very crowded place. While there were tourists strolling along its main street, Kalakaua Avenue, and a reasonable amount of traffic, we found it less crowded than on previous visits when sidewalks were packed. Some popular eateries that are often impossible for walk-ins, like the Cheesecake Factory, had unusually short lines and presented no obstacles to enjoying a fun meal. By the time you’re reading this, though, the greater numbers of travelers now heading to Hawaii likely mean a much busier environment with the usual wait times.

Hilton Hawaiian Village

After several days at the Moana Surfrider, we moved on to our usual Hawaiian digs, the Hilton Hawaiian Village. We’ve always enjoyed this resort because it offers so much on-site – an array of casual and fine-dining restaurants, a pizzeria, New York deli, and Starbucks, along with gift shops and two ABC Stores for picking up everything from sandwiches, drinks, and snacks to sundries, rafts, and beach supplies. Complimentary morning activities are offered like hula lessons, lei making, yoga, and tai chi.

This was the intended ‘down time’ of our trip, so four days were spent on lounge chairs under an umbrella on the resort’s uncrowded stretch of Waikiki Beach. Drinks and food are nearby at the Hau Tree Bar and Tropics Bar & Grill. Daily walks took us to the bustle of activities along Kalakaua Avenue and the main part of Waikiki Beach, a pleasant 25 minute stroll. A fascinating trip to the Honolulu Museum of Art was also on order to view its collection of Asian, Hawaiian, European, and American art.

Hilton Hawaiian Village closed down for eight months during the pandemic and reopened in November 2020. During our stay, we found that while it did offer many of the features and amenities we’ve come to appreciate in the past, the pandemic’s impact meant it was still getting up to speed. The nightly live entertainment we’ve always enjoyed on stage at the expansive outdoor Tapa bar, and in the more intimate setting of Tropics Bar & Grill, was absent. The popular Tapa Bar itself we closed. In fact, except for the Waikiki Starlight Luau held on the resort’s Great Lawn adjacent to the Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon, there was no live entertainment at all on the property during our visit. The last we checked, the resort was planning to start live entertainment again shortly.

Like many hotels on the islands, daily rhythms at Hilton Hawaiian Village have been affected by capacity limits, so restaurant reservations are a good idea, either booked on-site or through Open Table. Hilton Hawaiian Village is billed as the largest ocean resort in the Pacific, so it’s understandable why it’s taking time to fully emerge from the challenges of the pandemic. This is a very popular Waikiki destination and we expect it to be bustling as usual the next time we return.

Important Travel Reminders

Hawaii's new vaccine passport system now provides a much simpler way to get a quarantine exemption. We didn't have that option at the time of our visit so a COVID 19 test with specific timing requirements was required. This same testing requirement is still in place for unvaccinated visitors today. We expect that the vast majority of those heading to Hawaii have not had issues with a test exemption. That said, we also know of a few who did not receive test results in time and had to cancel their vacation plans. There is no accommodation for taking a test once you’ve landed in Hawaii. You’re either exempt before flying there through a negative test or confirmed vaccination card, or you’re subject to the mandatory quarantine. So you focus. Understand the requirements explained through Safe Travels. And you plan your test timing carefully, since in this case timing is everything.

This article could have been titled, ‘Four Tickets to Paradise,’ but our friends John and Cathy who were to join us never made it. They had to cancel their trip just hours before their scheduled flight, though they did all the right things through Safe Travels Hawaii and timed their COVID 19 tests appropriately . One of their PCR test results came back quickly, but the other was delayed and eventually came back inconclusive. It was expected that a quick follow-up NAAT COVID 19 test would come in time, but the negative test result wasn’t received until just before their scheduled flight, after all was cancelled. That was a disappointing sign of the times, so it was just the two of us this time.

As a final thought, Hawaii is absolutely worth the effort even amid all the extra steps you have to take right now to get there. Being on the islands, especially after all the months of lockdowns and restrictions, is spectacular even amid its reawakening and we enjoyed our experiences there immensely. You will enjoy the Aloha, too!

Andrew Fox, CEO of Charge Enterprises.
Andrew Fox is Founder, CEO, and Chairman of Charge Enterprises

The electric revolution is upon us, the Infrastructure is not.

With the recent signing of the Glasgow Declaration on Zero Emission Cars and Vans at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, multiple automakers and 33 countries are now officially working toward the goal of making all new cars and vans sold globally zero emission by 2040. ‘Zero emission’ in this case is defined as producing zero greenhouse gas emissions at the tailpipe, as accomplished by electric vehicles, for example.

While much has been reported about the ever-increasing number of EV offerings and the growing interest and demand, there are still major hurdles to mainstream adoption. One of the most pressing is the dire lack of charging infrastructure.

More Chargers Needed

Today, there are less than 2 million EVs in operation within the United States, according to some estimates, and fewer than 100,000 charging stations to service them — nearly a third of them in California. With projections for EVs in operation within the U.S. exceeding 25 million by 2030, the calculus on what it will take to keep those zero-emission vehicles running is staggering: Approximately 13 million EV stations need to be installed by 2030, which equates to 120,000 a month in the United States alone.

The trillion-dollar infrastructure bill just signed into U.S. law does include $7.5 billion earmarked for building out EV charging networks. But given the anticipated growth rate of EVs versus today’s infrastructure, it’s going to take a lot more than that. This is where companies like Charge Enterprises come in.

From on-the-go power banks to micro-mobility and EV charging stations, we design and engineer, select and source equipment, install, and coordinate software selection and if the customer requires, implement remote maintenance and monitoring services. So whether it’s a ChargePoint system or a Blink system, or a third-party charging company, what we do is the infrastructure build-out and ecosystem planning of the site location. Servicing and educating the client is critical in establishing a reliable, safe, scalable and flexible site for future demands.

Blink electric vehicle charging station.

Electric Charging Needs

We are equipment- and software-agnostic, which means that we can provide custom solutions with careful consideration of various business use cases to ensure efficient, effective, design plans that not only satisfy current needs but also account for future scalability, growth, and ever-advancing technology. Our experienced team with nationwide scale offers turnkey engineering, design, equipment and software specifications, planning, sourcing, and installation for EV charging ecosystems.

As important as EV infrastructure is, true global sustainability isn’t confined to how we fuel our mobility. That’s why our recent strategic alliance with the National Community Renaissance, one of the nation’s largest nonprofit developers of LEED certified affordable housing, is such a critical compliment to Charge’s infrastructure solutions for intelligent wireless campuses. This partnership will further align with National CORE’s dedication to providing high-performance affordable housing that integrates energy and sustainability to reduce harmful emissions, making all communities more sustainable, healthy and equitable places to live, work, and play – especially historically disadvantaged communities.

The demand for clean, sustainable charging infrastructure is building,  whether for commercial properties, fleet depots, truck/van centers, retail facilities, auto dealerships, government, or residential. Our strategy is to make it simple for everyone to switch to an EV and other electrified technology. We’re helping accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels toward a fully electric future.

Andrew Fox is Founder, CEO, and Chairman of Charge Enterprises, a portfolio of global businesses specializing in communications and electric-vehicle charging infrastructure.

Canoo electric pickup driving on trail.

Canoo’s out-of-the-box approach to its fully electric pickup truck is evident from the first look at its cab-forward design, which to a certain generation may resemble a 21st century take on Volkswagen’s venerable Transporter-based pickup. Yet the layout is no nostalgic homage. Instead, it maximizes space efficiency, incorporating a configurable cabin and a cargo bed with the dimensions of a full-size pickup into an overall footprint smaller than most mid-size trucks.

It’s clear that a lot of thought went into the design of the pickup bed. Its standard 6-foot length can grow to 8 feet thanks to a pull-out extender stored below the bed floor. Bed-extension gates housed within the side-hinged tailgate doors enable the bed to be enclosed at its extended length. Canoo developed a modular divider system for the bed to separate items when necessary, and the flat bed floor (no wheel housings intrude into the space) can easily accommodate that yardstick of every working vehicle, the 4x8 sheet of plywood. Configurable wheel chocks and tie-down hooks allow the securing of all kinds of recreational- and work-related gear. There’s a multi-accessory charge port built into the inside of a bed wall, and the bed can be lit from several sources, including an overhead light on the back of the cab’s roof and perimeter lights build into the bed.

Canoo electric pickup at campsite.

Innovations Everywhere

Adding to the bed’s versatility, the bed sides fold down to create work benches. Hidden drawers ahead of the rear wheels pull out to provide extra storage as well as a step for bed access.

Freed of a conventional engine compartment, the Canoo pickup has enclosed storage in its nose. The front gate doubles as a fold-down worktable when open. As with the bed, there are multiple power outlets in the storage area for wall plugs, USBs ,and mini-USBs.

Canoo electric pickup's futuristic cabin.

The pickup’s cab features four doors in an extended-cab configuration with front-hinged front doors and narrower, rear-hinged rear doors. Two front seats are standard, while the rear area can be configured for additional seats or customized storage capability. The rear window rolls down for access to the bed from the cab, a handy feature if the truck is equipped with a camper shell. Canoo has developed optional roof racks for the pickup that can accommodate as much as 18 square feet.

High-Tech Electric Pickup

What makes the truck’s layout possible is Canoo’s multi-purpose platform, which packages the powertrain, Panasonic cylindrical lithium-ion batteries, and suspension components into a flat, skateboard-like chassis. A drive-by-wire system eliminates the steering column that normally protrudes into the passenger compartment. Likewise, control arms, transverse fiberglass leaf springs, and frame-mounted dampers make up a suspension system that is contained below the height of the tires.

Canoo electric pickup's skateboard platform.

The platform can be equipped with a single rear-mounted motor or dual motors, with a target of 500 horsepower and 550 lb-ft torque for the dual motor version. Canoo estimates the pickup’s range at 200-plus miles. Payload capacity is quoted at 1,800 pounds, which is comparable to most mid-size and even some full-size pickups. No towing capacity figures have been released, though the truck will have a receiver for a tow hitch.

Three Models Available

Canoo’s Pickup, Multi-Purpose Delivery Vehicle, and Lifestyle Vehicle are available for preorder on the company’s website. First to market will be the Lifestyle Vehicle, a minivan, that’s set for production and delivery late in 2022. Next up are the Pickup and MPDV that will come “as early as 2023,” says the company. While pricing for Canoo’s Lifestyle Vehicle has been disclosed as $34,750 to $49,950 for Delivery, Base, and Premium models, pricing for the MPDV and Pickup variants have yet to be revealed.

Canoo electric pickup driving off-road.

Canoo recently tapped Bentonville, Arkansas, as the location for its headquarters and low-volume production facility for the MPDV, along with Fayetteville, Arkansas, for its new R&D center focusing on powertrains and advanced vehicle electronics. Netherlands-based VDL Nedcar is the contract partner that will manufacturer the Lifestyle Vehicle for the U.S. and European markets.

The Green Car Awards honor 'greener' cars on our highways.

Since the very first Green Car Awards™ presented by Green Car Journal in 2005, the magazine’s mission has been to acknowledge and encourage environmental achievement in the auto industry. It has always been important to recognize new models that are driving a green revolution on our highways by decreasing emissions, encouraging energy diversity, and improving efficiency. This enlightened way forward is crucial to vastly improving the automobile’s impact on the environment and ensuring a future for personal-use vehicles.

That mission has never been more vital than it is today as we see first-hand the environmental challenges we all face. While there are many ways to address these challenges and solutions must come from many fronts, it’s reassuring to know that the auto industry is stepping up in significant ways.

Display showing vehicle carbon reduction.

Improving Vehicle Efficiency

High efficiency internal combustion models that eke out fuel economy numbers in the 30 to 40 mile-per-gallon range, and above, were unheard of in the recent past. They’re on the road today. Hybrids that extend fuel efficiency to 40 and 50 miles per gallon are not uncommon. Models driving on battery electric power often are achieving an energy equivalent of 80, 90, and 100 miles-per-gallon, or more. There’s still work to be done to accomplish important environmental goals, but this truly is a watershed moment.

The motor vehicle continues to have an important story to tell, now and in the decades ahead. That story speaks to greater efficiency, improved attention to sustainability, and a more thoughtful approach to environmental compatibility, all made possible by the enlightened design, advanced technologies, and amazing innovation found in an unfolding new generation of vehicles. The Green Car Awards – the most important environmental awards in the auto industry – celebrate these vehicles, and by extension the automakers, engineers, product planners, and others who make them happen.

Green Car Product of Excellence.

Product of Excellence Winners

Each award year, Green Car Journal editors examine the universe of vehicle models sold in the U.S. that distinguish themselves with exemplary environmental credentials. Through an extensive vetting process, five vehicles are identified in each of eight categories that stand out by virtue of their environmental achievement. This process considers many factors such as lower carbon emissions, greater efficiency, or the use of advanced technologies such as lightweighting, electrification, more efficient internal combustion, or other innovative efficiency-enhancing or sustainability strategies. Each model that rises to the top 5 in a category are honored with Green Car Journal’s Green Car Product of Excellence™. These standout vehicles then advance to be finalists for Green Car Awards.

Models honored with 2022 Green Car Product of Excellence are: Audi e-tron GT; Audi Q4 e-tron; BMW i4; BMW iX; BrightDrop EV 600; Chevrolet Bolt EUV; Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid; ELMS Urban Delivery EV; Ford E-Transit; Ford F-150; Ford Maverick; Ford Mustang Mach-E GT; GMC Hummer EV; Honda Civic; Hyundai IONIQ 5; Hyundai Kona Electric; Hyundai Tucson; Hyundai Venue; Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe; Karma GS-6; Kia EV6; Kia Seltos; Kia Sorento Hybrid/PHEV; Lexus NX; Lightning eMotors Electric Van; Lucid Air; Mercedes-Benz EQS; MINI Cooper SE; Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo; Rivian Electric Delivery Van; Rivian R1T; Tesla Model S Plaid; Toyota Sienna; Toyota Tundra; Volkswagen ID.4; Volvo C40 Recharge.

This year involved weighing the merits of more potential finalists than any previous year in the award program’s history. In the shifting sands of the pandemic, the auto industry’s chip shortage, and today’s phased timeline for new model introductions throughout the year, an important part of this process is determining a new model’s realistic delivery timeline, not just the availability of online preorders. In some cases this means a new high-profile model must be considered in the following year’s award program.

Green Car of the Year Jury

For the past 16 years, the Green Car of the Year® has been selected by an invited jury that includes leaders of the nation’s energy efficiency and environmental organizations, along with celebrity auto expert Jay Leno and Green Car Journal staff. This year’s invited jury included Paula Glover, president of the Alliance to Save Energy; Mindy Lubber, president of CERES; Joseph K. Lyou, president and CEO of the Coalition for Clean Air; Matt Petersen, president and CEO of Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator and advisory board chair of Climate Mayors; and Dr. Alan Lloyd, president emeritus of the International Council on Clean Transportation and senior research fellow at the Energy Institute, University of Texas at Austin. Winners of all other Green Car Awards are selected by a jury of automotive experts and Green Car Journal staff.

Electrification is so important to 'green' cars today that nearly every Green Car Awards finalist included a battery electric, plug-in hybrid, or hybrid powertrain option, and all Green Car of the Year candidates were exclusively battery electric for the first time. After all the vetting, the evaluations, and the decisions, the results are in. Six of the eight award winners are all-electric vehicles and two are highly-efficient hybrids. Here are the standout winners and worthy finalists for this year’s 2022 Green Car Awards:

Green Car Awards Winners

2022 Green Car of the Year® Audi Q4 e-tron

Finalists for Green Car Journal’s signature award included the Audi Q4 e-tron, BMW i4, Kia EV6, Rivian R1T, and Volvo C40 Recharge.

2022 Luxury Green Car of the Year™ – Lucid Air

Vying for this award were the Audi e-tron GT, BMW iX, Karma GS-6, Lucid Air, and Mercedes-Benz EQS.

2022 Urban Green Car of the Year™ – Chevrolet Bolt EUV

Finalists were the Chevrolet Bolt EUV, Hyundai Kona Electric, Hyundai Venue, Kia Seltos, and MINI Cooper SE.

2022 Performance Green Car of the Year™ – Tesla Model S Plaid

Among this award’s finalists were the Audi e-tron GT RS, Ford Mustang Mach-E GT, Lucid Air Dream Performance, Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo Turbo S, and Tesla Model S Plaid.

2022 Green SUV of the Year™ – Hyundai IONIQ 5

The top 5 finalists included Hyundai IONIQ 5, Hyundai Tucson, Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe, Lexus NX, and Volkswagen ID.4.

2022 Commercial Green Car of the Year™ – BrightDrop EV 600

Finalists were BrightDrop EV 600, ELMS Urban Delivery EV, Ford E-Transit, Lightning eMotors Electric Van, and Rivian Electric Delivery Van.

2022 Green Truck of the Year™ – Ford Maverick

Presented at the San Antonio Auto & Truck Show, finalists included the Ford F-150, Ford Maverick, GMC Hummer EV, Rivian R1T, and Toyota Tundra.

2022 Family Green Car of the Year™ – Toyota Sienna

Also hosted by the San Antonio Auto & Truck Show, finalists were Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, Honda Civic, Kia Sorento Hybrid/PHEV, Toyota Sienna, and Volkswagen ID.4.