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Efficient and innovative, the Honda Civic has always dared to be a little different. A look back at the first generation shows a diminutive two door hatchback that fit the subcompact mold. It was light and nimble, making it ideal for around-town duty. On the green technology front, early Civics featured Honda’s innovative CVCC (Compound Vortex Controlled Combustion) cylinder head. Unlike its competitors, the CVCC engine ran so clean the Civic passed then-new emissions standards without the need for a performance-robbing catalytic converter or other emissions devices.

Honda added a three-door hatchback model shortly after the Civic’s introduction. As many cars do, Civic grew in both size and weight over the years, an issue Honda solved with the introduction of the subcompact Honda Fit to fill the void in that class. An important ‘green’ milestone was the launch of a gasoline-electric hybrid version of the Civic to the U.S. market in 2002, as a 2003 model. This expanded the company’s hybrid efforts and provided Honda buyers a more mainstream choice than the Honda Insight hybrid that had entered the lineup in late 1999. The hybrid Civic was offered through the 2015 model year but discontinued after the launch of Honda’s larger Accord Hybrid.

Now in its 11th generation, Honda designers gave the 2022 Civic a clean design with a low hood and fenders for a sportier silhouette, exuding more of a European attitude. To keep the Civic line in tune with young and active buyers, an all-new and sportier Civic Hatchback with a Euro-inspired design is also offered.

Civic is powered by either a 2.0-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder or a 1.5 liter turbocharged powerplant. The 2.0-liter four produces 158 horsepower and 138 lb-ft torque, with the 1.6-liter engine delivering 180 horsepower and 177 lb-ft. torque. Power transfers to the road via a continuously-variable transmission (CVT) with paddle shifters. The hatchback offers the same engine choices and CVT transmission as the sedan, but adds a six-speed manual gearbox option that adds to its sporty nature.

For improved handling and overall vehicle dynamics, the new Civic was designed with a 19 percent improvement in torsional rigidity compared to previous models. The Civic has a strong following with the tuner crowd and the stiffer chassis will lend itself to suspension mods.

Civic’s cabin is upgraded with sporty bucket seats up front that offer generous side bolsters. As you might expect, the 2022 Civic is offered with a full complement of tech features including a seven-inch color touch screen that pairs easily with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto devices. A nine-inch touch screen comes with the Touring trim package. A premium 12-speaker Bose sound system is optional. Civic drivers benefit from Honda Sensing, the automaker’s sophisticated suite of driver assist and active safety technologies.

One of the truly notable features of the new Honda Civic is its fuel efficiency, which has always been high throughout the years. For 2022, the Civic nets up to 42 mpg on the highway and 33 mpg in the city, achieved through its 1.5-liter turbocharged engine and without need for electrification. That efficient, straightforward approach helps keep Civic’s base price at $21,700, low enough for entry-level buyers in large numbers to benefit from high fuel efficiency and commensurately lower carbon emissions.

In fact, Civic has distinguished itself as the best-selling vehicle of any type with first-time buyers in America for the past seven years, with more than 1.7 million sold over the past five years alone. Civic has been built in North America for the past 35 years and the all-new 2022 11th generation model is no exception, coming from Honda’s Indiana assembly plant.

While performance is a given at any level, it’s been Tesla’s highest-end, dual-motor models that really set the bar for the ultimate in electric drive thrill seekers. While Tesla has pretty much had a lock on this for some time, serious competition has been in the pipeline. Audi’s new-for-2022 e-tron GT not only considerably extends the reach of Audi’s unfolding all-electric e-tron lineup, it presents a compelling option to those who would otherwise consider a Tesla.

Sleek and sinewy, the e-tron GT is what electric performance should be about. If Audi’s 610 horsepower, V-10 powered R8 supercar screams performance, then the more luxury-oriented electric e-tron GT simply exudes it in a refined and luxurious sort of way, without making a fuss. The e-tron GT is beautifully designed with a sloping roofline, a long wheelbase, wide stance, and large 20-inch alloy wheels as standard fare, with the uplevel RS variant offering available 21-inch alloys.

And performance? As expected. Front and rear permanently excited synchronous motors in the GT – 235 horsepower at the front and 429 at the rear – offer a net combined output of 469 horsepower for exhilarating acceleration. A greater 522 horsepower with overboost and launch control is delivered for a brief 2 1/2 seconds as needed. This delivers a 3.9 second 0-60 mph sprint and a top speed of 152 mph. The RS e-tron GT uses the same front motor but integrates a more powerful 450 horsepower motor at the rear, offering 590 horsepower overall and 637 horsepower with overboost. It reaches 0-60 mph in just 3.1 seconds, matching the breathtaking performance of Audi’s V-10 R8.

Power in both versions is delivered to the road via a two-speed transmission that accentuates quick acceleration while providing a second taller gear for extended highway driving. All-wheel steering, available in GT models and standard in the RS e-tron, provides a maximum of 2.8 degrees of opposite direction in the rear to increase low-speed agility at speeds up to 30 mph, and in the same direction at higher speeds to aid stability. Three-chamber air suspension is standard to enable tuning for comfort or performance.

Energy is delivered to the motors by a 93.4 kWh lithium-ion battery pack housed within an aluminum frame. Audi estimates a 238 mile range for the GT and 232 miles for the RS GT based on its own testing approximating EPA test cycles. Both are standard and fast charge capable, with the latter bringing the e-tron’s battery from 5 to 80-percent charge is just over 22 minutes.

Arriving this year, the Audi e-tron GT quattro Premium Plus carries an MSRP of $99,900, with the GT quattro Prestige upping the ante to $107,100 and the RS e-tron GT to $139,900.

The 2022 Ford Maverick’s standard powertrain is an efficient gas-electric hybrid system that pairs a 2.5-liter, 162hp Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder gas engine with a 94kW permanent magnet electric motor, delivering a combined output of 191 hp and 155 lb-ft torque. A CVT drives the front wheels, with response controlled by several selectable drive modes including normal, eco, sport, slippery and tow/haul. Ford estimates the hybrid Maverick will return 40 city mpg and have a range of 500 miles. It also has a 2,000-pound towing capacity and can carry up to 1,500 pounds of payload in its 4.5-foot bed. All this goodness comes at a very affordable $20,000 base price.

An optional 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder gas engine is rated at 250 hp and 277 lb-ft. torque. It’s backed by a conventional 8-speed automatic transmission driving the front wheels, or all four with an optional AWD system. A 4K Tow Package available with the EcoBoost engine increases tow capacity to 4,000 pounds. Maverick is available in XL, XLT and Lariat trim levels

The Maverick’s cabin features bucket seats in front and a rear bench seat that flips up for storage bin access. Even in base XL trim, Maverick has a 4.2-inch productivity screen in the instrument cluster and an 8-inch center touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability. The standard FordPass Connect system includes an embedded modem and can act as a wireless hotpot, while also enabling the owner to lock and unlock doors, check fuel level, and start the truck from a smartphone.

Ford Co-Pilot360 technology available for the Maverick has several safety features. Pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking is standard, while adaptive cruise control, blind-spot information, cross-traffic alert, lane centering, and evasive steering assist round out the package as optional features.

An abbreviated 4.5-foot bed can carry the requisite 4x8-foot plywood sheets, provided the multi-position tailgate is opened to its half-way position so the plywood can rest on top of the wheel wells. Ford has designed several organization and storage features into the Maverick’s FlexBed, from tie-downs and D-rings to slots in the bed walls to hold 2x4s or 2x6s so owners can create their own storage areas. A scannable QR code in the bed links to other cargo carrying ideas. Removable covers in the back of the bed allow access to 12-volt power sources. Owners can also opt to have 110-volt, 400-watt outlets in the bed and the cab.

Maverick will be available in a First Edition option package that adds unique graphics, wheels, and tires to the Lariat trim level. An FX4 package available for AWD models includes all-season tires, suspension tuning, tow hooks, skid plates, upgraded cooling system components, hill-descent control, and the addition of mud/ruts and sand to the selectable drive modes.

Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles have been in development for decades now as automakers strive to show how zero-emission, carbon-free hydrogen may be the ideal motor vehicle of the future. But focus hasn’t always been exclusively on hydrogen power generated through an electrochemical fuel cell. Some, like Mazda, showed us how internal combustion may present an easier and more seamless transition to the use of hydrogen. This automaker’s highest profile hydrogen project was the RX-8 RE that debuted 17 years ago, a model that could alternatively run on hydrogen or gasoline in its combustion rotary engine. Here, we present this article from the Green Car Journal archives as it was originally published in the Spring 2004 issue.

No stranger to hydrogen power, Mazda recognized some time ago that its rotary engine and clean hydrogen fuel operate quite well together. Green Car Journal editors understood this first-hand when driving the automaker’s developmental MX-5 Miata hydrogen rotary sports car a decade ago. These days, reinforcing Mazda’s enduring interest in what many consider  the ultimate environmental fuel is its latest developmental vehicle, which is based on the automaker’s acclaimed RX-8.

The Mazda RX-8 RE integrates Mazda’s Renesis hydrogen rotary engine, a lean-burn powerplant based on the automaker’s next-generation rotary engine launched earlier this year in the all-new RX-8 sports car. Even when running on conventional gasoline, the new Renesis features significant environmental improvement over previous generation rotary engines with better fuel economy and reduced emissions.

A rotary engine is especially well-suited for burning hydrogen since it uses separate chambers for induction and combustion. This overcomes the troublesome backfiring issues often faced when using hydrogen in piston engines.

In addition, Mazda says the separate induction chamber also provides  a safer temperature for the engine’s dual hydrogen injectors with their rubber seals, which can be damaged by the higher temperatures of conventional engines. Dual injectors are used in each of the engine’s twin rotor housings since hydrogen has an extremely low density, thus greater volumes of this fuel must be injected than gasoline.

Mazda’s RX-8 RE aims to provide a traditional driving experience as it achieves extremely low emissions with hydrogen. This is accomplished by integrating a dual-fuel approach that allows seamlessly operating on hydrogen as available, or gasoline when it’s not. This is important and reflects Mazda’s belief that a dual-fuel system promotes the use of hydrogen and a developing hydrogen refueling infrastructure. The RX-8 RE uses both a conventional gas tank and a high-pressure hydrogen tank.

The Renesis hydrogen engine features 210 horsepower when running on gasoline and 110 horsepower on less energy-dense gaseous hydrogen. Power is transferred to pavement through a five-speed manual transmission. Performance is enhanced with 225/45R18 tires over 18x8JJ alloys and double wishbone multi-link suspension front and rear, with stop- ping power supplied by four-wheel ventilated disc brakes.

An array of advanced technologies is used in the RX-8 RE to allow exploring their value for a future production hydrogen vehicle. These include an electric motor to boost engine torque at low rpm and an electric motor-assisted turbocharger, both used to improve acceleration at low revs. An idle-stop system turns the engine off when the car is stopped and then starts again automatically when the driver is ready to accelerate. Regenerative braking recovers energy during  deceleration and braking to charge the car’s 144-volt battery.

Other environmentally-conscious elements are incorporated into this high-profile hydrogen car, including water-based paint, interior parts made of plant-based plastics, optimized tires, and reduced overall weight. Reduced friction hub carriers and a fast-fill tandem master cylinder also serve to reduce brake drag.

This latest foray into the hydrogen world is a strong message that Mazda is giving hydrogen propulsion serious consideration, as it has for many years now. This automaker’s interest in hydrogen rotary power has been duly noted since the debut of its HR-X hydrogen concept car at the 1991 Tokyo Motor Show. A series of other hydrogen efforts have evolved at Mazda over the years including the HR-X2, MX-5, and Capella Cargo, all powered by hydrogen rotary engines, and the Demio FC-EV and Premacy FC-EV, powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

What has driven Mazda to pursue hydrogen fuel with such vigor for so long? A focus on environmental issues, of course, but also an apparent vision that this fuel stood at least a decent chance of coming out on top. That vision has now culminated in the Renesis hydrogen rotary engine and the outstanding RX-8 RE.

BMW, Ford, and now Mazda are raising the volume on the potential for using hydrogen in more conventional engines and not just in fuel cells. This adds additional motivation to create a hydrogen refueling infrastructure, promising to make things even more interesting as this alternative fuel is driven ever closer to the showroom in the years ahead.

Featuring an overall length of 195.7 inches, the four-door, five-passenger Santa Cruz is more than a foot shorter than the Honda Ridgeline and 4 inches shorter than Ford’s new Maverick, a size that works in its favor in crowded city environments. Hyundai also emphasizes driving dynamics in the engineering of the Santa Cruz, with its size, short wheelbase, and wide track contributing to a nimble, maneuverable nature (as does an optional all-wheel-drive system).

At its longest point along the floor the model’s sheet-molded composite bed measures just shy of 4.5 feet, with 42.7 inches between the wheel wells. Payload capacity maxes out at 1,753 pounds. The bed can be secured with a lockable tonneau cover and for versatility there are storage compartments in the bed walls and floor.

Two gasoline engines are offered for the Santa Cruz, delivering up to 27 highway mpg. Standard is a 2.5-liter, direct-injected four-cylinder producing 191 hp and 181 lb-ft torque. It’s backed by an 8-speed automatic. The optional direct-injected, 2.5-liter four-cylinder turbo is rated at 281 hp and 311 lb-ft torque, and connects to an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

In standard trim the Santa Cruz is front-wheel drive, but both engines can be paired with Hyundai’s HTRAC all-wheel-drive system. Its electronic, variable-torque-split clutch with active torque control varies power delivery to the front and rear axles depending on road and driving conditions. The selectable Sport mode sends more power to the rear wheels for a sporty, dynamic experience. Ordering a Santa Cruz with the turbocharged engine and AWD raises towing capacity to 5,000 pounds, compared to its standard 3,500-pound rating.

Amenities in the Santa Cruz interior include a standard 8-inch touchscreen (10.25 inches in the Limited trim) with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity. A 4.2-inch multi-information display in front of the driver also increases to 10.25 inches in SEL Premium and Limited models. For charging personal devices, standard dual front-seat USB outlets can be augmented by an optional wireless charging system. Hyundai’s Digital Key app enables Android smart-phone control of several vehicle systems including door locks, engine start, and panic alert. Hyundai also offers a subscription-based Blue Link connected car app with features that include remote door lock/unlock, remote start with climate control, and stolen vehicle recovery.

The Santa Cruz is equipped with Hyundai’s SmartSense package of driver aids and safety features. Forward collision avoidance assist, lane keeping assist, and driver attention warning are standard. Blind spot collision avoidance, rear traffic safety alert, and a surround-view monitor are among the model’s options.

Robert Barrosa, Senior Director at Electrify America

As we forge ahead in 2021, consumers and businesses alike are feeling a sense of cautious optimism. While the personal, political, and professional anxieties from last year won’t go away with the flip of a calendar, we can share reasons for hope for a brighter year ahead. One of those reasons is around a renewed focus on climate action, specifically around clean transportation through electric vehicles (EVs) and the charging infrastructure to support them. This hope is giving many of us a brighter – and greener – outlook for 2021 and beyond.

It’s exciting to see a growing wave of electric vehicle offerings on the horizon, helping create more interest and demand than ever before. But while new makes and models are inspiring, the industry is reaching an inflection point. Making EVs mainstream will require much more than just the vehicles themselves. The U.S. and the world need significantly more charging infrastructure and a stronger overall charging ecosystem to drive true adoption, things my colleagues and I work toward every day.

Let’s think about existing infrastructure as a starting point. Currently, there are well over a million individual gas pumps across the United States, and almost everybody is familiar with how they operate. For reference, there are less than 100,000 individual public chargers, and most Americans don’t know how to use them. The collective ‘we’ have some work cut out for us.

For EVs to really take off, consumers need to start seeing charging stations much more frequently than they do today. And the charging experience needs to take minutes, not hours. That’s why Electrify America is building the nation’s largest open, ultra-fast DC fast charging network, with chargers capable of up to 350 kW. We’re investing heavily to ensure the EVs of today and of the future will be able to charge faster than ever imagined. By the end of 2021, we expect to install or have under development approximately 800 total charging stations with about 3,500 DC fast chargers, including along two cross-country routes.

One of the many benefits of EVs is the ability to offer drivers multiple options when it comes to powering up. Charging is still a new experience for most, so emphasizing this point has been meaningful in our ongoing EV education and awareness efforts. Offering seamless solutions for home and workplace charging, in addition to continued focus on public ultra-fast charging, is helping to build confidence for any driver or fleet operator interested in making the switch to electric transportation.

As enthusiastic as we are about our progress, we know we can’t create the infrastructure and EV ecosystem needed to ignite this revolution alone. We need industry partners, automakers, utilities, businesses, and government to all come together to accelerate our charging capabilities to help spur future EV adoption – and we’re working with many groups to make that happen. A lack of collaboration can crush this movement, which remains in a hopeful, yet fragile place. More investment and partnerships across the board are what will keep the momentum going to adequately handle a growing number of EVs. That’s why we believe continued investment in charging will drive EV adoption, and that all stakeholders should be fully supporting all charging industry growth.

While lack of public charging remains a main deterrent for EV purchase consideration – an issue we are working hard to address – the true beauty of EVs is that between home, public, and workplace charging options, drivers will actually have more opportunities to power their vehicles than gas-powered cars. And that’s a future worth celebrating.

Henrik Fisker is one of the most fascinating figures in the auto industry today. After a distinguished career designing memorable vehicles for others like the Aston Martin DB9 – and notably the BMW Z8 and Aston Martin V8 Vantage famously driven by James Bond – he set off on his own path. His first effort, featuring the gorgeous plug-in Fisker Karma of his own design, ended abruptly in 2013. But everyone loves a good comeback story, and Fisker is delivering one with Fisker Inc., the company he and CFO wife/cofounder Geeta Gupta-Fisker launched in 2016.

RON COGAN: You’ve designed some amazing and iconic vehicles for legacy automakers. What drove you to become an automaker yourself?

HENRIK FISKER: “I felt like in my corporate career I had hit the ceiling, and the pinnacle was designing two cars for Aston Martin, the V8 Vantage and DB9. I wanted to get out and get my hands dirty, and start doing something where I challenged myself. I really had a passion for the idea of coming up with sustainable vehicles that were also emotional and exciting. That’s how I started Fisker Automotive, originally with the Fisker Karma.”

RC: What are the most important lessons you’ve learned from your experience with the former Fisker Automotive, and how are you applying those at Fisker Inc. today?

FISKER: “If you have the ability to de-risk something, then do it. That’s lesson number one. An example would be, originally with Fisker Automotive, we didn’t really have a choice of a battery maker. There were only three and we were left to take the third one, which was A123, because Panasonic was with Tesla at the time and I think LG Chem had an exclusive with GM.

“Today we have the possibility to either choose some untested battery technology from a new startup, or we take tested battery technology from a large battery maker. We have chosen the latter, because I believe there’s too big a risk there, and we don’t really need to take that risk because the technology is getting better and better. We think it’s going to take a lot longer to come up with radical new battery technologies than we, and a lot of people, originally thought…I think we’re at least seven to 10 years away.”

RC: How will you stay ahead of the advanced battery curve?

FISKER: “When you buy a car today, any new car, the technology in that car is probably three to four years old, because it was decided three or four years ago. What we are trying to do is shorten that time down to 18 to 24 months, where we can decide on technology that late. When you get our car in the next year, we decided on the battery technology this year, which means we have the latest, newest technology.

“To give you an example, when we looked at technology in 2020, only a year ago, we estimated a range of 300 miles. Because we could delay that decision to now, we now can have a better, more energy-efficient cell and a more energy-efficient pack, which means we are getting up to about a 350-mile range. That is the advantage of being able to choose technology very late in the development process.”

RC: Any other lessons learned?

FISKER: “Number two, I would say, is financing. Originally, at Fisker Automotive we had many, many financing rounds, and we saw other companies as well, like Tesla, having many financing rounds. What happens is you end up having delays, because you never get the financing when you need it. When you have a delay developing a car you actually end up increasing costs because time is cost. The other lesson learned: Go and get the total amount of money you need for your first car.”

RC: Does that mean you have enough now to fully produce the Ocean?

FISKER: “We needed slightly less than a billion dollars to get the Fisker Ocean to market, and said we aren’t going to kick off the program full speed until we raised the entire amount of money. We decided last year to do a SPAC merger, where we went public and we raised over $1 billion. To this date we have had no delays. We are going full speed, and we are still on target to launch the vehicle next year.”

RC: Can you share insight into your asset-light business model?

FISKER: “The advantage is that you’re taking less risk, specifically in manufacturing. We have seen what Tesla has gone through, ‘manufacturing hell.’ They have been pretty clear about it. I don’t know that either investors or customers have the patience that they may have had many, many years ago, where it was still the early adopters that bought electric cars.

“I think the competition is a lot stronger today, and I think the expectation is a high-quality car on par with any other traditional OEM out there. This was really important for us. Yes, there might be some car enthusiast fanatics that feel it’s super cool if you make your own car, but the reality is that I don’t want to risk our company or the quality just to prove we can manufacture a car better than Toyota. I don’t think it has any real relevance to our stakeholders or to our customers, quite frankly. Nobody questions the fact that Apple doesn’t make its own phones.”

RC: So you’ve contracted your manufacturing out to Magna.

FISKER: “Magna is probably one of the best automotive manufacturers in the world, manufacturing some of the highest-quality cars out there, for German luxury makers to even one large Japanese conglomerate. We know this is their job. We are paying them to do it, and they will deliver a high-quality vehicle straight out of the gate.

“If you are manufacturing in your own plant and you’re still in the learning process, that means you’re going to spend more hours per car, and that is cost. I’ll bet you our vehicle is actually at a lower cost-per-vehicle to manufacture than any of our startup competitors, because they aren’t going to make perfect vehicles in the lowest amount of time straight out of the box, like Magna can do it. They will do it at the right man-hours per vehicle, and therefore our costs per vehicle are already fixed. This gives us an advantage, which is why we can already announce pricing on our vehicle, because we know those costs.”

RC: How important is your deal with Foxconn to your future plans?

FISKER: “I think it’s extremely important and it has accelerated our business model. Through this partnership, we are able to get to an even more affordable vehicle much quicker than the Fisker Ocean. It also gives us the opportunity to revolutionize the future of the automobile in a way that would have taken longer under normal circumstances. We are partnering with a group that was part of the smartphone revolution, quite frankly, and they’re an amazing partner for making a revolution in the automotive industry.”

RC: Can you share more details?

FISKER: “It’s going to be very futuristic. I’m going to take a lot of risk in terms of design and certain features in this vehicle to really shake up things, and look at maybe new ways of usability in what I would call a mobility device. Let’s call it that right now. I think this vehicle will be hard to categorize – in the way we normally say, ‘it’s a sedan or an SUV, or so on’ – and it’s on purpose.”

RC: What’s ahead?

FISKER: “You can’t forget the fact that a car company really, in my opinion, only becomes a car company once you have multiple models. We did not want to launch the Fisker Ocean and then start the next program, because that way you’re waiting another two and a half years for the next vehicle. Instead, we are actually working on multiple vehicles right now, so we can have a quick cadence of products. Our plan is to come up with four vehicles before 2025, and so far, we are on course for that.”

Electrification has not been a primary interest at Mazda. Efficiency? Yes, SKYACTIV technology. Family friendliness? Yep, with four crossover/SUVs of varying stripes. Performance? Well, yeah, Mazdas are fun to drive and the MX-5 Miata is a perennial sports car favorite, plus the brand is competitive in all sorts of racing.

There clearly hasn’t been any urgency to embrace electrification at Mazda, even as most of its competitors have done so. The brand has dabbled, though. There was a Miata EV concept in the 1990s and a short-lived Demio EV demonstration project in Japan back in 2012, but little else. Now things have changed.

Enter the 2022 Mazda MX-30, a model representing the first step in this automaker’s journey toward electrification. Aimed initially at the California market this fall with a likelihood of expanding to other ‘green’ states, the electrified crossover is powered by a 144 horsepower electric motor with 200 lb-ft torque driving the front wheels. Energy is provided by a 35.5 kWh lithium-ion battery. Mazda has not provided U.S. range estimates for its new electric, though the MX-30 is rated at delivering 124 miles of single-charge driving range on the European WLTP testing cycle. Translating that to the more conservative EPA testing cycle is not a science, but you could reasonably conclude that a full battery would deliver about 100 miles of driving on U.S. roads.

Yes, that’s pretty limited range given the direction of new electric vehicle offerings in the U.S., which skew toward 200 miles of driving range or better, courtesy of larger battery packs. Charging via a standard 220-volt wall charger is convenient and assures that when you’re home for the night, just plug in and you’ll have a full charge in the morning. If you’re on the road or just want to pick up additional range while out, plugging into a rapid-charger will bring the battery from 20 to 80 percent charge in about 36 minutes.

Mazda has more in store for the MX-30 beyond this initial all-electric version. Coming later is a range-extended variant featuring the addition of Mazda’s signature rotary engine, with this powerplant operating exclusively as a rotary generator that creates electricity to augment battery power. This, in effect, creates a series-hybrid electric MX-30 with the ability to motor on long after battery power is gone.

Inside the handsome cabin is a floating center console with an electronic shifter and command knob. A 7-inch display is provided and flanked by controls. Adding to the new model’s innovations are rear doors that are hinged at the rear and swing outward at the front.

A handy MyMazda app allows locking doors, monitoring state-of-charge, and adjusting climate controls via a user’s cellphone. A full suite of the automaker’s i-Activsense safety and driver assist systems will be offered, though details about this and the model’s suggested retail price have not yet been revealed.

The MX-30 represents the first of Mazda’s electrification thrust, with a hybrid crossover option coming and a plug-in hybrid variant to be offered in a new large-platform SUV. All promise expected Mazda driving dynamics courtesy of an enhanced SKYACTIVE vehicle architecture. Base price of the MX-30 is $34,645 plus destination charge.

Mercedes-Benz plans to offer a carbon-neutral car fleet in less than 20 years through its ‘Ambition 2039’ strategy. As part of this, more than half of its cars will feature some sort of electrification – powertrains that are either pure electric or plug-in hybrid – by 2030. The company made a significant step in that direction with the introduction of the EQS sedan, an S-Class-like battery electric vehicle. Two models will be available initially in the U.S.: the rear-wheel-drive EQS 450+ with 329 horsepower, and the AWD EQS 580 4MATIC with 516 horsepower. Mercedes-EQ, the company’s electric brand, hints that future plans include a performance version with up to 630 horsepower. It doesn’t take much imagination to see AMG badges on that one.

The EQS has exterior dimensions similar to the current S-Class, but it is a wholly new vehicle based on a modular platform that Mercedes-EQ will use to underpin other luxury and executive-class vehicles. Because there’s no internal combustion engine in front, and with the battery housed in a crash-protected area in the chassis, stylists were free to create a cab-forward body design with a coupe-like greenhouse and short front and rear overhangs. Special attention was paid to the sedan’s aerodynamics, not only for efficiency but also for interior sound management. The resulting coefficient of drag is as low as .20 with the use of Euro-spec 19-inch wheels and the suspension lowered in Sport mode.

Powering the standard EQS is an electric propulsion system with a permanent synchronous motor (called eATS by Mercedes) at the rear axle. EQS 4MATIC models have a second eATS at the front axle. A new generation lithium-ion battery with significantly higher energy density powers these motors. The largest of those batteries has an energy content of 107.8 kWh and is managed by software designed to receive over-the-air (OTA) updates so the EQS remains up-to-date throughout its lifecycle. Mercedes-EQ is warrantying the battery to retain 70 percent of its capacity for 10 years or 155,000 miles.

The EQS suspension is like the conventional S-Class and consists of a four-link front axle and multi-link rear axle. Airmatic air suspension, which reduces the overall ride height at high speeds for aerodynamic efficiency, is standard equipment. Four-wheel steering is also standard and available in two versions. When the largest rear-steering angle is ordered (and unlocked using an OTA update), the turning circle of the EQS shortens to a compact-car-like 35 feet.

Performance statistics are impressive: 4-second 0-60 acceleration times for the 4MATIC version, range of nearly 480 miles (as measured by the more favorable European WLTP test procedure), and the ability to add quick energy to the battery for an additional 185 miles in just 15 minutes when using a fast-charge station.

Performance data, while an important yardstick for any new car, is just a small part of the appeal of the EQS. This is a luxury car, after all, and a Mercedes at that. Mercedes’ engineers have designed so many features into this vehicle – literally something for each of the five senses, save taste – that it took more than 60 pages of press briefing materials to document it all.

For instance, the EQS emits its own fragrance, while the HEPA filters in the optional Energizing Air Control system scrub incoming air. The ‘driving sound experience’ includes not only a Burmester surround-sound system with programmable soundscapes but also Forest Glade, Sound of the Sea, and Summer Rain calming sounds, produced for the EQS in conjunction with a consulting acoustic ecologist. Optional Automatic Comfort doors will open the driver’s door upon approach, close it when the brake pedal is depressed, and allow the driver to open any of the other doors to ease passenger entry. Some 350 on-board sensors and the sedan’s artificial intelligence monitor sense, and learn from, everything from ambient and road conditions to the driver’s eyelid movements. If the EQS reads a driver’s eyes as sleepy, it will sound an alert. Once it’s parked safely at a rest stop, the EQS has a Power Nap program that will recline the driver’s seat, close the side windows and panorama roof sunshade, dim the lights, and activate air ionization.

One of the most innovative features of the EQS interior is the optional Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) Hyperscreen. Instead of a traditional dashboard and instrument panel, the Hyperscreen is a continual piece of convex glass, stretching from A-pillar to A-pillar, that covers three separate screens, including a 12.3-inch OLED screen in front of the front-seat passenger. Adaptive software in the MBUX programming will suggest infotainment and vehicle functions, and it is the home of the ‘Hey, Mercedes!’ voice assistant feature. MBUX is also used to access EQS Navigation with Electric Intelligence, which not only plans routes but calculates energy demands for the trip, taking into consideration traffic conditions and even changes in driving style along the way. It then plans charging station stops and even determines the lengths of time required at each stop for optimal charging.  

Helping to optimize range are several energy recovery options the driver can choose from, including automatic energy recovery during deceleration or braking and three levels of deceleration that can be manually selected via the shift paddles. Also assisting efficiency is ECO Assist, described as ‘situation-optimized energy recovery,’ that results in deceleration so strong it allows one-pedal driving.

As one would expect given the high level of technological sophistication built into the EQS, it is equipped with a long list of driver-assist and safety features, with a Power Nap program among them. The Driver Assist Package includes Active Distance Assist to maintain a pre-set distance from vehicles ahead, Active Steering Assist, Lane Keeping Assist, Lane Change Assist, and Emergency Stop Assist that recognizes when the driver is not responding to traffic situations. Also included is Active Brake Assist with cross-traffic function, Active Blind Spot Assist, and Evasive Steering Assist, the latter helping the driver avoid a pedestrian or another vehicle. A Parking Package with Surround View system helps the driver park in tight situations, even activating four-wheel steering as needed. Drive Away assist will alert the driver if it senses a potential collision as the EQS starts off.

As technically groundbreaking as it is, the EQS sedan itself is just one facet of Mercedes’ Ambition 2039 goal of carbon neutrality. Each EQS is produced following carbon-neutral practices including the use of recycled materials, from the steel in its body to the yarn in its carpets. The roof of the factory that produces the EQS is covered with photovoltaic cells that produce about 30 percent of the factory’s energy needs. When EQS owners charge their sedans using the Mercedes me Charge app, all the energy comes from renewable resources. The production of lithium-ion batteries at Mercedes’ Hedelfingen plant will also be CO2 neutral in 2022.

Dr. Gill Pratt, Chief Scientist, Toyota Motor Corp.

As Chief Scientist for Toyota Motor Corporation, one of my most important responsibilities is to think about how to address climate change using science, data, and facts. When it comes to electrification, my role is to maximize environmental benefits with the limited number of battery cells the world can produce.

Toyota’s way of thinking about this question is strongly influenced by the Toyota Production System (TPS). It forms the basis for how we conserve resources and eliminate waste to maximize the quality, durability, reliability, and value of our products. Based on TPS, we believe that maximum net environmental benefit can be achieved by considering the most limited resource – in this case the battery cell.

Every battery cell is an investment of environmental and financial resources. Carbon is emitted for every battery cell produced. Once built, every battery cell has the potential to produce more benefit than what was invested, or what we call a positive Carbon Return on Investment (CROI). But that CROI is not guaranteed. The result depends on how the battery cell is put to use. The physics of climate change (which accumulates carbon in the atmosphere for decades) and limited battery cell production suggests that we minimize total carbon emissions from all of the world’s vehicles by maximizing the CROI of every manufactured battery cell.

Let’s consider the average U.S. commute of 32 miles roundtrip each day. In this case, a 300 mile range battery will yield a very low CROI. The reason is that the vehicle carries excessive battery capacity and excessive weight that is rarely needed or used. The bulk of the energy stored in the battery cell (and the battery cell’s weight) will be carried around most of the time for no purpose, consuming extra energy for its transport, and wasting the opportunity to use that energy for more benefit to the environment. In TPS terms, we consider this to be a waste of transport and inventory. Put another way, that same battery capacity could be spread over a handful of plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs), each of which would utilize most, if not all, of the battery capacity while rarely using its internal combustion engine (ICE). In this case, the overall CROI is higher for the same number of battery cells.

As another example: If a battery cell in a battery electric vehicle (BEV) is recharged by a high-carbon intensity powerplant, the CROI of that cell will be small compared to one recharged by a renewable energy powerplant. So in this case, consider a situation of two cars – one ICE-type and one BEV, and two geographic locations – one with renewable power and the other with high-carbon intensity power. More net CROI will be derived by operating the BEV in the area with renewable power and the ICE in the geography with non-renewable power than the other way around.

Finally, if a battery cell ends up in a long-range BEV whose price puts it beyond the budget of a consumer, or in a street parked vehicle that must use high-rate chargers that lower the battery cell’s life, the CROI will again be smaller than what is possible, versus placing the battery cell into, for example, a PHEV.

BEVs are an important part of the future of electrification. But we can achieve greater carbon reductions by meeting customer needs and circumstances with a diversity of solutions. Wasted CROI harms the environment because there is a limited supply of battery cells, and the cost of production to the planet and to the producer is not zero. Given this fact, how and where battery cells are actually used and charged are critically important.

In summary, given limited battery cell production and significant environmental and financial costs, the way to maximize CROI is to target battery cells into diverse vehicle types – hybrid vehicles, plug-in hybrid vehicles, battery electric vehicles, and fuel cell vehicles that match customer needs and circumstances, and maximize the CROI for every battery cell. This strategy is similar to running a factory efficiently in the Toyota Production System, where efficiency is maximized by eliminating waste at each stage of production and maximizing the benefit derived from every resource and cost. And it forms the basis for Toyota’s belief in this result.

The EV6 paints a bold picture of Kia’s take on the booming electric vehicle experience. A close cousin to the Hyundai IONIQ 5, EV6 is compact and efficient yet also aggressive, with this five-door hatch presenting a sporty fastback profile. It offers the muscular styling cues of Kia rally cars with sleek and clean lines while prioritizing a spirited driving experience. It has a long wheelbase for the car’s overall footprint that should add to both on road stability and overall ride quality.

This is the first Kia model to be built on the South Korean automaker’s dedicated Electric-Global Modular Platform. It was designed from the ground up aa a pure electric vehicle, rather than being derived from an existing internal combustion engine model. Kia is signaling a serious commitment to the electric car market with the introduction of the EV6.

While diminutive on the outside, EV6 manages a very spacious interior due to the intelligent packaging of electric drive components. In fact, interior volume compares favorably to that of a midsize to large crossover or SUV, with its roomy cabin translating into a comfortable space for five occupants. Recycled materials are used throughout the cabin. Naturally, all the latest electronic driver assist tools are front-and-center in the EV6 cockpit, along with other innovative systems like an augmented reality head-up display that projects driving info in the driver’s line of sight, plus alerts from the car’s driver assist system.

Kia will offer the EV6 with a variety of drivetrain and battery pack options, including a choice of standard 58 kWh and long-range 77.4 kWh packs. Two- and all-wheel drive versions will be available. The standard range two-wheel drive model uses a 168 hp motor powering the rear wheels or a 232 hp motor powering both front and rear wheels. The longer range variant integrates a 225 hp motor driving the rear wheels with a 320 hp motor delivering power to front and rear.

Those who desire a real performance rush will be interested in the high torque, high power EV6 GT that turns up the volume to deafening levels. Powered by dual motors producing 576 hp, this all-wheel drive EV6 accelerates from 0-60 in about 3.5 seconds, true supercar performance territory.

EV6 enables both 400 and 800 volt charging capability without the need for adaptors, delivering quick charge times and greater flexibility on the road. A high-speed charge bringing the battery from 10 to 80 percent in any EV6 variant takes just 18 minutes. Those in a hurry will find their 2WD 88.4 kWh model gaining about 60 miles of driving range in less than five minutes with a high-speed charge. EV6 features multiple drive modes to accommodate a range of driving styles, from aggressive regenerative braking with a one-foot driving experience to a sail mode that disengages the powertrain to deliver extended coasting.

Kia is planning to launch the EV6 in 2022 and round out their EV portfolio with a total of 11 electric models by 2026.

While an array of brightly-colored Fiat 500s were available, we chose red. No 'green' car for us this time.

A year of pandemic has stopped international – or really any – travel in its tracks. But the world will soon open up and maybe it’s time to plan something big. Here’s our take: Make it a trip to Rome, and amid the diversity of activities you’ll experience there, take in all things automotive, because it is different. Witness the endless sea of tiny city cars parked nose-to-tail – and sometimes backed at right angles to the curb – into impossibly small spots. See the many scooters and motorcycles passing by and the countless ones parked on sidewalks. Note the electric cars and motorcycles charging at street-side public chargers. In tourist-centric piazzas, appreciate the array of human-powered pedicabs with their lightweight, car-like bodies, perhaps the purest form of zero-emission vehicle.

My wife/photographer and I are into cars, travel, food, art, and wine. Italy is a natural since these interests are served up in abundance. In a pre-COVID trip there, we were set to view historic art in Florence, Milan, and Rome, and of course we would be documenting a variety of car-related activities. While we had a full and diverse itinerary planned, we were also looking for something distinctive in the way of a car experience to complement our Italian adventures. We’ve been to the Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Maserati factories in Italy and also attended the Italian Grand Prix, all exciting subjects for words and images. But what’s next?

Palatine Hill, where Rome was founded.

As if fate was calling, we overheard someone talking about his recent Rome tour in a vintage Fiat 500, and how this was the best part of his Italian vacation. Out came his iPhone, and he shared photos of his group traveling in a caravan tour around Rome, in a colorful collage of vintage Fiat 500s in pink, red, yellow, blue, and white, all piloted by tourists experiencing what appeared to be enormous fun while seeing the sights and in general having a blast. That was what we were looking for, so we booked a night tour with Rome 500 Experience to cap off our upcoming Italian immersion.

When the time came for our tour, we made our way to a commercial structure just a short distance from the Colosseum where Rome 500 Experience stores its colorful array of lovingly restored Fiat 500s. Here, we met up with Alvise Di Giulio, proprietor of this unique tour. His love of this iconic car is evident, the culmination of a decades-long Fiat Cinquecento (500) passion that found him personally owning many of these once-ubiquitous city cars produced between 1957 to 1975, before he decided to make a business of it.

Our iconic Fiat 500 drew attention and a thumbs-up throughout our drive, and whenever it was parked.

Nearly four million copies of this diminutive city car were produced during its lifetime, powered by a 500 cc engine for most of its run and a 600 cc engine at the end. The Fiat 500’s small physical footprint and high fuel efficiency certainly qualifies it as vintage ‘green’ car in our book. Still, when presented with an array of colors to choose from, it was no 'green' car for us...we selected a red 500 as our ride.

We set off on our night drive knowing little of what to expect, but with a feeling this was going to be memorable. As owner of Rome 500 Experience and one of the tour’s driver-guides, Alvise is as well-versed on Rome’s history and rhythms as anyone we’ve encountered. His understanding of all there is to know about the Eternal City is impressive, as is his ability to get you around in ways that avoid the congestion inherent in any major urban area. We drove unencumbered streets in our little red Fiat 500 and, at times, were passengers while Alvise tooled around with an air of confidence and purpose that comes from having done this many, many times before, with great joy.

Driving around Rome at night in a vintage Fiat 500 is a wonderful and uncrowded way to experience the Eternal City.

Though we’ve been to Rome before, we visited places we hadn’t seen previously. Of course, important touchstones like the Colosseum, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, and St. Peter’s Square were on the tour’s drive-by and park-and-stop itinerary. But so were many historic places that were never on our list, like the ruins at Palatine Hill where Rome was founded, Piazza Navona, the Arch of Constantine, and of course many lesser-known courtyards and fountains of historic importance. Plus, there was the Castel Sant'Angelo, built in 123 BC as Emperor Hadrian’s mausoleum and later repurposed as a fortress. Many know it today as a scene of dramatic importance in Dan Brown’s film, Angels and Demons.

There were other interesting stops along the way, including a brief time at the Aventine Keyhole, located in an obscure green door at the Villa del Priorato di Malta on Aventine Hill. Peering through this keyhole, as tourists must, provided a view from our stance in Italy, through the grounds of the villa that’s the sovereign territory of Malta, and into Vatican City, the world’s smallest country. Here, we found the keyhole perfectly framing the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Basilica in the distance. Yes, very cool!

Bocca della Verita (“Mouth of Truth”), which legend has it bites off the hands of liars.

Another off-the-beaten stop was at the Bocca della Verita (“Mouth of Truth”), a marble mask with an obscure face and open mouth located in a portico at the Basilica di Santa Maria in Cosmedin, also at Aventine Hill. Visitors who stick their hand in that mouth had better be confident, since legend has it that it bites off the hands of liars. Truth be told…we didn't suffer that fate. It gained notoriety in modern times as Gregory Peck took the challenge in the company of Audrey Hepburn in the 1953 film, Roman Holiday.

Finally, there was a stop at an unusual site in Rome, the Pyramid of Cestius, built from 18-12 BC as a tomb for magistrate Gaius Cestius. The pyramid was later incorporated into Rome’s Aurelian Walls that surround the city, built in 271-275 AD. Across the way from this pyramid and part of the wall is the dramatically illuminated San Paolo Gate flanked by imposing twin turrets.

Pyramid of Cestius and the San Paolo Gate, part of Rome's Aurelian Walls.

Touring a world-class city at night is always an amazing experience. We've done this before in Paris, Washington DC, and New York, so we knew that doing this in Rome would be unforgettable. Monuments are illuminated and more dramatic, while places of interest are uncrowded. Doing a tour in a vintage Fiat 500, though, adds an extra dimension of fun. The car is iconic-cool and an important part of Italy’s automotive history, so it gets plenty of attention and thumbs-up from people you pass by on your drive.

One of the nice touches is that Alvise shares his passion for the city, its history, and his vintage cars in a most enthusiastic way. You just don’t get that from more traditional and structured tours. This is special, and Alvise – as well as all his driver-guides – ensures you see the excitement of Rome through his eyes, and his perspective.

Alvise Di Giulio, proprietor of Rome 500 Experience.

We experienced a lot during our time in Italy, and as it turned out this was clearly one of the highlights. It was also the perfect ending for our adventures before boarding our Alitalia flight back to Los Angeles the next morning and our drive back to our headquarters on California’s Central Coast, reminiscent of Italy with its moderate Mediterranean climate.

We have fond memories of this tour and motoring around Rome’s ancient streets in a vintage car of historic importance. We liked it so much, in fact, we plan to return and partake in one of the Rome 500 Experience day tours, perhaps one that includes wine touring or a strategic stop for a sumptuous Italian meal.

La dolce vita!

Chrysler was in the thick of it in the early 1990s as automakers explored ways to meet California’s new and increasingly stringent Low Emission Vehicle regulations, and in particular the state’s coming Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) mandate. Though there was a flurry of activity in the Chrysler camp at first, other auto brands took the lead and we didn’t hear much from Chrysler for quite some time. Then, in 2008 there was an October Surprise. Chrysler unveiled three electric concepts that got people pretty excited, electrifying models from three of the automaker’s brands – Dodge, Jeep, and Chrysler. At the time, these were to lead to at least one production EV model and a renewed electrification effort at the company over the next few years, something that history shows did not materialize. The following article detailing Chrysler’s renewed interest in electric vehicles is pulled from the Green Car Journal archives and presented as it was originally published in the fall of 2008.

Excerpted from Fall 2008 Issue: In many ways, Chrysler has been late to the party in recent years. While others like Ford, GM, Honda, Nissan, Mazda, and Toyota have forged ahead with eco-friendly advanced technology vehicle programs, Chrysler has largely sat it out in favor of a more traditional road. Maybe we can chalk it up to its former life as part of DaimlerChrysler, but with that automotive marriage behind it there’s no longer an excuse. And excuses are not being offered by Chrysler LLC, as evidenced by its stunning announcement of not one, but three production-intent electric vehicles.

Playing catch-up wasn’t always the way at Chrysler. In the early 1990s, Chrysler was on top of its alternative fuel game, with forays into virtually all of the important areas unfolding at the time from methanol and ethanol flexible-fuel vehicles to ones running on hydrogen, natural gas, and electricity. Then Chrysler seemed to all but disappear from the running, making news instead with such stylistic models as the Viper, Prowler, and 300, but with little in the way of alternative fuel vehicles beyond its GEM neighborhood electric vehicle and the occasional eco concept. Apparently, those earlier days are returning with a vengeance.

Now Chrysler has announced the coming of a production electric vehicle for the North American market. The automaker is showcasing its efforts with three prototypes – an all-electric Dodge sports car using Lotus Europa underpinnings and two range-extended electrics, a Jeep Wrangler and a Chrysler Town & Country. Chrysler says it will select one of these for production and sale to North American consumers in 2010. This will be preceded by 100 Chrysler electrics in fleet use in 2009.

All use what Chrysler says is ‘production intent’ technology, incorporating an electric drive motor, a motor controller to manage energy flow, and a lithium-ion battery pack. Chrysler will work with General Electric to develop batteries for the production model. It has also been reported that the automaker is in talks with battery company A123 Systems, which is separately working with GM on the Volt program and has contracts to provide its nanophosphate lithium-ion batteries for production Th!nk electric cars and BAE Systems hybrid bus powerplants. GE Energy Financial Services has invested $20 million in A123 Systems.

While Chrysler has not identified its other suppliers, photos of the Dodge sports car show the use of electric drive components from UQM Technologies, a company noted for its energy dense and high-performance electric drive motors and controllers. Specs provided by Chrysler indicate a 268 hp (200 kW) electric drive motor featuring a whopping 480 lbs-ft torque that powers the performance electric car from 0-60 mph in under 5 seconds. Top speed is said to be 120 mph. Charging at 110 volts is accomplished in 8 hours, or 4 hours at 220 volts.

The electric vehicles are being developed in an in-house effort that’s focusing on electric drive production vehicles and advanced technologies. This effort – called ENVI – is so-named by taking the first four letters of 'environmental.’

The Hummer EV SUV will share key components with the Hummer EV pickup, from its Ultium powertrain platform to the open-air driving experience that comes from its removable Infinity Roof panels. Both the SUV and pickup are being touted as having significant off-roading chops, including the ability to ‘crab walk’ diagonally around trail obstacles thanks to four-wheel steering, and an Extract Mode that utilizes the Hummer’s Adaptive Air Ride suspension to raise the body some 6 inches out of harm’s way.  

Because the SUV is shorter than the pickup – overall by about 10 inches and with a wheelbase nearly 9 inches shorter – GMC is promoting it as having ‘best in class off-road proportions.’ Those proportions, combined with its four-wheel-steering capability, do give it a tight turning radius of 35.4 feet, equal to that of the Chevrolet Bolt.

The smaller platform, though, does have a cost: less room for batteries. The Hummer EV SUV’s double-stacked battery pack contains 20 modules, while the Hummer EV pickup has 24. That means, on paper, anyway, the SUV is less powerful. The Edition 1 version of the SUV that will be available at launch is rated at up to 830 horsepower compared to the pickup’s 1,000. Range is shorter, too, at 300 miles compared to the pickup’s 350. Torque remains rated at up to 11,500 lb-ft, a number GM arrived at by multiplying the twisting force through the gear ratios in the Ultium platform’s front and rear drive units.

How Hummer configures that platform will be a key differentiator between Hummer EV SUV models. Edition 1 and 3X models will have three drive units, one to power the front wheels and one each for the rear wheels. The 2X and 2 models will have two drive units, one up front and one at the rear. The 2 will also have 16 instead of 20 battery modules, lower power output, and shorter range, but will be priced accordingly – 79,995 compared to $105,595 for the Edition 1.

Adding the Extreme Off-Road Package to an Edition 1 raises its MSRP by $10,000, for which the Hummer buyer receives 35-inch Goodyear Wrangler Territory tires on 18-inch wheels (22s are standard). Also provided are underbody armor and rock sliders, front and rear lockers, heavy-duty half-shafts, and the UltraVision camera system that provides up to 17 views around the vehicle to see the surrounding terrain, including under the body, in real time.

Those UltraVision images are among the infotainment channels broadcast on a 13.4-inch high-def touchscreen positioned between the driver and passenger. In front of the driver is another 12.3-inch information screen. GMC promises Hummer occupants a  ‘multisensory, immersive experience’ with customizable features that can tailor not just the sound through the Bose entertainment system and the feel through the haptic driver’s seat, but also the SUV’s steering, suspension, and acceleration response. The center screen can also be used with an updated version of the myGMC mobile phone app to show satellite-rendered trail maps for navigating off-road. The revised app also tracks real-time energy consumption and can find local charging stations.

On the subject of charging, an optional Power Station generator can be used not just to charge personal devices and power recreational gear, but has the power (240v/25A/6kW) to charge other electric vehicles.

The low-floor, skateboard-like Ultium drivetrain platform has one other advantage: It affords several gear storage options. Folding the SUV’s rear seat flat and opening the powered tailgate reveals nearly 82 cubic feet of cargo space, more than GMC’s Acadia SUV with its second and third row seats folded. There is additional storage space hidden beneath the load floor and more in the Hummer’s front trunk.

GMC expects to launch the Hummer EV SUV in Edition 1 form in early 2023. It will  be followed by 3X and 2X models in the spring of ’23, and the base 2 model in spring ’24.

Toyota has ‘fully rebooted’ the second-generation Mirai fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) for an evolving automotive arena. While the first-generation Mirai was a four-passenger, front-wheel-drive sedan with a decidedly futuristic design, the new Mirai is Toyota’s flagship sedan, a premium, rear-wheel-drive, five-passenger sports-luxury car in the vein of the Lexus LS, on whose GA-L platform the Mirai is now based. It’s offered in XLE and Limited trim levels, with corresponding differences in equipment and interior materials.

The new Mirai is larger in every dimension except height, more powerful, and has a longer cruising range. Its four-wheel independent multi-link suspension, replacing the previous car’s strut-type front and rear beam axle, improves the car’s handling and performance, as does the change to rear-wheel-drive and the configuration of its new fuel cell system. In combination, those latter two revisions give the Mirai a near 50/50 front/rear weight distribution.

The fuel cell stack in the new-generation Mirai, like the one in its predecessor, takes in hydrogen and oxygen to create electricity without combustion to power its rear-drive motor. Water vapor is the only emissions produced during the process. The stack is about 20 percent smaller and 50 percent lighter, and now fits under the sedan’s hood. A new power control unit and other changes to the stack result in a 12-percent power increase, boosting the Mirai’s rear-drive motor output to 182 horsepower and 221 lb-ft torque (versus the outgoing model’s 151 horsepower and 247 lb-ft).

Electricity is stored in a lithium-ion battery that’s smaller, lighter, and has greater capacity than the Mirai’s previous nickel-metal-hydride battery. The battery rides between the rear seat and the trunk. Three 10,000-psi carbon-fiber-reinforced tanks hold about 11 pounds of hydrogen, giving the Mirai 402 miles of range in XLE models, and 357 in the Limited. Toyota is continuing the practice of offering up to $15,000 of complimentary hydrogen with each Mirai.

Inside the Mirai are seats trimmed in SofTex synthetic leather. The dashboard is dominated by two digital displays, an 8-inch LCD gauge cluster in front of the driver and a 12.3-inch touchscreen in the center of the dash to operate the climate control, infotainment, and navigation systems. To bring down cabin temperatures and reduce the load on the Mirai’s air-conditioning system, Toyota engineers installed extra insulation in the roof and added UV protection in the side windows.

Both Mirai models come standard with Toyota’s Safety Sense 2.5+, a suite of active safety systems with several enhanced functions. Among them is the Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, which not only registers a vehicle ahead but a bicyclist or pedestrian in front of that vehicle.

Initially the Mirai is available in California only, but Toyota says it is fully optimized for cold-weather operation, hinting that broader availability may be in the works. The Mirai XLE is priced at $49,500 with the uplevel Limited coming in at $66,000 before substantial federal and California state incentives, and potential Toyota incentives as well.

Here’s the thing about plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs): You get the benefits of a battery electric vehicle for driving a certain number of zero-emission miles, with the versatility of a gas-electric hybrid without range limitations. There’s no secret to it, and it’s that simple. But PHEV ownership does take some thought, and some effort.

The thought part is straightforward. If you’re in the market for a PHEV and your intent is to drive electric as much as possible, then part of the decision making is choosing a new plug-in hybrid model offering a battery electric range that fits your driving patterns. Some plug-in hybrids offer battery electric range as low as 14 to 19 miles, with a great many featuring electric range in the low to high 20s. Some raise that number up to 42 or 48 miles of battery electric driving, like the Toyota Prius Prime and Honda Clarity PHEV, before requiring a charge or the addition of  combustion power. Many families find the electric range of Chrysler’s Pacifica Hybrid to be entirely workable at 32 miles, with its total 520 miles of driving range reassuring for any driving need.

The effort in owning a PHEV is that you need to install a 240-volt home wall charger and commit to using it to gain maximum benefit. Really, that’s no different than an all-electric vehicle, with the exception that an electric vehicle must be charged to function, while a PHEV will continue operating with the aid of combustion power once batteries are depleted. Both can be charged with a 120-volt convenience charger plugged into a standard household outlet, but that’s rarely a good option since the charging time at 120 volts is so long, while charging at 240 volts is comparatively short. The goal in achieving maximum benefit, of course, is to keep a PHEV charged in any event so you’re operating on battery power whenever possible.

What range do you really need? If your daily driving or commute is about 20 miles – as is the case for so many – then choose a PHEV with a battery electric range offering that capability, or more. Drivers with longer average daily drives should choose a PHEV with greater all-electric range. If you charge every night and wake up with a fully-charged battery ready for your day’s regular activities, you’ll likely find trips to the gas station unnecessary until longer drives are needed. In those cases, there’s nothing to think about because the transition from battery to combustion power happens seamlessly behind the scenes, with no driver action required. Yes, you’ll want to keep gas in the tank for those eventualities, but if your daily use fits within your rated electric range then fill-ups will be infrequent.

From my perspective, the ability to drive electric most of the time with the ability to motor on for hundreds of additional miles without thought is a win-win. I’ve been doing this for years with a variety of PHEV test cars, and more than a year-and-a-half now over 30,000 miles in a Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. As much as possible, my driving is electric with zero localized emissions, as long as I’m consistent about plugging in at night and my charger isn’t required for another test car. I’m driven to do that not only because driving with zero emissions is the right thing to do, but also because electricity offers a cheaper cost-per-mile driving experience. If you’re on a utility’s electric vehicle rate plan and charge at off-peak hours, there’s even more money to be saved. And let’s not forget the blissful and effortless convenience of charging at home, right?

Any claim that PHEVs won’t deliver their desired environmental benefit is based on assumptions that drivers won’t plug in. That isn’t likely, given that PHEV drivers have paid, sometimes significantly, for the privilege of having a plug-in capability. The notion may have its roots in an unrelated alternative fuel story years ago, when we witnessed the phenomena of motorists driving flexible-fuel E85 ethanol/gasoline vehicles without ever fueling up with E85 alternative fuel. That occurred because of a loophole that allowed automakers to gain significant fuel economy credits by offering flexible-fuel vehicles without any consideration whether drivers would ever fuel up with E85 ethanol. Those vehicles were sold at no premium by the millions, with most drivers unaware their vehicle had an alternative fuel capability or whether E85 fueling stations were nearby.

But this is different. While you have the option to use public charging stations, and that’s a nice benefit enjoyed by many EV and PHEV owners, if you do this right there will be a plug in your garage that requires no effort at all to keep your PHEV charged up. Consider, too, that if a buyer spends the extra money for the plug-in hybrid variant of a popular model, there’s clearly an incentive to plug in most of the time to make the most of one’s PHEV investment.

PHEVs will be with us a long while because they are a sensible solution for many who wish to drive electric, and when used as intended they represent a logical pathway for the all-electric future many envision. There’s no doubt that the increasing number of plug-in hybrids coming now, and in the years ahead, will aim at greater electric driving range than the models that came before them. More choices and greater range will provide an even more compelling reason to step up to a plug-in hybrid for the daily drive.

With the debut of a new high-efficiency Tradesman HFE EcoDiesel, the 2021 RAM 1500 full-size pickup can now be ordered in 11 different models and five engine options, two bed lengths, two cab configurations, and two- and four-wheel-drive powertrains. Whew! The five engines span a wide range of output and efficiency metrics, from the 6.2-liter, 702-horsepower supercharged Hemi V-8 in the newly introduced ‘Apex Predator’ TRX model to V-6 and V-8 mild-hybrid gas engines and a 3.0-liter turbodiesel.

The Italian-made EcoDiesel V-6, now in its third generation, features aluminum cylinder heads and dual overhead camshafts with four valves per cylinder. Induction is via high-pressure, direct-injection nozzles, while a water-cooled, variable-geometry turbine provides boost. The engine is rated at 260 horsepower and 480 lb-ft torque, has earned 22 city/32 highway mpg, and has a towing capacity of up to 12,560 pounds. The new Tradesman HFE EcoDiesel variant ups the ante to an unsurpassed 33 highway mpg, in a model that starts at $42,240 

The mild-hybrid eTorque versions of the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 and 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 replace the standard engine alternator with a belt-driven motor-generator. Working with a 48-volt, 430 kWh lithium-ion nickel-manganese-cobalt battery pack, the motor-generator enables the engines’ stop/start function and brake-energy regeneration, and it provides short bursts of torque under certain driving conditions. The air-cooled battery pack is mounted to the back wall of the RAM's cab.

The eTorque Pentastar V-6 produces 305 horsepower and 269 lb-ft torque and is EPA rated at 20 city/25 highway mpg. The eTorque Hemi V-8 puts out 395 horsepower and 410 lb-ft torque and has earned 17 city/23 highway mpg ratings. By comparison, the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 without eTorque assist has the same output ratings but lower fuel economy: 15 city/22 highway mpg. All these engines route their power through eight-speed TorqueFlite automatic transmissions.

New and improved driver aids available on the 2021 RAM 1500 include a full-color head-up display that can show up to five content areas at once; a digital rearview mirror that displays real-time video from a rear-facing camera (but can revert back to a traditional reflective mirror); and trailer-reverse steering control, which allows the driver to turn a dashboard-mounted dial in the intended direction of the trailer (handing the actual steering control to the system). Adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning, blind-spot monitoring and pedestrian detection are also among the safety and security features available for the RAM.

The RAM 1500 remains the only light-duty full-size pickup in the segment with a coil-spring rear suspension system, which the maker says improves ride and handling while not compromising towing or hauling capacity. Buyers will find entry-level RAM 1500s starting at $32,595 and rising upward, with the high-performance TRX topping out the lineup at $70,095.

Clearly, Chrysler’s original minivans had a great run, and for good reason. All were based on the same platform featuring a low floor and an overall design that allowed the ability to park in a typical garage. Plus, they drove like cars and not trucks due to their passenger car-like construction. Offering different flavors of the minivan under the Dodge, Plymouth, and Chrysler brands – with varying levels of sophistication – was a smart move as well. But alas, change is inevitable even within notable success stories.

The company’s sixth-generation minivan broke new ground again in 2017 as the Chrysler Pacifica replaced the Town & Country. Featuring an exciting new design on an all-new platform, among its many innovations was the inclusion of the Pacifica Hybrid variant, the first and only plug-in hybrid minivan in the U.S. market to this day.

Four years later, the Pacifica Hybrid now features a redesign with deeper sculpting and sport-utility influences. It’s available in Touring, Touring L, Limited, and Pinnacle iterations, all powered by a 3.6-liter Atkinson V-6 engine mated with electric motors and a nine-speed electrically variable transmission.

This transmission incorporates two electric motors that drive the front wheels via a clutch, rather than using just one motor for propulsion and the other for regenerative braking. The one-way clutch is located on the input side of the transmission and the output shaft of the motor. This one-way clutch enables power from both ‘A’ and ‘B’ motors to act in parallel, delivering the full torque of both motors to the wheels. The system provides a combined 260 horsepower. All Pacifica Hybrid models feature front-wheel drive, with all-wheel drive available on the Touring L model.

Energizing the electric drive system is a 16 kWh lithium-ion battery pack comprised of six 16-cell modules. The pack is located under the second row of seats. The benefit of this battery placement is that it doesn’t infringe on interior space, so cargo-carrying capacity is not sacrificed. The battery pack provides 32 miles of battery electric range and can be recharged in two hours using a 240-volt charger. Total hybrid driving range is 520 miles.

A suite of driver assistance systems is available either as standard or optional equipment, depending on trim level. Among these are a 360° Surround View Camera, Rear View Camera, Full-Speed Forward Collision Warning with Active Braking, Pedestrian Automatic Emergency Braking, Blind Spot Monitor, Adaptive Cruise Control, Parallel/Perpendicular Park Assist, and Lane Departure Warning with Lane Keep Assist. 

Pacifica Hybrid’s Uconnect 4 system comes with a standard 7-inch or optional 8.4-inch touchscreen, standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and available 4G Wi-Fi. Uconnect 4 with the 8.4-inch touchscreen displays vehicle performance, power flow, driving history, and adjusts charging schedules for less expensive off-peak hours.

The conventionally-powered Pacifica minivan offers a base price of $35,045, while the Pacifica Hybrid starts at $39,995 for the Touring L model and travels upward to $50,845 for the Pinnacle edition.