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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.

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.

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.

The Ford Mustang Mach-E, a slick crossover SUV with a name harkening back to the marque’s performance-based Mustang Mach 1 that debuted some five decades back, presents a new twist in Mustang heritage. Unlike the Mach 1, there’s no rumbling 428 cubic-inch big block V-8 and no emissions…because there’s no tailpipe. That’s because the Mach-E is powered by an all-electric powertrain that provides zero-emission driving.

As a five-door crossover, The Mach-E is far afield from the two-door Mustang coupe it joins in the Ford lineup. But key Mustang influences throughout let us know this is indeed of Mustang lineage, even as Mach-E exhibits more futuristic DNA. Among its signature Mustang styling cues are a long hood, aggressive headlights, tri-bar taillights, and of course all the expected Mustang badging. What’s different is decidedly a departure from the familiar Mustang form, most notably a silhouette that blends elements of crossover and coupe design.

The Mach-E is available as Standard Range and Extended Range variants featuring differing battery capacities, with rear- or all-wheel drive. The Standard Range version uses a 75.7 kWh lithium-ion battery that’s expected to offer a 230 mile range in rear-wheel drive trim. Up to 300 miles will be delivered by the Extended Range version with its larger 98.8 kWh battery. A single permanent magnet motor is used on the rear axle of the rear-wheel drive Mach-E and one on each axle for all-wheel drive models. Performance specs for these Mach-E models range from 255 to 332 horsepower and 306 to 417 lb-ft torque.

A Mustang Mach-E GT Performance Edition slated for next summer raises performance levels with 459 horsepower and 612 lb-ft torque that should deliver 0 to 60 mph sprints in the mid-three second range. This performance model is equipped with a MagneRide Damping System, an adaptive suspension technology that enables the car to hug the road while delivering an exciting and comfortable ride

Batteries are located inside the underbody of the Mach-E between the axles. Liquid cooling optimizes performance in extreme weather. Positioning batteries outside the passenger and cargo areas allows ample room inside for five adults and 33.8 cubic feet of cargo, with capacity increasing to 59.6 cubic feet with the rear seat folded. Mach-E buyers can opt for a 240 volt Ford Connected Charge Station for home charging. A 120-volt mobile charger included with the Mach-E conveniently plugs into a standard household outlet, but charges considerably slower. The Mach-E can handle 150 kW fast charging at public charge stations offering this capability.

Three Mach-E models are currently available to order – Select, Premium, and California Route 1 – priced at $42,895 to $49,800. The Mach-E GT coming later next year can be pre-ordered at an entry price of $60,500.

The 2021 introduction of the e-tron Sportback now adds a second all-electric model to Audi’s stable of electrified vehicles, contributing to the automaker’s corporate goal of electrifying 30 percent of its U.S. model lineup by 2025. The e-tron Sportback is a crossover SUV like the standard e-tron, but with a coupe-like four-door body influenced by the shape of the A7 Sportback sedan. Despite the steep pitch of the e-tron Sportback’s rear roof, there is ample headroom at all five seating positions.

Mechanically, the 2021 e-tron Sportback benefits from several improvements Audi made to the e-tron powertrain. The e-tron’s quattro all-wheel-drive system is powered via asynchronous electric motors on the front and rear e-tron axles. In a new-for-2021 development, only the rear axle provides e-tron Sportback propulsion in most driving conditions to improve efficiency. The front motor is designed to engage instantly in spirited driving and cornering situations or before wheel slip occurs in inclement weather conditions.

Power for the motors is provided by a 95 kWh battery that Audi has configured to use at less than total capacity, thus optimizing battery longevity and repeatable performance. For 2021, e-tron drivers can access 91 percent, or 86.5 kWh, of the battery’s total capacity, up 3 kWh from the previous model. Also new for 2021 are battery charge ports on both sides of the vehicle to enhance charging convenience.

Output for the e-tron Sportback is rated at 355 horsepower and 414 lb-ft torque, though with Boost Mode engaged those numbers rise to 402 horsepower and 490 lb-ft. In Boost Mode, the e-tron Sportback accelerates from 0-60 mph in 5.5 seconds. EPA rates the e-tron Sportback’s efficiency at 76 city and 78 highway MPGe, and 77 combined, with driving range of 218 miles. The e-tron Sportback’s regenerative braking system is designed to recoup energy from both motors during coasting and braking. Steering wheel paddles control the amount of coasting recuperation in three stages.

The e-tron Sportback is equipped with 20-inch wheels and adaptive air suspension as standard equipment. Standard driver assistance systems include Audi pre sense basic, side assist with rear cross-traffic assist, and active lane-departure warning. Among the features on the e-tron Sportback’s MMI touch screen system is a map estimating where the SUV can travel given its current state of charge, plus suggested charging station locations along the route. Amazon Alexa is integrated into the e-tron Sportback’s MMI system, and a subscription service provides access to news, music, audiobooks, and control of Alexa-enabled devices from the SUV’s steering wheel.

With a cost of entry at $69,100, the e-tron Sportback’s pricing is solidly in the midst of its competitors in the luxury electric vehicle field, like the Jaguar I-Pace and Polestar 2.

The 2021 all-electric Polestar 2 arrives in North America this year as the brand’s first pure electric vehicle, aiming to take on Tesla in a market that’s seeing increased interest in EVs. Produced in China through a collaboration of Volvo and Geely Motors, this 5-door midsize electric hatchback proudly forwards the Polestar nameplate that was formerly dedicated to Volvo’s performance arm. Now, Polestar represents the maker’s global electric car initiative as a stand-alone car brand.

At first glance, there’s no mistaking the Volvo pedigree of Polestar 2 as it embraces the design language of Volvo’s XC40. Manufactured on Volvo’s CMA (compact modular architecture) platform, it presents premium fit and finish seamlessly blended with the utmost in functionality. This eye-catching model gets high marks for attention to detail, clean lines, and an unapologetically conventional front facade and grille design that fits its persona, without giving way to the whims of those who seem convinced an electric must look decidedly different.

No performance is lost here in the transition to zero-emissions electric power. Polestar 2 is motivated by dual electric motors, one at each axle, producing a combined 408 horsepower and 487 ft-lb torque in the Performance Pack all-wheel drive variant. This delivers a claimed 0 to 60 sprint in just 4.5 seconds.

A 292 mile range is estimated on the electric’s 78 kWh LG Chem lithium-ion battery pack, which is said to be 10 percent more powerful than Audi and Jaguar offerings. Polestar integrates the battery module as a crash-protected unibody stress member, improving overall road handling characteristics through strategic weight distribution. There are multiple charging options with integrated dual inverters and AC/DC at-home and network charge capability. Charging to 80 percent capacity can be had in 45 minutes at a fast-charge station.

Polestar 2’s regenerative braking enables one-pedal driving, a feature pioneered by the BMW i3 some years back and now adopted in an increasing number of electric models. In effect, strong regenerative braking slows a vehicle down sufficiently to often allow coming to a gradual stop without using the brakes, a fun feature that enhances the joy of driving. Although not fully autonomous, Polestar 2 comes standard with the automaker’s Polestar Connect, Pilot Assist, and adaptive cruise control for Level 2 partial automation.

Inside, driver and passengers enjoy a more conventional cockpit and cabin environment than that presented by some competitors. Polestar 2 is minimalistic but also business class posh in its interior design, placing emphasis on low environmental impact manufacturing practices and materials like repurposed Birch and Black Ash wood accents, plus soft touch ‘vegan’ synthetic seat fabrics.

Heated and cooled seats, inductive cellphone charging, ample points for device connectivity, and a standard panoramic digitized sunroof are provided. Information is intelligently presented in the instrument cluster and a large center stack navigation/infotainment touchpad. A familiar center console select shift is used. Easy access to an ample cargo deck is afforded by a power lift rear hatch, with additional room provided by a fold-down second row seat.

The price of entry for Polestar 2 is $59,900 before federal or state incentives, with the model offered in three trim groups, five color combinations, and four add-on price upticks. It’s currently available for order in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York. Buyers will discover a no-salesman showcase approach with a take-your-time-and-look buying and lease environment. As the market reacts, Volvo intends to make Polestar 2 available in all 50 states.

It’s well understood that driving electric is more efficient with a lower cost-per-mile than driving internal combustion vehicles. That’s especially true if you charge an EV up at home. But what if you need to use public chargers on the road or live in an apartment where a commercial pay-per-use charger is your only option?

The cost can vary significantly since commercial chargers use different methods of payment. For example, many providers charge for the time it takes to charge a battery rather than the kWh of electricity delivered. This would be like gasoline stations charging for the length of time a nozzle dispenses gas in the fuel tank, not by the number of gallons of gas pumped. A few providers charge a per-session fee or require a monthly or annual charging subscription. While many public chargers at businesses and parking lots remain free of cost to EV drivers, that is changing over time.

When you pay by the minute, charging cost is influenced by an EV battery’s state of charge, ambient temperature, and the size of the EV’s on board charger. Different size chargers can mean a big difference in the cost of a charge even though the same number of kW hours are delivered. For example, earlier Nissan LEAFs had a 3.6 kW (3.3 kW actual output) on board charger while later ones had an updated 6.6 kW (6.0 kW output) version. Thus, it takes almost twice as long to charge an earlier LEAF at double the expense than later ones, even though both have the same 30 kWh battery. Many EVs now come standard with a 6.6 or 7.2 kW charger. When considering buying or leasing an electric model, keep in mind that a more powerful on-board charger means quicker and potentially more cost-efficient charging.

It’s an interesting bit of science that while charging an electric vehicle, the rate of charge isn’t linear but rather decreases as a battery approaches full capacity. If an EV has a lower state of charge (SOC) at the beginning of a charging session, charging occurs at its maximum rate, such as 3.3 kW, 6.6 kW, 7.2 kW, and so on. As the battery approaches 100 percent SOC, charging can slow to a trickle. The last 20 percent of charge can sometimes take as long as the initial 80 percent. To be most cost efficient, it’s recommended to only charge to 80 percent full capacity when using a public charger, especially one that includes time-based pricing.

For a charging cost comparison, let’s look at charging an EV with a 40 kWh/100 mile rating and a 50 kW on board charger. At a Level 3 charging station it would take about 48 minutes to get an additional 100 miles of range and cost between $6.24 to $16.80, depending where you did the charging. With a 350 kW fast charger this would take about 7 minutes and cost between $1.82-$6.93 to add 100 miles. This compares to $10.00-$13.33 for a gasoline vehicle that gets 30 mpg and fuels up at $3.00 to $4.00 per gallon. This shows the need for fast charging when away from home and charging with time of use chargers, and more importantly, the need for pricing solely on a per kWh basis.

While kWh charging is fairer to the consumer, some companies prefer time-based charging because the longer customers are connected, the more profit is made. However, public charging could be moving from time-to-charge to the kWh charge model. This will put the energy cost of EV operation in line with that of gasoline vehicles where fueling cost is determined by the cost of a gallon of gasoline, not the time it takes to refuel. Clearly, this change is needed.

New rules in California will eventually ban public charging operators from billing by the minute and require the fairer billing by kWh. The ban will apply to new Level 2 chargers beginning in 2021, and to new DC fast chargers beginning in 2023. Chargers installed before 2021 can continue time-based billing until 2031 for Level 2 chargers or 2033 for DC fast chargers.

The new rules do not prohibit operators from charging overtime, connection, or parking fees, or fees for staying connected after reaching 100 percent SOC, providing they are disclosed. Electrify America already charges 40 cents per minute if your vehicle is not moved within the 10 minute grace period after your charging session is complete. It remains to be seen whether more states will follow California’s lead. Laws will have to be changed in about 20 states where only regulated utilities can presently sell electricity by the kWh.

Charging providers like Tesla and Brink presently charge by the kWh in states where it’s allowed. For example, Tesla charges $0.28 per kWh while Blink charges $0.39 to 0.79 per kWh, depending on location and user status. California regulations require Tesla and others to show the price per kWh and a running total of the energy delivered, just like a gas pump.

Other charging considerations can affect the actual long-term cost of operating an EV. These include lower charge pricing and discounts that come with subscriptions, free charging incentives that accompany a vehicle purchase (like the first 1000 kWh provided free or 100 kWh of free charging per month), or if a charger is shared with another user. For Teslas, free unlimited Supercharger access has often come with the purchase or lease of a new Tesla model.

While EV technology is now relatively mature, pricing electric vehicle use is evolving. Hopefully, competition and a bit of government regulation should ultimately make it as understandable as it is now for gasoline vehicles.

Mitsubishi’s Outlander PHEV, the world's best-selling plug-in-hybrid SUV, features innovative technology to provide welcome performance and family-friendly, fuel efficient all-wheel-drive capability. The combination of a gasoline engine and two electric motors, lithium-ion battery, and plug-in capability allows the Outlander PHEV to travel 310 miles on hybrid power and 22 all-electric miles on  a completely charged battery. The Outlander PHEV has an EPA rating of 25 city/highway combined mpg when operating on gasoline and 74 MPGe (miles-per-gallon equivalent) when operating on battery power.

The Mitsubishi Plug-in Hybrid EV System features three modes to achieve its unique series-parallel operation. Plus, there’s the ability to select up to six levels of regenerative braking to tailor the driving experience.

An integral part of the vehicle’s plug-in hybrid drivetrain is a Mitsubishi Innovative Valve timing Electronic Control (MIVEC) engine that combines maximum power output, low fuel consumption, and a high level of clean performance. This 2.0-liter, 16-valve DOHC engine produces 117 horsepower at 4,500 rpm and 137 lb-ft torque at 4,500 rpm. It drives an electric generator that supplies electricity to the vehicle’s lithium-ion battery or directly to the electric motors. Each of its two AC synchronous permanent magnetic motors are rated at 80 horsepower (60 kW). A maximum combined 197 horsepower is available. The lack of  a driveshaft or transfer case means response and control much faster than a  traditional 4WD setup.

A 12 kilowatt-hour, high-energy density, lithium-ion battery is located beneath the floor where it contributes to a low center of gravity and stable driving performance. This battery can be charged in 10 hours with a household Level 1, 110-volt source or four hours with a Level 2, 240-volt charger. Using DC Fast Charging that’s available at commercial charging facilities, the Outlander PHEV will charge up to 80 percent capacity in as little as 25 minutes. The Outlander PHEV holds the distinction as being the first PHEV capable of DC Fast Charging capability.

The  Outlander PHEV’s parallel-series hybrid features three operating modes that are automatically selected for maximum efficiency, according to the driving conditions. These modes are EV Drive, Series Hybrid, and Parallel-Series.

In the EV Drive mode the Outlander is powered exclusively by the electric motors, with no battery charging except from regenerative braking. EV Drive is used for medium- to low-speeds during city driving. The two electric motors power the Outlander when operating in Series Hybrid mode, except when battery power is low or quick acceleration or hill climbing is needed. Then, the gasoline engine automatically starts to drive the generator and provide electric power for the electric motors to augment battery power. The engine-generator also charges the battery.

In Parallel Hybrid mode the gasoline engine supplies power to the front wheels with the two electric motors adding additional power as needed. The engine also charges the battery pack in Parallel Hybrid mode under certain driving conditions. At high speeds, the Parallel Hybrid mode is more efficient since internal combustion engines operate with greater efficiency than  electric motors at high rpms.

A driver can also choose Charge Mode so the generator charges the lithium-ion battery at any time. Save Mode conserves the battery charge for later use. EV Priority Mode, which can be used at any time, ensures the gasoline engine only runs when maximum power is required. Mitsubishi’s Twin Motor  S-AWC integrated control system delivers optimal power and control by managing Active Yaw Control (AYC), an Anti-lock braking system (ABS), and Active Stability Control (ASC) with Traction Control (TCL).

No matter the hybrid mode, whenever the Outlander PHEV decelerates regenerative braking charges the battery to augment electric driving range. There are six levels of regenerative braking –B1 to B5 plus a B0 coast  mode – that are conveniently selected by a pair of paddles behind the steering wheel. Regenerative braking strength can also be selected by console-mounted controls. Automatic Stop and Go (AS&G) automatically stops and restarts the engine when the vehicle stops, further conserving fuel.     

The Outlander PHEV benefits from Mitsubishi Innovative Valve timing Electronic Control system (MIVEC) technology that controls valve timing and amount of lift to achieve optimum power output, low fuel consumption, and low exhaust emissions. MIVEC adjusts intake air volume by varying intake valve lift stroke and throttle valves, reducing pumping losses and thus improving fuel efficiency. The MIVEC engine improves fuel consumption through other strategies, including improvement of combustion stability through optimization of the combustion chamber and reduction of friction through optimization of the piston structure.

An important measurement of your vehicle’s efficiency is understanding the cost per mile of your daily driving. For a gasoline vehicle, one merely divides the cost of a gallon of gasoline by the miles-per-gallon the vehicle gets to determine cost per mile. As we move into the electric vehicle era, determining a vehicle’s operating cost becomes more complicated. That’s because an electric vehicle’s cost per mile can depend on many factors that influence what you pay for charging its batteries – the price of electricity, the length of time it takes to charge, time of day, how close to ‘full’ the battery is, and even an EV’s onboard charger capabilities. Cost can also vary considerably based on whether you charge at home or at public chargers.

We’ll guide you through the process of understanding electric vehicle charging and how this directly impacts driving costs. Just a note, though, that our calculations focus on battery electric vehicles (EVs) and plugin hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) when running solely on battery power. Because things get more complicated when the gasoline engine of a PHEV is operating, this is not covered here.

CRUNCHING THE NUMBERS Electric vehicle energy use is measured in terms of kilowatt hours per 100 miles (kWh/100 miles). This would be like gallons per 100 miles in a gasoline vehicle. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) includes this number on the window stickers of plug-in vehicles along with their estimated miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe), since we’re so used to a gas vehicle’s mpg rating as an efficiency reference. EPA determines MPGe by assuming a gallon of gasoline is equivalent to 33.7 kWh of electrical energy (MPGe = 3370/kWh/100).

So how do you determine what each mile of driving costs in your electric vehicle? Let’s do an example. The cost of electricity in a sample California city is about 15 cents per kWh ($0.15/kWh). If a current model Kia Soul Electric with an EPA rating of 31 kWh/100 miles was charged here, it would cost $4.65 to travel 100 miles. This translates to $0.15/ kWh x 31 kWh/100 miles = $4.65/100, or 4.65 cents per mile.

Gasoline prices in the U.S. vary considerably depending on markets and world events. In recent times, that range was between $3 to $4 per gallon, while the average price of electricity ranged from $0.095/kWh in Louisiana to $0.31/ kWh in Hawaii. Even within a state the rate depends on what a specific utility charges, which can differ substantially. Thus, the cost to drive an electric Kia Soul could range from 2.95 to 9.6 cents per mile. In comparison, the cost of driving a gasoline Soul could range from 10.0 to 13.3 cents per mile.

CHARGING AT HOME Unlike gasoline, the price of electricity can vary not only by location, but the time of day it is used. Utilities typically have two types of rate plans – level-of-use and time-of-use. With level-of-use, the price rises with the amount of electricity used. Here, the last kilowatt used in a month could cost more than the first one, which would most likely be the case for electric vehicle owners. With time-of-use, utilities divide a day into peak, off-peak, and sometimes a mid-peak period. Some utilities have as many as six time-of-use periods. In any case, electricity is most expensive during peak usage times, usually in the morning, late afternoon, and early evening. Others offer a lower rate for EV charging than the rest of a home’s electrical service, but the savings may not amortize out considering the fee charged for installing a separate meter. Additionally, many offer the option of a special EV rate plan that can make the cost of charging an electric vehicle more financially favorable.

You can charge an EV or PHEV using Level 1 household 110 volt current using a portable charger often provided with a plug-in model, with the charger powered via a standard wall outlet. Typically, electricity is supplied at a 1.4 kW rate. This is workable for topping off batteries after limited daytime driving where little battery power was used, but the time required for charging a fully depleted battery can be considerable. For example, to charge a Chevy Bolt’s 66 kWh battery to 80 percent state of charge (SOC) with Level 1 charging would take about 38 hours…far too long for most drivers. This time is reduced to about 7 hours with a Level 2 charger at 240 volts and a 7.2 kW charging rate. Level 2 charging is recommended for any vehicle with a battery capacity larger than 10 kWh.

While the latest generation EVs and some PHEVs have the capability to fast-charge to 80 percent SOC in a half-hour or less at a Level 3 and above charging rate, Level 3 charging is not available for homes since this requires 480 volt electrical service. In all cases it’s important to avoid discharging EV batteries to near-zero percent SOC to avoid diminishing battery longevity.

Charging at home at a more convenient Level 2 rate requires special Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE). These wall or portable chargers cost between $200 to $1000, with wall chargers also requiring installation that can run from $800 to $1300. Most automakers offering EVs and PHEVs have a recommended EVSE provider, but there are many companies selling EVSEs.

In penciling out the financial benefit of a plug-in vehicle, your number crunching should include the cost of the EVSE. For example, if an EVSE costs $1500 installed and you plan to drive an EV 75,000 miles over a five year period, the EVSE’s amortized cost will be 2 cents per mile. Since most people will likely drive their EV for many more years, amortized EVSE cost could be much lower.

While the overall cost of driving electric can vary widely depending on vehicle purchase or lease cost, electricity rates, EVSE and installation cost, and the length of time an EV is driven, as a general rule owning and operating an EV will be less than that of an equivalent gasoline vehicle.

These days, Henrik Fisker bringing to bear insights and lessons learned from his first effort at Fisker Automotive to his new company, Fisker Inc, with what looks like another groundbreaking vehicle – the Fisker Ocean. Most recently, the company has made moves to bolster the funding of its new electric vehicle launch with a $2.9 billion reverse merger with Spartan Energy Acquisition Corp. a move that’s taking Fisker public. Plus, there’s reportedly a deal in the works with VW to use that automaker’s MEB platform for Fisker’s new electric vehicle.

Fisker’s all-electric, five seat SUV is slated to begin manufacturing late in 2022 and feature several versions with two- or four-wheel-drive. The quickest variant will feature a 302 horsepower electric motor that will accelerate the Ocean from 0 to 60 mph in under 3 seconds, with power from an 80 kWh battery said to provide a range of 300 miles. A Combined Charging System (CCS) Type 2 Combo plug offers a 150 kW charging capability that Fisker says will allow the battery to be fast-charged to provide 200 miles of range in 30 minutes.

A state-of-the-art heads-up display integrated into the windshield is complemented by a 16-inch center touchscreen and a 9.8-inch cluster screen. Karaoke mode displays lyrics for your favorite song in the windshield so you can keep eyes on the road. A full-length solar roof provides electric energy. One-touch ‘California Mode’ simultaneously opens all side windows, rear hatch glass, and the solar roof to create an instant open-air feeling. This feature allows the rear hatch glass to roll down to handle carrying long items.

Over time Fisker has brought in some significant talent to help get the job done. One of these moves is bringing in Burkhard Huhnke, former vice president of e-mobility for Volkswagen America, as chief technology officer to lead Fisker’s R&D activities in Los Angeles and Silicon Valley. Another member of Fisker’s executive team is senior vice president of Engineering Martin Welch, formerly with McLaren cars and Aston Martin.

Fisker says the Ocean will start at $37,449 and will be leased for $379 per month, allowing an impressive 30,000 miles per year with maintenance and service included. The company is currently accepting $250 deposits.

The MINI E was a pretty cool car based on the MINI Cooper two-door hardtop, fun to drive and pretty attention-getting with its unique, yellow electric plug graphics. We were sorry to see it go and really expected to see a production version introduced shortly after the MINI-E’s 2009/2010 field trials came to an end…but that wasn’t to be.

More recently, MINI has been offering its Cooper SE Countryman ALL-4, a plug-in hybrid model featuring gasoline engine power and 18 miles of all-electric driving. It’s not all-electric, but does champion MINI’s continuing interest in electrification. Now, after a long wait by MINI fans, the follow-up all-electric 2020 MINI Cooper SE has arrived.

The earlier Mini E’s battery pack replaced the rear seat, making it a two-seater. Contrasting this is the T-shaped battery pack in the new MINI Cooper SE that’s located beneath the rear seat and runs between the front seats. Thus, the Cooper SE remains a four-seater without compromising passenger or luggage space. While the MINI E had a range of about 100 miles on its 35 kWh lithium-ion battery, the Cooper S E improves on this a bit with an EPA estimated range of 110 miles with power from a smaller 32.6 kWh battery. It’s also energy efficient with an EPA rated 108 combined MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent).

Powering  the Cooper SE is a synchronous electric motor featuring 181 horsepower and 199 lb-ft torque.  Since maximum torque is available from standstill, the front-drive Cooper SE accelerates from zero to 60 mph in a brisk 7.3 seconds. To prevent slip during launch, the electric traction control system was integrated into the MINI’s primary electronic control unit (ECU), enabling computer control to shorten the time between wheel slippage and system response.

Four driving modes are offered. The default MID setting brings comfort-oriented steering characteristics, while a GREEN mode results in greater efficiency to increase range. GREEN+ disables features like heating, air conditioning, and seat heating to further increase range. SPORT mode, as you would expect, provides more sporty driving.

A driver can control the car’s degree of regenerative braking to increase or decrease deceleration intensity. A stronger regen setting can be selected if one-pedal driving is preferred. With aggressive regen, a Cooper SE begins decelerating as soon as a driver’s foot is lifted from the accelerator, enabling the car to be slowed at low speeds without using the hydraulic brakes. The softer regen setting is available for those who prefer a more conventional driving and braking feel.

Cabin heating is provided by an energy-efficient heat pump system that collects waste heat from the motor, drive controller, high-voltage battery, and outside temperatures. The result is 75 percent less energy use than a conventional electric heating system, thus saving all-important battery power to gain additional driving range. On hot or cold days, cabin temperature can be pre-conditioned by activating heating or cooling through the MINI Connected Remote App on a smartphone. The app also displays battery state-of-charge, available range, and energy consumption statistics. A map shows nearby public charging stations.

Standard equipment includes either Connected Navigation or Connected Navigation Plus, depending on the trim level. Connected Navigation includes a 6.5-inch central touchscreen. It enables Real Time Traffic Information to help a driver navigate around traffic congestion, along with Apple CarPlay and the internet platform MINI Online. Connected Navigation Plus includes an 8.8-inch color screen and adds wireless cellphone charging.

Speed, remaining range, battery charge level, and power demand are shown on a 5.5-inch digital instrument cluster screen behind the steering wheel. Also shown are navigation directions, selected MINI driving modes, status of driver assistance systems, and traffic sign detection.

The Cooper SE can be charged with a 120 volt AC household outlet or quicker with a 240 volt Level 2 wall or public charger, the latter taking about 3 1/2 hours from depleted to full charge. When 50 kW Level 3 fast-charging is available, the Cooper SE can be charged to 80 percent battery capacity in only 35 minutes. Charging is via a charge port above the right-hand rear wheel, the same location where you refuel a conventional MINI.

MINI’s Cooper SE is what fans of the marque have been waiting for. It’s packed with technology and promises a fun driving experience, at a reasonable base price of $29,900. Sign us up!

The 2020 Karma Revero GT is a major remake that delivers a new model substantially more refined than the original Karma Revero, which evolved from an existing series hybrid sedan. Externally, all of the Revero GT’s body panels have been restyled, including the doors. Most noticeable are the new grille and front fascia that present quite a departure from the Revero’s original and rather massive grillework.

Besides a more modern look, weight has been reduced by more than 500 pounds, an important move since this is one heavy grand touring car weighing in at some 5,050 pounds total. Optional carbon fiber wheels shave off an additional 55 pounds. Inside, there are new seats, center console, and an all-new infotainment system.

There are also big changes in the drivetrain. A turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine, sourced from the BMW i8, replaces the previous GM-sourced 2.0 liter engine originally used in the Revero series hybrid. Two electric motors drive the rear wheels through a single speed transmission. Combined power output has noticeably increased from 403 to 535 horsepower, with a beefy dose of 550 lb-ft torque at the ready. All this brings an impressive 0-60 mph sprint in just 4.5 seconds. In a departure from the norm, the exhaust for the Karma GT’s three-cylinder engine is located behind the front wheels.

A lighter 28-kWh battery pack is configured to run down the spine of the car. This nickel-manganese-cobalt lithium-ion pack provides a battery electric range of up to 80 miles, an impressive gain over that offered by the 2019 Revero. With the 280 mile range afforded by electricity from the car’s gasoline engine-generator, overall driving range comes in at 360 miles. EPA rates the 2020 Karma Revero GT at 26 combined mpg and 70 MPGe when driving exclusively on battery power.

Drivers can choose between Stealth, Sustain, and Sport modes to tailor the driving experience. Stealth is for all-electric driving. Sustain mode uses the BMW range-extender engine to supply electricity to the rear motors, preserving power from the battery pack for later use. Sport mode maximizes performance by combining the power from both the engine-generator and battery pack. Three levels of regenerative braking can be selected using steering wheel paddles.

A Karma Revero GTS is planned for introduction later in 2020. Here, torque will be increased to a massive 635 lb-ft for even greater performance. The GTS variant will also feature electronic torque vectoring and Launch Control to handle all that torque. In addition, a planned battery upgrade is expected to provide up to 80 miles of all-electric driving.

Porsche has entered the electric vehicle market in a big way with its long-awaited Taycan, known for some time by its concept name, the Mission E. While Porsche has had plug-in hybrids in its model line for some time, this is the marque’s first all-electric vehicle.

Taycan comes in three versions to fit varying desires – the Taycan 4S, Taycan Turbo, and Taycan Turbo S. All variants feature all-wheel-drive using two electric motors, one driving each axle. The three Taycan versions differ only in battery capacity and horsepower, with each featuring varying levels of performance and driving range.

The point of entry for the model is the $103,800 Taycan 4S, which features a 79.2 kWh battery pack and 522 horsepower from its two motors. The $150,900 Taycan Turbo is energized by a 93 kWh battery and delivers 616 peak horsepower. This same 93 kWh battery pack is optional on the Taycan 4S. At $185,000, the Taycan Turbo S shares the same powertrain as the Turbo model but is tuned to deliver an even greater 750 horsepower when using launch control. Launch control power lasts for short bursts of 2.5 seconds. After that, all models reduce output slightly to protect the drivetrain from heat.

EPA rates the Taycan Turbo at a 201 mile driving range. That breaks the 200 mile barrier perceived by many as necessary for next-generation electric vehicles, but it is lower than some other electrics like the Audi e-tron and Tesla Model S. EPA fuel efficiency for the Taycan Turbo is a combined 69 MPGe (miles-per-gallon equivalent). Efficiency and range ratings for the Taycan 4S and Taycan Turbo S have not yet been released.

Porsche’s Taycan is the first electric vehicle to use an 800-volt electrical architecture. This allows more powerful 270 kW charging that enables recharging the battery from 5 to 80 percent in about 22 minutes. This requires an 800 volt DC public fast charger that is still quite rare. More common 400 volt DC fast-charging is limited to 50 kW, with some 150 kW chargers available that triple maximum charging power at 400 volt DC fast-charging stations. These can bring an 80 percent charge in 90 minutes or less.  Charging the Taycan using a widely-available 240-volt Level 2 public or home charger takes 10 to 11 hours.

All Taycans come with a 10.9-inch infotainment screen, Apple CarPlay, navigation, Bluetooth, HD and satellite radio, four USB ports, panoramic sunroof, and adaptive air suspension. Among the model’s standard safety equipment is a rearview camera, parking sensors, forward collision warning with brake assist, lane keep assist, traffic sign recognition, and adaptive LED headlights. Optional safety items include blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, night vision camera,  and a surround-view parking camera system. Adding the optional performance package brings four-wheel steering and active anti-roll bars.

Aston Martin Lagonda's production-ready Rapide E, the marque’s first all-electric production car, is on its way to market. The first car built at Aston Martin’s state-of-the-art St Athan production facility – the brand’s Home of Electrification – Rapide E represents a pioneering first step towards achieving the company’s more comprehensive electrification strategy and the successful fruition of Lagonda, the world’s first zero-emission luxury brand.

Inside and out, Rapide E is equipped with the materials and technology befitting of the marque’s first EV model. Gone are the analog displays of the past. A 10-inch digital display now sits in their place, delivering all essential information to the driver including the battery’s state of charge, current motor power levels, regenerative performance, and a real-time energy consumption meter. Swathes of carbon fiber have been deployed throughout, assisting in delivering the strict weight targets set by Aston Martin’s engineering team.

A redesigned underfloor streamlines airflow from the front splitter all the way through to Rapide E’s new more massive rear diffuser, a feature now wholly dedicated to aero efficiency due to the removal of the exhaust system required in the past. The model’s forged aluminum aerodynamic wheels, which are shod with low rolling-resistance Pirelli P-Zero tires, have also been redesigned to provide further efficiency without compromising brake cooling capability. The sum of these changes gives Rapide E’s aerodynamic package an 8 percent improvement over the previous internal combustion model.

An 800-volt electrical architecture battery powers Rapide E – encased in a carbon fiber and Kevlar casing – with a 65 kWh capacity using over 5600 lithium-ion cylindrical cells. This bespoke battery pack lies where the gas model’s 6.0-liter V-12, gearbox, and fuel tank were located. This battery system powers two rear-mounted electric motors producing a combined target output of just over 600 horsepower and a colossal 700 lb-ft torque. Top speed for Rapide E is 155 mph with a 0-60 mph time of under 4 seconds.

A special edition with a production run strictly limited to 155 units, Rapide E has been developed in collaboration with Williams Advanced Engineering.

Lou Ann Hammond is CEO and editor-in-chief at drivingthenation.com

The driving range of electric vehicles is becoming less of an issue as they surpass 200 miles or greater, approaching the distance between fill-ups of some internal combustion engine vehicles…or maybe the bladder capacity of their drivers. However, the time it takes to recharge an EV is still a negative attribute.

Generally, EVs charge at a fairly slow rate. A 240-volt Level 2 home or public charger will charge a Chevy Bolt from depleted to full in about 4 1/2 hours, providing a range of about 238 miles. That’s a far cry from 5 minutes to fill a gas tank. It’s significantly slower when charging a Bolt with a Level 1 charger using a household’s standard 120-volt power since this adds only about 4 miles an hour!

Of course, charging companies and automakers are working together to expand the small-but-growing network of fast chargers in key areas of the country, allowing EVs to gain up to 90 miles of charge in around 30 minutes. Tesla claims that its Supercharger stations being upgraded to Version 3 can charge a Tesla Model 3 Long Range at the rate of about 15 miles a minute, or 225 miles in just over 15 minutes under best conditions.

If current technology EVs become popular for mid- to long-range travel, gasoline stations, truck stops, and public charging stations equipped with Level 2 and even somewhat faster chargers run the very real risk of becoming parking lots.

Photo: EVgo

When it comes to charging EVs, charging times come down to kilowatts available. The best Tesla V3 charger is rated at 250 kilowatts peak charge rate. Now, much research is being done here and in other countries on what is called Extreme Fast Charging (XFC) involving charge rates of 350-400 kilowatts or more. The U.S. Department of Energy is sponsoring several projects aimed at reducing battery pack costs, increasing range, and reducing charging times.

There are several challenges for XFCs. First, when lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries are fast charged, they can deteriorate and overheat. Tesla already limits the number of fast charges by its standard Superchargers because of battery degradation, and that’s only at 120-150 kilowatts. Also, when kilowatt charging rates increase voltage and/or amperage increases, which can have a detrimental effect on cables and electronics.

This begs the question: Is the current electrical infrastructure capable of supporting widespread use of EVs? Then, the larger question is whether the infrastructure is capable of handling XFC with charging rates of 350 kilowatts or more. This is most critical in urban areas with large numbers of EVs and in rural areas with limited electric infrastructure.

The answer is no. Modern grid infrastructures are not designed to supply electricity at a 350+ kilowatt rate, so costly grid upgrades would be required. Additionally, communities would be disrupted when new cables and substations have to be installed. There would be a need for costly and time-consuming environmental studies.

One approach being is XFC technology being developed by Zap&Go in the UK and Charlotte, North Carolina. The heart of Zap&Go's XFC is carbon-ion (C-Ion) energy storage cells using nanostructured carbons and ionic liquid-based electrolytes. C-Ion cells provide higher energy densities than conventional supercapacitors with charging rates 10 times faster than current superchargers. Supercapacitors and superchargers are several technologies being considered for XFCs.

According to Zap&Go, the C-Ion cells do not overheat and since they do not use lithium, cobalt, or any materials that can catch fire, there is no fire danger. Plus, they can be recycled at the end of their life, which is about 30 years. Zap&Go's business model would use its chargers to store electric energy at night and at off-peak times, so the current grid could still be used. Electrical energy would be stored in underground reservoirs similar to how gasoline and diesel fuels are now stored at filling stations. EVs would then be charged from the stored energy, not directly from the grid, in about the same time it takes to refuel with gasoline.

The fastest charging would work best if C-Ion cell batteries are installed in an EV, replacing Li-ion batteries. EVs with Li-ion batteries could also be charged, but not as quickly. Alternatively, on-board XFC cells could be charged in about five minutes, then they would charge an EV’s Li-ion batteries at a slower rate while the vehicle is driven, thereby preserving the life of the Li-ion battery. The downside is that this would add weight, consume more room, and add complexity. Zap&Go plans to set up a network of 500 ultrafast-charge charging points at filling stations across the UK.

General Motors is partnering with Delta Electronics, DOE, and others to develop XFSs using solid-state transformer technology. Providing up to 400 kilowatts of power, the system would let properly equipped electric vehicles add 180 miles of range in about 10 minutes. Since the average American drives less than 30 miles a day, a single charge could provide a week’s worth of driving.

The extreme charging time issue might be partly solved by something already available: Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs). As governments around the world consider banning or restricting new gasoline vehicles in favor of electric vehicles, they should not exclude PHEVs. Perhaps PHEVs could be designed so their internal combustion engines could not operate until their batteries were depleted, or their navigation system determines where they could legally operate on electric or combustion power.

Part of Honda’s Clarity triple-play – along with the hydrogen-powered Clarity Fuel Cell and more mainstream Clarity Plug-In Hybrid – the Clarity Electric is a model that clearly cuts its own path.

It does not aim to be part of the ‘200 mile club,’ the latest generation of uber-electrics that claim a battery electric driving range greater than 200 miles between charges. It also does not cultivate efficiencies through a compact form designed to eke the most from every electron. Nor is it exceptionally lightweight, another common nod to the need for making the most of the battery power carried on board. In fact, there is little about the Clarity Electric that makes us think of other all-electric vehicles…save for the fact that it runs exclusively on zero-emission battery power, of course. This mid-size, five-passenger battery electric vehicle aims to be in a league of its own.

First of all, let’s discuss driving range, which is EPA rated at 89 miles between charges while delivering a combined 114 MPGe (miles-per-gallon equivalent). Yes, that’s more limiting than that of the 200+ mile club, but there’s a reason. Honda designed the Clarity Electric with the needs of commuters in mind…those who want their daily drive to be in a highly-efficient, zero-emission electric car with a sophisticated look and premium feel. And they designed it so it was significantly more affordable than premium competitors offering higher-end electric models with features similar to those of the Clarity. Currently, the Clarity Electric is offered at a $199 monthly lease in California and Oregon where this battery-powered model is available.

Honda figures that an approach focused on commuters is a sweet spot for the Clarity Electric. Its range fits the needs of most commutes and its price is certainly justifiable for a commuter car, and a luxurious one at that, with fuel costs substantially less than conventionally-powered models. Plus, most households have two cars at their disposal, sometimes more. Having a Clarity Electric as a primary commuter car with a conventional gasoline or hybrid vehicle also in a household’s stable covers all bases.

Honda gave a lot of thought to the cabin design with welcome touches throughout. We especially like the ‘floating’ design of the center console with its array of integrated controls and flat storage tray beneath, with 12-volt and USB outlets. The dash features a handsome suede-like material and an 8-inch touchscreen display elegantly integrated into the dash. Deep cupholders feature flip-up stays for holding smaller drinks. Side door pockets are large enough to accommodate water bottles. The trunk offers plenty of room and is illuminated when the trunk lid is remotely or manually unlatched. At night this allows you to immediately note what’s inside through the trunk lid’s clear back panel before opening…something we’ve really come to appreciate over time.

Driving the Clarity Electric is a satisfying experience, with this sedan both well-mannered and responsive. Power is delivered by a 161 horsepower electric motor energized by a 25.5 kWh lithium-ion battery that can be charged in about three hours with a 240 volt charger, or in as little as 30 minutes with a public DC fast-charge system to an 80 percent state-of-charge. While its primary job may well be to handle everyday driving needs and negotiate traffic, it also delivers plenty of fun on twisty canyon roads with flat cornering and confident steering. It’s quick, like almost all electrics are because of instant torque delivered at launch, providing very satisfying acceleration.

Also appreciated is the Clarity’s handy Apple CarPlay integration and its Honda Sensing suite of driver-assist technologies. Among these are important features like adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow, forward collision warning, collision mitigation braking, lane departure warning, and road departure mitigation.

The Clarity Electric has served us well on our daily drives over the course of Green Car Journal’s ongoing long-term test. Its use supports what Honda envisioned for this efficient electric car. It has been ideal for around-town duty, area trips within its range, and daily commutes. Its thoughtful and sophisticated – dare we say futuristic – design and very satisfying drive experience are appreciated every day we’re behind the wheel.

Karma Automotive has emerged a notable force in the luxury electric vehicle world with 1,000 employees since its launch in 2014, with multiple offices in the U.S. and a manufacturing facility in Southern California. Over these years it has focused on forming relationships with companies developing new technologies, taking engineering risks, and challenging convention in automotive design.

One of its recent forays is a partnership with famed Italian design house Pininfarina to explore a two-door variant of the already-stunning Karma Revero sedan. Known for its design collaborations with the likes of Ferrari, Maserati, and Alfa Romeo, Pininfarina’s efforts have resulted in an all-new, bespoke Grand Touring version of the original Revero.

Pininfarina’s sinewy two-door Karma GT features all-new body sides along with softer overall features and a relaxed shoulder line. Its aggressive front end integrates innovative LED headlamps and a slatted grille with large air intakes, while the rear features an elegant look with boomerang-style taillamps. The Revero’s existing frame and suspension were modified for the coupe design.

Why the partnership with Pininfarina? According to Karma Automotive, it illustrates how the company is moving toward a new business model that shares resources and platforms for creating multiple revenue streams.

“As a relatively young start-up company, Karma does not yet have the deep financial and in-house technological resources of an established OEM,” shares Dr. Liang Zhou, Karma Automotive CEO. He adds that the company will “use partnerships to accelerate our progress by acquiring and developing key technologies important to connectivity, performance, artificial intelligence, shared mobility platforms, and electrification. Partners can use our product platform as an incubator to test and prove their new innovations, and likewise, our engineering and design resources can be offered to help other partners advance their needs.”

If consumer interest is high, it’s possible Pininfarina may build a limited run of Karma GTs at its facility outside of Turin, Italy, with customers able to configure the model to their personal tastes. Regardless of how this evolves, it appears that the Karma/Pininfarina GT collaboration is just the beginning of a long-term relationship between the two companies.