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EV total energy meter.

Range estimates are important for electric vehicle drivers, especially when traveling long distances along routes with sparse fast charge infrastructure. Even though EVs do provide range information, drivers do not have much useful real-time information on how environmental conditions of the drive,  or elevation changes of the route, are affecting the vehicle's energy use.

For example, short term miles per kilowatt-hour (miles/kWh) or watt-hour per mile (Wh/mile) information is strongly affected by the slope of the road and recent speed changes. However, this is very difficult to use for range estimation, especially on an unfamiliar route, and does not provide much useful feedback to the driver so they can adapt to current conditions. 

The fundamental concept of the Total Energy Meter system here is that there are actually three important energy storage mechanisms, which may be intuitively thought of as ‘batteries.’ The first is the potential energy a battery stores from elevation changes. Second is the kinetic energy a battery stores from the vehicle’s speed and mass. Third is the chemical battery that stores the electrical energy.

Total energy meter measures three forms of energy.

The Total Energy in these three batteries accurately represents the energy available to the vehicle. Altitude and speed changes merely transfer energy between the three batteries, so the Total Energy consumption represents energy actually being dissipated to the environment by aerodynamic drag, friction, electrical losses, and climate control.

With real-time Total Energy Wh/mile information, a driver can easily adjust their vehicle’s speed and climate settings to stay within an energy budget and achieve a desired range, even in difficult environmental conditions such as hilly terrain, high winds, rain or snow, and extreme temperatures.

How the Total Energy Meter Works

It may be useful to consider the following energy equivalents for a ‘typical’ 2000kg, 260Wh/mi (@65mph) EV: The EV traveling at 65mph has 234Wh of kinetic energy, which represents 0.9 miles of range; On a road with 3.0% down slope the EV will coast at 65mph with no power; The potential energy of a 1000m elevation change is 5.45kWh, which represents 21 miles of range.

In order to provide accurate range prediction in varying driving conditions, it important to determine the energy that is truly being lost to the environment in the form of friction, aerodynamic drag, electrical losses, and auxiliary loads, and not to contaminate this with energy that is merely being transferred between the vehicle’s ‘batteries.’

Total energy meter for electric vehicles.

Vehicle instrumentation that calculates the true energy use (Wh/mi) using the total of the 3 ‘batteries’ can be used to extrapolate accurate range estimations from the most recent few miles of driving. It can also provide the driver with meaningful real-time feedback on their driving choices (such as speed,  climate control, cargo racks, and tire pressure) that can be easily interpreted to ensure that a desired range is attained. 

An EV with total energy metering will indicate an energy use (Wh/mi, to be preferred over the mi/kWh shown by some) that remains relatively constant whether the vehicle is on a level road, climbing a grade, or descending. The Wh/mi number will accurately reflect the effect of driving speed, headwinds, temperature, rain, and A/C load on the vehicle’s actual power dissipation even over hilly terrain. As the effects of speed changes (kinetic energy) are properly accounted for, the short term energy use, averaged over only a fraction of a mile, is quite a smooth function during city driving.

When offered more usable energy feedback, there is the potential that a driver may learn to optimize their driving efficiency and enjoy enhanced vehicle utility with reduced energy consumption, battery degradation, and range anxiety.

The Elevation Measurement Problem

Most EVs already have GPS, and this provides altitude information. The short term error of the GPS altitude can be several meters, especially in urban or mountain environments. For 4 percent accuracy of the total energy Wh/mi over a specific distance, for example quarter mile, the altitude must have less than 0.5m error. Another measurement method is required for short term accuracy.

A practical solution has been to use a sensitive longitudinal accelerometer to measure the slope that the vehicle is driving on. For the same accuracy as above, the slope needs a precision of 0.12 percent, or a few mm over the wheelbase. As the sensor must be mounted to the chassis (not the road surface!), the variations of the suspension loads and tire deflections introduce errors greater than desired.

The complete solution has been to use the GPS altitude data (which has excellent long term precision), averaged over several miles, to adjust the accelerometer null used in the total energy calculation. It is interesting to note that the time integral of  (accel * mass * speed) is the sum of the potential and kinetic energies, exactly what is needed for the total energy meter system.

There is another detail that needs to be considered when deciding where to mount the accelerometer in the chassis. The location should minimize the cross coupling between the lateral g generated in turns to the desired measurement of longitudinal acceleration. Fortunately most EV s only steer the front wheels, so a location above the rear axle ensures that the lateral g forces are orthogonal to the longitudinal axis of the vehicle. Lower in the chassis is also preferable, as pitch oscillations have less effect.

System Integration

The EV total energy meter is not just a theoretical discussion. A prototype was developed during the last year and has been implemented in a Hyundai Kona EV. The system has been tested in a wide variety of driving conditions.

The prototype uses a Windows tablet PC with a Bluetooth link to the vehicle’s OBDII port to get battery state of charge (SOC), volts, amps, and motor rpm. This is combined with accelerometer data and GPS altitude to calculate and display energy use information. As the software in the tablet is not linked to the NAV system, the user manually enters the destination altitude for the range calculation.

For an OEM implementation, the only additional hardware requirement over what is currently in most EV s is the accelerometer, which can use a $2 sensor chip and needs to be connected to the vehicle CAN bus. The vehicle dashboard computer could handle the data processing and display.

User Interface

The prototype system display is for engineering test and evaluation, but much of the basic functionality could be applied to a consumer oriented implementation. This view of the touchscreen shows the range display tab.

The calculated remaining range can either be based on the “E.use” Wh/mi evaluated over the last x miles (“eval dist” user select), or on a target Wh/mile number entered by the user. The target Wh/mi mode has proven valuable when it is important to ensure a desired range is attained; as long as measured energy use is kept below the target, the range requirement will be met. 

Note how the blue Wh/mi trace is not affected by altitude changes (red), but does reflect the effect of different driving speeds (white), from 65 mph freeway driving to 35 mph on a twisty mountain road. Both the trip average of 170Wh/mi “trip E” and the 157Wh/mi “E use” were well below the target 210Wh/mi “set targ” at this point in the drive, so the remaining range number would be indicating an increasing margin to the destination.  The range calculation is based on the 280m “dest alt” that is set manually. During the drive, shown cruise control was used extensively to maximize efficiency and to generate smoother data records.

An Open Source Invitation

This presentation of the EV Total Energy Meter is an invitation for this concept to be used by OEMs and anyone else as an open source technology to enhance EV products and promote more efficient transportation. The same concept could also be applied to fueled vehicles, substituting gal/mi or $/mi for Wh/mi.

Side view of electric BMW i5 Series sedan.

The BMW 5 Series has proved to be a huge success for the Bavarian automaker since its introduction in 1972. The all-new eighth generation 5 series carries on this tradition with its many innovations and improvements, and a few welcome surprises. Offering five trim levels including the base 530i, mid-range 530i xDrive, and the 540i xDrive, those surprises come in the form of two electric models in the series– the i5 eDrive40 and the range-topping i5 M60 xDrive. 

Gas-powered models receive a pair of updated engines. The 530i and 530i xDrive are powered by a 2.0-liter TwinPower four-cylinder producing 255 horsepower and 295 lb-ft torque. The 540i xDrive receives a refreshed 3.0-liter inline-six cylinder fitted with the same TwinPower turbo and a 48-volt mild hybrid system, which delivers a combined 375 horsepower and 398 lb-ft torque.

BMW 5 Series Power

The hallmark of this new generation 5 Series is the inclusion of all-electric models with strong power and efficiency numbers. The i5 eDrive40 features 335 horsepower and 317 lb-ft torque at the ready with an electric motor driving the rear wheels. The sport-focused i5 M60 xDrive ups those numbers considerably, with its maximum power output of 590 horsepower and 605 lb-ft torque delivering a 0-60 mph sprint in a reported 3.7 seconds. Two electric motors power the all-wheel drive i5 M60 xDrive, one at the rear and another at the front.

Both electric models use an 84.3 kWh battery that provides a range of 295 miles for the i5 eDrive40, and 256 miles for the i5 M60 xDrive. The battery includes BMW’s Combined Charging Unit, allowing Level 2 AC charging up to 11 kW and the ability to charge from 10 to 80 percent in about 30 minutes. BMW’s selectable MAX RANGE system enables drivers to further increase their i5’s range in low-battery situations. 

Rear view of electric BMW i5 Series sedan.

Signature BMW Design

The exterior of the new eighth generation 5 Series takes BMW’s sporty past and infuses it with the automaker’s current design form. BMW’s omnipresent, signature kidney grille makes its expected appearance and takes center stage on the 5 Series’ front end. A long, sloping with muscular lines ties into a steeply angled windshield to create a sleek and uninterrupted line continuing through the roofline. The flanks of the i5 see a much more refined and minimalist approach with inset door handles and a subtle body crease near the rocker panels. 

At the rear, BMW has redesigned the model’s taillights with a more understated look, presenting a thin appearance with two slim red LED bars running across the taillight.` Turn signals and reverse lights are nestled in between. A downward-sloping trunk decreasing the gradient from the rear window and roofline makes the i5 appear very streamlined. 

A Premier Interior

Inside the i5 is a new experience as well. Chiseled lines and premier surfaces, expected of BMW, are abundant. Hidden HVAC vents are placed strategically throughout the interior with leather-free seating surfaces available. The most noticeable new feature is q 14.9-inch infotainment screen and 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster. Both screens meet to create an uninterrupted and impressive digital display. An in-car gaming console, which BMW dubs the AirConsole, makes its appearance in the i5, allowing users to choose from 20 games to play while the car is stationary. A new BMW Operating System 8.5 controls all functions within the i5 and accommodates over-the-air updates. 

The BMW 5 Series has always been a strong model. Positioned in the midst of BMW’s sedan lineup, the 5 Series has historically delivered the sportiness of the 3 Series with a dash of refinement and the calm nature of the 7 Series. This new generation is no different. Deliveries of the new 5 Series are set to begin in fall 2023 at an entry price of $57,900.

Side view of electric Honda e:Ny1.

Honda recently unveiled its e:Ny1 electric crossover, the first EV model based on the automaker’s all-new e:N Architecture F platform. The oddly named e:Ny1 is important because it shares Honda’s evolving EV design language and shows a direction that includes electrifying smaller and lighter models. That said, the Honda e:Ny1 holds less importance to drivers in the U.S. since it will be sold exclusively in Europe and Japan. Still, given the overall similarity of this Honda EV to the automaker’s HR-V, it isn’t a stretch to imagine a similar electric model destined for our shores.

Holding to Honda’s usual tradition, the e:Ny1 blends both a conservative and reserved appearance with splashes of chiseled and chunky sportiness peppered throughout. At the front, the e:Ny1 features slim and flat headlights that wrap in from the front fenders with angular LED running lights at the top. Separating the headlights is a matte-finished panel with charging status lights, and below that we find a large chargeport port door that’s well integrated into the overall front end design. Two discrete LED fog lights are located at the bottom of the bumper, with a thin strip of chrome beneath that runs the width of the front fascia. 

Front detail of the electric Honda e:Ny1.

Honda e:Ny1: Compact, Sleek, Stylish

The Honda e:Ny1 features a high belt line and flanks that are sleek and smooth save for a creased line along the top and bottom of the doors. Black side-mirror caps, wheel arches, and window trim reveal sporty undertones, reinforced by thin-spoke alloy wheels with black accents. At the rear, a subtle roof spoiler extends slightly above the rear window, curving in at the sides. A red LED light bar runs the width of the rear hatch with two slim taillights at either end. A single, sharp body line runs just beneath with a typeface Honda badge.

A stylish and techy interior greets the driver. While Honda has yet to divulge details about the array of onboard systems to be featured in the e:Ny1, we do note the inclusion of a 10.2 inch digital instrument cluster facing the driver and a 15.1 inch portrait-style infotainment screen at the center of the dash. The infotainment screen is split into three sections with navigation and related applications at the top, entertainment and vehicle functions mid-screen, and climate information and selections at the bottom. Colored LED accents are inset in the doors and dashboard, with two-tone stitching adding a sporty touch to the dash and door upholstery. The center console, window switch panels, and steering wheel showcase gloss black-finished accents. Leather upholstery on all seating surfaces is 50 percent thicker and treated to increase softness for added passenger comfort.

Stylish cabin of the Honda e:Ny1 electric car.

Nicely Appointed Cabin

Rear seating in the e:Ny1 is very similar to that of the HR-V but without the ability to fold the rear seats flat, which impacts total available cargo area and limits carrying capacity to 11.3 cubic feet. The cargo area itself is also very similar to the HR-V, although employing a new smart-close capability that allows activating the self-closing hatch and walking away before it begins closing.

Power ratings are adequate with the e:Ny1 producing 201 horsepower and 229 lb-ft torque using a single-motor driving the front wheels. A 68.8 kWh battery pack is said to deliver a European WLTP drive cycle range estimate of 256 miles. Because of the fundamental differences in how WLPT and EPA testing measures EV range, that number would likely translate to about 200 miles of electric driving here in the States. Fast-charging via the car’s front-mounted chargeport is said to replenish the battery from 10 to 80 percent in about 45 minutes, somewhat slower than many other EVs at similar price points. 

Rear view of the electric Honda e:Ny1 electric car.

The Honda e:Ny1 is set to be delivered to dealers in Europe and Japan late this year, with pricing expected to begin at a USD equivalent of about $40,000. 

Rear view of Volkswagen ID.7 electric car driving on highway.

VW unveiled its ID.7 electric car concept in January of this year, sporting a vivid QR code-themed electro-luminescent paint job that caused quite a stir in the automotive world. Back then, we couldn’t make much of the styling due to that vibrant QR camouflage. Now though, the production ID.7 has been revealed.

The ID.7 shares its roots with the growing Volkswagen ID line that was introduced in 2019 with the release of the small Volkswagen ID.3 electric car, followed by other ID models sold in offshore markets and the ID.4 sold here in the States. The ID.7, along with the rest of the ID line, utilizes the Volkswagen Group’s MEB platform designed specifically for electric vehicles.

Side view of the Volkswagen ID.7 electric car.

ID.7 Electric Car Has Style

One word comes to mind when looking at the Volkswagen ID.7: sleek. There’s a definite flow to the exterior design, starting with the subtle sportiness of the front end and front fascia that’s accented by an angular low-mounted black grille. Discrete LED running lights visually connect the ID.7’s LED headlights together, separated only by a VW badge at the center.

Along the sides of the ID.7, one notices an angular and flowing design with a crisp body line cutting across the lower quarter of the car, accented by a smooth, curved body line through the center of both doors and another finishing at the top of the doors, just under the windows. A slim, white color accent runs the length of the roofline above the windows and comes to an end near the rear deck. Adding to the car’s subtle sportiness is a black roof and black under-trimming that runs the entirety of the car. A large and angular wheel design with a dash of black on the inner spokes is standard on the ID.7.

Overhead view of Volkswagen ID.7 electric car.

A Pair of Powertrain Choices

At the rear is a black honeycomb-inspired rear light bar that spans the width of the trunk. A slim, continuous red reflector strip is present near the bottom of the rear end, nestled in the black under-trimming. The sedan-like ID.7 is technically a hatchback, but it’s hard to notice upon close inspection. The rear window meets the trunk lid almost instantly and a small integrated trunk lid spoiler adds to the sweeping design. 

Two power choices will be available with early models featuring single motor rear-wheel drive and dual motor AWD coming later. The base power option will deliver 286 horsepower and 402 lb-ft torque with energy from a 77.0 kWh battery pack. A larger 86.0 kWh battery option will also be offered, though VW doesn’t yet specify horsepower and torque numbers for this. Volkswagen identifies the ID.7’s range at 382 miles on the more optimistic European WLTP testing cycle, so expect something more like 300 miles of range here with the smaller battery, and up to 350 miles with the larger battery, once EPA testing takes place. The ID.7 is fast charge-capable and drivers should expect the ID.7 to charge its battery from 10 to 80 percent in about 25 minutes using a public fast charge station.

Chargeport on the Volkswagen ID.7 electric car.

Driver-Centric Experience

Inside the ID.7 is an attractive and contemporary interior. Volkswagen’s usual formula for its interior design is minimalist yet fully functional, and the ID.7 is no exception. Taking center stage is a 15-inch infotainment screen designed to appear as if it's floating. Ahead of the driver sits a small, horizontally-oriented display indicating vehicle speed, charge level, and range.

Synthetic leather and recycled materials are used throughout the interior. Front seats feature generous side and back bolstering. Optional for the ID.7 are adaptive Climatronic ‘wellness seats’ that are heated and cooled, massage capable, and feature a drying function, the latter something we haven’t seen in an EV to date. A large center console with ample storage separates the front passengers. Climate vents are plentiful and seamlessly integrated into the dash architecture. Another hallmark of the ID.7’s interior is the optional panoramic SmartGlass roof, which has the ability to turn from transparent to opaque using an electrochromic charge, controlled by touch or voice control.

Instrument panel in the Volkswagen ID.7 electric car.

Tech Rich ID.7 Electric Car

Tech is in abundant supply in the ID.7. The 15-inch infotainment screen handles nearly all functions and features an aesthetically pleasing backlit touch slider at the bottom for navigating between selections. ID.7 also incorporates Volkswagen’s IDA voice assistant. Most operations can be handled by using the IDA, including panoramic roof operation and navigation, among others. An array of driver assist functions are offered including Travel Assist, a semi-autonomous driving feature supporting lane changing at speeds above 55 mph, keeping a preset distance from the vehicle ahead, and maintaining a set speed. The car can also park itself using VW’s We Connect ID smartphone app. An available Harman Kardon option to the standard sound system showcases 14 speakers, along with a centrally-located speaker in the dashboard and a 12-inch subwoofer in the rear cargo area. 

The Volkswagen ID.7 is entering the EV world at a time when Tesla dominates the all-electric sedan market, so Tesla is clearly in this model’s sights. While pricing for the ID.7 won’t be disclosed until closer to the model’s on sale date, expect it to be at a competitive level that makes the ID.7 an attractive and feature rich option to Tesla’s Model 3.

Instrument display as you drive electric.

You know the drill. Get in the car, commute to work, run your usual errands, and at regular intervals stop at the gas station to fill up. It’s a routine that’s been ingrained in the driving psyche for decades. If you want to simplify, then consider a move from gas and instead drive electric. Driving an EV is not a panacea to life’s constant demands but all in all, it calls for less of your time and attention. Here are a few reasons why driving an electric vehicle may be for you.

EVs Can Enhance Convenience

How much is your time worth? Charging an EV’s battery can conveniently be done at home with a garage charger, through a growing public charging network, and increasingly at workplace chargers. Those regular trips to gas stations? Cross them off your list, forever. Another benefit that can save time – and frustration – is the ability for solo EV drivers to use high occupancy vehicle (HOV/carpool) lanes in some states, which can shave plenty of time off a commute.

It's Cheaper to Drive Electric

Electricity is a far cheaper way to fuel a car than gasoline. In fact, electric motors are so much more efficient than internal combustion engines, the most efficient electric vehicle today nets an EPA combined city/highway rating of 140 MPGe. The savings don't stop there. If you charge at home, additional savings can be realized by signing up for an electric utility’s favorable electric vehicle rate plan, then timing a charging session during a plan’s specified hours.

Less Maintenance Required

Vehicle maintenance is key to a healthy vehicle. Tune-ups keep a typical car running its best over the long haul, making the most efficient use of the gas it consumes and optimizing combustion so it produces fewer tailpipe emissions. One of the important benefits of an electric vehicle is that maintenance needs and costs are significantly diminished. Simply, there are far fewer moving parts in an EV than a conventional internal combustion vehicle, which means there’s less to take care of and fewer appointments needed for service.

Get a Subsidy to Drive Electric

Electric vehicles today are almost universally more expensive than those powered by traditional internal combustion engines. But if you want one, the federal government – along with many states, electric utilities, and other sources – can make it easier to buy an EV with generous subsidies of many thousands of dollars. The most valuable of these subsidies comes from the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, which offers a potential clean vehicle tax credit up to $7,500 if you buy a new plug-in electric vehicle and up to $4,000 on a qualifying used EV.

Polestar 2 driving on highway.

Status Comes with the Territory

Driving an EV makes a statement. We’ve seen this over time as Toyota’s Prius hybrid made its way to U.S. highways just over 20 years ago and was embraced by environmentalists and celebrities. The instantly recognizable profile of the Prius was part of the attraction, which shouted, “Look, I care about the Earth!” To many, that was reason enough to drive a Prius. To a whole lot of others it was just kind of obnoxious. Thankfully, today’s expanding field of eco-friendly electric vehicles offer a different approach. Some feature futuristic design cues that push the envelope in a positive way, but most are so mainstream you have to look for EV badging. Either way, your immediate circle of influence will recognize that you’re driving an electric vehicle and that confers positive status.

Toyota bZ4X electric car.

Behind the wheel of Toyota’s new bZ4X electric vehicle, I’m given to a bit of reflection as to why this car has come to be. After all, Toyota is a specialist in hybrid vehicles and is noted for its focus and leadership here, not battery electric cars. But these days Toyota is feeling the pressure – actually, lots of it – to bring all-electric vehicles to a wanting market.

In between Toyota’s hybrid offerings and its emerging focus on electric vehicles are the  automaker’s plug-in hybrids that blend characteristics of the two. The Toyota brand has a pair of these now – the RAV4 Prime offering 42 miles of electric driving and 640 miles total range, and the Prius Prime offering 25 miles on battery power with a total driving range of 600 miles. We expect other models to join in soon enough.

A Timely EV Introduction

So why the bZ4X battery electric vehicle? Because it’s time, and also because it’s a critical link to Toyota’s ‘Beyond Zero’ (bZ) future and an array of battery electric, plug-in hybrid, and hybrid Toyota models in the pipeline. The automaker is serious about this. To support its growing electrification effort, Toyota has announced massive investments in battery manufacturing for its electrified vehicles, including $3.8 billion alone for a new battery manufacturing facility in North Carolina.

Toyota has made some earlier forays into the electric vehicle field in the States, but it’s been a while. The automaker fielded its first RAV4 EVs here from 1997 to 2003 in response to California’s zero emission vehicle mandate, and then a newer generation RAV4 EV from 2012-2014, developed with Tesla. It’s been hybrids and plug-in hybrids ever since, plus of course the Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle, though most don’t view that model as a battery electric vehicle competitor at this time.

Toyota bZ4X electric vehicle and night skyline.

Toyota bZ4X Design

Segue eight years ahead from Toyota’s last battery electric vehicle experience and here we are with the bZ4X. It’s been worth the wait. What we have in the bz4X is a stylishly modern intro to Toyota’s coming line of battery electric vehicles, sized similarly to a RAV4 but just a bit longer and lower. Its body design features disparate elements like a distinctly flat ‘hammerhead’ front fascia combined with sharp angles, pronounced fenders, sculpted sides, and a flowing roofline. All come together nicely as an appealing whole…a design not too conservative, and not leaning too far into the future.

Low-profile headlamps are accented by a dark contrast band that flows from the front fenders and across the front end. Matching contrasts are found at the rear fenders as well, with black accented rocker panels running from well to well. At the rear, the bZ4X innovates with a pair of aerodynamic roof extensions at either side of the upper hatch, lending the impression of a future-esque roofline spoiler. The bottom of the glass features a slight lip-of-a-spoiler with a thin fender-to-fender running light below, along with distinctive angular taillamps.

Toyota bZ4X cabin.

Familiar Cabin, With a Twist

Inside is a comfortable and modern interior featuring all the necessary elements for a satisfying driving experience, leaning a bit towards the spartan side. While much is familiar to the breed, there are design elements that align with the forward-thinking theme embodied by the car’s distinctive exterior. In particular, we’re thinking of the dashboard and instrument panel design ahead of the driver, which features an unusually long expanse between the steering wheel and MMI information display. Additional information and multimedia features are presented in a 12-inch widescreen display in the center dash position. Driver and passenger seats are comfortably bolstered for support and plenty of room is provided both front and rear, with rear legroom what one would expect in this size of vehicle. A panoramic roof is optional.

The bZ4X is well-equipped with the advanced driver assist features expected in today’s new models. It features the first use of Toyota’s latest TSS 3.0 Safety Sense suite, which includes advancements like improved pre-collision with guardrail, daytime motorcyclist, and low-light cyclist detection, and enhanced lane recognition. Other tech features include cloud-based navigation offering real-time traffic information and parking space availability, over-the-air software updates, and a digital key feature enabling drivers to lock, unlock, and start their bZ4X with their smartphone.

Rear seats in Toyota bZ4X electric car.

Single or Dual Motor Models

Drivers can choose single- or two-motor bZ4X variants. The former achieves an EPA estimated 119 combined MPGe with a 252 mile driving range, and the latter a combined 104 MPGe with a 228 mile range. Output for the single front-wheel drive model is 201 horsepower with the two-motor AWD version adding just 13 additional horsepower to the total. Energy is supplied by 71.4 and 72.8 kWh lithium-ion batteries, respectively. Both versions deliver a fun driving experience with confident ride and handling, quick torque at the ready, and plenty of power for anyone’s every day driving needs. With the dual-motor version delivering a 0-60 mph romp in the mid-seven second range, acceleration is brisk but does not approach the performance realm of some electric vehicles.

Toyota’s bZ4X is clearly an important introduction for this automaker that reinforces its continuing journey towards electrification. However, it does not mean that Toyota is convinced battery-powered vehicles are a proper all-inclusive strategy. The world’s largest automaker has been clear that it is not ‘all in’ with electric cars in the same way as some of its high-profile competitors, and the company has caught a lot of heat because of this. Rather, Toyota’s well-reasoned take is that multiple approaches exist to solving the interconnected issues of personal transportation and environmental sustainability.

A Balance of Electric Offerings

Electrification is a big part of this. It’s just that Toyota’s strategy does not embrace a tunnel-vision approach in which all roads lead to a plug, or a model without a gas cap. Some take form as hybrid, plug-in hybrid, hydrogen fuel cell, and yes, even battery electric vehicles. There is a balance here because one is needed since not everyone’s needs are the same.

An earlier Green Car Journal perspective shared by Toyota’s chief scientist, Dr. Gill Pratt, adds food for thought. Considering the finite resources available for worldwide battery cell production, and the carbon emitted in their production, charging, and use over time, it’s important they are used in the best way possible. Optimum use achieves a higher carbon return on investment (CROA) as cells are used closer to their full potential. EVs with large battery packs regularly making use of their range potential make sense and offer a higher return.

Toyota bZ4X charge port.

Best Use of Battery Cells

In Dr. Pratt’s illustrations, however, a fully electric vehicle with hundreds of miles of range primarily driving a short daily commute offers a poor return, since the majority of the cells are unneeded most of the time and are simply carried along as dead weight. Using this same number of cells in numerous plug-in hybrid models requiring smaller battery packs would offer a much more favorable carbon return, if these PHEVs are driven in ways that make best use of their more limited battery electric range.

This isn’t to say that plug-in hybrids are an inherently better choice than electric vehicles, or the other way around. It just means that needs vary, and pairing needs with an electrified vehicle’s capabilities makes the most environmental sense.

With hybrids and plug-in hybrids covered in the Toyota lineup, the missing link – the all-electric bZ4X – is now here to fill the need. Those seeking a crossover SUV offering expected zero-emission driving range, eye-catching style, and a comfortable and confident driving experience should look into Toyota’s new electric crossover. At a base price of $42,000, it provides what the brand promises – quality, thoughtful design, and user-friendliness, and no doubt the satisfying ownership experience the Toyota brand is known to deliver. Plus, of course, zero emission driving every mile you travel.

Rear of an Audi e-tron S Sportback.

We’ve driven a great many Audi models over the years, and to a one they have met and often far exceeded our expectations. That’s saying a lot since Audi is a premium brand and those expectations are set pretty high. Thus was our mindset as we did an initial walk-around of our Audi e-tron S Sportback test car before heading out on the road.

Stylish in its Navarra Blue metallic finish, this e-tron sports a subtly aggressive crossover profile that flows rearward in a sleek sportback design. This softens the expected SUV roofline while lending the influences of a coupe, with the rear finishing into an integrated spoiler. Up front is a stylized closed grille as one might expect of an electric vehicle, flanked by air ducts on either side and an aggressive headlamp design with distinctive running lights. Nicely sculpted sides with pronounced rocker panels complete the package. Charge ports are provided on either side of the car below the e-tron badging on the front fenders. An electronic pushbutton releases the panel, which swings down.

Audi e-tron S Sportback cabin.

A Well-Appointed Cabin

Inside the e-tron S Sportback is a well-designed and comfortable interior featuring grey Valcona leather with contrast stitching, nicely bolstered front seats, and elegant instrument panel accents. Driver information is presented in a fully-digital LCD instrument cluster featuring selectable Classic, Sport, and e-tron modes. A pair of flush, center-mounted touchscreens feature infotainment functions and controls. Below the lower screen is the start button and a cleverly-designed gear selector with a grip and thumb control.

This midsize SUV features plenty of interior space with welcome legroom and headroom, plus comfortable seating for rear passengers. Among the many conveniences afforded those in the rear are air conditioning and heating registers, plus a digital display at the rear of the center console that allows setting the desired temperature. Controls are also provided for rear seat heaters. Other niceties include pull-up window shades at each rear door window, a pair of rear map lights, and the functionality of 60/40 split folding rear seat backs for expanding cargo capacity.

Audi e-tron S Sportback rear seat.

Driving the Audi E-tron S Sportback

Driving the stylish and well-appointed electric e-tron S Sportback is satisfying and fun, with its three electric motors delivering great acceleration and bursts of speed on demand. These motors produce a combined 429 horsepower and 596 lb-ft torque, with a greater 496 horsepower and 718 lb-ft torque on tap during an available 8 second boost mode. This ups the ante considerably from the standard but still compelling two-motor e-tron Sportback, which features 402 horsepower/490 lb-ft torque in boost mode.

The e-tron’s ride is smooth and cornering responsive, with the car feeling well-planted as we powered through the curves on canyon roads. The cabin is quiet and well isolated from the road. If you’re inclined, as we were, you can adjust the degree of regenerative braking with paddles at either side of the steering wheel. This enables introducing greater levels of drag during coast-down while the motors generate increased electricity to feed back to the batteries. We appreciated the car’s head-up display that presents speed and posted speed limit information so eyes can remain on the road ahead. The e-tron S Sportback lends additional driving confidence since it’s also equipped with an array of the latest advanced safety and driver-assist systems.

Front detail of an Audi e-tron S Sportback electric car.

This Audi e-tron S is Fast

Performance is impressive. The e-tron S Sportback rockets to 60 mph from a standstill in a quick 4.3 seconds with boost mode selected. Its 95 kWh lithium-ion battery delivers an estimated 212 mile driving range, with EPA fuel efficiency estimates rating this electric car at 75 MPGe (miles-per-gallon equivalent). A full charge is achieved with a 240-volt Level 2 charger in about 10 hours, while charging from 0 to 80 percent capacity takes just 30 minutes when charging at a public 150 kW DC fast charger.

Those in the market for Audi’s more performance-oriented e-tron S Sportback will find it coming in at an MSRP of $87,400, a $18,700 premium over the standard e-tron Sportback.

2023 Chevrolet Bolt EV charging.

Chevrolet’s Bolt EV, introduced as the industry’s first affordable long-range electric vehicle as a 2017 model, expanded its focus for the 2022 model year to include the Bolt EUV (electric utility vehicle). This was a strategic move for the automaker as it provided buyers an additional choice for its popular Bolt electric vehicle, even as it was developing new models based on GM’s Ultium electric vehicle platform. Then disaster hit.

There were Bolt battery fires and the potential for others, so GM halted production and recalled each and every Chevy Bolt and Bolt EUV sold to fix the problem. This was no easy thing and the process has taken time, a significant hit to GM’s electric vehicle program and, no doubt, its pride. The fact that the battery defect was the fault of the Bolt’s battery supplier and not Chevrolet was small comfort, no doubt. Now that some 50 percent of the recalled Bolt battery packs have been replaced with the balance underway, there’s positive news: the Bolt is back in production.

Red badging on the 2023 Chevrolet Bolt EUV Redline Edition.

New Redline Edition

Further good news is that with the 2023 model year, Chevy is stepping up the Bolt EUV’s sportiness with an available Redline Edition sport package. This Bolt EUV iteration is offered in black, white, and silver exterior choices accented with black and red Bolt EUV badging at the rear and red accents on the side mirrors. Gloss black 17-inch aluminum wheels with red accents complete the package. Those opting for the EUV with LT or Premier trims can also add black leather upholstery with red accent stitching.

While Chevy aimed to categorize its Bolt EV a crossover back at its launch five years ago, we said then that its dimensions and style really made it a five-door hatchback from our perspective. Strategically, the automaker ventured further into the crossover space with its bigger EUV sibling. The Bolt EUV features somewhat larger dimensions compared to the original Bolt with six inches greater length and three inches of additional legroom, in a package that remains easy to maneuver and park in crowded urban spaces.

2023 Chevrolet Bolt EV charge port.

Different than Bolt EV

While there is an extremely close family resemblance between the Bolt and Bolt EUV and they do share the same architecture, there are no sheetmetal panels common between the two. A close look shows Chevy SUV styling cues like a crease line running up the center of the front fascia and along the hood. Subtle but distinct design elements that differentiate the Bolt EUV from the Bolt EV include a larger opening below the closed grille area on the Bolt EUV along with more pronounced sculpting along the wheel well arches, plus angular lines and a slightly beefier look at the rear to support the EUV’s sport utility persona.

Power in both models is provided by a 200 horsepower electric motor driving the front wheels, which delivers 0-60 acceleration in an estimated 7.0 seconds. Energy comes from a 65 kWh lithium-ion battery pack with thermal management to keep it at optimum operating temperature. This combination allows the Bolt EUV to deliver an EPA estimated 247 miles of range. The EUV is fast-charge capable and can add 95 miles of range in a half-hour at a public fast charge station.

2023 Chevrolet Bolt EUV Redline Edition interior.

A More Refined Interior

The Bolt EUV’s interior, like that of the Bolt EV, is a bit more refined and high tech than that of the previous model year Bolt. Along with the 8-inch configurable gauge cluster at the driver’s position, there’s a 10.2-inch color infotainment touchscreen neatly integrated into the center of the instrument panel. Shifting is now done through electronic gearshift controls located at the lower left of the center console that use pushbuttons and pull toggles. The car’s Regen on Demand function, which controls the degree of energy regeneration and drag during coast-down, is literally at the driver’s fingertips with a convenient steering wheel paddle. Adjusting to a higher level of regen makes ‘one pedal driving’ possible, with little use of the brakes under certain driving conditions.

Bolt EUV features Chevy Safety Assist as standard equipment. Among the desired driver assist technologies included are Automatic Emergency Braking, Front Pedestrian Braking, Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning, and Front Pedestrian Braking. Other systems like Adaptive Cruise Control are also available. No doubt, the biggest news in the way of advanced electronics is the Bolt EUV’s availability of GM’s vaunted Super Cruise. Initially offered in GM’s luxury Cadillac brand, Bolt EUV features the first use of this highly-acclaimed, hands-free driving assistance technology in a Chevrolet model. Base price for the current year Bolt EV is $32,495 with the EUV coming in at $34,495. Pricing for 2023 models has not yet been announced.

Driving electric is becoming increasingly important to a growing number of new car buyers today. While efficiency and zero-emission driving are high priorities, so is performance, especially in the view of those accustomed to brands like BMW that have long been noted for delivering a spirited driving experience. It’s no surprise that this automaker’s new 2022 BMW iX xDrive50 continues the tradition.

Performance is achieved through a combination of lightweight construction and BMW’s fifth-generation eDrive technology. The iX body is made up of an aluminum spaceframe overlaid with a body shell that combines carbon fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP), thermoplastics, high-strength steel, and aluminum. Further weight reduction is found in the construction of the chassis, with extensive use of aluminum in suspension components and the front and rear axle subframes.

Two BMW iX Choices

An all-wheel-drive powertrain positions an electric synchronous motor at each axle, fed by a 111.5 kWh lithium-ion battery pack located low in the floor. EPA rates the iX at up to 86 combined MPGe with a driving range from 305 to 324 miles, with the best range achieved by the iX equipped with 20 inch wheels and tires. The 2023 iX M60 is not yet rated but BMW expects it to net up to 280 miles on a charge. Enhancing the iX’s range are several modes of regenerative braking selectable by the driver.

Power is impressive. The $83,200 iX features a combined 516 horsepower and electric all-wheel drive, plus exhilarating acceleration that delivers a 0-60 mph dash in 4.4 seconds. Performance is even better in the soon-to-come $105,100 iX M60, which combines 610 horsepower, a whopping 811 lb-ft torque, and launch control to compress the model’s 0-60 time to just 3.6 seconds.

The iX rides on suspension comprised of front control arms and a five-link rear, damped by lift-related shock absorbers that adjust firmness in relation to suspension travel. An optional adaptive suspension includes electronically controlled shocks and a two-axle air-suspension with automatic leveling that can be raised nearly an inch for extra ground clearance, or lowered almost a half-inch at higher speeds to improve aerodynamics and stability.

Tech-Rich BMW Cabin

Inside, the iX interior features a hexagonal steering wheel and BMW’s new Curved Display, which groups driver information and infotainment screens behind a single panel of glass angled around the driver. The Curved Display, and many other iX features and amenities, is controlled by the new iDrive 8 operating system, “designed with a focus on dialog-based interaction using natural language and touch operation,” says BMW. Both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are integrated into the iX, as is 5G connectivity and the ability to receive over-the-air software updates.

The list of electronic amenities and advanced driver-assistance features aboard the BMW iX is extensive and ranges from cloud-based navigation to parking and back-up assist. Five cameras, five radar sensors, and 12 ultrasonic sensors provide data for the SAV’s safety systems, which include front collision warning, cross-traffic alert with braking, blind-spot detection, lane-departure warning, active cruise control, and lane keeping assistant.

Both AC and DC charging are available with the combined charging unit in the iX, which allows charging at 11 kW from an AC wall unit and up to 200 kW using a DC fast charger. Launched with the iX debut last month, BMW is offering 2022 BMW EV customers two years of free 30-minute charging sessions at 3,000 Electrify America public charging stations nationwide, a valuable addition to electric BMW ownership.

The U.S, will get the long wheelbase version of the ID.Buzz electric microbus, but measurements aren’t yet available. It will be longer, though, than the short wheelbase version that goes on sale in Germany and a few other European countries in the third quarter of this year, with more European and Asian markets to be added in 2023.

The Buzz – a play on the word ‘Bus’ – was initially shown as a concept at the Detroit auto show in early 2017, about six months after VW launched its ID (Intelligent Design) sub-brand for electrics at the 2016 Paris international Auto Show. It was confirmed for production later in 2017. At the time, VW was aiming for a 2022 launch, but Covid, microchip shortages, and stuff got in the way.

Electric VW Microbus Choices

This first version – we’ll call it the short Buzz – will have an 88 kWh (77 kWh usable) lithium-ion battery pack. It will have a single-motor, rear-drive layout with 201 horsepower and 299 lb-ft  torque. Top speed will be limited to 90 mph. Initial models will be the ID.Buzz and ID.Buzz Cargo. The commercial van will have three seats in the front row and a wide open interior behind them. Other ID.Buzz versions with bigger batteries, all-wheel drive, and more power will launch in 2023.

The I.D.Buzz ‘short’ will charge at up to 11 kW on 240-volt Level 2 chargers and up to 170 kW on Level 3 DC fast-charge equipment. At that speed, the 88 kWh battery can be recharged to 80 percent of capacity from 5 percent in about 30 minutes. The same charging capacities are likely to be standard on the U.S. version.

The short will be 185.5 inches long, 78.1 inches wide and 76.3 inches high, with a 117.6-inch wheelbase. That’s about the same total length as a Porsche Macan, Chevrolet Equinox, or Mitsubishi Outlander but with a much longer wheelbase than any of those crossovers. The new Hyundai ioniq 5 EV, at 182.5 inches overall length and 118.5-inch wheelbase, is a fairly close match.

All exterior lighting is LED and 18-inch steel wheels will be standard, with alloys ranging from 18 to 21 inches available as options. For the European version there will be seven single-color exteriors – white, silver, black, yellow, orange, green, and blue (VW has much fancier names for each shade) – and four two-tone schemes, white over yellow, orange, green, or blue.

What's Inside the VW ID.Buzz

The base interior will be in a grey tone, with two-tone schemes available for the versions with two-tone exteriors. Inside, the passenger version is a five-seater, with adjustable, sliding (9.6 inches of travel) front captain’s chairs and a folding rear seat with a 60/40 split and up to 5.9 inches of travel. Top trims will have electrically adjustable front seats with memory and massage functions, the latter a real delight for anyone who’s has spent much time in an original microbus.

A two-row, six seat version of the short is coming later, and the long wheelbase version will be configured with three rows for up to seven passengers in a 2-3-2 configuration. There are fold-down tables built into the backs of the front seats. The 39.6 cubic-foot rear cargo area has an optional raised floor, which reduces total cargo area but makes the floor level with the folded-down seat backs for easier loading and carrying of long pieces of cargo.

Instrumentation includes a pair of 10-inch screens, one for driver info and one for the infotainment system. A 12-inch infotainment screen with navigation is available. The initial versions will have a pair of USB-C ports and a wireless charging pad in a shelf to the right of the steering wheel. There are more USB-C ports in the center console, on the driver’s door, in each of the two sliding doors, and up near the rear-view mirror to facilitate dash cam installation.

Interesting Interior Touches

There’s a ‘shifter’ stalk on the steering column, but as is the case with most EVs, the ID.Buzz has a single-speed gearbox. Functionally, it takes just a twist of the stalk forward to go from neutral to drive and rearward for neutral to reverse. The center console is a big box with lots of room for stuff. There’s an optional removable center console that latches into place and has storage bins, a drawer for laptops and tablets, and a flip-top bin for water battles.

Much of the interior is trimmed, covered, or upholstered in recycled or otherwise sustainable materials and there won’t be any leather options. The exterior paints are organically based, the battery chemistry don’t include cobalt, and Volkswagen intends to have a plant ready to recycle its EV batteries for second use – such as stationary energy storage – when their automotive life is done. These batteries are guaranteed for 8 years or 100,000 miles and expected to last longer.

We’ll follow up with more when VW releases additional information specific to the coming U.S. model.

This article was originally published on Author John O'Dell is a distinguished career journalist and has a been an automotive writer, editor, and analyst specializing in alternative vehicles and fuels for over two decades.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ford F-150 Lightning electric pickup.

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

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

Electrifying a Best-Selling Pickup

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

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

F-150 Lightning Looks Familiar

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

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

Lightning is Highly-Functional

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

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

Advanced Tech Included

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

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

Optimizing Battery Safety

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

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

F-150 Lightning Charging Options

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

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

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

Hummer EV with topside tent accessory.

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

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

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

Hummer EV Drives 325 Miles

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

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

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

An Off-Road Champion

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

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

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

Canoo electric pickup driving on trail.

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

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

Canoo electric pickup at campsite.

Innovations Everywhere

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

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

Canoo electric pickup's futuristic cabin.

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

High-Tech Electric Pickup

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

Canoo electric pickup's skateboard platform.

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

Three Models Available

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

Canoo electric pickup driving off-road.

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

Hyundai IONIQ 5 electric vehicle.

Hyundai’s IONIQ 5 is meant to be noticed. Sharp and angular bodylines define the model, along with a V-shaped front bumper, distinctive daytime running lights, and a clamshell hood to minimize panel gaps and enhance aerodynamics. Attention to efficiency is exhibited in many ways, one of these a low drag coefficient enhanced with flush door handles and 20 inch, aero-optimized rims. The new electric crossover rides on an extended 118.1-inch wheelbase that’s nearly four inches longer than that of the Hyundai Palisade SUV, offering short overhangs that allow for more expansive interior space.

Inside is a cabin focused on comfort and functionality, featuring what Hyundai defines as a ‘living space’ theme. Since it uses a dedicated EV platform with batteries located beneath the floorboard, IONIQ 5’s floor is flat without the requisite transmission tunnel of combustion engine vehicles, thus lending additional interior design freedom.

Hyundai IONIQ 5 high-tech cabin.

Drivers are treated to a configurable dual cockpit with a 12-inch digital instrument cluster and 12-inch touchscreen. A new-for-Hyundai augmented reality head-up display delivers needed information in a way that essentially makes the windshield a handy display screen. Of course, the latest driver assist systems are provided, with Hyundai SmartSense offering the make’s first use of its Driving Assist plus driver attention warning, blind spot collision avoidance assist, intelligent speed limit assist, and forward collision avoidance assist.

Interesting touches abound, like a moveable center console that can be positioned normally or slid rearward up to 5 1/2 inches to decrease any impediment between front seating positions. Both front seats take reclining to a whole new level and even provide first-class style footrests. Those in the rear are also treated to more comfortable accommodations. Front seat thickness has been reduced by 30 percent to provide more room for rear seat passengers, and those  passengers can also recline their seats or slide them rearward for increased legroom. Sustainability is addressed with the use of eco-friendly and sustainable materials sourced from recycled thermoplastics, plant-based yarns, and bio paint.

Innovative interior in the Hyundai IONIQ 5 electric vehicle.

There are plenty of powertrain configurations to fit all needs including 48 kWh and 72.6 kWh battery options, plus a choice of a single rear motor or motors front and rear. At the top of the food chain, the AWD variant with the larger battery provides 301 horsepower and 446 lb-ft torque, netting 0-60 mile acceleration in about 5 seconds. The best range is achieved by the 2WD single-motor version, which is estimated at just over 290 miles, though that’s not based on the EPA testing regimen used in the U.S. Top speed is 115 mph in all configurations. IONIQ 5’s multi charging system is capable of 400- and 800-volt charging, with a 350 kW fast charger bringing the battery from 10 to 80 percent charge in just 18 minutes.

As an added bonus, the IONIQ 5’s V2L function enables it to function as a mobile charging unit to power up camping equipment, electric scooters, or electric bikes. You can take it all with you for those power-up opportunities, too, since IONIQ 5 is rated to tow up to 2,000 pounds.

Hyundai IONIQ 5 at charging station.
Lucid Air luxury electric car.

The fully electric, five-passenger Lucid Air luxury sedan is a study in superlatives. It has generated significant attention thanks to some impressive numbers: up to 1,111 horsepower, 0 to 60 times as quick as 2.5 seconds, sub-10-second quarter-mile times, and an EPA rating of 125 MPGe. Its charging-system technology allows for 900-plus volts of fast charging, capable of quickly energizing the battery for up to 300 miles of range in just 20 minutes. Then there’s the Lucid Air’s groundbreaking EPA rated driving range of up to 520 miles, far beyond any other electric car on the road today.

It features an overall length of 195.88 inches and 116.54-inch wheelbase are nearly identical to a Tesla Model S. It’s narrower than the S by about an inch, lower in overall height by an inch and a half, and its key interior dimensions are about an inch or so bigger than the Tesla. Lucid reports the Air has a very slippery 0.21 coefficient of drag, nearly the same as the 0.208 Cd of the Tesla S.

The Lucid Air has a spacious cabin.

Small Motors, Big Power

Lucid was able to create generous interior room within that sleek body package by designing the Air around its Lucid Electric Advanced Platform (LEAP), which positions the batteries low in the floor and makes use of relatively small motors, in terms of exterior dimensions. They produce up to 670 horsepower yet weigh just 163 pounds.

The Lucid Air is offered in four models, from the $77,400 Air Pure to the top-of-the-line $169,000 Air Dream Edition. The Dream Edition is the first available — reservations are closed, but there is a waitlist for the hopeful — with all-wheel drive, dual electric motors producing a combined 1,111 horsepower, and the aforementioned EPA rating of 520 miles. As a first edition it has exclusive paint and interior materials, special 21-inch wheels, ‘future-ready’ hardware for eventual Level 3 autonomous functionality, and the ability to receive over-the-air updates. The $139,000 Air Grand Touring and $95,000 Air Touring models also have dual motors and AWD, while the Pure is rear-wheel-drive with a single motor and the option for dual motor/AWD.

Jet-Style Experience

Inside is a 34-inch, 5K glass cockpit display with touch controls for wipers, lights, navigation, climate, and the audio system. A retractable Pilot Panel display in the lower center of the dash augments the cockpit display controls. Touch controls for media and Lucid’s DreamDrive are built into the steering wheel. DreamDrive is Lucid’s suite of driver assistance and safety features, which receives information from a total of 32 cameras, radar, LIDAR, and ultrasonic sensors positioned around the car. Among the interior options that are now, or will be, available is a glass canopy roof and an Executive Rear Seating Package with the ‘jet-style experience’ of two reclining back seats. Miniaturizing the Lucid Air’s powertrain has made room for a spacious bi-level rear trunk and a front trunk that Lucid claims is four times larger than other electric cars.

Lucid Motors is headquartered in California’s Silicon Valley with its cars assembled at a 500-acre greenfield manufacturing facility in Casa Grande, Arizona.

Porsche’s addition to the Taycan line now means that fans of the marque not only get scintillating electric performance, but a more crossover-like persona to go with it. The Porsche Taycan Gran Turismo features with a longer and somewhat flatter roofline while retaining all the features that make the Taycan sedan so desirable. In an era where crossover SUVs get enormous attention and enjoy brisk sales, the addition of the Cross Turismo to the Taycan lineup makes perfect sense.

Here’s where it gets interesting. All Taycan Cross Turismo models are all-wheel drive due to their use of motors front and rear, and to a one they are serious performers. But there are a few choices that bust out the performance numbers entirely. At the top of the list is the Taycan Gran Turismo Turbo S that’s powered by dual electric motors churning out 460 horsepower and 774 lb-ft torque, with an impressive bump to 560 horsepower in boost mode that lasts for the first 2.5 seconds.

Porsche Taycan Turbo S Cross Turismo at public charging station.

Porsche Taycan Performance

All that power makes its way to pavement via a single-speed front transmission and a two-speed dog-ring transmission at the rear, catapulting the Turbo S from 0 to 60 mph in just 2.6 seconds. Top speed is 161 mpg. Performance numbers moderate just a bit in the Gran Turismo Turbo and 4S, with those models delivering 3.0- and 3.8-second sprints from 0-60 mph, respectively. Top speed for the 4S is 161 mph with the Turbo topping out at 155 mph.

While not aimed at harsh off-roading, off-pavement and recreational functionality is built into the Taycan Cross Turismo with features like adjustable air suspension, unique rocker panels, rugged front and rear fascia, and fender extensions. Additional body cladding and a slight increase in right height are gained with an available Off Road Design Package. A driver-selectable Gravel Mode optimizes traction in gravel, sand, and mud by adjusting the Cross Turismo’s torque management, suspension height and firmness, and traction control. Integrated roof rails are standard fare, allowing the use of a roof transport system for bulky items, while accessories like a rear-mounted Tequipment bike rack are available.

Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo's driver-focused interior.

Electrified and Connected

Beyond its notable performance, the Taycan Grand Turismo is also quite high-tech and connected. Inside is a comfortable command cabin with handsome appointments and a center 10.9-inch infotainment screen. Its Porsche Communication Management (PCM) system controls an array of vehicle functions and now offers Android Auto for the first time, joining Apple CarPlay integration that’s been part of the Taycan from the start. A panoramic glass roof is standard. A full suite of safety and driver assist systems are standard or optional. There’s even optional Remote Park Assist, while allows remotely controlling parking via a smartphone from outside the vehicle.

The Taycan Gran Turismo seems to have it all, in one very stylish, zero-emission package. You can carve turns in ways one would expect from a Porsche, turn heads with an eye-catching design, enjoy the latest in advanced electronics and driver assist systems, and recreate with accessories that can bring your gear along for the ride. Plus, of course, while minding the speed limit there’s the knowledge you could get wherever you’re going at blazing speed…if only circumstances allowed it.

Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo with accessory cargo carrier and bike rack.
VW ID.4 electric car driving on the highway.

For a lot of folks, Volkswagen’s all-new ID.4 introduced last year checked off all the boxes, except maybe one. It powered its rear wheels only with a single electric motor. Now a new ID.4 AWD model adds a second electric motor up front for better overall performance and all-wheel drive traction.

Power in the base rear-wheel drive ID.4 is delivered by a 201 horsepower permanent magnet motor featuring 229 lb-ft torque. The AWD version adds a second 107 horsepower asynchronous electric motor up front that not only provides all-wheel drive capability, but a boost to 295 horsepower total output and 339 lb-ft torque.

Side view of Volkswagen ID.4 electric car.

Driving Range and Efficiency

Energy is stored in an 82 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. In the single motor version this delivers a driving range of up to 260 miles at an EPA estimated 99 combined MPGe fuel efficiency, with the more powerful AWD version achieving up to 249 miles of range at 97 MPGe. Charging with a 240-volt Level 2 charger takes about 7 to 8 hours, with 30 miles of range provided in about an hour. Level 3 fast-charging can add around 60 miles of range in just 10 minutes. VW ID.4 buyers get three years of DC fast-charging through Electrify America public chargers for free.

The ID.4 rides on MacPherson struts and coil springs in the front and a multilink suspension in the rear, with anti-roll bars at both ends. It also sports VW’s electronic stability control system as standard equipment. ID.4 features a 108.9-inch wheelbase and a 62.5-inch track, making it quite maneuverable in tight city driving situations. It rides on either 19- or 20-inch aluminum alloy wheels with all-season tires to keep a good grip on the road. A low 0.28 coefficient of drag enhances the model’s overall efficiency. Because the ID.4 is designed as a utility vehicle, the standard version is designed to tow 2200 pounds with the AWD capable of handling 2700 pounds.

VW ID.4 electric car interior.

I.D.4 Interior and Tech

True to its German roots, the interior of the ID.4 emphasizes a purposeful design with clean styling and minimal frills, while offering all the functional equipment expected in a modern vehicle. The driver is treated to a commanding driving position behind a sporty three spoke steering wheel fitted with all the primary control buttons the driver might need. It has an overall interior volume of 99.9 cubic feet, roomy for the vehicle’s overall footprint. VW’s Car Talk allows the vehicle to communicate with the driver through voice commands so the driver’s eyes never need to leave the road. IQ.DRIVE, Volkswagen’s suite of advanced driver assist technologies, provides an array of desired features such as hands-on semi-autonomous driving, lane assist, and active cruise control.

Both single and dual motor ID.4 models are available in Pro and Pro S trim, with prices starting at $39,995 to $43,675.