Mazda’s new 2024 CX-90 is the automaker’s replacement for its long-popular CX-9 and serves as the brand's flagship three-row model. It’s longer, wider, and lower than the earlier CX-9 and features many improvements relating to space, efficiency, power, and style. Importantly all engine options are now hybrids with one of them a plug-in hybrid variant.
The CX-90 employs a front-engine, rear-wheel-bias powertrain with Mazda’s i-Activ all-wheel-drive system standard across all trim levels. Its three hybrid engine choices start with an entry-level 3.3-liter inline-six turbo producing 280 horsepower and 332 lb-ft torque. A more powerful 3.3-liter Turbo S delivers 340 horsepower and 369 lb-ft torque. Both the Turbo and Turbo S utilize Mazda’s 48-volt M-Hybrid Boost mild-hybrid system. Those looking for an ability to drive exclusively on battery power should look to the CX-90’s turbocharged 2.5-liter plug-in hybrid version, which produces 323 horsepower and 369 lb-ft torque using a 17.8 kWh battery.
All engines are rated at a combined 25 mpg, with the plug-in version topping out the range with a combined rating of 56 MPGe when running on battery power. The 2.5-liter PHEV option offers a total 490 mile driving range with the ability to drive exclusively in electric mode for 26 miles. Among the three engine options, 11 trim levels are available in total, ranging from the entry-level Select up to top-line Premium Plus. The availability of these trim levels depend on engine selection with the Turbo trim offering five and both the Turbo S and PHEV versions offering three.
A low-slung and hunkered-down appearance conveys a subtle sportiness in this crossover SUV that Mazda has been keen to showcase in the rest of its recent lineup. The front fascia is minimal when compared to other current full-size crossovers, but is in no way boring. A large black grille acts as a centerpiece and is accented with a chrome insert running beneath the grille, swooping up to meet the headlights at both ends.
The CX-90 features flared wheel arches and a muscular persona along its flanks. It’s complemented with a low roofline and smooth lines along the doors that reinforce a sporty and elegant demeanor. At the rear, two slim LED taillights extend toward the middle of the hatch while a discreet, curved spoiler sits at an upward angle above the rear window. A chrome accent sits at the bottom of the rear end, finishing its run around the entirety of the CX-90.
Mazda has taken great care to deliver a more accommodating interior than the earlier CX-9, with the CX-90 going above and beyond. A commanding and wide-set dash greets drivers with a large center console dividing the front seats and a 12.3-inch infotainment screen perched atop the dash. Traditional Japanese design and modern practicality blend together in a unique-to-Mazda fashion, exemplified by a sewing technique called Kumihimo, a classical Japanese book-binding practice that’s used to produce a hanging stitch pattern on the dash. Nappa leather and real-wood trim is an option throughout the cabin, along with tone-on-tone fabrics. Up to 75.2 cubic feet of carbo space is available with the second and third row seats folded flat.
The CX-90’s tech and safety options are ample with all trims receiving Mazda’s i-Activsense Safety package that includes Smart Brake Support, Blind Spot Monitoring, and Mazda Radar Cruise Control. Brand new for 2024 is Mazda’s See-Through View monitor that uses cameras positioned throughout the exterior to create a 360 degree perspective, allowing drivers to better park and maneuver in tight spots.
Mazda’s CX-90 is an exemplary replacement for the CX-9 and comes at an entry price of $39,595.
The Volvo S60 model introduced in 2000 was positioned to compete with the popular BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class of the time. Since then, it has been a popular staple for the Swedish automaker. Now well into its third generation, the S60 has evolved as part of Volvo’s promise to electrify its entire fleet and now is available exclusively in electrified form as a plug-in hybrid. Green Car Journal editors had the opportunity to spend time behind the wheel of this Volvo PHEV and came away impressed by its style and satisfied with its overall performance.
Volvo has borrowed from its subsidiary company Polestar for power. The S60 is equipped with a 312 horsepower 2.0-liter, turbocharged inline-four cylinder engine augmented with a 143 horsepower electric motor located at the rear. Energy for the motor is supplied by an 18.8 kWh battery. The combination ekes an impressive 455 horsepower and 523 lb-ft torque overall. Power is handled by an eight-speed Aisin automatic transmission and distributed via an all-wheel-drive system.
The S60 offers a combined EPA-rated range of 530 miles. If drivers choose to use the S60’s Pure driving mode using only the battery, they should expect an EPA range of about 41 miles. When using Pure mode, the S60 Recharge is rear-wheel-drive. The 14.9 kWh battery can be charged to full capacity in about five hours using a 220-volt charger.
The exterior of the Volvo S60 Recharge can be summed up in one word: refined. When looking over the front of the vehicle one notices Volvo’s familiar Thor’s Hammer LED-accented headlights, with the large Volvo badge front and center. Its hood slopes down toward the fenders at either end to lend a slightly muscular appearance. At its flanks, the S60’s roofline rakes gently to its rear haunches and ends abruptly at the rear end, again giving it an air of muscularity. A high trunk line is accented by a small rear diffuser and familiar Volvo taillights at the back.
Stepping into the S60’s interior presents another example of a refined experience. A sleek and functional design here finds Volvo’s nine-inch infotainment screen taking center stage. Large HVAC vents frame the screen with a brushed aluminum trim piece accenting the bottom of the dashboard. Adequate storage is present in the center console and doors pockets. Rear seat passengers get a good amount of legroom for two adults in the outboard positions but less so in the middle position. Two B-pillar-mounted HVAC vents provide heated or cooled air to passengers on both sides. Trunk space is adequate for a mid-size sedan, though depth and a spare tire is sacrificed to store more batteries beneath the floor.
Volvo employs a new Android OS for its infotainment system that integrates an array of features into its tech arsenal. Google Maps is incorporated, with the S60 utilizing GPS information to adjust efficiency parameters according to driving conditions encountered in city or highway driving. A 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster ahead of the driver is also capable of displaying Google Maps information. A handy heads-up display lends the ability to easily read current speed and other information without taking eyes off the road.
A proud hallmark of Volvo is safety, and the S60 Recharge is no exception. The car received a five out of five star crash test safety rating, along with receiving Volvo’s award winning safety tech. The S60 Recharge is equipped with 360-degree cameras, Blind Sport Warning, Cross-Traffic Alert, among other notable tech features. Four trim levels are offered including the base Core, mid-range Plus, and Ultimate trims, all available in an aptly named Black Edition that adds black accented wheels, grille, and badges.
The Volvo S60 Recharge T8 is a welcome blend of refinement and power offering an entry price of $51,950. It bears consideration as a great all-around car for anyone desiring the ability to get home quickly and in comfort while also stepping up to the environmental benefits of plug-in electric power.
The common belief that the simpler design of EVs and fewer mechanical parts would prove a detriment to car service providers is slowly changing course. There may not be an oil change but software- and hardware-related issues, along with an array of recalls, have shown EVs will be making repeated stops in the service department.
That’s why CDK Global reached out to dealership and service department leaders across the country and brands that sell EVs to find out where they stand today and what they think of the future. If nothing else, the EV Service: Today and Tomorrow study suggests that the current service model is unlikely to radically change for years to come.
When you look at EV sales and service, there are a lot of conflicting numbers out there. There are two important facts, though, that overshadow the entire conversation that need to be addressed head-on and then simply put aside. Essentially, half of all EVs sold today are Teslas. And half of all EVs, Tesla or not, are sold in California.
These giant figures are why you hear such different attitudes about EVs from traditional automakers and, of course, their franchised dealer networks. Overall, EV sales may be up by 50 percent in 2023 but to a dealer in the Midwest or Southeast, they may be staring at slow-moving inventory and sales in the single digits.
Just 2.5 percent of new car sales at franchise dealers nationwide are EVs. Not surprisingly, 2.4 percent of all repair orders at dealership service departments are for EVs. These numbers may rise as 2023 comes to a close, but it’ll still be far lower than any national number that’s being reported, which includes Tesla sales and, of course, California.
Yet, every respondent in CDK’s survey said they’ve already begun servicing EVs or will within the next two years, and 99 percent said they have at least a portion of their staff trained on EVs. Nearly nine out of 10 (88 percent) has charging stations on site and 64 percent of those respondents have more than one charging station in the service department. The next time you see a story that claims dealers aren’t prepared for EVs, please keep this in mind.
The single finding that I come back to in our study is that dealers are somewhat pessimistic about EVs in the service lane but not about how much money they’ll make. Only 42 percent of service leaders feel positive about the future of EVs. There’s no sugar coating that.
But when you ask this same group where they see revenue going in the next two years, four out of five see both total revenue (79 percent) and EV revenue (78 percent) increasing.
Much of this is likely due to warranty work, which has always been profitable for dealers, but the latest wave of EVs have proven to require a bit more than most anticipated. Indeed, 89 percent of the service leaders CDK surveyed expect EV warranty volume to increase in the next two years.
Two of the primary reasons people choose a dealer over an independent mechanic or chain for service is for the factory-trained technicians and OEM-supplied parts.
When you look at the EVs from traditional OEMs today, and in the next few years, there are few, if any, options for service outside of a dealership.
Service retention falls quickly when a new car ages out of its warranty, but for EVs that may not be the case. And in many areas across the country, there simply won’t be another option for many years. That could be why 77 percent of service leaders said they expect retention to remain the same or increase for EVs.
Now, will independent shops eventually be able to invest in the advanced equipment, additional lifts, safety gear, and training that dealers already have to fix EVs? Yes. But this is one area where traditional dealers have a leg up on the competition, and they need to ensure they prove their value during this transitional moment.
Service departments will focus more on tire maintenance with the demise of oil changes to keep customers coming in and many respondents agreed on their importance. And while there are fewer moving parts in an EV, there’s more technology that’ll require skilled labor to address. Not everything will be solved by an over-the-air update.
EVs will need service and maintenance, and the infrastructure for it is already in place at the dealership.
David Thomas is Director of Content Marketing at CDK Global, a leading provider of cloud-based software to dealerships and original equipment manufacturers across automotive and related industries.
Toyota’s full-size Highlander SUV has been with us since 2001 and has developed a loyal following. Unlike its utilitarian body-on-frame competitors of the era like the Chevy TrailBlazer and Jeep Grand Cherokee, the Highlander emerged with a unibody platform that delivered a much more comfortable and car-like ride. This, in addition to Toyota’s reputation for reliability and value, enabled the Highlander to blossom in popularity. Now Toyota has expanded upon its celebrated Highlander with the much anticipated and more spacious Grand Highlander SUV.
New for the 2024 model year, the Grand Highlander is built on Toyota’s GA-K platform and shares it with countless other Toyota models including the original Highlander. In the case of the Grand Highlander, Toyota modified this platform with a longer wheelbase and wider track to allow for expanded interior comfort. Three trim levels are offered including base XLE, mid-range Limited, and top-line Platinum.
Buyers also have a choice of three powertrain options. A 2.4-liter turbocharged inline-four cylinder featuring 265 horsepower and an eight-speed automatic transmission is standard. Next up is a 2.5-liter inline-four Dynamic Force hybrid with two electric motors, a combination that pushes out 245 horsepower and connects to a CVT transmission. The most powerful choice is Toyota’s Hybrid MAX powerplant offering 362 horsepower and 400 lb-ft torque. This uses a 2.4-liter turbocharged motor with two electric motors coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission. EPA estimated combined fuel economy is 24 mpg for the 2.4-liter turbo, 36 mpg for the hybrid, and 27 mpg for the Hybrid MAX.
Front-wheel or all-wheel drive is available on all but the Hybrid MAX variant, which comes with all-wheel drive as standard fare. Driver selectable Sport, Eco, and Normal drive modes allow tailoring the driving experience with all powertrains. Off-pavement adventures are further enhanced in Hybrid MAX and gas AWD variants with Multi-Terrain Select driving modes for Rock & Dirt, Mud & Sand, and Snow.
Toyota has not forgotten that SUVs are often used to haul things, whether camping gear, home improvement supplies, or toys for the kids. There’s plenty of room for all since the Grand Highlander has 20.6 cubic feet of stowage capacity behind the third row seat and 57.9 cubic feet with the second row seats folded. With second and third rows folded flat, the Grand Highlander boasts an impressive 97.5 cubic feet of total storage space. Those who need to tow gear along on their journeys will find that the Grand Highlander delivers here as well. The Dynamic Force hybrid comes with a tow rating of 3,500 pounds while the gas variant and Hybrid MAX models up the ante with the ability to tow up to 5,000 pounds.
The Grand Highlander expands upon Toyota’s current design language. At the front of the SUV, a familiar large gloss-black grille is situated front and center. A pair of functional air curtains sit below and diagonally, allowing air to flow over the front wheels to reduce drag. A discreetly muscular hood sits high atop the front end. Down the sides, very large windows are a hallmark of the Grand Highlander’s look, allowing as much light into the cabin as possible. At the rear, a large roof spoiler spills out atop the similarly large rear window. A pair of slim and stark LED taillights line either end of the rear hatch.
Inside, Toyota conveys what it believes the Grand in Grand Highlander should represent. Ample room is present throughout, with tons of charging ops and storage space. For example, a total of 13 cupholders and seven USB-C ports are present. Soft-touch materials are peppered throughout the space, including on seats and armrests. Up front, a standard 12.3-inch infotainment system sits center-stage with climate control buttons positioned beneath. A standard 8-inch digital gauge cluster sits in front of the driver with a 12.3-inch digital cluster optional. Both the second and third row seats make use of the same soft-touch materials and offer more examples of abundant storage.
A generous amount of tech and safety features are included in this SUV. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, along with over-the-air update capability. A one-year free trial for Toyota’s Drive Connect is included that makes Intelligent Assistant, Cloud Navigation, and Destination Assistant available to drivers. Toyota Safety Sense 3.0 is included as well, with Proactive Driving Assist and an Emergency Driving Stop System that will attempt to safely stop the vehicle if the system senses an unresponsive driver.
With the addition of the Grand Highlander in Toyota’s already-ample SUV lineup, buyers now have a new and appealing choice ideally positioned between the mid-size Highlander and full-size Tundra-based Sequoia, at a base price of $43,070. No doubt, Toyota’s long-popular Highlander has paved an extremely successful path for the new Grand Highlander to follow. We imagine that legions of buyers attracted to the many charms of the Highlander but yearn for a roomier package will find the new Grand Highlander an intriguing new option at the showroom.
Unveiled earlier this year, the Polestar 4 is the fourth model produced by the Swedish EV maker. The Polestar 4 takes on a unique coupe SUV design and is placed between the Polestar 2 and 3 in terms of size. Polestar has utilized the SEA1 platform for the 4 model that’s built by Geely Holding, a Chinese automotive giant. This luxurious EV boasts a 50-50 weight distribution and in its more powerful version delivers admirable performance with dual motors and a projected zero to 60 time of 3.6 seconds.
Polestar offers two powertrain options. The standard iteration consists of a single-motor, rear-wheel-drive configuration capable of producing 272 horsepower and 253 lb-ft torque. The second option, which is expected to go toe-to-toe with the Porsche Macan EV, is a dual-motor, all-wheel-drive arrangement sporting 544 horsepower and 506 lb-ft torque. This variant is able to disengage the front motor using a clutch system when under light throttle to save battery power.
All Polestar 4 configurations receive a 102 kWh lithium-ion battery. Fast charge times are not yet available; however Polestar has reported a maximum fast charge capability of 200 kW. The Polestar 4 also carries V2L, or vehicle-to-load ability, allowing users to power their gadgets or other electric items on the go.
The exterior design is a rather singular experience with futuristic style and cutting-edge lines. Precept headlights featuring a Thor’s Hammer design tells one right away that this is a Polestar. Split at the middle, the top half of the headlight travels up and shoots along the fender, while the bottom half turns downward toward the functional air scoop situated in front of both wheels. A long and sporty hood swoops up into a windshield that has been brought forward to allow more interior space.
Looking to the side, more evidence of the model’s subtle sportiness is on display. Wheel options for the Polestar 4 are all sharp and angular in design, matching the knife-edged bodyline at the bottom of the doors.
Polestar has included its LightBlade rear light design that spans the width of the rear end, with 90-degree downward angles at both ends. A notable feature for the Polestar 4 is the absence of a rear window. In its place is a pair of High-Definition cameras mounted at the back of the roof. These cameras are connected to a digital rear-view mirror that allows for a full view of the road already traveled.
Polestar has devoted a lot of attention to designing the interior of the 4. Here, one finds tons of unique options and design cues along with a panoramic roof that extends all the way past the heads of rear passengers. This glass can be fitted with an optional electrochromic feature that allows users to turn the glass from transparent to opaque. Several interior options are available, all of which utilize sustainable materials at every opportunity. Seats are upholstered with SoftTech, a 3D-printed material, and carpets and floor mats use PET. Several interior configurations take advantage of vegan materials, with one option using animal welfare-secured Nappa leather. Drivers can also set the mood using the infotainment system, with its settings taking inspiration from the solar system.
The Polestar 4 is packed with tech. A 10.2-inch digital gauge cluster is used along with a 15.4-inch infotainment screen that takes center stage, the latter employing the Snapdragon Cockpit Platform to control functions. Polestar also includes a 14.7-inch head-up display that can turn yellow for better visibility in snowy conditions. Android Automotive OS grants use of select Google apps, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto standard fare. Polestar is partnered with Volvo so there’s naturally a myriad of safety features. Mobileye SuperVision is present, allowing drivers to take their hands off the wheel in select driving conditions, as long as eyes are focused on the road. A dozen cameras monitor the inside and outside of the vehicle along with ultrasonic sensors that monitor the driver to detect drowsiness or distraction.
This all-new Polestar model looks to be an all-around contender for the EV world. It’s got power, tech, and style on its side. This upscale coupe SUV has a lot going for it including a more manageable estimated price of $60,000, a significant twenty five grand less than the Polestar 3. Production has begun and the first deliveries are slated for China shortly, though buyers in the U.S. will have to wait patiently until later in 2024.
A ‘green’ aura has been cast over the auto industry in ways large and small. While there has been growing interest in vehicles with greater environmental performance since the 1990s, that interest has been incremental. Higher efficiency models? Yep. Alternative fuel vehicles? Sure, some. Hybrids? Yes please. Plug-in models? Of course, growing slowly over the years but increasing exponentially in recent times, in no small part due to generous federal and state incentives, regulations moving us away from internal combustion, and a wholesale shift in auto industry strategies that are embracing electrification.
For several decades, most of this was driven by the need to address fuel efficiency and energy diversity, tackling a vexing dependency on imported oil. The other important driver was the need for cleaner-running cars with significantly lower tailpipe emissions, which spoke to mitigating the smog that has historically created air quality issues in major cities across the country.
Then, sometime around 15 years ago, there was a shift as concerns about climate change and carbon emissions began taking shape. While smog-forming emissions and fuel efficiency continue to be fundamental to the need for cleaner cars, carbon emissions – and ways to decrease them – is driving greater interest in plug-in vehicles that enable zero-emission driving. All this interest has grown in tandem with awareness of new vehicle models that achieve ever-higher levels of environmental sustainability across the board.
Widely recognized as the most important environmental awards in the automotive field over the past 19 years, Green Car Journal’s Green Car Awards™ program takes all this in account as the most environmentally positive vehicles are identified each year, as they have been since the first Green Car Awards were announced in Los Angeles in 2005. As we’ve seen in recent years, electrification has taken on increasing importance in the automotive market and this is reflected in a greater number of electrified vehicles as finalists, and as it turns out, in this year’s award winners. And that leads us to this year’s Green Car Awards™ program.
Green Car Journal has awarded its prestigious 2024 Green Car of the Year® honor to the Toyota Prius Prime plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. Toyota’s Prius has earned its well-deserved reputation as a leading eco-conscious model since its introduction to American highways in 2000. Yet, amid the tremendously competitive nature of the Green Car Awards™ field and the program’s focus – which considers not only environmental achievement but also traditional touchstones like performance and a fun-to-drive nature – the Green Car of the Year© honor has remained elusive for the Prius and its plug-in iteration over the years. That ends now with the Prius Prime’s win of 2024 Green Car of the Year.
Toyota’s Prius Prime has evolved to become the ideal vehicle for our time. The plug-in hybrid variant of the new fifth-generation Prius hatchback, Prius Prime champions the high efficiency and eco-consciousness that has long defined the Prius nameplate. Now it also speaks to car enthusiasts with its compelling style and impressive performance. Importantly, it offers the range-anxiety-free ability to drive 44 miles on battery power and 600 overall miles as a hybrid. Given the average daily miles driven by consumers, that means most Prius Prime owners will find their daily driving experience to be one behind the wheel of a zero-emission electric vehicle achieving up to 127 MPGe.
There’s no lack of SUV models on the market these days so choices are abundant. Increasingly, many of these models feature electric drive and plug-in capability, and the magazine’s focus has gravitated here. To that end, Green Car Journal editors have identified the Alfa Romeo Tonale, this brand’s first plug-in hybrid, as the magazine’s 2024 Green SUV of the Year™.
The Tonale combines the marque’s sensuous Italian style with welcome functionality, a sporty and high-tech interior, and an engaging driving experience courtesy of adjustable driving dynamics and best-in-class horsepower. Its 15.5 kWh lithium-ion battery, which can be charged in less than three hours with a 240-volt Level 2 charger, enables the Tonale to drive 33 zero-emission miles on battery power while delivering an overall 360 mile range.
Honored with Green Car Journal’s 2024 Family Green Car of the Year™ award is the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, the electrified version of this automaker’s seven passenger Outlander SUV. This handsome electrified SUV does it all. Now a two-time winner of Family Green Car of the Year™, and in its earlier generation winner of 2019 Green SUV of the Year, the Outlander PHEV’s charms begin with three row seating for larger families, with the rear seat foldable and stowable in a floor well to optimize cargo space.
The Outlander PHEV’s efficient gas engine/twin motor PHEV drivetrain delivers satisfying efficiency while offering 38 miles of battery electric range as an EV, plus a total 420 mile driving range overall. Like full electric vehicles, the plug-in hybrid Outlander PHEV features ‘one pedal driving’ and DC fast charge capability. Adding to its versatility is Mitsubishi’s Super-All Wheel Control that enables confident driving over varying terrain and in challenging road conditions.
Making the cut to become a finalist in a Green Car Awards™ category is an honor earned by virtue of commendable environmental achievement that distinguishes a model above its peers. Each of these vehicles is recognized with Green Car Journal’s 2024 Green Car Product of Excellence™.
2024 Green Car of the Year© finalists honored with Green Car Journal's Green Car Product of Excellence: Honda Accord Hybrid, Hyundai Ioniq 6, Hyundai Sonata, Tesla Model 3, Toyota Prius Prime.
2024 Green SUV of the Year™ finalists honored with Green Car Journal's Green Car Product of Excellence: Alfa Romeo Tonale, Chevrolet Blazer EV, Dodge Hornet, Genesis GV70 Electrified, Hyundai Kona.
2024 Family Green Car of the Year™ finalists honored with Green Car Journal's Green Car Product of Excellence: Kia EV9, Kia Sorento, Mazda CX-90 PHEV, Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, Toyota Grand Highlander.
RAM has been around as a distinct brand for some 14 years now, having split from its former identity as a Dodge nameplate in 2009. Since then, RAM has focused solely on pickup trucks and work vans with considerable success, especially with regard to its pickup truck line, which has won Green Car Journal’s Green Truck of the Year™ award three times in recent years. Now RAM has revealed details on its highly anticipated next act in the pickup realm, the all-electric RAM 1500 REV.
Building on the excitement generated by the wild electric RAM Revolution concept shown earlier this year, the 2025 RAM REV rides on the automaker’s all new STLA Frame optimized for full-size electric vehicle models with a body-on-frame design. This high strength steel frame is wider in the middle to accommodate battery packs while affording protection between the frame rails. It also features additional protection beneath courtesy of a full-length underbody belly pan.
This electric RAM pickup is especially noteworthy in that it boasts specs surpassing those of Ford’s F-150 Lightning and upcoming Chevrolet’s Silverado EV. REV will offer two EV powertrain options, with the base package featuring a standard 168 kWh battery pack projected to deliver a driving range of up to 350 miles. A more powerful option brings a 229 kWh battery pack with a targeted range of 500 miles, a feature sure to resonate with pickup buyers whose primary concerns are range and functionality. Normal and one-pedal driving capabilities are built in and regenerative braking comes as a matter of course.
Power won’t be a problem. We know the optional 229 kWh battery pack variant will offer a targeted rating of 654 horsepower and 620 lb-ft torque. Power ratings for the standard 168 kWh battery pack variant have yet to be disclosed. The REV’s projected towing capacity is said to be up to 14,000 pounds, with a payload capacity up to 2,700 pounds.
Charging is handled through the REV’s charge port located at the driver’s side front fender. Illuminated LED lighting and an audible chime lets a driver know that the truck is plugged in and charging. The charge port accommodates Level 1 and Level 2 AC charging connectivity on top and DC fast charging connectivity at the bottom of the charging interface. Drivers should expect the usual overnight charging experience if they have a 240-volt Level 2 wall charger at home. Those on the move can take advantage of the REV’s fast-charge capability at public fast chargers. If an 800-volt DC fast charger is available then the REV can add up to 110 miles of range in just 10 minutes while charging at up to 350 kW.
A handy feature is the RAM 1500 REV’s bi-directional vehicle-to-vehicle, vehicle-to-home, and vehicle-to-grid charging capability. With the use of a 7.2 kW on-board power panel mounted in the bed or a 3.6 kW power panel in the front trunk (frunk), this feature is very helpful during power outages in homes, or for individuals who will potentially use their truck to power equipment. It can also be used to charge your everyday devices if necessary.
REV’s exterior styling lets us know this truck is electric without moving beyond the burly and commanding nature of the brand. A blend of elegance and toughness shows that RAM’s designers certainly didn’t want buyers forgetting what RAM stands for, while also conveying their vision for the future. To that end, the front fascia of this electric pickup features a sporty nature with its muscular hood and low grill. The look is accented with aptly named ‘tuning fork’ LED headlights and unique EV-specific RAM badging. At the rear we find a set of angular LED taillights that span a portion of the tailgate, and are specific to the RAM 1500 REV. RAM is boldly shown at the center of the tailgate and, like the front end, uses an exclusive lettering style to show us that this RAM is indeed electric.
Styling along the REV’s flanks remains quite similar to the current RAM truck with the exception of a flush-mounted chargeport at the driver’s side front fender and unique REV. Familiar lockable ‘RAM Boxes’ are available and positioned beneath the bed rails on either side of the pickup box and feature a handy 115-volt outlet. These boxes are also illuminated to facilitate easy access under low light conditions.
Inside, the blend of practicality and luxury is seamless with premium materials like carbon fiber, metal, and leather with tech peppered throughout. Ample passenger room is built in and functionality is enhanced with second row seats that can fold up for additional cargo capacity. Optional 24-way power adjustments are available for the front seats, including three memory settings and massage capability. Also optional is a 23 speaker Klipsch Reference Premiere audio system.
The REV cabin features a central 14.5 inch touchscreen, 12.3 inch digital instrument display, and a 10.25 inch digital screen mounted in front of the passenger seat. These screens utilize the automaker’s Uconnect 5 system that allows access to eight EV-specific functions across all screens, and entertainment functionality for the passenger screen. The REV also features a configurable head-up display capable of showing an array of selected information beyond vehicle speed, such as turn-by-turn navigation, speed limit, Lane Departure, Lane Keep Assist, and adaptive cruise control. A Uconnect 5 mobile app supports remote start and touchless door lock/unlock functions.
Showcasing many industry-leading specs and visionary style, the RAM 1500 REV is shaping up to be a model in demand when sales begin in advance of its likely arrival at dealers toward the end of 2024. Of course, RAM will continue offering its popular gas-powered pickups to a willing market even as it dives ever deeper into electrification. In the meantime, the 2025 REV shows us that RAM aims to be a serious contender in the electric pickup truck competition.
Rather than following the industry’s massive trend toward models powered exclusively by batteries, Toyota is confident there’s a better way forward. Its strategy is to optimize the use and environmental impact of batteries by offering a diversity of electrified vehicles consumers will actually buy and drive in great numbers, thus leveraging the potential for carbon reduction. This clearly plays to the automaker’s strength: hybrids and plug-in hybrids. There’s the all-electric Toyota bZ4X, of course, and other battery electric Toyota models to come. Just don’t expect that’s all the world’s largest automaker will be offering in the short term.
Enter the 2023 Toyota Crown sedan, this automaker’s newest hybrid. Toyota’s all-new Crown is somewhat of a milestone since so many automakers are killing off their sedans in favor of uber-popular crossover SUVs. In many cases, those crossovers are less SUV than mildly oversized hatchback, but that’s the auto industry for you. The Crown is a sophisticated looking sedan that doesn’t pretend to be something it is not, though it does offer a few twists.
The Crown has an interesting history, first debuting in 1955 as Toyota’s first mass production passenger vehicle before making its way to the States three years later, distinguished as the first Japanese model here on our shores. It had a 17 year run before it was retired from Toyota’s U.S. showrooms.
Now it’s back in all new form as a full-size, four-door sedan available in XLE, Limited, and Platinum grades. While it is a sedan measuring in just a bit larger than Toyota’s popular Camry, the Crown also integrates a slightly taller roofline, thus the ‘twist.’ This taller roof flows rearward into an elegant sportback design, accented by thin blade-style rear taillights. The front features blade running lights, sharp headlights, and a distinctively imposing grille design that’s come to signify Toyota and Lexus products these days. Its sides are handsomely sculpted and accented by large alloy wheels and wheel well cladding.
Beneath the hood resides one of two available hybrids, no surprise since this a Toyota and hybrids are its game. The more efficient of the two-motor hybrid models is powered by a fourth-generation, 2.5-liter Toyota Hybrid System (THS) that Toyota says should net an estimated 38 combined mpg. It connects to an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission.
Those looking for higher performance may opt for the Platinum grade, which comes standard with a 2.4-liter turbocharged HYBRID MAX powerplant, the first application of this more powerful Toyota hybrid system in a sedan. Delivering power to the road through a direct shift six-speed automatic transmission, the HYBRID MAX boasts 340 horsepower for spirited performance and offers a Toyota-estimated 28 combined mpg. All grades come with electronic on-demand all-wheel drive. A plug-in hybrid variant is said to be coming but details are not yet available.
The Crown’s cabin is designed to deliver a premium feel, featuring nicely bolstered front seats with 8-way power adjustment, intelligent controls, and wireless Qi charging with an array of readily accessible ports to accommodate today’s electronic devices. A Multi Information Display ahead of the driver provides the usual instrumentation along with selectable functions, including hybrid information that coaches eco-driving for netting maximum efficiency. In addition, a 12.3-inch center Toyota Audio Multimedia display features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration and is audio and touch capable.
Upholstery is either Softex and black woven fabric or leather, depending on grade. A panoramic moonroof standard on Platinum and Limited grades lends an additional feel of openness to the cabin. LED ambient lighting adds to the interior’s ambiance and upscale feel. Significant effort has been devoted to creating a relaxed and quiet cabin environment through extensive placement of sound-deadening materials throughout plus the use of acoustic glass.
Toyota Safety Sense 3.0 is standard across all grades to enhance safety on the road. This includes such desired features as pre-collision with pedestrian detection, dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist, blind spot monitor, and rear cross traffic alert. Other assist features such as automatic high beams, road sign assist, rear seat passenger reminder, and hill start assist control are also standard fare for all versions of the Crown. Those stepping up to the Platinum trim level also get Toyota’s advanced park system that identifies available parking spots and allows automated parallel and reverse/forward perpendicular parking.
Toyota’s Crown is a timely addition to this automaker’s lineup, giving fans of the brand a new, more exciting sedan option just as the more conservative Avalon sedan is heading off into the sunset. Pricing has not yet been announced but we figure the Crown will start somewhere in the neighborhood of the low $40,000s. We also expect this new model to be a hit for Toyota, serving the automaker well as it hones its hybrid and plug-in hybrid strategy while continuing to evolve its future electrified product line.
The Hyundai Tucson has long been a popular choice for those desiring the functionality of a crossover SUV at a reasonable price. Making the case even stronger now is an expanded list of Tucson offerings highlighted by plug-in hybrid and enthusiast-oriented N Line models that have joined the line’s gas-powered and electric hybrid variants.
Conventionally-powered Tucsons are equipped with a 2.5-liter engine delivering 180 hp and 195 lb-ft torque, delivering 26 city/33 highway mpg. PHEV and hybrid Tucson models share a 1.6-liter, turbocharged and direct-injected inline four-cylinder gas engine. These are equipped with Hyundai’s Continuously Variable Valve Duration technology that optimizes valve opening duration to improve power, efficiency, and emissions. The hybrid gets a 59 horsepower electric motor and 1.5 kWh lithium-ion battery that brings 226 total system horsepower and up to 38 city/38 highway mpg.
With the addition of the plug-in hybrid’s 90 hp electric motor and a larger 13.8 kWh lithium-ion battery, total system horsepower increases to 261 hp and 258 lb-ft torque. EPA rates the Tucson PHEV’s electric-only range at 33 miles and fuel economy at 80 MPGe, with a 35 mpg combined city/highway mpg rating running on gasoline. Hyundai says the model’s onboard 7.2 kW charger will allow charging the battery in less than two hours when connected to a 220-volt Level 2 charger.
The remainder of the Tucson PHEV’s drivetrain consists of a six-speed automatic transmission with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters and a standard HTRAC AWD system with selectable drive modes. All Tucson models, including the PHEV, have a maximum tow rating of 2,000 pounds. The PHEV’s curb weight is a few hundred pounds higher than the conventional and hybrid models, so its payload capacity is commensurately less, rated at 1,012 pounds for SEL models and 1,166 pounds for Limited versions.
A higher level of driving dynamics is delivered to match the Tucson’s sporty new exterior design. The AWD PHEV and hybrid models are built with Hyundai’s e-handling technology that, under certain road conditions and driving inputs, applies an incremental amount of electric motor torque to the wheels. This enables the e-handling system to affect vehicle weight transfer – and therefore the tire’s contact patch – to improve cornering.
Tucson models are equipped with a number of safety technologies as part of Hyundai’s SmartSense Safety Feature suite. Standard safety features on both the SEL and Limited models of the Tucson PHEV include Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist, Blind-Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist, Lane-Keeping Assist, Driver-Attention Warning, and Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist. Limited models add such features as blind-view and surround-view monitors and Remote Smart Parking Assist.
The Tucson PHEV’s interior amenities vary depending on model. Both SEL and Limited are equipped with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capabilities and have USB charging points for front and rear passengers. Stepping up to the Limited adds a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster and 10.25-inch color touchscreen (SEL has an 8-inch screen), a Bose premium sound system, and wireless device charging.
Prices start at $25,800 for the standard 2.5-liter powered Tucson with the hybrid coming in at $29,750 and the plug-in hybrid $35,400.
Green Car Journal’s Green Car Awards, the annual awards program honoring the year’s most standout new ‘green’ models, was presented at the Virtual Greenbuild Conference + Expo in November this year. The 2021 virtual awards program was an innovation during an unusual year, amid the postponement and cancellation of international auto shows where the Green Car Awards typically take place.
Over the years, these high-profile awards have grown along with the expanding field of ‘green’ cars on the road. They now recognize not only the magazine’s signature Green Car of the Year, but also exceptional models that speak to families, city dwellers, luxury buyers, pickup enthusiasts, and those requiring the functionality of an SUV. All provide the traditional touchstones of safety, quality, value, style, and performance, plus that fun-to-drive quality important to most drivers. What they add are greater efficiency, lower carbon and tailpipe emissions, petroleum reduction or displacement, or operation on battery electric power.
GREEN CAR OF THE YEAR
This year’s candidates for 2021 Green Car of the Year reflect the auto industry’s transition toward electrification, even as it continues to make internal combustion ever-more efficient. Three of this year’s finalists, the Mustang Mach-E, MINI Cooper SE, and Volkswagen ID.4, drive exclusively on zero-emission battery power. The BMW 330e is a plug-in hybrid that drives up to 23 miles on battery power and hundreds more as a hybrid. The Hyundai Elantra is offered with either an efficient gasoline engine or a gas-electric hybrid achieving up to 50 miles per gallon.
Rising to the top of the field is Green Car Journal’s 2021 Green Car of the Year, Ford’s all-new Mustang Mach-E, a model that boasts an instantly-recognizable name and heritage, while breaking new ground as an all-electric crossover featuring up to 300 miles of range. Performance is part of the package, as is unmistakable style and all the latest advanced electronics.
The 2021 Green Car of the Year® is selected by a highly-respected jury comprised of energy and environmental leaders including Mindy Lubber, president of CERES; Jean-Michel Cousteau, president of Ocean Futures Society; Dr. Alan Lloyd, president emeritus of the International Council on Clean Transportation and senior research fellow at the Energy Institute, University of Texas at Austin; Clay Nesler, interim president of the Alliance to Save Energy; and Matt Petersen, president and CEO of Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator and advisory board chair of Climate Mayors. Rounding out the Green Car of the Year jury is celebrity auto enthusiast Jay Leno and Green Car Journal editors .
LUXURY GREEN CAR OF THE YEAR
At a more premium price point, 2021 Luxury Green Car of the Year finalists also illustrate the momentum achieved by electric drive in the new car vehicle field. Four of these premium vehicles are all-electric models – the Audi e-tron Sportback, Polestar 2, Tesla Model Y, and Volvo XC40 Recharge. The fifth, the Lincoln Corsair Grand Touring, is the plug-in hybrid variant of Lincoln’s Corsair compact crossover that combines gas-electric hybrid and all-electric driving.
Honored as this year’s Luxury Green Car of the Year is the Polestar 2, a groundbreaking model from Polestar on many levels. This all-new premium vehicle is only the second of this new auto brand’s model offerings, and the first to be all-electric. This zero-emission, two-door fastback looks to the future even as it foregoes futuristic styling, instead choosing to offer an understated yet elegant and sophisticated design, tasteful appointments, and a nearly 300 mile range on battery power.
URBAN GREEN CAR OF THE YEAR
Urban environments pose their own unique challenges – tight spaces, often crowded streets, and hard-to-find parking. Here, smaller vehicles with a compact physical footprint and easy maneuverability are always top choices. The 2021 Urban Green Car of the Year award recognizes vehicles especially well-suited for life in the city. Top choices for this year’s award are the Hyundai Venue, Kia Seltos, Kia Soul, MINI Cooper SE, and Nissan Versa. Four are conventionally-powered – three of them crossover SUVs and one a compact sedan – with the fourth, the MINI Cooper SE, an all-electric crossover.
Taking top honors for 2021 Urban Green Car of the Year is the all-electric MINI Cooper SE. Standing out as an ideal vehicle for the city, the Cooper SE is compact in stature and big on features. Its represents what this brand all about: An iconic look, great maneuverability, and driving fun wrapped in a small package. Plus, electric power means zero localized emissions and no trips venturing out to the gas station in a crowded urban environment.
FAMILY GREEN CAR OF THE YEAR
While any model can serve family duty, those offering extra versatility and thoughtful family-friendly features are high on many shopping lists. Today, driving ‘green’ has also become a priority. Minivans have always been a solid choice, but these days three-row crossover SUVs can also do the job as family hauler. Finalists for 2021 Family Green Car of the Year are the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, Honda Odyssey, Kia Sorrento Hybrid, Toyota Highlander Hybrid, and Toyota Sienna. The Kia Sorrento Hybrid and Toyota Highlander Hybrid crossovers drive on efficient hybrid power. Honda’s Odyssey minivan features an efficient V-6 with variable cylinder management. The Toyota Sierra is exclusively a hybrid-powered minivan, while the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan also offers plug-in hybrid power.
Standing out as Family Green Car of the Year is the Toyota Sienna, a minivan that seeks to set the standard for modern family haulers. The stylish and fuel-efficient Sienna offers premium sedan-like style, admirable hybrid fuel efficiency, and a thoughtful blend of family-desired features along with driver-centric characteristics not always associated with minivans. It shows Toyota’s keen grasp of how to make a modern minivan that not only serves up family functionality, but also premium car style and appeal.
GREEN SUV OF THE YEAR
The hottest segment in the automotive field today is the SUV, either full-size or compact, traditional or crossover, two-row or three, conventional, hybrid, or plug-in. There are no shortage of choices, which makes narrowing the field to five outstanding finalists no small challenge. The top five finalists emerging this year for Green SUV of the Year are the Audi Q5 55 TFSI e, BMW X3 xDrive 30e, Jeep Wrangler 4xe, Toyota RAV4 Prime, and Toyota Venza. Four of these –from Audi, BMW, Jeep, and Toyota – are plug-in hybrids with an all-electric driving range from 18 to 42 miles, and additional hundreds of miles on hybrid power. Toyota’s Venza is an all-wheel drive, tech-rich hybrid with exceptional fuel efficiency.
Taking top honors for the 2021 Green SUV of the Year title is the Jeep Wrangler 4xe, an SUV that’s different in many ways from others in its class. To some, it’s an SUV in the traditional sense with high functionality and loads of versatility that’s perfect for the diversity of everyday life. But to others, it’s that, plus a means of escape, heading toward the city one day and then driving the path less taken on another, a path often rough, unpaved, and pointed towards adventure.
GREEN TRUCK OF THE YEAR
This year’s Green Truck of the Year finalists embody all the workhorse capabilities expected of a modern pickup while offering passenger car-like comfort, advanced on-board electronics, and levels of fuel efficiency unheard of in pickups of just a decade ago. Pickups honored as finalists for Green Truck of the Year are the Chevrolet Colorado, Chevrolet Silverado, Ford F-150, Jeep Gladiator EcoDiesel, and RAM 1500. All offer diverse powertrain choices, from gasoline and diesel internal combustion to variations of mild- and full-hybrid power.
Powering its way to well-deserved recognition as 2021 Green Truck of the Year is the Ford F-150, a pickup long distinguished as the best-selling model in the nation and a champion of innovation. Beyond its wide array of configurations, powertrain choices, payload capacities, and towing capabilities, it now adds such innovations as an efficient PowerBoost hybrid powerplant, fold-flat ‘sleeper’ seats, and an available Pro Power Onboard output system with outlets that allow the truck to function as a mobile generator at worksites or campsites.
The Green Car Awards™ program, presented annually since 2005, is an important part of Green Car Journal's mission to showcase environmental progress in the automotive field.
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.
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.
The Kona, Hyundai’s newest and smallest crossover, serves up a pleasing design and welcome functionality. It is offered with a choice two gasoline engines that net up to 33 highway mpg, and also as a battery electric vehicle.
Styling cues are a bit different on the Kona Electric, but subtle except for its distinctive closed grille. Silver side sills, unique 17-inch alloy wheels, and badging also differentiate the electric variant. Kona Electric sales are initially being focused on California and select states that have adopted California’s Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) program.
The Kona is available in three trim levels – SEL, Limited, and Ultimate. Kona SE and SEL models are powered by a 147-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission. This combo achieves an EPA rating of 28 city/32 highway mpg. Kona Limited and Ultimate trim levels are powered by a 175-horsepower, turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder with a seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission. Here, EPA numbers are 27 city/33 highway mpg. Front-wheel drive is standard with all-wheel drive an option for both powerplants.
Powering the Kona Electric is a 201 horsepower, permanent-magnet electric motor driving the front wheels. Energy is provided by a 64 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery that delivers an impressive EPA estimated 258 mile range. Offshore markets also get a base electric version with a smaller 39.2 kWh battery that’s good for about 186 miles, but that configuration is not offered in North America. The Kona Electric earns a combined EPA efficiency rating of 120 MPGe. Acceleration is quite good with a 0-60 mph sprint taking 7.6 seconds. Kona Electric’s top speed is electronically limited at 104 mph.
When connected to a fast-charge 10 kW Combined Charging System, the battery pack can be recharged from a depleted state in about 54 minutes. It takes 75 minutes to recharge with a more common 50 kW CCS fast-charge system. With more readily-available Level 2 (240-volt AC) public or home charging and the Kona’s onboard 7.2 kW charger, replenishing a depleted battery takes about 10 hours. The charge port is located in the front fascia just below the driver’s side headlight.
There are a host of driver assist features available. Hyundai SmartSense safety technologies standard on all trim levels include Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist, Driver Attention Warning, and Lane Keeping Assist. Optionally available are Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Avoidance Assist, Blind Spot Collision Warning, High Beam Assist, Rear View Monitor, and Smart Cruise Control.
The gasoline-powered Kona has an MSRP of $19,990, while the Kona Electric is offered at a base price of $36,450.
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.
With the growing market acceptance of electric vehicles in the U.S. comes an unprecedented auto industry focus on delivering these vehicles to consumers. Today nearly all major auto manufacturers and a handful of boutique automakers offer a growing lineup of electrified models.
When considering the purchase of an electric vehicle, the task of home charging is second in importance only to an electric’s driving range. How long will a charge take, and how often will it be needed? The cost associated with enabling home charging is also top-of-mind since using public or workplace chargers is a plus, but nothing beats the conveniences of overnight charging at home.
There’s an affordable and easy answer to these home EV charging concerns with the AV TurboCord Dual, developed by AeroVironment and available as part of Webasto’s EV Solutions product line. TurboCord Dual presents a portable transformable solution that aims to promote convenient electric vehicle charging using the two most common electrical outlets found in homes.
AV TurboCord Dual is a portable EV charging solution enabling both 120 or significantly faster 240 volt charging as needed through a quick clip-release adapter interface. It does not require hardwired installation to facilitate dual voltage charging, but rather connects to a standard 120 volt household outlet or 240 volt outlet.
While there is much competition in the home charging segment, there’s a lot to like about the AV TurboCord for its compact size, portability, and ease of operation. TurboCord Dual will look familiar to anyone who has used AV public charging stations in much of the U.S. Simply open the charge port on your EV of choice, look for the pulsing light on the business end of the TurboCord, and you’re charging. When the unit stops blinking, you’re done.
TurboCord Dual delivers a great solution for battery electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles alike, either at home or on the road. A handy carrying case easily stores the charger, power cord, and chargeport connector. AV TurboCord is available online or from your local building center.
Volvo’s smallest crossover features an aggressive design that’s a bit of a departure for the automaker, even as it retains the fundamental styling cues that say ‘Volvo.’ The first model built on the automaker’s Compact Modular Architecture, the new XC40 is offered as either a T4 front-wheel drive or T5 all-wheel drive and in three trim levels. The XC40 looks deceptively small but has plenty of cargo and passenger capacity for longer trips. A plug-in hybrid and possibly an all-electric model are likely in the future.
Inside, the stylish cabin aims for an uncluttered look while still providing all the amenities SUV buyers desire. Functionality is a top priority, which the XC40 provides in intelligent ways with features like spacious door bins that accommodate a laptop or tablet, easily accessible under-seat drawers for stashing wallets or other necessities, and even a trash bin for cleaning up clutter. The front storage compartment holds a wireless charge pad for smartphones. Other welcome features include a standard 9-inch Sensus Connect touchscreen and an available panoramic sunroof that provides loads of available light.
All XC40s are powered by a 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder Drive-E engine. In the T4 this engine is rated at 187 horsepower and 221 lb-ft torque. Engine output increases to 248 horsepower and 258 lb-ft torque in the all-wheel drive T5. Both connect to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Manual gear shifts are possible with the Volvo’s shift lever or, alternatively, via steering wheel shift paddles on the R-Design model.
Standard on all XC40s are Automated Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Forward-Collision Warning, Lane-Keeping Assist with Lane-Departure Warning, Automatic High-Beam Headlamps, Driver-Attention Monitor, and Traffic-Sign Detection. A self-parking feature, front and rear parking sensors, and Blind-Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert can be added as part of the Vision package.
Volvo offers Pilot Assist as a part of a Premium package. This is essentially adaptive cruise control with a semi-autonomous driving mode. It keeps the XC40 within its own lane and maintains a set speed and distance behind the vehicle ahead. Unlike some other near-self-driving systems, Pilot Assist requires the driver to keep his hands on the steering wheel at all times…perhaps not a surprise considering Volvo’s longstanding focus on safety.
The 2019 XC40 serves up 23 city and 33 highway mpg, at a starting cost of $33,700. Another option is Care by Volvo, an innovative subscription service that includes use of a new XC40 Momentum ($600 per month) or R-Design ($700 per month) for a maximum of 15,000 miles per year. Insurance, maintenance, and road-hazard protection are included, plus the opportunity for the lessee to upgrade to a new XC40 each year for the same all-inclusive monthly payment. A subscription lasts for 24 months.
Nissan's all-new, sixth-generation Altima has been extensively redesigned with greater refinement and efficiency, along with a more aerodynamic body boasting an impressive 0.26 drag coefficient. Distinctive styling cues include a more aggressive front facia with a V-motion grille and streamlined boomerang lights.
Inside there is a standard 7-inch driver display and a NASA-inspired zero gravity seat that enhances comfort and fights fatigue. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard. Every 2019 Altima also comes equipped with a standard 8-inch multi-touch color display, Bluetooth hands-free phone system, streaming audio via Bluetooth, hands-free text messaging assistant, and Siri eyes free voice recognition. Some remote features are also accessible through NissanConnect Services’ Amazon Alexa Skill and Google Assistant Action.
Power is provided by a naturally aspirated, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine producing 188 horsepower. There’s also an all-new, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 248 horsepower on tap. The world’s first production variable compression engine, this 2.0-liter powerplant enables compression ratio to adjust from 8:1 to 14:1 by continuously raising or lowering piston reach for performance or greater efficiency. Both engines connect to an Xtronic continuously variable transmission. Paddle shifters are available with the SR grade.
Every 2.5-liter Altima is now available with Intelligent All-Wheel Drive with a 50:50 torque split in most situations, a first for a Nissan sedan and something that remains a relative rarity in this segment. Front-wheel drive 2.5-liter models are rated at 28 city/39 highway mpg.
Unique in the class, Nissan’s ProPILOT Assist helps drivers stay centered in the lane, navigate stop-and-go traffic, maintain a set vehicle speed, and maintain a set distance to the vehicle ahead. To activate the system, a driver simply pushes the blue ProPILOT Assist ON button, then sets the Intelligent Cruise Control when the desired speed is reached, similar to a conventional advanced cruise control system. It uses a forward-facing camera, forward-facing radar, sensors, and an electronic control module.
Along with ProPILOT Assist, also new for 2019 is Rear Automatic Braking that helps a driver by detecting and warning of objects while backing up, and if necessary applying brakes to help avoid a collision. Other safety and convenience features include standard Automatic Emergency Braking, Intelligent Forward Collision Warning, and Intelligent Driver Alertness 3 on all grades.
Intelligent Around View Monitor is standard on the Altima Platinum. Safety Shield 360 includes Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Rear Automatic Braking, Lane Departure Warning, radar-based Blind Spot Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and High Beam Assist (HBA). A new Traffic Sign Recognition system provides the most recent speed limit information.
The 2019 Nissan Altima offers a base cost of $23,900, a point of entry approachable for a great many buyers seeking a fun-do-drive, stylish vehicle offering laudable fuel efficiency and some of the most advanced technology available in its class.
Our drive of the 2019 Lexus ES 300h, the hybrid variant of this automaker’s all-new, seventh-generation ES sedan, was accommodating as expected from this luxury brand with welcome performance. During our drives we found turn-in sharp and precise. Considering front-to-rear weight distribution is heavy over the front wheels, the suspension compensates well and the car feels well-balanced.
Built on Lexus’ new Global Architecture-K platform, the ES enjoys a 2.6-inch increase in length, 1.8-inch increase in width, and wider front and rear tracks compared to the model it replaces. It also offers a two-inch longer wheelbase at 113 inches and a more spacious rear compartment.
The luxury sedan’s most striking angle is its profile that shows low hood and roof lines. From the front it’s the automaker’s unmistakable spindle grill that dominates, enhanced by slim L-shaped LED projector headlights.
The ES 300h layout is front engine, front wheel drive with power derived from a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, plus an electric motor mated to an all new hybrid transaxle. This delivers 215 total system horsepower. A six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters is electronically controlled and continuously variable.
Powering the electric motor is a nickel-metal-hydride battery that's more power dense and compact than its predecessor, allowing it to be relocated from the trunk to beneath the rear seat, thus adding welcome trunk space. This fourth-generation Hybrid Drive System enables accelerating from 0-60 mph in 8.1 seconds and provides a nearly 600-mile driving range, plus excellent combined 44 mpg fuel economy.
Inside is a well-appointed cabin that’s tranquil and free of exterior noise. New suction-type ventilated cooling seats kept us as comfortable and entertained as any in the new movie theaters. There are lots of choices for interior personalization with three color schemes available, four trims, and three material options for the seats. The car’s standard audio has 10 speakers, and to please audiophiles there’s the optional Mark Levinson audio with 1800 watts and 17 speakers.
Of course, the ES 300h offers all the latest driver assistance systems plus an array of convenience features like Apple CarPlay, and it will be Amazon Alexa-enabled for Android phones and iPhones. Outstanding fuel consumption, a striking design, and first-class amenities make the new Lexus ES 300h a real contender for today’s premium car buyers.
The price of entry for the conventionally powered 2019 Lexus ES is $39,500, with the ES 300h hybrid just $1,810 more at $41,310.
First off, this is not the LEAF we’ve grown accustomed to seeing on the road since the model’s introduction in 2010. Our drive of the new generation 2018 Nissan LEAF quickly reinforced this is a whole-new animal, a new generation of the venerable electric car intended to capture the imagination and, not coincidentally, market share in the increasingly competitive electric vehicle field.
We have history with the LEAF. Green Car Journal first experienced the original LEAF’s capabilities in a technology demonstrator designed to share what Nissan had in mind for its groundbreaking, soon-to-come production electric vehicle. At Nissan’s behest, we tested the automaker’s LEAF-destined electric drivetrain in its EV-12 test mule back in 2009 at Nissan’s global headquarters in Yokohama, Japan. We later witnessed the LEAF’s unveiling, clearly showing Nissan’s willingness to push the envelope for electric cars with an edgy design.
We were impressed. So much so, in fact, that Green Car Journal honored the LEAF with the magazine’s 2010 Green Car Vision Award™ in Washington DC, ahead of its introduction to the market. Nissan’s insight into what electric vehicle buyers desired has indeed proved visionary over the years. Testament to this is the LEAF’s standing as the world’s leading affordable, mass production EV since its launch.
The all-new generation Nissan LEAF aims to expand on this success with new styling and a 50-percent increase in driving range. It also features a full suite of Nissan Intelligent Mobility technologies. This all-electric model is more attractive with excellent aerodynamics that result in a low 0.28 drag coefficient. Improved aerodynamics not only means a quieter ride but also contributes to greater range. That’s an important consideration in electric cars with near-silent drivetrains that don’t mask outside noise.
The new Leaf features a 150-mile driving range between charges compared to the previous generation’s 100 miles. This is an important milestone that serves to overcome potential ‘range anxiety.’ Why 150 miles rather than shooting for the 200+ mile range like the Chevy Bolt EV and Tesla Model 3? It’s all about balancing price with functionality. Simply, Nissan aimed at providing an affordable price point under $30,000 for the LEAF. That meant delivering the range it figured would fit the driving needs of most drivers while keeping battery costs within reason. It’s a sound strategy.
A more powerful 40 kWh lithium-ion battery pack features improvements and revised chemistry that bring a 67 percent increase in energy density. Nissan designers have located the low-slung battery pack and other heavy components to the middle of the chassis to enhance the car’s center of gravity and handling. Fun fact: Using vehicle-to-home systems, the LEAF’s battery can store a home’s surplus solar energy while parked during the daytime and use it to help power a home in the evening.
LEAF’s electric powertrain features a 147-horsepower electric motor that’s well-suited to the model. It provides 38 percent more horsepower than the previous version with 26 greater torque for improved acceleration. Acceleration is crisp with more than enough power at the ready for all the driving situations we encountered on twisty roads and Interstates. Intelligent Ride Control delivers more precise motor torque control during cornering. This also reduces vibration while improving ride quality and steering control. Electric power steering software has been tweaked for improved steering feel. The LEAF’s steering torsion bar is also stiffer for better feedback and more linear response to steering inputs.
Nissan’s e-Pedal slows down the car via regenerative and friction braking when a driver’s foot lifts off the accelerator. This delivers electricity to the battery while essentially providing braking force without using the car’s brake pedal. It even brings the car to a complete stop. We found that driving with e-Pedal kept our LEAF tester in place while stopped on a steep hill without requiring a foot on the brake pedal. Notably, e-Pedal allows drivers to go without using the brake pedal 90 percent of the time.
LEAF’s ProPILOT cruise control conveniently maintains a constant distance to the vehicle ahead. If that vehicle stops, ProPILOT automatically applies brakes to also bring the LEAF to a full stop. It remains stopped even with your foot off the brake. Driving resumes when ProPILOT is activated with the touch of a switch or light pressure on the accelerator. The system also helps keep the LEAF centered in its lane at speeds between 19 and 62 mph. Other LEAF driver-assist technologies include Intelligent Lane Intervention, Lane Departure Warning, Intelligent Emergency Braking, Blind Spot Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and Intelligent Around View Monitor with moving object detection.
The new LEAF’s interior has a more luxurious and high-end look. Its dashboard is dominated by a seven-inch display for infotainment and the navigation system, if so equipped, plus Nissan's Safety Shield state-of-charge and power gauge. Another seven-inch screen faces the driver in place of conventional dials. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are included on LEAFs with the higher-spec infotainment/navigation system.
Today’s electric car market is different than that of the past. There are more choices in a growing number of vehicle classes and this makes it tougher for automakers to compete. Nissan aims to not only compete in the electric car field but dominate globally as it has in recent years.
The LEAF’s status as a true world car is underscored by widespread availability like the previous-generation LEAF. It’s also reinforced by Nissan’s global manufacturing capabilities with assembly plants in Japan, England, and in Smyrna, Tennessee. Offering the all-new LEAF at a base price of $29,990 here in the U.S. is a strategy that should bode well for Nissan in today’s increasingly competitive electric vehicle market.