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Ford Mustang Mach-E Rally driving on a dirt track.

We’ve driven plenty of Mustangs over the years and have owned several, including a 1966 Mustang back in the day and a pristine 2005 Grand Am Cup-themed Mustang GT that resides in the garage now. The latter combustion pony car shares garage space with a charging electric car  most of the time, representing a scenario that’s likely to become a fixture of life for many multi-car households in our unfolding mobility future – an EV for most daily driving and a combustion car or hybrid available for good measure.

Playing to this, electrification strategies have varied among the world’s major automakers, from a bit of dabbling with EVs to going all-in with battery electric models. Time will tell which strategy works out best in an era where electrification’s benefits and challenges are often still weighed intently before buyers make their move to go electric, though buyers in growing numbers are doing so these days.

Xray diagram of 2024 Ford Mustang Mach-E Rally.

Ford Mustang, Electrified

Ford is solidly positioned in the ‘all-in’ category. Along with its electric F-150 Lightning pickup and E-Transit commercial van, perhaps its most high-profile move has been its evolutionary – or perhaps revolutionary – Mustang Mach-E that debuted in late 2020,  the electrified stable mate of the legendary gas-powered Mustang.

The Mach-E successfully trades on the Mustang nameplate and carries on distinct Mustang design cues like a long hood and tri-bar taillights, though it is decidedly different with a unique sweeping roofline and coupe/liftback design. While some Mustang afficionados might take issue with the nameplate being applied to a crossover model, it’s really a moot point. The fun factor is there and it’s a Mustang in spirit if not in silhouette.

2024 Ford Mustang Mach-E Rally exterior.

All New Mach-E Rally

As expected, the Mach-E continues to evolve with an expanding number of model choices and battery options, including the new dual motor Mach-E GT that we recently drove in the Pacific Northwest. What really got our attention, though, was Ford’s Mustang Mach-E Rally we piloted around the track at the Dirtfish Rally School in Snoqualmie, Washington, just outside of Seattle.

The Rally gets all the content and performance attributes of the GT with additional benefits and features added for its mission. This adventurous model is a departure from the norm for Mach-E, literally, with that departure focused on off-pavement action far from stoplights, traffic, and the hustle of daily life. Our experience test driving for 4 Wheel & Off-Road magazine many years ago means we have a deep appreciation for that kind of opportunity.

Chargeport on a 2024 Ford Mustang Mach-E Rally electric car.

Special RallyCross Features

The all-wheel drive Mach-E Rally comes specially prepared for the job, with MagneRide suspension featuring an inch higher riding height than the standard Mach-E, RallyCross-tuned shocks and springs, and powertrain calibration and traction control tuned for the rugged and uneven surfaces of dirt-track and rallycross driving. Aluminum underbody shielding provides protection from the hazards and grime inherent in this kind of off-pavement driving.

Power is abundant with the Mach-E Rally’s 480 horsepower delivered by front and rear motors, with an available RallySport drive mode enhancing linear throttle response. Selecting this mode also sets more aggressive damping for improved handling and enables additional yaw for bigger slides, all important in dirt-track driving. Acceleration is impressive with the Rally’s 700 lb-ft torque enabling a 0-60 mph sprint is just 3.4 seconds. Its 91 kWh lithium-ion battery delivers an estimated 265 mile range.

Rear detail of 2024 Ford Mustang Mach-E Rally electric car.

Distinct Mach-E Rally Look

Form follows function with the Mach-E Rally, as it is also distinguished with special body moldings,  an aggressive rear liftback spoiler, rally-style fog lights, black painted roof, and eye catching graphics that add to its appeal. Power is delivered to the road via 19-inch gloss-white wheels equipped with Michelin CrossClimate 2 tires ideal for navigating loose surfaces. All this comes at a cost of $59,995, some $20,000 over the base model and six grand more than the Mach-E GT.

Driving the Mach-E Rally at Dirtfish was exhilarating. This specially equipped model exhibited exceptional capabilities and a seriously fun-to-drive nature at speed, which was expected given its rallycross nature. What’s really impressive is the degree to which the Mach-E Rally accomplishes this without sacrificing comfort or capabilities on the street, where most drivers will likely spend most of their time behind the wheel.

Display with driving modes.

Off Roading in a Mustang?

So, let’s just share a fundamental: There’s no circumstance in which either of our personal Mustangs would have ventured off-pavement, at least not willingly and not for an extended drive, unless we happened upon a washed-out road and it was our only way home. But the 2024 Mustang Mach-E Rally? Well, that’s another story…and it’s a really good one.

Now that we’ve been behind the wheel of a Mach-E Rally on Dirtfish Rally School’s dirt, gravel, and wet course, our Mustang horizons have expanded. We can say with confidence that heading off the beaten path in a Mach-E Rally is not only a reasonable option, it’s one likely to be calling out to Rally owners with some regularity. After all, while the road ahead may be straight and true, often enough there will be a new adventure awaiting on dirt roads less traveled just a turn of the wheel away.

Green Car Journal publisher Ron Cogan with a Ford Mustang Mach-E Rally electric car.
Parked VW ID.7 electric car charging.

VW will launch its 2025 ID.7 electric sport sedan in the U.S. in two trim levels and in both rear- and all-wheel drive formats. Typically, a two-trim strategy provides a more basic entry-level model and a mid- or top-range premium version. But since the VW ID.7 is being marketed as a ‘near luxury’ sedan, its base Pro S trim should come very well-equipped. The Pro S Plus will offer even higher levels of posh, adding 20-inch alloys, adaptive ride damping, front premium massage seats with heating and cooling, and an upscale 700-watt, 14-speaker Harman/Kardon sound system.

Rear-drive versions of the 2025 ID.7 will use a single motor mounted on the rear axle rated at 282 horsepower and 402 lb-ft torque. All-wheel drive versions will have two motors – one on each axle – capable of delivering a maximum of 335 horsepower. Both will use an 82 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. Those are the same powerplants installed on the three upper ID.4 electric crossover trims for the 2024 model year. VW is holding back on revealing range estimates for the ID.7 until closer to launch, but the streamlined sedan should deliver a few miles more than the boxier ID.4, which is rated – for 82 kWh battery versions – at 292 miles for rear-drive models and 263 miles for all-wheel drive versions.

How the VW ID.7 Stacks Up

Sedans have been phased out by many automakers in the U.S. market and electric sedans are even rarer, so the ID.7 won’t have a lot of direct competition. Midsize premium electric sedans in the ID.7’s anticipated price range are the Hyundai Ioniq 6, which is likely to be the prime competition, plus the Tesla Model 3, lower trim levels of the BMW i4, and some trim levels of the Ford Mustang Mach-E, a crossover with some sedan-like styling characteristics.

The ID.7 may be the roomiest of the bunch. At 195.3 inches, it is longer than any of the others and just .75 inches shorter than the ID.Buzz van. The ID.7 also has a longer wheelbase – an indicator of cabin legroom – than any likely competitor except the Mach-E, which, at 117.5 inches, beats the VW electric sport sedan’s wheelbase by a scant half an inch. Driving range varies among likely competitors’ rear-wheel-drive models, from 256 miles for the base BMW i4 with a 66 kWh (usable) battery to an extended range of 310 miles for the Ford Mustang Mach-E with an 88 kWh (usable) battery.

Key VW ID.7 Features

The ID.7 is expected to come to market with a sporty, EV-modern interior with a flat dash hosting a centrally mounted, 15-inch infotainment touchscreen that will be control central for most vehicle functions. Backlit sliders beneath the screen will provide cabin temperature and audio volume controls, and there’s a touchpad on the left side of the dash with headlight and defroster controls. A head-up display will show drivers most of the info they need, projected directly onto the lower portion of the windshield, but there’s also a small digital driver info screen behind the flat-bottom steering wheel. The shifter is located on the steering column, leaving the center console clean and open.

To make up for the paucity of physical controls and to make it easier for drivers to use the vehicle’s functions – like selecting drive modes – without taking their eyes off the road to stare into the infotainment screen, VW has developed a voice command system that can be used to do more than change audio channels and make phone calls. Drivers will be able to use to it set those drive modes, set up the navigation system and driver-assist systems such as lane-keeping mode, and even adjust the in-dash vents for the climate system.

While VW hasn’t supplied most vehicle measurements yet, the company did disclose that the ID.7’s primary cargo area behind the fold-down second-row seats measures a spacious 18 .8 cubic feet. Among potential competitors, only the Tesla Model 3 and Mustang Mach-E have more.

VW ID.7 electric car chargeport.

Safety and Driver Assist Systems

ID.7 will use VW’s IQ.Drive advanced driver assist system as standard equipment. It features hands-on-wheel semi-autonomous driving in some circumstances. Also standard across the line will be automated Park Assist Plus for parallel and perpendicular parking. We expect standard safety and driver assist systems for the ID.7 to include full-range adaptive cruise control, front collision mitigation, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning and lane keeping assist, and more. The ID.7 hasn’t yet been crash-tested by either the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). But the ID.4, with which the ID.7 shares a platform, has received top crash safety ratings from both.

Pricing is also to come and won’t be revealed until closer to the ID.7's launch in the third quarter of this year.

VW ID.7 close of up front wheel.

This was originally published on thegreencarguy.com. 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.

Toyota, a firm believer in the power of hydrogen to help remake the world of transportation, has turned its longtime R&D center in Southern California into its North American hydrogen development headquarters. Christened H2HQ, the small complex in Gardena is being repurposed to bring all of Toyota Motor North America’s hydrogen propulsion and stationary powerplant development activities under one roof. Toyota also has hydrogen research and development centers in Japan and Europe.

The new North American hydrogen facility initially will concentrate on hydrogen technology for heavy trucks and stationary power plants but will also continue working on the automaker’s fuel cell system for passenger vehicles. Toyota’s Mirai sporty sedan is one of only three fuel-cell electric passenger vehicles marketed in the U.S., alongside the Hyundai Nexo SUV and the new Honda CR-V e:FCEV plug-in hybrid. All are available only in California, which has all but two of the nation’s publicly available hydrogen fuel stations.

Already at Work

While such vehicles still serve only a tiny niche market, their fuel cell technology is exportable. Toyota uses the same fuel cell stacks developed for the Mirai in its heavy-duty truck and stationary power generation systems as well. On the heavy truck side, the automaker already has developed a hydrogen fuel cell powerplant ‘kit’ it will market to commercial truck manufacturers to offer their customers as an alternative to diesel engines.

The company believes, as do Hyundai and Honda, that hydrogen fuel cells have a robust future as the basis for clean power for transport and that right now, heavy-duty trucking – under tremendous pressure to clean up the air pollution caused by diesel engines – is where a lot of effort needs to be applied.

Expansive Hydrogen Development

Hydrogen development at Toyota.

Work at H2HQ will enable Toyota to localize its global hydrogen work on both light and heavy-duty fuel cells and fuel cell vehicles, on hydrogen fueling, and on stationary fuel cell power plants, thus “creating real-world products to help reduce carbon emissions,” said Ted Ogawa, TMNA president and chief executive. Meaningful carbon reduction requires hydrogen made using renewable energy, and Toyota is working with various regulators and the power industry to promote increased use of renewables.

The H2HQ campus already includes a scalable test bench for working on stationary power plant applications, a hydrogen fueling station for light- and heavy-duty vehicles, and Toyota’s largest dynamometer, a 1.2 megawatt giant capable of testing electric drive systems for the largest heavy duty vehicles.

Other Hydrogen Applications

On the non-automotive side, Toyota recently developed a one megawatt fuel-cell generator for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado and, in collaboration with Kohler Energy, a prototype backup power generator – hydrogen fueled – for a medical facility in Washington.

Toyota also aims to be able to make its new hydrogen research and development facility self-contained. To that end, it is installing a flex-fuel micro grid that combines a 230-kilowatt solar system, a one-megawatt stationary proton exchange membrane fuel cell generator, a 325-kW solid oxide fuel cell, and a 500-kWh battery storage system. It is expected to be able to take the facility off-grid, when needed, by 2026. The company said it also plans to operate a sustainable energy information center at the Gardena facility.

Tri-Gen Station a First

Toyota and FuelCell Energy Tri-Gen hydrogen facility at the Port of Long Beach.

In tandem with the announcement earlier this month of the new H2HQ, Toyota Motor North America (TMNA) also unveiled the world’s first ‘tri-gen’ hydrogen fuel cell power plant at its Port of Long Beach vehicle prep facility. The plant, operated by Toyota partner FC Energy, produces hydrogen, electricity, and water from piped-in natural gas. And to offset its carbon footprint, FC pays for an equivalent amount of biogas from a waste facility near the California high desert town of Victorville.

About a third of the Tri-gen plant’s hydrogen – 1.6 tons a day – is sent to a nearby hydrogen fueling station used by Toyota for its fuel-cell passenger car, the Mirai, as well as by heavy duty fuel-cell electric trucks serving the port. The rest is passed through a pair of fuel cell stacks to produce 2.8 megawatts of electricity and about 1,400 gallons of water, a byproduct of combining hydrogen and oxygen in the fuel cell stacks. The water is used at a car wash at Toyota’s vehicle prep facility. Most of the electricity – 2.3 megawatts – is used at Toyota’s port facility. The remaining 500 kilowatts is used to power the Tri-gen station.

Toyota RAV4 driving.

We’re behind the wheel of our Toyota RAV4 long-term test vehicle and just looked at the instrument cluster’s mpg reading. It’s showing 43 mpg toward the end of our 150 mile cruise on the 101 freeway along California’s Central Coast. There was no traffic to speak of, so we had kept our ride at a fairly steady state around 65-70 mph, reasonable for this stretch of California highway though far short of the much faster speeds and stop-and-start driving experienced in Southern California.

The surprise? This welcome fuel efficiency was achieved without hybrid or plug-in power. We were piloting a Toyota RAV4 XLE crossover powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that, at the time we started our adventure, came with a manufacturer’s suggested price of $29,085, topping out at $33,987 after options. Adding to the surprise is that EPA rates this RAV4 at 34 mpg on the highway and 27 mpg in the city. We were beating that by a long shot, not through crazy hypermiling techniques but simply by easy driving without unnecessary bursts of acceleration or driving at higher speeds.

Instrument panel showing high fuel efficiency.

Toyota RAV4 Efficiency

Look, reality check: While that kind of better-than-EPA fuel efficiency can’t be expected as a matter of course – because, let’s face it, we aren’t always driving traffic-free and there are times when we want to go fast – it is possible, as our experience showed. There is a lesson here for anyone who wants to optimize efficiency and lessen their carbon emissions while driving conventional vehicles. High fuel efficiency is out there for those who actively seek it.

During our drives, the RAV4 consistently delivered all the power we needed, seamlessly delivered to pavement through an 8-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission. Riding on independent MacPherson strut suspension up front with multi-link suspension at the rear, we found ride and handling on the money, as we would expect from Toyota. Along the way we have also appreciated filling up with regular 87 octane gas rather than the premium that some models require, which costs up to 35 to 40 cents per gallon more than regular grade in our area.

Interior of Toyota RAV4 crossover SUV.

A Comfortable Cabin

Inside this RAV4 is a well-appointed interior with an 8 inch multimedia touch display offering Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. Nicely bolstered seats provide plenty of comfort as the miles drift by. While our RAV4 came with cloth seats and we prefer leather (or these days, artificial leather), Toyota’s SofTex synthetic leather seating only comes with the uplevel XLE Premium trim at nearly $3,000 more, so cloth it is. Hauling life’s usual stuff is well handled with 37 cubic feet of storage behind the rear seat and 70 cubic feet total with the rear seat folded.

Cloth seats aside, our only complaint, and it’s a mild one, is the RAV4’s stop-start system sometimes engages a bit too abruptly from a stop, something we have experienced in other models with stop-start functionality as well. We chalk that up to the quest for maximum efficiency as the engine is shut down after a pause when stopped, then automatically started again when the brake pedal is released.

Dependable and Affordable

After six months in our long-term test fleet and some 5,000 miles on the odometer, we can say this: Toyota’s RAV4 is a rock-solid choice for those looking to drive a conventionally powered small SUV at a price a great many can afford. We still find ourselves beating EPA mpg estimates by at least a few mpg if we’re focused, but most of the time we are in the range of the 27 to 34 mpg efficiency expected of this model, depending on whether we’re doing city or highway driving. We’re pretty enthused with our daily drives in this RAV4 test car and looking forward to sharing our continuing  experiences in the months ahead.

California has banned the sale of new gas vehicles in the state by 2035. Eight other states have adopted its far-reaching rule and more are considering it. This is an environmental win but also a huge worry for many who feel their mobility way of life will be increasingly challenged as we head toward an electrified future. They have a right to be concerned.

It’s true that many assumptions are at work today as we head toward a world replete with electric cars, and these should be well considered. Perhaps the most controversial notion is that the nation’s electrical grid will support a massive influx of electric vehicles on our highways. If we accept that calculations supporting this conclusion were accurate at the time they were made, it’s apparent they didn’t take into account the challenges now posed by an increasingly contrary climate.

One example is Electric Vehicles at Scale – Phase 1 Analysis: High EV Adoption Impacts on the Western U.S. Power Grid, the first of a multi-part analysis by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory conducted on behalf of the Department of Energy. This comprehensive and well-documented report analyzed how the many millions of electric cars expected on the road by 2028 would affect the Western grid.

Without diminishing the considerable work and expertise that went into this report, it’s important to note that there’s an important caveat. In its words, the study’s outcomes “are predicated on normal grid conditions, absent of any grid contingencies, such as generator or transmission outages, extreme weather scenarios, extreme high loads, or fire conditions that require deactivation of major transmission lines.”

This is an eye-opening footnote. In recent years, the nation has experienced a greater incidence of extreme weather events like historic heat waves, deep freezes, high winds, hurricanes, and monsoon-like downpours. These have disrupted the electrical grid and caused blackouts in diverse parts of the country. This not only brings the misery of living in the dark without air conditioning, lights, or staying connected, but also an inability to charge an electric vehicle if one happens to be in your garage.

"Don't Charge at Peak Times"

During yet another California heat wave in a recent summer, the state’s Independent System Operator issued 10 straight days of Flex Alerts asking consumers to cut energy use to avoid rolling blackouts. The ask was that thermostats be set higher and that consumers avoid using major appliances, including electric vehicle chargers, during specific times. Consumers rallied to the call and blackouts were averted. But this is not sustainable as an answer to an overloaded grid.

Broken EV chargers that do not bode well for an electrified future.

Overtaxing the grid isn’t exclusively a problem here. Heat waves and a severe drought impacting hydroelectric power affected a million electric vehicles in China, causing public charging stations to go offline. This underscores the challenge, illustrating the fragile balance of power generation and demand, and how unanticipated heat waves, droughts, and wildfires – and of course millions more electric cars – can potentially strain any electrical grid past its breaking point.

California has been successful in increasingly moving toward renewable wind and solar power, but phasing in renewables to displace the need for conventional power generation takes time. In anticipation of projected electricity shortfalls and the potential for blackouts in the years ahead, California extended operation of the state’s last operating nuclear powerplant, Diablo Canyon, which was scheduled to shut down in 2025. The powerplant supplies 9 percent of the state’s electricity and was deemed critical to California’s short-term electrical needs.

An Electrified Future in Flux

Illustration of an electrical grid in our electrified future.

Over three decades ago when attention first turned to electric cars, the need for environmental improvement was real. It is, by all measures, now acute. Will a 2035 ban on gasoline cars in California and other ‘green’ states come to pass as planned, and will we be able to charge the millions of electric vehicles this will bring? A great many people hope so. But along the way, history shows us we need to be prepared with realistic options and contingency plans…just in case.

Green Car Journal editor Ron Cogan has focused on the intersection of automobiles, energy, and the environment for 35 years. He is an acknowledged electric vehicle expert and spent a year of daily travels behind the wheel of GM’s groundbreaking EV1 electric car.

Alfa Romeo Tonal rear view.

Alfa Romeo, one of Italy’s legendary performance brands, returned to the U.S. market in 2006 to reassert its Italian heritage with the sporty 4C. Since then, the Guilia coupe and Stelvio SUV have done an admirable job relaunching the brand.

The newest Alfa, the Tonale luxury subcompact SUV, speaks to buyers here that overwhelmingly skew toward crossover and SUV models. The Tonale, with its performance styling, advanced engine/battery technology, all-wheel drive, and high levels of utility, offers a combination that has never before been available in an Alfa Romeo.

Alfa Romeo Tonale plug-in hybrid engine.

First Alfa Romeo PHEV

Tonale is not only Alfa’s first hybrid powered car of any kind, but also its first plug-in vehicle. When fully charged – which takes somewhere under three hours with a Level 2 charger – the Tonale will deliver an EPA estimated range of 33 miles on battery power alone. With a combined average rating of 29 mpg and 77 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent) on electric power, total range on both gas and electric power brings about 360 miles of driving.

Green Car Journal editors' recent time behind the wheel of a Tonale allowed experiencing how this sporty and efficient Alfa performs on the open road and while negotiating the meandering, twisty canyons of California's Central Coast. As with all Alfa Romeos, performance is expected, and in this case delivered via Tonale’s 1.3-liter MultiAir turbocharged four-cylinder engine that provides 180 horsepower to the front axle. The rear axle is separately powered by a 121 horsepower electric motor generating 184 lb-ft torque. The sum of all this is a best-in-class power rating of 285 hp and 347 lb-ft. torque, all in. A 15.5 kWh lithium-ion battery provides power for the electric drive system. An integrated high-voltage belt starter-generator mounts to the engine to assist in delivering smoother drive cycle transitions and start-stop capability. Notably, at times we found the Tonale delivering slightly more than its rated 33 mile battery electric range.

Alfa Romeo Tonale is High Tech

The Tonale sports a host of family friendly features that allow this stylish Alfa to hold lots of things, as SUVs are required to do. Along with the ability to transport your stuff, the Tonale’s standard content is also quite high. Among its many systems are Adaptive Cruise Control, Intelligent Speed Assist, Blind Spot and Rear Cross Path Alert, Lane Departure and Lane Keep Assist, and Forward Collision Warning with Automatic Emergency Braking for pedestrians. Yep, they are all there. Level 2 autonomy with Traffic Jam Assist is also available, as is an optional 360-degree camera system.

Three versions of the Tonale are available, starting with the Sprint edition, then the Ti, and finally the high end Veloce version that we drove. All three feature an excellent Uconnect 5 system with information displayed through a 10.25- inch center-mounted touch screen and a 12.3-inch drivers’ dashboard screen. Each screen can be customized by the driver to display the data most desired. In addition, an on board Alexa system allows connecting to the vehicle via voice commands – no inputs necessary.

Alfa Romeo Tonale interior.

Style Defines Alfa Romeo Tonale

The Tonale is one of the best looking subcompact SUVs on the market with its exceptional style and signature Alfa Romeo grille set into the surrounding bodywork. Its sculpted side profile flows past cool alloy wheels and is pure Italian. An elegant interior continues to delight, with a blend of brushed aluminum and suede-like seat upholstery. The stamp of Alfa approval adorns each seat back – very cool.

Alfa Romeo’s Tonale is covered by a four year/50,000 mile limited warranty with a full powertrain warranty for the same length of time. Pricing for the base Tonale Sprint is $43,845 with the Ti coming in at $46,500 and the Veloce $51,040. The Tonale Veloce we drove, with its extras and destination charge, featured an as-tested price of $57,290.

2025 RAM REV electric pickup driving on trail.

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.

2025 RAM REV electric pickup hood scoop.

RAM 1500 REV Power Options

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.

2025 Ram 1500 REV electric pickup chargeport.

Fast Charges in 10 Minutes

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.

RAM 1500 REV electric pickup.

Sporty RAM 1500 REV Styling

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.

Interior view of the 2025 Ram 1500 REV electric pickup.

Premium and High Tech Interior

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.

Front passenger screen in the 2025 Ram 1500 REV electric pickup.

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.

Toyota Crown sedan with rear hatch open.

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.

Rebirth of a Model

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.

Hybrids Power the Toyota Crown

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.

Sedan With a Premium Feel

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 Crown Safety

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.

2023 Toyota Crown headlight detail.
2022 Hyundai Tucson plug-in hybrid on highway.

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.

2022 Hyundai Tucson PHEV charging.

PHEV Has Bigger Battery, More Power

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.

2022 Hyundai Tucson PHEV front end detail.

A Better-Driving Hyundai Tucson

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.

2022 Hyundai Tucson PHEV interior.

Hyundai Tucson Tech

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.

Photo: EVgo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Hyundai Kona Trim Levels

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.

Quick Charge Options

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.

沃尔沃全新XC40外观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.

New Volvo XC40 - interiorAll 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.

New Volvo XC40 - 360 cameraVolvo 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.

沃尔沃全新XC40外观

MY19 Nissan Altima

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.

MY19 Nissan Altima

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.

2019 Nissan Altima

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. 

nissan-leaf-straight-on-2First 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.

nissan-ev-12-test-muleWe 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.

nissan-leaf-rearThe 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.

nissan-leaf-underhoodLEAF’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.

nissan-leaf-interiorLEAF’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.

nissan-leaf-chargingToday’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.

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