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Like all of us over the long course of lockdowns and varying degrees of COVID 19-related restrictions, my wife Sheree and I were yearning for the day we could travel somewhere…anywhere…that seemed safe, made sense, and transported us at least briefly beyond the everyday concerns of the pandemic that had literally stopped us all in our tracks.

Visiting Hawaii when we did, as the pandemic was loosening its hold on life, was like vacationing during a sort of pandemic ‘shoulder season’ – the traditionally less crowded, less hectic months before and after the masses head to the most desired vacation destinations. While the Governor of Hawaii is now welcoming visitors back as the recent COVID 19 surge has passed in the islands, and things are much more ‘normal’ (read that ‘crowded’) with Hawaii once again a top destination, it was eerily quiet during our before-the-surge visit.

Traveling to Hawaii was no small logistics challenge, though that has eased now with changing visitor requirements . As we viewed our options before deciding on Hawaii, other favorite destinations like Italy seemed better left for another day once things are more sorted out. Australia was off the table since its borders were, and still are, closed to international visitors, though that country has just announced it is again allowing entry to international students and foreign workers. We've done road trips through the Pacific Northwest but were looking for something different. So what about Hawaii? That’s been a work in progress and travel there initially required a 14 day quarantine since March 2020, then a shortened 10 days of mandatory quarantine starting in December 2020 for travel to all of the Hawaiian Islands.

This policy relaxed late last year with the option for a quarantine exemption through the State of Hawaii’s Safe Travels portal, at https://travel.hawaii.gov. A video on the site presents an overview of the program and lists the steps to be completed, including the need for a negative COVID 19 test for non-vaccinated visitors traveling to Oahu. A recent change now grants a quarantine exemption for fully-vaccinated visitors who register with the Safe Travels portal, upload vaccination cards, and then have their vaccination cards confirmed during airport check-in. Other islands have had additional requirements, and the state’s rules continue to evolve, so it’s best to reference the latest requirements and restrictions at the State of Hawaii’s online COVID 19 portal, at https://hawaiicovid19.com/travel/getting-to-hawaii.

REQUIREMENTS FOR HAWAII TRAVEL: Hawaii’s quarantine exemption process is clear but not entirely free from angst, though vaccinated travelers will find it easier than the non-vaccinated. For those who have not been vaccinated, timing is essential since a negative NAAT or PCR COVID 19 test is required from a Hawaii-approved lab. These labs are listed on the Safe Travels portal. After registering for an account through the portal and providing your travel information, including flight and hotel reservation numbers, your negative COVID 19 test can be uploaded and instantly verified.

This test must be done no more than 72 hours prior to your flight to Hawaii. Naturally, there’s a realistic concern that everything go well and the testing lab e-mails a negative test result to you in time. For those with connecting flights, the timeline is based on the final non-stop flight segment you take to Hawaii, not your originating airport.

Though we are now fully vaccinated, our trip took place before Hawaii’s ‘vaccine passport’ option was in place. We knew that a number of testing options were available, including relatively new availability for testing on-site at some larger international airports, but decided to take our test at a local urgent care since they work with a Hawaii-approved lab partner. We timed it so the test was taken within the required 72 hour window, doing so on a walk-in basis, though other testing providers may offer appointments. We arrived, filled out the paperwork, and were called in for the Hawaii-approved nasal swab test. Then the anticipation began. We were pleasantly surprised when we received e-mails about 18 hours later with our negative results, quicker than promised. Then we uploaded the test PDFs to our accounts on the Safe Travels portal.

Once you’re within 24 hours of your flight, you need to log-in to the portal and answer a short health questionnaire. A QR code is issued immediately after the questionnaire is submitted, whether you're requesting exemption with a test or vaccination. This QR code allows screeners access to your Safe Travels quarantine exemption status during airport check-in. While you can access this QR code by logging in any time, Safe Travels recommends that you also make a printout of the QR code and carry it with you. Those seeking a quarantine exemption must bring their vaccine card with them. Since this trip involved an exemption with a COVID 19 test, we brought the PDF of our test results with us just to be safe.

FLIGHT CHECK-IN: We flew Alaska Airlines direct from San Jose, California, to Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport. At check-in in San Jose, we provided our tickets and then logged into the Safe Travels portal on our phones to show our QR codes. During check-in, status on our Safe Travels accounts was changed from Not Screened and Not Exempt to Screened and Exempt. This same process follows now for those who apply for a quarantine exemption with their uploaded vaccine card, with the physical vaccine card confirmed by the airline. With confirmation complete, Alaska Airlines issued Safe Travels wristbands that allowed breezing through the airport upon arrival in Oahu. Those without wristbands must endure long lines as their exempt status is manually confirmed once they arrive in Hawaii.

After check-in, we logged into our Safe Travels accounts on our phones to confirm the change to Exempt was made. A new QR code reflecting this change was shown. You will need to log-in and show this updated QR Code when checking in to your hotel to confirm exemption from quarantine.

(THEN) UNCROWDED WAIKIKI: This is a lot of work to go through for any trip. However, the yearning to experience this tropical paradise after a seemingly endless time of pandemic restrictions was compelling enough to make it worthwhile. Plus, we knew that once travel began in earnest later, the relatively uncrowded and reasonably priced Hawaii we wished to visit would likely experience rising costs and a crush of visitors. Following our 5 1/2 hour flight from San Jose to Honolulu, the promised benefit of wearing a Safe Travels wristband was immediately evident. Those without one went right at the entry sign for a long line and manual processing, while we went left and, with a quick flash of our wristbands at a check point, continued toward baggage claim. It was that simple.

We had arranged to be met with a ride and lei greeting because, after all, that’s really how you should arrive on the islands and it’s not that costly. It’s also a good plan because rental cars have been very expensive everywhere, including Hawaii, due to tight availability. We even found Uber prices to be higher than normal due to increased demand. The best bargain for travel needs, surprisingly, was an old-school cab since their costs are regulated. If you do want to rent, then you might consider going electric with a Tesla Model S, 3, X, or Y rented from WDT Luxury Tesla Rental Hawaii, though these can't be rented at the airport. The 14 Teslas in this company's growing fleet are currently renting from $125 to $350 per day, with the top-of-the-line Model S Plaid going for $849 daily. Speaking of Teslas, while strolling the main part of Waikiki be sure to head over to the Tesla showroom on Kalakaua Avenue to appreciate some electric car eye candy there.

Over the years, our go-to hotel has always been the Hilton Hawaiian Village, a 22 acre resort located on a wide stretch of Waikiki Beach that’s much less crowded than the stretch of beach adjacent to Waikiki’s main hotels and shopping area. We’ve found the walk from HHV to the main bustle of Waikiki to be easy and enjoyable, with half the walk along the beach. This time, however, we started our vacation with two nights at the Moana Surfrider, a stately and historic hotel located in the heart of Waikiki Beach. We’ve been wanting to experience this hotel for some time and finally took the opportunity. We weren’t disappointed. The Moana Surfrider, like many hotels in Hawaii, closed down for months to weather the dearth of tourists and the unknowns of the early months of the pandemic. And like others, they have strived to reopen in ways that allow accommodating guests in true Hawaiian style.

We found check-in an easy process, with the only additional step involving confirmation of our quarantine exempt status through the Safe Travels QR code on our phones. The lobby, the rooms, the restaurants and bar, and overall experience were just as we had hoped. The Surfrider’s manager was even on hand in the lobby to welcome guests to Hawaii and the hotel, an unexpected touch.

At night, we were able to enjoy live music and drinks at the hotel’s iconic Beach Bar with its exceptional surf-and-sand view, and Vintage 1901, the hotel’s stately piano bar. There’s the Beachhouse fine dining restaurant if you’re so inclined, or you can order dinner from a more limited menu at Vintage 1901, as we did. We enjoyed breakfast at the hotel’s Verandah at the Beachhouse and pineapple smoothies at the Surfrider Café. While we didn’t get to enjoy Sunday afternoon tea at the Verandah because it was fully booked, we have done this high tea before and highly recommend it.

One of our favorite things in years past has been to stop by the Moana Surfrider just to spend some time on the rocking chairs that line its front porch, and just people-watch. This Moana Surfrider’s location in the heart of Waikiki Beach makes everything easily accessible. While restaurants and shops are capacity controlled due to COVID 19 restrictions, there were plenty of them ready and waiting to serve visitors.

We knew ahead of time that reduced capacity meant quite a few restaurants would be fully booked on many nights, so we made reservations in advance through the Open Table app, including the popular Hard Rock Honolulu. Some, like the always-in-demand Duke’s Waikiki beach bar and restaurant, had no reservations open for breakfast, lunch, or dinner during our stay. However, Duke’s sets aside half of its tables for walk-ins, so we gave it a try and lunch for the two of us involved just a 15 minute wait.

Waikiki Beach is often a very crowded place. While there were tourists strolling along its main street, Kalakaua Avenue, and a reasonable amount of traffic, we found it less crowded than on previous visits when sidewalks were packed. Some popular eateries that are often impossible for walk-ins, like the Cheesecake Factory, had unusually short lines and presented no obstacles to enjoying a fun meal. By the time you’re reading this, though, the greater numbers of travelers now heading to Hawaii likely mean a much busier environment with the usual wait times.

After several days at the Moana Surfrider, we moved on to our usual Hawaiian digs, the Hilton Hawaiian Village. We’ve always enjoyed this resort because it offers so much on-site – an array of casual and fine-dining restaurants, a pizzeria, New York deli, and Starbucks, along with gift shops and two ABC Stores for picking up everything from sandwiches, drinks, and snacks to sundries, rafts, and beach supplies. Complimentary morning activities are offered like hula lessons, lei making, yoga, and tai chi.

This was the intended ‘down time’ of our trip, so four days were spent on lounge chairs under an umbrella on the resort’s uncrowded stretch of Waikiki Beach. Drinks and food are nearby at the Hau Tree Bar and Tropics Bar & Grill. Daily walks took us to the bustle of activities along Kalakaua Avenue and the main part of Waikiki Beach, a pleasant 25 minute stroll. A fascinating trip to the Honolulu Museum of Art was also on order to view its collection of Asian, Hawaiian, European, and American art.

Hilton Hawaiian Village closed down for eight months during the pandemic and reopened in November 2020. During our stay, we found that while it did offer many of the features and amenities we’ve come to appreciate in the past, the pandemic’s impact meant it was still getting up to speed. The nightly live entertainment we’ve always enjoyed on stage at the expansive outdoor Tapa bar, and in the more intimate setting of Tropics Bar & Grill, was absent. The popular Tapa Bar itself we closed. In fact, except for the Waikiki Starlight Luau held on the resort’s Great Lawn adjacent to the Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon, there was no live entertainment at all on the property during our visit. The last we checked, the resort was planning to start live entertainment again shortly.

Like many hotels on the islands, daily rhythms at Hilton Hawaiian Village have been affected by capacity limits, so restaurant reservations are a good idea, either booked on-site or through Open Table. Hilton Hawaiian Village is billed as the largest ocean resort in the Pacific, so it’s understandable why it’s taking time to fully emerge from the challenges of the pandemic. This is a very popular Waikiki destination and we expect it to be bustling as usual the next time we return.

IMPORTANT REMINDERS: Hawaii's new vaccine passport system now provides a much simpler way to get a quarantine exemption. We didn't have that option at the time of our visit so a COVID 19 test with specific timing requirements was required. This same testing requirement is still in place for unvaccinated visitors today. We expect that the vast majority of those heading to Hawaii have not had issues with a test exemption. That said, we also know of a few who did not receive test results in time and had to cancel their vacation plans. There is no accommodation for taking a test once you’ve landed in Hawaii. You’re either exempt before flying there through a negative test or confirmed vaccination card, or you’re subject to the mandatory quarantine. So you focus. Understand the requirements explained through Safe Travels. And you plan your test timing carefully, since in this case timing is everything.

This article could have been titled, ‘Four Tickets to Paradise,’ but our friends John and Cathy who were to join us never made it. They had to cancel their trip just hours before their scheduled flight, though they did all the right things through Safe Travels Hawaii and timed their COVID 19 tests appropriately . One of their PCR test results came back quickly, but the other was delayed and eventually came back inconclusive. It was expected that a quick follow-up NAAT COVID 19 test would come in time, but the negative test result wasn’t received until just before their scheduled flight, after all was cancelled. That was a disappointing sign of the times, so it was just the two of us this time.

As a final thought, Hawaii is absolutely worth the effort even amid all the extra steps you have to take right now to get there. Being on the islands, especially after all the months of lockdowns and restrictions, is spectacular even amid its reawakening and we enjoyed our experiences there immensely. You will enjoy the Aloha, too!

Andrew Fox is Founder, CEO, and Chairman of Charge Enterprises

The electric revolution is upon us, the infrastructure is not.

With the recent signing of the Glasgow Declaration on Zero Emission Cars and Vans at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, multiple automakers and 33 countries are now officially working toward the goal of making all new cars and vans sold globally zero emission by 2040. ‘Zero emission’ in this case is defined as producing zero greenhouse gas emissions at the tailpipe, as accomplished by electric vehicles, for example.

While much has been reported about the ever-increasing number of EV offerings and the growing interest and demand, there are still major hurdles to mainstream adoption. One of the most pressing is the dire lack of charging infrastructure.

Today, there are less than 2 million EVs in operation within the United States, according to some estimates, and fewer than 100,000 charging stations to service them — nearly a third of them in California. With projections for EVs in operation within the U.S. exceeding 25 million by 2030, the calculus on what it will take to keep those zero-emission vehicles running is staggering: Approximately 13 million EV stations need to be installed by 2030, which equates to 120,000 a month in the United States alone.

The trillion-dollar infrastructure bill just signed into U.S. law does include $7.5 billion earmarked for building out EV charging networks. But given the anticipated growth rate of EVs versus today’s infrastructure, it’s going to take a lot more than that. This is where companies like Charge Enterprises come in.

From on-the-go power banks to micro-mobility and EV charging stations, we design and engineer, select and source equipment, install, and coordinate software selection and if the customer requires, implement remote maintenance and monitoring services. So whether it’s a ChargePoint system or a Blink system, or a third-party charging company, what we do is the infrastructure build-out and ecosystem planning of the site location. Servicing and educating the client is critical in establishing a reliable, safe, scalable and flexible site for future demands.

We are equipment- and software-agnostic, which means that we can provide custom solutions with careful consideration of various business use cases to ensure efficient, effective, design plans that not only satisfy current needs but also account for future scalability, growth, and ever-advancing technology. Our experienced team with nationwide scale offers turnkey engineering, design, equipment and software specifications, planning, sourcing, and installation for EV charging ecosystems.

As important as EV infrastructure is, true global sustainability isn’t confined to how we fuel our mobility. That’s why our recent strategic alliance with the National Community Renaissance, one of the nation’s largest nonprofit developers of LEED certified affordable housing, is such a critical compliment to Charge’s infrastructure solutions for intelligent wireless campuses. This partnership will further align with National CORE’s dedication to providing high-performance affordable housing that integrates energy and sustainability to reduce harmful emissions, making all communities more sustainable, healthy and equitable places to live, work, and play – especially historically disadvantaged communities.

The demand for clean, sustainable charging infrastructure is building,  whether for commercial properties, fleet depots, truck/van centers, retail facilities, auto dealerships, government, or residential. Our strategy is to make it simple for everyone to switch to an EV and other electrified technology. We’re helping accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels toward a fully electric future.

Andrew Fox is Founder, CEO, and Chairman of Charge Enterprises, a portfolio of global businesses specializing in communications and electric-vehicle charging infrastructure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Since the very first Green Car Awards™ presented by Green Car Journal in 2005, the magazine’s mission has been to acknowledge and encourage environmental achievement in the auto industry. It has always been important to recognize new models that are driving a green revolution on our highways by decreasing emissions, encouraging energy diversity, and improving efficiency. This enlightened way forward is crucial to vastly improving the automobile’s impact on the environment and ensuring a future for personal-use vehicles.

That mission has never been more vital than it is today as we see first-hand the environmental challenges we all face. While there are many ways to address these challenges and solutions must come from many fronts, it’s reassuring to know that the auto industry is stepping up in significant ways.

High efficiency internal combustion models that eke out fuel economy numbers in the 30 to 40 mile-per-gallon range, and above, were unheard of in the recent past. They’re on the road today. Hybrids that extend fuel efficiency to 40 and 50 miles per gallon are not uncommon. Models driving on battery electric power often are achieving an energy equivalent of 80, 90, and 100 miles-per-gallon, or more. There’s still work to be done to accomplish important environmental goals, but this truly is a watershed moment.

The motor vehicle continues to have an important story to tell, now and in the decades ahead. That story speaks to greater efficiency, improved attention to sustainability, and a more thoughtful approach to environmental compatibility, all made possible by the enlightened design, advanced technologies, and amazing innovation found in an unfolding new generation of vehicles. The Green Car Awards – the most important environmental awards in the auto industry – celebrate these vehicles, and by extension the automakers, engineers, product planners, and others who make them happen.

Each award year, Green Car Journal editors examine the universe of vehicle models sold in the U.S. that distinguish themselves with exemplary environmental credentials. Through an extensive vetting process, five vehicles are identified in each of eight categories that stand out by virtue of their environmental achievement. This process considers many factors such as lower carbon emissions, greater efficiency, or the use of advanced technologies such as lightweighting, electrification, more efficient internal combustion, or other innovative efficiency-enhancing or sustainability strategies. Each model that rises to the top 5 in a category are honored with Green Car Journal’s Green Car Product of Excellence™. These standout vehicles then advance to be finalists for Green Car Awards.

Models honored with 2022 Green Car Product of Excellence are: Audi e-tron GT; Audi Q4 e-tron; BMW i4; BMW iX; BrightDrop EV 600; Chevrolet Bolt EUV; Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid; ELMS Urban Delivery EV; Ford E-Transit; Ford F-150; Ford Maverick; Ford Mustang Mach-E GT; GMC Hummer EV; Honda Civic; Hyundai IONIQ 5; Hyundai Kona Electric; Hyundai Tucson; Hyundai Venue; Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe; Karma GS-6; Kia EV6; Kia Seltos; Kia Sorento Hybrid/PHEV; Lexus NX; Lightning eMotors Electric Van; Lucid Air; Mercedes-Benz EQS; MINI Cooper SE; Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo; Rivian Electric Delivery Van; Rivian R1T; Tesla Model S Plaid; Toyota Sienna; Toyota Tundra; Volkswagen ID.4; Volvo C40 Recharge.

This year involved weighing the merits of more potential finalists than any previous year in the award program’s history. In the shifting sands of the pandemic, the auto industry’s chip shortage, and today’s phased timeline for new model introductions throughout the year, an important part of this process is determining a new model’s realistic delivery timeline, not just the availability of online preorders. In some cases this means a new high-profile model must be considered in the following year’s award program.

For the past 16 years, the Green Car of the Year® has been selected by an invited jury that includes leaders of the nation’s energy efficiency and environmental organizations, along with celebrity auto expert Jay Leno and Green Car Journal staff. This year’s invited jury included Paula Glover, president of the Alliance to Save Energy; Mindy Lubber, president of CERES; Joseph K. Lyou, president and CEO of the Coalition for Clean Air; Matt Petersen, president and CEO of Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator and advisory board chair of Climate Mayors; and 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. Winners of all other Green Car Awards are selected by a jury of automotive experts and Green Car Journal staff.

Electrification is so important to 'green' cars today that nearly every Green Car Awards finalist included a battery electric, plug-in hybrid, or hybrid powertrain option, and all Green Car of the Year candidates were exclusively battery electric for the first time. After all the vetting, the evaluations, and the decisions, the results are in. Six of the eight award winners are all-electric vehicles and two are highly-efficient hybrids. Here are the standout winners and worthy finalists for this year’s 2022 Green Car Awards:

2022 Green Car of the Year® Audi Q4 e-tron

Finalists for Green Car Journal’s signature award included the Audi Q4 e-tron, BMW i4, Kia EV6, Rivian R1T, and Volvo C40 Recharge.

2022 Luxury Green Car of the Year™ – Lucid Air

Vying for this award were the Audi e-tron GT, BMW iX, Karma GS-6, Lucid Air, and Mercedes-Benz EQS.

2022 Urban Green Car of the Year™ – Chevrolet Bolt EUV

Finalists were the Chevrolet Bolt EUV, Hyundai Kona Electric, Hyundai Venue, Kia Seltos, and MINI Cooper SE.

2022 Performance Green Car of the Year™ – Tesla Model S Plaid

Among this award’s finalists were the Audi e-tron GT RS, Ford Mustang Mach-E GT, Lucid Air Dream Performance, Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo Turbo S, and Tesla Model S Plaid.

2022 Green SUV of the Year™ – Hyundai IONIQ 5

The top 5 finalists included Hyundai IONIQ 5, Hyundai Tucson, Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe, Lexus NX, and Volkswagen ID.4.

2022 Commercial Green Car of the Year™ – BrightDrop EV 600

Finalists were BrightDrop EV 600, ELMS Urban Delivery EV, Ford E-Transit, Lightning eMotors Electric Van, and Rivian Electric Delivery Van.

2022 Green Truck of the Year™ – Ford Maverick

Presented at the San Antonio Auto & Truck Show, finalists included the Ford F-150, Ford Maverick, GMC Hummer EV, Rivian R1T, and Toyota Tundra.

2022 Family Green Car of the Year™ – Toyota Sienna

Also hosted by the San Antonio Auto & Truck Show, finalists were Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, Honda Civic, Kia Sorento Hybrid/PHEV, Toyota Sienna, and Volkswagen ID.4.

A new venture by General Motors and start-up company BrightDrop is now producing all-electric EV600 delivery vans that address the need for zero-emission deliveries. So named to highlight the electric commercial van’s 600 cubic feet of enclosed cargo space, the EV600 features an available payload of 2200 pounds and a substantial maximum gross vehicle weight rating of 9900 pounds. With an overall wheelbase just over 150 inches and a  length of 288 inches, the EV600 is large enough for commercial delivery use but also well-sized for city maneuverability. This heavy hauler is also prepared for all driving conditions with its all-wheel-drive traction.

The van’s space-efficient packaging places its 20 module GM Ultium battery below the vehicle’s flat load floor so there is no infringing on cargo space. Ultium is the advanced generation battery developed by GM that will power all of its future EV products and is now being used in the GMC Hummer EV. GM estimates the EV600 will deliver up to 250 miles of range on a full charge. As with most electric vehicles, the BrightDrop 600 can capture lost energy through a regenerative braking system during deceleration and stop and go traffic. Charging via a 120 kW DC fast charger provides up to 170 miles of electric range in just an hour.

EV600 comes with a standard cargo area security system and motion sensors that can alert a driver to shifting cargo loads. The bulkhead between the driver/passenger features an autolocking door and the cargo bay features a large sliding door for easy access. Interior lighting is provided by energy efficient LED lights.

Recognizing that visibility in a panel van can be challenging, the EV600 features an optional HD surround vision system using multiple cameras around the van to give the driver a birds-eye view of the area surround the EV600. A 13.4-inch LCD infotainment screen is provided. Advanced driver assist systems include automatic emergency braking and forward collision alert, along with front pedestrian braking, front and rear park assist, and optional blind zone steering assist.

Fleet managers will appreciate the ability to remotely locate and track the EV600 through GPS, with the added capability of remotely locking, unlocking, starting, and stopping the EV600. Overall, BrightDrop offers a well thought-out product line that’s enhanced with BrightDrop powered pallets, which enable an individual delivery driver to efficiently move heavy cargo at the delivery site. The EV600 comes with a 36,000 mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and 8-year 100,000 electrification warranty.

The EV600 is now in limited production with large-scale manufacturing slated to move to GM’s CAMI Assembly Plant in Ingersoll, Canada later in 2022. This electric delivery van will no doubt become a common sight on public roads soon since the first batch of EV600s has been delivered to FedEx in time for holiday season deliveries.

There was a time when sophisticated driver assist systems were the realm of luxury cars. The reason is simple, really. The cost of any new tech innovation is high, and it’s easiest to bury this cost in higher end vehicles offered at a premium price. It was thus with many innovations we now take for granted in our cars like air bags and anti-lock braking. These days, the most desired driver assist and advanced safety systems are pretty much standard fare in most new models.

We were impressed years ago when Honda launched its ‘Safety for Everyone’ program and made its latest safety innovations standard fare on all its vehicles. The auto industry as a whole has followed suit, and now even the most sophisticated systems can be found on entry-level models, increasingly as standard equipment or as available options. While drivers of premium vehicles may still be the first to experience the latest new twist operating silently behind the scenes as they drive, you can be assured the technology will filter down to all models over time.

There are reasons for that because safety is always on the minds of new car buyers. The availability of systems that keep drivers and their families safe on the road, or at least as safe as possible, are highly desired. Automakers know this. Active and passive safety offer a competitive advantage in new car sales, right alongside other traditional touchstones like value, style, dependability, efficiency, and performance. If a new and highly-desired feature is introduced by one brand’s vehicles, there’s no doubt you will be seeing it offered in competitive models soon enough. There’s too much at stake for automakers not to emphasize safety, just as they emphasize electrification, efficiency, and environmental performance in their new model vehicles.

These days, technology is an active participant in our driving experience, constantly looking to warn us of unsafe conditions and offer alerts, and sometimes even initiate last-minute control to avoid an imminent collision. Their importance can’t be overstated. In the early years of driver assist systems, there were claims and assumptions regarding their promise for preventing potential collisions and saving lives. Now there is actual data to support this.

Recently, GM partnered with the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute to study the real-world effect its driver assist, active safety, and advanced headlight features were having in preventing or lessening various types of crashes. The study involved data from some 3.7 million GM vehicles across 20 models, making use of police crash report databases from 10 states. Comparisons were made involving vehicles equipped with advanced active safety features and others without this functionality.

The results showed that driver assist systems can make a dramatic difference in eliminating or mitigating crashes. Automatic emergency braking with forward collision alert was shown to reduce rear-end striking crashes by 46 percent. Lane keep assist with lane departure warning reduced lane departure crashes by 20 percent, with lane change alert and side blind zone alert bringing a reduction of 26 percent in lane change crashes.

Even advanced lighting made a difference in driving safety. Here, high-intensity discharge headlights brought a 21 percent reduction in nighttime crashes involving pedestrians, bicyclists, or animals. In addition, advanced headlight systems that automatically turn high beams on or off in response to surrounding conditions delivered a 35 percent reduction. When combined, the two lighting systems resulted in a 49 percent crash reduction.

Clearly, automobiles have become more complex over time. In their early years, an automobile’s electrical system was limited to fundamental functions like a starter, generator, headlights and taillights, instrumentation, and an audio system. Over the years this grew more extensive, including everything from navigation, electric-assist steering and braking, electronic transmission control, electronic ignition, anti-lock braking, an array of airbags, and advanced emissions controls.

Today’s more sophisticated automobile integrates all this and more, from active safety assist systems and real-time traffic navigation to semi-autonomous driving, all enabled by on-board computers. Industry experts point out that today’s vehicles are often equipped with hundreds of controllers and sensors, and dozens of on-board computers (electronic control units, or ECUs), generating tens of gigabytes of data every hour. It’s expected that the coming generation of fully autonomous vehicles could generate upwards of 30 terabytes every day.

Supporting the electronics that process, analyze, and activate, the array of cameras, radar, and LIDAR sensors strategically and discretely positioned around a connected car ‘see’ vehicles, objects, and people ahead, around, and behind. These feed information to on-board systems that enable everything from the view seen in a back-up camera to determining the speed of a car in front of you, allowing adaptive cruise control to adjust your speed to avoid overtaking the vehicle ahead.

These sensors are constantly evolving and improving, a necessity as we head toward fully-autonomous driving. While LIDAR continues to be a favored system by automakers, other innovations are in the works. One example is next-generation radar systems. Until now, vehicle radar has been limited to capturing just speed and direction, which is one of the reasons why vehicles use multiple sensor types for their driver assist and semi-autonomous driving features. Now, the newest long-range radar designs will determine an object’s speed, range, direction, and elevation, even at higher speeds and under challenging lighting or weather conditions.

Evolution is a hallmark of life, and it seems, of driving. Even as our cars are getting more complex in every sense as they adapt to modern life, they are also getting smarter…and safer. All that technology is delivering much more than the comfort, performance, entertainment, and driving pleasure we’ve come to expect from modern vehicles over time. We now benefit from a more confident driving experience and enhanced safety on the road as well, with technologies like those described below serving as our copilot.

ADAPTIVE CRUISE CONTROL: As a stand-alone system or as part of semi-autonomous driving systems, ACC works like conventional cruise control with the addition of sensing technology that determines the speed and distance of the car ahead. It modifies your set cruise speed to avoid overtaking that vehicle. Many systems can bring your vehicle to a full stop if needed. Some advanced systems even reference map data to anticipate upcoming curves, roundabouts, toll booths, and more, then automatically reduce speed accordingly.

AUTOMATIC EMERGENCY BRAKING: Coupled with advance warning of unsafe closing speed or other immediate hazards, this system will automatically apply emergency braking to help avoid or mitigate a collision. Rear and pedestrian AEB is also offered as part of this system.

AUTONOMOUS DRIVING: Sometimes confused with fully ‘self-driving’ capabilities not yet here or approved, to  degrees, today’s semi-autonomous systems can help keep a vehicle centered in its lane, pace a vehicle ahead at a safe distance, and often bring your vehicle to a full stop in gridlocked traffic, then resume driving when traffic in your lane is moving again. Some systems identify the pressure of hands on the steering wheel to allow continuing use of a semi-autonomous driving system, while others, like Cadillac, use a strategically-mounted camera that monitors a driver to confirm they are paying attention to the road ahead.

BLIND SPOT MONITORING: This system alerts a driver of vehicles in its blind spots to increase safety when changing lanes, passing, or being passed.

FORWARD COLLISION WARNING: Audible and visual warnings are provided to alert a driver of the potential of a forward collision. Some systems also provide brake pulsing as a further warning to gain a driver’s immediate attention.

HEAD-UP DISPLAY: A HUD projects driving information projected ahead of a driver’s view, sometimes as simple as mph but often providing info on various driver assist functions including turn-by-turn navigation.

LANE DEPARTURE WARNING: This system provides audible and visual warnings if your vehicle strays outside of its lane when a turn signal is not activated.

LANE KEEP ASSIST: Taking over after a lane departure warning, this function provides varying degrees of steering input to help maintain lane position.

NIGHT VISION: Using infrared sensing technology, night vision displays an enhanced view of the road ahead that helps identify pedestrians, animals, or other hazards that may be beyond the view of a car’s headlights.

PARK ASSIST: This system enables a driver to select automated parallel, and sometimes perpendicular, parking functionality. It uses sensors to identify an open parking space of suitable size and the position of parked vehicles, then controls steering angle to automatically guide your vehicle into the space. Many systems require a driver to control braking, acceleration, and gear position, while others handle all functions automatically.

REAL-TIME TRAFFIC: Navigation systems that integrate real-time traffic information are valuable in saving time, fuel, and maximizing driving range with their ability to reroute around traffic jams and construction projects.

REAR BACK-UP CAMERA: Now found on a wide range of vehicles, a view to the rear is shown in a dashboard display or rear-view mirror when a driver shifts into reverse, often including grid lines depicting a driver’s angle of approach and relative distance from nearby vehicles or objects. Audible warnings are provided when objects are too close or a potential collision with an object, vehicle, or pedestrian is detected.

REAR PARK ASSIST: At low speed while in reverse, sensors detect objects and a potential collision, providing a warning brake pulse and then bringing your vehicle to a stop.

SURROUND VIEW CAMERA: This technology uses multiple cameras strategically positioned on a vehicle to provide a ‘birds’-eye’ perspective of the vehicle and its immediate surroundings.

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.

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.

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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vw-allroad-side-1Volkswagen added its 4MOTION all-wheel drive and a few other tweaks to the Golf SportWagen to create the Golf Alltrack, a five-seat hatchback with off-road capability. Available in S, SE, and SEL trim levels, it features a full suite of connectivity and driver assistance systems, either as standard or optional equipment.

Like the Golf SportWagen, the Golf Alltrack is powered by VW's 1.8 liter DOHC four-cylinder TSI engine. This turbocharged and intercooled, 16-valve direct fuel-injected powerplant is rated at 170 horsepower and 199 lb-ft torque. A six-speed manual is standard on the S and SE, with a 6-speed dual-clutch automatic with manual shifting mode and available steering wheel paddle shifters optional, but standard on the top SEL model.  EPA rates the Alltrack at 22 city/32 highway mpg, a few mpg less than the SportWagen that comes with 4MOTION.

vw-allroad-underhood-1VW’s 4MOTION all-wheel drive system normally delivers power to the front wheels and can also sends torque to the rear wheels when needed, with the system automatically adapting to varying road conditions for additional traction. Drivers can select between Normal, Sport, Custom, and Off-Road modes. All-wheel-drive also works in conjunction with other active stability systems like Electronic Differential Lock (EDL). Hill Descent Control actively helps control brake application when descending steep inclines, a feature that’s especially helpful in slippery conditions to maintain a constant, controlled speed. An available three-gauge Off-Road Monitor provides information about altitude, steering wheel angle, compass heading, and more.

The Alltrack is 2.1 inches taller than the SportWagen with an increased ground clearance of 6.9 inches. It also features rugged bumpers for tough conditions. Bi-xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights are available on the SEL. The model’s optional adaptive front-lighting system turns the headlights slightly with steering at certain speeds. A power tilting/sliding panoramic sunroof is available along with roof rails that work with VW accessories for carrying outdoor equipment.

vw-allroad-front-with-kayak-1Car-Net App-Connect allows the use of select apps from a compatible smartphone on the dash, providing information, support, and assistance to make this the center of a driver’s mobile universe. The system’s Guide & Inform features handy items like enhanced navigation with traffic updates, sports scores, weather information, and more. VW Car-Net Security & Service allows a smartphone to locate the car’s last parked location, check to see if doors are locked, or call for help in an emergency.

VW provides desired driver assistance systems that include a rearview camera system and much more. Front Assist, which includes Forward Collision Warning with front sensors, helps monitor traffic and warn of a potential collision. If a collision is imminent, Front Assist’s autonomous emergency braking helps brake the car. Adaptive Cruise Control helps maintain a preset distance from the car in front. If the car in front speeds up or slows down, sensors detect the change and respond by slowing or stopping the Alltrack automatically. Lane Departure Warning senses when an Alltrack driver is drifting into another lane without a turn signal activated and provides steering input to keep the car in its correct lane.

ron-driving-vw-alltrackPark Distance Control uses sensors that help a driver drive into or back out of a parking spot. Audible signals and an optical parking system function in the display indicate how much space is available behind or in front while parking. An alert sounds as a warning if you get too close. The display provides additional support for a driver by showing the position of obstacles. Park Assist determines if a parking spot is big enough, then helps steer the vehicle into the space while a driver operates the accelerator, brake, and shifter.

Those looking to get into a handsome and versatile wagon with off-road capabilities should give the VW Alltrack a close look. It features VW’s expected attention to detail and quality while delivering a fun-to-drive nature and capabilities that allow heading for roads less traveled, at a reasonable MSRP of $25,850 that fits a lot of budgets.

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vw-beetle-dune-leadIn the late 1960s, many VW Beetle sedans and convertibles were converted into Baja Bugs for desert or beach duty, or just to look cool. Like the iconic dune buggies conceived by Bruce Meyers, the Baja Bug originated in Southern California. Unlike dune buggies that had completely new fiberglass bodies on a shortened Beetle chassis like the Meyers Manx, Baja Bugs retained most of the Beetle's sheetmetal and chassis modifications were not required. Conversions were often done by individual owners. There was a shortened fiberglass front and an abbreviated rear that left the engine mostly exposed, plus tubular steel cage-type front and rear bumpers and shorter fiberglass front and rear fenders.

For 2017, the Beetle Dune Convertible joins the Dune Coupe that first appeared as a 2016 VW model following its debut as a concept car at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show. Though much more sophisticated, VW says the Dune was inspired by the original Baja. While based on the third-generation New Beetle, the bolder Dunes gets a raised ride height of 0.4 inches and a 0.6-inch wider track for a more rugged appearing stance.

vw-beetle-dune-34-frontFront and rear facias of the VW Dune Convertible are more aggressive looking than the standard model and feature black 0.6 inch wheel arch extensions that flow into the bumper. The front bumper integrates a large central air intake with a black honeycomb screen and aluminum-looking surround that morphs into the front skid plate. Foglights are located on either side of the intake in two black honeycomb vents. An available Lighting Package adds Bi-Xenon headlights with LED Daytime Running Lights and LED rear license plate lighting.

The sides of the Dune are characterized by the contrast between polished aluminum sills black trim strips that remind you of the running boards on the original Beetle. At the rear is a large spoiler on both coupe and convertible variants, standard LED taillights, and a rear bumper design with matte black and aluminum elements that mimic the front facia. The rear diffuser also acts as a skid plate. Dune rides on 18-inch Canyon aluminum-alloy wheels fitted with 235/45 all-season tires.

vw-beetle-dune-tsi-engineLike other Beetle 1.8T models, the Dune is powered by a 1.8-liter, direct-injected and turbocharged TSI four-cylinder engine that delivers 170 horsepower and 184 lb-ft torque. The engine is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. EPA fuel economy numbers are 24 mpg city/31 mpg for both Dune models. During our drives on backroads and interstates we found the Beetle Dune

The top on the Dune Convertible is operated by a header-mounted switch and can be opened in 9.5 seconds. Closing takes 11 seconds, and both can be done at speeds up to 31 mph…just in case a up/down decision comes just before a traffic light turns green. The Dune’s 50/50 rear seat accommodates two. Its trunk can hold 7.0 cubic feet of cargo regardless of the top’s position.

vw-beetle-dune-cabinBeetle Dunes are available in three exterior colors include Sandstorm Yellow, Pure White, or Deep Black Pearl. Sandstorm Yellow cars have an interior that features body-color upper door trims and dash pads, with the Pure White and Black Pearl cars featuring black door and dash pad trim.

While original Bajas were very spartan with few creature comforts, the Dune presents quite a departure. It’s filled with the latest technologies like a standard MIB II infotainment system ready for Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and MirrorLink smartphone platforms via Volkswagen’s Car-Net system. Its 6.3-inch touchscreen has a capacitive touch sensor like smartphones and tablets for gesture controls like swiping and pinch-zooming. MIB II also features a proximity sensor that detects when a hand is nearby and automatically switches its display to allow an array of features. A rearview camera and Park Distance Control are standard. A Technology package is available that adds dual-zone automatic climate control, a premium audio system, KESSY keyless access with push-button start, and a tilt-and-slide sunroof.

vw-beetle-dune-rear-airfoilJust like the rest of the Beetle line-up, Dunes are fitted with the automaker’s Automatic Post-Collision Braking System. This takes into account that a collision is rarely a single, instantaneous action, but a series of events that follow the initial impact – the most significant of which can cause additional collisions. The system helps address this by applying brakes when a primary collision is detected by the airbag sensors, thus helping reduce residual kinetic energy and the chance of additional damage.

The VW Beetle Dune coupe is available at an approachable $23,995 with the convertible upping the ante to $29,395. Cool-looking with a bit of nostalgia built in, the techie Dune is fun, eye-catching, and efficient…a great combination for fans of the iconic Beetle.

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Green Car Journal has named the all-electric 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV its 2017 Green Car of the Year® during AutoMobility LA at the Los Angeles Auto Show. The Bolt EV emerged the winner over fellow finalists BMW 330e iPerformance, Chrysler Pacifica, Kia Optima, and Toyota Prius Prime. Widely recognized as the auto industry’s most prestigious environmental honor, the award was presented by Green Car Journal editor and publisher Ron Cogan and accepted by Chevrolet Cars & Crossovers marketing director Steve Majoros.

The Green Car of the Year jury selected the 2017 Bolt EV for its milestone 238 mile battery electric driving range, stylish design, pleasing driving dynamics, and welcome suite of advanced and connected technologies. Along with its distinction as the first production battery electric vehicle to achieve a 200-plus mile driving range, the 2017 Bolt EV offers an array of features that provide a unique and catered ride to the driver.

ron-cogan-and-steve-majoros-at-gcoy-stageEditors and jurors note that Chevrolet’s all-new 2017 Bolt EV is a breakthrough vehicle in every sense, sending a clear signal that an electric car’s environmental achievement is well-suited to the mass market. From the time modern electric vehicles emerged in the 1990s, limited driving range has presented a core challenge to the commercialization of electric cars affordable to everyday drivers. Bolt EV overcomes this with its 238-mile battery electric driving range and approachable price, the first production electric car to achieve this milestone.

Each year, an expanding number of environmentally positive vehicle models are considered for the Green Car of the Year® program, an illustration that the auto industry is continuing to expand its efforts in offering new vehicles with higher efficiency and improved environmental impact. The Green Car of the Year® is selected through a majority vote by a jury that includes celebrity auto enthusiast Jay Leno, as well as leaders of noted environmental and efficiency organizations including Jean-Michel Cousteau, President of Ocean Futures Society; Matt Petersen, Board Member of Global Green USA; Dr. Alan Lloyd, President Emeritus of the International Council on Clean Transportation; Mindy Lubber, President of CERES; and Kateri Callahan, President of the Alliance to Save Energy.

2017-green-car-of-the-year-stage-1Staff jurors include Cam Benty, Ron Cogan, Drew Hardin, Jeff Karr, Todd Kaho, and Dr. Bill Siuru, all veteran auto writers and editors with decades-long careers in the auto industry. Their deep understanding of the importance and nuances of vehicles includes their time spent as editors of such noted legacy auto publications as Motor Trend, Hot Rod, Car Craft, Truck Trends, Popular Hot Rodding, and others.

During the award’s vetting process, Green Car Journal editors consider all vehicles, fuels and technologies as an expansive field of potential candidates is narrowed down to the final five.  Finalists are selected for their achievements in raising the bar in environmental performance. Many factors are considered including efficiency, performance characteristics, ‘newness,’ affordability and overall environmental achievement. Availability to the mass market is important to ensure honored models have the potential to make a real difference in environmental impact, and finalists must be available for sale by January 1 of the award year.

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