Honda recently unveiled its e:Ny1 electric crossover, the first EV model based on the automaker’s all-new e:N Architecture F platform. The oddly named e:Ny1 is important because it shares Honda’s evolving EV design language and shows a direction that includes electrifying smaller and lighter models. That said, the Honda e:Ny1 holds less importance to drivers in the U.S. since it will be sold exclusively in Europe and Japan. Still, given the overall similarity of this Honda EV to the automaker’s HR-V, it isn’t a stretch to imagine a similar electric model destined for our shores.
Holding to Honda’s usual tradition, the e:Ny1 blends both a conservative and reserved appearance with splashes of chiseled and chunky sportiness peppered throughout. At the front, the e:Ny1 features slim and flat headlights that wrap in from the front fenders with angular LED running lights at the top. Separating the headlights is a matte-finished panel with charging status lights, and below that we find a large chargeport port door that’s well integrated into the overall front end design. Two discrete LED fog lights are located at the bottom of the bumper, with a thin strip of chrome beneath that runs the width of the front fascia.
The Honda e:Ny1 features a high belt line and flanks that are sleek and smooth save for a creased line along the top and bottom of the doors. Black side-mirror caps, wheel arches, and window trim reveal sporty undertones, reinforced by thin-spoke alloy wheels with black accents. At the rear, a subtle roof spoiler extends slightly above the rear window, curving in at the sides. A red LED light bar runs the width of the rear hatch with two slim taillights at either end. A single, sharp body line runs just beneath with a typeface Honda badge.
A stylish and techy interior greets the driver. While Honda has yet to divulge details about the array of onboard systems to be featured in the e:Ny1, we do note the inclusion of a 10.2 inch digital instrument cluster facing the driver and a 15.1 inch portrait-style infotainment screen at the center of the dash. The infotainment screen is split into three sections with navigation and related applications at the top, entertainment and vehicle functions mid-screen, and climate information and selections at the bottom. Colored LED accents are inset in the doors and dashboard, with two-tone stitching adding a sporty touch to the dash and door upholstery. The center console, window switch panels, and steering wheel showcase gloss black-finished accents. Leather upholstery on all seating surfaces is 50 percent thicker and treated to increase softness for added passenger comfort.
Rear seating in the e:Ny1 is very similar to that of the HR-V but without the ability to fold the rear seats flat, which impacts total available cargo area and limits carrying capacity to 11.3 cubic feet. The cargo area itself is also very similar to the HR-V, although employing a new smart-close capability that allows activating the self-closing hatch and walking away before it begins closing.
Power ratings are adequate with the e:Ny1 producing 201 horsepower and 229 lb-ft torque using a single-motor driving the front wheels. A 68.8 kWh battery pack is said to deliver a European WLTP drive cycle range estimate of 256 miles. Because of the fundamental differences in how WLPT and EPA testing measures EV range, that number would likely translate to about 200 miles of electric driving here in the States. Fast-charging via the car’s front-mounted chargeport is said to replenish the battery from 10 to 80 percent in about 45 minutes, somewhat slower than many other EVs at similar price points.
The Honda e:Ny1 is set to be delivered to dealers in Europe and Japan late this year, with pricing expected to begin at a USD equivalent of about $40,000.
Ford’s Ranger pickup stormed back into the market in 2019 after an eight year hiatus, keen to take on the likes of other midsize pickups such as the Toyota Tacoma, Chevy Colorado, and GMC Canyon. Despite receiving good reviews and many accolades, the Ranger has not sold as well as Ford had hoped. The all-new, fifth generation 2024 Ford Ranger seeks to change that. While heeding the importance of the Ranger as a popular global product, the new model has been developed with the U.S. market in mind. This change speaks to complaints that the previous generation Ranger was designed first for the Europe and then adapted for sales here.
The new Ranger shares Ford’s T6 mid-size pickup platform with the second generation Volkswagen Amarok, a pickup VW sells only in offshore markets. This new iteration of the Ranger platform features beefier construction with a fully boxed high-strength steel frame, which is both wider and longer than the previous generation. It has also been raised to offer improved ground clearance. Ford estimates a maximum towing capacity of 7,500 pounds along with a payload capacity of 1,805 pounds. Three trim levels will be offered including a base XL, mid-range XLT, and top-line Lariat.
Two fuel efficient engine options are available for the 2024 Ranger, starting with a base 2.3-liter EcoBoost inline-four delivering 270 horsepower and 310 lb-ft torque. A 2.7-liter EcoBoost V-6 shared with the F-150 and Bronco joins the lineup to offer higher performance with its 315 horsepower and 400 lb-ft torque. Both motors are paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission. Upping the excitement ante but far less efficient is the Ranger Raptor, a twin-turbo 405 horsepower off-road version of the Ranger featuring tons of unique equipment and specs. While many had speculated that a plug-in hybrid or fully electric version of the new pickup could be coming – with hopes running high for a Ranger hybrid after Ford’s debut of the Maverick hybrid pickup for the 2022 model year – that still remains just speculation.
Rear-wheel and part-time four-wheel drive are available, with the latter offering shift-on-the-fly capability allowing drivers to transition from two- to four-wheel drive at any speed under 55 mph. An electronic locking rear differential is also optional on both rear and four-wheel-drive applications to improve traction under challenging off-road driving conditions.
The all-new Ranger features a front fascia reminiscent of its F-150 big brother with a familiar wrap-around LED running light surrounding the headlights. While the F-150 and Ranger share similar design cues, the Ranger still takes on a look of its own with a brawny, high-slung bumper featuring a small opening for the Ranger’s intercooler with air active-shutters. When equipped with the FX4 Off-Road package, the Ranger includes a visible skid plate that protects the front differential and transmission from rugged terrain.
New touches set the new Ranger apart from the previous generation. Along the sides, smoothed wheel well arches replace the more boxed-out design of its predecessor, making its overall appearance appear a bit more grown up. Front fender badging appears above a functional fender vent designed to better cool front brakes under heavy use. At the back, Ford integrated optional side steps that allow easier access to the cargo bed without requiring the tailgate to be opened.
The Ranger’s rear design has been reimagined and is more angular, highlighted by smoked LED taillights and ‘RANGER’ embossed at the bottom of a newly designed tailgate. Its pickup bed now boasts two additional inches of width and features optional 120- and 400-volt power sources. Five- and six-foot bed choices are available depending on cab configuration, though only the crew cab configuration is available for now.
Ford has redesigned the Ranger’s cabin to offer a much more refined experience. The dashboard has been refreshed and features new and stylish HVAC vents and a two-story glove box design with an inset storage tray in between. Door panels and seats now incorporate a cross-stitched design and include ample door pocket storage. The driving position is higher with better visibility and features a standard 8-inch digital instrument cluster with a 12.4-inch cluster available.
Taking center stage is a standard 10-inch or optional 12-inch integrated infotainment screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capabilities. The infotainment system utilizes Ford’s SYNC 4A operating system that’s capable of over-the-air software updates. A new electronic E-shift gear selector is present on the center console along with a four-wheel-drive select-shift dial for 4WD models. Rear seat functionality is improved with the seat backs now offering fold-flat capability that effectively transforms the rear passenger area into additional cargo space. That, paired with under-seat storage compartments and the pickup’s wider cargo bed, makes the new Ranger even more versatile for recreation or work.
An array of driver assist systems are standard or available. Among these are trailer-adaptable blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, and Ford’s Active Park Assist 2.0 that allows drivers to remotely parallel or perpendicular-park their Ranger using the FordPass Connect smartphone app. Also handy for trailering are functions like Pro Trailer Backup Assist and Trailer Reverse Guidance, which use cameras to display different angles that aid drivers in accurately and safely backing up their trailers.
Ford ‘s Ranger has been an enduring choice for compact and mid-size truck buyers since it first appeared as a 1983 model. Now, with its appealing new generation Ranger, Ford is poised to capture the imagination of mid-size truck buyers who would otherwise consider the likes of competitors Toyota Tacoma and Chevy Colorado. With the entry price of a base Ranger XL SuperCrew coming in at $34,160, order banks opening imminently, and deliveries beginning late this summer, we’ll know how successful the new Ranger will be soon enough.
The mission to decarbonize transportation is well underway. We see this in the expanding field of high-profile electric cars regularly announced by automakers and discussed in the media every day. The unfolding story of personal transportation’s move toward higher efficiency, cleaner fuels, and decreased emissions is an important one that has been well documented by Green Car Journal over the past three decades. But this is just one part of the story. Over the years, we have also witnessed a growing movement toward more environmentally positive trucks and vans for business use, including electric commercial vehicles.
This is important since the movement of goods is an integral part of daily life and a significant contributor to CO2 greenhouse gases. Because of this, the big rigs transporting containers from ports to distribution centers, the trucks bringing food to supermarkets, and the commercial vans delivering packages to our businesses and homes have now become focal points for decarbonization strategies. Zero emission drivetrains have been developed for commercial vehicles of all types. New charging strategies have been devised for their batteries. Advanced technologies popular in personal electric vehicles have also been making their way to a new generation of commercial vehicles.
As all this is unfolding, it’s important to acknowledge the development and deployment of low- and zero-carbon commercial vehicles that are leading the way, as well as the companies committed to bringing them to our highways. This is the important mission of Green Car Journal’s Green Car Product of Excellence™ program and the Commercial Green Truck of the Year™ award.
The Green Car Product of Excellence™ honors commercial vehicles exhibiting laudable environmental achievement by virtue of higher efficiency, the integration of advanced technologies, and the use of powertrains that operate with low- or no carbon emissions. The Commercial Green Truck of the Year™ winner earns its distinction by rising above its competition as the most important ‘green’ vehicle in its field.
Green Car Journal’s 2023 Commercial Green Truck of the Year™ is the Freightliner eM2. A standout amid an impressive field of electric commercial vehicles, the eM2 is an important flag bearer for the Freightliner brand as it further expands its reach into the crucial electrified commercial vehicle field. The electric eM2 is based on Freightliner’s best-selling medium duty M2 model with production taking place at the truck maker’s Portland, Oregon manufacturing facility.
Following the introduction of Freightliner’s eCascadia Class 8 electric truck, the series production eM2 represents a strategic move into the electric medium-duty truck market. Its impressive work capabilities and no compromise zero-emission operation make the Freightliner eM2 an attractive option for pickup and delivery service in crowded urban environments where Class 6/7 commercial trucks do much of their work.
The fast pace of the expanding low/no carbon commercial truck field means there are many new and important models that deserve to be honored for their environmental achievement. Green Car Journal recognizes these vehicles with the Green Car Product of Excellence™ award. We feel it’s important to acknowledge the design ingenuity, technical prowess, and environmental commitment exhibited by these award winning commercial vehicles and the companies responsible for bringing them to our highways.
BLUE ARC EV: The Blue Arc walk-in delivery van is aimed at last mile delivery service and other commercial activities. It offers Level 2 and 3 fast charging and an expected range of 150 miles, plus driver assist systems like a 360 degree camera, lane keep assist, and active emergency braking.
BRIGHTDROP ZEVO: A GM business unit on the fast track, BrightDrop offers its Zevo electric delivery vans and an ecosystem built around them including the BrightDrop Core software suite. The Zevo 600 has a 250 mile range, over 600 cubic feet of cargo space, and a 2,200 pound payload rating.
GREENPOWER EV STAR: The EV Star electric cab and chassis has a GVWR rating of 14,300 pounds and can handle payloads up to 5,740 pounds. Its 118 kWh battery pack enables an estimated range of 150 miles. Charging is at 18.2 kw on a Level 2 charger or 50 kW with a DC fast charger.
LION5: Lion Electric’s Lion5 is a new electric truck with crossover class 5/6 capabilities and a gross combined weight rating up to 30,000 pounds. It’s powered by a 315 horsepower electric motor delivering 2,360 lb-ft torque and offers an estimated driving range of up to 200 miles.
MACK MD ELECTRIC: Based on Mack’s popular MD medium-duty truck, the Mack MD Electric is available in Class 6 and Class 7 configurations with GVWR ratings of 25,995 to 33,000 pounds. Two battery choices, 150 kWh or 240 kWh, provide an estimated driving range up to 230 miles.
MULLEN THREE: The electric Mullen THREE Class 3 cab chassis truck features an 11,000 pound GVWR, a payload capacity of 5,802 pounds, and the ability to be fitted with a maximum 14 foot box. It’s powered by a 160 horsepower electric motor and features an estimated 130 mile range.
RIZON e16M/e16L/e18L: A new brand from Daimler Truck Group, Rizon comes in three variations, the e16M, e16L, and e18L Class 4 and 5 medium-duty battery-electric trucks. They offer 15,995 to 17,995 pound gross vehicle weight ratings and have a range of up to 160 miles.
TESLA SEMI: This electric Class 8 big rig from Tesla is true to the company’s form with innovative design, a projected 500 mile driving range, and notable (for a semi) 0-60 acceleration in 20 seconds with its three electric motors.
VIA MOTORS VTRUX: The VTRUX is a Class 3 electric work truck and chassis that can handle up to 6,657 pounds of payload. It’s available with a number of battery pack choices that are said to offer a driving range of 70 to 250 miles on a charge.
WORKHORSE W56: Available in various configurations, the Workhorse W56 Class 5 and Class 6 electric step vans from Workhorse Group offer a payload capability of up to 10,000 pounds and a driving range estimated at up to 150 miles.
RAM has been around as a distinct brand for some 14 years now, having split from its former identity as a Dodge nameplate in 2009. Since then, RAM has focused solely on pickup trucks and work vans with considerable success, especially with regard to its pickup truck line, which has won Green Car Journal’s Green Truck of the Year™ award three times in recent years. Now RAM has revealed details on its highly anticipated next act in the pickup realm, the all-electric RAM 1500 REV.
Building on the excitement generated by the wild electric RAM Revolution concept shown earlier this year, the 2025 RAM REV rides on the automaker’s all new STLA Frame optimized for full-size electric vehicle models with a body-on-frame design. This high strength steel frame is wider in the middle to accommodate battery packs while affording protection between the frame rails. It also features additional protection beneath courtesy of a full-length underbody belly pan.
This electric RAM pickup is especially noteworthy in that it boasts specs surpassing those of Ford’s F-150 Lightning and upcoming Chevrolet’s Silverado EV. REV will offer two EV powertrain options, with the base package featuring a standard 168 kWh battery pack projected to deliver a driving range of up to 350 miles. A more powerful option brings a 229 kWh battery pack with a targeted range of 500 miles, a feature sure to resonate with pickup buyers whose primary concerns are range and functionality. Normal and one-pedal driving capabilities are built in and regenerative braking comes as a matter of course.
Power won’t be a problem. We know the optional 229 kWh battery pack variant will offer a targeted rating of 654 horsepower and 620 lb-ft torque. Power ratings for the standard 168 kWh battery pack variant have yet to be disclosed. The REV’s projected towing capacity is said to be up to 14,000 pounds, with a payload capacity up to 2,700 pounds.
Charging is handled through the REV’s charge port located at the driver’s side front fender. Illuminated LED lighting and an audible chime lets a driver know that the truck is plugged in and charging. The charge port accommodates Level 1 and Level 2 AC charging connectivity on top and DC fast charging connectivity at the bottom of the charging interface. Drivers should expect the usual overnight charging experience if they have a 240-volt Level 2 wall charger at home. Those on the move can take advantage of the REV’s fast-charge capability at public fast chargers. If an 800-volt DC fast charger is available then the REV can add up to 110 miles of range in just 10 minutes while charging at up to 350 kW.
A handy feature is the RAM 1500 REV’s bi-directional vehicle-to-vehicle, vehicle-to-home, and vehicle-to-grid charging capability. With the use of a 7.2 kW on-board power panel mounted in the bed or a 3.6 kW power panel in the front trunk (frunk), this feature is very helpful during power outages in homes, or for individuals who will potentially use their truck to power equipment. It can also be used to charge your everyday devices if necessary.
REV’s exterior styling lets us know this truck is electric without moving beyond the burly and commanding nature of the brand. A blend of elegance and toughness shows that RAM’s designers certainly didn’t want buyers forgetting what RAM stands for, while also conveying their vision for the future. To that end, the front fascia of this electric pickup features a sporty nature with its muscular hood and low grill. The look is accented with aptly named ‘tuning fork’ LED headlights and unique EV-specific RAM badging. At the rear we find a set of angular LED taillights that span a portion of the tailgate, and are specific to the RAM 1500 REV. RAM is boldly shown at the center of the tailgate and, like the front end, uses an exclusive lettering style to show us that this RAM is indeed electric.
Styling along the REV’s flanks remains quite similar to the current RAM truck with the exception of a flush-mounted chargeport at the driver’s side front fender and unique REV. Familiar lockable ‘RAM Boxes’ are available and positioned beneath the bed rails on either side of the pickup box and feature a handy 115-volt outlet. These boxes are also illuminated to facilitate easy access under low light conditions.
Inside, the blend of practicality and luxury is seamless with premium materials like carbon fiber, metal, and leather with tech peppered throughout. Ample passenger room is built in and functionality is enhanced with second row seats that can fold up for additional cargo capacity. Optional 24-way power adjustments are available for the front seats, including three memory settings and massage capability. Also optional is a 23 speaker Klipsch Reference Premiere audio system.
The REV cabin features a central 14.5 inch touchscreen, 12.3 inch digital instrument display, and a 10.25 inch digital screen mounted in front of the passenger seat. These screens utilize the automaker’s Uconnect 5 system that allows access to eight EV-specific functions across all screens, and entertainment functionality for the passenger screen. The REV also features a configurable head-up display capable of showing an array of selected information beyond vehicle speed, such as turn-by-turn navigation, speed limit, Lane Departure, Lane Keep Assist, and adaptive cruise control. A Uconnect 5 mobile app supports remote start and touchless door lock/unlock functions.
Showcasing many industry-leading specs and visionary style, the RAM 1500 REV is shaping up to be a model in demand when sales begin in advance of its likely arrival at dealers toward the end of 2024. Of course, RAM will continue offering its popular gas-powered pickups to a willing market even as it dives ever deeper into electrification. In the meantime, the 2025 REV shows us that RAM aims to be a serious contender in the electric pickup truck competition.
VW unveiled its ID.7 electric car concept in January of this year, sporting a vivid QR code-themed electro-luminescent paint job that caused quite a stir in the automotive world. Back then, we couldn’t make much of the styling due to that vibrant QR camouflage. Now though, the production ID.7 has been revealed.
The ID.7 shares its roots with the growing Volkswagen ID line that was introduced in 2019 with the release of the small Volkswagen ID.3 electric car, followed by other ID models sold in offshore markets and the ID.4 sold here in the States. The ID.7, along with the rest of the ID line, utilizes the Volkswagen Group’s MEB platform designed specifically for electric vehicles.
One word comes to mind when looking at the Volkswagen ID.7: sleek. There’s a definite flow to the exterior design, starting with the subtle sportiness of the front end and front fascia that’s accented by an angular low-mounted black grille. Discrete LED running lights visually connect the ID.7’s LED headlights together, separated only by a VW badge at the center.
Along the sides of the ID.7, one notices an angular and flowing design with a crisp body line cutting across the lower quarter of the car, accented by a smooth, curved body line through the center of both doors and another finishing at the top of the doors, just under the windows. A slim, white color accent runs the length of the roofline above the windows and comes to an end near the rear deck. Adding to the car’s subtle sportiness is a black roof and black under-trimming that runs the entirety of the car. A large and angular wheel design with a dash of black on the inner spokes is standard on the ID.7.
At the rear is a black honeycomb-inspired rear light bar that spans the width of the trunk. A slim, continuous red reflector strip is present near the bottom of the rear end, nestled in the black under-trimming. The sedan-like ID.7 is technically a hatchback, but it’s hard to notice upon close inspection. The rear window meets the trunk lid almost instantly and a small integrated trunk lid spoiler adds to the sweeping design.
Two power choices will be available with early models featuring single motor rear-wheel drive and dual motor AWD coming later. The base power option will deliver 286 horsepower and 402 lb-ft torque with energy from a 77.0 kWh battery pack. A larger 86.0 kWh battery option will also be offered, though VW doesn’t yet specify horsepower and torque numbers for this. Volkswagen identifies the ID.7’s range at 382 miles on the more optimistic European WLTP testing cycle, so expect something more like 300 miles of range here with the smaller battery, and up to 350 miles with the larger battery, once EPA testing takes place. The ID.7 is fast charge-capable and drivers should expect the ID.7 to charge its battery from 10 to 80 percent in about 25 minutes using a public fast charge station.
Inside the ID.7 is an attractive and contemporary interior. Volkswagen’s usual formula for its interior design is minimalist yet fully functional, and the ID.7 is no exception. Taking center stage is a 15-inch infotainment screen designed to appear as if it's floating. Ahead of the driver sits a small, horizontally-oriented display indicating vehicle speed, charge level, and range.
Synthetic leather and recycled materials are used throughout the interior. Front seats feature generous side and back bolstering. Optional for the ID.7 are adaptive Climatronic ‘wellness seats’ that are heated and cooled, massage capable, and feature a drying function, the latter something we haven’t seen in an EV to date. A large center console with ample storage separates the front passengers. Climate vents are plentiful and seamlessly integrated into the dash architecture. Another hallmark of the ID.7’s interior is the optional panoramic SmartGlass roof, which has the ability to turn from transparent to opaque using an electrochromic charge, controlled by touch or voice control.
Tech is in abundant supply in the ID.7. The 15-inch infotainment screen handles nearly all functions and features an aesthetically pleasing backlit touch slider at the bottom for navigating between selections. ID.7 also incorporates Volkswagen’s IDA voice assistant. Most operations can be handled by using the IDA, including panoramic roof operation and navigation, among others. An array of driver assist functions are offered including Travel Assist, a semi-autonomous driving feature supporting lane changing at speeds above 55 mph, keeping a preset distance from the vehicle ahead, and maintaining a set speed. The car can also park itself using VW’s We Connect ID smartphone app. An available Harman Kardon option to the standard sound system showcases 14 speakers, along with a centrally-located speaker in the dashboard and a 12-inch subwoofer in the rear cargo area.
The Volkswagen ID.7 is entering the EV world at a time when Tesla dominates the all-electric sedan market, so Tesla is clearly in this model’s sights. While pricing for the ID.7 won’t be disclosed until closer to the model’s on sale date, expect it to be at a competitive level that makes the ID.7 an attractive and feature rich option to Tesla’s Model 3.
Hyundai's first generation Kona arrived in the U.S. market in 2018, expanding the Hyundai lineup with a new subcompact crossover SUV. An electrified version, the Kona Electric, added a new choice the next year. Now the popular Kona is entering its second generation for the 2024 model year with a complete redesign and scaled up dimensions to help drivers make the most of the model’s sport-utility potential. Five trim levels are offered including SE, SEL, Limited, N Line, and the Kona Electric. While prices have not yet been disclosed, we expect the Kona’s point of entry to be in the $25,000 range with the electric pushing $36,000 or so.
Along with its new looks, Kona brings a surprising amount of tech and pep for the price including two ways to go electric. Kona's base electric powertrain features a 133 horsepower electric motor producing 188 lb-ft torque and a 48.6 kWh battery. A more powerful option uses a 64.8 kWh battery and a 201 horsepower motor delivering 188 lb-ft torque. Hyundai estimates the new Kona Electric’s range at 197 miles with the standard battery and 260 miles with the upgraded battery package, the latter offering just a few miles more range than the 2023 Kona Electric. Both Electric trims feature Hyundai’s new ‘i-Pedal’ driving mode that enables acceleration, deceleration, and regenerative braking from just the accelerator pedal under many driving conditions.
Charging is handled via a chargeport located in the Kona’s front fascia, making it easy to park and charge from a public charger on either side of the vehicle. An illuminated chargeport door lamp makes night charging more convenient. Hyundai built in 400 volt fast charging capability in its new Kona, which means drivers should be able to charge their battery pack from 10 to 80 percent in just over 40 minutes when a quick charge is needed, and if a 400 volt public fast charger is available.
Hyundai integrated handy bi-directional charging capability in the Kona that enables Vehicle-to-Load (V2L) functionality. That means Kona not only can charge its batteries from the front chargeport, but it can also charge equipment or power devices plugged into a chargeport adaptor. This can come in handy for those who take along electric bikes or scooters on their travels, or camp with equipment that needs to be plugged in or could use a charge. During power outages, the system can even help power home appliances or other necessities to the extent of its power capabilities.
For those less inclined to go electric, the 2024 Kona also comes with two available gas engine options to complement its electric power choices. The base powerplant is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that produces 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft torque, paired with a continuously variable transmission. The more powerful powertrain option is Kona’s 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that makes 190 horsepower and 195 lb-ft torque and is paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission. The turbo engine is standard with the sporty N Line and Limited trims.
A step up from the previous generation, Kona’s styling is more aerodynamic with sleek with clean lines that hint its designers had the future in mind. This appealing design reveals a conservatively rugged nature with elements of edgy styling that make it stand out amid the usual flock of cars. Kona’s visual appeal is headlined by an LED ‘seamless horizon lamp’ running light spanning the width of the front fascia, a design feature complemented by an equally striking fender-to-fender taillight design at the rear. Interestingly, Hyundai reversed the usual protocol for designing a new vehicle, which takes into account combustion power first and electric as a secondary consideration. Instead, Kona has been developed from the start as an electric vehicle with its need for an electric motor, battery packaging, and other components and electronics unique to EVs.
Inside, the new Kona presents an updated and more futuristic experience. A driver-oriented cabin sports dual integrated 12.3 inch panoramic display screens. The gear selector has been relocated from the center console to a stalk behind the steering wheel to provide more storage space in the center console. Front seat backs are 30 percent thinner than the previous model to give rear seat passengers more knee and leg room. A ‘curveless bench seat’ design further improves space and comfort for rear seat passengers. The rear cargo area provides 25.5 cubic feet of space for everyday needs, and if you fold down the seat backs that capacity increases to 63.7 cubic feet of cargo area. A small front trunk (frunk) adds about another cubic foot of storage.
Hyundai’s SmartSense ADAS is available in the new Kona, which includes remote parking assist, forward-collision avoidance, lane-keep assist capability, navigation-based smart cruise control with stop-and-go, and other features. Particularly handy is blind spot view monitoring, which presents live video within the instrument cluster showing the blind spot encountered during a lane change.
Kona also includes other desired advanced connectivity features with the ability to process over-the-air (OTA) software updates, a breakthrough technology popularized by Tesla that’s now being embraced by a growing number of automakers. This allows wireless communication to deliver software and firmware updates for the Kona’s various on board systems to enhance its features. OTA technology can also update the vehicle’s multimedia software and navigation maps.
The new 2024 Kona Electric is sure to please with its fresh style, agreeable pricing, and multitude of user-friendly tech. We can expect the Kona Electric to arrive at dealers later in the fall following the debut of its gas-powered sibling sometime this summer.
Rather than following the industry’s massive trend toward models powered exclusively by batteries, Toyota is confident there’s a better way forward. Its strategy is to optimize the use and environmental impact of batteries by offering a diversity of electrified vehicles consumers will actually buy and drive in great numbers, thus leveraging the potential for carbon reduction. This clearly plays to the automaker’s strength: hybrids and plug-in hybrids. There’s the all-electric Toyota bZ4X, of course, and other battery electric Toyota models to come. Just don’t expect that’s all the world’s largest automaker will be offering in the short term.
Enter the 2023 Toyota Crown sedan, this automaker’s newest hybrid. Toyota’s all-new Crown is somewhat of a milestone since so many automakers are killing off their sedans in favor of uber-popular crossover SUVs. In many cases, those crossovers are less SUV than mildly oversized hatchback, but that’s the auto industry for you. The Crown is a sophisticated looking sedan that doesn’t pretend to be something it is not, though it does offer a few twists.
The Crown has an interesting history, first debuting in 1955 as Toyota’s first mass production passenger vehicle before making its way to the States three years later, distinguished as the first Japanese model here on our shores. It had a 17 year run before it was retired from Toyota’s U.S. showrooms.
Now it’s back in all new form as a full-size, four-door sedan available in XLE, Limited, and Platinum grades. While it is a sedan measuring in just a bit larger than Toyota’s popular Camry, the Crown also integrates a slightly taller roofline, thus the ‘twist.’ This taller roof flows rearward into an elegant sportback design, accented by thin blade-style rear taillights. The front features blade running lights, sharp headlights, and a distinctively imposing grille design that’s come to signify Toyota and Lexus products these days. Its sides are handsomely sculpted and accented by large alloy wheels and wheel well cladding.
Beneath the hood resides one of two available hybrids, no surprise since this a Toyota and hybrids are its game. The more efficient of the two-motor hybrid models is powered by a fourth-generation, 2.5-liter Toyota Hybrid System (THS) that Toyota says should net an estimated 38 combined mpg. It connects to an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission.
Those looking for higher performance may opt for the Platinum grade, which comes standard with a 2.4-liter turbocharged HYBRID MAX powerplant, the first application of this more powerful Toyota hybrid system in a sedan. Delivering power to the road through a direct shift six-speed automatic transmission, the HYBRID MAX boasts 340 horsepower for spirited performance and offers a Toyota-estimated 28 combined mpg. All grades come with electronic on-demand all-wheel drive. A plug-in hybrid variant is said to be coming but details are not yet available.
The Crown’s cabin is designed to deliver a premium feel, featuring nicely bolstered front seats with 8-way power adjustment, intelligent controls, and wireless Qi charging with an array of readily accessible ports to accommodate today’s electronic devices. A Multi Information Display ahead of the driver provides the usual instrumentation along with selectable functions, including hybrid information that coaches eco-driving for netting maximum efficiency. In addition, a 12.3-inch center Toyota Audio Multimedia display features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration and is audio and touch capable.
Upholstery is either Softex and black woven fabric or leather, depending on grade. A panoramic moonroof standard on Platinum and Limited grades lends an additional feel of openness to the cabin. LED ambient lighting adds to the interior’s ambiance and upscale feel. Significant effort has been devoted to creating a relaxed and quiet cabin environment through extensive placement of sound-deadening materials throughout plus the use of acoustic glass.
Toyota Safety Sense 3.0 is standard across all grades to enhance safety on the road. This includes such desired features as pre-collision with pedestrian detection, dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist, blind spot monitor, and rear cross traffic alert. Other assist features such as automatic high beams, road sign assist, rear seat passenger reminder, and hill start assist control are also standard fare for all versions of the Crown. Those stepping up to the Platinum trim level also get Toyota’s advanced park system that identifies available parking spots and allows automated parallel and reverse/forward perpendicular parking.
Toyota’s Crown is a timely addition to this automaker’s lineup, giving fans of the brand a new, more exciting sedan option just as the more conservative Avalon sedan is heading off into the sunset. Pricing has not yet been announced but we figure the Crown will start somewhere in the neighborhood of the low $40,000s. We also expect this new model to be a hit for Toyota, serving the automaker well as it hones its hybrid and plug-in hybrid strategy while continuing to evolve its future electrified product line.
The Hyundai Tucson has long been a popular choice for those desiring the functionality of a crossover SUV at a reasonable price. Making the case even stronger now is an expanded list of Tucson offerings highlighted by plug-in hybrid and enthusiast-oriented N Line models that have joined the line’s gas-powered and electric hybrid variants.
Conventionally-powered Tucsons are equipped with a 2.5-liter engine delivering 180 hp and 195 lb-ft torque, delivering 26 city/33 highway mpg. PHEV and hybrid Tucson models share a 1.6-liter, turbocharged and direct-injected inline four-cylinder gas engine. These are equipped with Hyundai’s Continuously Variable Valve Duration technology that optimizes valve opening duration to improve power, efficiency, and emissions. The hybrid gets a 59 horsepower electric motor and 1.5 kWh lithium-ion battery that brings 226 total system horsepower and up to 38 city/38 highway mpg.
With the addition of the plug-in hybrid’s 90 hp electric motor and a larger 13.8 kWh lithium-ion battery, total system horsepower increases to 261 hp and 258 lb-ft torque. EPA rates the Tucson PHEV’s electric-only range at 33 miles and fuel economy at 80 MPGe, with a 35 mpg combined city/highway mpg rating running on gasoline. Hyundai says the model’s onboard 7.2 kW charger will allow charging the battery in less than two hours when connected to a 220-volt Level 2 charger.
The remainder of the Tucson PHEV’s drivetrain consists of a six-speed automatic transmission with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters and a standard HTRAC AWD system with selectable drive modes. All Tucson models, including the PHEV, have a maximum tow rating of 2,000 pounds. The PHEV’s curb weight is a few hundred pounds higher than the conventional and hybrid models, so its payload capacity is commensurately less, rated at 1,012 pounds for SEL models and 1,166 pounds for Limited versions.
A higher level of driving dynamics is delivered to match the Tucson’s sporty new exterior design. The AWD PHEV and hybrid models are built with Hyundai’s e-handling technology that, under certain road conditions and driving inputs, applies an incremental amount of electric motor torque to the wheels. This enables the e-handling system to affect vehicle weight transfer – and therefore the tire’s contact patch – to improve cornering.
Tucson models are equipped with a number of safety technologies as part of Hyundai’s SmartSense Safety Feature suite. Standard safety features on both the SEL and Limited models of the Tucson PHEV include Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist, Blind-Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist, Lane-Keeping Assist, Driver-Attention Warning, and Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist. Limited models add such features as blind-view and surround-view monitors and Remote Smart Parking Assist.
The Tucson PHEV’s interior amenities vary depending on model. Both SEL and Limited are equipped with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capabilities and have USB charging points for front and rear passengers. Stepping up to the Limited adds a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster and 10.25-inch color touchscreen (SEL has an 8-inch screen), a Bose premium sound system, and wireless device charging.
Prices start at $25,800 for the standard 2.5-liter powered Tucson with the hybrid coming in at $29,750 and the plug-in hybrid $35,400.
Green Car Journal’s Green Car Awards, the annual awards program honoring the year’s most standout new ‘green’ models, was presented at the Virtual Greenbuild Conference + Expo in November this year. The 2021 virtual awards program was an innovation during an unusual year, amid the postponement and cancellation of international auto shows where the Green Car Awards typically take place.
Over the years, these high-profile awards have grown along with the expanding field of ‘green’ cars on the road. They now recognize not only the magazine’s signature Green Car of the Year, but also exceptional models that speak to families, city dwellers, luxury buyers, pickup enthusiasts, and those requiring the functionality of an SUV. All provide the traditional touchstones of safety, quality, value, style, and performance, plus that fun-to-drive quality important to most drivers. What they add are greater efficiency, lower carbon and tailpipe emissions, petroleum reduction or displacement, or operation on battery electric power.
GREEN CAR OF THE YEAR
This year’s candidates for 2021 Green Car of the Year reflect the auto industry’s transition toward electrification, even as it continues to make internal combustion ever-more efficient. Three of this year’s finalists, the Mustang Mach-E, MINI Cooper SE, and Volkswagen ID.4, drive exclusively on zero-emission battery power. The BMW 330e is a plug-in hybrid that drives up to 23 miles on battery power and hundreds more as a hybrid. The Hyundai Elantra is offered with either an efficient gasoline engine or a gas-electric hybrid achieving up to 50 miles per gallon.
Rising to the top of the field is Green Car Journal’s 2021 Green Car of the Year, Ford’s all-new Mustang Mach-E, a model that boasts an instantly-recognizable name and heritage, while breaking new ground as an all-electric crossover featuring up to 300 miles of range. Performance is part of the package, as is unmistakable style and all the latest advanced electronics.
The 2021 Green Car of the Year® is selected by a highly-respected jury comprised of energy and environmental leaders including Mindy Lubber, president of CERES; Jean-Michel Cousteau, president of Ocean Futures Society; Dr. Alan Lloyd, president emeritus of the International Council on Clean Transportation and senior research fellow at the Energy Institute, University of Texas at Austin; Clay Nesler, interim president of the Alliance to Save Energy; and Matt Petersen, president and CEO of Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator and advisory board chair of Climate Mayors. Rounding out the Green Car of the Year jury is celebrity auto enthusiast Jay Leno and Green Car Journal editors .
LUXURY GREEN CAR OF THE YEAR
At a more premium price point, 2021 Luxury Green Car of the Year finalists also illustrate the momentum achieved by electric drive in the new car vehicle field. Four of these premium vehicles are all-electric models – the Audi e-tron Sportback, Polestar 2, Tesla Model Y, and Volvo XC40 Recharge. The fifth, the Lincoln Corsair Grand Touring, is the plug-in hybrid variant of Lincoln’s Corsair compact crossover that combines gas-electric hybrid and all-electric driving.
Honored as this year’s Luxury Green Car of the Year is the Polestar 2, a groundbreaking model from Polestar on many levels. This all-new premium vehicle is only the second of this new auto brand’s model offerings, and the first to be all-electric. This zero-emission, two-door fastback looks to the future even as it foregoes futuristic styling, instead choosing to offer an understated yet elegant and sophisticated design, tasteful appointments, and a nearly 300 mile range on battery power.
URBAN GREEN CAR OF THE YEAR
Urban environments pose their own unique challenges – tight spaces, often crowded streets, and hard-to-find parking. Here, smaller vehicles with a compact physical footprint and easy maneuverability are always top choices. The 2021 Urban Green Car of the Year award recognizes vehicles especially well-suited for life in the city. Top choices for this year’s award are the Hyundai Venue, Kia Seltos, Kia Soul, MINI Cooper SE, and Nissan Versa. Four are conventionally-powered – three of them crossover SUVs and one a compact sedan – with the fourth, the MINI Cooper SE, an all-electric crossover.
Taking top honors for 2021 Urban Green Car of the Year is the all-electric MINI Cooper SE. Standing out as an ideal vehicle for the city, the Cooper SE is compact in stature and big on features. Its represents what this brand all about: An iconic look, great maneuverability, and driving fun wrapped in a small package. Plus, electric power means zero localized emissions and no trips venturing out to the gas station in a crowded urban environment.
FAMILY GREEN CAR OF THE YEAR
While any model can serve family duty, those offering extra versatility and thoughtful family-friendly features are high on many shopping lists. Today, driving ‘green’ has also become a priority. Minivans have always been a solid choice, but these days three-row crossover SUVs can also do the job as family hauler. Finalists for 2021 Family Green Car of the Year are the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, Honda Odyssey, Kia Sorrento Hybrid, Toyota Highlander Hybrid, and Toyota Sienna. The Kia Sorrento Hybrid and Toyota Highlander Hybrid crossovers drive on efficient hybrid power. Honda’s Odyssey minivan features an efficient V-6 with variable cylinder management. The Toyota Sierra is exclusively a hybrid-powered minivan, while the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan also offers plug-in hybrid power.
Standing out as Family Green Car of the Year is the Toyota Sienna, a minivan that seeks to set the standard for modern family haulers. The stylish and fuel-efficient Sienna offers premium sedan-like style, admirable hybrid fuel efficiency, and a thoughtful blend of family-desired features along with driver-centric characteristics not always associated with minivans. It shows Toyota’s keen grasp of how to make a modern minivan that not only serves up family functionality, but also premium car style and appeal.
GREEN SUV OF THE YEAR
The hottest segment in the automotive field today is the SUV, either full-size or compact, traditional or crossover, two-row or three, conventional, hybrid, or plug-in. There are no shortage of choices, which makes narrowing the field to five outstanding finalists no small challenge. The top five finalists emerging this year for Green SUV of the Year are the Audi Q5 55 TFSI e, BMW X3 xDrive 30e, Jeep Wrangler 4xe, Toyota RAV4 Prime, and Toyota Venza. Four of these –from Audi, BMW, Jeep, and Toyota – are plug-in hybrids with an all-electric driving range from 18 to 42 miles, and additional hundreds of miles on hybrid power. Toyota’s Venza is an all-wheel drive, tech-rich hybrid with exceptional fuel efficiency.
Taking top honors for the 2021 Green SUV of the Year title is the Jeep Wrangler 4xe, an SUV that’s different in many ways from others in its class. To some, it’s an SUV in the traditional sense with high functionality and loads of versatility that’s perfect for the diversity of everyday life. But to others, it’s that, plus a means of escape, heading toward the city one day and then driving the path less taken on another, a path often rough, unpaved, and pointed towards adventure.
GREEN TRUCK OF THE YEAR
This year’s Green Truck of the Year finalists embody all the workhorse capabilities expected of a modern pickup while offering passenger car-like comfort, advanced on-board electronics, and levels of fuel efficiency unheard of in pickups of just a decade ago. Pickups honored as finalists for Green Truck of the Year are the Chevrolet Colorado, Chevrolet Silverado, Ford F-150, Jeep Gladiator EcoDiesel, and RAM 1500. All offer diverse powertrain choices, from gasoline and diesel internal combustion to variations of mild- and full-hybrid power.
Powering its way to well-deserved recognition as 2021 Green Truck of the Year is the Ford F-150, a pickup long distinguished as the best-selling model in the nation and a champion of innovation. Beyond its wide array of configurations, powertrain choices, payload capacities, and towing capabilities, it now adds such innovations as an efficient PowerBoost hybrid powerplant, fold-flat ‘sleeper’ seats, and an available Pro Power Onboard output system with outlets that allow the truck to function as a mobile generator at worksites or campsites.
The Green Car Awards™ program, presented annually since 2005, is an important part of Green Car Journal's mission to showcase environmental progress in the automotive field.
The driving range of electric vehicles is becoming less of an issue as they surpass 200 miles or greater, approaching the distance between fill-ups of some internal combustion engine vehicles…or maybe the bladder capacity of their drivers. However, the time it takes to recharge an EV is still a negative attribute.
Generally, EVs charge at a fairly slow rate. A 240-volt Level 2 home or public charger will charge a Chevy Bolt from depleted to full in about 4 1/2 hours, providing a range of about 238 miles. That’s a far cry from 5 minutes to fill a gas tank. It’s significantly slower when charging a Bolt with a Level 1 charger using a household’s standard 120-volt power since this adds only about 4 miles an hour!
Of course, charging companies and automakers are working together to expand the small-but-growing network of fast chargers in key areas of the country, allowing EVs to gain up to 90 miles of charge in around 30 minutes. Tesla claims that its Supercharger stations being upgraded to Version 3 can charge a Tesla Model 3 Long Range at the rate of about 15 miles a minute, or 225 miles in just over 15 minutes under best conditions.
If current technology EVs become popular for mid- to long-range travel, gasoline stations, truck stops, and public charging stations equipped with Level 2 and even somewhat faster chargers run the very real risk of becoming parking lots.
When it comes to charging EVs, charging times come down to kilowatts available. The best Tesla V3 charger is rated at 250 kilowatts peak charge rate. Now, much research is being done here and in other countries on what is called Extreme Fast Charging (XFC) involving charge rates of 350-400 kilowatts or more. The U.S. Department of Energy is sponsoring several projects aimed at reducing battery pack costs, increasing range, and reducing charging times.
There are several challenges for XFCs. First, when lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries are fast charged, they can deteriorate and overheat. Tesla already limits the number of fast charges by its standard Superchargers because of battery degradation, and that’s only at 120-150 kilowatts. Also, when kilowatt charging rates increase voltage and/or amperage increases, which can have a detrimental effect on cables and electronics.
This begs the question: Is the current electrical infrastructure capable of supporting widespread use of EVs? Then, the larger question is whether the infrastructure is capable of handling XFC with charging rates of 350 kilowatts or more. This is most critical in urban areas with large numbers of EVs and in rural areas with limited electric infrastructure.
The answer is no. Modern grid infrastructures are not designed to supply electricity at a 350+ kilowatt rate, so costly grid upgrades would be required. Additionally, communities would be disrupted when new cables and substations have to be installed. There would be a need for costly and time-consuming environmental studies.
One approach being is XFC technology being developed by Zap&Go in the UK and Charlotte, North Carolina. The heart of Zap&Go's XFC is carbon-ion (C-Ion) energy storage cells using nanostructured carbons and ionic liquid-based electrolytes. C-Ion cells provide higher energy densities than conventional supercapacitors with charging rates 10 times faster than current superchargers. Supercapacitors and superchargers are several technologies being considered for XFCs.
According to Zap&Go, the C-Ion cells do not overheat and since they do not use lithium, cobalt, or any materials that can catch fire, there is no fire danger. Plus, they can be recycled at the end of their life, which is about 30 years. Zap&Go's business model would use its chargers to store electric energy at night and at off-peak times, so the current grid could still be used. Electrical energy would be stored in underground reservoirs similar to how gasoline and diesel fuels are now stored at filling stations. EVs would then be charged from the stored energy, not directly from the grid, in about the same time it takes to refuel with gasoline.
The fastest charging would work best if C-Ion cell batteries are installed in an EV, replacing Li-ion batteries. EVs with Li-ion batteries could also be charged, but not as quickly. Alternatively, on-board XFC cells could be charged in about five minutes, then they would charge an EV’s Li-ion batteries at a slower rate while the vehicle is driven, thereby preserving the life of the Li-ion battery. The downside is that this would add weight, consume more room, and add complexity. Zap&Go plans to set up a network of 500 ultrafast-charge charging points at filling stations across the UK.
General Motors is partnering with Delta Electronics, DOE, and others to develop XFSs using solid-state transformer technology. Providing up to 400 kilowatts of power, the system would let properly equipped electric vehicles add 180 miles of range in about 10 minutes. Since the average American drives less than 30 miles a day, a single charge could provide a week’s worth of driving.
The extreme charging time issue might be partly solved by something already available: Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs). As governments around the world consider banning or restricting new gasoline vehicles in favor of electric vehicles, they should not exclude PHEVs. Perhaps PHEVs could be designed so their internal combustion engines could not operate until their batteries were depleted, or their navigation system determines where they could legally operate on electric or combustion power.
The Kona, Hyundai’s newest and smallest crossover, serves up a pleasing design and welcome functionality. It is offered with a choice two gasoline engines that net up to 33 highway mpg, and also as a battery electric vehicle.
Styling cues are a bit different on the Kona Electric, but subtle except for its distinctive closed grille. Silver side sills, unique 17-inch alloy wheels, and badging also differentiate the electric variant. Kona Electric sales are initially being focused on California and select states that have adopted California’s Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) program.
The Kona is available in three trim levels – SEL, Limited, and Ultimate. Kona SE and SEL models are powered by a 147-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission. This combo achieves an EPA rating of 28 city/32 highway mpg. Kona Limited and Ultimate trim levels are powered by a 175-horsepower, turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder with a seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission. Here, EPA numbers are 27 city/33 highway mpg. Front-wheel drive is standard with all-wheel drive an option for both powerplants.
Powering the Kona Electric is a 201 horsepower, permanent-magnet electric motor driving the front wheels. Energy is provided by a 64 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery that delivers an impressive EPA estimated 258 mile range. Offshore markets also get a base electric version with a smaller 39.2 kWh battery that’s good for about 186 miles, but that configuration is not offered in North America. The Kona Electric earns a combined EPA efficiency rating of 120 MPGe. Acceleration is quite good with a 0-60 mph sprint taking 7.6 seconds. Kona Electric’s top speed is electronically limited at 104 mph.
When connected to a fast-charge 10 kW Combined Charging System, the battery pack can be recharged from a depleted state in about 54 minutes. It takes 75 minutes to recharge with a more common 50 kW CCS fast-charge system. With more readily-available Level 2 (240-volt AC) public or home charging and the Kona’s onboard 7.2 kW charger, replenishing a depleted battery takes about 10 hours. The charge port is located in the front fascia just below the driver’s side headlight.
There are a host of driver assist features available. Hyundai SmartSense safety technologies standard on all trim levels include Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist, Driver Attention Warning, and Lane Keeping Assist. Optionally available are Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Avoidance Assist, Blind Spot Collision Warning, High Beam Assist, Rear View Monitor, and Smart Cruise Control.
The gasoline-powered Kona has an MSRP of $19,990, while the Kona Electric is offered at a base price of $36,450.
Part of Honda’s Clarity triple-play – along with the hydrogen-powered Clarity Fuel Cell and more mainstream Clarity Plug-In Hybrid – the Clarity Electric is a model that clearly cuts its own path.
It does not aim to be part of the ‘200 mile club,’ the latest generation of uber-electrics that claim a battery electric driving range greater than 200 miles between charges. It also does not cultivate efficiencies through a compact form designed to eke the most from every electron. Nor is it exceptionally lightweight, another common nod to the need for making the most of the battery power carried on board. In fact, there is little about the Clarity Electric that makes us think of other all-electric vehicles…save for the fact that it runs exclusively on zero-emission battery power, of course. This mid-size, five-passenger battery electric vehicle aims to be in a league of its own.
First of all, let’s discuss driving range, which is EPA rated at 89 miles between charges while delivering a combined 114 MPGe (miles-per-gallon equivalent). Yes, that’s more limiting than that of the 200+ mile club, but there’s a reason. Honda designed the Clarity Electric with the needs of commuters in mind…those who want their daily drive to be in a highly-efficient, zero-emission electric car with a sophisticated look and premium feel. And they designed it so it was significantly more affordable than premium competitors offering higher-end electric models with features similar to those of the Clarity. Currently, the Clarity Electric is offered at a $199 monthly lease in California and Oregon where this battery-powered model is available.
Honda figures that an approach focused on commuters is a sweet spot for the Clarity Electric. Its range fits the needs of most commutes and its price is certainly justifiable for a commuter car, and a luxurious one at that, with fuel costs substantially less than conventionally-powered models. Plus, most households have two cars at their disposal, sometimes more. Having a Clarity Electric as a primary commuter car with a conventional gasoline or hybrid vehicle also in a household’s stable covers all bases.
Honda gave a lot of thought to the cabin design with welcome touches throughout. We especially like the ‘floating’ design of the center console with its array of integrated controls and flat storage tray beneath, with 12-volt and USB outlets. The dash features a handsome suede-like material and an 8-inch touchscreen display elegantly integrated into the dash. Deep cupholders feature flip-up stays for holding smaller drinks. Side door pockets are large enough to accommodate water bottles. The trunk offers plenty of room and is illuminated when the trunk lid is remotely or manually unlatched. At night this allows you to immediately note what’s inside through the trunk lid’s clear back panel before opening…something we’ve really come to appreciate over time.
Driving the Clarity Electric is a satisfying experience, with this sedan both well-mannered and responsive. Power is delivered by a 161 horsepower electric motor energized by a 25.5 kWh lithium-ion battery that can be charged in about three hours with a 240 volt charger, or in as little as 30 minutes with a public DC fast-charge system to an 80 percent state-of-charge. While its primary job may well be to handle everyday driving needs and negotiate traffic, it also delivers plenty of fun on twisty canyon roads with flat cornering and confident steering. It’s quick, like almost all electrics are because of instant torque delivered at launch, providing very satisfying acceleration.
Also appreciated is the Clarity’s handy Apple CarPlay integration and its Honda Sensing suite of driver-assist technologies. Among these are important features like adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow, forward collision warning, collision mitigation braking, lane departure warning, and road departure mitigation.
The Clarity Electric has served us well on our daily drives over the course of Green Car Journal’s ongoing long-term test. Its use supports what Honda envisioned for this efficient electric car. It has been ideal for around-town duty, area trips within its range, and daily commutes. Its thoughtful and sophisticated – dare we say futuristic – design and very satisfying drive experience are appreciated every day we’re behind the wheel.
With the growing market acceptance of electric vehicles in the U.S. comes an unprecedented auto industry focus on delivering these vehicles to consumers. Today nearly all major auto manufacturers and a handful of boutique automakers offer a growing lineup of electrified models.
When considering the purchase of an electric vehicle, the task of home charging is second in importance only to an electric’s driving range. How long will a charge take, and how often will it be needed? The cost associated with enabling home charging is also top-of-mind since using public or workplace chargers is a plus, but nothing beats the conveniences of overnight charging at home.
There’s an affordable and easy answer to these home EV charging concerns with the AV TurboCord Dual, developed by AeroVironment and available as part of Webasto’s EV Solutions product line. TurboCord Dual presents a portable transformable solution that aims to promote convenient electric vehicle charging using the two most common electrical outlets found in homes.
AV TurboCord Dual is a portable EV charging solution enabling both 120 or significantly faster 240 volt charging as needed through a quick clip-release adapter interface. It does not require hardwired installation to facilitate dual voltage charging, but rather connects to a standard 120 volt household outlet or 240 volt outlet.
While there is much competition in the home charging segment, there’s a lot to like about the AV TurboCord for its compact size, portability, and ease of operation. TurboCord Dual will look familiar to anyone who has used AV public charging stations in much of the U.S. Simply open the charge port on your EV of choice, look for the pulsing light on the business end of the TurboCord, and you’re charging. When the unit stops blinking, you’re done.
TurboCord Dual delivers a great solution for battery electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles alike, either at home or on the road. A handy carrying case easily stores the charger, power cord, and chargeport connector. AV TurboCord is available online or from your local building center.
Volvo’s smallest crossover features an aggressive design that’s a bit of a departure for the automaker, even as it retains the fundamental styling cues that say ‘Volvo.’ The first model built on the automaker’s Compact Modular Architecture, the new XC40 is offered as either a T4 front-wheel drive or T5 all-wheel drive and in three trim levels. The XC40 looks deceptively small but has plenty of cargo and passenger capacity for longer trips. A plug-in hybrid and possibly an all-electric model are likely in the future.
Inside, the stylish cabin aims for an uncluttered look while still providing all the amenities SUV buyers desire. Functionality is a top priority, which the XC40 provides in intelligent ways with features like spacious door bins that accommodate a laptop or tablet, easily accessible under-seat drawers for stashing wallets or other necessities, and even a trash bin for cleaning up clutter. The front storage compartment holds a wireless charge pad for smartphones. Other welcome features include a standard 9-inch Sensus Connect touchscreen and an available panoramic sunroof that provides loads of available light.
All XC40s are powered by a 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder Drive-E engine. In the T4 this engine is rated at 187 horsepower and 221 lb-ft torque. Engine output increases to 248 horsepower and 258 lb-ft torque in the all-wheel drive T5. Both connect to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Manual gear shifts are possible with the Volvo’s shift lever or, alternatively, via steering wheel shift paddles on the R-Design model.
Standard on all XC40s are Automated Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Forward-Collision Warning, Lane-Keeping Assist with Lane-Departure Warning, Automatic High-Beam Headlamps, Driver-Attention Monitor, and Traffic-Sign Detection. A self-parking feature, front and rear parking sensors, and Blind-Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert can be added as part of the Vision package.
Volvo offers Pilot Assist as a part of a Premium package. This is essentially adaptive cruise control with a semi-autonomous driving mode. It keeps the XC40 within its own lane and maintains a set speed and distance behind the vehicle ahead. Unlike some other near-self-driving systems, Pilot Assist requires the driver to keep his hands on the steering wheel at all times…perhaps not a surprise considering Volvo’s longstanding focus on safety.
The 2019 XC40 serves up 23 city and 33 highway mpg, at a starting cost of $33,700. Another option is Care by Volvo, an innovative subscription service that includes use of a new XC40 Momentum ($600 per month) or R-Design ($700 per month) for a maximum of 15,000 miles per year. Insurance, maintenance, and road-hazard protection are included, plus the opportunity for the lessee to upgrade to a new XC40 each year for the same all-inclusive monthly payment. A subscription lasts for 24 months.
Nissan's all-new, sixth-generation Altima has been extensively redesigned with greater refinement and efficiency, along with a more aerodynamic body boasting an impressive 0.26 drag coefficient. Distinctive styling cues include a more aggressive front facia with a V-motion grille and streamlined boomerang lights.
Inside there is a standard 7-inch driver display and a NASA-inspired zero gravity seat that enhances comfort and fights fatigue. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard. Every 2019 Altima also comes equipped with a standard 8-inch multi-touch color display, Bluetooth hands-free phone system, streaming audio via Bluetooth, hands-free text messaging assistant, and Siri eyes free voice recognition. Some remote features are also accessible through NissanConnect Services’ Amazon Alexa Skill and Google Assistant Action.
Power is provided by a naturally aspirated, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine producing 188 horsepower. There’s also an all-new, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 248 horsepower on tap. The world’s first production variable compression engine, this 2.0-liter powerplant enables compression ratio to adjust from 8:1 to 14:1 by continuously raising or lowering piston reach for performance or greater efficiency. Both engines connect to an Xtronic continuously variable transmission. Paddle shifters are available with the SR grade.
Every 2.5-liter Altima is now available with Intelligent All-Wheel Drive with a 50:50 torque split in most situations, a first for a Nissan sedan and something that remains a relative rarity in this segment. Front-wheel drive 2.5-liter models are rated at 28 city/39 highway mpg.
Unique in the class, Nissan’s ProPILOT Assist helps drivers stay centered in the lane, navigate stop-and-go traffic, maintain a set vehicle speed, and maintain a set distance to the vehicle ahead. To activate the system, a driver simply pushes the blue ProPILOT Assist ON button, then sets the Intelligent Cruise Control when the desired speed is reached, similar to a conventional advanced cruise control system. It uses a forward-facing camera, forward-facing radar, sensors, and an electronic control module.
Along with ProPILOT Assist, also new for 2019 is Rear Automatic Braking that helps a driver by detecting and warning of objects while backing up, and if necessary applying brakes to help avoid a collision. Other safety and convenience features include standard Automatic Emergency Braking, Intelligent Forward Collision Warning, and Intelligent Driver Alertness 3 on all grades.
Intelligent Around View Monitor is standard on the Altima Platinum. Safety Shield 360 includes Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Rear Automatic Braking, Lane Departure Warning, radar-based Blind Spot Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and High Beam Assist (HBA). A new Traffic Sign Recognition system provides the most recent speed limit information.
The 2019 Nissan Altima offers a base cost of $23,900, a point of entry approachable for a great many buyers seeking a fun-do-drive, stylish vehicle offering laudable fuel efficiency and some of the most advanced technology available in its class.
Our drive of the 2019 Lexus ES 300h, the hybrid variant of this automaker’s all-new, seventh-generation ES sedan, was accommodating as expected from this luxury brand with welcome performance. During our drives we found turn-in sharp and precise. Considering front-to-rear weight distribution is heavy over the front wheels, the suspension compensates well and the car feels well-balanced.
Built on Lexus’ new Global Architecture-K platform, the ES enjoys a 2.6-inch increase in length, 1.8-inch increase in width, and wider front and rear tracks compared to the model it replaces. It also offers a two-inch longer wheelbase at 113 inches and a more spacious rear compartment.
The luxury sedan’s most striking angle is its profile that shows low hood and roof lines. From the front it’s the automaker’s unmistakable spindle grill that dominates, enhanced by slim L-shaped LED projector headlights.
The ES 300h layout is front engine, front wheel drive with power derived from a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, plus an electric motor mated to an all new hybrid transaxle. This delivers 215 total system horsepower. A six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters is electronically controlled and continuously variable.
Powering the electric motor is a nickel-metal-hydride battery that's more power dense and compact than its predecessor, allowing it to be relocated from the trunk to beneath the rear seat, thus adding welcome trunk space. This fourth-generation Hybrid Drive System enables accelerating from 0-60 mph in 8.1 seconds and provides a nearly 600-mile driving range, plus excellent combined 44 mpg fuel economy.
Inside is a well-appointed cabin that’s tranquil and free of exterior noise. New suction-type ventilated cooling seats kept us as comfortable and entertained as any in the new movie theaters. There are lots of choices for interior personalization with three color schemes available, four trims, and three material options for the seats. The car’s standard audio has 10 speakers, and to please audiophiles there’s the optional Mark Levinson audio with 1800 watts and 17 speakers.
Of course, the ES 300h offers all the latest driver assistance systems plus an array of convenience features like Apple CarPlay, and it will be Amazon Alexa-enabled for Android phones and iPhones. Outstanding fuel consumption, a striking design, and first-class amenities make the new Lexus ES 300h a real contender for today’s premium car buyers.
The price of entry for the conventionally powered 2019 Lexus ES is $39,500, with the ES 300h hybrid just $1,810 more at $41,310.
First off, this is not the LEAF we’ve grown accustomed to seeing on the road since the model’s introduction in 2010. Our drive of the new generation 2018 Nissan LEAF quickly reinforced this is a whole-new animal, a new generation of the venerable electric car intended to capture the imagination and, not coincidentally, market share in the increasingly competitive electric vehicle field.
We have history with the LEAF. Green Car Journal first experienced the original LEAF’s capabilities in a technology demonstrator designed to share what Nissan had in mind for its groundbreaking, soon-to-come production electric vehicle. At Nissan’s behest, we tested the automaker’s LEAF-destined electric drivetrain in its EV-12 test mule back in 2009 at Nissan’s global headquarters in Yokohama, Japan. We later witnessed the LEAF’s unveiling, clearly showing Nissan’s willingness to push the envelope for electric cars with an edgy design.
We were impressed. So much so, in fact, that Green Car Journal honored the LEAF with the magazine’s 2010 Green Car Vision Award™ in Washington DC, ahead of its introduction to the market. Nissan’s insight into what electric vehicle buyers desired has indeed proved visionary over the years. Testament to this is the LEAF’s standing as the world’s leading affordable, mass production EV since its launch.
The all-new generation Nissan LEAF aims to expand on this success with new styling and a 50-percent increase in driving range. It also features a full suite of Nissan Intelligent Mobility technologies. This all-electric model is more attractive with excellent aerodynamics that result in a low 0.28 drag coefficient. Improved aerodynamics not only means a quieter ride but also contributes to greater range. That’s an important consideration in electric cars with near-silent drivetrains that don’t mask outside noise.
The new Leaf features a 150-mile driving range between charges compared to the previous generation’s 100 miles. This is an important milestone that serves to overcome potential ‘range anxiety.’ Why 150 miles rather than shooting for the 200+ mile range like the Chevy Bolt EV and Tesla Model 3? It’s all about balancing price with functionality. Simply, Nissan aimed at providing an affordable price point under $30,000 for the LEAF. That meant delivering the range it figured would fit the driving needs of most drivers while keeping battery costs within reason. It’s a sound strategy.
A more powerful 40 kWh lithium-ion battery pack features improvements and revised chemistry that bring a 67 percent increase in energy density. Nissan designers have located the low-slung battery pack and other heavy components to the middle of the chassis to enhance the car’s center of gravity and handling. Fun fact: Using vehicle-to-home systems, the LEAF’s battery can store a home’s surplus solar energy while parked during the daytime and use it to help power a home in the evening.
LEAF’s electric powertrain features a 147-horsepower electric motor that’s well-suited to the model. It provides 38 percent more horsepower than the previous version with 26 greater torque for improved acceleration. Acceleration is crisp with more than enough power at the ready for all the driving situations we encountered on twisty roads and Interstates. Intelligent Ride Control delivers more precise motor torque control during cornering. This also reduces vibration while improving ride quality and steering control. Electric power steering software has been tweaked for improved steering feel. The LEAF’s steering torsion bar is also stiffer for better feedback and more linear response to steering inputs.
Nissan’s e-Pedal slows down the car via regenerative and friction braking when a driver’s foot lifts off the accelerator. This delivers electricity to the battery while essentially providing braking force without using the car’s brake pedal. It even brings the car to a complete stop. We found that driving with e-Pedal kept our LEAF tester in place while stopped on a steep hill without requiring a foot on the brake pedal. Notably, e-Pedal allows drivers to go without using the brake pedal 90 percent of the time.
LEAF’s ProPILOT cruise control conveniently maintains a constant distance to the vehicle ahead. If that vehicle stops, ProPILOT automatically applies brakes to also bring the LEAF to a full stop. It remains stopped even with your foot off the brake. Driving resumes when ProPILOT is activated with the touch of a switch or light pressure on the accelerator. The system also helps keep the LEAF centered in its lane at speeds between 19 and 62 mph. Other LEAF driver-assist technologies include Intelligent Lane Intervention, Lane Departure Warning, Intelligent Emergency Braking, Blind Spot Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and Intelligent Around View Monitor with moving object detection.
The new LEAF’s interior has a more luxurious and high-end look. Its dashboard is dominated by a seven-inch display for infotainment and the navigation system, if so equipped, plus Nissan's Safety Shield state-of-charge and power gauge. Another seven-inch screen faces the driver in place of conventional dials. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are included on LEAFs with the higher-spec infotainment/navigation system.
Today’s electric car market is different than that of the past. There are more choices in a growing number of vehicle classes and this makes it tougher for automakers to compete. Nissan aims to not only compete in the electric car field but dominate globally as it has in recent years.
The LEAF’s status as a true world car is underscored by widespread availability like the previous-generation LEAF. It’s also reinforced by Nissan’s global manufacturing capabilities with assembly plants in Japan, England, and in Smyrna, Tennessee. Offering the all-new LEAF at a base price of $29,990 here in the U.S. is a strategy that should bode well for Nissan in today’s increasingly competitive electric vehicle market.
Volkswagen 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’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.
Car-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.
Park 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.