Requiring 60+ percent of U.S. vehicles sales to be pure battery electric vehicles (BEVs) by 2030 leapfrogged the administration’s own 2021 executive order that called for 50 percent electric vehicles – including plug-in hybrid and fuel cell EVs – by 2030. More on that below.
That 2021 executive order was a stretch goal (then and now), but the auto industry backed a 40-50 percent EV sales target – presuming the requisite public policies would also be in place.
When the companies that will build the millions of EVs required by these regulations say the pace and balance of EPA’s rules are out of whack – in fact, we told the agency those rules are “neither reasonable nor achievable in the timeframe provided" and opens the door to China – regulators and policymakers should believe them.
It’s not too late to course correct. Here are five ways for EPA to fix the proposed rule while supporting increased automotive electrification and carbon reduction.
1. Don’t write off plug-in hybrids and fuel cell EVs.
The current EPA rule calls for 37 percent of new light-duty cars and trucks to be BEVs by 2027 (and the aforementioned 60+ percent by 2030). Keep in mind, BEV sales were just under 6 percent in 2022.
But EPA’s proposal goes further and completely writes off plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs). A 67 percent BEV-only approach by 2032 will unquestionably reduce consumer choice and push automakers to non-compliance with such unachievable requirements. The administration’s 50 percent executive order from 2021 included BEVs and PHEVs and fuel cell electric vehicles. Why take PHEV technology off the field?
2. Don't siphon finite resource from EVs to gas-powered vehicles.
EPA’s proposal also sets new rules for criteria pollutants from gas-powered vehicles that are already near zero emissions. A backpack leaf blower produces more ozone-forming pollution in one hour than driving an SUV for 6,000 miles.
But automakers support criteria pollution reductions, most recently in California where we developed a path to reduce particulate matter by 67 percent between 2025 and 2028. EPA should get behind those criteria pollution standards.
That said, EPA’s rule requires automakers to eke out some incremental improvements by installing expensive new technology on all internal combustion engines – a powertrain the administration wants to discourage (and California has already banned for new vehicles sales by 2035).
The point: automakers are investing massive amounts of capital in electrification, but every dollar invested (required to be invested, that is) in internal combustion technology is a dollar not spent on zero carbon technology. And vice versa.
3. Sync up EPA’s rules with yet-to-be-released Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards.
A vehicle tailpipe is regulated by three federal agencies and four sets of regulations. One vehicle overseen by competing, overlapping (sometimes conflicting) rules that aren’t coordinated. It’s expensive and complex and frankly why the country and automakers need a single national standard to reduce carbon in transportation through a streamlined regulatory structure.
At the very least, if an automaker complies with EPA’s greenhouse gas emissions rules, they shouldn’t be at risk of violating the Transportation Department’s coming CAFE rules and subject to significant civil penalties (that create no environmental benefit but do levy additional costs on consumers, workers, and manufacturers).
4. While you’re at it… sync up the rules and eliminate conflict with state standards too.
Let me revise that. A vehicle tailpipe is regulated by three federal agencies and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) using seven sets of regulations. EPA should get with CARB to ensure both programs are on the same wavelength and not creating unnecessary compliance burdens (that deliver no corresponding emissions reduction benefits).
5. Keep score (and keep track) of conditions outside the vehicle.
I’m a broken record about policies and conditions outside the vehicle, necessary for a successful EV transition: residential and public charging, critical mineral availability and grid capacity. EPA should develop a roadmap and methodically track this data so the country – and all sectors of the economy responsible for the transformation – can collectively assess progress.
EPA should release a public report taking stock of the overall EV market, the mineral and processing supply chain, and state of refueling and charging infrastructure. For example: How is the transition going? Is it meeting EPA’s milestones? If not, what’s the fix?
When I raise these points with policymakers, I hear: “Well, things have changed since 2021” and the 50 percent executive order. The implication: EPA’s higher EV targets make sense because EV sales continue to grow. We’re on the right path… they say.
I don’t see it that way, and most experts who’ve been building autos or studying the industry for any length of time don’t either. EPA’s proposal is an outlier when compared to the EV adoption models of S&P, Bloomberg, and other analysts. See this chart:
EPA is asking for a huge BEV ramp up in the next few years. On a graph, their model looks like a hockey stick. The pitch of that curve is most aggressive in the next few years when market conditions (consumer acceptance, supply chains, infrastructure) are most speculative.
The administration’s 50 percent goal in 2021 was aspirational, but it was also based on clearly defined climate goals – from the United Nations and the incoming Biden administration (reflected in its 2023 National Blueprint for Transportation Decarbonization). It was built on a foundation of credible assumptions. And data.
The 60+ percent BEVs by 2030 plan, on the other hand, is a house of cards (… a house of cars?). It rolls up rosy forecasts (like EV batteries will eventually cost automakers nothing) and other hopeful assumptions.
The next couple years are make or break. The auto industry is making huge progress on electrification and continued improvements to internal combustion engine technology. Don’t toss it away now. Let’s come out of this process with a balanced, achievable and durable rule that maintains customer choice and doesn’t blunt America’s EV momentum.
John Bozzella is president and CEO of Alliance for Automotive Innovation. This editorial originally ran at https://www.autosinnovate.org/posts/blog/epas-rules-are-out-of-whack-five-ways-to-fix-them.
Consumer demand for electric vehicles (EVs) is at an all-time high – in fact, EV sales saw a 50 percent increase in the first half of this year, compared to 10 percent growth for combustion engine vehicles. Analysts estimate the U.S. will reach one million EV sales this year, and roughly one-third of U.S. drivers say they are considering an EV for their next car purchase. The Tesla Model Y is the best-selling car in the country.
These are the facts, yet I keep hearing claims about sagging EV demand. But to claim this is just flimsy cover for automakers who want to argue that a rapid transition away from polluting gas-powered cars and trucks is too ambitious.
Cox Automotive recently reported that EVs sit longer on dealership lots than do combustion engine vehicles. Based on that report, many media outlets concluded that EV demand is weak. Unfortunately, most analyses of Cox’s report ignore critical data and context.
For starters, Tesla, the best-selling EV manufacturer on the planet, does not use dealerships – so there is no data on the company factored into Cox’s report. Given that Tesla accounts for roughly 60 percent of all EVs sold in the U.S., to conclude that EV demand is low because EVs are sitting on dealer lots is judging demand based on only 40 percent of the market – and the weaker 40 percent at that.
For the EVs that are sold through dealers, Cox’s report looks at wait times for all EVs instead of differentiating by type – compact SUVs, hatchbacks, luxury electric trucks, etc. Internal combustion engine data is analyzed at a detailed level, instead of lumped together, so why do the opposite for EVs?
It’s 2023, and electric vehicles come in all sizes, shapes, and at wide-ranging price points. A closer look reveals that the EVs flagged for slower sales are largely big, expensive luxury SUVs or foreign-made luxury EVs. This isn’t just true for EVs: the slowest-selling gas-powered models right now are luxury cars and SUVs priced similarly to the slowest-selling EVs.
Vehicles ineligible for federal tax credits are seeing higher lot wait times than others. If consumer demand for EVs was the problem, all EVs would be sitting on lots, not just the expensive ones.
Smaller, more affordable EVs like the Chevy Bolt and Tesla Models 3 and Y have set records and drove EV sales to all-time highs in the second quarter of 2023. That’s not a surprise, because the gas-powered cars with the tightest inventories in the U.S. are also smaller cars and compact SUVs.
The issue is not demand, it’s affordability, and it's affecting gas and electric cars alike. If the market for EVs appears weak overall, it’s only because automakers are making too many larger, pricier models and not enough smaller, less expensive ones.
Analysis of the car market cannot ignore the broader economy. High interest rates and a turbulent economy are changing consumer spending habits for all kinds of products, including cars. Earlier this year, analysts found new gas-powered cars are out of reach for many consumers as interest rates rise and the average price hit almost $50,000 (a 30 percent increase from three years ago). Manufacturers have reduced the number of affordable models, leading many people to put off buying a car or opt for a used vehicle.
Clearly there is enormous demand for affordable EVs. Luckily,automakers have more resources than ever from the federal government to make the transition to electric vehicles and to make more affordable EVs available now. With the Inflation Reduction Act signed into law, new tax credits for EVs make some models even more affordable than comparable combustion engine cars.
EVs are more popular than ever, and Americans want to buy them. We are moving from the early-adopter phase to the mass market, and car companies should adjust their production accordingly. Instead of producing bigger, more expensive electric trucks and SUVs, automakers must make more affordable EVs to meet booming demand.
East Peterson-Trujillo is a clean vehicles campaigner at Public Citizen, a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization that champions the public interest, https://www.citizen.org/
First teased back in 2021 with a bold, forward-looking design that’s still signature Kia, the automaker’s electric EV9 emerged in recent months to great expectations. Not the least of these expectations is from Kia itself, which aims for the Kia EV9 to take the family SUV market by storm, much like its spiritual Telluride sibling did when it was released four years ago.
Kia’s signature EV model line was launched in 2021 with the EV6, an all-electric compact crossover. The EV9 is the automaker’s second volley in the EV wars, sharing Kia’s E-GMP platform also used by the EV6, Hyundai Ioniq 5 and 6, and the Genesis GV60. Kia hasn’t released much info regarding trim levels, but we do know the EV9 will be offered in Kia’s GT trim sporting unique 21-inch wheels, roof rack, and dark chrome exterior accents. Entry pricing is speculated to begin around $55,000.
As of now, Kia has announced two powertrain choices for the upcoming EV9. First will be a base RWD option sporting 215 horsepower and 258 lb-ft torque utilizing a 77.6 kWh battery. The second is an AWD variant capable of producing 379 horsepower and 516 lb-ft torque with a long range 99.8 kWh battery. Kia is targeting 300 miles with its long range battery setup, while estimates for the base 77.6 kWh battery variant are currently unknown. Kia boasts a towing capacity of up to 5000 pounds, matching the Telluride. Charging the battery from 10 to 80 percent is handled in just 25 minutes thanks to Kia’s fourth-generation battery technology and use of an 800-volt fast charger.
The Kia EV9 has a surprisingly well-blended combination of varying styles, most prominent being its sci-fi essence. At the front, Kia’s ‘Tiger Face’ front fascia design metric is ruggedly futuristic with a large, black grille that emphasizes an appealing design flow, accentuated by slim, vertically oriented headlights that angle diagonally toward the grille. A high, sloping hood reminds us we are in the presence of a large and capable SUV. Hidden windshield wipers mean the continuity of the hood is uninterrupted, adding a subtle sleekness to this SUV.
Along the sides, the EV9’s most striking feature is its wheels. Kia’s use of simple geometric shapes as a base for the wheel design underscores how futuristic the model is meant to be perceived. That, along with its chunky, trapezoidal wheel arches, sharp fender lines, and smoothly uninterrupted body lines, provide an appealing amalgamation of styles. Around back, we see a very minimalist hatch with a subtle spoiler extending out from the roofline. The taillights were designed along the lines of Kia’s ‘Star-map Signature Lighting’ system, with the intent to emphasize the flow of body lines as they wrap into the rear of the EV9. Another styling benefit of this lighting system is its ability to frame the rear window, which represents yet another futuristic design cue.
Inside is a different story. Here’s Kia’s intent is to offer a cabin designed to be as comfortable and calming as possible without the complexity and futurism of its exterior. Most functions are controlled through the infotainment screen, which extends into the driver’s sightline to also act as a digital gauge cluster. Beneath the screen, Kia added dash-integrated haptic buttons that control key functions of the infotainment system. Buttons and switches are kept to a minimum to reinforce the model’s calm and comfortable interior theme.
The EV9 makes good use of negative space, with decorative cloth inserts placed in the doors and the passenger side dash fascia. A floating center console stretches into the second row and features a reasonable amount of storage space. Optional 8-way reclining seats are offered for the first and second rows featuring heating and cooling capabilities. The EV9 follows Kia’s 10 essential materials interior production method using synthetic leather and recycled material throughout the cabin. Using a flat floor, cargo room is ample within the EV9, with 20 cubic feet of cargo room when all three rows are in use, as well as nearly 82 cubic feet with the second and third rows folded down.
The EV9 features a lot of tech with 20 collision avoidance and active driver technologies, three of which are all-new for Kia. These include standard Highway Driving Assist 2 that combines adaptive cruise control, stop-and-go assist, and lane-centering assistance. Standard Lane Following Assist helps the driver stay centered in their lane by delivering slight steering inputs, and optional Advanced Highway Driving Assist uses LiDAR technology to scan the road for potential hazards. Also standard is Remote Parking Assist 2, allowing drivers to remotely park their vehicles using Kia’s smartphone app, Kia Connect. The EV9 also employs over-the-air software updates.
With the speedy advance of electric vehicles, it’s no surprise that legacy automakers are starting to make strides in tech and production, and the Kia EV9 is poised to make a big impact. The EV9 is pointed squarely at Kia’s plans for the future of the brand and should begin arriving at dealers by the end of 2023.
Approximately 6 percent of the vehicles sold in the U.S. today are electric. That’s only 825,000 EVs. When you consider that 40 percent of those sales are in California, that leaves less than 500,000 divided among 49 states.
The good news – for the environment and EV sales – is that most prognostications point toward 40 – 50 percent of all vehicles on America’s roads by 2030 will be electric.So, what’s an EV manufacturer to do? The simple answer is that there’s a rainbow of solutions.
Some traditional manufacturers are still making profits from predictable internal combustion vehicles. They’re selling the ICE experience that wraps around their cars and trucks. For example, there’s the hot version from Dodge and the off-road variants from Ford. They are wisely finding low-cost methods to stretch the lives of their portfolio products while simultaneously stepping into the EV marketplace.
Quite a few pundits have disparaged Toyota for being slow to develop a pure EV portfolio. Their scientists, however, claim there is no single silver bullet. To support a move to lower carbon consumption, the worldwide leader in auto sales is remaining flexible. Their reasoning is that drivers across the country will not have access to a widespread full electric infrastructure for quite a few years. So, hybrid range, extended electric, cleaner gasoline, hydrogen fuel cells and, of course, full electric are going to play prominent roles for at least the next 20 to 30 years.
Tesla originally shook the industry when the investment community heaped kudos and cash on Elon Musk for being a futurist and an outsized disruptor. Now, nearly every manufacturer is sprinting into electrification, but, as usual, it will not be a one-size-fits-all formula. Manufacturers will still have to balance their portfolios to ensure profits and perform tried-and-true marketing methods.
There will assuredly be quite a few auto companies that fall away in the process. And some that aren’t making headlines today will be front page news tomorrow. Bottom line: we still have at least another decade or so of industry disruption ahead of us.
Playing it safe creates mediocrity and oftentimes failure. At Karma, research, data, a brilliant design team, and common sense are guiding our efforts toward fulfilling a unique market niche. Our American luxury brand will be a variant of: Distinctive. Aspirational. Exotic-Elegant-Electric. Or maybe something entirely different, but still addressing a clean mobility future. (We’ll be revealing our actual updated branding and marketing beginning in the latter stages of 2023.)
Whatever we decide, we expect to build a competitive advantage by being a mirror of our customers in an industry that will soon be bursting at the seams. We truly aspire to drive change beyond the norm, building vehicles that inspire positive transformation in the world.
Select a strategic direction, extol the differentiators, and state the story. An entire organization – inside and out – should enthusiastically speak with one voice, unapologetically dispensing core messaging over and over again.
U.S. businesses lose nearly $40 billion annually due to poor customer service. The EV world – where there are often unique customer demands – is not an exception to this rule. In fact, as the segment expands, superior service is actually becoming a differentiator. While we’ve all been rightfully focused on sales, many of the shiny new vehicles have become a bit road-worn and require regular maintenance and occasional repairs.
This is where a breakdown occurs. A quality customer experience should be mandatory. Developing well-schooled EV service techs is an astute investment that is too often overlooked.
The transition into EVs and, more broadly, the next chapter of automotive will be defined by the experiences that automakers create for customers. As media and digital interactions move deeper into the fabric of society, the ability and desire to create an unbroken connection between the life of the consumer and the products they consume will be an increasingly prevalent focus.
It will not be the buying, the service, or even the driving that build sales. Instead, it will be how the vehicle can be inserted into the continuum of a consumer’s life to complement their sense of self and future aspirations.
In April, Marques McCammon was named president of Irvine, Calif.-based ultra-luxury carmaker Karma Automotive. His 30-year auto industry career across four continents includes engineering, manufacturing, brand leadership, marketing, and software-based product advancement.
The BMW 5 Series has proved to be a huge success for the Bavarian automaker since its introduction in 1972. The all-new eighth generation 5 series carries on this tradition with its many innovations and improvements, and a few welcome surprises. Offering five trim levels including the base 530i, mid-range 530i xDrive, and the 540i xDrive, those surprises come in the form of two electric models in the series– the i5 eDrive40 and the range-topping i5 M60 xDrive.
Gas-powered models receive a pair of updated engines. The 530i and 530i xDrive are powered by a 2.0-liter TwinPower four-cylinder producing 255 horsepower and 295 lb-ft torque. The 540i xDrive receives a refreshed 3.0-liter inline-six cylinder fitted with the same TwinPower turbo and a 48-volt mild hybrid system, which delivers a combined 375 horsepower and 398 lb-ft torque.
The hallmark of this new generation 5 Series is the inclusion of all-electric models with strong power and efficiency numbers. The i5 eDrive40 features 335 horsepower and 317 lb-ft torque at the ready with an electric motor driving the rear wheels. The sport-focused i5 M60 xDrive ups those numbers considerably, with its maximum power output of 590 horsepower and 605 lb-ft torque delivering a 0-60 mph sprint in a reported 3.7 seconds. Two electric motors power the all-wheel drive i5 M60 xDrive, one at the rear and another at the front.
Both electric models use an 84.3 kWh battery that provides a range of 295 miles for the i5 eDrive40, and 256 miles for the i5 M60 xDrive. The battery includes BMW’s Combined Charging Unit, allowing Level 2 AC charging up to 11 kW and the ability to charge from 10 to 80 percent in about 30 minutes. BMW’s selectable MAX RANGE system enables drivers to further increase their i5’s range in low-battery situations.
The exterior of the new eighth generation 5 Series takes BMW’s sporty past and infuses it with the automaker’s current design form. BMW’s omnipresent, signature kidney grille makes its expected appearance and takes center stage on the 5 Series’ front end. A long, sloping with muscular lines ties into a steeply angled windshield to create a sleek and uninterrupted line continuing through the roofline. The flanks of the i5 see a much more refined and minimalist approach with inset door handles and a subtle body crease near the rocker panels.
At the rear, BMW has redesigned the model’s taillights with a more understated look, presenting a thin appearance with two slim red LED bars running across the taillight.` Turn signals and reverse lights are nestled in between. A downward-sloping trunk decreasing the gradient from the rear window and roofline makes the i5 appear very streamlined.
Inside the i5 is a new experience as well. Chiseled lines and premier surfaces, expected of BMW, are abundant. Hidden HVAC vents are placed strategically throughout the interior with leather-free seating surfaces available. The most noticeable new feature is q 14.9-inch infotainment screen and 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster. Both screens meet to create an uninterrupted and impressive digital display. An in-car gaming console, which BMW dubs the AirConsole, makes its appearance in the i5, allowing users to choose from 20 games to play while the car is stationary. A new BMW Operating System 8.5 controls all functions within the i5 and accommodates over-the-air updates.
The BMW 5 Series has always been a strong model. Positioned in the midst of BMW’s sedan lineup, the 5 Series has historically delivered the sportiness of the 3 Series with a dash of refinement and the calm nature of the 7 Series. This new generation is no different. Deliveries of the new 5 Series are set to begin in fall 2023 at an entry price of $57,900.
Carroll Shelby was one of the auto scene’s most beloved icons. During his storied career he achieved racing wins around the world including the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Sports Illustrated named him “Driver of the Year.” He was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame and the International Motorsports Hall of Fame. Shelby worked with Ford on such legendary vehicles as the GT40 and the Shelby GT350/GT500 Mustangs. Perhaps most importantly, Shelby exemplified American ingenuity when he took an underpowered English AC Cars sports car, stuffed in a high-power Ford V-8, and debuted his legendary Cobra, a car that went on to achieve legendary status in the automotive world. While racing and performance were in his blood, Shelby also had a great interest in cars and the environment later in life, and served as a juror for Green Car Journal’s Green Car of the Year award program until his passing in 2012 at the age of 89. In this piece from our archives, Shelby shared his thoughts with publisher Ron Cogan on hybrids, alternative fuels, and the roles of government and the auto industry in dealing with advanced vehicles and environmental performance..
This article shares an archive interview of Carroll Shelby conducted by editor/publisher Ron Cogan and is presented as it originally ran in Green Car Journal’s 2003 Special Edition.
Ron Cogan: How would you define performance these days, Carroll? You see a lot of advanced technology engines out there, and we’re doing a lot more with a lot less …
Carroll Shelby: “A lot more with a lot less what? Hell, no. Everybody is going for these bigger and bigger engines, six and seven liters with superchargers and turbochargers and 16 cylinders. And that’s fine. But at what cost?
“What’s going to happen is the same thing that happened in 1965. Then, the federal government and public opinion saw that seven liters in a 6,000-pound car hauling one person to work was pretty foolish. So, what happened? They decided to emissionize the cars and get into the safety aspects, which I think was a wonderful thing, although bureaucrats didn’t know very much about safety then. The automobile companies tried to explain to them what safety should be, and when the automobile companies try to explain anything, they explain it from their pocketbooks and not from what they really believe should be put into a safe car. They do as little as they have to…to interfere with their profits to the least extent.
“Instead of doing the things they did back in 1965 – choking engines up with all that (emissions controls) crap they put on them – they could have gone to compressed natural gas. They could have set up the entire infrastructure system at the time for what they spent over the next three or four years with all those regulations they put into effect. And we all know that it’s taken 20 years to get the Otto cycle (internal combustion) engine back so it performs decently.”
RC: So natural gas is the way to go?
Shelby: “Well, our big problem is imported oil. It’s causing so many financial problems … problems of us depending on antagonistic countries for our oil. It would seem to me that we’re not taking advantage of the two most obvious answers to this, which is compressed natural gas and hydrogen. Hydrogen works just fine in the engines we have now. It doesn’t give as much horsepower, but there are many ways to overcome that. Most of the cars would run on compressed natural gas – we flare off enough in Texas alone to power every car and truck in the United States – and we have hydrogen available to run in the same engines. Rather than depend on imported oil, why don’t we take advantage of these two energy sources that are here?”
RC: Where do hybrids fit in all this?
Shelby: “For 20 years we’ve had the potential for hybrid vehicles. All the technology is there, but why haven’t we gotten to that? It’s for the simple reason that they couldn’t make a profit building those things. Here we are now, finally, 20 years later just inching into the hybrid systems. Automobile companies are squealing and screaming all the way and building what I think are pretty stupid systems on these big SUVs that are picking up two or three miles to the gallon and spending hundreds of millions of dollars on it. And the Japanese have seen that this is what’s going to happen, so we’d better get with the system. That’s the reason, I think, that Toyota and Honda are leading the world right now in hybrids, which will lead us into fuel cells somewhere down the road ... but it looks to me like we’re still a lot of years away from that.”
RC: So what’s next?
Shelby: “We’re going to have all these federal mandates. One of the options that should have been looked at was, let’s form an automobile company that uses the technology of the future the same way that the federal government has gotten us into all these super, super airplanes. That’s the defense department spending the money to see that all this R&D is done, but we’ve never done that in the automobile industry. We’ve depended on the automobile companies to tell the politicians what they can and can’t do, which seems a lot of bull to me. If we had a small automobile company that would be government funded and would hire the people to use the technology we know is already out there, we could build something to show the automobile companies that it is possible, and then move into the mainstream much quicker than the way they’ve done it.”
RC: The government should develop advanced vehicles and then turn these over to the automakers to build?
Shelby: “Well, I’m saying that we’re never going to get there in the automobile industry as far as the environment is concerned with the system we have now. I don’t have all the answers, and anything I come up with is going to be very controversial anyway. Nobody wants to talk about it because the automobile companies, with their huge political impact in Washington, don’t want things like this to happen. They want things to go along just like they are.
“I’m not really criticizing them because in a capitalist system, profits are the only thing that the people who put the money up – the investors – care about. And that’s the motivating factor for them to invest their money. There has to be a better system in place to see that the environment is better looked after than it is in our political system.”
RC: Like what?
Shelby: “Let’s take racing. Let’s take performance. There’s no reason to think that if we wanted to have a racing program, like CART or drag racing, it couldn’t be done just as competitively with smaller engines and cars racing against each other in certain classes. If they were all hybrids now, you’d be improving the quality of the hybrids out there, and they’d be coming out a lot quicker than if the automobile companies weren’t fighting it. You could have all of these little Hondas that go out to the drag strip and all of these wonderfully intelligent young kids, 18 to 30 years old, who have all these Hondas and Focuses and all that going to the drag strip. What if they had to do it with hybrids? Would it be just as competitive?
“That’s the reason I get so frustrated. It’s my business. I’m building a Cobra now with 900 horsepower. You’ve got to do it to be competitive in the world as it is – profit centered – but I’d much rather be building something that I know is much friendlier to the environment, has rules and regulations that we all have to go by, and competes with the other competitors in something that is much more friendly to the environment. I don’t know … I’m frustrated about the whole thing, but at 80 years old, I know that I’m not going to change anything.
“It will be just like it was in 1966 if we don’t wake up in this country and see what it takes to build automobiles – to build a transportation system – that’s friendly to the environment. It has to be done, but it’s going to take a long time under the present system because the present system isn’t working … on a timely basis.
“I’m not trying to say I have any of the answers, I just know from living 80 years and watching the automobile industry that it has a long way to go environmentally. So many Americans, so many people all over the world – not half the number that are going to be using the automobile 20 years from now – and it seems so slow.”
RC: So after 80 years, Carroll, what’s next for you?
Shelby: “The things I’ll probably spend the rest of my life doing will be the things that are the least profitable, because I really feel that the environment is something that needs to be taken care of and it has to blend in with the automobile industry. That’s where the most fun is for me.”
RAM has been around as a distinct brand for some 14 years now, having split from its former identity as a Dodge nameplate in 2009. Since then, RAM has focused solely on pickup trucks and work vans with considerable success, especially with regard to its pickup truck line, which has won Green Car Journal’s Green Truck of the Year™ award three times in recent years. Now RAM has revealed details on its highly anticipated next act in the pickup realm, the all-electric RAM 1500 REV.
Building on the excitement generated by the wild electric RAM Revolution concept shown earlier this year, the 2025 RAM REV rides on the automaker’s all new STLA Frame optimized for full-size electric vehicle models with a body-on-frame design. This high strength steel frame is wider in the middle to accommodate battery packs while affording protection between the frame rails. It also features additional protection beneath courtesy of a full-length underbody belly pan.
This electric RAM pickup is especially noteworthy in that it boasts specs surpassing those of Ford’s F-150 Lightning and upcoming Chevrolet’s Silverado EV. REV will offer two EV powertrain options, with the base package featuring a standard 168 kWh battery pack projected to deliver a driving range of up to 350 miles. A more powerful option brings a 229 kWh battery pack with a targeted range of 500 miles, a feature sure to resonate with pickup buyers whose primary concerns are range and functionality. Normal and one-pedal driving capabilities are built in and regenerative braking comes as a matter of course.
Power won’t be a problem. We know the optional 229 kWh battery pack variant will offer a targeted rating of 654 horsepower and 620 lb-ft torque. Power ratings for the standard 168 kWh battery pack variant have yet to be disclosed. The REV’s projected towing capacity is said to be up to 14,000 pounds, with a payload capacity up to 2,700 pounds.
Charging is handled through the REV’s charge port located at the driver’s side front fender. Illuminated LED lighting and an audible chime lets a driver know that the truck is plugged in and charging. The charge port accommodates Level 1 and Level 2 AC charging connectivity on top and DC fast charging connectivity at the bottom of the charging interface. Drivers should expect the usual overnight charging experience if they have a 240-volt Level 2 wall charger at home. Those on the move can take advantage of the REV’s fast-charge capability at public fast chargers. If an 800-volt DC fast charger is available then the REV can add up to 110 miles of range in just 10 minutes while charging at up to 350 kW.
A handy feature is the RAM 1500 REV’s bi-directional vehicle-to-vehicle, vehicle-to-home, and vehicle-to-grid charging capability. With the use of a 7.2 kW on-board power panel mounted in the bed or a 3.6 kW power panel in the front trunk (frunk), this feature is very helpful during power outages in homes, or for individuals who will potentially use their truck to power equipment. It can also be used to charge your everyday devices if necessary.
REV’s exterior styling lets us know this truck is electric without moving beyond the burly and commanding nature of the brand. A blend of elegance and toughness shows that RAM’s designers certainly didn’t want buyers forgetting what RAM stands for, while also conveying their vision for the future. To that end, the front fascia of this electric pickup features a sporty nature with its muscular hood and low grill. The look is accented with aptly named ‘tuning fork’ LED headlights and unique EV-specific RAM badging. At the rear we find a set of angular LED taillights that span a portion of the tailgate, and are specific to the RAM 1500 REV. RAM is boldly shown at the center of the tailgate and, like the front end, uses an exclusive lettering style to show us that this RAM is indeed electric.
Styling along the REV’s flanks remains quite similar to the current RAM truck with the exception of a flush-mounted chargeport at the driver’s side front fender and unique REV. Familiar lockable ‘RAM Boxes’ are available and positioned beneath the bed rails on either side of the pickup box and feature a handy 115-volt outlet. These boxes are also illuminated to facilitate easy access under low light conditions.
Inside, the blend of practicality and luxury is seamless with premium materials like carbon fiber, metal, and leather with tech peppered throughout. Ample passenger room is built in and functionality is enhanced with second row seats that can fold up for additional cargo capacity. Optional 24-way power adjustments are available for the front seats, including three memory settings and massage capability. Also optional is a 23 speaker Klipsch Reference Premiere audio system.
The REV cabin features a central 14.5 inch touchscreen, 12.3 inch digital instrument display, and a 10.25 inch digital screen mounted in front of the passenger seat. These screens utilize the automaker’s Uconnect 5 system that allows access to eight EV-specific functions across all screens, and entertainment functionality for the passenger screen. The REV also features a configurable head-up display capable of showing an array of selected information beyond vehicle speed, such as turn-by-turn navigation, speed limit, Lane Departure, Lane Keep Assist, and adaptive cruise control. A Uconnect 5 mobile app supports remote start and touchless door lock/unlock functions.
Showcasing many industry-leading specs and visionary style, the RAM 1500 REV is shaping up to be a model in demand when sales begin in advance of its likely arrival at dealers toward the end of 2024. Of course, RAM will continue offering its popular gas-powered pickups to a willing market even as it dives ever deeper into electrification. In the meantime, the 2025 REV shows us that RAM aims to be a serious contender in the electric pickup truck competition.
Rather than following the industry’s massive trend toward models powered exclusively by batteries, Toyota is confident there’s a better way forward. Its strategy is to optimize the use and environmental impact of batteries by offering a diversity of electrified vehicles consumers will actually buy and drive in great numbers, thus leveraging the potential for carbon reduction. This clearly plays to the automaker’s strength: hybrids and plug-in hybrids. There’s the all-electric Toyota bZ4X, of course, and other battery electric Toyota models to come. Just don’t expect that’s all the world’s largest automaker will be offering in the short term.
Enter the 2023 Toyota Crown sedan, this automaker’s newest hybrid. Toyota’s all-new Crown is somewhat of a milestone since so many automakers are killing off their sedans in favor of uber-popular crossover SUVs. In many cases, those crossovers are less SUV than mildly oversized hatchback, but that’s the auto industry for you. The Crown is a sophisticated looking sedan that doesn’t pretend to be something it is not, though it does offer a few twists.
The Crown has an interesting history, first debuting in 1955 as Toyota’s first mass production passenger vehicle before making its way to the States three years later, distinguished as the first Japanese model here on our shores. It had a 17 year run before it was retired from Toyota’s U.S. showrooms.
Now it’s back in all new form as a full-size, four-door sedan available in XLE, Limited, and Platinum grades. While it is a sedan measuring in just a bit larger than Toyota’s popular Camry, the Crown also integrates a slightly taller roofline, thus the ‘twist.’ This taller roof flows rearward into an elegant sportback design, accented by thin blade-style rear taillights. The front features blade running lights, sharp headlights, and a distinctively imposing grille design that’s come to signify Toyota and Lexus products these days. Its sides are handsomely sculpted and accented by large alloy wheels and wheel well cladding.
Beneath the hood resides one of two available hybrids, no surprise since this a Toyota and hybrids are its game. The more efficient of the two-motor hybrid models is powered by a fourth-generation, 2.5-liter Toyota Hybrid System (THS) that Toyota says should net an estimated 38 combined mpg. It connects to an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission.
Those looking for higher performance may opt for the Platinum grade, which comes standard with a 2.4-liter turbocharged HYBRID MAX powerplant, the first application of this more powerful Toyota hybrid system in a sedan. Delivering power to the road through a direct shift six-speed automatic transmission, the HYBRID MAX boasts 340 horsepower for spirited performance and offers a Toyota-estimated 28 combined mpg. All grades come with electronic on-demand all-wheel drive. A plug-in hybrid variant is said to be coming but details are not yet available.
The Crown’s cabin is designed to deliver a premium feel, featuring nicely bolstered front seats with 8-way power adjustment, intelligent controls, and wireless Qi charging with an array of readily accessible ports to accommodate today’s electronic devices. A Multi Information Display ahead of the driver provides the usual instrumentation along with selectable functions, including hybrid information that coaches eco-driving for netting maximum efficiency. In addition, a 12.3-inch center Toyota Audio Multimedia display features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration and is audio and touch capable.
Upholstery is either Softex and black woven fabric or leather, depending on grade. A panoramic moonroof standard on Platinum and Limited grades lends an additional feel of openness to the cabin. LED ambient lighting adds to the interior’s ambiance and upscale feel. Significant effort has been devoted to creating a relaxed and quiet cabin environment through extensive placement of sound-deadening materials throughout plus the use of acoustic glass.
Toyota Safety Sense 3.0 is standard across all grades to enhance safety on the road. This includes such desired features as pre-collision with pedestrian detection, dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist, blind spot monitor, and rear cross traffic alert. Other assist features such as automatic high beams, road sign assist, rear seat passenger reminder, and hill start assist control are also standard fare for all versions of the Crown. Those stepping up to the Platinum trim level also get Toyota’s advanced park system that identifies available parking spots and allows automated parallel and reverse/forward perpendicular parking.
Toyota’s Crown is a timely addition to this automaker’s lineup, giving fans of the brand a new, more exciting sedan option just as the more conservative Avalon sedan is heading off into the sunset. Pricing has not yet been announced but we figure the Crown will start somewhere in the neighborhood of the low $40,000s. We also expect this new model to be a hit for Toyota, serving the automaker well as it hones its hybrid and plug-in hybrid strategy while continuing to evolve its future electrified product line.
The Hyundai Tucson has long been a popular choice for those desiring the functionality of a crossover SUV at a reasonable price. Making the case even stronger now is an expanded list of Tucson offerings highlighted by plug-in hybrid and enthusiast-oriented N Line models that have joined the line’s gas-powered and electric hybrid variants.
Conventionally-powered Tucsons are equipped with a 2.5-liter engine delivering 180 hp and 195 lb-ft torque, delivering 26 city/33 highway mpg. PHEV and hybrid Tucson models share a 1.6-liter, turbocharged and direct-injected inline four-cylinder gas engine. These are equipped with Hyundai’s Continuously Variable Valve Duration technology that optimizes valve opening duration to improve power, efficiency, and emissions. The hybrid gets a 59 horsepower electric motor and 1.5 kWh lithium-ion battery that brings 226 total system horsepower and up to 38 city/38 highway mpg.
With the addition of the plug-in hybrid’s 90 hp electric motor and a larger 13.8 kWh lithium-ion battery, total system horsepower increases to 261 hp and 258 lb-ft torque. EPA rates the Tucson PHEV’s electric-only range at 33 miles and fuel economy at 80 MPGe, with a 35 mpg combined city/highway mpg rating running on gasoline. Hyundai says the model’s onboard 7.2 kW charger will allow charging the battery in less than two hours when connected to a 220-volt Level 2 charger.
The remainder of the Tucson PHEV’s drivetrain consists of a six-speed automatic transmission with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters and a standard HTRAC AWD system with selectable drive modes. All Tucson models, including the PHEV, have a maximum tow rating of 2,000 pounds. The PHEV’s curb weight is a few hundred pounds higher than the conventional and hybrid models, so its payload capacity is commensurately less, rated at 1,012 pounds for SEL models and 1,166 pounds for Limited versions.
A higher level of driving dynamics is delivered to match the Tucson’s sporty new exterior design. The AWD PHEV and hybrid models are built with Hyundai’s e-handling technology that, under certain road conditions and driving inputs, applies an incremental amount of electric motor torque to the wheels. This enables the e-handling system to affect vehicle weight transfer – and therefore the tire’s contact patch – to improve cornering.
Tucson models are equipped with a number of safety technologies as part of Hyundai’s SmartSense Safety Feature suite. Standard safety features on both the SEL and Limited models of the Tucson PHEV include Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist, Blind-Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist, Lane-Keeping Assist, Driver-Attention Warning, and Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist. Limited models add such features as blind-view and surround-view monitors and Remote Smart Parking Assist.
The Tucson PHEV’s interior amenities vary depending on model. Both SEL and Limited are equipped with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capabilities and have USB charging points for front and rear passengers. Stepping up to the Limited adds a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster and 10.25-inch color touchscreen (SEL has an 8-inch screen), a Bose premium sound system, and wireless device charging.
Prices start at $25,800 for the standard 2.5-liter powered Tucson with the hybrid coming in at $29,750 and the plug-in hybrid $35,400.
Green Car Journal’s Green Car Awards, the annual awards program honoring the year’s most standout new ‘green’ models, was presented at the Virtual Greenbuild Conference + Expo in November this year. The 2021 virtual awards program was an innovation during an unusual year, amid the postponement and cancellation of international auto shows where the Green Car Awards typically take place.
Over the years, these high-profile awards have grown along with the expanding field of ‘green’ cars on the road. They now recognize not only the magazine’s signature Green Car of the Year, but also exceptional models that speak to families, city dwellers, luxury buyers, pickup enthusiasts, and those requiring the functionality of an SUV. All provide the traditional touchstones of safety, quality, value, style, and performance, plus that fun-to-drive quality important to most drivers. What they add are greater efficiency, lower carbon and tailpipe emissions, petroleum reduction or displacement, or operation on battery electric power.
GREEN CAR OF THE YEAR
This year’s candidates for 2021 Green Car of the Year reflect the auto industry’s transition toward electrification, even as it continues to make internal combustion ever-more efficient. Three of this year’s finalists, the Mustang Mach-E, MINI Cooper SE, and Volkswagen ID.4, drive exclusively on zero-emission battery power. The BMW 330e is a plug-in hybrid that drives up to 23 miles on battery power and hundreds more as a hybrid. The Hyundai Elantra is offered with either an efficient gasoline engine or a gas-electric hybrid achieving up to 50 miles per gallon.
Rising to the top of the field is Green Car Journal’s 2021 Green Car of the Year, Ford’s all-new Mustang Mach-E, a model that boasts an instantly-recognizable name and heritage, while breaking new ground as an all-electric crossover featuring up to 300 miles of range. Performance is part of the package, as is unmistakable style and all the latest advanced electronics.
The 2021 Green Car of the Year® is selected by a highly-respected jury comprised of energy and environmental leaders including Mindy Lubber, president of CERES; Jean-Michel Cousteau, president of Ocean Futures Society; Dr. Alan Lloyd, president emeritus of the International Council on Clean Transportation and senior research fellow at the Energy Institute, University of Texas at Austin; Clay Nesler, interim president of the Alliance to Save Energy; and Matt Petersen, president and CEO of Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator and advisory board chair of Climate Mayors. Rounding out the Green Car of the Year jury is celebrity auto enthusiast Jay Leno and Green Car Journal editors .
LUXURY GREEN CAR OF THE YEAR
At a more premium price point, 2021 Luxury Green Car of the Year finalists also illustrate the momentum achieved by electric drive in the new car vehicle field. Four of these premium vehicles are all-electric models – the Audi e-tron Sportback, Polestar 2, Tesla Model Y, and Volvo XC40 Recharge. The fifth, the Lincoln Corsair Grand Touring, is the plug-in hybrid variant of Lincoln’s Corsair compact crossover that combines gas-electric hybrid and all-electric driving.
Honored as this year’s Luxury Green Car of the Year is the Polestar 2, a groundbreaking model from Polestar on many levels. This all-new premium vehicle is only the second of this new auto brand’s model offerings, and the first to be all-electric. This zero-emission, two-door fastback looks to the future even as it foregoes futuristic styling, instead choosing to offer an understated yet elegant and sophisticated design, tasteful appointments, and a nearly 300 mile range on battery power.
URBAN GREEN CAR OF THE YEAR
Urban environments pose their own unique challenges – tight spaces, often crowded streets, and hard-to-find parking. Here, smaller vehicles with a compact physical footprint and easy maneuverability are always top choices. The 2021 Urban Green Car of the Year award recognizes vehicles especially well-suited for life in the city. Top choices for this year’s award are the Hyundai Venue, Kia Seltos, Kia Soul, MINI Cooper SE, and Nissan Versa. Four are conventionally-powered – three of them crossover SUVs and one a compact sedan – with the fourth, the MINI Cooper SE, an all-electric crossover.
Taking top honors for 2021 Urban Green Car of the Year is the all-electric MINI Cooper SE. Standing out as an ideal vehicle for the city, the Cooper SE is compact in stature and big on features. Its represents what this brand all about: An iconic look, great maneuverability, and driving fun wrapped in a small package. Plus, electric power means zero localized emissions and no trips venturing out to the gas station in a crowded urban environment.
FAMILY GREEN CAR OF THE YEAR
While any model can serve family duty, those offering extra versatility and thoughtful family-friendly features are high on many shopping lists. Today, driving ‘green’ has also become a priority. Minivans have always been a solid choice, but these days three-row crossover SUVs can also do the job as family hauler. Finalists for 2021 Family Green Car of the Year are the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, Honda Odyssey, Kia Sorrento Hybrid, Toyota Highlander Hybrid, and Toyota Sienna. The Kia Sorrento Hybrid and Toyota Highlander Hybrid crossovers drive on efficient hybrid power. Honda’s Odyssey minivan features an efficient V-6 with variable cylinder management. The Toyota Sierra is exclusively a hybrid-powered minivan, while the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan also offers plug-in hybrid power.
Standing out as Family Green Car of the Year is the Toyota Sienna, a minivan that seeks to set the standard for modern family haulers. The stylish and fuel-efficient Sienna offers premium sedan-like style, admirable hybrid fuel efficiency, and a thoughtful blend of family-desired features along with driver-centric characteristics not always associated with minivans. It shows Toyota’s keen grasp of how to make a modern minivan that not only serves up family functionality, but also premium car style and appeal.
GREEN SUV OF THE YEAR
The hottest segment in the automotive field today is the SUV, either full-size or compact, traditional or crossover, two-row or three, conventional, hybrid, or plug-in. There are no shortage of choices, which makes narrowing the field to five outstanding finalists no small challenge. The top five finalists emerging this year for Green SUV of the Year are the Audi Q5 55 TFSI e, BMW X3 xDrive 30e, Jeep Wrangler 4xe, Toyota RAV4 Prime, and Toyota Venza. Four of these –from Audi, BMW, Jeep, and Toyota – are plug-in hybrids with an all-electric driving range from 18 to 42 miles, and additional hundreds of miles on hybrid power. Toyota’s Venza is an all-wheel drive, tech-rich hybrid with exceptional fuel efficiency.
Taking top honors for the 2021 Green SUV of the Year title is the Jeep Wrangler 4xe, an SUV that’s different in many ways from others in its class. To some, it’s an SUV in the traditional sense with high functionality and loads of versatility that’s perfect for the diversity of everyday life. But to others, it’s that, plus a means of escape, heading toward the city one day and then driving the path less taken on another, a path often rough, unpaved, and pointed towards adventure.
GREEN TRUCK OF THE YEAR
This year’s Green Truck of the Year finalists embody all the workhorse capabilities expected of a modern pickup while offering passenger car-like comfort, advanced on-board electronics, and levels of fuel efficiency unheard of in pickups of just a decade ago. Pickups honored as finalists for Green Truck of the Year are the Chevrolet Colorado, Chevrolet Silverado, Ford F-150, Jeep Gladiator EcoDiesel, and RAM 1500. All offer diverse powertrain choices, from gasoline and diesel internal combustion to variations of mild- and full-hybrid power.
Powering its way to well-deserved recognition as 2021 Green Truck of the Year is the Ford F-150, a pickup long distinguished as the best-selling model in the nation and a champion of innovation. Beyond its wide array of configurations, powertrain choices, payload capacities, and towing capabilities, it now adds such innovations as an efficient PowerBoost hybrid powerplant, fold-flat ‘sleeper’ seats, and an available Pro Power Onboard output system with outlets that allow the truck to function as a mobile generator at worksites or campsites.
The Green Car Awards™ program, presented annually since 2005, is an important part of Green Car Journal's mission to showcase environmental progress in the automotive field.
The driving range of electric vehicles is becoming less of an issue as they surpass 200 miles or greater, approaching the distance between fill-ups of some internal combustion engine vehicles…or maybe the bladder capacity of their drivers. However, the time it takes to recharge an EV is still a negative attribute.
Generally, EVs charge at a fairly slow rate. A 240-volt Level 2 home or public charger will charge a Chevy Bolt from depleted to full in about 4 1/2 hours, providing a range of about 238 miles. That’s a far cry from 5 minutes to fill a gas tank. It’s significantly slower when charging a Bolt with a Level 1 charger using a household’s standard 120-volt power since this adds only about 4 miles an hour!
Of course, charging companies and automakers are working together to expand the small-but-growing network of fast chargers in key areas of the country, allowing EVs to gain up to 90 miles of charge in around 30 minutes. Tesla claims that its Supercharger stations being upgraded to Version 3 can charge a Tesla Model 3 Long Range at the rate of about 15 miles a minute, or 225 miles in just over 15 minutes under best conditions.
If current technology EVs become popular for mid- to long-range travel, gasoline stations, truck stops, and public charging stations equipped with Level 2 and even somewhat faster chargers run the very real risk of becoming parking lots.
When it comes to charging EVs, charging times come down to kilowatts available. The best Tesla V3 charger is rated at 250 kilowatts peak charge rate. Now, much research is being done here and in other countries on what is called Extreme Fast Charging (XFC) involving charge rates of 350-400 kilowatts or more. The U.S. Department of Energy is sponsoring several projects aimed at reducing battery pack costs, increasing range, and reducing charging times.
There are several challenges for XFCs. First, when lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries are fast charged, they can deteriorate and overheat. Tesla already limits the number of fast charges by its standard Superchargers because of battery degradation, and that’s only at 120-150 kilowatts. Also, when kilowatt charging rates increase voltage and/or amperage increases, which can have a detrimental effect on cables and electronics.
This begs the question: Is the current electrical infrastructure capable of supporting widespread use of EVs? Then, the larger question is whether the infrastructure is capable of handling XFC with charging rates of 350 kilowatts or more. This is most critical in urban areas with large numbers of EVs and in rural areas with limited electric infrastructure.
The answer is no. Modern grid infrastructures are not designed to supply electricity at a 350+ kilowatt rate, so costly grid upgrades would be required. Additionally, communities would be disrupted when new cables and substations have to be installed. There would be a need for costly and time-consuming environmental studies.
One approach being is XFC technology being developed by Zap&Go in the UK and Charlotte, North Carolina. The heart of Zap&Go's XFC is carbon-ion (C-Ion) energy storage cells using nanostructured carbons and ionic liquid-based electrolytes. C-Ion cells provide higher energy densities than conventional supercapacitors with charging rates 10 times faster than current superchargers. Supercapacitors and superchargers are several technologies being considered for XFCs.
According to Zap&Go, the C-Ion cells do not overheat and since they do not use lithium, cobalt, or any materials that can catch fire, there is no fire danger. Plus, they can be recycled at the end of their life, which is about 30 years. Zap&Go's business model would use its chargers to store electric energy at night and at off-peak times, so the current grid could still be used. Electrical energy would be stored in underground reservoirs similar to how gasoline and diesel fuels are now stored at filling stations. EVs would then be charged from the stored energy, not directly from the grid, in about the same time it takes to refuel with gasoline.
The fastest charging would work best if C-Ion cell batteries are installed in an EV, replacing Li-ion batteries. EVs with Li-ion batteries could also be charged, but not as quickly. Alternatively, on-board XFC cells could be charged in about five minutes, then they would charge an EV’s Li-ion batteries at a slower rate while the vehicle is driven, thereby preserving the life of the Li-ion battery. The downside is that this would add weight, consume more room, and add complexity. Zap&Go plans to set up a network of 500 ultrafast-charge charging points at filling stations across the UK.
General Motors is partnering with Delta Electronics, DOE, and others to develop XFSs using solid-state transformer technology. Providing up to 400 kilowatts of power, the system would let properly equipped electric vehicles add 180 miles of range in about 10 minutes. Since the average American drives less than 30 miles a day, a single charge could provide a week’s worth of driving.
The extreme charging time issue might be partly solved by something already available: Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs). As governments around the world consider banning or restricting new gasoline vehicles in favor of electric vehicles, they should not exclude PHEVs. Perhaps PHEVs could be designed so their internal combustion engines could not operate until their batteries were depleted, or their navigation system determines where they could legally operate on electric or combustion power.
The Kona, Hyundai’s newest and smallest crossover, serves up a pleasing design and welcome functionality. It is offered with a choice two gasoline engines that net up to 33 highway mpg, and also as a battery electric vehicle.
Styling cues are a bit different on the Kona Electric, but subtle except for its distinctive closed grille. Silver side sills, unique 17-inch alloy wheels, and badging also differentiate the electric variant. Kona Electric sales are initially being focused on California and select states that have adopted California’s Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) program.
The Kona is available in three trim levels – SEL, Limited, and Ultimate. Kona SE and SEL models are powered by a 147-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission. This combo achieves an EPA rating of 28 city/32 highway mpg. Kona Limited and Ultimate trim levels are powered by a 175-horsepower, turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder with a seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission. Here, EPA numbers are 27 city/33 highway mpg. Front-wheel drive is standard with all-wheel drive an option for both powerplants.
Powering the Kona Electric is a 201 horsepower, permanent-magnet electric motor driving the front wheels. Energy is provided by a 64 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery that delivers an impressive EPA estimated 258 mile range. Offshore markets also get a base electric version with a smaller 39.2 kWh battery that’s good for about 186 miles, but that configuration is not offered in North America. The Kona Electric earns a combined EPA efficiency rating of 120 MPGe. Acceleration is quite good with a 0-60 mph sprint taking 7.6 seconds. Kona Electric’s top speed is electronically limited at 104 mph.
When connected to a fast-charge 10 kW Combined Charging System, the battery pack can be recharged from a depleted state in about 54 minutes. It takes 75 minutes to recharge with a more common 50 kW CCS fast-charge system. With more readily-available Level 2 (240-volt AC) public or home charging and the Kona’s onboard 7.2 kW charger, replenishing a depleted battery takes about 10 hours. The charge port is located in the front fascia just below the driver’s side headlight.
There are a host of driver assist features available. Hyundai SmartSense safety technologies standard on all trim levels include Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist, Driver Attention Warning, and Lane Keeping Assist. Optionally available are Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Avoidance Assist, Blind Spot Collision Warning, High Beam Assist, Rear View Monitor, and Smart Cruise Control.
The gasoline-powered Kona has an MSRP of $19,990, while the Kona Electric is offered at a base price of $36,450.
Part of Honda’s Clarity triple-play – along with the hydrogen-powered Clarity Fuel Cell and more mainstream Clarity Plug-In Hybrid – the Clarity Electric is a model that clearly cuts its own path.
It does not aim to be part of the ‘200 mile club,’ the latest generation of uber-electrics that claim a battery electric driving range greater than 200 miles between charges. It also does not cultivate efficiencies through a compact form designed to eke the most from every electron. Nor is it exceptionally lightweight, another common nod to the need for making the most of the battery power carried on board. In fact, there is little about the Clarity Electric that makes us think of other all-electric vehicles…save for the fact that it runs exclusively on zero-emission battery power, of course. This mid-size, five-passenger battery electric vehicle aims to be in a league of its own.
First of all, let’s discuss driving range, which is EPA rated at 89 miles between charges while delivering a combined 114 MPGe (miles-per-gallon equivalent). Yes, that’s more limiting than that of the 200+ mile club, but there’s a reason. Honda designed the Clarity Electric with the needs of commuters in mind…those who want their daily drive to be in a highly-efficient, zero-emission electric car with a sophisticated look and premium feel. And they designed it so it was significantly more affordable than premium competitors offering higher-end electric models with features similar to those of the Clarity. Currently, the Clarity Electric is offered at a $199 monthly lease in California and Oregon where this battery-powered model is available.
Honda figures that an approach focused on commuters is a sweet spot for the Clarity Electric. Its range fits the needs of most commutes and its price is certainly justifiable for a commuter car, and a luxurious one at that, with fuel costs substantially less than conventionally-powered models. Plus, most households have two cars at their disposal, sometimes more. Having a Clarity Electric as a primary commuter car with a conventional gasoline or hybrid vehicle also in a household’s stable covers all bases.
Honda gave a lot of thought to the cabin design with welcome touches throughout. We especially like the ‘floating’ design of the center console with its array of integrated controls and flat storage tray beneath, with 12-volt and USB outlets. The dash features a handsome suede-like material and an 8-inch touchscreen display elegantly integrated into the dash. Deep cupholders feature flip-up stays for holding smaller drinks. Side door pockets are large enough to accommodate water bottles. The trunk offers plenty of room and is illuminated when the trunk lid is remotely or manually unlatched. At night this allows you to immediately note what’s inside through the trunk lid’s clear back panel before opening…something we’ve really come to appreciate over time.
Driving the Clarity Electric is a satisfying experience, with this sedan both well-mannered and responsive. Power is delivered by a 161 horsepower electric motor energized by a 25.5 kWh lithium-ion battery that can be charged in about three hours with a 240 volt charger, or in as little as 30 minutes with a public DC fast-charge system to an 80 percent state-of-charge. While its primary job may well be to handle everyday driving needs and negotiate traffic, it also delivers plenty of fun on twisty canyon roads with flat cornering and confident steering. It’s quick, like almost all electrics are because of instant torque delivered at launch, providing very satisfying acceleration.
Also appreciated is the Clarity’s handy Apple CarPlay integration and its Honda Sensing suite of driver-assist technologies. Among these are important features like adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow, forward collision warning, collision mitigation braking, lane departure warning, and road departure mitigation.
The Clarity Electric has served us well on our daily drives over the course of Green Car Journal’s ongoing long-term test. Its use supports what Honda envisioned for this efficient electric car. It has been ideal for around-town duty, area trips within its range, and daily commutes. Its thoughtful and sophisticated – dare we say futuristic – design and very satisfying drive experience are appreciated every day we’re behind the wheel.
With the growing market acceptance of electric vehicles in the U.S. comes an unprecedented auto industry focus on delivering these vehicles to consumers. Today nearly all major auto manufacturers and a handful of boutique automakers offer a growing lineup of electrified models.
When considering the purchase of an electric vehicle, the task of home charging is second in importance only to an electric’s driving range. How long will a charge take, and how often will it be needed? The cost associated with enabling home charging is also top-of-mind since using public or workplace chargers is a plus, but nothing beats the conveniences of overnight charging at home.
There’s an affordable and easy answer to these home EV charging concerns with the AV TurboCord Dual, developed by AeroVironment and available as part of Webasto’s EV Solutions product line. TurboCord Dual presents a portable transformable solution that aims to promote convenient electric vehicle charging using the two most common electrical outlets found in homes.
AV TurboCord Dual is a portable EV charging solution enabling both 120 or significantly faster 240 volt charging as needed through a quick clip-release adapter interface. It does not require hardwired installation to facilitate dual voltage charging, but rather connects to a standard 120 volt household outlet or 240 volt outlet.
While there is much competition in the home charging segment, there’s a lot to like about the AV TurboCord for its compact size, portability, and ease of operation. TurboCord Dual will look familiar to anyone who has used AV public charging stations in much of the U.S. Simply open the charge port on your EV of choice, look for the pulsing light on the business end of the TurboCord, and you’re charging. When the unit stops blinking, you’re done.
TurboCord Dual delivers a great solution for battery electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles alike, either at home or on the road. A handy carrying case easily stores the charger, power cord, and chargeport connector. AV TurboCord is available online or from your local building center.
Volvo’s smallest crossover features an aggressive design that’s a bit of a departure for the automaker, even as it retains the fundamental styling cues that say ‘Volvo.’ The first model built on the automaker’s Compact Modular Architecture, the new XC40 is offered as either a T4 front-wheel drive or T5 all-wheel drive and in three trim levels. The XC40 looks deceptively small but has plenty of cargo and passenger capacity for longer trips. A plug-in hybrid and possibly an all-electric model are likely in the future.
Inside, the stylish cabin aims for an uncluttered look while still providing all the amenities SUV buyers desire. Functionality is a top priority, which the XC40 provides in intelligent ways with features like spacious door bins that accommodate a laptop or tablet, easily accessible under-seat drawers for stashing wallets or other necessities, and even a trash bin for cleaning up clutter. The front storage compartment holds a wireless charge pad for smartphones. Other welcome features include a standard 9-inch Sensus Connect touchscreen and an available panoramic sunroof that provides loads of available light.
All XC40s are powered by a 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder Drive-E engine. In the T4 this engine is rated at 187 horsepower and 221 lb-ft torque. Engine output increases to 248 horsepower and 258 lb-ft torque in the all-wheel drive T5. Both connect to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Manual gear shifts are possible with the Volvo’s shift lever or, alternatively, via steering wheel shift paddles on the R-Design model.
Standard on all XC40s are Automated Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Forward-Collision Warning, Lane-Keeping Assist with Lane-Departure Warning, Automatic High-Beam Headlamps, Driver-Attention Monitor, and Traffic-Sign Detection. A self-parking feature, front and rear parking sensors, and Blind-Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert can be added as part of the Vision package.
Volvo offers Pilot Assist as a part of a Premium package. This is essentially adaptive cruise control with a semi-autonomous driving mode. It keeps the XC40 within its own lane and maintains a set speed and distance behind the vehicle ahead. Unlike some other near-self-driving systems, Pilot Assist requires the driver to keep his hands on the steering wheel at all times…perhaps not a surprise considering Volvo’s longstanding focus on safety.
The 2019 XC40 serves up 23 city and 33 highway mpg, at a starting cost of $33,700. Another option is Care by Volvo, an innovative subscription service that includes use of a new XC40 Momentum ($600 per month) or R-Design ($700 per month) for a maximum of 15,000 miles per year. Insurance, maintenance, and road-hazard protection are included, plus the opportunity for the lessee to upgrade to a new XC40 each year for the same all-inclusive monthly payment. A subscription lasts for 24 months.
Nissan's all-new, sixth-generation Altima has been extensively redesigned with greater refinement and efficiency, along with a more aerodynamic body boasting an impressive 0.26 drag coefficient. Distinctive styling cues include a more aggressive front facia with a V-motion grille and streamlined boomerang lights.
Inside there is a standard 7-inch driver display and a NASA-inspired zero gravity seat that enhances comfort and fights fatigue. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard. Every 2019 Altima also comes equipped with a standard 8-inch multi-touch color display, Bluetooth hands-free phone system, streaming audio via Bluetooth, hands-free text messaging assistant, and Siri eyes free voice recognition. Some remote features are also accessible through NissanConnect Services’ Amazon Alexa Skill and Google Assistant Action.
Power is provided by a naturally aspirated, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine producing 188 horsepower. There’s also an all-new, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 248 horsepower on tap. The world’s first production variable compression engine, this 2.0-liter powerplant enables compression ratio to adjust from 8:1 to 14:1 by continuously raising or lowering piston reach for performance or greater efficiency. Both engines connect to an Xtronic continuously variable transmission. Paddle shifters are available with the SR grade.
Every 2.5-liter Altima is now available with Intelligent All-Wheel Drive with a 50:50 torque split in most situations, a first for a Nissan sedan and something that remains a relative rarity in this segment. Front-wheel drive 2.5-liter models are rated at 28 city/39 highway mpg.
Unique in the class, Nissan’s ProPILOT Assist helps drivers stay centered in the lane, navigate stop-and-go traffic, maintain a set vehicle speed, and maintain a set distance to the vehicle ahead. To activate the system, a driver simply pushes the blue ProPILOT Assist ON button, then sets the Intelligent Cruise Control when the desired speed is reached, similar to a conventional advanced cruise control system. It uses a forward-facing camera, forward-facing radar, sensors, and an electronic control module.
Along with ProPILOT Assist, also new for 2019 is Rear Automatic Braking that helps a driver by detecting and warning of objects while backing up, and if necessary applying brakes to help avoid a collision. Other safety and convenience features include standard Automatic Emergency Braking, Intelligent Forward Collision Warning, and Intelligent Driver Alertness 3 on all grades.
Intelligent Around View Monitor is standard on the Altima Platinum. Safety Shield 360 includes Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Rear Automatic Braking, Lane Departure Warning, radar-based Blind Spot Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and High Beam Assist (HBA). A new Traffic Sign Recognition system provides the most recent speed limit information.
The 2019 Nissan Altima offers a base cost of $23,900, a point of entry approachable for a great many buyers seeking a fun-do-drive, stylish vehicle offering laudable fuel efficiency and some of the most advanced technology available in its class.
Our drive of the 2019 Lexus ES 300h, the hybrid variant of this automaker’s all-new, seventh-generation ES sedan, was accommodating as expected from this luxury brand with welcome performance. During our drives we found turn-in sharp and precise. Considering front-to-rear weight distribution is heavy over the front wheels, the suspension compensates well and the car feels well-balanced.
Built on Lexus’ new Global Architecture-K platform, the ES enjoys a 2.6-inch increase in length, 1.8-inch increase in width, and wider front and rear tracks compared to the model it replaces. It also offers a two-inch longer wheelbase at 113 inches and a more spacious rear compartment.
The luxury sedan’s most striking angle is its profile that shows low hood and roof lines. From the front it’s the automaker’s unmistakable spindle grill that dominates, enhanced by slim L-shaped LED projector headlights.
The ES 300h layout is front engine, front wheel drive with power derived from a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, plus an electric motor mated to an all new hybrid transaxle. This delivers 215 total system horsepower. A six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters is electronically controlled and continuously variable.
Powering the electric motor is a nickel-metal-hydride battery that's more power dense and compact than its predecessor, allowing it to be relocated from the trunk to beneath the rear seat, thus adding welcome trunk space. This fourth-generation Hybrid Drive System enables accelerating from 0-60 mph in 8.1 seconds and provides a nearly 600-mile driving range, plus excellent combined 44 mpg fuel economy.
Inside is a well-appointed cabin that’s tranquil and free of exterior noise. New suction-type ventilated cooling seats kept us as comfortable and entertained as any in the new movie theaters. There are lots of choices for interior personalization with three color schemes available, four trims, and three material options for the seats. The car’s standard audio has 10 speakers, and to please audiophiles there’s the optional Mark Levinson audio with 1800 watts and 17 speakers.
Of course, the ES 300h offers all the latest driver assistance systems plus an array of convenience features like Apple CarPlay, and it will be Amazon Alexa-enabled for Android phones and iPhones. Outstanding fuel consumption, a striking design, and first-class amenities make the new Lexus ES 300h a real contender for today’s premium car buyers.
The price of entry for the conventionally powered 2019 Lexus ES is $39,500, with the ES 300h hybrid just $1,810 more at $41,310.
First off, this is not the LEAF we’ve grown accustomed to seeing on the road since the model’s introduction in 2010. Our drive of the new generation 2018 Nissan LEAF quickly reinforced this is a whole-new animal, a new generation of the venerable electric car intended to capture the imagination and, not coincidentally, market share in the increasingly competitive electric vehicle field.
We have history with the LEAF. Green Car Journal first experienced the original LEAF’s capabilities in a technology demonstrator designed to share what Nissan had in mind for its groundbreaking, soon-to-come production electric vehicle. At Nissan’s behest, we tested the automaker’s LEAF-destined electric drivetrain in its EV-12 test mule back in 2009 at Nissan’s global headquarters in Yokohama, Japan. We later witnessed the LEAF’s unveiling, clearly showing Nissan’s willingness to push the envelope for electric cars with an edgy design.
We were impressed. So much so, in fact, that Green Car Journal honored the LEAF with the magazine’s 2010 Green Car Vision Award™ in Washington DC, ahead of its introduction to the market. Nissan’s insight into what electric vehicle buyers desired has indeed proved visionary over the years. Testament to this is the LEAF’s standing as the world’s leading affordable, mass production EV since its launch.
The all-new generation Nissan LEAF aims to expand on this success with new styling and a 50-percent increase in driving range. It also features a full suite of Nissan Intelligent Mobility technologies. This all-electric model is more attractive with excellent aerodynamics that result in a low 0.28 drag coefficient. Improved aerodynamics not only means a quieter ride but also contributes to greater range. That’s an important consideration in electric cars with near-silent drivetrains that don’t mask outside noise.
The new Leaf features a 150-mile driving range between charges compared to the previous generation’s 100 miles. This is an important milestone that serves to overcome potential ‘range anxiety.’ Why 150 miles rather than shooting for the 200+ mile range like the Chevy Bolt EV and Tesla Model 3? It’s all about balancing price with functionality. Simply, Nissan aimed at providing an affordable price point under $30,000 for the LEAF. That meant delivering the range it figured would fit the driving needs of most drivers while keeping battery costs within reason. It’s a sound strategy.
A more powerful 40 kWh lithium-ion battery pack features improvements and revised chemistry that bring a 67 percent increase in energy density. Nissan designers have located the low-slung battery pack and other heavy components to the middle of the chassis to enhance the car’s center of gravity and handling. Fun fact: Using vehicle-to-home systems, the LEAF’s battery can store a home’s surplus solar energy while parked during the daytime and use it to help power a home in the evening.
LEAF’s electric powertrain features a 147-horsepower electric motor that’s well-suited to the model. It provides 38 percent more horsepower than the previous version with 26 greater torque for improved acceleration. Acceleration is crisp with more than enough power at the ready for all the driving situations we encountered on twisty roads and Interstates. Intelligent Ride Control delivers more precise motor torque control during cornering. This also reduces vibration while improving ride quality and steering control. Electric power steering software has been tweaked for improved steering feel. The LEAF’s steering torsion bar is also stiffer for better feedback and more linear response to steering inputs.
Nissan’s e-Pedal slows down the car via regenerative and friction braking when a driver’s foot lifts off the accelerator. This delivers electricity to the battery while essentially providing braking force without using the car’s brake pedal. It even brings the car to a complete stop. We found that driving with e-Pedal kept our LEAF tester in place while stopped on a steep hill without requiring a foot on the brake pedal. Notably, e-Pedal allows drivers to go without using the brake pedal 90 percent of the time.
LEAF’s ProPILOT cruise control conveniently maintains a constant distance to the vehicle ahead. If that vehicle stops, ProPILOT automatically applies brakes to also bring the LEAF to a full stop. It remains stopped even with your foot off the brake. Driving resumes when ProPILOT is activated with the touch of a switch or light pressure on the accelerator. The system also helps keep the LEAF centered in its lane at speeds between 19 and 62 mph. Other LEAF driver-assist technologies include Intelligent Lane Intervention, Lane Departure Warning, Intelligent Emergency Braking, Blind Spot Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and Intelligent Around View Monitor with moving object detection.
The new LEAF’s interior has a more luxurious and high-end look. Its dashboard is dominated by a seven-inch display for infotainment and the navigation system, if so equipped, plus Nissan's Safety Shield state-of-charge and power gauge. Another seven-inch screen faces the driver in place of conventional dials. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are included on LEAFs with the higher-spec infotainment/navigation system.
Today’s electric car market is different than that of the past. There are more choices in a growing number of vehicle classes and this makes it tougher for automakers to compete. Nissan aims to not only compete in the electric car field but dominate globally as it has in recent years.
The LEAF’s status as a true world car is underscored by widespread availability like the previous-generation LEAF. It’s also reinforced by Nissan’s global manufacturing capabilities with assembly plants in Japan, England, and in Smyrna, Tennessee. Offering the all-new LEAF at a base price of $29,990 here in the U.S. is a strategy that should bode well for Nissan in today’s increasingly competitive electric vehicle market.