Kia’s compact SUV entered its fourth generation in 2021 with a complete exterior makeover, increased legroom and cargo space, and a raft of driver-assistance systems that have been made standard equipment. Four engine choices are offered in the all-new Sorento, including a new turbocharged direct-injection four-cylinder hybrid. A plug-in hybrid version of the turbocharged four is being introduced in Europe but there’s no confirmation if this will be coming here to the U.S.
The 2021 Sorento is built on Kia’s third-generation N3 platform, which is lighter but also stronger than the outgoing version. This increases the SUV’s wheelbase by nearly 1.4 inches, improves noise/vibration/harshness characteristics, and driving dynamics. It’s also versatile enough to accommodate the Sorento’s electrified drivetrain.
Conventional Sorento powertrains utilize Kia’s 2.5-liter GDI four-cylinder engines. In naturally aspirated form the 2.5 GDI produces 191 horsepower, while a new turbocharged 2.5 GDI makes 281 horsepower and 311 lb-ft torque. The hybrid pairs a 1.6-liter version of the GDI turbo with a 60 horsepower electric motor fed by a 1.5 kWh lithium-ion-polymer battery. The engine/motor combination produces a total of 227 horsepower and 258 lb-ft torque, which is routed through a six-speed automatic transmission driving the front wheels. EPA fuel economy estimates rate the Sorento turbo hybrid’s efficiency at 39 city and 35 highway mpg, and 37 mpg combined.
Kia offers the 2021 Sorento in five trim levels, though the hybrid is available in the mid-range S and EX trims only. Many of the Sorento’s standard features are shared between the two, but the EX has a higher level of content, with equipment that includes LED fog lights, a panoramic sunroof, and wireless phone charger. Both the S and EX models are fitted with standard 17-inch alloy wheels and P235 tires.
There are a total of 16 standard and optional ‘Drive Wise’ advanced driver-assistance systems available for the Sorento. Standard ADAS systems on the hybrid model include blind-spot and rear-traffic collision avoidance, parking distance warning (rear-facing only on S, front and rear on EX), intelligent speed limit assist, forward collision-avoidance assist, driver attention warning, and lane-keep and lane-departure-warning systems.
The cost of entry for the new Sorrento is $29,390. Pricing starts at $33,590 for the Sorrento Hybrid S, with the uplevel Hybrid EX variant commanding three grand more at $36,590.
The Q5 is offered in three models, two of which combine electrification with Audi’s 2.0-liter TFSI four-cylinder turbocharged engine. The Q5 55 TFSI e plug-in hybrid positions an electric motor between the engine and seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch automatic transmission to produce a total of 362 horsepower and 369 lb-ft torque, and earn an EPA rating of 50 MPGe. Those output numbers rival the 3.0-liter, 349-horsepower TFSI V-6 in the range-topping SQ5. The Q5 45 is powered by a new, mild-hybrid variant of the TFSI engine that produces 261 horsepower and 273 lb-ft torque.
Audi is marketing the Q5 TFSI e as part of a ‘Plug-in Trifecta’ for 2021, with its A7 and A8 sedans also available with TFSI PHEV powertrains. These additions move Audi closer to its goal to electrify 30 percent of its U.S. model lineup by 2025.
The Q5 TFSI e can be operated in all-electric, hybrid, and battery-hold modes. A 14.1 kWh battery pack, located under the rear cargo area, enables the Q5 to travel up to 19 miles on electric power alone, according to EPA estimates. Audi says the battery can fully charge in 2.4 hours when plugged into a 240-volt charger. The maker also engineered the battery to act as a source of heat for the Q5’s cabin via a heat pump integrated into the pack.
A standard feature aboard the PHEV Audis is Predictive Efficiency Assist, which is designed to increase the energy regenerated under braking when the vehicle is rolling downhill or approaching a slower-moving vehicle. When the Q5 is equipped with optional satellite navigation, additional input is factored into the energy regeneration, including road curves, speed limits, a the road’s vertical profile. The system prompts the driver, via feedback from the accelerator pedal and a signal in the head-up display, to let up on the accelerator to take advantage of as much kinetic energy as possible.
External cues that set off the TFSI e from other Q5 models are subtle. The plug-in hybrid is equipped with S Line exterior trim, including a honeycomb version of the automaker’s Singleframe’ grille and more aggressive front and rear diffusers. It rolls on standard 19.5-inch double-spoke-star wheels or optional 20-inch, 10-spoke wheels. An optional Sport Plus package combines the 20-inch wheels with adaptive air suspension.
The Audi Q5 TFSI e plug-in hybrid comes at a base price of $52,900, just over $9,000 more than the conventionally-powered Q5.
The 2020 model year is an important one for ‘green’ cars as an increasing number of more environmentally positive vehicles make their way to market. What’s also notable is that this is happening across the board, from entry-level sedans and luxury cars to pickups and crossover/SUVs.
Green Car Journal undertakes an extensive vetting process that considers the universe of potential ‘green’ finalists in the U.S. market and narrows the field to a top five in popular, high-profile award categories. Winners are identified in each of these categories, with awards presented by Green Car Journal editor/publisher Ron Cogan and senior editor Cam Benty at awards press conferences in Los Angeles, San Antonio, and Washington DC.
Award winners earn their Green Car Awards™ distinctions by raising the bar in standing out with their exceptional efficiency, desired features, and a satisfying driving experience, Along with the standard hallmarks of safety, value, performance, and style, efficiency and affordability to the mass market are important elements in the selection of Green Car Awards™ winners. Substantial numbers of more environmentally positive vehicles such as these on the nation’s highways brings a cumulative and significant reduction of carbon emissions and fuel use over time.
The winner of the magazine’s legacy Green Car of the Year® award – presented at the LA Auto Show since 2005 – is selected by a high-profile jury that includes leaders of national environmental and efficiency organizations, auto enthusiast/entertainer Jay Leno, and Green Car Journal editors. Rising to the top for consideration as 2020 Green Car of the Year® were the Ford Escape, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Soul, Mazda3, and Toyota Corolla. And the winner? Toyota’s all-new 2020 Corolla and Corolla Hybrid.
Featuring a more sophisticated look and riding on a stiffer platform with independent multilink rear suspension, the 12th generation Toyota Corolla features improved ride and handling and a full complement of driver assist systems rivaling those found in more expensive models. The conventionally-powered Corolla achieves notably high fuel economy of up to 31 city/40 highway mpg, with the Corolla Hybrid rated at an impressive 53 city/52 highway mpg. Importantly, affordable price points for both conventional and hybrid variants make them approachable to a great many buyers and not just a select few.
Also presented at the LA Auto Show, 2020 Green SUV of the Year™ finalists included the Ford Explorer Hybrid, Honda CR-V, Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid, Toyota Highlander Hybrid, and Toyota RAV4. Taking the win for 2020 Green SUV of the Year™ was the Honda CR-V and its new CR-V hybrid variant.
Honda’s popular CR-V offers an array of design and technology refinements for 2020 along with the important addition of an all-wheel drive hybrid version, the first hybrid Honda SUV sold in the U.S. The CR-V Hybrid uses Honda's efficient two-motor hybrid system to deliver an expected 50 percent fuel economy increase over the already-fuel efficient gasoline model. CR-Vs come standard with the full suite of Honda Sensing safety and driver-assist technologies.
Recognizing environmental leadership in the light truck category is increasingly important considering the huge number of pickups sold each year. Pickup enthusiasts are increasingly interested in style and connectivity, but also for the fundamentals that trucks are famous for, whether that’s handling commercial duties, towing a boat or trailer, carrying loads of gear, or just comfortably seating a family of five. Increasingly, buyers also want pickups offering greater efficiency and improved environmental impact. The Green Truck of the Year™ award recognizes leadership in this arena and is presented annually at the San Antonio Auto & Truck Show in San Antonio, Texas, in the heart of ‘truck country.’
This year’s 2020 Green Truck of the Year™ finalists included the Chevrolet Colorado, Chevrolet Silverado, Ford F-150, Ford Ranger, and RAM 1500. All offer far more sophisticated capabilities and greater environmental performance than the workhorse pickup trucks of years past, while also featuring the high levels of comfort, safety, and drivability of their passenger car counterparts. Green Car Awards™ jurors honored the RAM 1500 as the 2020 Green Truck of the Year™, the second year in a row this exceptional has earned this honor.
Its distinction as 2020 Green Truck of the Year™ is testament to the focus that RAM 1500 has on filling the needs of everyday drivers and tradesmen, while offering higher efficiency that decreases fuel use and carbon emissions. Along with its appealing design, lighter weight, and work-and-play functionality, RAM 1500 offers a new and more powerful 3.0-liter EcoDiesel powerplant that achieves an EPA estimated 22 city/32 highway mpg. A pair of eTorque mild hybrid powerplants, exclusive to the segment, deliver up to 20 city/26 highway mpg fuel efficiency. RAM 1500 features considerable towing and hauling capabilities and is equipped with the latest connected and driver-assist technologies.
The San Antonio Auto & Truck Show also hosted Green Car Journal’s inaugural 2020 Family Green Car of the Year™ award program. This high-profile award recognizes the increasingly important role that environmental performance plays in the family vehicle arena. Finalists included the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, Hyundai Venue, Kia Niro, Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, and Nissan Versa. These models represent the spectrum of vehicle types most appealing to families including sedan, minivan, and crossover SUV models powered by efficient internal combustion and plug-in hybrid power, at varying price points affordable to most families. Driving away with the first-ever 2020 Family Green Car of the Year™ honor was Mitsubishi’s Outlander PHEV.
The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV meets the diverse needs of families while delivering value, style, performance, and notable environmental performance. This plug-in hybrid SUV is stylish, comfortable, and spacious enough to handle all the trappings of family life, while offering a very approachable cost for a plug-in crossover with its level of features. Among its strengths is a sophisticated series and parallel hybrid powertrain that enables 22 miles of driving on battery power alone for daily errands or commuting, or greater than 300 miles of travel on hybrid power. It can plug in to a household outlet, a 240-volt wall or public charger, or even a public DC fast charger for quickly replenishing its lithium-ion batteries.
The finale for Green Car Journal’s awards season is the Green Car Awards™ presentation at the Washington Auto Show in Washington DC. This auto show, with its strategic adjacency to the halls of power that have long influenced environmental progress in the auto industry, is an ideal venue for the Green Car Awards™ that have been presented here since 2008.
In Washington, Green Car Journal honors the automotive field’s most important enabling technologies through its 2020 Green Car Technology of the Year™ award. The diverse technologies considered for this award are instrumental in making a new generation of more environmentally-positive vehicles possible. Finalists this year included BMW Wireless Charging, Ford’s Modular Hybrid Transmission, Hyundai Active Shift Control, Hyundai Continuously Variable Valve Duration, and Tesla V3 Supercharging. Rising above its fellow nominees was BMW Wireless Charging, which Green Car Awards™ jurors honored as the 2020 Green Car Technology of the Year™.
BMW Wireless Charging offers a new and innovative direction for the future of electric vehicle charging. Paired today with BMW’s 530e plug-in hybrid, this unique system uses magnetic induction to wirelessly charge a vehicle’s batteries without the need to plug in, shutting off automatically once charging is complete. The car’s center display guides drivers in positioning their car over the system’s charging GroundPad while parking.
The premium vehicle market is the focus for a growing array of electric, hybrid, and high efficiency models. These are honored by Green Car Journal’s Luxury Green Car of the Year™ award. Contenders this year included the BMW 745e, Karma Revero GT, Lincoln Aviator Grand Touring, Porsche Taycan, and Range Rover Evoque. Emerging the winner of the prestigious 2020 Luxury Green Car of the Year™ award was the Karma Revero GT.
Green Car Journal editors note that the Karma Revero GT exemplifies what can be accomplished with stunning design, great technology, and a sophisticated extended range electric drivetrain. Karma Automotive, a startup with manufacturing facilities in Southern California, devoted significant design and engineering efforts in evolving its earlier Karma Revero into the more sophisticated Revero GT that features new front and rear designs, all-new body panels, a sumptuous interior, and a new infotainment system. This restyled luxury sport sedan is not only compelling inside and out, but is motivated by an all-new series hybrid drivetrain delivering a greater 80 mile battery electric range, and 360 mile range overall with electricity from its BMW-sourced engine-generator.
Making it through Green Car Journal’s extensive vetting process to become one of the top five contenders for a Green Car Award™ is significant accomplishment. Selection as a finalist signifies that a new model or technology makes a notable contribution toward a new generation of cleaner, more efficient, and more environmentally compatible transportation. By virtue of their notable ‘green’ credentials and environmental achievement, each of the five finalists in all Green Car Awards™ categories is honored with Green Car Journal's prestigious 2020 Green Car Product of Excellence™ recognition.
Chrysler is credited with creating the minivan in 1984 with the Chrysler Town & Country, as well as the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager based on the same platform. The latest-generation Chrysler Pacifica that replaced the Town & Country in 2017 used an all-new platform and emerged with some important distinctions. The most important of these is the addition of a plug-in hybrid variant, the first and only plug-in hybrid minivan in the U.S. market. Chrysler made several revisions since its introduction and today’s plug-in Pacifica Hybrid comes in Hybrid Touring Plus, Hybrid Touring L, and Hybrid Limited iterations.
The 2020 Pacifica Hybrid use a 3.6-liter Atkinson V-6 engine mated with electric motors and a nine-speed electrically variable transmission. This transmission incorporates two electric motors that drive the front wheels via a clutch, rather than using just one motor for propulsion and the other for regenerative braking. Of course, regen braking is still used. The one-way clutch is located on the input side of the transmission and the output shaft of the motor. It enables power from both ‘A’ and ‘B’ motors to act in parallel, delivering the full torque of both motors to the wheels. The system provides a combined 260 horsepower.
Energizing the electric drive system is a 16 kWh lithium-ion battery pack comprised of six 16-cell modules. The pack is located under the second row of seats, which means the second row Stow ’n Go seating available in the gasoline-powered Pacifica cannot be ordered in the plug-in hybrid variant. The benefit of this battery placement is that it doesn’t infringe on interior space, so cargo-carrying capacity is not sacrificed. The battery pack provides 32 miles of battery electric range and can be recharged in two hours using a 240-volt Mopar charger. Total hybrid driving range is 520 miles.
A suite of driver assistance systems is available either as standard or optional equipment, depending on trim level. Among these is a 360° Surround View Camera, Rear View Camera, Full-Speed Forward Collision Warning with Active Braking, Blind Spot Monitor, Adaptive Cruise Control, Parallel/Perpendicular Park Assist, and Lane Departure Warning with Lane Keep Assist.
Pacifica Hybrid’s Uconnect 4 system comes with a standard 7-inch or optional 8.4-inch touchscreen, standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and available 4G Wi-Fi. Uconnect 4 with the 8.4-inch touchscreen displays vehicle performance, power flow, driving history, and adjusts charging schedules for less expensive off-peak hours.
Base cost of the Pacifica Hybrid is $39,995 for the Touring trim level, with the Touring L coming in at $42,295 and the Hybrid Limited at $45,845.
The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, Green Car Journal’s 2019 Green SUV of the Year™, has been sold quite successfully in other parts of the world since 2013 but has just finally made it to our shores. During its absence here in the U.S. the Outlander PHEV has not inconsequentially become the best-selling plug-in hybrid SUV in the world. There are reasons for this, including this spacious plug-in SUV’s ability to accommodate five with plenty of room for gear, its quiet cabin finished in premium leather, and its array of desired features prominent on today’s buyer wish lists.
This model’s most high-profile feature, of course, is its plug-in powertrain. The Outlander plug-in hybrid features a 2.0-liter gas engine and generator along with a pair of high-performance electric motors, one up front and one at the rear. The combustion engine provides 117 horsepower with the front and rear electric motors each contributing an additional 80 horsepower, for a total system rating of 197 horsepower at the ready. Power is delivered to the road through a continuously variable transmission. Adding to the model’s already-functional nature is Mitsubishi’s Super All-Wheel Control system and a 1500 pound tow rating.
All-electric driving is a big plus delivered by plug-in hybrids, and the Outlander PHEV is no exception. It can drive 22 miles on battery power alone and has an overall driving range of 310 miles. Its battery can be charged in about 10 hours by plugging into a standard 120-volt household plug, in four hours with a home or public 240-volt Level 2 charger, and up to 80 percent battery capacity in just 25 minutes at a public DC Fast Charger.
The Outlander’s parallel-series hybrid drivetrain operates in three distinct ways that are automatically chosen by the vehicle’s control system to optimize efficiency and performance. In Series Hybrid mode the electric motors power the vehicle. When lithium-ion battery power is low or quick acceleration is required, the two electric motors are powered by both the gasoline-powered engine-generator and the battery pack, with the generator also charging the battery. Parallel Hybrid mode uses the gas engine to drive the front wheels with the two electric motors kicking in when additional power is needed. The engine also charges the battery pack in Parallel Hybrid mode under certain driving conditions.
Of particular interest to ‘green’ drivers is the Outlander’s EV Drive mode, which powers the Outlander exclusively via battery electric power. This mode is also driver-selectable with an EV Mode button. There are six levels of regenerative braking—B1 to B5 plus a coast-for-blocks B0 mode— selected by a pair of paddles behind the steering wheel.
There’s plenty of desirable tech that comes with the Outlander beyond its advanced drivetrain. Safety technologies include blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert, forward collision mitigation, lane departure warning, and automatic high beams. A multi-view camera system provides a birds-eye view of the vehicle’s surroundings. Adaptive cruise control uses radar to maintain a selected distance from the car ahead. And lower-tech yet decidedly handy are a pair of available 120-volt outlets in the cargo and rear seat areas.
Green Car Journal will be embarking on a long-term test of the Outlander PHEV shortly and will present what we learn about driving this notable plug-in model during daily driving and on longer trips as well, so stay tuned.
Like the previous generation Cayenne, Porsche has included an electrified version to bring greater efficiency and performance to its 2019 crossover SUV. It features a completely re-engineered hybrid powertrain compared to its predecessor, the Cayenne S E-Hybrid, using the third new hybrid powertrain from Porsche since just 2017. The 2019 Cayenne E-Hybrid is distinguished from its gasoline counterpart with Acid Green brake calipers and matching outlines around all of the model’s badges, aligning it with other current Porsche plug-in hybrid models.
Porsche’s third-generation Cayenne features new styling cues that lend a more athletic appearance and a lighter weight body courtesy of extensive use of aluminum. It also rides on a lighter weight chassis and incorporates other innovative lightweighting strategies, such a lithium-ion polymer starter battery that brings an additional 22-pound weight reduction on its own.
Power is provided by a 3.0-liter turbo engine offering 335 horsepower and 332 lb-ft torque. The plug-in hybrid powertrain is augmented by a 134 horsepower electric motor boasting 295 lb-ft torque, with the combination delivering 455 total system horsepower and 516 lb-ft torque. The result is exceptional performance featuring 0-60 mph acceleration of 5.7 seconds and a top speed of 157 mph. Power is delivered to the road via an eight-speed Tiptronic S transmission.
Four drive modes allow tailoring the driving experience. E-Power mode allows driving on battery power alone an estimated 20+ miles. An all-new Hybrid Auto mode uses gas and/or electric power to achieve optimum efficiency. E Hold conserves the battery’s current state-of-charge for use at a desired time later in the drive, such as in urban areas. E-Charge mode directs the gas engine to generate more power than needed for driving to charge the battery.
The E-Hybrid is equipped with a liquid-cooled, 14.1 kWh lithium battery with about 30 percent more energy than the previous Cayenne S E-Hybrid. The additional battery power is the result of greater energy density so the size of the battery has not increased. It can be charged from a fully-depleted state with the E-Hybrid’s optional 7.2 kW on-board charger and a 220-volt power source in just over two hours, and with the standard 3.6 kW on-board charger in just under 8 hours.
Porsche’s new InnoDrive is featured in the Cayenne E-Hybrid. The system combines onboard map data and existing traffic sensing systems to look ahead 1.8 miles, allowing it to determine the best balance of gas and electric power for upcoming corners and changes in grade.
Amid all the hype and hope for electric vehicles, there are many assumptions being made by those who believe electrics will dominate the worldwide automotive landscape in future years. How much is this based in reality? No doubt, consumer acceptance will vary depending on specific markets. According to a recent study, Future of Electric Vehicles in Southeast Asia, up to one in three Southeast Asian drivers in the market for a new car would be open to buying an EV. Commissioned by Nissan and conducted by Frost & Sullivan, the study is said to illustrate the very strong propensity for electric vehicles in the region.
The research focused on Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Among its findings are that 37% of prospective buyers would be willing to consider an EV as their next car. Of these, the study points to consumers in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand as the most inclined to do so.
Interestingly, two out of three surveyed said that safety was most important to them, followed by charging convenience. Cost was not identified as a factor in their decision making, and in fact many of those surveyed said they would be willing to pay more for an electric vehicle. Green Car Journal editors note that early electric vehicle studies in the U.S. at times came up with the same conclusion that buyers would be willing to pay more for an electric vehicle, but that has not materialized. In fact, subsidies are often a prime motivator in prompting an EV purchase or lease.
While a higher price wasn’t identified as an obstacle to EV sales, that doesn’t mean lower cost wouldn’t be a motivator. In the study, three in four respondents said they would consider an electric vehicle if taxes were waived, and other incentives would also sway consumer decisions to go electric including free parking, the ability for solo EV drivers to use priority lanes, and installing charging stations at apartment buildings.
"Leapfrogging in electrification of mobility requires strong collaboration between public and private parties and a long-term approach tailored to each market's unique situation," points out Yutaka Sanada, regional senior vice president at Nissan. "Consumers in Southeast Asia have indicated that governments have a critical role to play in the promotion of electric vehicles."
Nissan has announced that its Nissan LEAF electric car will go on sale in Australia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, and Thailand during the next fiscal year.
Sharing drive components and integrated technology with Volvo’s XC90 T8, the latest rendition of the Swedish maker’s best-selling vehicle comes to market more powerful and smarter than ever. Volvo’s upscale 2018 XC60 T8 PHEV (plug-in-hybrid) presents a premium and rugged, yet refined, SUV where high performance meets advanced technology and comfort. It is the most powerful two-row SUV in Volvo history. The editors at Green Car Journal take a closer look.
How it works: Volvo’s XC60 T8 successfully follows in the footsteps of its larger XC90 T8 crossover sibling. Both upscale plug-in hybrids use a 313 horsepower, supercharged and turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with an eight-speed automatic transaxle and two permanent-magnet AC motors.
In this through-the-road AWD hybrid system, a 46-horsepower electric motor drives the front wheels while an 87 horsepower AC motor powers the rear wheels. This results in total system output of 400 horsepower and 472 lb-ft torque. There is no mechanical connection between the two axles.
A lithium-ion battery pack is positioned in the center tunnel where a driveshaft would normally be located. This 10.4 kWh pack enables the 2018 Volvo XC60 T8 to travel about 18 miles on electricity alone. Total driving range on gas and electric power is 370 miles. The battery can be recharged in as little as three hours from a 240-volt source and six hours from a standard 120-volt outlet.
Regenerative braking, stop/start capability, and a Pure EV electric-only mode contribute to a 59 MPGe rating, quite good for a vehicle with a nearly 4,600-pound curb weight. The twin electric motors and 472 lb-ft torque bring impressive acceleration for a SUV that can carry five people, propelling the vehicle from 0 to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds.
Momentum, R-Design, and Inscription versions of the XC60 T8 are available, offering similar standard and optional equipment to non-hybrid T6 models. Optional driver assistance packages are available including a Vision package that includes blind-spot and cross-traffic alerts, automatic mirror dimming, power-retractable outside mirrors, and a parking-assist function.
The XC60’s Convenience package includes adaptive cruise control with Volvo's semi-autonomous Pilot Assist, a Level 2 partial-automation system that assists with driving tasks like remaining in a lane and matching traffic speed on the highway, while still relying on a driver as the primary monitor of the driving environment. Optional Steer Assist, which is linked with Volvo’s Blind Spot Information System and Oncoming Lane Mitigation, helps the driver steer around an obstacle if a collision is likely.
A 9.3-inch Sensus Connect screen in the dashboard center stack offers tablet-like swipe-and-pinch gestures. It’s large enough that it can be divided into four independent sections to provide quick and easy access to any controls needed. Sensus Connect provides 4G/LTE connectivity and offers its own suite of apps including Pandora, Spotify, Glympse, Local Search, Yelp, Weather, and Wiki Locations. The main Sensus screen interacts with 8-inch or 12.3-inch driver information displays and the optional head-up display showing navigation, infotainment, and basic information.\
Volvo’s XC60 T8 is offered at a base price of $52,900, about 10 grand more than its conventionally-powered sibling. It’s an exceptional compact crossover providing the luxury appointments and advanced technology we’ve come to expect from Volvo. It’s also a compelling option for new car buyers looking for an upscale crossover experience with the efficiency of plug-in hybrid power.
Green Car Journal editors previously experienced 10,000 miles of driving in BMW’s i3, with those miles behind the wheel of a 2015 i3 REx several years ago. We were convinced then, as we are now, that BMW’s i3 is an indispensable, right-sized urban car that’s not only super-efficient to drive around crowded city environs but loads of fun as well.
Chalk that up to its easy maneuverability, great handling, and lightweight construction using a carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) body over an aluminum and CFRP passenger cell. Plus, of course, there’s the instant torque and surprisingly quick launch provided by the i3’s 170 horsepower electric motor. The i3 became our go-to vehicle for everyday drives.
Now, two years later, we’re 7,500 miles into a long-term test of a 2017 BMW i3 REx and experiencing even more satisfying results. While driving range in the earlier i3 was limited to 81 miles on the model’s 22 kWh lithium-ion battery pack, or 72 miles on batteries with an overall range of 150 miles using electricity from its REx gasoline engine-generator, those numbers substantially increased in the 2017 model year i3 we’ve been driving.
We knew from the start that BMW hit upon something extraordinary with its range-extended REx i3 variant. Simply, BMW recognized that range is a big issue with drivers considering an electric vehicle, and while the i3’s electric range is suitable for a great many drivers, the confidence of extending range with a small engine-generator is real. With the REx variant, most driving can be done exclusively on battery power for convenient, efficient, and zero-emission transport. Occasional trips beyond the i3’s battery range are possible with electricity produced by the REx system.
While a 22 kWh battery pack still powers the 2017 base model, BMW reengineered the 2017 i3 with an optionally available 94 kWh battery pack for greater battery electric range, plus an available REx variant with a slightly larger 2.4 gallon gas tank. The result is notable. The 2017 i3 with the larger battery offers an EPA estimated 114 miles on battery power. Opting for the 2017 i3 REx variant delivers an EPA estimated 97 miles of battery range (somewhat less than the electric-only model due to the REx system’s additional weight), and 180 miles of overall driving with the range extender.
We did find that the shorter 72 mile battery range of our 2015 i3 REx found us using the range extender somewhat regularly. With the longer 97 mile range we’ve only been into the range extender a few times, other than those times the range extender was required to automatically run for service since we hadn't been using it. Yes, it’s only a difference of 15 additional battery electric miles, but with our everyday routes and driving habits those additional miles have made a difference.
The i3 is a kick to drive and we tend to smile a lot as our off-the-line acceleration regularly surprises others between traffic lights. The twin displays offer easy-to-reference information and controls are intuitive. For such a small car, the i3 provides a surprising amount of headroom and overall passenger comfort. The trunk is small but adequate for our everyday needs. Charging with our wall-mounted 240-volt charger is a breeze. It's also economical since we set the i3 to charge at off-peak times and enjoy a discounted electric vehicle rate from our local electric utility.
Green Car Journal editors continue to find our 2017 BMW i3 tester a favored go-to vehicle for daily drives because it’s fun and easy to drive in addition to being clean and economical. We expect that will continue to be the case in the months ahead because it's a combination that’s just hard to beat.
The 2018 MINI Countryman is the biggest MINI ever, featuring 30 percent more cargo space than the previous Countryman, more front and rear legroom, and greater headroom and rear seat shoulder room for five occupants. Adding to the model’s appeal is the MINI Cooper S E Countryman ALL4, a new plug-in hybrid variant that starts at $36,800.
The all-wheel drive Countryman ALL4 eDrive adds an 87-horsepower, 122 lb-ft torque electric motor to the MINI TwinPower engine for greater performance and efficiency. The turbocharged, direct injection 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine is rated at 134 horsepower. Altogether, combined system output adds up to an available 221 horsepower and 284 lb-ft torque.
With its ‘through-the-road’ all-wheel drive architecture, the Countryman SE ALL4 uses its gasoline engine to power the front wheels via a modified 6-speed Steptronic automatic transmission. The synchronous electric motor housed beneath the luggage compartment floor delivers power to the rear axle via a two-stage, single-speed transmission.
This powertrain setup is linked to the vehicle’s Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) system that analyzes both the road situation and the driver’s wishes. When it detects excessive slip, both the gasoline engine and electric motor are engaged. The ALL4 all-wheel-drive system features a power take-off integrated into the front axle differential, a propeller shaft leading to the rear axle, and a hang-on clutch that ensures precisely measured transmission of drive torque to the rear wheels.
A 7.6 kWh lithium-ion battery is located beneath the slightly raised rear seat, as is a 9.5-gallon fuel tank. The PHEV has an EPA estimated all-electric range of 12 miles on batteries, with a total range of 270 miles on gasoline-electric power. Charging at 240-volts takes 3 hours and 15 minutes.
An intelligent energy management system ensures that engine and motor use is optimized for both driving fun and efficiency. The driver can also use the MINI’s eDrive toggle switch to choose between three operating modes. In AUTO eDRIVE, the PHEV operates in electric-only mode at speeds up to 55 mph. At higher speeds and under intensive loads, the engine automatically starts. In MAX eDRIVE power is delivered by the electric motor alone at up to 78 mph, with the engine started at higher speeds or upon kickdown. SAVE BATTERY mode can be selected to conserve battery capacity or raise its charge state to at least 90 percent while driving.
A Technology Package includes a new 8.8-inch touchscreen navigation system, a new-generation user interface and operating system, and Qi wireless device charging capability. The MINI’s standard rear-view camera and rear Park Distance Control can be extended to include front parking sensors and a Parking Assistant feature for easy parallel parking.
Those interested in driver assist systems are not forgotten. A MINI Driving Assistant option includes collision warning with a city braking function, pedestrian warning with initial brake function, and road sign detection. Camera-based adaptive cruise control enables cruise control function that senses the vehicle ahead and adjusts speed accordingly, making longer distance drives that much more pleasurable.
Lexus’ all-new flagship LS 500 series, built on the automaker’s new Global Architecture-Luxury (GA-L) platform, includes the LS 500h hybrid powered by the latest Lexus Multi Stage Hybrid System. It features a sleek, coupe-like silhouette in a package that’s longer and lower than the previous LS model, at a premium price that’s still worlds lower than the former flagship model.
The exterior is striking, a blending of aggressive yet sophisticated elements with a distinctive shoulder line, flared fenders, and a bold front fascia featuring dramatic three-projector headlamps and L-shaped LED running lights. Lexus’ signature spindle mesh grille features thousands of hand-adjusted surfaces to lend a jewel-like quality in changing light. Those who want to go even more upscale can opt for an LS 500h F-Sport variant.
n keeping with the Lexus philosophy, the LS 500h accommodates driver and passengers in a welcoming and luxurious cabin replete with the high-end features desired by premium car buyers. The dash is designed at a uniform height so a driver can comfortably access all controls without changing body posture. Nearly all surfaces are leather-wrapped, and the interior’s artisan wood is created through intricate sliced wood and laser-cutting processes.
Both driver and front passenger can enjoy available 28-way power adjustable front seats, while rear passengers also get special attention like heated seats that integrate two heaters focused on the shoulder and lower back areas, thus providing warmth in these areas rather than heating the entire body. A Shiatsu massage feature is also available. We tried that feature in the model’s optional rear reclining ‘Relaxation Seat,’ that features a raised ottoman and front passenger seat that articulates forward to provide substantial space and ideal positioning for a massage. Trust us…once you’re in that seat you won’t want to get out.
The Lexus Multi Stage Hybrid System in the LS 500h combines a naturally aspirated, Atkinson-cycle 3.5-liter V-6 engine with two electric motor/generators that together deliver 354 horsepower. That’s plenty of juice for serous driving sessions on twisty roads, as we can attest from our time behind the wheel in Northern California.
This system essentially incorporates a four-speed automatic transmission coupled to a continuously variable transmission (CVT). A first for any Lexus hybrid is the inclusion of a selectable ‘M’ (manual) mode controlled by steering wheel paddles, which simulates driving with a 10-speed transmission and provides a more dynamic driving experience. Dual Variable Valve Timing with Intelligence (Dual VVT-i) ensures ample torque across the engine's speed range.
Driver assist systems are replete in the 500h. Lexus' Integrated Safety Management safety systems include Pre-Collision, Pedestrian Alert, and Lexus CoDrive, the latter combining All-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control with Lane Trace Assist. There’s also Front Cross Traffic Alert, Road Sign Assist, Intelligent High-beam with Adaptive Front Lighting, and Lane Departure Alert plus a continuing list of intelligent and driver assist/safety systems. Side clearance and cornering views have been added to the vehicle’s Panoramic View Monitor to provide periphery safety checks, imaged on the car’s 12.3-inch display monitor.
The fifth-generation LS flagship sedan accomplishes its mission by providing impressive design and high levels of premium content, combined with dynamic performance and a hybrid powertrain that nets estimated fuel economy up to 33 highway mpg. Slated to go on sale later this month, the LS 500h luxury hybrid delivers all this goodness at a premium price that’s yet to be announced, but is expected to be in the high $90,000 range.
BMW’s i3 gets its first mild facelift since its introduction in 2014 plus a new i3s sport model, featuring a higher performance electric drive, sport suspension with 10 mm lower height, and a 40 mm wider track. A restyled front fascia gives both the BMW i3 and i3s a wider appearance. The front apron on the i3s includes aggressive M-like scoops while the rear apron has individually styled contours with black surrounds around a wide, body-colored inlay. Both the i3 and i3s have standard full-LED headlights using LED bulb units for both low and high beams, as well as for daytime running lights. New turn signal indicators also feature LED technology.
The i3s uses a high output 184 horsepower electric motor that generates 199 lb-ft peak torque, 15 greater lb-ft than the standard i3 plus an additional 14 horsepower. BMW also updated the i3s drivetrain to optimize power delivery and the performance curve at higher rpms. At the limits of its motor speed range, power and torque of the enhanced drive system deliver an improvement of up to 40 percent over the standard i3. Driving dynamics and e-Driving abilities are significantly enhanced at higher engine speeds when higher performance and higher torque are more noticeable. In addition to Comfort, Eco Pro, and Eco Pro+ settings, i3s drivers can also choose SPORT mode for a more direct accelerator response and tighter steering
Both the i3 and i3s use the more powerful 33 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery introduced in the 2017 i3, which increased battery pack capacity by more than 50 percent and boosted driving range from 81 miles to 114 miles. without any changes in packaging. An optional REx range extending gasoline engine-generator is available for both the i3 and i3s to extend plug-in battery range to a maximum of about 180 total miles of driving.
The latest version of BMW’s iDrive 6 provides an intuitive interface for controlling infotainment, communications, and navigation in the i3 and i3s. When equipped with Navigation System Professional, the control display has a 10.25-inch screen with increased resolution. Automatic over-the-air updates of navigation data are provided via a mobile network connection. The voice recognition system has improved comprehension through cloud-based speech processing. All BMW Connected and BMW Connected+ services are available. On-Street Parking Information, available for the first time in i3 models, helps locate available parking spaces in many major U.S. cities. The system uses historical and real-time data to determine the likelihood of finding vacant parking and displays this information on a navigation map.
Public charging stations and their availability are also displayed on the navigation system’s map. With Navigation Professional, a boundary representing the maximum range the i3 could travel on its current charge status is displayed. Different ranges in each of the Driving Dynamic Control modes can also be shown.
The Technology and Driving Assistance Package for the i3 and i3s includes Active Driving Assistant, Active Cruise Control with Stop & Go, Daytime Pedestrian Protection, Frontal Collision Warning with City Collision Mitigation, and Speed Limit Info. Advanced Real-Time Traffic Information and ConnectedDrive Services are also included within the upgraded Navigation System package. Park Distance Control and Parking Assistance are options.
A BMW TurboCord electric vehicle charger provides charging via a standard 120-volt outlet and can also charge up to three times faster when used with a 240-volt outlet. It is the smallest and lightest UL-listed portable charger available and comes with a 20 ft charging cord.
The Honda Clarity family of vehicles has earned Green Car Journal’s 2018 Green Car of the Year Award® amid a field of finalists that all featured electrification as part of their market strategy, including the Honda Accord, Hyundai Ioniq, Nissan LEAF, and Toyota Camry. The award was announced at a Green Car Journal press conference during AutoMobilityLA at the LA Auto Show.
Honda’s Clarity sedan is a future-thinking model that redefines how to deliver what drivers desire today, while also anticipating the shifting needs of a more environmentally positive driving future. It is offered in three electrified variations – one powered by plug-in hybrid power, another exclusively by battery power, and a third by a hydrogen fuel cell that creates electricity on board. This distinguishes Honda as the first-ever automaker to do this.
The Clarity Fuel Cell, Clarity Electric, and Clarity Plug-in Hybrid use the same advanced platform and many of the same powertrain components, enabling Honda to amortize manufacturing costs. This also makes it straightforward to increase or decrease production of each variant to meet changing demand.
The winner was selected by a jury of environmental and efficiency leaders including Jean-Michel Cousteau, President of Ocean Futures Society; Matt Petersen, President and CEO of Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator and Board Member of Global Green USA; Dr. Alan Lloyd, President Emeritus of the International Council on Clean Transportation; Mindy Lubber, President of CERES; and Kateri Callahan, President of the Alliance to Save Energy, plus celebrity auto enthusiast Jay Leno and Green Car Journal editors.
Ford’s popular Transit Connect, a European compact van model introduced to the U.S. in 2010, continues to find a ready market with tradesmen, delivery services, and fleets seeking an efficient and easily maneuverable van for urban and suburban use. It’s available as either a short- or long-wheelbase van, both with the same 1,620 pound payload capacity.
The long-wheelbase version adds an additional 25 cubic feet of cargo capacity behind the front seats. Those operating in tight city environs may prefer the shorter model with its 36.1 foot turning diameter versus 40.0 feet for the longer variant. The Transit Connect is available in base XL and upscale XLT trim levels. Ford also offers short- and long-wheelbase wagons with that can accommodate up to seven.
Both wheelbase versions can be ordered with a traditional liftgate or split cargo doors that open up to 180 degrees. Twin sliding side doors are convenient for making sidewalk deliveries. A passenger-side power running board is available. Roof rails and a roof rack are now available options for both XL and XLT series vans. A perimeter alarm, which is included when optional remote start is ordered, detects security threats through impact and shock sensors and activates an alarm to help protect vehicle contents.
The Transit Connect cargo van is available with optional second-row seating to increase versatility beyond cargo. The wagon version also features a versatile approach by delivering cargo capabilities along with five to seven passenger seating. It features more than 100 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats folded on the long-wheelbase model. All Transit Connect models feature first-row front and side airbags, first-row side curtain airbags, and a tire pressure monitoring system. A low-profile center console option is available on all Transit variants for making it easier to install computer equipment in the center console area and to walk from the cab to the back of the vehicle.
SYNC 3 is optional on Transit Connect XLT cargo van and Transit Connect Wagon XLT. The system features faster performance, more conversational voice recognition, and a more innovative smartphone-like touch screen and easier-to-understand graphical interface. Ford Telematics is also available to enable fleets to simultaneously monitor several Transit Connects in real time, including location, speed, and excess idle duration to help track productivity and efficiency.
The Transit Connect’s 169 horsepower 2.5-liter Duratec engine delivers up to 27 highway mpg and can be ordered with a gaseous prep package to run on compressed natural gas or liquid propane. This engine is also capable of running on E85 ethanol. It connects to a six-speed SelectShift automatic transmission. The optional 1.6-liter EcoBoost I-4 turbocharged engine available in previous years has been discontinued.
This compact van’s affordable $23,020 entry point make it an appealing option for delivery services and tradesmen, with 20 city/27 highway mpg an important bonus for those with an eye on operating costs and the bottom line.
The battery electric variant of Honda’s Clarity electric car trilogy is now on sale at select Honda dealers in California and Oregon. Green Car Journal had the opportunity to drive the Clarity fuel cell electric version of this model in Santa Barbara, California earlier this year…impressive! The Clarity battery electric vehicle is equally visually captivating and posh by any measure.
The battery electric Clarity does come with a modest 89 mile driving range between charges, though, which these days runs counter to the industry trend of aiming at significantly greater battery electric range. The reason? Decision makers at Honda felt the added expense and subsequent higher retail price of a long range Clarity electric would erode the brand’s reputation of affordability. Instead, Honda is focused on delivering a premium interior, very sophisticated five-passenger electric sedan to meet the needs of the market.
Steve Center, Vice President of Honda’s Environmental Business Development Office, explains that feedback from existing Honda Fit Electric owners showed little to no concern regarding “range anxiety” due to that model’s driving range, which is also just over 80 miles. Instead, drivers were more focused on a desire for a larger interior, which the Clarity Electric delivers. This assessment is important. While Clarity Electric production numbers have not been disclosed, Center says the lion's share will most likely go to previous Fit EV lessees.
Honda financing offers a competitive lease rate of $269.00 per month plus sales tax (adjusted for an available federal tax credit), with $1730 due at signing. A generous 20,000 miles per year is allowed in the lease and 24/7 roadside assistance is included.
The Clarity Electric features a 161 horsepower (120 kW) electric motor producing 221 lb-ft torque, powered by a 25.5-kWh lithium-ion battery pack. Charging takes just over three hours at a 240 volt home or public charger. According to Honda, an 80 percent charge can be achieved in just 30 minutes when using DC fast charging with the SAE Combined Charging System. The Clarity Electric is rated at 114 combined MPGe fuel efficiency.
Plug-in vehicles are on a roll. That’s not to say that battery electric or plug-in hybrids will eclipse internal combustion or hybrid vehicles in the market anytime soon. But the fact that there are 40 plug-in models available in the U.S. during calendar year 2017 speaks volumes on how seriously automakers are taking electrification.
In the market for a plug-in vehicle? Here are your options this calendar year. Prices do not take into account an available federal tax credit up to $7,500 that may apply, or state incentives that can range up to $5,000 or more. Happy hunting!
AUDI: Audi has big plans for plug-in vehicles in its lineup, although the A3 e-tron represents the solitary choice at present. That said, it’s a good one since the A3 has long been a popular and approachable model in the U.S. and represents the right starting point for Audi. Offered at a base price of $39,500, this plug-in hybrid provides 16 miles of battery electric range and an overall driving range of 380 miles. The automaker plans to have three e-tron models within the next three years and others coming after that.
BMW: This automaker is a prolific marketer of plug-in vehicles. Its sole all-electric model is presently the innovative i3, which features a base price of $42,400. It emerged with a larger battery pack in the 2017 model year. The i3 BEV is powered by a 60 AH battery that delivers an EPA rated 81 mile range, with the 94 AH battery variant providing 114 miles of all-electric driving. The i3 REx comes with an engine-generator range extender that enables 97 miles on battery power and an overall range of 180 miles with electricity generated on board. Five additional plug-in hybrids are in BMW’s stable including the sporty i8 ($143,400), 330e $44,100), 530e ($52,950), 740e ($90,700), and X5 xDrive40e ($56,600).
CADILLAC: The short-lived Cadillac ELR extended range electric car, an upscale version of the Chevrolet Volt, was a flash-in-the-pan that illustrated you couldn’t market a high-end – and high priced – plug-in hybrid based on a lower-price Chevy model and get buyers to step up. Cadillac’s answer is its all-new CT6 Plug-In, a luxury model based on its flagship CT6 sedan offering great tech and style. The CT6 plug-in hybrid delivers a 31 mile all-electric range and a 440 miles driving range overall, at a base price of $76,095.
CHEVROLET: GM has the technical prowess to create exceptional electric vehicles, as shown by the acclaimed Chevrolet Volt extended range electric sedan that’s beloved by its owners. The $34,095 Volt provides a 53 mile battery electric range before reverting to electricity created by its on-board engine-generator, for a total range of 420 miles. Chevrolet’s new Bolt EV raises the bar for battery electric cars with an all-electric range of 238 miles before requiring a charge. This all-electric compact crossover is replete with the latest on-board tech and comes in at an MSRP of $37,495.
CHRYSLER: Chrysler was serious about electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles years ago with many concepts and demonstration vehicles, but that faded away as the company focused on getting its finances and mojo back. As part of FCA Group, Chrysler is once again showing its chops with the field’s first-ever plug-in hybrid minivan, the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, much to the delight of families and others who have been waiting for such a breakthrough in this vehicle class. The Pacifica Hybrid drives 33 miles on battery power and 570 miles overall, offering a base price of $41,995.
FIAT: The Fiat 500 is a pint-sized, fun vehicle as a gas-powered model. It’s even more fun in our opinion as an electric. The Fiat 500e is cute, nimble, and delivers 84 all-electric miles of driving. No matter that Fiat Chrysler Automobile’s CEO Sergio Marchionne once said the automaker loses $15,000 on every Fiat 500e sold and wasn’t particularly enthusiastic about that. This automaker is still in the game and 500e fans are a happy bunch because of it. The Fiat 500e features a base price of $32,995.
FORD: Ford is offering the Ford Focus Electric as its sole all-electric vehicle along with two plug-in hybrids. The $29,120 Ford Focus Electric has a range of 115 miles before a recharge is needed. Ford is using its Energi PHEV technology in the CMAX, a five-door, compact multipurpose vehicle and Fusion mid-sized sedan. Energi technology includes a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, 118 horsepower electric motor, and 7.6 kWh lithium-ion battery. The $24,120 CMAX Energi delivers 22 electric miles and an overall driving range of 570 miles, while the $31,120 Fusion Energi drives 22 miles on battery power with a total range of 610 miles.
HONDA: The 2017 Honda Clarity was launched first as a hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle in California and is being joined by battery electric and plug-in hybrid variants this year. The Clarity Electric will drive 80 miles on batter power and initially be available in California and Oregon only, while the Clarity Plug-In Hybrid is expected to be available in all 50 states. These electrified sedans seat five, are quite spacious, and loaded with connected tech and an array of driver-assist systems. The Electric will be leased at $269 per month for 36 months, with $1,730 down (this folds the federal tax credit into the lease terms). The Clarity Plug-In is expected to deliver an electric-only range of 42 miles with an overall driving range of 330 miles. Honda has not yet announced a price for the Plug-In.
HYUNDAI: Hyundai’s all-new Ioniq comes in hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and battery electric choices. At an MSRP of $29,500, the battery electric version features a 124 mile range and an EPA estimated 136 MPGe. It will be available exclusively in California. The plug-in hybrid coming this fall is expected to provide an estimated all-electric range of about 25 miles and hybrid power will take it hundreds of miles past that, although overall range specifics and pricing have not yet been announced. Hyundai’s $34,600 Sonata Plug-in Hybrid, which delivers 27 miles of range on battery power and 590 miles overall, is sold at Hyundai dealerships in 10 states and can be custom ordered elsewhere.
KARMA: Karma Automotive, a new company owned by China’s Wanxiang Group, has revived the defunct Fisker Karma extended range electric car of five years ago and is now manufacturing it in Southern California. Now called the Karma Revero, this grand touring car retains the original’s breathtaking design with some tweaks and benefits from significant technology upgrades and luxury appointments. It’s built on a lightweight aluminum spaceframe and powered by two high-power electric motors energized by lithium-ion batteries, delivering a 0-60 mph sprint in 5.4 seconds. The car drives 50 miles on batteries alone and about 300 miles on electricity generated on board by its 2.0-liter engine-generator. The Revero’s price of entry is $130,000.
KIA: Kia’s plug-in offerings include the boxy, battery-powered Soul Electric that’s been around for a number of years and the more mainstream Optima Plug-In Hybrid sedan. The plug-in Optima variant was missing from the new-generation Optima launch in 2016 but happily arrived with new technology for 2017, at a base price of $35,210. It offers 29 electric miles of driving and 610 miles overall range. The Soul Electric features a 93 mile battery electric range. Coming is the Kia Niro plug-in hybrid, a compact SUV that will join the new Niro lineup in 2018.
MERCEDES-BENZ: Mercedes-Benz is serious about high-efficiency electrics. The automaker is planning at least 10 new plug-in hybrid models with the aim of electrifying nearly all vehicles in its model lineup. Presently available plug-ins in the U.S. market include the B250e electric five-door hatchback, which features a driving range of 87 miles and a base price of $39,900. Plug-in hybrids this year include the $46,415 C350e and $96,600 S550e sedans, plus the $66,300 GLE550e SUV. Each of these delivers 12 to 14 miles of battery electric driving and a 400 to 460 mile overall range.
MINI: For the first time ever there will be a plug-in hybrid from MINI, the MINI Cooper S E Countryman ALL4. All of the new Countryman variants feature a 1.5-liter 3-cylinder engine. The $36,800 plug-in Countryman adds an 87 horsepower electric motor and 7.6 kWh lithium-ion battery, providing an EPA estimated all-electric range of 12 miles and an overall driving range of 270 miles. The engine drives its front wheels while the electric motor delivers power to the rear axle.
MITSUBISHI: The eggplant-shaped, four-passenger Mitsubishi iMIEV that’s been knocking around since its introduction seven years ago boasts the lowest cost of entry for a mainstream battery electric car in the U.S., at $22,995. It also has the shortest electric driving range at 59 miles, which may fit the needs of some folks but certainly not all. A 66 horsepower motor provides very modest performance. On the plus side, this battery electric model achieves 112 MPGe efficiency.
NISSAN: Nissan’s LEAF is not only the best-selling electric car in the country, but also in the world with some 250,000 examples on the road. Featuring a unique and highly-recognizable design, it delivers a 107 mile driving range and is EPA rated at 112 MPGe. Power is provided by a 107 horsepower electric motor and 30 kWh battery pack located beneath the floor. An ‘eco route’ feature analyzes available battery power and displays charging stations within range.
PORSCHE: When Porsche offers a plug-in hybrid, you know it’s going to be fast. So it is with the automaker’s new Panamera 4 E-Hybrid, which boasts a total system output of 680 horsepower that brings 0 to 60 mph in 3.2 seconds and a top speed of 192 mph. All-electric range is 11 miles with an overall range of 480 miles. Porsche also offers the Cayenne S E-Hybrid that's powered by a 333 horsepower V-6 and 95 horsepower electric motor, a combination that delivers 14 miles of electric driving and an overall 480 mile range.
SMART: The Smart fortwo Electric Drive is an interesting proposition. In general, the Smart has not flourished in the U.S. because the big deal about the Smart is its diminutive physical footprint, a plus in space-impacted European cities but not so much in the wide-open USA. That said, electric drive gives the Smart an environmental edge. It’s powered by a 74 horsepower motor and updated lithium-ion battery pack that reportedly increases electric driving range to 80 miles, up from the previous generation’s 68 mile range. The Smart fortwo Electric Drive comes at a base price of $24,550 with a convertible variant priced at $28,750.
TESLA: Tesla’s Model S luxury sedan, which starts at a base of $69,500 and goes up to $140,000 depending on powertrain and battery, is the longest range battery electric vehicle around. Its base powerplant delivers an electric driving range of 249 miles. The all-wheel drive Tesla Model X SUV starts at $82,500 and delivers 237 electric miles, topping out at $145,000. Powertrain options bring additional range. Tesla’s Model 3, which begins production this month and will be on sale shortly, aims to be the automaker’s first affordable electric at a base cost of $35,000. However, with the Model 3’s large number of preorders it’s expected that Tesla will first deliver highly optioned – and more expensive – Model 3 orders well above the $35,000 base cost.
TOYOTA: The Toyota Prius Prime plug-in hybrid can run on its gas engine or motor alone, or a combination of both. This $27,100 plug-in hybrid features a dual-mode generator drive system enabling both the primary drive motor and motor-generator to provide power when maximum acceleration is demanded. An 8.8 kWh lithium-ion battery pack provides 25 miles of all-electric range, while overall range on electric and hybrid power is 640 miles. It achieves an EPA estimated 54 mpg and 133 MPGe while running on battery power. Prius Prime automatically relies more on electric capability in situations where it is more efficient than running the engine.
VOLKSWAGEN: VW has updated its e-Golf electric hatchback with an improved battery, greater range, and additional on-board electronics. It also benefits from styling updates to give it a crisper look. The latest electrified version of VW’s popular hatch offers a more powerful motor that delivers greater horsepower and torque, plus 50 percent greater electric range at 125 miles per charge. That’s a significant improvement in a world where electric range has become an increasingly important market differentiator. Additional updates include VW’s digital and interactive Digital Cockpit with information presented on a 12.3- inch color screen. The e-Golf has a base price of $29,815.
VOLVO: Volvo’s seven passenger, $67,800 XC90 T8 luxury SUV uses a twin engine plug-in hybrid powertrain for power and increased efficiency. It features the automaker’s 316 horsepower, turbocharged and supercharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder Drive-E engine mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. The T8 uses an 82 horsepower electric motor on the rear axle and a lithium-ion battery pack that delivers 14 electric miles, with a total hybrid range of 350 miles. Volvo has other plug-in models in the works including its new S90 luxury sedan.
Space is precious. We buy homes by the square foot, the more square feet in a home, the more expensive the home. Space is so important in a car that if a car manufacturer can find one extra inch of interior room in a car, they will send out a press release. Some companies have put smaller fuel tanks in their cars to give the consumer more interior, or cargo, room. Putting a hydrogen fuel cell in a car takes up a lot of room. Putting a hydrogen fuel cell tank in a big-rig truck makes all the sense in the world.
A quick call to the Port of Los Angeles, California told me that there were somewhere around 20,000 drayage trucks at the port. We did the math and figured out that one drayage truck’s CO2 emissions is equal to 22 units of passenger vehicles. Think about this. If you can change one drayage truck’s emissions it is equal to twenty-two cars worth of emissions! If you change them all, it is like putting 440,000 zero emission vehicles (ZEVs) on the road. On average, a drayage truck’s CO2 emission is 60 tons per year. Any argument you use, the math proves that this is a good idea for reducing emissions.
To this end, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and the Port of Los Angeles will work with Toyota on a feasibility “Project Portal,” a heavy-duty truck project that will begin this summer in the Port of Los Angeles and Long Beach, California. Currently, diesel powered trucks move an average of 19,000 cargo containers in and out of the ports each day. This is precious cargo, retail merchandise that fuels the GDP of America. We will not get rid of trucks, but we can get rid of their emissions. It’s a brilliant application for many reasons.
“As they did with the Prius and the Mirai, Toyota is taking a leap into the future of technology. By bringing this heavy duty, zero emission hydrogen fuel-cell proof of concept truck to the Port, Toyota has planted a flag that we hope many others will follow,” says CARB chairman Mary D. Nichols. “CARB will be following the progress of this feasibility study with interest, as we look to develop the best mix of regulations and incentives to rapidly expand the market for the cleanest, most efficient big trucks to meet the need for dramatic change in the freight sector.”
Diesel-fueled drayage trucks are the behind-the-scenes way you get the products you buy from ocean carriers to retail stores. Those same trucks are the number one source of greenhouse gas emissions and one of the highest sources of criteria pollutants (like NOx, SOx and DPM) according to Christopher Cannon, director of environmental management for the Port of Los Angeles, “If we can find ways to continue to reduce emissions from those vehicles as well as lower those vehicles’ carbon footprint, we think we will really accomplish something.”
It’s a long-term well-to-wheels concept. CARB has already legislated that hydrogen has to be partially produced from renewable sources, making the hydrogen fuel used even cleaner.
Hydrogen is already produced for use in the refinement of oil into gasoline. The beauty of using hydrogen at the port, besides meeting CARB requirements, is that there is plenty of hydrogen in Southern California. Purposefully placing hydrogen filling stations where the fuel cell vehicles reside means there would be less rush to create a hydrogen highway
Toyota used two fuel cell stacks to convert a fully-functioning Kenworth heavy duty truck to run on hydrogen to produce 670 horsepower and 1,325 lb-ft torque. The 12kWh battery is the same battery Toyota uses in its hydrogen fuel cell Mirai sedan. These zero emission vehicles will conduct port drayage operations while emitting nothing but water vapor. Refilling the fuel cell truck with hydrogen takes 20 minutes, and its estimated driving range is more than 200 miles per fill under normal drayage operation.
“Toyota believes that hydrogen fuel cell technology has tremendous potential to become the powertrain of the future,” says Toyota Motor North America executive vice president Bob Carter. “From creating one of the world’s first mass-market fuel cell vehicles to introducing fuel cell buses in Japan, Toyota is a leader in expanding the use of versatile and scalable zero-emission technology. With Project Portal, we’re proud to help explore the societal benefits of a true zero-emission heavy-duty truck platform.”
Project Portal is just one part of Toyota’s ongoing commitments to fuel cell technology and the potential of a hydrogen society. It follows the company’s continued work to expand California’s hydrogen refueling infrastructure, including the recently announced partnership with Shell to increase the number of hydrogen refueling stations in the state.
“Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles play a role in California’s efforts to achieve greenhouse gas emission reduction goals, improve air quality, and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels,” says Janea A. Scott, commissioner of the California Energy Commission. “That’s why the California Energy Commission is investing in the refueling infrastructure needed to support adoption of these vehicles. The Commission applauds Toyota for putting this cutting-edge technology to use in a heavy-duty freight proof of concept. This demo will show how fuel cells can help support the heavy-duty sector’s efforts to increase efficiency, a transition to zero-emission technologies, and increase competitiveness.”
Hyundai’s long-awaited Ioniq is here and fans of the Prius should take note. Long the leader in fuel efficiency, Toyota’s ubiquitous Prius has now been unseated as fuel economy’s top dog by a better looking, more fun-to-drive hatchback from its Korean competitor. Who saw that coming?
Well, Hyundai did since it definitely had the Prius in its sights all through the Ioniq’s development process. How successful has Hyundai been? Consider the mpg figures: The Ioniq Hybrid Blue model has an EPA-estimated 58 MPG combined rating, the highest of any non-plug-in vehicle sold in the country. The Prius Eco delivers 56 combined mpg.
The Ioniq was designed from the beginning to fit the needs of mainstream buyers with very diverse needs. Want a hybrid? Buy the model above starting at $22,200. Battery electric? That’s available as well, at a base of $29,500. And those who prefer the benefits of both electric and hybrid drive can opt for the Ioniq Plug-In Hybrid that’s coming up next, at an as-yet unannounced – but surely competitive – price.
But look, it really isn’t just about fuel economy. High mpg numbers will interest a certain segment of buyers. But there needs to be much more to attract a wide swath of consumers looking for everything from style, comfort, and connectivity to safety, value, and of course efficiency. Delivering all this becomes crucial, especially in an era where gas prices are low enough to make fuel efficiency less important on the car buyer’s checklist than, say, the availability of safety-enhancing driver assist systems or advanced connectivity features.
A recent drive in hybrid and electric Ioniq variants convinced us this new model meets those needs. Both offered a fun-to-drive nature with solid driving dynamics, a comfortable interior, and all the requisite connectivity. Drivers will appreciate the Ioniq’s Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Blue Link capabilities for integrating with their smartphones, plus handy wireless smartphone charging. A high-resolution 7-inch TFT display presents key driver information. The Ioniq’s advanced safety systems include ones helpful every day like lane departure warning, blind spot detection, and rear cross-traffic alert, plus ones you hope are never needed but are there if you do like automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection.
Hyundai’s new do-it-all hatch offers a welcome connection with the driving experience and satisfying performance, characteristics not always adequately delivered by very high mpg vehicles. It’s not a niche car aimed at early adopters or those who want to make an environmental statement. Rather, it’s a stylish, fun to drive, and connected car for the masses that delivers environmental performance as a matter of course. Hyundai’s decision to offer hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and battery electric choices is strategic and will certainly encourage purchase consideration among a wide swath of buyers. The Ioniq will find a ready market because it is the real deal.