The Hummer EV SUV will share key components with the Hummer EV pickup, from its Ultium powertrain platform to the open-air driving experience that comes from its removable Infinity Roof panels. Both the SUV and pickup are being touted as having significant off-roading chops, including the ability to ‘crab walk’ diagonally around trail obstacles thanks to four-wheel steering, and an Extract Mode that utilizes the Hummer’s Adaptive Air Ride suspension to raise the body some 6 inches out of harm’s way.
Because the SUV is shorter than the pickup – overall by about 10 inches and with a wheelbase nearly 9 inches shorter – GMC is promoting it as having ‘best in class off-road proportions.’ Those proportions, combined with its four-wheel-steering capability, do give it a tight turning radius of 35.4 feet, equal to that of the Chevrolet Bolt.
The smaller platform, though, does have a cost: less room for batteries. The Hummer EV SUV’s double-stacked battery pack contains 20 modules, while the Hummer EV pickup has 24. That means, on paper, anyway, the SUV is less powerful. The Edition 1 version of the SUV that will be available at launch is rated at up to 830 horsepower compared to the pickup’s 1,000. Range is shorter, too, at 300 miles compared to the pickup’s 350. Torque remains rated at up to 11,500 lb-ft, a number GM arrived at by multiplying the twisting force through the gear ratios in the Ultium platform’s front and rear drive units.
How Hummer configures that platform will be a key differentiator between Hummer EV SUV models. Edition 1 and 3X models will have three drive units, one to power the front wheels and one each for the rear wheels. The 2X and 2 models will have two drive units, one up front and one at the rear. The 2 will also have 16 instead of 20 battery modules, lower power output, and shorter range, but will be priced accordingly – 79,995 compared to $105,595 for the Edition 1.
Adding the Extreme Off-Road Package to an Edition 1 raises its MSRP by $10,000, for which the Hummer buyer receives 35-inch Goodyear Wrangler Territory tires on 18-inch wheels (22s are standard). Also provided are underbody armor and rock sliders, front and rear lockers, heavy-duty half-shafts, and the UltraVision camera system that provides up to 17 views around the vehicle to see the surrounding terrain, including under the body, in real time.
Those UltraVision images are among the infotainment channels broadcast on a 13.4-inch high-def touchscreen positioned between the driver and passenger. In front of the driver is another 12.3-inch information screen. GMC promises Hummer occupants a ‘multisensory, immersive experience’ with customizable features that can tailor not just the sound through the Bose entertainment system and the feel through the haptic driver’s seat, but also the SUV’s steering, suspension, and acceleration response. The center screen can also be used with an updated version of the myGMC mobile phone app to show satellite-rendered trail maps for navigating off-road. The revised app also tracks real-time energy consumption and can find local charging stations.
On the subject of charging, an optional Power Station generator can be used not just to charge personal devices and power recreational gear, but has the power (240v/25A/6kW) to charge other electric vehicles.
The low-floor, skateboard-like Ultium drivetrain platform has one other advantage: It affords several gear storage options. Folding the SUV’s rear seat flat and opening the powered tailgate reveals nearly 82 cubic feet of cargo space, more than GMC’s Acadia SUV with its second and third row seats folded. There is additional storage space hidden beneath the load floor and more in the Hummer’s front trunk.
GMC expects to launch the Hummer EV SUV in Edition 1 form in early 2023. It will be followed by 3X and 2X models in the spring of ’23, and the base 2 model in spring ’24.
The efficient plug-in hybrid variant of BMW’s third-generation X3 premium compact crossover, the X3 xDrive30e shares drivetrain components, technology, and driving characteristics with the automaker’s 330e plug-in sports sedan. Manufactured in Spartanburg North Carolina on BMW’s refreshed cluster architecture (CLAR) platform, the X3 x30e PHEV blends the efficiency of a hybrid powertrain, super low emissions, and instantaneous low to midrange torque for a spirited drive experience.
Motivation comes from BMW’s 2.0-liter direct injected, turbocharged 4-cylinder engine paired with a 107 horsepower electric motor. The result is 288 total combined horsepower and 310 lb-ft torque that provides a zero to 60 mpg sprint in 5.9 seconds. Fuel efficiency is EPA rated at 60 MPGe while driving on battery power, with a combined city/highway rating of 24 mpg on gasoline. It features an overall driving range of 340 miles on 13.2 gallons of gas plus 18 miles on battery power.
A frame-cradled, air-cooled 12.0 kWh lithium-ion battery supplies energy to the motor. Charging is via an on-board 3.7 kWh charger. Charge time is 3.5 to 6 hours depending on source. Gear shifting is delegated to the time-tested ZF 8-speed Sport Automatic transmission featuring sport and manual shift modes, steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, and launch control. All-weather traction is enabled by BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive.
The 5-passenger compact SUV features a driver-centric cockpit layout with premium materials like Sensatec upholstery, dark oak wood trim inlays, and quality hard and soft touch surfaces. Front seats feature 10-way power adjustment, with the rear offering 40/20/40 split and fold-down functionality with adjustable seat backs for passenger comfort. A 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and 10.25-inch center information display provide information and controls, along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.
Standard equipment includes ‘smart key’ recognition and personal settings memory, a futuristic yet comprehensive electric drive monitor, remaining electric-only range minder, and navigation-controlled chassis efficiency monitoring. The latest in driver assist and active safety technology is offered. Rounding out this very comprehensive package are voice-activated commands, integrated navigation, optional 360-degree surround camera, premium audio, and automatic three-zone climate control. A two-way power glass moonroof is optional.
All this comes at a base price of $49,600, about $6,600 more than the conventionally-powered X3 xDrive 30i.
The 2021 introduction of the e-tron Sportback now adds a second all-electric model to Audi’s stable of electrified vehicles, contributing to the automaker’s corporate goal of electrifying 30 percent of its U.S. model lineup by 2025. The e-tron Sportback is a crossover SUV like the standard e-tron, but with a coupe-like four-door body influenced by the shape of the A7 Sportback sedan. Despite the steep pitch of the e-tron Sportback’s rear roof, there is ample headroom at all five seating positions.
Mechanically, the 2021 e-tron Sportback benefits from several improvements Audi made to the e-tron powertrain. The e-tron’s quattro all-wheel-drive system is powered via asynchronous electric motors on the front and rear e-tron axles. In a new-for-2021 development, only the rear axle provides e-tron Sportback propulsion in most driving conditions to improve efficiency. The front motor is designed to engage instantly in spirited driving and cornering situations or before wheel slip occurs in inclement weather conditions.
Power for the motors is provided by a 95 kWh battery that Audi has configured to use at less than total capacity, thus optimizing battery longevity and repeatable performance. For 2021, e-tron drivers can access 91 percent, or 86.5 kWh, of the battery’s total capacity, up 3 kWh from the previous model. Also new for 2021 are battery charge ports on both sides of the vehicle to enhance charging convenience.
Output for the e-tron Sportback is rated at 355 horsepower and 414 lb-ft torque, though with Boost Mode engaged those numbers rise to 402 horsepower and 490 lb-ft. In Boost Mode, the e-tron Sportback accelerates from 0-60 mph in 5.5 seconds. EPA rates the e-tron Sportback’s efficiency at 76 city and 78 highway MPGe, and 77 combined, with driving range of 218 miles. The e-tron Sportback’s regenerative braking system is designed to recoup energy from both motors during coasting and braking. Steering wheel paddles control the amount of coasting recuperation in three stages.
The e-tron Sportback is equipped with 20-inch wheels and adaptive air suspension as standard equipment. Standard driver assistance systems include Audi pre sense basic, side assist with rear cross-traffic assist, and active lane-departure warning. Among the features on the e-tron Sportback’s MMI touch screen system is a map estimating where the SUV can travel given its current state of charge, plus suggested charging station locations along the route. Amazon Alexa is integrated into the e-tron Sportback’s MMI system, and a subscription service provides access to news, music, audiobooks, and control of Alexa-enabled devices from the SUV’s steering wheel.
With a cost of entry at $69,100, the e-tron Sportback’s pricing is solidly in the midst of its competitors in the luxury electric vehicle field, like the Jaguar I-Pace and Polestar 2.
It’s no surprise that the move toward electrics is also being driven by growing consumer interest in vehicles that address the challenges of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. Those who don’t see this this transition aren’t paying attention. However, taking this as a sign that the imminent end of the internal combustion vehicle is upon us assumes too much. The numbers and trends do not bear this out.
While our focus here is on all ‘greener’ vehicles offering lower emissions, higher efficiency, and greater environmental performance, we give significant focus to electrification on GreenCarJournal.com because, to a large degree, this represents our driving future. There are many electrified vehicles now on the market that have met with notable success, particularly gasoline-electric hybrids. In fact, hybrids have become so mainstream after 20 years that most people don’t look at them differently. They simply embrace these vehicles as a normal part of their daily lives, enjoying a familiar driving experience as their hybrids deliver higher fuel efficiency and fewer carbon emissions.
Less transparent are electric vehicles of all types because they have a plug, something that’s not familiar to most drivers. This includes plug-in hybrids that really are seamless since they offer both electric and internal combustion drive. The challenge is especially pronounced for all-electric vehicles that drive exclusively on batteries.
A recent survey of consumers and industry experts by JD Power underscores this. Even as the overall survey indicated most respondents had neutral confidence in battery electric vehicles, many said their prospect for buying an electric vehicle was low. They also had concerns about the reliability of battery electric vehicles compared to conventionally powered models. Clearly, there’s work to be done in educating people about electric vehicles, and it will take time.
Overall, automakers do a good job of providing media with the latest information on their electrification efforts, new electric models, and electrified vehicles under development. That’s why you’ll read so much about electric vehicles in mainstream media and learn about them on the news.
What’s less evident is that consumers truly learn what they need to know about plug-in vehicles at new car showrooms. Car dealerships are critical even in an era where online car buying is starting to gain traction. Showrooms are still where the vast majority of new car buyers shop for their next car, and the influence salespeople have on a consumer’s purchase decision is huge.
The JD Power study illustrates consumers’ lack of understanding about the reliability of electric vehicles…even though reliability is a given since electrics have far fewer moving parts to wear and break than conventional vehicles. Dealer showrooms can help resolve this lack of understanding with readily-available materials about electric car ownership, a sales force willing to present ‘green’ options to conventional vehicles, plus adequate stock of electrified vehicles – hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and battery electric – to test drive.
Sales trends tell us that conventional internal combustion vehicles will represent the majority of new car sales for quite some time. More efficient electrified vehicles will continue to make inroads, but not at the pace many would like, even at a time when greater numbers of electric models are coming to market. In the absence of forward-thinking dealerships willing to invest in change, an enthusiastic sales force eager to share the benefits of electrics, and auto manufacturers willing to incentivize dealers to sell electric, this promises to be a long road. It’s time to change this dynamic.
We’ve been driving Mitsubishi’s Outlander PHEV for 6,000 miles now as part of an ongoing experience with this long-term test vehicle. Over the months, our plug-in hybrid crossover has served as a daily commuter as well as our go-to ride for quick weekend getaways and the occasional longer trip. This time, we decided to see what it’s like to be behind the wheel on a genuine road trip for a solid week, from our offices on California’s Central Coast to the southern reaches of Washington State.
First, let’s say this: The capabilities of the Outlander PHEV plug-in hybrid – Green Car Journal’s 2019 Green SUV of the Year™ – lend a sense of confidence. We knew that we could charge the Outlander’s batteries when desired and convenient to gain about 22 miles of all-electric range during our travels, a nice plus. But we were also aware that taking the time for charging wasn’t necessary. This crossover’s EPA-rated hybrid range of 310 miles would be plenty to get us where we wanted to go, without hesitation or delays. That’s an important thing when packing a few thousand miles of combined day and late-night driving into a seven day period.
Our trip began by heading northbound from San Luis Obispo, California on US-101, where we crested the Cuesta Grade and continued toward the busy San Francisco Bay corridor three hours ahead. We were hoping an early departure would allow avoiding the unpredictable traffic there. Success! It turns out that late morning near the Bay Area provides a decent travel window with reasonably free-flowing traffic. Then it was onward toward Oregon on US-101, transitioning to I-680 and I-505 and ultimately the long stretch of I-5 that would take us to Washington State.
Since this was a road trip, adventure is built into the journey. That means if something interesting presents itself along the way, we may just stop to check it out. Sure enough, this happened less than an hour north of Sacramento, where a series of highway billboards enticed travelers to stop at Granzella’s Restaurant in Williams, a sleepy, postage-stamp-size of a city that’s home to about 5,000 people. It was lunchtime, so why not?
We found plenty of cars in Granzella's parking lot but also no wait inside. Food choices here are plentiful, with options for ordering from a fully-stocked deli or sitting down for a home-style meal in their restaurant. Being traveler-oriented, Granzella’s encourages you to wander around inside, checking out their sports bar, wine room, coffee bar, and olive room, plus of course the array of gifts aimed toward travelers. There’s also a separate Granzella’s Gourmet & Gifts store across the street and Granzella’s Inn across the way if an overnight stop is needed. We were on a tight time schedule, so it was back on I-5 for another 550 miles of road time before our anticipated arrival in Vancouver.
Daily experience in a long-term test car lends a thorough sense of what it's like to live with a vehicle, offering an opportunity to fully experience its capabilities. Beyond that, longer drives like this allow uninterrupted hours behind the wheel to reflect on a vehicle's features, large and small, that either enhance the driving experience or fall short of expectations.
We can say it is hard to find fault with the Outlander PHEV. This crossover provides a spacious and well-appointed cabin offering very comfortable and supportive seating for long drives, plus plenty of room to store all the stuff needed for long trips. Our considerable time on the road was made all the more pleasant since the Outlander PHEV’s ride is smooth and handling confident, with plenty of power for any driving situation we encountered.
Along the way we made good use of this model’s Apple CarPlay capability. Of course, driver assist systems like adaptive cruise control, forward collision mitigation, blind spot warning with lane change assist, rear cross traffic alert, and rear-view camera enhanced the driving experience and sense of safety. Its heated steering wheel is a real plus. While always handy, we really came to appreciate this crossover’s retractable cargo cover that kept things out of sight and more secure while parked at restaurants and hotels during our week on the road. We also made use of its convenient power lift gate multiple times every day.
The Outlander PHEV’s total driving range of 310 miles is well-suited to longer trips like this. Range is something we rarely think about on a daily basis since our everyday driving is typically less than 20 miles, so often enough we’re driving on battery power and there’s no need for gas at all. When we do drive farther to nearby cities, the Outlander PHEV seamlessly transitions from electric to hybrid power once the battery is depleted. There is no range anxiety because we can travel as far as needed on gasoline. Back in the garage, we charge again overnight and we’re once again driving on battery power.
It’s worth noting that the Outlander PHEV has a smaller gas tank than the conventionally-powered Outlander, 11.3 versus 16.6 gallons, resulting in less overall driving range than the conventional gas model. This is due to design changes for accommodating this PHEV’s 12 kWh lithium-ion battery pack and other PHEV drivetrain components. Packaging the vehicle’s electric componentry in this way means the battery and other necessary equipment do not infringe on passenger or cargo space, something that’s bothered us for years in some other electrified models. So, all things considered, we’re good with trading some hybrid range for additional roominess, especially since refueling at a gas station is quick and easy.
Speaking of ‘refueling,’ there was the potential for quickly charging at an array of public fast charge locations during our drive. A growing number of Level 3 charging opportunities are located along major routes in California and other states, and the Outlander PHEV is capable of CHAdeMO DC fast charging to 80 percent battery capacity in 20 minutes. We didn’t feel the need on this trip, though we have done this at other times.
That said, charging at the Level 2 charger at our hotel in Vancouver, the Heathman Lodge, was a real plus. Once we arrived in Washington, we plugged in several times to get an overnight charge and enjoyed our no-cost electric drives around town. During these drives the Outlander PHEV motors along on zero-emission battery power at an EPA estimated 74 MPGe.
Driving through Northern California and the Pacific Northwest, there’s no denying you’ll find some pretty incredible scenery ranging from mountain ranges, imposing dormant volcanoes, and awe-inspiring redwood forests to scenic coastlines, rivers, and lakes. You will also find an obsession with the mythical Bigfoot. Suffice it to say there will be plenty of places to stop with ‘Bigfoot’ included in their theme, and lots of opportunities to buy souvenirs. As a side note, we did an ‘On the Trail of Bigfoot’ road trip adventure and article several decades back, so this definitely brought a smile to our face.
Along our drive we had the opportunity to visit cities large and small, drive through a redwood tree, take in scenic coastal areas in Oregon like Newport and Lincoln City, and in general enjoy the benefits of a real road trip. Of course, there were stops at roadside fruit stands, interesting eateries, and places with character that simply called to us for a closer look. Photo ops were abundant.
During our trip we came to truly understand why Mitsubishi’s Outlander PHEV is the world's best-selling plug-in hybrid vehicle. Taking advantage of technology development and learnings from this automaker’s earlier i-MiEV electric vehicle program, the Outlander PHEV combines advanced parallel and series hybrid drive, along with Mitsubishi’s Super All-Wheel Control system technology developed through Mitsubishi's Lancer Evolution. Plus, for those with the need, the Outlander PHEV can tow 1500 pounds.
This is one high-tech crossover, offered at a surprisingly affordable entry price point of $36,095, considering the cost of competitive crossover SUVs with similar capabilities at tens of thousands of dollars more. It features efficient hybrid power that integrates a 2.0-liter gasoline engine and generator along with a pair of high-performance electric motors, one up front and one at the rear.
The Outlander PHEV operates in three modes automatically chosen by the vehicle's control system to optimize efficiency and performance. In Series Hybrid mode the electric motors drive the vehicle with the engine augmenting battery power and generating electricity to power the motors. Electrical energy is also delivered to the battery pack. The 2.0-liter engine assists with mechanical power at times when quick acceleration or hill climbing are needed.
Parallel Hybrid mode finds the gasoline engine driving the front wheels with the two electric motors adding additional power as required. The engine also charges the battery pack in Parallel Hybrid mode under certain driving conditions.
Then there’s all-electric driving solely on batteries, selectable with an ‘EV’ control on the center console. We have found EV mode ideal for around-town travel or regional drives near our offices, and in fact we’ve noted no discernable difference when driving in all-electric or hybrid modes.
While regenerative braking in all modes is done automatically with the vehicle feeding electricity back to the battery pack during coast-down, there’s the added advantage of controlling how aggressively regen works. This capability is controlled through six levels of regenerative braking selectable by convenient steering wheel paddles, with one mode allowing coasting for blocks.
The Outlander PHEV proved to be an exceptional vehicle for our Pacific Northwest adventures, offering everything we could want in a long-distance cruiser. With our road trip adventure now a pleasant memory, we’re looking forward to our continuing daily drives and explorations in our long-term Outlander PHEV test vehicle over the coming months.
Green Car Journal recently experienced driving what Toyota proudly says is its greatest Camry Hybrid achievement to date. The rather posh, redesigned Camry Hybrid approaches the combined fuel efficiency of Toyota’s Prius, with the Camry HV LE + achieving 53 highway and 51 city mpg while comfortably seating five adults. Yet, there’s much more to this efficient Camry model than initially meets the eye. Hybrid or not, this variant arguably delivers the best overall drive and ride experience in the 2018 Toyota Camry lineup.
In today’s highly scrutinized auto market, nothing is more important to the successful launch of a new car than its visual first impression, followed by a satisfying walk-around and driving experience. Toyota’s all-new 2018 Camry Hybrid accomplishes all these, presenting a very refined and well-designed package with an intuitive driver-to-car interface, enveloped in a sporty body design that rivals many European offerings. Happily, it’s also a kick to drive!
During our recent test drive, the Camry was virtually silent as we exited the driveway in electric-only mode, exhibiting that quiet, electric-only drive characteristic that some modern hybrids do so well. This is one of them. As the Camry’s four-cylinder gasoline engine kicked in, we pushed the accelerator aggressively and launched onto the two-lane, finding the combined gasoline-electric horsepower and torque impressive, and the interior quiet.
The 2018 Camry Hybrid produces impressive combined torque and horsepower while sipping gasoline, thus reducing emissions. Its drivetrain technology is borrowed from the Prius and does an excellent job of presenting V-6-like torque while achieving four-cylinder fuel efficiency
Featuring MacPherson struts up front with a redesigned and much-improved double wishbone suspension at the rear, this four-door, five-place sedan is quick off the line and handles with the best of the segment.
One forgets it’s a hybrid being driven within minutes of taking the wheel. In fact, having just exited the 306 horsepower Camry XLE moments earlier, Toyota’s mainstream hybrid sedan surprisingly delivers just as dynamic a driving experience as the high-output V-6 XLE.
Acceleration is seamless thanks to the Camry Hybrid’s redesigned, electronically-controlled continuously variable transmission (ECVT). Sequential shift mode allows for a select-shift feel, plus there’s a choice of four drive modes to tailor the driving experience. Braking and steering provide a natural feeling. We like the feel of the hybrid thanks to a lower center of gravity facilitated by positioning the Camry Hybrid’s higher density, compact battery module below the second row seat. This battery placement does not impede the function of the Camry’s 40/60 split and fold-down rear seat, affording unobstructed access to a rather spacious and well-finished trunk, a first for hybrids of this type in the auto industry.
From where we sit, Toyota borrowed a design cue or two from its upscale Lexus brethren, sized it down a tad, and injected it into the most visually-dynamic Camry offering to date. In the case of the 2018 Camry Hybrid, at a base MSRP of $27,800 you get a car that drives as good as it looks. Kudos to Toyota since that's not an easy accomplishment in the bread-and-butter mid-size car segment that’s historically driven by cost effective, price-sensitive, and fuel efficient imperatives.
Toyota’s 2017 Prius Prime aims to fill the needs of drivers who love the efficiency of the ubiquitous Prius but want the added benefit of a plug. As is the case with most hybrids, all-electric drive in the conventional Prius hybrid is limited to very short stretches with light pressure on the accelerator, otherwise it’s running on gasoline-electric hybrid power. The Prius Prime changes this with truly usable battery electric range before resorting back to hybrid propulsion.
Prime is a significant advance for Toyota as the company seeks to establish the highest conceivable standard for a plug-in hybrid, all packaged in edgy sci-fi styling. Think Blade Runner and you’re not far off, but in a clean Zen environment. Three distinct models of the Prius Prime are offered to fit varying tastes, including the Prime Plus at $27,100, the Prime Premium at $28,800, and the Prime Advanced at $33,100.
All Prime models share their silhouette with the Prius Hatchback but with unique front and rear end treatments. Prime is also 6.5 inches longer and just a bit lower and wider than the standard Prius model. To achieve increased front and rear head room, engineers lowered placement of the gasoline engine, electric motor, and seats. An additional benefit Toyota designers targeted was slippery aerodynamics, which they achieved with a coefficient of drag of just 0.25 – lower than most sports cars. Less wind resistance is an important element in achieving Prime’s exceptional fuel efficiency of 54 combined mpg as a hybrid and 133 MPGe when running on battery power. With an estimated driving range of 640 miles, Prime will outrun most anything for distance. EPA estimates an all-electric range of up to 25 miles.
We spent time behind the wheel of a fully-equipped Prime Advanced model on twisty mountain roads and highways to get a feel for Toyota’s new plug-in hybrid. Our test drive included stretches of high speed curves with little traffic, where we found the Prime Advanced doing quite well with good mid-range power while passing on two-lane roads. We’ve driven a friend’s first-generation 2016 Prius Plug-in Hybrid regularly over the past year and found it very efficient, but mundane and cumbersome on our own mountain road. A few fast turns into our drive instilled much more confidence in Toyota’s latest plug-in hybrid as we continued increasing our speed in turns.
The Prime’s major improvement in handling stems from a much more grounded feeling in turns, a nod to the Prime’s use of independent McPherson strut front suspension and double-wishbone rear suspension, with stabilizer bars front and rear. This is what some of the better-handling sports car utilize for their superior driving characteristics. Another significant change to enhance handling was moving the car’s 287 pound lithium-ion battery to the rear, with the weight transfer making a big difference in balanced handling. The only thing that holds you back from driving faster is the squeal of tires that are primarily designed for fuel economy.
Prime uses all-season P195/65/R15 tires mounted on 6.5J X 15 inch 5-spoke aluminum wheels. There are no optional wheel or tire choices and no spare. For tire repairs there is a repair kit and three years of 24-hour roadside assistance at no charge. Prime’s basic warranty is 36 month/36,000 miles with an additional 60 months covering the powertrain, with no mileage limitations. Hybrid-related components including the HV battery and modules are covered for 8 years/100,000 miles.
Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive powers all Prius Prime models using a dual motor drive. This dual motor capability did not come with the addition of a second drive motor, but rather repurposing the drivetrain’s motor-generator (MG1) for additional use. In this configuration, a one-way clutch engages both MG1 and the car’s primary electric drive motor (MG2) for motive force, the first time MG1 has been used in this way. During deceleration, regenerative braking recaptures electrical energy through MG1 and stores this energy in the battery for later use. Energy is supplied to the motors via an 8.8 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. The gasoline engine used in this hybrid powertrain is a 1.8 liter, 95 horsepower Atkinson-cycle four- cylinder. Combined, the engine and motors deliver 121 net system horsepower.
For some, the best new feature will be changes in charging requirements. While the Prime’s 8.8kWh battery delivers over double the energy of the previous Prius Plug-In’s battery pack, no special wall charger is needed. Just plug it into a standard 120-volt household outlet and in less than 5 1/2 hours you’ll have a full charge. Toyota recommends a dedicated 15A GF1 outlet for this. Faster charging in under two hours is achieved using a public charger or a 240-volt home charger, if desired. Prius Prime apps can manage charging, locate charge stations, set climate control, and handle numerous other functions that take advantage of the Prius Prime’s connected capabilities.
Different operating modes can be selected. EV Auto Mode will automatically rely on electric capability in urban driving and during short trips. Under certain driving conditions such as negotiating steep hills, Prime’s gas engine will kick in to provide additional power. Selecting Hybrid Mode uses the gas engine for primary drive force with supplemental power from the electric motor. Power is transmitted via a planetary-type continuously variable transmission.
The most distinctive styling elements of Prime are its quad LED headlights that give this car its futurist look. These automatically adjust brightness to its environment and oncoming cars. Without a doubt, a Prime will always be readily identifiable at night given its full-width LED rear light panel that follows the shape of the double-wave rear window and spoiler. In fact, the first time you see a Prime on the road at night an immediate impression might be that of a new Lamborghini…the taillights have that kind of styling impact.
Contributing to the Prius Prime’s overall light weight of 3,375 pounds is a rear hatch made from carbon fiber. This superior strength material is usually only found on exotic or race cars due to its expense. In this application it is used for lightweighting purposes and to make opening and closing the hatch effortless. Rear visibility is enhanced by a full-width glass panel and standard backup camera.
All Prime models feature a four-seat layout with a center console front and rear, with 60/40 folding rear seats. The front console has a handy wireless charging pad for Q-i compatible devices. Auxiliary 12-volt power outlets are provided up front and in the rear, with a USB 2.0 port for iPod connectivity and control standard. The shiny white plastic used for the console has a Star Wars trooper look to it and may be too bright for some tastes. A 4.2-inch gauge panel mounted above the dash is considerably easier to read in daylight than that of the previous model. A heads-up display is available.
The most obvious interior feature is Prime’s optional 11.6-inch tablet-like HD multimedia screen that’s mounted vertically in Premium and Advanced models. A standard Entune multimedia system provides audio, navigation, and an App Suite. Suffice to say if it’s on the market, Prime has bundled it...unless you want to play CDs. Apparently there is no place for CDs in the future. Audiophiles will be particularly pleased with the Prime Advanced model since it includes JBL audio with 10 speakers and delivers an exceptional concert hall experience.
For those who find parking a challenge there’s the Advanced model’s included Intelligent Clearance Sonar (ICS) with Intelligent Parking Assist (IPA). Once selected, the system’s sonar sizes up an available parking space and reverses the car into the space. Perpendicular spaces are also negotiated, plus it will also steer you out of a parallel spot.
The Prime's Safety Sense P list of standard safety features is as impressive as it is extensive. Prime bundles a Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection and Automatic Braking, Lane Departure Alert and Steering Assist, Full-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control with full stop technology, and Auto High Beams. The Advanced model adds Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Cross Traffic Alert. Also, there are eight airbags for additional driver and passenger safety.
Toyota is out to raise the standard by which plug-in hybrids are measured. They have done so with the Prius Prime by adding leading edge technology systems coupled to a powertrain that is a marvel of efficiency. Factoring in a price reduction in the thousands from the earlier generation Prius plug-in and an expanded 25 mile battery-only driving range, this Toyota model certainly holds appeal for Toyota Prius fans and new converts to a plug-in hybrid society.
BMW’s 330e iPerformance sedan adds yet another level of refinement to this automaker’s popular 3 Series along with a healthy dose of environmental acumen. The 330e plug-in hybrid combines a 184 horsepower TwinPower Turbo four-cylinder with a 76 horsepower electric motor to not only enable all-electric driving, but also some pumped-up performance. The combination delivers a total 252 horsepower and 310 lb-ft peak torque for short bursts to provide the kind of performance expected of a larger engine. Even though batteries make the 330e about 500 pounds heavier than the 320i, it accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in just 6.1 seconds compared to the conventionally powered 320i’s 7.3 second sprint. Power is delivered to the rear wheels via an eight-speed Steptronic automatic transmission.
The 330e’s 7.6 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery is located beneath the trunk floor to minimize impact on trunk capacity. Positioning batteries here also results in an ideal 50/50 front-to-rear weight ratio. Charging the batteries is handled via a chargeport located on the driver’s side front fender. Here, An LED light ring provides information regarding charge status. Charging takes about two to three hours when connected to an optional 240-volt BMW i Wallbox charger at home or to a public Level II charger. Alternatively, the 330e can be plugged into a standard 120-volt wall socket to charge up in less than seven hours.
Multiple driver-selectable settings enable tailoring the 330’s responsiveness and efficiency. A Driving Experience Control on the center console offers Sport, Comfort, and Eco Pro modes, while an eDrive button also allows for three modes for electric driving including Auto eDrive, Max eDrive, and Save Battery. Depending on setting, the 330e can determine the most fuel efficient combination of electric motor and engine power under specific driving conditions, moderate acceleration to conserve energy during low battery periods, or enable all electric driving. When battery power drops below 50 percent, Save Battery foregoes electric power and maintains battery charge while allowing the battery to be charged by the engine. This enables pure electric driving later, for example, in urban areas where zero-emissions are preferred or mandated.
BMW’s 3 Series is an ideal platform for the addition of plug-in hybrid power since this is the brand’s most successful model line, representing about a quarter of the automaker’s worldwide vehicle sales with over 14 million sales globally. The 330e carries on where the standard 3 Series leaves off, adding electrification to a stylish and well-equipped model featuring a driver-centered and accommodating cabin and handsome design.
Of course, the 330e iPerformance is also replete with desired standard and optional on-board electronics. Among these are Forward Collision Warning, City Collision Mitigation, Pedestrian Warning, Lane Departure Warning, and a Driving Assistant system that identifies speed limits and no-passing zone information.
The 2017 BMW 330e is EPA rated at 30 combined mpg and 71 MPGe when driving on battery power, with an all-electric driving range of 12 miles and overall range of 350 miles. It has an MSRP of $44,795 that includes destination and handling.
Chevrolet's second generation 2016 Volt features sportier styling, better performance, and a lighter and more powerful two-motor drive system than the generation that came before it. The five-passenger, extended range electric now drives up to 53 miles on batteries alone, with its 1.5-liter, four-cylinder engine-generator creating electricity to deliver an overall 420 mile range. If range anxiety is one of your concerns with electric cars, that needn’t be even a distant thought here.
These are just a few of the many reasons why the 2016 Volt won Green Car Journal’s 2016 Green Car of the Year®, and not coincidentally why we’ve been living with the Volt during a year-long extended test to analyze what it’s like to experience this vehicle on a daily basis. After 8500 miles behind the wheel in urban, rural, and open-road driving, we have to say this is about as ideal an electric vehicle as one could want. Really...it's that good. Anyone who says otherwise has not spent enough time in the second-generation Volt.
During early drives, it was obvious that the all-new Volt would fulfill a diversity of missions without breaking a sweat. Typical commutes and drives around town? No problem, zero emissions all the way. A journey of a thousand miles for work or vacation? Also no issues with the Volt’s overall driving range and the benefit of an EPA estimated 106 MPGe when driving on batteries, and 42 combined mpg while operating on electricity from the Volt’s engine-generator.
While our Volt is typically used for daily zero-emission commuting duty, we’ve now pressed it into service on many extended road trips over the 8,500 miles it’s been in our long-term test fleet. Green Car Journal editors have found it an ideal vehicle for all possible uses.
The 2016 Volt is a pleasure to drive and exhibits satisfying levels of acceleration in both battery and extended-range modes. It’s loaded with advanced electronics and features most desired by drivers today. Among our favorite features is this electric’s adaptive cruise control that keeps pace with the car ahead, a feature used often on shorter hops on the interstate and always during extended journeys. Regen-on-Demand, first used in the Cadillac ELR, is a welcome addition that adds to driving fun and efficiency. Squeezing a steering-wheel paddle instantly engages aggressive regenerative braking that slows the car and generates electricity for the battery, while releasing the paddle immediately returns a normal driving state. Normal regenerative braking always works in the background.
Chevrolet did all this with the 2016 Volt, and more, at an entry point of $33,170 that goes considerably lower with federal and state incentives. We’ll be taking this one out from the test fleet every opportunity we get.
Chevrolet’s milestone Bolt EV will be coming to showrooms in late 2016 as a 2017 model, representing the first truly affordable battery electric vehicle with a sought-after 200 mile driving range. This is a big win for Chevrolet since the Bolt beats the 200 mile Tesla Model 3 to market, likely by a long shot. Unlike the Chevy Spark EV, an adaptation of a gasoline-powered model that’s been available in select markets since 2013, the Bolt EV was designed from the ground-up as an electric vehicle. Thus, there are no compromises along the way.
The heart of the Bolt EV is a nickel-rich lithium-ion battery pack developed with LG Electronics. The 200 mile range provided by this pack is about twice that of competitive EVs now on the market. New battery chemistry delivers desired levels of power, in this case 160 kW, and energy of 60 kWh. The chemistry also provides improved thermal performance that requires a smaller active thermal conditioning system to keep the battery operating at its optimum temperature, delivering longer battery life and maintaining peak performance under varying climates and driver demands.
The battery pack consists of 288 lithium-ion cells in a configuration that spans the entire floor to maximize interior space. The five-door Bolt EV seats five passengers and has 16.9 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seat. Thin-frame seats enhance rear-seat roominess.
A standard 7.2 kilowatt onboard charger allows overnight charging from a 240 volt wall charger. A typical commute of 50 miles requires a charge of less than two hours. The Bolt also features an optional SAE Combo DC fast charging connector so the battery can be charged to deliver up to 90 miles of range in just 30 minutes at a public fast charger, if one is available.
Electricity is supplied to a 200 horsepower drive motor featuring 266 lb-ft torque that delivers 0-60 mph acceleration under 7 seconds and a top speed of 91 mph. Power delivery is controlled by Chevrolet’s first Electronic Precision Shift system. This shift and park-by-wire system sends electronic signals to the Bolt EV’s drive unit to manage precise feel and delivery of power and torque based on drive mode selection and accelerator inputs. A by-wire shifter requires less packaging space than a traditional mechanical shifter resulting in more interior space and improved interior layout.
Regenerative braking has become more than a means to boost range by recapturing energy. Now it can also can provide an improved EV driving experience. The Bolt EV has a new regenerative braking system that can provide one pedal driving through a combination of increased regenerative deceleration and software controls. When operating in Low mode or by holding the Regen-on-Demand paddle located on the back of the steering wheel, a driver can bring the vehicle to a complete stop under most circumstances by simply lifting their foot off the accelerator. However, the system does not eliminate the need to use the brake pedal altogether. Operating in Drive mode without pulling the paddle while decelerating requires using the brake pedal to stop.
he Bolt EV will offer connectivity and infotainment technologies that seamlessly integrate smartphones and other electronic devices. Low energy Bluetooth, designed specifically for the Bolt EV to minimize energy usage, seamlessly connects a smartphone to the car as an owner approaches the vehicle. Many of the Bolt’s technologies are supported by OnStar 4G LTE, which turns the Bolt EV into a Wi-Fi hotspot that provides easier access to apps and services via a high-speed wireless connection.
Additional connectivity and infotainment features include a 10.2-inch MyLink color touchscreen display, rear camera mirror, and Surround Vision that provides a bird’s-eye view around the Bolt for improved safety during low-speed driving and while parking. An all-new MyChevrolet Mobile App combines important owner and vehicle information and functions including battery charge status, OnStar Map service, remote start, cabin pre-conditioning, owner’s manual information, and dealer service scheduling. EV-specific navigation capability provides routes that maximize range and while identifying nearby charging locations. In the future an accurate driving range projection will be based on the time of day, topography, weather, and an owner’s driving habits.
The Bolt will be built at GM’s Orion, Michigan assembly facility while its battery pack, motor, and drive components will come from Korea. Its price is expected to be $37,500, a figure that dips below $30,000 after full federal tax credits.
Featuring design cues from the iconic VW Microbus, the BUDD-e is VW's first concept vehicle using the all-new Modular Electric Toolkit (MEB) designed specifically for plug-in vehicles. The MEB architecture represents a fundamental change in future electric-powered Volkswagens, from body and interior design to packaging and drive characteristics. An all-electric range of about 230 miles means a vehicle like the BUDD-e could serve a family's primary transportation needs. Options to keep batteries topped off include cordless inductive charging and the ability to be charged to 80 percent in about 30 minutes with an available rapid charger.
BUDD-e is probably more ‘connected’ than any car before it and thus gives a comprehensive look at the future of connectivity with the Internet of Things (IoT). Not only does the car’s completely new infotainment system make traveling more interactive and media more tangible, it also creates a seamless link between the car and the outside world. As an example of connectivity to a Smart Home, a driver or passengers could control air conditioning, turn lights on or off, determine if their kids are at home, or even put the whole house into energy-saving sleep mode. Plus, in the future the BUDD-e will automatically turn on lights in and around the house as soon as the car approaches.
The Toyota RAV4 that emerged an all-new generation SUV in 2013 features a stylish refresh this year with a bolder front fascia, restyled bumpers, and sharper rocker panels. That’s not the big news for 2016, though, because the RAV4 now features an important new addition – the first-ever hybrid powertrain in the RAV4.
While an all-electric RAV4 variant developed with Tesla had previously been offered in limited numbers and markets beginning in 2012 and an earlier generation RAV4 EV was offered in small numbers in the late 1990s, this is a very different scenario. Toyota has priced the RAV4 Hybrid base price aggressively at $28,370 and expects it to represent about 10 to 15 percent of all 2016 RAV4 models sold.
Toyota's two-motor Hybrid Synergy Drive system is used in the 2016 RAV4 Hybrid, the same as in the Lexus NX 300h hybrid crossover. In this application the RAV4 Hybrid comes with Electronic On-Demand AWD-I, making all-wheel-drive standard in the model. Fuel efficiency is rated at 34 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway. Driving range is just over 480 miles.
The RAV4 Hybrid integrates a 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle 4-cylinder gasoline engine and 141 horsepower electric motor to drive the front wheels. A 67 horsepower electric motor provides torque to the rear wheels when the vehicle’s control system senses power is needed. Electrical energy is provided by a nickel-metal-hydride battery pack. An electronically controlled continuously variable transmission is used. Several operating modes are provided. ECO mode favors fuel economy by optimizing throttle response and air conditioning output. EV mode allows the RAV4 Hybrid to run solely on battery power for about a half-mile while traveling below 25 mph.
Inside, more premium features are used this year including soft-touch materials on the dash and door panels and a leather steering wheel. A 4.2-inch TFT multi-information display is included in a revised gauge cluster. The five passenger crossover offers ample room for five adults plus 38.4 cubic feet of cargo capacity behind the rear seats, expanding to 73.4 cubic feet with the 60/40 split rear seats folded. Rear-passenger knee room is enhanced with front seats that feature a slim seat back. The rear seatbacks also recline several degrees for added passenger comfort.
The RAV4 Hybrid is one of the first U.S. models to offer Toyota Safety Sense (TSS), a new multi-feature safety system that includes forward collision warning and automatic pre-collision braking. There is also lane-departure alert, radar-based adaptive cruise control, pedestrian pre-collision warning, and automatic high beams. A new Bird's Eye View Monitor with Perimeter Scan provides a live rotating 360-degree view of the surroundings on a 7-inch touchscreen using four cameras mounted on the front, side mirrors, and rear of the car. Limited models include blind-spot monitors with cross-traffic alerts as well.
The Consumer Electronics Show is a big deal in the consumer electronics industry. With the expanding integration of advanced electronics into cars it has become a high-profile venue for auto manufacturers as well, with automaker CEOs giving keynote addresses and auto press conferences growing in volume. Most of these involve connectivity, autonomous driving, and other advanced on-board systems. But the scope is expanding significantly as CES is growing ever-brighter on the automakers’ radar.
A case in point is Chevy’s move to provide a sneak peek of its all-new 2016 Chevy Volt extended range electric car at 2015 CES. This preempts the official debut of the new Volt at the coming North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit, one of the auto industry’s premier events.
The ‘peek’ was just that – a teaser showing the new Volt’s front end and a bit of the driver’s side, with the rest blocked with purposeful positioning and a strategically placed speaker tower. Still the front end view showed a handsome evolutionary design with the partial profile that could be seen indicating a somewhat smaller model with a redefined roofline and window design. It has been previously disclosed that the 2016 Volt will use a new 1.5-liter engine-generator, a bigger battery pack, and offer additional range.
Mitsubishi has again shown its aptitude for taking on traditional race cars at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in Colorado. Its electric-powered MiEV Evolution III prototype racecars finished first and second in the Electric Vehicle division, with its lead car finishing just 2.4 seconds behind the overall 2014 Pikes Peak race winner, a gasoline-powered Le Mans sports car prototype driven by Romain Dumas.
The winning MiEV was piloted by six-time PPIHC motorcycle champion Greg Tracy with the second-place MiEV driven by two-time Dakar Rally winner Hiroshi Masuoka, who crossed the finish like just over four seconds after Tracy. To his credit, Tracy is the first driver in the event's history to record a sub-10 minute lap time in both two- and four-wheel racing categories.
The electric hub motor has been around for a long time. Ferdinand Porsche’s first automobile in 1898 was the Lohner-Porsche with two electric motors in the front wheel hubs. Initially, electricity was supplied from batteries and later by batteries and a gasoline engine-driven generator, in what is considered the first hybrid electric vehicle. While there has been on-and-off interest in hub drive systems, there are currently two programs underway that could lead to production vehicles within a couple of years.
One of the big challenges has been the substantial unsprung weight that can degrade ride quality and handling. This can be overcome by lighter weight motors and other components that are now available. For example, Ford has shown its Fiesta eWheelDrive prototype developed with Schaeffler Technologies in Germany. The two Schaeffler eWheelDrives are housed within the 16-inch rear wheel rims. Each highly-integrated wheel hub drive contains an electric motor, power electronics, controller, brake system, and liquid cooling system.
Each motor supplies a peak 54 horsepower or 44 horsepower continuous output to a rear wheel. The motor produces 516 lb-ft of torque. The highly-integrated wheel hub drive has a total weight of 117 pounds, only 17.6 pounds more than a conventional wheel including its wheel bearing and brake components.
The Fiesta eWheelDrive installation is just a technology demonstrator. Ford and Schaeffler feel the ideal application is in city cars for use in crowded urban areas with limited parking. Everything, with the exception of batteries, needed to propel and brake the car is located in the wheel. Thus, the space now needed for the engine and transmission or electric motor in an EV can be used for passengers and luggage. Indeed, it could mean a four-person car that takes up no more parking space than a current two-person car. The eWheel- Drive steering system could even allow moving sideways into parking spaces.
Despite its somewhat higher wheel-sprung masses, extensive testing has shown the Fiesta eWheelDrive exhibiting driving behavior equal to a conventional Fiesta in terms of comfort and safety. The two wheel hub drive motors also allow torque vectoring for enhanced maneuverability in tight spaces. Ford, Schaeffler, and other partners plan on producing two more drivable vehicles by 2015.
Protean Electric, based in Britain, has been developing hub drive motors for years and plans volume production of its Protean Drive system in China this year. It showed its in-wheel electric drive system on a BRABUS hybrid vehicle at Auto Shanghai 2013. The BRABUS Hybrid, based on the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, is powered by an internal combustion engine driving a generator and two Protean electric drive motors, one in each of the rear wheels. Protean had also demonstrated Protean Drive in a Vauxhall Vivaro cargo van, Guangzhou Trumpchi sedan, Ford F150 pick-up, and a BRABUS full electric vehicle also based on the Mercedes-Benz E-Class.
The Protean PD18, designed to fit inside an 18 x 18 inch wheel rim, provides 735 lb-ft torque and 100 horsepower. This is a 25 percent increase in peak torque compared with the previous generation design. Thus, it is powerful enough to be the only source of traction drive in electric vehicles. The unit only weighs 68 pounds per motor.
Each Protean Drive has a built-in inverter, control electronics, and software. The design can be used in small- to full-size vehicles including application in current vehicle platforms, retrofits to existing vehicles, or in all new vehicles. Protean says it recoups up to 85 percent of the available kinetic energy during regenerative braking. Compared to other electric vehicle drive systems, in-wheel motors apply regenerative braking directly at each wheel independently, similar to standard friction brakes.
BMW's Concept Active Tourer, a through-the-road plug-in hybrid, uses a front-mounted engine to drive the front wheels and an electric motor to drive the rear, with no mechanical connection between the two. In most hybrids the output of the engine and motor are combined. The Concept Active Tourer is the first additional application of the eDrive system used in the i8, which incorporates an electric motor, lithium-ion battery, and intelligent engine control. BMW will use the eDrive designation for all its electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles.
Like BMW’s latest four- and six-cylinder engines, the BMW Concept Active Tourer’s 1.5-liter three-cylinder gasoline engine uses BMW TwinPower turbo technology. Even though it has only three-cylinders, BMW claims it is very smooth running even at low speeds and emits the sporty sound expected of a BMW.
The synchronous electric motor can power the car for up to 18 miles exclusively on a fully charged battery. It also augments the gasoline engine to provide over 190 horsepower when maximum power is required. BMW expects it will get an impressive 94 mpg, achieved partly through automatic engine start/stop and regenerative braking energy supplied the rear axle during deceleration. A high-voltage generator connected to the 1.5-engine also charges the battery while driving.
BMW’s Concept Active Tourer has an ECO PRO mode to help reduce fuel consumption. When appropriate, it reduces air conditioning and other electrically powered creature comforts to increase fuel efficiency. Linked to the navigation system, ECO PRO mode gives drivers advice on how to reach a destination using minimum fuel. ECO PRO mode also completely shuts off the engine at speeds up to nearly 80 mph, and then decouples the engine from the drivetrain up to 100 mph to make full use of the kinetic energy already generated.
The Efficient Dynamics strategy uses information from the navigation system to optimize electric motor and battery efficiency. For example, it calculates in advance the most suitable driving situations and sections of a route for electric-only operation or to charge the battery. This optimized charging strategy can achieve an energy savings up to 10 percent and thus increase electric range.
While small on the outside, the Tourer is very roomy on the inside. It rides on a long 105 inch wheelbase and has an overall length of 171 inches. A tall roof allows a raised seating position for an excellent all-around view. Batteries are located entirely beneath the floor so there’s no intrusion into passenger or cargo space.
Will the BMW Concept Active Tourer appear in dealer showrooms? BMW has a good track record for putting concept vehicles into production, so here’s hoping.