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2017 Chevrolet Bolt EVChevrolet’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.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EVThe 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.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EVElectricity 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.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EVhe 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.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EVThe 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.

 

todd-kaho-leftDiesel haters seem to be overly anxious to pile-on and shout ‘death to diesels’ these days. It’s human nature to take offense at being fooled and the diesel market certainly is paying the price of the recent emissions scandal. Serious deception took place and it’s far from forgotten, even as corrections are underway or being explored. The green car market is very competitive so it’s not surprising that some supporting alternative transportation technologies are quick to point the finger.

Allen Schaeffer, Executive Director of the Diesel Technology Forum, responded to a story entitled “The Dirty Truth About Clean Diesel” in The New York Times with the following statement, which the Times ran in its Opinion pages. “Here are the facts about diesel straight from the Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board: Clean diesel technology and fuels have reduced particulate matter and nitrogen oxide emissions by more than 98 percent, and sulfur content by 97 percent. The American Lung Association cites clean diesel fleets as one of the two primary reasons for improved air quality in the United States.”

Personally, I’ve owned a diesel powered Ford pickup for many years and its overall capability and economy are simply hard to replace. Consider that nearly every product we touch on a daily basis – from the food on our table to the consumer products we all rely on – are harvested and/or transported by diesel powered trucks, trains, and ships. Diesel is an important part of our infrastructure and without it the cost of all goods and services would certainly increase.

I don’t mind admitting I’m still a fan of advanced diesel. I find it discouraging that just as smaller next-generation diesel passenger vehicles were gaining momentum in the North American market, this distrust has many questioning diesel’s place in the automotive landscape. As far as the driving experience goes, it is tough to beat the satisfying torque that a modern diesel delivers. When combined with advanced transmissions they are quite fun to drive.

With EPA federal rules requiring significantly better fuel economy and lower CO2 emissions by 2025, next-generation diesel should be a key player in achieving these goals. A primary advantage of diesel has always been superior fuel economy. A diesel will generally deliver 30 percent higher fuel economy than a comparable gasoline model. That huge bump in mileage also brings a significant decrease in CO2 emissions.

b20-powerstroke-emblemPlus, it’s important to note that the more advanced diesels on the road, the greater the potential use of even cleaner-burning biodiesel, a renewable diesel fuel replacement that has experienced significant growth over the past decade.

The road back to diesel acceptance will likely come first in the light truck and sport utility vehicle market with more light-duty diesel pickups and luxury SUVs moving forward. Good examples are the recent introduction of the 5.0-liter V-8 Cummins turbo diesel in the new Nissan Titan and 2.8-liter Duramax four-cylinder turbo diesel in the mid-size Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon. Want something a little more exotic? Land Rover and Range Rover are now offering models with their Td6 next-generation diesel, with other automakers also introducing newer, more efficient, and cleaner diesel models as well.

We hope to see lower-priced, high mileage next-generation diesel models in the near future to fill the void in the small car market.

Autodesk VRED Professional 2014 SR1-SP7Featuring 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.

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There’s something almost magical about plugging your car into an outlet at night and waking up to a full ‘tank’ in the morning. There’s no need for a stop at the gas station, ever. Plus, there’s no nagging guilt that the miles metered out by the odometer are counting off one’s contribution toward any societal and environmental ills attendant with fossil fuel use.

This is a feeling experienced during the year Green Car Journal editors drove GM’s remarkable EV1 electric car in the late 1990s. Daily drives in the EV1 were a joy. The car was sleek, high-tech, distinctive, and with the electric motor’s torque coming on from zero rpm, decidedly fast. That’s a potent combination.

ev1-rolling-chassis-1The EV1 is long gone, not because people or companies ‘killed’ it as the so-called documentary Who Killed the Electric Car suggested, but rather because extraordinarily high costs and a challenging business case were its demise. GM lost many tens of thousands of dollars on every EV1 it built, as did other automakers complying with California’s Zero EmissionsVehicle (ZEV) mandate in the 1990s.

Even today, Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne says his company loses $14,000 for every Fiat 500e electric car sold. Combine that with today’s need for an additional $7,500 federal tax credit and up to $6,000 in subsidies from some states to encourage EV purchases, and it’s easy to see why the electric car remains such a challenge.

Fiat 500 BEV

This isn’t to say that electric cars are the wrong idea. On the contrary, they are perceived as important to our driving future, so much so that government, automakers, and their suppliers see electrification as key to meeting mandated 2025 fleet-wide fuel economy requirements and CO2 reduction goals. The problem is that there’s no singular, defined roadmap for getting there because costs, market penetration, and all-important political support are future unknowns.

The advantages of battery electric vehicles are well known – extremely low per-mile operating costs on electricity, less maintenance, at-home fueling, and of course no petroleum use. Add in the many societal incentives available such as solo driving in carpool lanes, preferential parking, and free public charging, and the case for electrics gets even more compelling. If a homeowner’s solar array is offsetting the electricity used to energize a car’s batteries for daily drives, then all the better. This is the ideal scenario for a battery electric car. Of course, things are never this simple, otherwise we would all be driving electric.

Ford Focus ElectricThere remain some very real challenges. Government regulation, not market forces, has largely been driving the development of the modern electric car. This is a good thing or bad, depending upon one’s perspective. The goal is admirable and to some, crucial – to enable driving with zero localized emissions, eliminate CO2 emissions, reduce oil dependence, and drive on an energy source created from diverse resources that can be sustainable. Where’s the downside in that?

Still, new car buyers have not stepped up to buy battery electric cars in expected, or perhaps hoped-for, numbers, especially the million electric vehicles that Washington had set out as its goal by 2015. This is surprising to many since electric vehicle choices have expanded in recent years. However, there are reasons for this.

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Electric cars are often quite expensive in comparison to their gasoline-powered counterparts, although government and manufacturer subsidies can bring these costs down. Importantly, EVs offer less functionality than conventional cars because of limited driving range that averages about 70 to 100 miles before requiring a charge. While this zero-emission range can fit the commuting needs of many two-vehicle households and bring substantial fuel savings, there’s a catch. Factoring future fuel savings into a vehicle purchase decision is simply not intuitive to new car buyers today.

Many drivers who would potentially step up to electric vehicle ownership can’t do so because most electric models are sold only in California or a select number of ‘green’ states where required zero emission vehicle credits are earned. These states also tend to have at least a modest charging infrastructure in place. Manufacturers selling exclusively in these limited markets typically commit to only small build numbers, making these EVs fairly insignificant in influencing electric vehicle market penetration.

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Battery electric vehicles available today include the BMW i3, BMW i8, Chevrolet Spark EV, Fiat 500e, Ford Focus Electric, Honda Fit EV, Kia Soul EV, Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive, Mitsubishi i-MiEV, Nissan LEAF, Smart ForTwo Electric Drive, Tesla Model S, Toyota RAV4 EV, and VW e-Golf. While most aim at limited sales, some like BMW, Nissan, and Tesla market their EVs nationwide. The Honda Fit EV and Toyota RAV4 EV are being phased out. Fleet-focused EVs are also being offered by a small number of independent companies. Other battery electrics are coming.

BMW’s i3 offers buyers an optional two-cylinder gasoline range extender that generates on-board electricity to double this electric car’s battery electric driving range. A growing number of electrified models like the current generation Prius Plug-In and Chevy Volt can also run exclusively on battery power for a more limited number of miles (10-15 for the Prius and up to 40 miles in the Volt), and then drive farther with the aid of a combustion engine or engine-generator. Both will offer greater all-electric driving range when they emerge as all-new 2016 models. Many extended range electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids like these are coming soon from a surprising number of auto manufacturers.

coda-evIt has been an especially tough road for independent or would-be automakers intent on introducing electric vehicles to the market. Well-funded efforts like Coda Automotive failed, as have many lesser ones over the years. Often enough, inventors of electric cars have been innovative and visionary, only to discover that becoming an auto manufacturer is hugely expensive and more challenging than imagined. In many cases their timeline from concept and investment to production and sales becomes so long that before their first cars are produced, mainstream automakers have introduced models far beyond what they were offering, and at lesser cost with an established sales and service network to support them.

A high profile exception is Tesla Motors, the well-funded Silicon Valley automaker that successfully built and sold its $112,000 electric Tesla Roadster, continued its success with the acclaimed $70,000-$100,000+ Model S electric sedan, and will soon deliver its first Tesla Model X electric crossovers. While Tesla has said it would offer the Model X at a price similar to that of the Model S, initial deliveries of the limited Model X Signature Series will cost a reported $132,000-$144,000. It has not yet been announced when lower cost 'standard' Model X examples will begin deliveries to Tesla's sizable customer pre-order list.

tesla-model-sTesla’s challenge is not to prove it can produce compelling battery electric cars, provide remarkable all-electric driving range, or build a wildly enthusiastic – some would say fanatical – customer base. It has done all this. Its challenge is to continue this momentum by developing a full model lineup that includes a promised affordable model for the masses, its Model 3, at a targeted $35,000 price tag. It will be interesting to see if the Model 3 ultimately comes to market at that price point.

This is no easy thing. Battery costs remain very high and, in fact, Tesla previously shared that the Tesla Roadster’s battery pack cost in the vicinity of $30,000. While you can bury the cost of an expensive battery pack in a high-end electric car that costs $70,000 to over $100,000, you can’t do that today in a $35,000 model, at least not one that isn’t manufacturer subsidized and provides the 200+ mile range expected of a Tesla.

tesla-model-xThe company’s answer is a $5 billion ‘Gigafactory’ being built in Nevada that it claims will produce more lithium-ion batteries by 2020 than were produced worldwide in 2013. The company’s publicized goal is to trim battery costs by at least 30 percent to make its $35,000 electric car a reality and support its growing electric car manufacturing. Tesla has said it’s essential that the Gigafactory is in production as the Model 3 begins manufacturing. The billion dollar question is…can they really achieve the ambitious battery and production cost targets to do this over the next few years, or will this path lead to the delays that Tesla previously experienced with the Tesla Roadster, Model S, and Model X?

Tesla is well-underway with its goal of building out a national infrastructure of SuperCharger fast-charge stations along major transportation corridors to enable extended all-electric driving. These allow Tesla vehicles the ability to gain a 50 percent charge in about 20 minutes, although they are not compatible with other EVs. For all others, Bosch is undertaking a limited deployment of its sub-$10,000 DC fast charger that provides an 80 percent charge in 30 minutes. A joint effort by ChargePoint, BMW, and VW also aims to create express charging corridors with fast-charge capability on major routes along both coasts in the U.S.

chargepoint-chargerThe past 25 years have not secured a future for the battery electric car, but things are looking up. The next 10 years are crucial as cost, infrastructure, and consumer acceptance challenges are tackled and hopefully overcome to make affordable, unsubsidized electric cars a mass-market reality. It is a considerable challenge. Clearly, a lot of people are counting on it.

2015 Honda FitThe road to higher efficiency is an appealing one these days and driving a small car is one way to get there. While it’s true that not everyone is in the market for a small car, the appeal grows if small means efficient and highly functional but not constrained or boring.

This is the theme with Honda’s third-generation 2015 Honda Fit, which offers a more aerodynamic look and additional interior space while retaining the previous version's overall physical footprint. Honda designers have clearly gone the extra mile in not only offering a thoroughly modern small car, but innovating ways to bring greater interior functionality than should be expected in this size package.

2015 Honda Fit

Helping achieve this is the Fit's ‘Magic Seat’ rear seat setup that offers four modes for carrying passengers, cargo, or both. In the Utility Mode, it can carry 52 cubic feet of cargo. Fold down the right sides of the rear and front passenger seat in the Long Mode and you can carry items up to 7 feet, 9 inches in length. In the Tall Mode there’s nearly 4 feet of room available top to bottom. Remove the front head restraints, fold back the front seats, and you can relax, or even sleep, in the Refresh Mode.

Beyond this refreshing small car functionality, perhaps the Fit’s most important change is a new and more fuel-efficient powertrain. Its new direct-injected, 1.5-liter, four-cylinder Earth Dreams engine produces 130 horsepower, 13 more than the engine it replaces.

2015 Honda Fit

A six-speed manual transmission is standard, but most will be fitted with a continuously-variable transmission (CVT) that has shift paddles and a Sport mode that provides seven selectable ‘gears’ to increase the fun factor. This CVT comes with Eco Assist and an ECON button for more fuel efficient operation. All models also feature Honda's Eco Coaching function that prompts drivers to achieve maximum fuel economy.

With the 6-speed, the Fit achieves EPA estimated numbers of up to 33 mpg in the city and an impressive 41 mpg on the highway, achieving desirable efficiency with a gasoline engine that only comes with a hybrid in some other models. Not only do drivers save on gas, but also on purchase price since the 2015 Fit offers a base MSRP of just $15,525 that makes this model approachable for most new car buyers.

2015 Honda Fit

2015-green-car-of-the-year-logoOver the 10 year history of Green Car Journal’s Green Car of the Year award program, there has never been a battery electric car that has been compelling enough to be recognized as the best-of-the-best in an ever-expanding field of ‘green’ cars. That has changed with the groundbreaking BMW i3, Green Car Journal’s 2015 Green Car of the Year®.

The BMW i3 came out on top of a field of finalists that included the Audi A3 TDI, Chevrolet Impala Bi-Fuel, Honda Fit, and VW Golf. The array of technologies and fuels represented included high efficiency gasoline, electric drive, clean diesel, and natural gas.

bmw-13-action-rightBMW’s i3 stands out as one of the most innovative vehicles ever to be introduced by any major automaker. It breaks the mold – literally – with a strong and lightweight body using materials and technology at home on the race track, and now used for the first time to construct a mainstream production car. It is a milestone, forward-thinking approach.

Meeting both near-term and far-reaching goals is no easy thing. The challenge is to design and build cars that offer meaningful environmental achievement while delivering the traditional touchstones desired by new car buyers, among them comfort, safety, convenience, connectivity, performance, and value. Also important in the world of advanced vehicles like battery electric cars is a significant commitment to the manufacturing and sale of these vehicles that goes beyond a few thousand units sold in select geographical areas. BMW’s commitment with the i3 is focused not only nationally in the U.S., but globally as well.

bmw-i3-cutawayOffering a lightweight carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) body on an aluminum space frame, BMW’s innovative i3 brings environment-conscious drivers all-electric drive with an optional internal combustion range extender. The most unique aspect of the i3 is the car’s body structure, which incorporates the first-ever use of carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) to form the body and passenger cabin of a mass-production vehicle. CFRP is as strong as steel and 50 percent lighter. It is also 30 percent lighter than aluminum.

This BMW’s drive module includes an electric drivetrain, 5-link rear suspension, and an aluminum structure. Its lithium-ion battery pack is mounted mid-ship beneath the floor. Strategic placement of the 450 pound battery pack and drive components provides a very balanced 50-50 weight distribution to enhance handling and performance.

bmw-i3-dashAcceleration is crisp, with a 0-60 elapsed time of 7.2 seconds provided by an electric motor producing 170 horsepower and 184 lb-ft torque. With a curb weight of just 2,700 pounds, the i3 has is sprightly even at highway speeds. Strong regenerative braking characteristics often allow the i3 to be driven with just the accelerator pedal in city driving. When a driver lets off the accelerator, regen slows the car quickly and allows it to come to a complete stop without touching the brake pedal.

Charging at home with an available 220 volt charger delivers a full charge in about three hours. Where available, public DC fast charging can bring an i3 to 80 percent state-of-charge in 20 minutes and a full charge in 30 minutes. The i3 BEV features an 81 mile EPA estimated range on batteries. The i3 REx, equipped with an internal combustion range extender that creates on-board electricity as needed to help keep batteries charged, features a 72 mile battery driving range and 150 miles total with the range extender.

bmw-i3-chargingEfficiency is a given. EPA rates the i3’s city fuel economy at 137 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent) and 111 MPGe on the highway, with a combined 124 MPGe. For the REx-equipped model, EPA rates mileage at 117 MPGe combined.

The 2015 Green Car of the Year® is selected by a majority vote of an award jury comprised of Green Car Journal staff and invited jurors, including TV personality and car aficionado Jay Leno plus leaders of the nation’s most high-profile environmental and efficiency organizations. These jurors include Jean-Michel Cousteau, president of Ocean Futures Society; Matt Petersen, board member of Global Green USA; Mindy Lubber, President of CERES; Kateri Callahan, President of the Alliance to Save Energy; and Dr. Alan Lloyd, President emeritus of the International Council on Clean Transportation.

bmw-i3-side-doorsThe diversity of new car models at showrooms today reflects an evolving and sophisticated market in which a growing number of new car buyers have decided that environmental performance must meet their needs and expectations, on their terms. As it happens, 2015 Green Car of the Year jurors have clearly decided that this year, the electric BMW i3 does it best.

 

It is an exciting time to be involved with the auto industry, or to be in the market for a new car. The auto industry has responded splendidly to the challenge of new emission, fuel economy, and safety standards. The public is offered a greater than ever selection of vehicles with different powertrains, lightweight materials, hybrids, and electric drive vehicles across many platforms. We see increasing numbers of clean diesel vehicles and natural gas is making a resurgence, especially in the heavy-duty sector.

alan-lloydThe positive response by the auto industry to the ever-tightening pollutant emission and fuel economy standards includes tactics such as the use of aluminum in the Ford F-150 and the increased use of carbon fiber by BMW, among many innovations introduced across many models and drivetrains. These evolutionary changes are a major tribute to the automobile engineers who are wringing out the most they can in efficiency and reduced emissions from gasoline and diesel engines. I view this evolutionary change as necessary, but not sufficient to meet our greenhouse gas goals by 2050.

New car ownership is currently down in Europe and is leveling off in the U.S. For global automotive manufacturers, however, this trend is offset by the dramatic growth in places like China and India. The potential for dramatic growth in the developing world is clearly evident: In the U.S., there are about 500 cars per thousand people, compared to about 60 and 20 in China and India, respectively.

How can these trends be reconciled with the environmental and health concerns due to climate change and adverse air quality in the developing world? The evidence for climate change accumulates by the day. Hazardous air quality in many major cities in China has drawn global attention, providing a visual reminder of how far the developed world has come and how much environmental protection needs to be accelerated in the developing world. Damaging air pollution is increasingly seen as a regional and even worldwide challenge. Dramatic economic growth in many developing countries is generating pollution that knows no boundaries. Air pollution from China, for example, fumigates Korea and Japan and is even transported across the Pacific to impact air quality in California and other Western states.

It will take a revolutionary change to provide personal mobility without unacceptable energy and environmental consequences. As a recent National Academy of Sciences (NAS) document states, it is likely that a major shift to electric drive vehicles would be required in the next 20 to 30 years. Electric drive vehicles, coupled with renewable energy, can achieve essentially zero carbon and conventional pollutant emissions. The NAS report also predicted that the costs of both battery and fuel-cell electric vehicles would be less than advanced conventional vehicles in the 2035-2040 timeframe.

This transition will not occur overnight and we will be driving advanced conventional vehicles for many years to come. In a study for the International Council on Clean Transportation, Dr. David Greene calculated that the transition could take 10 to 15 years, requiring sustained investment in infrastructure and incentives in order to achieve sustained penetration. While this investment is not inexpensive, it is projected that the benefits of this investment will be 10 times greater than the costs.

So where do we stand today on electric vehicles? We are seeing an unprecedented number of hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and battery electric vehicles across many drivetrains and models. There were about 96,000 plug-in electric vehicles sold or leased in the U.S. last year and more than 10 new PEV models are expected this year. While the sales fall short of some optimistic projections, it is an encouraging start after many years of more hope than delivery. The FC EV is expected to see significant growth after the initial limited introduction of fuel cells in the 2015-2017 timeframe by five major automobile companies.

It will take many years of sustained increasing penetration into new car sales to make this revolution a success. It is indeed a marathon and not a sprint. The challenge is how to ensure sustained sales of electric drive vehicles in the face of the many attributes of advanced technology conventional vehicles.  Electric drive vehicle drivetrains have an affinity with the increasing amount of electronics on board the vehicle, which might ultimately yield very interesting, capable, and competitive vehicles.

I have little doubt that if we are serious about our energy, environmental, and greenhouse gas goals the revolution in technology will occur. All the major automobile companies seem to recognize this in their technology roadmap, which includes advanced conventional vehicles, plug-in hybrid vehicles, battery and fuel cell electric vehicles.

In conclusion, the next 20 years promise to be equally as challenging and exciting as the last 20 years. I have little doubt that the automobile engineers are up to the task ahead, but whether we have the political fortitude to stay the course to achieve the necessary air pollution and GHG reductions is far less certain.

Dr. Alan Lloyd is President Emeritus of the nonprofit International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT). He formerly served as Secretary of CalEPA and Chairman of the California Air Resources Board.

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The San Antonio Auto & Truck Show has a big interest in trucks. After all, we’re talking Texas. Now ‘green’ is gaining even more emphasis at the show with Green Car Journal’s inaugural Green Truck of the Year™ award.

Green Car Journal has presented its coveted Green Car of the Year® award in Los Angeles for the past decade, recognizing the best and the brightest vehicles with improved environmental performance. The Green Truck of the Year™ award program in San Antonio is a natural complement. Trucks are a high-profile part of the San Antonio Auto & Truck Show and Texas is the largest truck market in the nation, making this an ideal venue for this new high-profile award.

In selecting the program’s five finalists, Green Car Journal editors consider all potential truck models in the U.S. market, weighing environmental attributes alongside traditional touchstones that define what makes a great pickup, such as functionality, versatility, safety, value, and style. The 2015 Green Truck of the Year™ winner is selected from these five finalists by a Green Truck of the Year™ jury comprised of automotive experts and Green Car Journal staff.

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Trucks are no strangers to Green Car Journal. The magazine’s editors and writers have deep backgrounds with trucks, having served on staff at enthusiast truck publications during their careers. They have owned sport trucks, work trucks, custom trucks, and off-road trucks so they know what's important to truck buyers, just as they know the importance of 'green' features in the trucks of our future.

The 46th annual San Antonio Auto & Truck Show will take place on November 6-9, 2014 at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio, Texas, with the 2015 Green Truck of the Year™ announced during the show's media day on November 6. Presented by the San Antonio Automobile Dealers Association, the show highlights the auto industry’s newest innovations and provides a ‘one-stop shop’ for evaluating the latest cars, trucks, and technologies. It is recognized as South Texas’ premier automotive event.

hyundai-tucson-fuel-cell-front-1Many believe that the ultimate goal for electric transportation is the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle (FCV), with battery electric vehicles being just a step along the way. Hyundai is skipping this step and concentrating on developing and marketing FCVs.  The automaker notes that affordable electric vehicle technology is best suited to smaller urban vehicles, not to larger family and utility vehicles that many families require to meet all of their needs.

To that end, Hyundai is poised to offer its next-generation Tucson Fuel Cell vehicle in Southern California Hyundai dealers starting sometime this spring. Production is taking place at the automaker’s Ulsan plant in Korea. Hyundai already began production of the ix35 Fuel Cell, the Tucson’s equivalent in Europe, at Ulsan in January 2013. Since the Ulsan plant builds the gasoline-powered Tucson CUV, this allows Hyundai to take advantage of both the high quality and cost-efficiency of its popular gasoline-powered Tucson platform.

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Hyundai’s third-generation fuel cell vehicle features significant improvements over its predecessor, including a 50 percent increase in driving range and 15 percent better fuel efficiency. The Tucson and ix35 Fuel Cell are equipped with a 100 kilowatt electric motor, allowing a top speed just shy of 100 mph. Instantaneous 221 lb-ft torque from the electric motor means spritely acceleration.

Sufficient hydrogen for an approximate 370 mile range is stored in two hydrogen tanks. Refueling is accomplished in less than 10 minutes, providing daily utility comparable with its gasoline counterpart. Electrical energy is stored in a 24 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion polymer battery that’s been jointly developed with LG Chemical. The fuel cell reliably starts in temperatures as low as -20 degrees C (-4 degrees F). Unlike battery electric vehicles there is minimal capacity decrease at very low temperatures.

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Hyundai’s fuel cell fleet has completed over two million durability test miles since 2000. Extensive crash, fire, and leak testing have been successfully completed. Hyundai says that high reliability and long-term durability come as a matter of course with the power-generating fuel cell stack, which has no internal moving parts.

The Hyundai Fuel Cell will be leased for $499 per month on a 36 month term, with $2,999 down. This includes unlimited free hydrogen refueling and At Your Service Valet Maintenance at no extra cost. Hyundai will initially offer the Tucson Fuel Cell in the Los Angeles/Orange County areas at four dealerships that will have hydrogen refueling capability.  The automaker says that availability will expand to other regions of the country consistent with the accelerating deployment of hydrogen refueling stations.

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Hyundai is also partnering with Enterprise Rent-A-Car to rent the Tucson Fuel Cell at select locations in the initial lease regions. This will allow interested consumers to evaluate the Tucson Fuel Cell for their lifestyles on a multi-day basis. Rentals are also planned sometime this spring.

Clean Energy Fuels has been hard at work building out a network of natural gas fueling stations along major trucking corridors across the country. The goal is to enable long-haul 18-wheelers to travel coast-to-coast, border-to-border on liquefied natural gas (LNG), a clean-burning and mostly domestic alternative fuel. To supply LNG for these trucks, Clean Energy has completed its initial phase with 70 LNG stations in operation and is moving ahead with another 80 planned for 2013. Many will be co-located at Pilot-Flying J Travel Centers. Pilot-Flying J operates the greatest number of truck stops in the U.S.

Why is this nationwide fueling network important? Truckers could save as much as 25 percent on their fuel bills while cutting CO2 emissions and helping meet the national goal of energy independence. These are three major transportation goals being addressed with a single strategy.

Joining in this effort is GE Oil & Gas, which is supplying its MicroLNG plants to produce LNG from pipeline natural gas. These plug-and-play modular plants can rapidly liquefy natural gas, producing between 50,000 to 250,000 tons-per-year while using a minimum of real estate. This compares to half a million tons, or more, of LNG annually produced by large LNG production plants, usually for international export.

Initially, Clean Energy is purchasing two GE MicroLNG plants that can produce up to 250,000 gallons-per-day, an amount sufficient to fuel about 28,000 heavy-duty trucks. This could displace more than 139,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions per year, equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions from 7,000 trucks running on diesel fuel.

The two GE MicroLNG plants are planned to begin operation in 2015 at locations yet to be determined. As more fleets adopt LNG and demand for this natural gas fuel increases, plants could be expanded to produce up to a million gallons-per-day. Clean Energy plans to use a standardized design for these MicroLNG plants to facilitate building additional plants in the future.

Beyond applications as part of this nationwide fueling vision, MicroLNG plants can also provide small-scale LNG production for remote industrial and residential use. A MicroLNG plant can liquefy natural gas at any point along a gas distribution network. GE’s Micro LNG plants are also simple to install, operate, and maintain, and can be customized to meet a wide range of needs and site requirements.

Engine and truck manufacturers Cummins-Westport, Kenworth, Peterbilt, Navistar, Freightliner, and Caterpillar are all expected to have engines and Class-8 trucks available to use LNG. In 2013, four of the nation’s major truck manufacturers will offer the Cummins Westport 12-liter ISX12 G LNG engine as an option in long-haul Class 8 trucks.

Compared to compressed natural gas used in light-duty vehicles, LNG provides significantly longer driving range without compromising payload, making use of this fuel a very viable option.

Honda’s efforts in creating a showcase Honda Smart Home US goes beyond the expected attributes of zero-carbon home life. It includes, as one might expect, a mobility component that adds electric vehicle ownership as part of the mix. Honda is building its zero-carbon home on the campus of U.C Davis, located near California’s capital of Sacramento where so much clean and green legislation comes to life. So, no surprise here. Construction and project overviews are included at a dedicated Honda Smart Home US website.

The driving force of this project is the state of California's goal of requiring all new residential construction to be ‘zero net energy’ by the end of this decade. Honda says its concept home will use high-efficiency HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) and lighting systems designed by UC Davis, enabling the home to use less than half the heating, cooling, and lighting energy of a similarly sized new home in the Davis area. The result is a home that will generate on average more electricity from on-site renewable power sources than it will receive from its electric utility provider.

An array of other energy-saving technologies are being integrated in the home including a solar power system that will provide enough energy for the home and for daily commuting in an electric vehicle like the Fit EV. A Honda Energy Management System also incorporates smart-grid technology that actively manages energy use and communicates with the homeowner and utility provider. This allows the home to maximize energy efficiency while responding to the needs of the electrical grid in real time. Many passive energy-saving and sustainability features are being incorporated into the showcase home.

In addition to the HVAC system, UC Davis energy research centers are focused on designing high-efficiency, cost effective solutions to major home energy loads. A particularly interesting project focuses on direct solar photovoltaic-to-vehicle charging, which would reduce losses associated with DC-to-AC and AC-to-DC conversion and substantially improve charging efficiency. PV-to-EV charging would also decrease EV-related CO2 emissions by avoiding the carbon associated with grid electricity production.

Really, there should be no doubt which automaker holds the distinction as the most prolific hybrid marketer in the business. It’s Toyota, pure and simple. This company’s brilliant strategy for its Prius hybrid has evolved into a success story that other manufacturers can only envy.

So the news that nearly two million Toyota and Lexus hybrid vehicles have been sold in the U.S., and five million worldwide, is not earth shattering. It’s expected. And the company is justifiably proud.

According to Toyota, its global fleet of nearly 20 hybrid vehicles is estimated to have decreased some 34 million tons of CO2 emissions because of its fuel efficiency and electric operation, compared to gasoline-powered vehicles. Obviously, there’s strength in numbers. Toyota and Lexus hybrids represent 70 percent of the U.S. auto industry’s total hybrid sales. Hybrids also account for 16 percent of overall Toyota/Lexus sales globally and locally. With total industry hybrid sales now about 3 percent of the U.S. new car market, the picture will clearly only get better.

Of the 19 hybrid models and one plug-in hybrid now sold in 80 countries and regions around the world, a dozen are sold in the U.S. These include the Prius Liftback, Prius v, Prius c, Prius Plug-in, Camry Hybrid, Avalon Hybrid, Highlander Hybrid, Lexus CT 200h, ES 300h, GS 450h, LS 600h, and RX 450h. Three of these models are now manufactured in North America with a fourth, the Highlander Hybrid, joining in soon. Toyota says that it will introduce 18 new hybrid models between now and the end of 2015 and expects its global hybrid sales to be at least a million units a year during that same period, with a third of these sold in the U.S.

I am an electric car fan, always have been since I drove my first electric car – the experimental Sears XDH-1 – back in the mid-1970s.

Over the years I’ve driven many battery electric vehicle prototypes and all production EVs in the U.S., spending a year living with a GM EV1. I have also spent time behind the wheel of many electric car conversions from small and hopeful new EV companies ranging from U.S. ElectriCar to those founded by entrepreneurs like Malcolm Bricklin and Miles Rubin. Test drives took place on highways and test tracks on multiple continents, sometimes for short drives out of necessity and sometimes for weeks at a time. Electric cars were my beat as feature editor at Motor Trend in the 1990s, by choice. I’ve been a vocal advocate for electric cars since the first issue of Green Car Journal 20 years ago…sometimes very vocal.

Time has a way of tempering not only perspective but expectations. One example: Over two decades of following battery development, I recall clearly the high expectations many have had that battery breakthroughs would come. Affordable and energy-dense batteries would be the enabling technology that could encourage full-function battery electric cars to market, making them cost competitive with internal combustion and readily displacing cars that for 100-plus years have relied on petroleum, a commodity that has grown costlier and in tighter supply.

That battery breakthrough has yet to occur. Yes, we have batteries with better chemistry and advanced designs. But they don’t represent the breakthrough that’s been widely anticipated and they remain quite expensive, so much so that battery electric cars must still be federally subsidized because of their high battery cost and retail price. In a normal world, a compact electric SUV should not cost $50,000, nor should a four-door electric sedan be $40,000, or a small electric hatchback priced over $30,000. Yet they are. And yes, there are a few electrics priced under $30,000, but as internal combustion models they would typically be priced $10,000 to $15,000 less while offering greater functionality.

It’s understandable why electric cars are being pushed so hard. Historically, EVs have spoken to a lot of needs. States have included them in State Implementation Plans as a way to show how their state would meet air quality standards under the Clean Air Act. Electric utilities see them as a pathway to selling electricity as a motor fuel. Government agencies often view electric vehicles as a panacea for (you choose) improving air pollution, mitigating petroleum use, decreasing CO2 emissions, and enhancing energy security. Automakers realize the dramatic impact that electric propulsion can have in helping achieve increasingly higher fleet fuel economy averages in coming years. Thrifty and eco-minded consumers understand the value of a smaller environmental impact by driving oil- and emissions-free, at a low cost per mile.

I remain an electric car enthusiast. But as a seasoned auto writer and industry analyst I’m also obliged to focus on reality. Today’s reality is that if we’re to make a real difference in petroleum reduction and environmental impact, battery EVs are not the short-term answer. While important and deserving of continuing development and sales, they are just one part of the solution, along with advanced gasoline, clean diesel, alternative fuel, hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and extended-range electric vehicles that create on-board electricity to provide full functionality. That’s the way forward.

 

Ron Cogan is editor and publisher of the Green Car Journal and editor of CarsOfChange.com

Hydrogen fuel cell buses and cars can now fill up with this zero-emission fuel at AC Transit’s municipal bus facility in Emeryville, California. The hydrogen fueling systems provided by Linde North America are capable of fueling up to 12 buses and 20 passenger cars per day. A second AC Transit hydrogen fueling station in Oakland is expected to begin operating in 2013. Part of AC Transit’s HyRoad project, the stations aim to demonstrate the commercial viability of hydrogen fuel cell technology for public transit.

The transit agency operates buses in 13 cities in the East Bay Area of Northern California, including Emeryville, Oakland, and Berkeley. AC Transit additionally operates trans-bay service to San Francisco.

The California Air Resources Board estimates that fuel cell buses will deliver a net reduction of 2.7 pounds of carbon dioxide per mile using hydrogen reformed from methane, and 6.3 pounds per mile using hydrogen derived from solar, wind, or other renewable sources. With each AC Transit bus projected to travel 36,000 miles annually, this could potentially reduce carbon emissions by 44 metric tons per year when using methane as a source of fuel, or 103 metric tons using renewables.

Importantly, these are tailpipe and carbon emissions reductions that can be duplicated by transit agencies across the country. To do so, however, requires significant public and private investment to enable the effort.