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The Q5 is offered in three models, two of which combine electrification with Audi’s 2.0-liter TFSI four-cylinder turbocharged engine. The Q5 55 TFSI e plug-in hybrid positions an electric motor between the engine and seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch automatic transmission to produce a total of 362 horsepower and 369 lb-ft torque, and earn an EPA rating of 50 MPGe. Those output numbers rival the 3.0-liter, 349-horsepower TFSI V-6 in the range-topping SQ5. The Q5 45 is powered by a new, mild-hybrid variant of the TFSI engine that produces 261 horsepower and 273 lb-ft torque.

Audi is marketing the Q5 TFSI e as part of a ‘Plug-in Trifecta’ for 2021, with its A7 and A8 sedans also available with TFSI PHEV powertrains. These additions move Audi closer to its goal to electrify 30 percent of its U.S. model lineup by 2025.

The Q5 TFSI e can be operated in all-electric, hybrid, and battery-hold modes. A 14.1 kWh battery pack, located under the rear cargo area, enables the Q5 to travel up to 19 miles on electric power alone, according to EPA estimates. Audi says the battery can fully charge in 2.4 hours when plugged into a 240-volt charger. The maker also engineered the battery to act as a source of heat for the Q5’s cabin via a heat pump integrated into the pack.

A standard feature aboard the PHEV Audis is Predictive Efficiency Assist, which is designed to increase the energy regenerated under braking when the vehicle is rolling downhill or approaching a slower-moving vehicle. When the Q5 is equipped with optional satellite navigation, additional input is factored into the energy regeneration, including road curves, speed limits, a the road’s vertical profile. The system prompts the driver, via feedback from the accelerator pedal and a signal in the head-up display, to let up on the accelerator to take advantage of as much kinetic energy as possible.

External cues that set off the TFSI e from other Q5 models are subtle. The plug-in hybrid is equipped with S Line exterior trim, including a honeycomb version of the automaker’s Singleframe’ grille and more aggressive front and rear diffusers. It rolls on standard 19.5-inch double-spoke-star wheels or optional 20-inch, 10-spoke wheels. An optional Sport Plus package combines the 20-inch wheels with adaptive air suspension.

The Audi Q5 TFSI e plug-in hybrid comes at a base price of $52,900, just over $9,000 more than the conventionally-powered Q5.

These days, Henrik Fisker bringing to bear insights and lessons learned from his first effort at Fisker Automotive to his new company, Fisker Inc, with what looks like another groundbreaking vehicle – the Fisker Ocean. Most recently, the company has made moves to bolster the funding of its new electric vehicle launch with a $2.9 billion reverse merger with Spartan Energy Acquisition Corp. a move that’s taking Fisker public. Plus, there’s reportedly a deal in the works with VW to use that automaker’s MEB platform for Fisker’s new electric vehicle.

Fisker’s all-electric, five seat SUV is slated to begin manufacturing late in 2022 and feature several versions with two- or four-wheel-drive. The quickest variant will feature a 302 horsepower electric motor that will accelerate the Ocean from 0 to 60 mph in under 3 seconds, with power from an 80 kWh battery said to provide a range of 300 miles. A Combined Charging System (CCS) Type 2 Combo plug offers a 150 kW charging capability that Fisker says will allow the battery to be fast-charged to provide 200 miles of range in 30 minutes.

A state-of-the-art heads-up display integrated into the windshield is complemented by a 16-inch center touchscreen and a 9.8-inch cluster screen. Karaoke mode displays lyrics for your favorite song in the windshield so you can keep eyes on the road. A full-length solar roof provides electric energy. One-touch ‘California Mode’ simultaneously opens all side windows, rear hatch glass, and the solar roof to create an instant open-air feeling. This feature allows the rear hatch glass to roll down to handle carrying long items.

Over time Fisker has brought in some significant talent to help get the job done. One of these moves is bringing in Burkhard Huhnke, former vice president of e-mobility for Volkswagen America, as chief technology officer to lead Fisker’s R&D activities in Los Angeles and Silicon Valley. Another member of Fisker’s executive team is senior vice president of Engineering Martin Welch, formerly with McLaren cars and Aston Martin.

Fisker says the Ocean will start at $37,449 and will be leased for $379 per month, allowing an impressive 30,000 miles per year with maintenance and service included. The company is currently accepting $250 deposits.

2017 IONIQ HEVHyundai’s long-awaited Ioniq is here and fans of the Prius should take note. Long the leader in fuel efficiency, Toyota’s ubiquitous Prius has now been unseated as fuel economy’s top dog by a better looking, more fun-to-drive hatchback from its Korean competitor. Who saw that coming?

Well, Hyundai did since it definitely had the Prius in its sights all through the Ioniq’s development process. How successful has Hyundai been? Consider the mpg figures: The Ioniq Hybrid Blue model has an EPA-estimated 58 MPG combined rating, the highest of any non-plug-in vehicle sold in the country. The Prius Eco delivers 56 combined mpg.

2017 IONIQ HEVThe Ioniq was designed from the beginning to fit the needs of mainstream buyers with very diverse needs. Want a hybrid? Buy the model above starting at $22,200. Battery electric? That’s available as well, at a base of $29,500. And those who prefer the benefits of both electric and hybrid drive can opt for the Ioniq Plug-In Hybrid that’s coming up next, at an as-yet unannounced – but surely competitive – price.

But look, it really isn’t just about fuel economy. High mpg numbers will interest a certain segment of buyers. But there needs to be much more to attract a wide swath of consumers looking for everything from style, comfort, and connectivity to safety, value, and of course efficiency. Delivering all this becomes crucial, especially in an era where gas prices are low enough to make fuel efficiency less important on the car buyer’s checklist than, say, the availability of safety-enhancing driver assist systems or advanced connectivity features.

2017 IONIQ HEV

A recent drive in hybrid and electric Ioniq variants convinced us this new model meets those needs. Both offered a fun-to-drive nature with solid driving dynamics, a comfortable interior, and all the requisite connectivity. Drivers will appreciate the Ioniq’s Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Blue Link capabilities for integrating with their smartphones, plus handy wireless smartphone charging. A high-resolution 7-inch TFT display presents key driver information. The Ioniq’s advanced safety systems include ones helpful every day like lane departure warning, blind spot detection, and rear cross-traffic alert, plus ones you hope are never needed but are there if you do like automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection.

Hyundai’s new do-it-all hatch offers a welcome connection with the driving experience and satisfying performance, characteristics not always adequately delivered by very high mpg vehicles. It’s not a niche car aimed at early adopters or those who want to make an environmental statement. Rather, it’s a stylish, fun to drive, and connected car for the masses that delivers environmental performance as a matter of course. Hyundai’s decision to offer hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and battery electric choices is strategic and will certainly encourage purchase consideration among a wide swath of buyers. The Ioniq will find a ready market because it is the real deal.

2017 IONIQ HEV

2016-chevy-volt-drivingChevrolet'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.

2016-chevy-volt-on-pierDuring 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.

volt-instruments-1The 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.

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bmw-i3-sideThe BMW i8, the second milestone model to emerge as part of BMW’s innovative ‘i’ sub-brand, earned the distinction as Green Car Journal’s 2015 Luxury Green Car of the Year™ at the recent Washington Auto Show in the nation’s capital. There are compelling reasons for this.

BMW’s flagship i8 not only breaks new ground in defining how a high performance vehicle can achieve environmental goals, but it does so in ways that do not impose limitations on the driving experience. Importantly, this car fits BMW's ‘Ultimate Driving Machine’ image while providing levels of environmental performance increasingly appealing to those buying aspirational vehicles.

bmw-i8-gull-wing-doors-upBMW i8 LIFEDRIVE ARCHITECTURE

Beneath its stunning, gull-winged body is BMW’s innovative LifeDrive modular architecture. The Life module is essentially the i8's 2+2 passenger compartment constructed primarily of strong and lightweight carbon fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP), created with carbon fiber manufactured at a dedicated SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers LLC facility in the State of Washington. The result of a joint venture between SGL Group and BMW Group, this manufacturing plant strengthens the i8’s environmental credentials further by producing carbon fiber using renewable hydroelectric energy.

The i8’s aluminum Drive module contains the gasoline engine, lithium-ion battery pack, electric motor, and associated electronic components. It uses a 228 horsepower, 1.5-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine to power the rear wheels through a six-speed direct shift transmission. Front wheels are driven by a 129 horsepower electric motor and two-stage automatic gearbox. Energy is supplied by a 7.1-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack located within a tunnel between the two front seats. It can be fully charged in just an hour and a half.

i8-rolling-chassisPower can be provided solely by the electric motor for about 22 miles of zero-emission driving at speeds up to 75 mph. Together, the rear-mounted engine and front electric motor deliver all-wheel drive performance with a combined maximum power of 357 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque. Drivers are afforded the latest in advanced on-board electronics and safety systems expected in this class of vehicle.

Driving the i8 at speed provides a clear understanding of just what BMW has accomplished with its lightweight, high-tech luxury sports coupe. Green Car Journal editors found the i8’s handling superb and performance exhilarating. BMW’s Driving Dynamics Control allows choices of eDRIVE, ECO PRO, SPORT, and COMFORT drive settings. In Sport mode, the i8 can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds and deliver a top speed of 155 mph. Driving range is 310 miles under normal driving conditions. Engine overrun and regenerative braking are used to charge the battery pack and a start-stop feature helps conserve energy.

bmw-i8-cabinThe BMW i8 blends thrilling performance, innovative design, and environmental achievement in an exceptional luxury sports coupe, while offering a combined EPA city/highway battery electric efficiency rating of 76 MPGe (miles-per-gallon equivalent). Its DNA is 'green' by nature and design, making it a natural selection for 2015 Luxury Green Car of the Year™.

Der neue Volkswagen e-GolfVW’s e-Golf is coming to U.S. highways at the end of this year and will be available in select states. Powered by a 115 horsepower permanent magnet AC electric motor developing 199 lb-ft torque, the e-Golf is said to accelerate from 0-62 mpg (0-100 km/h) in about 10.4 seconds and offer an electronically limited 87 mph top speed. Driving range should vary between 70 to 90 miles depending on driving habits and environmental conditions.

The e-Golf’s lithium-ion battery is integrated in the center tunnel and within a space-saving frame in the vehicle floor beneath the front and rear seats. The battery accounts for 700 pounds of the e-Golf’s 3090 pound curb weight. Charging with a 120 volt outlet is accomplished in about 20 hours, although a 220 volt garage or public charger will bring the batteries to a full state of charge in less than four hours. Rapid charging at a fast-charge station could bring the e-Golf to 80-percent of charge in 30 minutes.