Toyota has ‘fully rebooted’ the second-generation Mirai fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) for an evolving automotive arena. While the first-generation Mirai was a four-passenger, front-wheel-drive sedan with a decidedly futuristic design, the new Mirai is Toyota’s flagship sedan, a premium, rear-wheel-drive, five-passenger sports-luxury car in the vein of the Lexus LS, on whose GA-L platform the Mirai is now based. It’s offered in XLE and Limited trim levels, with corresponding differences in equipment and interior materials.
The new Mirai is larger in every dimension except height, more powerful, and has a longer cruising range. Its four-wheel independent multi-link suspension, replacing the previous car’s strut-type front and rear beam axle, improves the car’s handling and performance, as does the change to rear-wheel-drive and the configuration of its new fuel cell system. In combination, those latter two revisions give the Mirai a near 50/50 front/rear weight distribution.
The fuel cell stack in the new-generation Mirai, like the one in its predecessor, takes in hydrogen and oxygen to create electricity without combustion to power its rear-drive motor. Water vapor is the only emissions produced during the process. The stack is about 20 percent smaller and 50 percent lighter, and now fits under the sedan’s hood. A new power control unit and other changes to the stack result in a 12-percent power increase, boosting the Mirai’s rear-drive motor output to 182 horsepower and 221 lb-ft torque (versus the outgoing model’s 151 horsepower and 247 lb-ft).
Electricity is stored in a lithium-ion battery that’s smaller, lighter, and has greater capacity than the Mirai’s previous nickel-metal-hydride battery. The battery rides between the rear seat and the trunk. Three 10,000-psi carbon-fiber-reinforced tanks hold about 11 pounds of hydrogen, giving the Mirai 402 miles of range in XLE models, and 357 in the Limited. Toyota is continuing the practice of offering up to $15,000 of complimentary hydrogen with each Mirai.
Inside the Mirai are seats trimmed in SofTex synthetic leather. The dashboard is dominated by two digital displays, an 8-inch LCD gauge cluster in front of the driver and a 12.3-inch touchscreen in the center of the dash to operate the climate control, infotainment, and navigation systems. To bring down cabin temperatures and reduce the load on the Mirai’s air-conditioning system, Toyota engineers installed extra insulation in the roof and added UV protection in the side windows.
Both Mirai models come standard with Toyota’s Safety Sense 2.5+, a suite of active safety systems with several enhanced functions. Among them is the Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, which not only registers a vehicle ahead but a bicyclist or pedestrian in front of that vehicle.
Initially the Mirai is available in California only, but Toyota says it is fully optimized for cold-weather operation, hinting that broader availability may be in the works. The Mirai XLE is priced at $49,500 with the uplevel Limited coming in at $66,000 before substantial federal and California state incentives, and potential Toyota incentives as well.
Clearly, Chrysler’s original minivans had a great run, and for good reason. All were based on the same platform featuring a low floor and an overall design that allowed the ability to park in a typical garage. Plus, they drove like cars and not trucks due to their passenger car-like construction. Offering different flavors of the minivan under the Dodge, Plymouth, and Chrysler brands – with varying levels of sophistication – was a smart move as well. But alas, change is inevitable even within notable success stories.
The company’s sixth-generation minivan broke new ground again in 2017 as the Chrysler Pacifica replaced the Town & Country. Featuring an exciting new design on an all-new platform, among its many innovations was the inclusion of the Pacifica Hybrid variant, the first and only plug-in hybrid minivan in the U.S. market to this day.
Four years later, the Pacifica Hybrid now features a redesign with deeper sculpting and sport-utility influences. It’s available in Touring, Touring L, Limited, and Pinnacle iterations, all powered by a 3.6-liter Atkinson V-6 engine mated with electric motors and a nine-speed electrically variable transmission.
This transmission incorporates two electric motors that drive the front wheels via a clutch, rather than using just one motor for propulsion and the other for regenerative braking. The one-way clutch is located on the input side of the transmission and the output shaft of the motor. This one-way clutch enables power from both ‘A’ and ‘B’ motors to act in parallel, delivering the full torque of both motors to the wheels. The system provides a combined 260 horsepower. All Pacifica Hybrid models feature front-wheel drive, with all-wheel drive available on the Touring L model.
Energizing the electric drive system is a 16 kWh lithium-ion battery pack comprised of six 16-cell modules. The pack is located under the second row of seats. The benefit of this battery placement is that it doesn’t infringe on interior space, so cargo-carrying capacity is not sacrificed. The battery pack provides 32 miles of battery electric range and can be recharged in two hours using a 240-volt charger. Total hybrid driving range is 520 miles.
A suite of driver assistance systems is available either as standard or optional equipment, depending on trim level. Among these are a 360° Surround View Camera, Rear View Camera, Full-Speed Forward Collision Warning with Active Braking, Pedestrian Automatic Emergency Braking, Blind Spot Monitor, Adaptive Cruise Control, Parallel/Perpendicular Park Assist, and Lane Departure Warning with Lane Keep Assist.
Pacifica Hybrid’s Uconnect 4 system comes with a standard 7-inch or optional 8.4-inch touchscreen, standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and available 4G Wi-Fi. Uconnect 4 with the 8.4-inch touchscreen displays vehicle performance, power flow, driving history, and adjusts charging schedules for less expensive off-peak hours.
The conventionally-powered Pacifica minivan offers a base price of $35,045, while the Pacifica Hybrid starts at $39,995 for the Touring L model and travels upward to $50,845 for the Pinnacle edition.
The Q5 is offered in three models, two of which combine electrification with Audi’s 2.0-liter TFSI four-cylinder turbocharged engine. The Q5 55 TFSI e plug-in hybrid positions an electric motor between the engine and seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch automatic transmission to produce a total of 362 horsepower and 369 lb-ft torque, and earn an EPA rating of 50 MPGe. Those output numbers rival the 3.0-liter, 349-horsepower TFSI V-6 in the range-topping SQ5. The Q5 45 is powered by a new, mild-hybrid variant of the TFSI engine that produces 261 horsepower and 273 lb-ft torque.
Audi is marketing the Q5 TFSI e as part of a ‘Plug-in Trifecta’ for 2021, with its A7 and A8 sedans also available with TFSI PHEV powertrains. These additions move Audi closer to its goal to electrify 30 percent of its U.S. model lineup by 2025.
The Q5 TFSI e can be operated in all-electric, hybrid, and battery-hold modes. A 14.1 kWh battery pack, located under the rear cargo area, enables the Q5 to travel up to 19 miles on electric power alone, according to EPA estimates. Audi says the battery can fully charge in 2.4 hours when plugged into a 240-volt charger. The maker also engineered the battery to act as a source of heat for the Q5’s cabin via a heat pump integrated into the pack.
A standard feature aboard the PHEV Audis is Predictive Efficiency Assist, which is designed to increase the energy regenerated under braking when the vehicle is rolling downhill or approaching a slower-moving vehicle. When the Q5 is equipped with optional satellite navigation, additional input is factored into the energy regeneration, including road curves, speed limits, a the road’s vertical profile. The system prompts the driver, via feedback from the accelerator pedal and a signal in the head-up display, to let up on the accelerator to take advantage of as much kinetic energy as possible.
External cues that set off the TFSI e from other Q5 models are subtle. The plug-in hybrid is equipped with S Line exterior trim, including a honeycomb version of the automaker’s Singleframe’ grille and more aggressive front and rear diffusers. It rolls on standard 19.5-inch double-spoke-star wheels or optional 20-inch, 10-spoke wheels. An optional Sport Plus package combines the 20-inch wheels with adaptive air suspension.
The Audi Q5 TFSI e plug-in hybrid comes at a base price of $52,900, just over $9,000 more than the conventionally-powered Q5.
The Ford Mustang Mach-E, a slick crossover SUV with a name harkening back to the marque’s performance-based Mustang Mach 1 that debuted some five decades back, presents a new twist in Mustang heritage. Unlike the Mach 1, there’s no rumbling 428 cubic-inch big block V-8 and no emissions…because there’s no tailpipe. That’s because the Mach-E is powered by an all-electric powertrain that provides zero-emission driving.
As a five-door crossover, The Mach-E is far afield from the two-door Mustang coupe it joins in the Ford lineup. But key Mustang influences throughout let us know this is indeed of Mustang lineage, even as Mach-E exhibits more futuristic DNA. Among its signature Mustang styling cues are a long hood, aggressive headlights, tri-bar taillights, and of course all the expected Mustang badging. What’s different is decidedly a departure from the familiar Mustang form, most notably a silhouette that blends elements of crossover and coupe design.
The Mach-E is available as Standard Range and Extended Range variants featuring differing battery capacities, with rear- or all-wheel drive. The Standard Range version uses a 75.7 kWh lithium-ion battery that’s expected to offer a 230 mile range in rear-wheel drive trim. Up to 300 miles will be delivered by the Extended Range version with its larger 98.8 kWh battery. A single permanent magnet motor is used on the rear axle of the rear-wheel drive Mach-E and one on each axle for all-wheel drive models. Performance specs for these Mach-E models range from 255 to 332 horsepower and 306 to 417 lb-ft torque.
A Mustang Mach-E GT Performance Edition slated for next summer raises performance levels with 459 horsepower and 612 lb-ft torque that should deliver 0 to 60 mph sprints in the mid-three second range. This performance model is equipped with a MagneRide Damping System, an adaptive suspension technology that enables the car to hug the road while delivering an exciting and comfortable ride
Batteries are located inside the underbody of the Mach-E between the axles. Liquid cooling optimizes performance in extreme weather. Positioning batteries outside the passenger and cargo areas allows ample room inside for five adults and 33.8 cubic feet of cargo, with capacity increasing to 59.6 cubic feet with the rear seat folded. Mach-E buyers can opt for a 240 volt Ford Connected Charge Station for home charging. A 120-volt mobile charger included with the Mach-E conveniently plugs into a standard household outlet, but charges considerably slower. The Mach-E can handle 150 kW fast charging at public charge stations offering this capability.
Three Mach-E models are currently available to order – Select, Premium, and California Route 1 – priced at $42,895 to $49,800. The Mach-E GT coming later next year can be pre-ordered at an entry price of $60,500.
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.
The 2021 all-electric Polestar 2 arrives in North America this year as the brand’s first pure electric vehicle, aiming to take on Tesla in a market that’s seeing increased interest in EVs. Produced in China through a collaboration of Volvo and Geely Motors, this 5-door midsize electric hatchback proudly forwards the Polestar nameplate that was formerly dedicated to Volvo’s performance arm. Now, Polestar represents the maker’s global electric car initiative as a stand-alone car brand.
At first glance, there’s no mistaking the Volvo pedigree of Polestar 2 as it embraces the design language of Volvo’s XC40. Manufactured on Volvo’s CMA (compact modular architecture) platform, it presents premium fit and finish seamlessly blended with the utmost in functionality. This eye-catching model gets high marks for attention to detail, clean lines, and an unapologetically conventional front facade and grille design that fits its persona, without giving way to the whims of those who seem convinced an electric must look decidedly different.
No performance is lost here in the transition to zero-emissions electric power. Polestar 2 is motivated by dual electric motors, one at each axle, producing a combined 408 horsepower and 487 ft-lb torque in the Performance Pack all-wheel drive variant. This delivers a claimed 0 to 60 sprint in just 4.5 seconds.
A 292 mile range is estimated on the electric’s 78 kWh LG Chem lithium-ion battery pack, which is said to be 10 percent more powerful than Audi and Jaguar offerings. Polestar integrates the battery module as a crash-protected unibody stress member, improving overall road handling characteristics through strategic weight distribution. There are multiple charging options with integrated dual inverters and AC/DC at-home and network charge capability. Charging to 80 percent capacity can be had in 45 minutes at a fast-charge station.
Polestar 2’s regenerative braking enables one-pedal driving, a feature pioneered by the BMW i3 some years back and now adopted in an increasing number of electric models. In effect, strong regenerative braking slows a vehicle down sufficiently to often allow coming to a gradual stop without using the brakes, a fun feature that enhances the joy of driving. Although not fully autonomous, Polestar 2 comes standard with the automaker’s Polestar Connect, Pilot Assist, and adaptive cruise control for Level 2 partial automation.
Inside, driver and passengers enjoy a more conventional cockpit and cabin environment than that presented by some competitors. Polestar 2 is minimalistic but also business class posh in its interior design, placing emphasis on low environmental impact manufacturing practices and materials like repurposed Birch and Black Ash wood accents, plus soft touch ‘vegan’ synthetic seat fabrics.
Heated and cooled seats, inductive cellphone charging, ample points for device connectivity, and a standard panoramic digitized sunroof are provided. Information is intelligently presented in the instrument cluster and a large center stack navigation/infotainment touchpad. A familiar center console select shift is used. Easy access to an ample cargo deck is afforded by a power lift rear hatch, with additional room provided by a fold-down second row seat.
The price of entry for Polestar 2 is $59,900 before federal or state incentives, with the model offered in three trim groups, five color combinations, and four add-on price upticks. It’s currently available for order in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York. Buyers will discover a no-salesman showcase approach with a take-your-time-and-look buying and lease environment. As the market reacts, Volvo intends to make Polestar 2 available in all 50 states.
Early electric vehicle efforts took many forms, with automakers striving to compress the learning curve in order to meet California’s impending 1998 zero emission vehicle mandate. While a few automakers like Honda developed their electric vehicle programs around all-new designs, most turned to electrifying existing car, truck, minivan, or SUV platforms. Some were recognizable models sold in the U.S. Others, like Ford’s Ecostar, were built on platforms sold only abroad. The Ecostar was unique in many respects, not the least of which was its use of an experimental sodium-sulfur “hot” battery, which provided exceptional on-board energy. Ultimately, this battery didn’t make the cut and was abandoned, although the Ecostar itself still shines as one of the era’s true stars. This article shares details of Ford’s Ecostar program and is presented as it originally ran in Green Car Journal’s December 1993 issue.
Excerpted from December 1993 Issue: It was just over a year ago when Ford debuted its Ecostar electric vehicle to the skeptical motoring press in Los Angeles, Calif. The unusual vehicle, based on the automaker's European Escort Van built in Britain at Ford's Halewood, Merseyside, manufacturing facility, seemed normal enough at first blush. But its powertrain made it the most unique vehicle ever to hit Hollywood's Sunset Strip.
Green Car Journal editors who drove the Ecostar found it to be an extremely capable EV, perhaps the best to date. But there were a few small glitches including an occasional drivetrain shudder and a degree of inverter noise. A recent test drive in a more refined Ecostar example illustrates just how far Ford has come in its electric vehicle project. The only two glitches we had noted were conspicuously gone, and the Ecostar drove better than ever.
"The shudder was an interaction between the drive system and the mechanical system it was driving, creating a resonance," Ford's Bob Kiessel told Green Car Journal. "What we had to do was compensate for that resonance. It's all done electronically.” Evolutionary changes in the controller also eliminated the high-pitched noise noted on the earlier drive. The Ecostar's gauges and diagnostics were also working this time around, a simple matter of more time spent dialing in the EV's many functions and subsystems.
During this most recent drive, we were aware of a significant amount of tire noise making its way to the cabin. Because this also created its own unique resonance, it was cited by some drivers as motor noise, a suggestion that Kiessel denies. Even so, he offers that improvements are in the works.
"We're testing a next-generation motor-transaxle that cuts the noise level down by an order of magnitude," Kiessel shares. Tire noise will be engineered out, at least to a greater degree, as R&D work on the Ecostar continues.
There was a reason for the Ecostar's recent coming out party. Ford has completed a number of the Ecostar examples it began assembling in June and was preparing to deliver them to fleets for real world testing over a 30-month period. Fleets taking delivery: Southern California Edison (Los Angeles, Calif.); Pacific Gas & Electric (San Francisco, Calif.); Allegheny Power (Frederick, Md.); Commonwealth Edison (Chicago, Ill.); Detroit Edison (Detroit, Mich.); and the U.S. Dept. of Energy (Washington, D.C.).
now being driven on U.S. highways are milestone vehicles in that they're the first to travel under power of advanced batteries. The 37 kWh, 780-pound sodium-sulfur battery, built by ABB (Heidelberg, Germany) for Ford, allows the 3100-pound Ecostar to achieve a conservative Federal Urban Driving Schedule range of 100 miles. Acceleration on the highway is brisk enough to meet daily driving needs. Ford estimates 0-60 mph acceleration at about 16.5 seconds, in the realm of a Volkswagen EuroVan powered by a 2.5-liter inline 5-cylinder engine. Top speed is cited as 75 mph.
Once the entire 105 vehicle fleet is fielded in the U.S., Mexico, and Europe, it's expected that Ford will get plenty of feedback on how these vehicles perform and how they can be fine-tuned for the real market.
"This vehicle is a learning tool for us in several different ways," says Kiessel, "from a design standpoint to an engineering skills standpoint, and from a supplier development standpoint to market development and service. It's a probe to learn. What we're trying to do is focus on the things that will help us make better electric vehicles in the future."
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.
The immensely popular pickup field is being electrified. Coming electric pickups from legacy automakers like Ford and GM are hugely important since pickups are among their most profitable models. And Tesla? Well, in its typical disruptive fashion, Tesla is introducing a wildly different take on pickups with the company’s signature performance and range characteristics built in. Even luxury electric vehicle maker Karma plans to join the party with an extended range electric pickup.
Names like Atlis, Bollinger, Lordstown, Nicola, and Rivian are new to the scene. These startups are in varying stages of development, some with a solid foundation of billions in investment, manufacturing facilities, and actual product in the works, and others a bit more aspirational. Will they succeed? Time will tell. Plus, we’ll have to see how some wishful launch schedules align with reality.
ATLIS MOTOR VEHICLES plans to offer its heavy-duty electric XT as a regular bed pickup, plus in flat-bed, service body, and dually configurations. Atlis says the truck will carry a 1,000 to 5,000 pound payload, tow 6,000 to 17,000 pounds with a conventional hitch, or 20,000 to 35,000 pounds with a fifth wheel or gooseneck hitch. The company claims a driving range of 300 to 500 miles. These capabilities depend on the battery capacity selected, which starts at 125 kWh. Rather than the lithium-ion batteries powering most EVs today, Atlis is using nickel-manganese-cobalt batteries. It says these batteries are fast-charge capable and can be charged in as little as 15 minutes.
ANALYSIS: The performance claimed by Atlis is quite ambitious, especially since it’s using a less mature battery chemistry and plans to offer a pickup starting at $45,000. This start-up has a concept model developed and is actively seeking investment.
BOLLINGER is looking at a late 2020 launch for its B2 electric pickup and B1 electric SUV. The B2 pickup will have a GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating) over 10,000 pounds, making it a Class 3 truck with a 5,000 pound payload capacity. It’s expected to offer a 7,500 tow capability and drive an estimated 200 miles with power from a 120 kWh battery pack. Portal axles mean excellent ground clearance for off-road duty. The Bollinger B2’s Class 3 rating and stark styling – flat glass, external door hinges, and aluminum body panels devoid of compound curves that can be formed by simple equipment – makes it clear the company is not aiming at buyers who want to make a fashion statement. Plus, prototypes shown to date have an austere interior without an infotainment system, surprising for a vehicle projected to have a $125,000 price tag. The cargo area’s unique pass-through into the cab makes the truck capable of handling a telephone pole.
ANALYSIS: With its substantial price, rudimentary styling, and austere interior, Bollinger’s B2 pickup appears aimed at commercial applications rather than mainstream pickup buyers. It looks like Bollinger recognizes this niche market role since the company is planning to make only 1500 vehicles in its first year.
FORD plans to offer as many as 16 pure electric vehicles by 2022 including an electric Ford F-Series pickup, which could appear later in 2021. Ford hasn’t released much information about the electric F-150, but it is expected that range, payload, and towing capability will be competitive with other electric pickups, and perhaps a bit better. That means a range of 250 to over 400 miles, at least a ton of payload, and the ability to tow 7,500 to 14,000 pounds. These numbers are based on battery kWh capacity and selected motors. Like options for conventional F-150s these will be items to be checked off by buyers.
ANALYSIS: Pickup buyers are a very loyal bunch, and if the electric F-150 doesn’t stray too far from the best-selling F-150 it should readily succeed with Ford pickup fans who want to go ‘green.’
GM will naturally have an electric pickup if its traditional competitor Ford has one, and in all likelihood, it will offer several. GMC will get a version that will be marketed as a Hummer, and a Chevrolet Silverado variant will surely emerge since this brand has such a huge pickup following. Both would be built on a similar platform with capabilities comparable to that of Tesla, Rivian, and Ford electric pickups. Again, buyers will be able to select battery/motor options. GM expects a 2021 launch for its electric GMC Hummer pickup. Rumor has it that a Chevrolet Silverado variant will be a more traditional pickup built on a smaller version of the platform, with the GMC Hummer pickup aimed at the off-road, adventure vehicle buyer.
ANALYSIS: Chevrolet and GMC, like Ford, have the advantage of decades of owner loyalty. An electric Chevy Silverado pickup will certainly find a strong following, while the Hummer will likely be a niche vehicle.
KARMA AUTOMOTIVE says it is developing an electric pickup that extends its battery range with electricity from an internal combustion engine-generator, similar to its existing electrified products. The electric pickup will be based on a newly developed all-wheel drive platform and cost less than the company’s $135,000 Revero GT, an extended range electric luxury sedan. A concept pickup is promised later in 2020. The new electric pickup will be built at the company’s existing manufacturing facility in Southern California.
ANALYSIS: A start-up that launched in 2015, Karma has shown it is committed to the electric vehicle market with several high-end models under its belt and others in the works. It has worked with Italy’s renowned car design and coachbuilder Pininfarina on a concept electric grand touring car with production potential, so we have yet to see if its coming electric pickup will be an entirely in-house project or involve others.
LORDSTOWN MOTORS says it plans a 2021 introduction for its Endurance electric pickup with a four-wheel-drive hub motor system. Limited information is available except that it will climb a 30 percent grade fully loaded, carry a 2200 pound payload, and tow 6000 pounds. Range is estimated at a minimum 250 miles. The company is now taking deposits for its 2021 Endurance pickup at a base price of $52,500. Its primary emphasis is on fleets, though private parties can also make a reservation.
ANALYSIS: Lordstown Motors has received a $40 million loan from General Motors and took over GM’s huge Lordstown Assembly Plant. GM is building a large battery factory nearby in partnership with LG Chem. Part of this effort might include taking up an option to lease space in the Lordstown Assembly Plant. In addition to its own manufacturing, Lordstown Motors hopes to provide overflow manufacturing capacity for Workhorse Group’s last-mile electric delivery vans.
NIKOLA MOTOR COMPANY has shown its Nikola Badger pickup that would presumably come in two models, one battery-electric and the other running on a combination of battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell power. Battery electric propulsion is said to feature a 160 kWh battery and a 300 mile range. Adding fuel cell power to the battery electric powertrain would incorporate a 120 kW fuel cell and a total 600 mile range, when hydrogen is available. The Badger is engineered to deliver 906 peak and 455 continuous horsepower, with a massive 980 lb-ft torque. An 8,000 pound tow capability is claimed. In addition, the pickup will feature a 15 kW power outlet for tools, lights, and compressors. Nikola says it will partner with an established OEM to build the Badger and initially announced a late 2020 launch plan, while identifying a $60,000 to $90,000 price range.
ANALYSIS: Nikola is leveraging the technology and expertise developed for its Nikola One and Nikola Two electric and fuel cell semi tractor-trailer trucks. Given the capabilities of the Badger pickup and the likely high price tag of a combined battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell powertrain, we would expect its target market to be primarily commercial operations. Nikola plans to build hydrogen filling stations along well-traveled truck routes to facilitate fuel cell use, a move that further underscores a focus on the commercial market.
RIVIAN plans to launch its R1T pickup in 2021. It will be available with 105, 135, and 180 kWh battery packs and corresponding ranges estimated at 230, 300, and 400 miles, starting at an estimated price of $69,000. All versions will have an 11,000 pound tow rating. The pickup features a ‘gear tunnel’ stowage space behind the rear seats and the ability to make a 360-degree turn in its own length, like a tank. In addition to the truck, Rivian will offer an R1S SUV using the same skateboard platform as the R1T truck.
ANALYSIS: While Rivian is a startup, it has billions in backing from the likes of Ford, Amazon, and T. Rowe Price. Amazon has placed an order with Rivian for 100,000 electric delivery vans, which will be built at Rivian’s manufacturing facility in Normal, Illinois, a former Mitsubishi assembly plant acquired by Rivian in 2017.
TESLA’S Cybertruck is by far the most high-profile pickup introduction and the one most talked about today. Coming from the well-established electric car leader, the Cybertruck is a combination of edgy and disruptive styling one might expect on the set of a dystopic sci-fi thriller infused with some pretty impressive innovations. Among these are a motorized metal tonneau cover that completely retracts below the truck’s rear window and a built-in ramp for loading gear and recreational toys. Tesla claims its stainless steel Cybertruck will deliver a range of 250 to 500 miles, offer a 3500 pound payload, and will be capable of towing between 7500 to 14,000 pounds. The range of capabilities varies on battery capacity – 75 to 200 kWh – and motor configurations, including Tri Motor AWD, Dual Motor AWD, or Single Motor RWD. Prices are said to range from $39,990 to $69,900, though Tesla’s track record of rolling out high-spec editions first means the lower-end model won’t be seeing daylight any time soon.
ANALYSIS: Tesla, which arguably can be credited with making electric vehicles a serious option to combustion engine models, could be the first startup to achieve long term success. The company sold 367,500 cars in 2019 and has four current models in its stable with plans for more, which means it has transcended the traditional definition of a niche automaker. Like previous Tesla products, expect the Cybertruck to exhibit many changes before deliveries presumably start in late 2021.
A shift to electric pickups is tantalizing to many, but it’s no easy thing. It’s true that electric pickups require less maintenance than their gasoline or diesel counterparts. Still, there are times when EV-specific service will be required beyond the usual tire, brake, and fluid maintenance that can be performed by mainstream service providers. Electric pickup manufacturers must provide for this service. That’s not a significant issue for legacy automakers like Ford and GM that have a widespread dealer sales and service network, even in sparsely populated states. Service personnel at dealerships can be trained in EV-specific work. Fledgling and start-up electric pickup companies will certainly be at a disadvantage here.
Are there other electric pickups in the works beyond the brands mentioned here? That’s certainly likely considering the interest already developing and the intensively competitive nature of the auto industry, though details on additional players are unknown. With the advent of electric pickups on the near horizon, that may change sooner than you would expect.
Even amid the huge effort now underway to gain market share with new and coming battery electric vehicles, automakers show a continuing interest in keeping the potential of hydrogen vehicles alive. Indeed, the most high-profile players in this space are taking the next steps toward normalizing the way we look at zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, models that drive on electricity generated by an electrochemical reaction of hydrogen and oxygen.
One of the advantages of a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle has been its ability to refuel in five minutes and then deliver 300 or more miles of driving range. That’s about the same amount of time it takes to fill a gas tank, an important baseline. Electric vehicle batteries, on the other hand, typically take many hours to charge. Today’s electric vehicle fast-charging, and the potential for newly-developed extreme fast charging (XFC) technology, could diminish the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle’s rapid refueling advantage.
Still, high-profile players in the auto industry like Honda, Hyundai, and Toyota apparently feel strongly that hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) may play an important part in our driving future. Honda currently leases the Clarity Fuel Cell sedan to California residents living or working in areas where hydrogen fueling stations are available. Hyundai also offers its NEXO hydrogen fuel cell crossover model and Toyota its Mirai fuel cell sedan. Since there are only 47 hydrogen stations in the U.S. with 42 of these in California, it’s really no surprise that all three automakers focus their fuel cell vehicle sales exclusively to limited areas with hydrogen fueling.
Underscoring hydrogen’s continuing momentum, Toyota will shortly release its second generation Mirai sedan. Introduced five years ago as the first fuel cell model offered for sale to retail customers, Toyota’s current Mirai is as notable for its styling as it is for its advanced zero-emission propulsion. Its swoopy, angular, and stylistically forward design does speak ‘future” – which, by the way, is what ‘Mirai’ actually means in Japanese – but that design has been a bit too much for most folks’ taste. The coming, all-new 2021 Mirai changes all that.
As shown by the new model’s concept, the second-generation Mirai is nicely sculpted with smooth-flowing lines, presenting as a stylish mainstream sedan with coupe-like design influences. Evolving from the front-drive first-generation Mirai, it uses a new rear-drive platform with a more rigid body structure that’s longer, lower, and wider than its predecessor, riding on a 114.9-inch wheelbase and featuring a length of 195.8-inches with a 74.2-inch width.
This new design is accompanied by a reimagined interior that’s more spacious and now allows for five passenger seating rather than four. Its multimedia system includes navigation and dynamic audio provided by a JBL sound system with 14 speakers. The Mirai’s handsomely sculpted dash features a 12.3-inch, high resolution TFT touchscreen. Drivetrain advancements are also part of the package. While full details have not yet been disclosed, the 2021 Mirai is expected to feature a more advanced fuel cell system featuring increased performance and up to 30 percent greater driving range. Like the model before it, the new Mirai is capable of filling up its hydrogen tank in just five minutes.
Beyond light-duty vehicles, where hydrogen could become a major transportation fuel is in over-the-road trucks that travel fixed routes, where hydrogen refueling stations are available. While adding larger and heavier batteries to increase the range of personal-use electric vehicles is not a big problem, every pound of battery capacity added to increase the range of commercial trucks means a pound less of payload, impacting the bottom line. Thus, fuel cells could prove to have a large advantage over electric trucks and be appealing in the commercial world.
While adding larger and heavier batteries to increase the range of personal-use electric vehicles is not a big problem, every pound of battery capacity added to increase the range of commercial trucks means a pound less of payload, impacting the bottom line. Thus, fuel cells could prove to have a large advantage over electric trucks and be appealing in the commercial world.
Supporting this notion is Anheuser-Busch, which has ordered up to 800 Nikola Two hydrogen fuel cell semi-tractor trucks for its operations. Two prototypes are already delivering Budweiser beer. On another front, Hyundai and big-rig producer Cummins may jointly develop and commercialize fuel cell powertrains by combining Hyundai’s fuel cell systems with Cummins’ electric powertrain, battery, and control technologies. Toyota and Kenworth are building 10 fuel cell semi tractors for use in and around the Port of Los Angeles and Port Heuneme, California, where decreasing port-related emissions is a significant challenge.
Where is this all leading? Toward the future, of course…one that continues to evolve with an as-yet unknown mix of conventional, electrified, and alternative fuel vehicles being developed by legacy and newly-launched auto and truck manufacturers. Each has its own vision of what our driving future will look like. Time will tell what role hydrogen will play in this unfolding transportation world.
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.
The BMW 7-Series gets a facelift for 2020, and without a doubt its most notable styling change is a more massive twin kidney grille. Importantly, BMW’s 745e xDrive sedan gets a new and improved plug-in-hybrid powertrain to bolster its environmental credentials. This flagship BMW sedan is now powered by a six-cylinder, 3.0 liter TwinPower Turbo engine that replaces the previous version’s 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine used in its 740e predecessor. Engine output is now 286 horsepower and the electric motor is rated at 113 horsepower.
Lithium-ion battery output has also improved with battery pack capacity increased from 9.2 to 12 kWh. This provides a bit more all-electric range –16 versus the earlier version’s 14 miles. Total driving range with electric and hybrid drive is 290 miles. The high-voltage battery is positioned underneath the rear seats so luggage compartment volume is about the same as in the non-hybrid 7-series sedans. Importantly, this plug-in hybrid also delivers much better performance when running on the gasoline engine alone or when driving in hybrid mode with both the engine and electric motor supplying power.
The 745e’s electric motor is integrated in the model’s 8-speed Steptronic transmission. As xDrive implies, the 745e features BMW's xDrive intelligent all-wheel-drive. The BMW 745e xDrive is equipped with a hybrid-specific version of the eight-speed Sport Steptronic transmission that incorporates both the electric motor and an improved separating clutch that acts as the link to the engine. The extremely compact design is only about 0.6 inches longer than the Steptronic transmissions in the non-hybrid models.
Drivers are provided an array of selectable driving modes. In default Hybrid mode, the 745e runs on electric power with the combustion engine kicking in only after the car reaches 87 mph. This mode provides an optimized balance between the combustion engine and electric motor. Hybrid Eco Pro mode is biased towards reduced fuel consumption with enhanced coasting. Electric mode provides all-electric driving.
By selecting the Battery Control mode, charge state of the high-voltage battery is maintained at a level determined by the driver, enabling battery power to be used later for emissions-free driving in town, for example. Sport mode combines both engine and electric motor output to provide a total 389 horsepower for maximum performance. Adaptive mode is geared towards relevant driving styles and situations.
BMW is a pioneer in using carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP) in production vehicles. The 7-series’ A, B, and C pillars, as well as the roof, are made of CFRP to reduce weight and the car’s center of gravity. The price of entry for the 745e is $95,550.
Range Rover’ stylish Evoque enters its second generation with a complete redesign that features the automaker’s Premium Transverse Architecture and little in common with the outgoing version. Conventionally-powered and mild hybrid (MHEV) versions will be sold in the U.S., with the hybrid coming at a base cost of $46,600. A plug-in hybrid variant is planned for offshore markets but it’s not yet clear if it will make it to the States.
The model’s extended, 105.6-inch wheelbase is identical to that of the Jaguar E-Pace, bringing with it more interior space and extra rear knee room. Evoque also gets a version of the E-Pace 's Integral Link rear suspension. The new Evoque platform uses more high-strength steel as well aluminum to save weight. The Evoque also contains about 70 pounds of recycled material.
A 48-volt, lithium-ion battery pack mounted beneath the floor in the MHEV variant connects to a belt-driven motor-generator mounted at the side of the SUV’s turbocharged, 2.0-liter Ingenium engine. The engine turns off while coasting with the system recovering and storing energy normally lost during deceleration. The engine will also shut off while braking at speeds below 11 mph to increase efficiency, restarting as soon as it is needed. This reduces fuel consumption by about 6 percent.
The battery stores up to 200 watt-hours of electrical energy that can be used to generate up to 103 lb-ft torque to assist during acceleration. The MHEV system delivers a combined 296 horsepower and 295 lb-ft torque. This compares to 246 horsepower and 269 lb-ft for the conventional Evoque. A sprint from 0 to 60 mph is quicker in the hybrid at 6.3 seconds, down from 7.0 seconds.
Gear transitions are handled by a 9-speed automatic transmission with paddles in the AWD Evoque. Driveline Disconnect allows running in front-wheel drive to reduce transmission losses when four-wheel drive is not needed, with this system automatically detecting surfaces and adjusting settings accordingly. Terrain Response offers six drive modes – General, Eco, Sand, Grass-Gravel-Snow, Mud-Ruts, and Auto – with the latter automatically selecting the most appropriate mode for road conditions and adjusting suspension and electronic systems as needed. Evoque also includes hill-descent control and all-terrain progress control capabilities that enable the vehicle to handle throttle and braking automatically when driving tricky off-road trails, allowing the driver to focus on steering and watching for obstacles.
The Evoque is the first vehicle that can be equipped with Land Rover’s ClearSight ground camera system. Cameras in the radiator grille and side mirrors project images in the infotainment display that allow viewing what‘s in front, under, and to the sides of the front wheels. Through the optional ClearSight rear view mirror, a driver also gets a crystal-clear, unobstructed wide-angle view to the rear for backing up and parking. Cameras are covered with a hydrophobic coating that repels water and mud, a handy feature since the Evoque can wade through water up to 23.6 inches deep.
Plug-in hybrid power combines a 197-horsepower, 1.5-liter three-cylinder Ingenium engine driving the front wheels with a 107-horsepower electric motor powering the rear. There is no mechanical connection between the front and rear axles. The Evoque PHEV is capable of operating as a front-wheel drive vehicle, rear-wheel drive electric vehicle, or as an AWD hybrid with both power sources combined.
Part of Honda’s Clarity triple-play – along with the hydrogen-powered Clarity Fuel Cell and more mainstream Clarity Plug-In Hybrid – the Clarity Electric is a model that clearly cuts its own path.
It does not aim to be part of the ‘200 mile club,’ the latest generation of uber-electrics that claim a battery electric driving range greater than 200 miles between charges. It also does not cultivate efficiencies through a compact form designed to eke the most from every electron. Nor is it exceptionally lightweight, another common nod to the need for making the most of the battery power carried on board. In fact, there is little about the Clarity Electric that makes us think of other all-electric vehicles…save for the fact that it runs exclusively on zero-emission battery power, of course. This mid-size, five-passenger battery electric vehicle aims to be in a league of its own.
First of all, let’s discuss driving range, which is EPA rated at 89 miles between charges while delivering a combined 114 MPGe (miles-per-gallon equivalent). Yes, that’s more limiting than that of the 200+ mile club, but there’s a reason. Honda designed the Clarity Electric with the needs of commuters in mind…those who want their daily drive to be in a highly-efficient, zero-emission electric car with a sophisticated look and premium feel. And they designed it so it was significantly more affordable than premium competitors offering higher-end electric models with features similar to those of the Clarity. Currently, the Clarity Electric is offered at a $199 monthly lease in California and Oregon where this battery-powered model is available.
Honda figures that an approach focused on commuters is a sweet spot for the Clarity Electric. Its range fits the needs of most commutes and its price is certainly justifiable for a commuter car, and a luxurious one at that, with fuel costs substantially less than conventionally-powered models. Plus, most households have two cars at their disposal, sometimes more. Having a Clarity Electric as a primary commuter car with a conventional gasoline or hybrid vehicle also in a household’s stable covers all bases.
Honda gave a lot of thought to the cabin design with welcome touches throughout. We especially like the ‘floating’ design of the center console with its array of integrated controls and flat storage tray beneath, with 12-volt and USB outlets. The dash features a handsome suede-like material and an 8-inch touchscreen display elegantly integrated into the dash. Deep cupholders feature flip-up stays for holding smaller drinks. Side door pockets are large enough to accommodate water bottles. The trunk offers plenty of room and is illuminated when the trunk lid is remotely or manually unlatched. At night this allows you to immediately note what’s inside through the trunk lid’s clear back panel before opening…something we’ve really come to appreciate over time.
Driving the Clarity Electric is a satisfying experience, with this sedan both well-mannered and responsive. Power is delivered by a 161 horsepower electric motor energized by a 25.5 kWh lithium-ion battery that can be charged in about three hours with a 240 volt charger, or in as little as 30 minutes with a public DC fast-charge system to an 80 percent state-of-charge. While its primary job may well be to handle everyday driving needs and negotiate traffic, it also delivers plenty of fun on twisty canyon roads with flat cornering and confident steering. It’s quick, like almost all electrics are because of instant torque delivered at launch, providing very satisfying acceleration.
Also appreciated is the Clarity’s handy Apple CarPlay integration and its Honda Sensing suite of driver-assist technologies. Among these are important features like adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow, forward collision warning, collision mitigation braking, lane departure warning, and road departure mitigation.
The Clarity Electric has served us well on our daily drives over the course of Green Car Journal’s ongoing long-term test. Its use supports what Honda envisioned for this efficient electric car. It has been ideal for around-town duty, area trips within its range, and daily commutes. Its thoughtful and sophisticated – dare we say futuristic – design and very satisfying drive experience are appreciated every day we’re behind the wheel.
Henrik Fisker, former head of design at such places as Aston Martin, BMW, and Ford, is best known in the ‘green’ car space for the gorgeous Fisker Karma electric grand touring sedan he designed and briefly sold under his own brand in 2012. He’s back in the game at Fisker Inc. with his previously-shown eMotion electric supercar prototype, and now an electric SUV the company says it intends to sell first.
The as-yet unnamed electric SUV is a strategic move since SUVs represent the most important and fastest-growing segment in the automotive market. Powering the Fisker SUV will be front and rear electric motors offering all-wheel drive functionality. An ‘enhanced’ 80 kWh lithium-ion battery pack aims to offer a range approaching 300 miles. The SUV will feature a large heads-up display, a premium interior, and the latest emerging connected technologies…all at a targeted starting price under $40,000.
The eMotion is planned to use Fisker’s flexible solid state batteries under development for even greater range. Fisker claims this next-generation battery technology will offer 2.5 times the energy of today’s lithium-ion batteries.
Fisker has appointed Don Jackson – formerly president of manufacturing at Volkswagen of America and vice-president of manufacturing at Toyota – as the company’s senior advisor of manufacturing. The company says a driveable prototype of the electric SUV will be coming later this year with a production model out the last half of 2021.
Hyundai, part of a very exclusive club offering hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in the U.S., has followed its initial Tucson FCEV with the all-new Nexo. It’s available only in California where hydrogen fueling opportunities, while limited, exist in greater numbers compared to other states.
The Nexo represents a step forward for FCEVs in that Hyundai is selling the 5-passenger hatchback and not just leasing it, as is typically the case with hydrogen vehicles. It also uses a purpose-built platform rather than being based on an existing model like the Tucson FCEV.
As a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, the Nexo’s fuel cell takes in hydrogen and oxygen to create electricity for powering an electric motor, with zero emissions. The heart of the Nexo is its 95-kW proton-exchange membrane fuel cell stack and 1.6-kWh lithium-ion battery pack. These supply electricity to a 161-horsepower, 291 lb-ft AC induction motor located beneath the hood. Power is transferred to the road through a single-speed, direct-drive gearbox. Hydrogen is stored in three 10,000 psi tanks with a total capacity of 156 liters, delivering an EPA estimated driving range up to 380 miles.
Hyundai reduced the size and weight of the fuel cell compared to that used in the earlier Tucson FCEV. The new fuel cell uses only 56 grams of expensive platinum rather than the Tucson’s 78 grams. Hyundai also improved cold-weather performance so the fuel cell starts in temperatures as low as -22 degrees F. Like the Tucson and other fuel cell vehicles, refueling with hydrogen can be done in as little as five minutes.
Audi's new 2019 e-tron electric SUV joins Jaguar and Porsche in giving Tesla some serious competition. The automaker’s first-ever all-electric vehicle looks much like the rest of the Audi lineup, foregoing the temptation to go too futuristic or quirky in an effort to stand out as an electric. Its iconic Audi grille reinforces the sense of normalcy even as it handles the distinctly-electric job of directing cooling air to pass under the battery pack. Some electrification cues are provided, though, as the e-tron features slats running across the rear bumper that highlight the lack of tailpipes. Lights in the front are also designed to look like the bars of a charge status indicator. A dark colored section along the sides show battery pack location.
Efficient aerodynamics and other efficiency-enhancing touches were important in designing the e-tron, which features a drag coefficient of just 0.30. Features include cooling ducts for the e-tron’s front brakes and its adaptive, speed-dependent air suspension. Standard ultra-low rolling resistance 20-inch wheels are aerodynamically optimized. Full underbody cladding incorporates an aluminum plate to help protect the battery and also lower drag.
The e-tron's electric quattro all-wheel drive uses two asynchronous motors, each driving one set of wheels. Single-stage transmissions transfer torque to the axles via differentials. At moderate cruising speeds, the e-tron is powered mainly by the rear motor. The battery pack's location between the axles plus the low positioning of other drive components results in low center of gravity. Weight distribution is approximately 50:50. A driver can select from seven different driving modes, from comfortable to sporty, that alter suspension stiffness, steering responsiveness, and how aggressively the SUV accelerates.
Two electric motors accelerate the e-tron from 0-60 mph in 5.5 seconds with a top speed of 124 mph. It can tow up to 4000 pounds when equipped with the optional tow package. While EPA has yet to provide driving range numbers, testing in Europe resulted in 248 miles from the 95 kWh battery pack. EPA's testing here tends to yield somewhat lower range numbers.
Audi put heavy emphasis on recuperating as much energy as possible. Depending on driving conditions, terrain, and driving style, regenerative braking can provide as much as 30 percent of the e-tron’s range. The driver can select how aggressively the car uses this system, allowing for "one pedal" driving where taking the foot off the throttle will bring the car to a full stop using only regenerative braking.
The e-tron is available with a full range of standard or optional driver assistance packages including adaptive cruise assist, intersection assist, rear cross traffic assist, lane change and vehicle exit warning, and park steering assist. It comes in three trim levels - Premium Plus, Prestige, and First Edition. A panoramic glass sunroof is standard.
Tesla’s Model 3 was promised from the beginning to be an advanced electric sedan at an affordable $35,000 entry price. That, as anyone who has followed Tesla with any kind of regularity, has been an elusive goal as only higher-end and much more expensive versions of the Model 3 have been offered. And now…the $35,000 Model 3 is finally a reality.
Model 3 is a stylish and high-tech sedan offering a signature Tesla look and lots of advanced technology. Tesla’s third all-electric vehicle, the Model 3 follows in the footsteps of the well-regarded Model S sedan and Model X crossover SUV. Like these vehicles, the Model 3 is fast and fun to drive. Importantly, it does what Teslas are known to do – offer all-electric driving from about 220 miles up to 310 miles before requiring a recharge, which does a lot to ease range anxiety.
Just as Tesla’s approach to being an automaker is different, so too are its cars. Compared to the Model X, which the company packed in as many ‘firsts’ as possible – a crossover with gullwing-like ‘falcon’ doors and the industry’s largest windshield – the Model 3 is more aligned with the needs of mass production. In fact, Tesla describes the Model 3 as ‘smaller and simpler’ than its predecessors to make it more affordable than the Model S.
The $35,000 entry price tag is important since the Model 3 has been widely-promoted as a $35,000 ‘everyman’s electric vehicle’ affordable to the masses, even as the cheapest model available was initially $49,000, then $46,000, and ultimately $43,000 before Tesla finally made the leap to its recently-announced $35,000, slightly decontented base model. At that price it’s doubtful that Tesla will make money, and in fact it wasn’t long ago when Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the company would lose money on the Model 3 at that price point. An array of industry experts agree with that assessment. But that’s another story.
If not an exercise in simplicity, then perhaps the Model 3 is a statement that ‘less-is-more,’ even as it delivers desired levels of performance, range, technology, and safety. For example, rather than more costly aluminum construction like the Model S and Model X, the Model 3 uses both aluminum and less-costly steel. Its interior is also a model of simplicity devoid of instrumentation and external controls, knobs, or switches, with everything – including the speedometer – incorporated into its 15-inch center-mounted touchscreen display.
Buyers have a choice of battery packs and motors that deliver varying levels of performance and range. The lowest motor output currently available is estimated to offer 220 horsepower and rear-wheel drive, with a range of 220 miles. The dual motor model features 450 horsepower with all-wheel drive and a range of 310 miles.
Like all Tesla models, the Model 3 includes the hardware needed in the future for full self-driving, although this capability is dependent upon extensive software validation and local regulatory approval. Model 3 offers forward radar, eight cameras, and 12 ultrasonic sensors that enable an array of safety and driver-assist functions including automatic emergency braking, collision avoidance, and side collision warning. Over-the-air software updates are part of the package and Tesla’s AutoPilot semi-autonomous driving system is an available option.
Tesla now offers two levels of Connectivity: Standard that is free and Premium that comes at a modest annual cost. Standard Connectivity offers basic maps and navigation, music and media over Bluetooth, and software updates over Wi-Fi. Both receive maps and navigation functionality, traffic-based routing, trip planner, and Supercharger stall availability. All cars with Standard Connectivity will simply need to connect to a Wi-Fi network to receive software updates. Premium Connectivity adds satellite-view maps with live traffic visualization, in-car streaming music and media, and over-the-air software updates via Wi-Fi and cellular.
In an interesting twist to the $35,000 Model 3 saga, Tesla shuttered some of its stores and galleries in an effort to save money in tandem with the lower-cost Model 3 availability, with the intention of potentially closing all of them and exclusively selling online. The company then changed its mind and kept most of its Tesla stores and galleries open. Again, another story…so stay tuned.