Archive for the ‘General’ Category


Apr 21

Will Honda’s Clarity Plug-in Hybrid Be the Volt’s Toughest Competitor Yet?


Since late 2010 the “extended-range electric” Chevrolet Volt has set a standard other plug-in hybrids have yet to match, but its toughest competitor to date may be here soon.

To be launched later this year by the company whose 2000 Insight was America’s original modern-era hybrid car, the 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid promises some Volt-topping attributes and comes close to the Volt’s claim to fame – all-electric range.

The main reason people spend extra to buy a plug-in hybrid over a regular hybrid is for EV-like electric driving, and the Volt’s 53 miles has been comfortably heads above other automakers’ 20-some miles, but the Clarity is expected to offer 42 miles electric range.

At the same time it’s significantly roomier, has Acura-level refinement and features, to whom it may concern it has “Honda” on the grille, and evidence the market is chomping at the bit for more is plain to see.

Just this week Kelley Blue book upset some readers in naming the Prius Prime plug-in hybrid with just 25 miles range its top pick over the Volt, and now here comes this luxurious 42-mile Honda.

In originally explaining the rationale for the Volt, General Motors emphasized 40 miles was enough for three-quarters of all drivers’ daily needs. Its first-generation Volt had 35 miles through 2012, and 38 miles from 2013 through 2015, meaning the Clarity is right in line with what justified the Volt’s existence.

Pile on a bunch of other tangible and intangible qualities Honda is baking into the Clarity Plug-in Hybrid, and buyers may be hard pressed between the two.

Known Specifications

Unveiled at the New York Auto Show this month, Honda’s plug-in Clarity is to be the “volume” leader of the “3-in-1” Clarity platform that includes an already launched fuel cell variant and an 80-mile range all-electric version due later this year.

Honda released only core powertrain specs for the Clarity Plug-in Hybrid but we managed to get a few more facts from Honda public relations representative Chris Martin.

Honda projects it will sell 75,000 Clarity variants in the next four years. Most will be the Plug-in Hybrid.

Martin prefaced all comments saying engineers are still finalizing details, and efficiency and performance projections may change. The core powertrain is known however, and readers may conjecture at will.

Under the hood is essentially a variant of the dual motor hybrid system from the Accord Hybrid, albeit with 1.5-liter engine instead of 2.0-liter, and a largish 17-kWh battery for electric only driving.

2017 Honda Accord Hybrid Review – Video

The engine is based on a next-generation Honda 1.5-liter DOHC i-VTEC engine first used in the 2015 Honda Fit, according to Honda’s Natalie Kumaratne, Environment & Safety Public Relations.

2017 Accord Hybrid shown. Interestingly, system torque of 232 pounds-feet is the same as for the Clarity, but horsepower of 212 is higher. Accord EPA economy is 49 mpg city, 47 highway, and 48 mpg combined.

“However, for the application to the Clarity Plug-in Hybrid the engine has been optimized for the unique requirements of a plug-in vehicle using the Atkinson cycle, where it functions primarily to generate electricity,” said Kumaratne, “but can also serve as a direct power source under certain driving conditions in parallel with the electric motor.”

The Clarity has three drive modes – Normal, Econ, and Sport which let drivers maximize efficiency or driving performance. A fourth HV mode maintains the battery’s state of charge and can be selected in conjunction with Normal, Econ and Sport driving modes.

Included is Honda’s Sensing suite.

Its electric motor produces 181 horsepower and 232 pounds feet of torque. The battery recharges in 2.5 hours when fed 240 volts suggesting a faster on-board charger than what comes in the Volt which takes 4.5 hours to recharge its 18.4-kWh battery.

The Clarity’s horsepower otherwise compares to the compact Volt’s lower 149 horsepower and higher 298 pounds-feet from a 1.5-liter engine and electric power.

Open Questions

While it’s been speculated at the Volt fan site the Clarity works on the Volt’s “EREV” principle of keeping gas engine off under full acceleration, this may not be correct, but officially the company has not said.

That would be a critical question as other “blended PHEVs” – like the Prius Prime, Ford Energis, Hyunda/Kia PHEVs, etc. – feed in gas power to achieve maximum acceleration.

This off-topic comment came with breaking news about the Clarity. They voted it up, and suspect Honda is chasing GM – which it is – but we’ll see if the Clarity really works like an “EREV.”

That gas engine power wrecks the whole experience of driving “EV when you want to with gas back up when you need it.” To date, only the Volt in this price segment is a pure extended range EV (EREV), with one exception being the BMW i3 REx which has a tiny gas tank for limited range, and less than full power in extended-range operation.

Martin said at this stage he has not been told by Honda’s engineers whether they are targeting the Volt ‘s EREV principle of gas engine off under full acceleration, but they may not, he said.

The nearest thing to the Clarity was the 2014 Accord Plug-in Hybrid, and a firm foot to the floor did kick its engine on, so it would be only speculation until further notice that the Clarity will do otherwise and match the Volt in this regard.

That said, the dual-motor architecture could in theory be set up to run in EV only regardless of accelerator position.

But casting further doubt, Martin also noted a full accelerator input signals an “emergency” event, so the decision may come down to which is quicker – EV only, assuming the battery and motor can deliver, or battery plus gas in series hybrid mode.

This will be the engineer’s call, and enthusiasts for now can only hope as that is another of the Volt’s attributes that even GM-Volt forum members suspect Honda will match.

2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid. Top speed in EV mode is not known at this stage.

Martin also was not privy to the performance numbers for the Clarity, but odds may be good that the Volt will be quicker as it’s smaller and has more torque. Its 2.6 second 0-30 time beats even the Chevy Bolt EV’s 2.9 seconds, and its 8.4 seconds from 0-60 is respectable. That it does this in pure EV mode, and does not need to turn the gas on would put it ahead of the Clarity if Honda does things little different than the others.

We’ll see what the Honda says closer to launch, but its lower power and higher curb weight – Martin says it’s penciled in at approximately 4,000 pounds, around 450 pounds more than the Volt – suggest its power-to-weight ratio lags the Volt.

Expect a little less zippiness from the Clarity compared to the Volt, but likely acceptable and not anemic power.

Another mystery that plug-in hybrid buyers will want to know is the Clarity PHEV’s fuel economy in gas-electric hybrid mode. The Volt is EPA rated at 42 mpg which is OK, but far less than the class champ Prius Prime’s 54 mpg rating.

SEE ALSO: 10 Things You Need To Know About The 2017 Honda Accord Hybrid

It’s also less than the Honda Accord Hybrid’s 48 mpg from its 2.0-liter dual motor hybrid system.

Because Honda carried forward system architecture from the Accord into its new Clarity – with smaller engine and big 17-kWh battery to feed more electric drive – it would not be improbable for it to deliver mid 40s or possibly better.

Notable is the Clarity’s engine is a 1.5 liter versus the Accord’s 2.0, and the two cars are aimed at slightly different driver expectations.

The Malibu uses a more-expensive permanent magnet AC generator motor with rare earth metals rather than the Volt’s ferrite permanent magnet AC motor. This was done to improve hybrid mode efficiency whereas the Volt’s motor works well in dual motor mode in EV driving, and was “good enough” for hybrid driving. GM has also said this powertrain could theoretically be made a PHEV. Could they fit an 18.4 kWh battery like the Cadillac CT6 PHEV gets, without undue cargo space loss and competitively priced? If so, the Clarity would have a stronger competitor.

SEE ALSO: Why the Chevy Malibu Hybrid Gets Better MPG Than The Chevy Volt

For its part, Chevrolet made its 46 mpg hybrid Malibu better in its gas-electric operation than the Volt because the Volt was biased toward staying off of gas altogether. The Malibu was instead tuned for mpg while the Volt was tuned for “electric” drive feel even when burning gas.

Whether Honda’s engineers and bean counters approach the Clarity’s hybrid mode efficiency the same also is another open question.

Driving Dynamics

Based on the same chassis as the Clarity fuel cell vehicle, the Clarity Plug-in Hybrid uses a stiff body structure with strategic use of high-strength steel, optimized weight distribution, and it promises a relatively controlled drive experience.

The next-generation body rivals that of the Accord’s if not surpassing it.

It may yet do alright as the Accord is a solid, if not in sports car territory, and the Clarity is in league. Further, if you haven’t noticed, a lot of family sedans these days are competent handlers.

The Volt’s fans like to emphasize it has a fun-to-drive factor, but both it and the Clarity are eco cars focused on efficiency, and may be within realm.

Interior Space

Both the Volt and Clarity are well contented, but the Clarity may prove more refined.

Initial drive reviews of the Clarity Fuel Cell vehicle already on the market have won it praise as being nice enough to be an Acura, and the Plug-in Hybrid is expected to be the same.

Materials such as ultrasuede, and standard Honda Sensing suite make it a premium package indeed, but where it is hands down the winner is interior volume.

Honda says it will release specs closer to launch later this year, but the three Clarity variants were built to satisfy focus groups who said a sedan should comfortably fit five.

The compact Volt’s rear seat technically also fits five, but its knee room is less, and space abroad is also. Honda media rep Chris Naughton also let on the Clarity is a bit roomier than the Accord Hybrid which is on the large scale of a midsized class car.

Honda’s press kit showed where it wanted to satisfy focus groups. Photo of rear seat without passengers in gallery.

Martin emphasized also the Clarity will top the Volt in cubic feet for cargo and passenger by a significant margin.

“We expect it will have the most interior volume of any of the versions of Clarity,” said Martin of a provisional projection of around 121 cubic feet of passenger plus cargo space topping the Volt’s 100.9 total cubic feet, “and the cargo volume, the Volt is 10.6. we’re at 19.1.”


Attractiveness is subjective, but both ought to get their proponents and detractors.

The Volt is more “mainstream” and actually looks like a Cruze with some differences, and while we’re at it, it shares hints of the Honda Civic, Kia Forte, and other vehicles by automakers conspiring to make vehicles both attractive and ordinary all in one stroke.

That is, they blend in, and the Clarity meanwhile is a bit away from that mold. Like it or not, its rear three-quarter view with semi-faired in rear wheel reminiscent of the original Insight which set the tone 17 years ago as an odd looking green car (see gallery).

Some will groove on the originality, others may see it as awkward or stylistically tone deaf, if not as much as some have disliked Honda’s Japanese rival’s car, the Prius.


Chevrolet has proven the Volt’s quality and it is the leading plug-in hybrid both in terms of cumulative sales – thanks also to its head start – and monthly sales.

That’s stated preemptively because people with long memories may otherwise sneer at a GM product or American brand in general. To who think along those lines, just the fact the Clarity is a Japanese Honda is enough to settle any question.

Pick a Chevy or a Honda? That’s a no brainer to those of a certain mindset – pun intended. Honda has long been a darling of Consumer Reports, and its reputation for quality, durability and resale value is high.

Beyond that, Chevrolet has won more awards than an other brand for the past three years, and it is on a mission to remake its name after GM’s federal bailout and restructuring embarrassment of last decade.

The Volt is a pinnacle product and so if you are just catching up, it actually is the more proven of the two. Now in its second generation, among plug-in fans it is a premium nameplate, even if there is a “bowtie” on the front of the grille wearing silver “braces.”


The Volt starts at just below $34,000 and is eligible for a $7,500 federal credit and state incentives as the case may be. Honda says the Clarity, eligible for the same subsidies, will start in the mid 30s, so that may mean very close or a couple thousand or more above the Volt.

SEE ALSO: 2017 Chevy Volt Review – Video

Enthusiasts are speculating after credits it could be below the critical $30,000 mark, but this is not definite until Honda tells us.

Jury’s Out

We could have contemplated more variables, but the above are some of the high points.

Steven Center introduces the new Clarity Plug-In Hybrid and Clarity Electric at the 2017 New York International Auto Show on Wednesday, April 12, 2017.

In sum, Honda appears to have an edge in several if not all departments, and the incumbent Volt will have its own subjective and objective advantages.

More will have to be disclosed, drive reviews will need to verify impressions from the fuel cell car carry over to the Plug-in Hybrid, but so far, the Clarity may be the Volt’s strongest contender yet.


Apr 20

Voltec Buick Velite 5 unveiled in China


The Volt is again sold in China – as a Buick – and no, it’s not called the Electra.

Named after a former concept car, the Velite 5 demonstrates that miles are shorter in China, as the powertrain rated 53 miles in the U.S. goes a whopping 72 in the Peoples’ Republic.

“Equipped with GM’s latest intelligent electric drive system, the Velite 5 offers up to 768 kilometers of range in extended-range mode,” said the automaker. “Its prioritized pure electric driving mode provides 116 kilometers of range, fulfilling consumers’ demand to commute with zero petroleum consumption and zero emissions.”

A near replica of the Buick Velite 5 is available in the U.S. and Canada.

Everyone here already knows the basics of its specifications, but the Buick nameplate is considered upscale especially in China.

A spec it gets above the U.S. is “A highly efficient automatic air-conditioning system filters out PM2.5 fine particulate matter and odors,” to tackle Chinese urban air quality.

Buick of China said in a press release this is its second model to wear the Buick Blue badge.

The Velite 5 joins the LaCrosse hybrid electric vehicle launched last April.

“Two trim levels are being offered,” says Buick. “The 1.5GL is priced at RMB 265,800 ($33,368)and the 1.5GS is priced at RMB 295,800 ($37,724). Each is eligible for a subsidy of RMB 36,000 from SAIC-GM.”

Buick Velite 5 highlights:

• Power Split technology used in both pure electric and extended-range mode ensures that each power source contributes its fair share in different driving modes to maintain high energy efficiency and provide consistent driving performance.
• Multiple intelligent safety systems include adaptive cruise control (ACC), lane keep assist (LKA), automatic parking assist (APA) and high-beam assist (HBA). All trims come with 10 air bags as standard.

• Modern aestheticism and compact coupe styling blend with interior spaciousness to meet a range of user needs.
• Keyless entry and push-button start enhance convenience.
• A highly efficient automatic air-conditioning system filters out PM2.5 fine particulate matter and odors.
• A Bose premium sound system has eight speakers for acoustic pleasure.
• Next-generation OnStar telematics service is free of charge for five years. With 4G LTE, users can enjoy a range of safety and security, connectivity and mobility services.
• OnStar’s mobile app enables users to remotely monitor vehicle conditions, such as power level and charging status, and search for public charging facilities.
• An 8-inch high-definition touchscreen supports Bluetooth, voice recognition and Apple CarPlay, offering a safe high-speed connectivity experience for the driver and passengers.

We know you like the Volt, but wouldn’t you really rather have a Buick?


Apr 19

Kelley Blue Book Recommends Toyota Prius Prime Over Chevy Volt


The all-electric range provided by a plug-in hybrid is the biggest reason to buy one, but that did not stop Kelley Blue Book from naming a 25-mile range Toyota over a 53-mile range Chevrolet.

For the 2017 list of “5 Best Plug-in Hybrid Cars Under $40,000,” Toyota’s Prius Prime took top honors over the runner up Chevy Volt from the editors of the consumer automotive website.

Obviously weighing factors beyond all-electric range, KBB assessed the total value proposition perceived by the follow-up to Toyota’s Prius PHV.

The compact Chevy Volt was the first plug-in car to undergo a complete redesign in 2016. The midsized Prius Prime was the second in 2017.

“KBB’s Electric/Hybrid Car Best Buy for 2017, the Toyota Prius Prime brings together the time-tested reliability of Toyota technology, a pleasantly rewarding drive, and easy-to-use efficiency,” said the publication.

The new “Prime” saw its price tag seriously marked down from the $30-40,000 2012-2015 plug-in Prius while doubling the battery size from 4.4 kWh to 8.8, and though considered the Prius range topper, it’s stickered midway in the regular Prius Liftback hybrid’s range.

Both the $27,985 Prime and the $34,095 Volt are eligible for federal tax credits, though the Volt is actually eligible for $7,500 and the Prime is eligible for $4,500.

Additional bonus points for the Prime however include a substantial 54 mpg rating in hybrid drive mode – when the battery is not solely driving the wheels – versus the Volt’s 42 mpg, plus other factors put the Prime over the top.

SEE ALSO: Why the 2016 Chevy Malibu Hybrid Gets Better MPG Than The 2016 Chevy Volt

Chevrolet actually admitted it saved money on the motor drive for the Volt and assumed its buyers would emphasize the EV drive potential and not place as high a premium on its hybrid mode.

As such, its sibling Malibu Hybrid – a larger car with larger engine and more power – that’s otherwise based on the Volt’s hybrid system architecture, is rated 46 mpg in hybrid mode, topping the Volt by 4 mpg.

The Chevy Volt is considered by many, if not all, to be more attractively styled. The Prime also now has only four seats which the Volt caught heat for in gen one. The 2016 has a middle back hump which can accept a third passenger.

That decision and Toyota’s decision in reverse to eke out slightly higher mpg from the Prime than the 52 mpg Liftback mean on longer drives when not in EV mode the Prime has a huge 12 mpg advantage.

Couple that with Toyota’s reputation for quality, possibly resale value, and other subjective factors KBB did not outline in a brief write-up, and the Prime despite its lowly 25 miles EV range looks alright overall.

And the market seems to be agreeing. The Prime has only been roling out to all dealers across the country. Some reports have alleged its dealers were not stocking or promoting it, though Toyota denied that.

SEE ALSO: Should You Buy A 2017 Toyota Prius Prime?

For the first quarter of this year, its sales are believed to be siphoning off some customers from its non-plug-in Prius stablemate and its 4,346 units delivered through March is OK next to the Volt’s 5,563.

The Prime is a relative slouch off the line. 0-60 takes around 10 seconds next to the Volt’s 8.4, and the Volt rockets to 30 mph in 2.6 seconds.

This is not to downgrade the Volt overly much, however, and Kelley Blue Book nearly gushes praise for the Volt too, which made it a former Kelley Blue Book Best Buy Winner.

“…beyond efficiency, it’s just a better car, period. It’s fun to drive, with a nicely sorted suspension, good steering and decent power from its unique drivetrain,” wrote KBB in its prior review of the second-generation Volt compared to the first-generation Volt. “The interior is both more conventional and more high-tech than before, thanks to the use of real buttons combined with features like Apple CarPlay. It can even seat five people, at least for short drives, and it looks great. The price is also spot-on with the Toyota Prius, after you deduct for federal and state EV credits.”

SEE ALSO: Chevy Volt Travels 300,000th Mile

As things stand, the Volt still has its 53 miles EV range versus the Prime’s 25, and for all the reputation Toyota brings, the Volt has been a relative standout on the reliability front.

Time will tell whether the Prime gaining speed this year in the sales race overtakes the Volt, and the market comes fully in line with KBB’s recommendation.


This article appears also at


Apr 18

VW Reveals Nationwide EV Charging Plans


By Jeff Nisewanger

Volkswagen will rapidly build a nationwide EV charging network at hundreds of sites across 40 states within the next 3 years, according to new plans revealed last week.

The new network stands to dramatically expand the long-distance driving utility of current and future all-electric vehicles. With power rates of up to 320 kilowatts, the network would rival, and in some ways exceed, today’s Tesla DC Supercharger network.

In any case, the charge rate anticipating future EVs is very high – the Chevy Bolt EV, for example, is for now limited to a nominal 50 kW DC fast charge rate. What this means is that expected future EVs could be recharged quick enough to make switching from fast-fueling internal combustion vehicles far less of a concern.

The spending plan is one part of the company’s so-called “dieselgate” court settlement finalized last year with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over excessive pollution emitted from some its vehicles sold in the United States.

Volkswagen’s new plans add to a previously released California-specific draft plan which is pending approval by CARB later this month.

SEE ALSO: VW Reveals Tesla-like EV Charging Plans

The company, through its new Electrify America subsidiary, intends to spend a total of $500 million in each of four consecutive 30-month periods over the next 10 years. The money is divided primarily between community charging, highway charging, and public education projects with 40 percent of funds, or $800 million over the full 10 years, dedicated to California under the legal agreement.

As part of the first cycle of its investment plan, VW says it intends to spend $120 million on EV charging infrastructure in California and a further $250 million in the other states. Some of those funds would be set aside for operating expenses and long-term maintenance.

Of that combined $370 million, some $255 million would be used to develop nearly 300 ultra-fast DC charging locations along several dozen interstate and regional highways. Each location would typically have about five chargers although the number at any specific site would vary between four and 10.

Some of the first highway locations could be completed as early as next year. At least 200 of those locations would be completed by mid-2019 and another 90 are projected to be under active development and likely to be completed over the following year. The scope and pace of the planned installation schedule roughly mirrors the first years of Tesla’s DC Supercharger network in the U.S.

All of the highway chargers would be next-generation units designed to support a peak charging rate of at least 150 kilowatts and some would support up to 320 kilowatts. The sites are being designed to be “future proof” for medium to long-term use and will feature transformers and grid connections that allow for easy upgrades in later years.

The locations would be spaced an average of 66 miles apart so those closer to urban areas would be usable by most existing all-electric cars. The longest distance between charging locations would be set at 120 miles.

Almost all existing non-Tesla DC charging stations support between 25 and 50 kilowatts in the United States so VW’s new stations could support charging at up to 3 to 6 times faster when used with future vehicles.

Even some existing cars may be able to charge somewhat faster than they can on existing chargers. Chevrolet officials have hinted that the 2017 Bolt EV can reach a peak charge rate of perhaps around 20 percent faster. The Kia Soul EV and the new Hyundai Ioniq electric sedan can reportedly charge at a peak rate of up to 70 kilowatts.

A further $80 million during the first cycle would be spent on community charging at a total of around 650 locations in 16 metropolitan areas nationwide. Some 300 of those locations would be located in and around New York City, Washington D.C., Chicago, Portland, Boston, Seattle, Philadelphia, Denver, Houston, Miami, and Raleigh. In California, a heavier concentration of charging locations would be installed in and around Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, San Diego, and Sacramento.

Most community-based charging would be focused on public locations such as retail shopping, parking garages, and so-called charging depots that would contain clusters of DC chargers. Locations with shorter turnovers would get 50 and even some 150 kilowatt chargers while longer-term parking areas would get slower 7 kilowatt AC charging. About a third of the charging would be located at workplaces. The remaining chargers would be installed at multi-unit residential complexes.

Estimated consumer EV charging prices are not yet known but the new VW charging stations will be open to all car models and will not be located at or near VW dealerships. Volkswagen will own the chargers and is allowed to operate them at a profit.

A separate aspect of the overall VW settlement includes a $2.7 billion environmental trust fund to be used as a source of project grants overseen by Native American tribal governments, individual states, and local agencies. VW also faces billions of dollars in other civil and criminal penalties.

VW Group is planning 30 BEVs by 2025, along with numerous plug-in hybrids. Shown: I.D. Buzz Concept.

Altogether, some 5,000 charging stalls supporting AC or DC charging would be built nationwide by the end of 2019. All DC chargers will feature both CHAdeMO and CCS standard plugs and AC charging will feature J1772 standard plugs. Tesla vehicles use a proprietary plug design but the company sells compatible adapters.

Tesla has built a fast DC Supercharger network of its own since late 2012 that supports maximum theoretical charging rates of up to 145 kilowatts at over 350 locations and 2,200 charging stalls across the country. Some existing Tesla vehicles can charge at a peak rate of about 120 kW at these stations. Tesla’s existing DC CHAdeMO adapter is limited to 50 kilowatts. Last year, the company joined the European CharIN consortium that is leading the development of CCS.

SEE ALSO: VW Settlement May Supercharge non-Tesla DC Rollout in US

Most of these Tesla sites are located along highways away from large metropolitan areas and are primarily intended for use by travelers on long-distance trips. Some of VW’s community charging locations will have 150 kilowatt and 50 kilowatt charging but the plan is vague about how many and where.

By the time VW has completed its first buildout of charging stations in 2019, Tesla itself will likely have greatly expanded their Supercharger network to support an expected wave of less expensive Model 3 sedans hitting the road late this year.

The new electric chargers are expected to support flexible payment schemes including both simple credit cards and subscription-based plans. VW said they aim to create shared billing agreements with other charging providers. This presumably would be similar to or include the ROEV Association being created to link the billing systems of ChargePoint and EVgo.

EVgo, a spin-off of the NRG electric utility, today has a nationwide network of over 900 DC charging stations at over 600 locations but they are 50 kilowatt or less and are often clustered in big cities leaving large gaps without charging on the highway.

At California’s request, VW has plans to concentrate a further $44 million towards so-called Green City initiatives that seek to demonstrate transformative use of electric vehicles within a city. Sacramento has been tentatively identified as the first city to be targeted to receive services such as electric car sharing along with electric delivery and taxi fleets.

In order to promote public awareness of electric vehicles, VW plans to spend about $20 million of its California budget and a further $25 million or so from its non-California national budget. About half of that spending would go towards television ads beginning this fall.

The exact locations for VW’s highway DC chargers have not been decided yet but the routes are being influenced by this Designated EV Charging Corridor map published by the Federal Highway Administration.

VW has no plans to fund hydrogen fuel cell vehicle filling stations during this first round of spending but may do so in the future. California is strongly encouraging VW to add hydrogen fueling investments in later years.

VW says their expenses for personnel and other administrative overhead will be about 8 percent of the overall budget.

The company has already held a round of meetings with suppliers and plans to begin negotiating contracts. It says it does not intend to “reinvent the wheel” and will purchase hardware and software from existing companies. It plans to operate the network in a sustainable long-term fashion “in line with the same economic constraints faced by others in the charging industry”. In the past, ChargePoint has strongly urged that VW not be allowed to use its diesel settlement funds to unfairly dominate the industry.

This article appears also at


Apr 17

Never Minding the Chevy Bolt EV, Tata Shows Off Its Own Bolt EV in the UK


For all those in the UK feeling neglected because a right-hand-drive Chevy Bolt-based Vauxhall Ampera-e isn’t being offered, Tata Motors recently showed a proper Bolt EV of its own.

Described by author “Nigel” for The Red Ferret as “impressive,” and “very nice,” with good drivability, attention to detail, and fit and finish all around, the electric conversion of Tata’s UK-built Bolt subcompact left him “a little bit shell shocked.”

Tata reps seemed unconcerned about any name overlap with the Chevrolet Bolt EV. Opel was recently sold to PSA by GM. Opel says it will still sell the Opel Ampera-e. GM had said the Vauxhall variant won’t be sold, but the demand is there. Source: The Red Ferret.

India-based Tata now owns Jaguar-Land Rover, and apparently that’s improved quality control over examples of yesteryear, but at the end of the day, that’s all for naught.

SEE ALSO: PSA buys Opel/Vauxhall from GM in $2.3B Deal

That’s because the Bolt EV by Tata is not intended for sale. Whether the name overlap with GM’s car produced in Michigan is of any concern to lawyers at the moment is also anyone’s guess, but that too may not matter.

Nigel said Tata informed him it has an “even better” car in the works, but the Tata Bolt EV, he offered, would sell well in Europe, especially if the range were higher.

The other Bolt EV Americans are more familiar with.

Tata’s four-passenger, single-speed Bolt EV utilizes an 80 kW motor, and range in present trim is a scant 62 miles (100 km), just a wee bit shy of the Opel Ampera-e generously rated by NEDC standards at 500 km (310 miles – in the U.S. the Bolt is rated 238).

A sprint from 0-60 mph is also no match for the Bolt/Ampera-e’s 6.5 or so seconds, and Tata reports less than 10 seconds and a top speed of 135 km/h (83 mph, lower than the Bolt’s 91).

This said, the car drives well, is “fun,” and looks good to go, in all meaningful ways. The motor appears as if it was born in the former engine bay, instead of transplanted in, and the interior is quite acceptable for this level of car.

The converted Bolt EV is based on the India-market Bolt which sells for approximately $6,800. Source: The Red Ferret.

“The total surprise is how nice the car is in just about every department,” wrote Nigel. “You can see no change in the layout of the vehicle from the conversion to electric, no nasty boxes hiding in the rear, no strange knobs in the cockpit. It’s all perfectly standard and looks and drives just like a standard compact. Except it’s completely silent.”

“The finish inside the car is, quite frankly, impeccable for a car of this type,” he added.

Looks-wise, the Bolt is definitely more humble pie, this is true, but it’s “not horrible,” offered Nigel.

In all, it gets an “A” for effort, and lends credence to the Tata’s assertion an even better EV is in the wings.

SEE ALSO: Opel Confirms Ampera-e Plus Other EVs Will Be Wearing Its Badge

Meanwhile, Opel – newly sold off by General Motors – says the Ampera-e will come to Europe.

Whether a right-hand-drive Vauxhall Ampera-e is made available remains to be seen, and for now the closest thing to it was the teaser by Tata as it sorts out its efforts on future electric cars.

Hat tio: Brian Ro

The Red Ferret ,


Apr 14

Why Honda Says 80 Miles Range Is Enough For Its 2017 Clarity Electric


On Wednesday Honda unveiled its spacious and nicely appointed Clarity Electric sedan whose approximately 80 miles of estimated range would be about on par for a 2011 model year electric car.

To be offered initially later this year in California and Oregon with “an attractive lease program” based around an MSRP in the mid 30s, the all-electric Clarity is Honda’s latest entry in a market where 200-plus miles range for the mid 30s is the new norm.

The Japanese automaker’s nifty new EV is actually one variant within a three-in-one platform, and the Clarity also comes in a fuel cell version that’s available now, and a 42-mile all-electric range plug-in hybrid version due in 50 states later this year.

Given even base EVs these days are pushing 100-plus miles, and the 238-mile Chevy Bolt and 215-plus-mile Tesla Model 3 are priced within a couple thousand or so of it, many have asked what was Honda thinking.

No Mistake

If, as some commentators have suggested, Honda is suspected of being out of touch with the market, that would not incorrect, according to Honda.

“Today, there are a lot of claims in this space but no automaker knows more about customers of electrified vehicles than Honda,” said Steve Center, vice president of the Connected and Environmental Business Development Office at American Honda.

Steven Center introduces the new Clarity Plug-In Hybrid and Clarity Electric at the 2017 New York International Auto Show on Wednesday.

“Our first dedicated electric car came to market two decades ago,” said Center, “our first fuel cell vehicle more than 15 years ago. And along the way we have benefited from close relationships with our customers, which has informed the strategies we now pursue with the Clarity series.”

So, the 80-mile range in an otherwise “premium” five-passenger EV along the lines of an Accord was most deliberate, and Honda says it’s walking into this with eyes open.

This decade the automaker has also released limited-availability models which enabled it to collect copious amounts of customer data, which lends credence to its assertion of its expertise. The 2013-2014 lease-only Fit EV is one example, and the 2014 Accord Plug-in Hybrid was another. Before that, Honda’s 2000 Insight was the first modern-era hybrid-electric car sold in the U.S., and Honda’s assertion of a wealth of “electrified vehicle” customer experience comes also from that and subsequent hybrids.

If EV fans are still underwhelmed, Honda is otherwise embracing battery power to a greater degree than Toyota or any other Japanese carmaker, but like Toyota, Honda is convinced hydrogen fuel cell vehicles have far greater long-term potential.

“The Clarity Fuel Cell is for the true believers, the most devoted of green motorists, who really want to cut the cord altogether and be on the absolute leading edge of an advanced technology future,” said Conrad. “For the long term, we continue to believe that fuel cell technology has the greatest potential to address society’s energy and environmental concerns while better serving the needs of customers in terms of driving performance, range and refueling, which for the Clarity is 366 miles range with a 3 to 5 minute refuel.”

Clarity Electric Fits A Sub Niche

Not unlike another one-of-three-variants, the Hyundai Ioniq EV, which has limited space for batteries, a similar case is true of the Honda Clarity Electric. Its not very big 25.5-kWh pack occupies available space in the platform that Honda saves cost with in making three electrified versions. The smaller battery further keeps costs down, and there are EV fans who’ve said 80 miles is a right-sized setup, and they don’t wish to lug around or pay for a bigger battery.

It may be observed a Tesla Model 3 or a Chevy Bolt or next Nissan Leaf are priced similarly, but aside from the 2017 Clarity Electric’s range being no greater than a 2013 Nissan Leaf, it otherwise is a solid package.

Its electric motor is rated 161-horsepower (120-kilowatt) and 221 pounds-feet of torque, and this power may be routed via three selectable drive modes – Normal, Econ and Sport. The battery can be by charged with 240 volts in just over three hours or with DC fast charging it can achieve an 80 percent charge in just 30 minutes via SAE Combined Charging System connection.

Honda projects it will earn a relatively respectable EPA fuel economy rating of 120 MPGe city, 102 highway, 111 combined.

According to the world as Honda sees it, the 80 or so mile range EV does indeed fit a niche it knows to exist.

“We have more than 1,000 Fit EV customers who live within the range similar to that of the Clarity Electric,” said Honda’s Natalie Kumaratne, Environment & Safety Public Relations. “Honda has offered our lessees the opportunity to extend their leases since July 2015, and almost 70 percent of them have taken advantage of the offer, proving there is a customer base for the range the Clarity Electric provides.”

What’s more, said Kumaratne, “the Clarity Electric is content rich and is very spacious.”

“Our approach with the Clarity Electric needs to be considered in the context of the overall vehicle series. Based on our experience, we believe there is a market for a larger, more premium EV at an affordable price,” she said. “While pricing has yet to be announced, considering the size, performance and premium features, you can expect it to be very competitive.”

Features for the Accord-like sedan include available Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Honda Sensing suite of safety and driver-assistive technologies standard, and high efficiency LED lights and 18-inch aluminum wheels.

Compliance Car

Honda has not made sales projections for the EV, but the entire Clarity line is not intended to set new electrified vehicle records.

“We are targeting 75,000 Clarity vehicles over the first four model years,” said Kumaratne. “We aren’t breaking out each variant’s projections; however, the Clarity Plug-in Hybrid is the volume leader.”

First Fit EV delivered.

A lot of those sales are expected to come from Honda loyalists, as alluded to with the Fit customers. Leases of that converted EV which had 82 miles range amounted to 92 in 2012, 569 in 2013, 407 in 2014 and 2 in 2015.

Honda has objected to the somewhat pejorative term “compliance car,” but as the saying goes, said advocate Mark Renburke of Drive Electric Cars New England, if it walks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it must be a compliance car.

A “compliance car” is called such as it complies with California zero-emission vehicle mandates held by that state and around a dozen others in the U.S.

Admittedly cynical of Honda’s latest electric car when Tesla, GM, Nissan, VW Group, BMW, and others are planning more than short-range limited market plug-ins, Renburke sees the Clarity Electric as a pure play by Honda to meet California’s ZEV rules.

“Basically they want to tap in to their existing base of environmentally-minded, already hybrid or EV driving customers, and continue to extend or ‘recycle’ EV credits, as they have done with the Fit EV,” said Renburke. “It’s essentially a carefully crafted compliance move to delay serious EV market offerings while ensuring acquisition of continued ZEV credits and minimal loss of existing loyal Honda or Fit EV customers.”

Other pro-plug-in states following California-style ZEV rules in the Northeast may follow, he suspects, but meanwhile the aim is to “sell a steady but low volume of BEVs … to earn ZEV credits required for 2018-2025 in order to be able to continue to volume selling its lower efficiency gasoline only cars, SUVs, etc.”

But Renburke predicts Honda will still come up short next to more bullish efforts including the Tesla Model 3, Chevy Bolt, etc., which will sell in tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, as Tesla predicts.

“Honda is still going to lose, but this product will mitigate their short term loss while ensuring they don’t have to take the plunge for a larger short term loss to gear up and actually selling 100,000-plus, 200-plus-mile EVs,” said Renburke.

Reports have alleged that automakers such as Fiat-Chrysler, GM, Ford, and others are losing more money than a legacy automaker would normally like in pushing EVs at this stage. Automakers have also petitioned President Trump saying they don’t sell in sufficient volumes, but the’ve been forced to build and market them by regulations they wish to see eased.

Consumer tax credits up to $7,500 have helped, but Tesla and GM are already on track to exhaust their allotment of 200,000 federal credits by 2018. In not diving in head first, Renburke suspects Honda is being cagey, taking its time with only toes in the EV waters, as industry production costs continue to come down.

It is, after all, about profit, and Honda is not the Goodwill, but a corporation, and so this is what it’s willing to do, based on its risk tolerance, and prediction of market timing.

To its credit also, offers Renburke, the Clarity is a larger, and more attractive vehicle priced in line with the old Fit.

“The Clarity has a better form factor, with a sedan look and appeal, than the Fit EV, so that will help convert more brand loyal Honda drivers who couldn’t stomach being seem in a Fit while being fine for the existing Fit EV lease returnees,” he said.

The Bright Side

Every new EV is one more in a market where other automakers have also dragged their heels, or are standing back even more than Honda, and more electric cars are expected this decade into next.

And according to a J.D. Power survey, the top three reasons any new car buyer chooses a certain vehicle over another are brand loyalty and styling, and number one is expected reliability. So, any plug-in car Honda offers already starts with a couple legs up.

Whether fuel cell technology does take off as robustly in coming years as Honda and others predict, and as the rulemakers at the U.S. EPA and California Air Resources Board also encourage, will remain to be seen.

Meanwhile, consumers in markets where the Clarity Electric is offered are promised a well-appointed, carefully engineered dedicated zero-emission car from a highly experienced and well-regarded automaker, and to each his own.

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