Archive for the ‘General’ Category

 

Dec 30

How Many Sub-$40,000 / 200-Mile Range EVs Might We See In 2017?

 

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The year 2016 saw the first 200-mile range electric car for under $40,000 and 2017 is expected to witness a few more.

General Motors’ well-publicized $37,495 Bolt EV is the forerunner fast-tracked to being first, but really, it is the inaugurator of a new price-for-range benchmark effectively raising expectations and dictating other automakers follow ASAP.

This double-the-range-for-the-dollar has come faster than some might have imagined just a few years ago. The first mass-production 200-mile-plus range electric cars – excluding Tesla’s limited-production 2008-2012 Roadster – was the $70,000 and up 2012 Tesla Model S.

Its 200-plus miles for roughly $70,000 has only been with us for a short time, so the jump this year to 200-plus miles for under $40,000 is mighty significant. That’s the good news. The open question is whether as big of a range-for-dollar increase can be done again as soon as early next decade using lithium-ion batteries.

Does anyone even need more than 200 miles range? No! Get over it! Why pay for and drag around all that extra battery? Even 107 miles can be enough, some advocates have said. However, mainstream consumers speaking with their pocketbooks have said "no sale" and the U.S. market share is just 0.45 percent. Most consumers say they want more and faster recharging, cost parity and no perceived downside with conventional cars. This is actually the goal in places like Norway, and they hope by next decade EVs will stand alone without subsidies.

Does anyone even need more than 200 miles range? No! Get over it! Why pay for and drag around all that extra battery? Even 107 miles can be enough, some advocates have said. However, mainstream consumers speaking with their pocketbooks have said “no sale” and the U.S. market share is just 0.45 percent. Most consumers say they want more and faster recharging, cost parity and no perceived downside with conventional cars. This is actually the goal in places like Norway, and they hope by next decade EVs will stand alone without subsidies.

To consumers on the fringes, this year’s progress report may sound like about what they’d expect as they’ve seen computer processing power multiply year by year to astonishing heights, but EVs are not based on the silicon chip, rather it’s batteries they rely upon. And unlike computers following Moore’s Law, cars like the Bolt are not getting a radically improved battery chemistry with double or more the energy density that comes in a Tesla Model S to enable a price cut by half.

Rather, as researchers work on “beyond lithium-ion” chemistries, li-ion is being incrementally tweaked, the Bolt itself is economically built, and a big help has been li-ion’s costs have come down faster than many predicted.

SEE ALSO: Could JCESR’s Li-Sulfur Battery Revolutionize EVs?

As observed by George Crabtree, director of the federally sponsored JCESR project working on new chemistries, cars like the Bolt and others are benefitting from less-expensive li-ion batteries, and more can be stuffed in for a lower selling price.

Li-ion battery prices have plummeted multifold from many hundreds of dollars per kWh to $145/kWh for GM which got a special deal from LG Chem for its cells. By 2020 GM would like to see li-ion cells costing $100/kWh and Tesla has indicated it wants its entire assembled battery packs to be that inexpensive. It may therefore be possible to get up to 350 miles range or so for the same bucks, assuming other cost cutting. Unknown also is whether the leaders GM, Tesla, and Nissan use up their 200,000 allotted federal tax credits by 2018.

Li-ion battery prices have plummeted multifold from many hundreds of dollars per kWh to $145/kWh for GM which got a special deal from LG Chem for its cells. By 2020 GM would like to see li-ion cells costing $100/kWh and Tesla has indicated it wants its entire assembled battery packs to be that inexpensive. It may therefore be possible to get up to 350 miles range or so for the same bucks, assuming other cost cutting. Unknown also is whether the leaders GM, Tesla, and Nissan use up their 200,000 allotted federal tax credits by 2018.

How long this one-upmanship with tweaked and price-reduced li-ion may be done is not known. That is, whether a 450-mile EV using li-ion chemistry could be economically sold for under $37,495 by 2021 is anyone’s guess. Some believe that may be a bit much to ask, others are more optimistic, and otherwise the answer is time will tell.

As it is, automakers are throwing all they can at a market as soon as they can while more and faster charging infrastructure is being planned and put in place as well.

Synergies are happening to enable EVs with broader appeal than they’d had, and this year are projected a small handful of production or pre-production EVs to keep the Bolt EV company – which we’ll mention first, because it actually is a 2017 model.

2017 Bolt EV

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As noted, the Bolt EV is this year’s most range for the dollar, representing the most advanced engineering GM has yet put into an electric car, according to Pam Fletcher, executive chief engineer for electrified vehicles.

“We got here by a lot of learning and experience, and this is our greatest electrified vehicle so far,” said Fletcher.

With a $7,500 federal tax credit whittled off a base $37,495, and possibly a state credit, these may net a couple thousand below the $30,000 mark, and offer 238 miles EPA-rated range.

Performance is also quick, with 0-60 mph in a respectable 6.5 seconds from the spacious compact crossover.

General Motors “launched” the Bolt EV to its first retail customers mid December in a way not unlike how Tesla launched the Model X – a few in Oregon and California will get them this year while the rest of the country is to get them the following year.

“A number of Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States including New York, Massachusetts and Virginia will see first deliveries this winter,” said Chevrolet, adding that more will make it to major metro dealerships through the first half of 2017 with full U.S. rollout by mid-year.

2017 Opel Ampera-e

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If you know about the Chevy Bolt, then little needs explaining about the re-badged Opel Ampera-e.

Sales began Dec. 14, and plans for left-side-drive versions only at this point are for first deliveries in Norway in the spring. Following that, next in line are Germany, Netherlands, France and Switzerland.

“Most other European countries will follow in late 2017 or during 2018 as production volume grows,” says Opel.

The priority for initially limited volumes in the “staggered launch” is being given to markets with existing infrastructure and/or those wanting EVs the most.

Norway, of course, is the poster child of EV adoption, with over 25 percent market share for plug-in cars and EVs are the preferred type.

2018 Nissan Leaf

Nissan IDS Concept believed by some to contain elements foreshadowing the next Leaf’s design language.

Nissan IDS Concept believed by some to contain elements foreshadowing the next Leaf’s design language.

Nissan, the original purveyor of “mass” appeal EVs is fashionably – or is that unfashionably? – late to its second-generation reveal party.

Now with two range upgrades since a Dec. 2010 launch, the company has said it will compete with the Bolt but the latest indicator may be year one sees less than the whole potential range for it.

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More than one battery option expected means multiple range options, and the rumor is the smaller battery will be shown first. This may be because word has it there are issues with the new Leaf’s battery, but what they could be is unknown. Its Renault ZOE and Kangoo Z.E. siblings have already receive next gen batteries, so we shall see.

When it will be shown is also a mystery. Some have suggested Tokyo motor show later this year, but a report by Forbes contributor Bertel Schmitt cites Nissan insiders saying “I think you’ll be hearing about the car much earlier than that.”

The new Leaf is expected to look more conventional than the willfully funky – others have said “frumpy” – design that screams without a word “I’m green.”

2018 Tesla Model 3

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Have you heard of the Tesla Model 3? Unless you have been living under a rock, odds are good you have even if you have no other interest in EVs.

This is the $35,000 EV with 215-plus miles range that’s garnered north of 400,000 refundable pre-orders at $1,000 apiece, and is due for a second pre-production reveal this year before going on sale later this year.

The second reveal will show more than its original unveiling in prototype form last March. Among the exciting details, aside from the sporty lines and Tesla brand image, are this is to be a highly configurable car.

Unlike the Bolt and Leaf which will be front wheel drive only, the Model 3 is rear or all wheel drive, and multiple battery and power options are expected from mild to wild.

Green car analyst Alan Baum projects first sales by October, and 5,000 new owners may have them in their driveways before Dec. 31.

This is the car that’s likely to steal the show from this spring forward, and it is the big news of the year.

Something from Hyundai?

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Hyundai has potentially two cars to show, but question is whether either will be here in 2017 with 200 miles range.

First up is the Ioniq which is due for first sales this year with 124 miles range, and a bump to much more is expected after model year one. Whether this is revealed in 2017 may be doubtful lest it steal thunder from the still-new original, but we shall see.

Hyundai has also said it is planning a sport utility vehicle with 200 miles or more range for 2018, so this may be revealed, but this also is unclear.

Is That It?

There’s a hodge-podge of interesting new electric cars planned but with what we know so far, none may be revealed by 2017’s end with a whole 200 miles range.

One of these is the Honda Clarity. It is to be based off the Clarity fuel cell vehicle’s platform, and though Honda may surprise everyone, it may get something like 124 miles range give or take also.

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Later, it may be updated to longer range but this is a question mark.

Another we’ve heard whispers of is Ford’s Model E – yep, they own the name Tesla wanted for the Model 3, and Baum projects it won’t be shown till after 2017, possibly 2018, and in production in 2019.

In fact, it’s tough to guess what the carmaker may do as it otherwise aggressively postures its advanced tech, including autonomous drive plans.

Ford Focus EV. Range was increased this year, but the 200 mile new car is further off.

Ford Focus EV. Range was increased this year, but the 200 mile new car is further off.

The main hint we have is CEO Mark Fields said in answer to being competitive with the Bolt and company, “Clearly that’s something we’re developing for.”

That’s pretty vague, but the remark was interpreted to mean a Bolt competitor is pending just the same.

Yet one more potential 200-miler is the Kia Niro Electric, and this also is up in the air, but may not be revealed until after 2017, possibly 2018, and in production in 2019, Baum said.

Kia Niro hybrid.

Kia Niro hybrid.

We’ve also heard a lot from the VW Group and its plans for 30 new battery electric cars by 2025, but it may not reveal a 200-miler in 2017.

Its VW e-Golf was just updated, and won’t likely be upgraded so soon again. The Audi Q5 electric will appear in 2017, but not with 200-miles range and it could cost north of $40,000.

Audi Q5.

Audi Q5.


Another, the Audi Q6 e-tron will get 200-miles range, but it won’t cost under $40,000 either and, said Baum, won’t likely appear until 2018.

At this stage, he added, it is unknown what automakers will do with respect to showing their cars in concept or production form since in most cases they have not made final decisions.

So that may be it, but then more could always come out of left field, as regulatory and market pressure is increasing, battery costs continue to decline and demand stands to rise as well.

This article appears also at HybridCars.com.


p.s. And have a Happy New Year!

 

Dec 29

First Opel Ampera-e deliveries set For Norway in spring 2017

 

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General Motors’ Opel brand has started Ampera-e sales in Norway and projects first deliveries in that country by the upcoming spring.

Norway was chosen as first recipient for the rebadged Chevy Bolt EV with 500 kilometers range on the European NEDC cycle (Bolt rated 238 miles under U.S. EPA) as it’s by far the most EV-focused market.

Opel says quantities will be initially limited, and next countries to get the Ampera-e are Germany, Netherlands, France and Switzerland.

These are being given priority based on infrastructure, policies, and otherwise having have “shown the greatest ambition to populate their streets with electrically-powered vehicles.

Opel pins the slow start on the Michigan-based plant which is to exclusively build them for export.

“The availability of the Ampera-e will be limited due to a slow ramp-up of production at the Orion plant in Michigan,” said Peter Christian Küspert, Opel group vice president of sales & aftersales. “Therefore, we made a decision to go with a staggered introduction plan going first with the countries that already have some form of EV infrastructure in place or countries that have shown ambition to become EV leaders. This has created the pecking order Norway, Germany, Netherlands, France and Switzerland. However, we are flexible here and will be able to add countries or change the order at short notice if somebody becomes so attractive because of changed policies for example.”

GM is reportedly building 100 per day, and has only started a slow rollout in California and Oregon. Since November it may have produced north of 2,000 units, and U.S. Bolt retail sales are projected by analyst Alan Baum at only 23,000 or so for 2017.

A GM Cruise LLC autonomous Bolt EV in Scottsdale, Ariz.

A GM Cruise LLC autonomous Bolt EV in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Other cars are expected to go to GM’s autonomous drive endeavors, but somehow the numbers don’t seem to add up between potential produced, and talk of limited availability.

A query to a Chevrolet media rep received answers to basic questions, but this topic of a production/availability discrepancy received no answer. It could be there is a large number of them sitting in QA, for a time. GM is known to do such things with new models, and did that with the Volt in 2010.

In any case, Norway ought to be excited to get them, as it’s just purchased its 100,000th EV, and market share could go as high as 25-30 percent in parts of the country of 5.1 million.

Norway’s 100,000th EV Constitutes 10-Percent Of The World’s Total

Policies there include zero sales taxes on EVs, exemption from VAT on purchase and leasing, low annual road tax, no charges on toll roads and ferries, free municipal parking, access to bus lanes and 50 percent reduced company car tax.

This is as volumes do ramp up, and the Bolt is only expected to help Norway in its desire for EVs.

“Our goal is to have enough capacity by 2018 so that we can offer decent volumes in most European countries,” said Küspert. “Our current plan has the Ampera-e being sold by e‑agents selected from the Opel dealer network in all markets, except Norway where it will be sold throughout the entire Opel dealer network as the Ampera-e will soon be Opel’s bestseller there.”

This article appears also at HybridCars.com.

 

Dec 28

China eclipses all to become top plug-in market

 

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With the close of 2016, China’s cumulative total plug-in passenger vehicles sales surpass those of Europe and the U.S., further nailing home its number one status.

For the past two years, China has already outpaced the other two global leaders on a monthly basis, and now outranking them in total plug-in vehicles on the road, is continuing on without signs of letting up the pace.

China’s relatively rapid ascent from laggard status earlier this decade follows its having tied the U.S. in cumulative sales in September. After that, it took just two months to at least tie if not surpass Europe in November.

An early Volt on display.

An early Volt on display.

Although there is wiggle room with December sales not counted, given present trends, it’s estimated China will finish with as many as 635,000-645,000 cumulative plug-in sales since 2010 – perhaps 20,000-30,000 more than Europe, and over 70,000 more than the U.S.

SEE ALSO: China Buys Half-Millionth Passenger Plug-in Car; On Track To Surpass US

As the global leader in commercial plug-in vehicles – including city buses and heavy duty trucks – China is also number one in overall plug-in sales, with 846,447 passenger and commercial vehicles sold through November 2016.

This of course is all thanks to aggressive government policies incentivizing the manufacture and purchase of “new energy vehicles” (NEVs) in the nation of 1.38 billion people.

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With these incentives, adjusted on the fly, and despite some cheating by unscrupulous parties along the way, China overcame a slow start from 2010-2014 and has been buying plug-ins at as much as twice the monthly rate or more of the U.S. and Europe.

Made Up For Lost Time

The U.S. was the global leader in terms of annual and cumulative total plug-in sales until 2014.

The world purchased an estimated 307,245 plug-in passenger vehicles in 2014, and of these the U.S. bought 118,662, Europe bought 92,455, China bought 74,763 and Japan accounted for 31,891.

Since 2008 the U.S. had cumulatively purchased 291,332 plug-ins compared to Europe’s over 200,000 and China’s 113,365. That year China had already surpassed Japan’s 106,037, but the U.S. and Europe were still in China’s sites.

BYD Tang PHEV.

BYD Tang PHEV.

In 2015, China checked the U.S. off its list to beat in terms of annual sales, and Europe too leaped ahead of the U.S. sales rate in the first few months of that year.

SEE ALSO: Why Europe Has Passed the US As Number One In Plug-in Electrified Vehicles

The year 2015 saw 520,000 total global plug-in car sales and China led with 297,380, Europe bought 186,170, and U.S. sales declined to 114,248.

This said, the U.S. was still the leader in cumulative sales totaling about 405,580 compared to Europe’s approximately 385,000 and China’s 258,328.

In 2016, Europe became the world cumulative sales leader, crossing a half-million unit milestone in May. The U.S. bought its half-millionth plug-in passenger car in August and by September China tied the U.S. with just over 520,000 plug-in passenger vehicles.

In fact, just this calendar year, domestically produced plug-ins – which comprise about 96 percent of China’s sales – add to 312,290 through November. This compares to 133,843 in the U.S. and 184,000 in Europe.

Some Caveats

What China has done so far might be considered more about quantity, and not as much about quality compared to the U.S. and Europe.

That is, a fair number of its new energy vehicles are those that would not meet U.S. standards for highway legality.

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In 2015, 87 percent of China’s all-electric car sales consisted of the A segment of mini and small cars, 96-percent of plug-in hybrid sales were in the C-segment of compact cars, and this trend continued into 2016.

Said A-segment cars in many cases are what Americans would consider dinky little cars that federal authorities would not approve for the highway, likely would have sub-par crash test results, and might make a smart car look posh and upscale.

With the Chinese, these are OK, and they are actually a cut above lead-acid battery powered low-speed neighborhood vehicles which are very popular in smaller Chinese cities. In 2015, 600,000 of these were snapped up, and this year 700,000 were purchased through October.

Big Plans

China has a history of setting oversized goals, missing the deadline, eventually making the target, and it is at it again with a massive agenda of global domination by 2030.

The world’s largest car market, and world’s largest plug-in car market wants plug-ins (NEVs) by 2030 to account for about 15 million sales, or about 40 percent of a 38 million vehicle sales market – a sizable uptick over 2015’s 21 million passenger vehicle sales.

The U.S. last year bought 17.4 million passenger cars and light trucks, so 15 million in China is like a sea change when today it has taken half the decade to get to just over 600,000.

Wrapped in with these ambitions to lead the world are for “partially autonomous” cars to make up half of sales by 2020, and nearly fully autonomous “highly automated” cars to comprise 15 percent of sales by 2025. By 2030, fully autonomous cars are supposed to be one in 10, or close to 4 million per year.

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This, at least, is the goal set by a 450-page document by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) and China’s Society of Automotive Engineers. The salient points were culled by Fei Meng of the University of California-Davis’ Institute of Transportation Studies for a Forbes contributor.

How this “Technology Roadmap” actually comes to pass however may require a mish-mash of push and pull and policy and counter policy.

China also has a pattern of cities and companies throwing monkey wrenches into plans to slow the break-neck pace dreamed up by the central planners.

“The top makes the policy, the bottom takes counter-measures,” goes a saying in China.

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This said, while several automakers are already in process of forking over intellectual property in order to do business in this new gold mine, those sitting on the sidelines may be pulled in by the magnet that is to be China’s new energy market.

That appears to be the forecast, though anything can change in the next decade and a few years.

SEE ALSO: General Motors Announces China Electrification ‘Roadmap’

But as can be seen, China has fine tuned its government-driven market, is now the leader by most meaningful metrics, and has set its sites on continuing to outpace everyone else in Europe, the U.S. and Asia – with their help, of course.

Thanks to Mario R. Duran for help with data.

This article appears also at HybridCars.com.

 

Dec 27

Eight Bolt EV Video Advertisements

 

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While some people have said GM’s advertising is insufficient, the company actually produced a slew of Volt ads over the years, and already it has at least eight for the Bolt EV.

On the official Chevrolet YouTube page, short spots ranging from 22 seconds to 1:49 can be found coverings aspects of the new EV which has just gone on sale in California and Oregon with national rollout planned by mid 2017.

So, what you are seeing here in these is all of them in order from oldest posted 11 months ago to the newest posted a couple weeks ago.

Included are three different uploads on charging, all uploaded Sept. 12.

As noted by GM’s Pam Fletcher, executive chief engineer for electrified vehicles, the Bolt is a source of pride as an evolved car building on what has been learned to date.

“We got here by a lot of learning and experience, and this is our greatest electrified vehicle so far,” said Fletcher.

The following also was uploaded Sept. 12, and as you hear, they all use the same basic music.

And lastly, the newest one uploaded Dec. 13, is a good one impressing that while it’s not a proverbial science project, it does have a good bit of science in it.

Michigan-based analyst Alan Baum does not project the Bolt’s sales will exceed 23,000 for year one, and the following year could be within a thousand or two of this as well, he says.

Of course the Bolt could surprise bearish estimates and “sell itself” – with help from positive reviews and word of mouth, and who knows? Maybe more dealers could share more enthusiasm too?

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But how do you like the coverage GM has given it so far in these YouTube ads? Has anyone seen them on TV where you live?

Do you think GM also has another BEV in the works? Is it working on gen 2 Bolt yet? Gen 3 Volt? Another platform altogether?

Could we see any new plug-ins as soon as Detroit and CES in January, or would you think maybe not yet?

 

Dec 26

Report Says Carmakers Aren’t Advertising Their EVs

 

By Tim Healey

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There’s been a chicken or egg sort of debate involving EVs – is there a lack of demand because not enough models are on sale, or are automakers limiting availability due to lack of demand?

Well, whether consumers aren’t demanding EVs, or whether consumers actually want EVs but there aren’t enough models to choose from, one thing seems clear: EVs aren’t advertised as heavily as conventional gas-powered cars, trucks and SUVs.

SEE ALSO: Norway’s 100,000th EV Constitutes 10-Percent Of The World’s Total

According to new data, that’s not just an anecdotal observation. The data, compiled in 2015 by Motor Intelligence and CompetiTrack, show that if you think EVs are hardly ever advertised, you’re right. Ford, for example, advertised the gas-powered version of its popular Focus compact car approximately 4,750 times during national TV broadcasts, while advertising the electric version of the same car around only 200 instances. That means Ford advertised the gas version 24 times more often.

SEE ALSO: Five Pending 200-Mile Range EVs That Won’t Break The Bank

Another example is Mercedes-Benz, which ran commercials for its C-Class about 1,400 times but never ran an ad for its B-Class electric.

Even Nissan showed around 3,500 Sentra ads compared to about 1,750 for its highly-touted Leaf. Chevrolet was a little closer, with about 700 ads for its Cruze compact to around 200 for its Volt extended-range electric concept. However, GM did advertise the Volt almost 800 times in ads targeted just to the California market. On the other hand, the Volt was only advertised about 10 times in ads for the Northeastern part of the country.

Volkswagen was an outlier in this trend, with more ads for its electric Golf in the Northeast than in California.

Automakers spent little on EV advertising in the Northeast, but put some money towards the California audience. Nationally, the range of sales dollars went from zero for Ford up to $19 million for BMW. The Sierra Club suggests that this spending could be a driver of higher BMW sales.

While the data was compiled by research firms, the Sierra Club blogged about it for Huffington Post, and the environmental advocacy group opined that the data proves that automakers simply aren’t trying hard enough to sell EVs, and consumer demand would be stronger if these cars were advertised more.

Whether the Sierra Club’s assertions are correct or not, it’s clear that automakers aren’t doing much to get the message about EVs out. Whether that’s for lack of trying or because of consumer demand for trucks and SUVs, either way, unless you live in California you might not see many ads for EVs.

Huffington Post, HybridCars.com

 

Dec 23

Top Plug-in Car Stories of 2016

 

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Following the first half decade since major manufacturer plug-in cars came on the scene, 2016 was marked by several significant stories pushing green cars forward.

This has been a year that’s seen new vehicle models as well as a major increase in the commitment by carmakers to continue introducing new ones through this decade, into next.

Pushing the industry are global regulations centered around environmental concerns – including the well-reported climate change issue – as well as increased desire simply for cleaner air for everyone to breathe.

Cutting petroleum use has also been a big part of the mandates, and given regulations are tightening toward an ultimate zero-emission objective, that pretty well foreshadows how the cars and trucks people drive will also evolve.

The top stories this year are based on a subjective mix of what readers were most interested in, and in turn, how these stories stand to affect the future.

National Distribution for 2016/17 Chevy Volt

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Chevrolet rolled out the 2016 Volt beginning in October 2015 in California and 10 states following its zero-emission rules, but the rest of the country got it starting in 2016 and the model year changed to 2017 early as the rollout continued into the spring.

The extended-range electric Volt had been the first major manufacturer plug-in alongside the Nissan Leaf to be released in 2011, and the 2016/17 model is the first to receive a full redesign.

SEE ALSO: 2017 Chevy Volt Review – Video

With 53-miles EV range, and now 42 mpg in hybrid mode, the compact front-wheel drive sedan is unique with its long range, and that it will stay in EV mode under full acceleration unlike blended PHEVs.

New for the Volt also is a powertrain that’s better suited as the basis for more plug-in hybrids or non-plug-in hybrids. The 46-mpg Malibu Hybrid was actually co-developed with the Volt, and General Motors has more options now to leverage the technology.

There’d been a lot of pent up anticipation during 2014 and 2015 for this new model, but as it’s come along, sales did not break to new highs, and are about what they were in its peak years of 2012 and 2013 which saw 23,000 and some each year.

Other promising vehicles, including ones on this list, have captured some of the mindshare for buyers in this segment.

This said, the Volt is notable as an extremely effective way to avoid petroleum day to day, while having full long-range hybrid drive, and it remains very competitive.

2017 Toyota Prius Prime Reveal and Launch

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Toyota’s Prius Prime is the second plug-in car to receive a full model redesign, and builds on the 2016 Prius Liftback introduced last year.

SEE ALSO: 5 Cool Things About the 2017 Toyota Prius Prime

A plug-in hybrid, it’s EPA rated for 25 miles electric range positioning it competitively in that department with other blended PHEVs, if not the 53-mile Chevy Volt.

Other numbers of note are an industry leading 133 MPGe in EV mode, and 54 mpg combined in hybrid mode positioning it above the base 52 mpg Prius, and below the 56 mpg Prius Two Eco, and otherwise one of the highest fuel efficiency ratings of any U.S. car sold.

SEE ALSO: Toyota’s Prius Prime Shows One Way for a Better Plug-in Hybrid

A four-passenger vehicle, rumored to eventually make room for five, it’s priced aggressively – in line with non-plug-in Prius models – and Toyota is offering it in 50 states as opposed to the 2012-2015 Prius PHV which had half the EV range, and was sold in just 15 states.

The former Prius PHV has ranked as high as third-best global seller among all plug-in electrified cars, and rests soundly on the laurels perceived by Toyota and its major lead in hybrids.

Does the new Prime range topper have enough to capture buyers’ attention again to such a degree? Time will tell.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV Reveal and Launch

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The Bolt EV had been revealed as a concept in 2015, in one year was fast tracked for its initial debut at CES 2016 in January, and last week the first three units of the 238-mile range EV priced from $37,495 were sold in California.

SEE ALSO: 5 Cool Things About the 2017 Chevy Bolt EV

Chevrolet in 2013 had targeted the general over 200-mile range specs Tesla has long aspired to deliver – and which it will next year – and used its corporate might to do it quicker.

SEE: Bolt Rumor Proven Essentially Correct: Chevrolet Reportedly Said at CES The Bolt Has 235 Miles Range

At this stage at least five 200-mile-plus EVs in this price range are expected over the next three years, and the Bolt significantly increases range-for-dollar over current models in its segment, including the 107-mile range class leader, the Nissan Leaf.

As a front-wheel-drive car – Chevrolet calls is a compact crossover – its interior volume is essentially midsized thanks to its 60-kWh battery being hidden in the floor enabling maximum space utilization and utility.

Chevrolet is also making this car its focal point for self-driving tech, and meanwhile fans are hoping further electric models are also being developed.

This year only Oregon and California buyers will have dealers in state offering the car. Plans are for more key markets to open this winter, and a full rollout by “mid 2017” – just in time for excitement for the Tesla Model 3 to kick into high gear.

2018 Tesla Model 3 Reveal

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The much-anticipated “down market” model for Tesla was shown March 31, and waves were immediately made with more than 400,000 reservations piling in within a couple weeks or so.

Borrowing much of the design language from the upscale Model S, but unique in its own right, the Model 3, Tesla says, promises to start at $35,000, offer at least 215 miles range, and basically is much of what one gets in a Model S for around half the price,

Upper level models are expected to offer bigger batteries for longer range, and potentially blistering performance in rear- and all-wheel-drive.

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Like so much that Tesla does, the planned car has provoked skeptics to wonder aloud how Tesla can pull off a profitable Model 3 when it’s only had a few profitable quarters selling higher priced models.

SEE ALSO: Tesla Scrambles To Finish ‘Gigafactory’ to Meet Model 3 Launch Date

Company head Elon Musk says essentially synergies are in play, the company is looking to significantly shave manufacturing costs, increase economies of scale, and otherwise, they’ll make it happen, he has said.

Next on the agenda is a second reveal of the close-to-production Model 3 expected before the midpoint of next year, if not as soon as April, though it’s not been announced.

Reports of analysts disbelieving Musk’s projection of first sales in 2017 have also gone out, but Michigan-based analyst Alan Baum does forecast first sales this year. His estimate is by October, and following a slow start, as many as 5,000 could be sold by this time next year.

Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Reveal and Launch

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Chrysler gave the world its first “minivan,” and the replacement for its Town and Country is also the world’s first to come as a plug-in hybrid.

With a significant 33 miles EV range from its 16-kWh battery, the seven-passenger vehicle fills a gaping void in a segment that other automakers to date have not yet entered.

SEE ALSO: Chrysler Introduces America’s Most Fuel-Efficient Minivan – Just Don’t Call The Pacifica A Plug in Hybrid

Its 32 mpg in regular hybrid mode is also a range-topping number for such a large vehicle, and it’s hoped other carmakers will follow with large plug-ins at relatively modest prices too.

Factoring potential subsidies, the Pacifica is closely priced next to similarly equipped non-hybrid Pacificas from the low 40s.

Word has it the Maserati Levante will also get the Pacifica Hybrid’s powertrain, which speaks well of the Chrysler that’s leading the way in big fuel savings where it’s been badly needed.

Volkswagen Diesel Cheating Scandal

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The train wreck in progress that has been “dieselgate” has had more bad reported about it than good, but for electrified vehicle fans there has been a silver lining to dark clouds of diesel public relations smoke.

Namely, the scandal which began September 2015 has this year pushed already underlying public sentiment further away from diesels – which in Europe have comprised half of all passenger vehicle sales.

SEE ALSO: Volkswagen Embraces EVs So You’ll Forget Dieselgate

And, it’s pushing all the major manufacturers of Europe further toward electrification, starting with Volkswagen Group which this year committed to 30 battery electric cars by 2025 across its various brands, along with a plethora of plug-in hybrids.

While aforementioned regulations are another key driver to the kinds of cars being made, automakers which had been defiantly holding onto diesels no longer have near the will to continue.

In fact, after VW added to prior commitments for electrification, in October Daimler (Mercedes-Benz) and BMW also said they want many more electrified cars, and in essence, it was like a dam break this year.

Now all three manufacturers are predicting by 2025 at least 15 percent, if not 20-25 percent of their global sales will come from plug-in cars.

Their motives also follow the Paris Agreement on climate change, and other factors, but who would have guessed diesel emission cheating – aided by lax rules in Europe – would have played as big a role as it has in a major turn of events.

This article appears also at HybridCars.com.

 
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