Archive for the ‘General’ Category


Jul 11

America’s Least Expensive Vehicles To Fuel


Depending on how you slice it – as in, in EV mode – the Volt could be on this list, but as you’ll see, other choices were made for good reason.

Hope everyone has a good weekend.


Are you tired of spending significant dollars at the fuel pump and interested in ways to save on your next car?

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – which actually suggested this topic to us – the cheapest cars to “fuel” don’t take liquid fuel at all, but rather, are all-electric.

How cheap is cheap? A 23-mpg combined 2014 Chrysler 300 with 3.6-liter V6 is one car representing an average efficiency rating and costs $2,400 per year to fill up – or, $1,900 more than one of a few $500-per-year electric cars on our list.

The EPA’s annual fuel cost estimates assume: average fuel/electricity prices and 15,000 miles driven comprised of 55 percent city and 45 percent highway driving. Under each car’s rating, the EPA has a “personalize” link to estimate your actual costs.

EVs are rated by miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe) and most get over 100 MPGe.

But can’t you do just as well with a high-mpg car or hybrid? Not necessarily. The Toyota Prius gets 50 mpg but its gasoline still costs $1,100 per year, more than double the best EVs’ annual energy costs.

Even at double the 12-cents per kilowatt-hour the EPA figures, a Nissan Leaf’s annual electricity bill on 24 cents per kwh juice would just equal the Prius at $1,100 annually.

SEE ALSO: Should You Buy an Electric Car?

Of course an EV involves acquiring a home charger, and accepting range limitations, but there’s a growing contingent of people who’ve jumped in and say the EV waters are fine – some having purchased, and others leasing to avoid long-term commitment.

Unfortunately however, some of the cars on our list are what are called “compliance cars” to meet California mandates. Only four cars are sold in all 50 states, some are sold in several states from east-to-west, and others are quite limited indeed.

SEE ALSO: Is Electricity a Clean Energy Source?

For those who “get it” now, EVs are also gratifyingly zero emissions vehicles, and even factoring in “dirty coal” as the energy source, they wind up being cleaner in most cases. And, no soldier or civilian has ever been killed over the right to electricity extraction from the Middle East, nor do we need to transport electricity by tanker across the sea. Nope, we make it here, in the U.S., and the grid is getting cleaner year by year.

EVs also qualify for up to a $7,500 federal tax credit and state credits where applicable.

So, without further ado, here’s the list ranked by annual energy cost or MPGe in descending order:

10. Toyota RAV4 EV – $800 Annually; MPGe – 78 city / 74 highway / 76 combined


A quintessential compliance car, with the lowest EPA rating, the $49,800 RAV4 is however the only electric SUV on the market until Tesla rolls out its Model X next year to the applause of EV fans everywhere.

Actually the RAV4 EV was jointly built under a partnership with Tesla as a follow-up to Toyota’s first RAV4 EV. Its powertrain is essentially by Tesla and has been called the cheapest way to get into a Tesla, albeit with Toyota body.

Certainly it’s less than the $79,900 85-kwh Tesla Model S which actually belongs in this #10 spot, but we’ll mention it along with number nine.

The electric RAV4 is available for sale or lease through select dealers in California’s regions of Los Angeles / Orange County, the San Francisco Bay Area, San Diego and Sacramento.

And it’s due to be canceled after 2,600 units are sold as Toyota focuses on fuel cell vehicles which it has said are the more viable technology at the moment.

9. 60-kwh Tesla Model S – $650 Annually; MPGe – 94 city /97 highway / 95 combined


Tesla’s Model S with the 60-kwh battery ranks ninth and actually the 85-kwh Model S ranks tenth but we put the RAV4 EV in for perspective, and are mentioning both S Models anyway.

The 85-kwh version costs $700 annually to “fuel” according to the EPA, and MPGe is 88 city / 90 highway / 89 combined.

SEE ALSO: Tesla Model S Review

Nor does Tesla’s sedan need an introduction, having taken so many prizes, acknowledgements and awards they would have given it a Superbowl trophy if they could have figured a way to justify that.

Tesla, as you know, is exerting the EV agenda nationwide, and globally. Its 60-kwh cars however cost $69,000 to start when most consumers would rather pay less, but they’ll have to wait for its promised smaller sedan in the next couple of years or so.

The Model S delivers 208 miles range in 60-kwh form, or 265 miles in 85 kwh form.

8. Ford Focus Electric $600 Annually; MPGe – 110 city / 99 highway / 105 combined


An electrified version of the Focus hatchback, the electric version is available in close to half the country.

Ford also recently chopped the price by $4,000 to $35,200 a fair sum above a base $28,800 Nissan Leaf, but the modestly rated Ford does give liquid cooling to preserve its battery, and is worth a look if sold in your market.

7. smart fortwo electric drive coupe/cabriolet, $600 Annually; MPGe – 122 city / 93 highway / 107 combined


Owned by Mercedes-Benz, smart’s updated fortwo electric in both coupe and cabriolet form are evenly matched and available in selected markets across the country.

As electrified versions of the diminutive city car, prices start at
$12,490 for the coupe and $15,490 for the convertible with lease deals available, meaning while you may not be getting a lot of car, you’re not paying so much for it either.

6. Mitsubishi i-MiEV $550 Annually; MPGe – 126 city / 99 highway / 112 combined


The venerable Mitsu i-MiEV – pronounced “I-MEEV” – originated in 2009 as an electrified version of a Japanese “kei” tiny city car.

Badged under a few name plates, it has sold in the tens of thousands globally, and was better equipped for 2014 while its price was cut to $22,995, or a $6,130 price reduction from the previous generation.

DC quick charging is available for those who can use that to extend the EPA-rated range of 62 miles.

Hats off to Mitsubishi for making this vehicle 50-state available.

5. Nissan Leaf – $550 Annually; MPGe – 126 city / 101 highway / 114 combined


Also 50-state available, and the market leader is Nissan’s Leaf.

Launched in 2010 as a purpose-built EV, Nissan has also made it the global top seller, starting in the U.S. at $28,980, and low-priced lease deals have been offered.

Range is 84 miles, and DC quick charging is an option for recharging to 80 percent in under 30 minutes. Level 2 (240-volt) charging can take 4-7 hours depending on which on-board charger you get.

An overview is here and a full 2013 review with video is here.

4. Fiat 500e $500 Annually; MPGe – 122 city / 108 highway / 116 combined


Another “compliance car,” this one is an efficient little EV, but available in California only.

MSRP starts at $31,800 and a lease deal is available startiungf at $199 a month for 36 month with $999 due at signing.

We’re making it fourth place as it has slightly less MPGe than the next few cars, but it’s actually tied in the loosely rounded off to “$500″ figure.

3. Honda Fit EV $500 Annually, 132 city / 105 highway / 119 combined


Honda says it does not think the term “compliance car” is fair, as it takes the burden from its lease customers, includes a charger, and has engineered a first class EV conversion.

However, this is a limited-market lease-only EV – although it was made available to the East Coast – and its tenure is due to end soon.

SEE ALSO: Lease Price Slashed By One-Third For New And Existing Honda Fit EV Customers

Honda introduced the Fit EV with an announced volume of 1,100 units over two model year and the 2014 model year will end early this fall, marking the end of production of the Fit EV.

Its EPA rating is the same $500 as others, but is here ranked by combined MPGe.

It was nice while it lasted. Like Toyota, Honda is refocusing on fuel cell electric vehicles and in the next year or two ought to have a follow-up to its FCX Clarity.

2. Chevrolet Spark EV $500 Annually; MPGe – 128 city / 109 highway / 119 combined


The Spark EV is also rounded to $500 annual energy cost but its MPGe is incrementally better, and the EPA says it costs 84 cents per mile, a tad less than 87 cents per mile for the previous two estimated at $500 per year.

General Motors’ subcompact is a “compliance car” sold only in California and Oregon – but as of July 2014 we have noted rumors of central U.S. and East Coast dealers telling their customers it’s coming.

SEE ALSO: Spark EV Test Drive Review

GM flatly denies its nice little electric version of its subcompact Spark is due anywhere else, but you never know what news may come later.

Base MSRP is $27,495, it can come with optional DC quick charging, and interesting is the over-sized motor capable of a (traction controlled, so no burnouts possible) 400 pounds-feet to the front wheels.

1. BMW i3 – $500 Annually; MPGe – 138 city / 111 highway / 124 combined


America’s most efficient car is 50-state available, and it comes from Germany.

It is available as a pure EV – which gets the higher EPA rating – and with a small range extending engine, rated at $650 annual fuel cost, and 117 MPGe combined.

For some reason people have made comparisons with the i3 to Tesla’s Model S but the two could not be any less alike.

Unless one counts that both brands are electric and targeting upscale shoppers, the innovative city car from BMW tops the efficiency chart, whereas Tesla’s larger, heavier, more powerful and longer running cars are at the end of the line.

That did not stop Tesla’s designer from panning BMW’s electric city car as being to automobiles what “Ikea” is to furniture.

BMW’s pure electric version starts in the low 40s, with range of 81 miles. The purpose built EV is lightweight due in part to advanced materials including carbon fiber reinforced plastic.

More info on BMW’s new sustainable i series can be found here.


Jul 10

Netherlands engineering students developing series hybrid to beat ICE records


There’s something to be said for ambition, and a team of engineering students in the Netherlands have it in spades as they aim to break a Nürburgring Nordschleifelap record and win the 24 hours of Le Mans with a series hybrid.


Nor is this an attempt in some pee-wee sub class. Nope, the Nürburgring record they want to transcend is 47 seconds quicker than a Porsche 918 Spyder could muster and has stood since 1983 at 6 minutes, 11 seconds as set by a Porsche 956 racer.

At LeMans, assuming they get there, they’ll be faced with major competition by the likes of Nssan’s ZEOD RC hybrid and Audi’s R18 e-quattro.


Called the IM01, the hybrid racer is being designed by students from the Technical University of Eindhoven and the Fontys University of Applied Sciences.

Motive power comes via four individual motors for the AWD monster to be, and range is extended by a rotary engine they aim to surpass normal 25 percent efficiency and reach 60 percent while running at a fixed rpm.


Actual specifications beyond that are not at this time divulged, but the students have a Web site up to support the project, and say all they need now to make it happen is money.

Test mule.

As they work toward the goal, they’re working with an open wheel race car called the IM/e. It was developed by three newly graduated engineers on the team, and is powered by bio ethanol.

Proof of concept of the technologies under development are expected to be done with this test mule.

After it’s constructed, the plan is to test the IM/e on race tracks and hill climb events in Germany and the UK.

The team posted a video of a petrol-powered hill climb racer to give an idea of what the test driver will see during R&D.

Hill climb – Onboard with David Hauser (Dallara GP2) – Course de côte de St. Ursanne – Les Rangiers 2013



Jul 09

Plug-in cars now past 500,000 global milestone


Apologies for the late post today – my access was cut when my ip address got changed, I think.

The Volt we named as the top contributor to energy independence and indeed, it gets cited by alternative energy researchers and others in Europe as a disruptive car that’s sending ripples in the global pond.

People not hung up with American politics see the Volt for what it is, and it’s the second-highest global seller.


As various nations increase demand, and automakers increase plug-in electrified vehicle (PEV) models and availability, their cumulative world-wide total sales has quietly crossed the half-million unit mark.

This is counting highway legal plug-in hybrids and all-electric passenger vehicles, since PEVs began in the modern era around 2009. It excludes motorcycles, buses and trucks. The figures also include light-duty plug-in vehicles, mainly the Renault Kangoo ZE, with over 13,000 units sold by the end of June 2014, but even without these, the milestone has been crossed.

It was actually crossed with qualifiers as described with around 505,000 estimated as of the end of May 2014. Due to some delayed sales reporting in various global markets, and accounting for potential minor error, it’s safe to say the number by end of June was closer to 525,000 – thus conservative to say 500,000 now one week into July.

After this was written, but before posting, we were informed also UCDavis has also published confirmation of the 500,000 milestone.


Of all countries, the U.S. has accounted for around 45 percent of sales since numbers started to tally in earnest in 2010. Among the top half-dozen PEV consuming countries, Japan ranks second, China third, and the Netherlands is fourth.

As reported at the beginning of this year, the U.S. had around 168,000 units sold excluding Tesla Roadsters, Fisker Karmas, and Mini Es. As of June, the count is about 227,000 PEVs sold in the U.S.

According to the Centre for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research Baden-Württemberg (ZSW) in Germany, globally the count was at 405,000 in January.

According to Jose Pontes, who from Portugal runs EV-Sales blog, and is cited by other more-established publications and believed accurate, as of May 2014 there were close to another 101,000 PEVs sold globally.

As of June, while all counts are not in, it’s estimated another 20,000 or so have been sold this calendar year globally.


The world sales leader is the Nissan Leaf, which Nissan yesterday said has sold “over 120,000” units in 35 markets across the globe. Brazil-based alternative energy enthusiast, and plug-in car statistician, Mario R. Duran, said he believes the actual count is around 122,000.

Next in line among global top-selling cars is General Motors Chevy Volt Opel/Vauxhall Ampera siblings, estimated by Duran at about 77,000.

Following this is the Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid, at around 60,000, and after this is Tesla’s Model S at perhaps 38,500.

Both the Toyota and Tesla were launched later than the Volt and Leaf. In the U.S. the Toyota is sold in only 15 states, whereas the others are 50-state cars.

In the U.S. the Volt remains the top seller, but its lead is slipping. As of June, GM had sold 63,167, and the second-place Leaf was at 54,858 with monthly sales this year edging out the Volt.

At the present rate of PEV sales growth, President Obama’s goal of one million PEVs on U.S. roads by 2015 will be missed, but ZSW estimates globally, one million will be on the roads by the beginning of 2016.


Jul 08

Former Volt engineer to work on Harley-Davidson EV


The former General Motors engineer who oversaw the Chevy Volt and Spark EV will be in charge of Harley-Davidson’s Livewire electric motorcycle project.


Jim Federico, 56, finished up a 36-year career at GM having been among other things, its chief engineer for small cars and electric vehicles, so he knows a thing or two about electric vehicles.

“We’ve been talking to Jim about this position for some time,” Harley-Davidson spokesperson Maripat Blankenheim told Reuters.

For the maker of traditional big V-Twins, he will oversee research and development of the iconoclastic H-D EV from concept to potential production.

Harley Davidson will be going on the road this summer drumming up enthusiasm – where it can – for an electric bike that has a family resemblance, if little else in common for what made the H-D brand what it is today.

Automotive News said also Federico led a team of GM engineers in the fall of 2012 that analyzed a defective ignition switch. This was more than a year before GM recalled 2.6 million cars with the part, and GM said this had nothing to do with his leaving.


Unknown also is if the need arises for a simulated pedestrian warning sound from the e-Hog, whether the music of a booming V-Twin might be called back into action.

If so, this could potentially be welcomed by H-D traditionalists. They could sit at a light, or while cruising in town and repeatedly twist the grip – just like they do now with their fuel-injected bikes as though to clear the carbs.

The sound could be anywhere from OEM muffled to uncorked, intimidating, and even ear splitting.

Music. Perfect for H-D’s pedestrian warning system?

Blatttt! Blatttt! Blattttttttt!

This way pedestrians would remain safe, because as everyone knows, loud pipes save lives.


Sound like a winner?

It’s an idea anyway …


Jul 07

Two Tesla drivers have no cause for celebration July 4th


July 4th was a bad day for two Teslas in California as two Model S accidents resulted in injuries in one incident, with another incident seeing more injuries and three deaths, including of two children.

Following are two separate stories.


Stolen Tesla chased by LA police, splits in half, burns


Model S-crashed_LA

Just in time for the Fourth of July, a man allegedly stole a Tesla Models S from a dealership and led police on an up-to 100-mph chase in downtown LA ending with the car being split in two, and firework-like flames.

Several cars suffered damage, and at least six people were reported injured, including four in a Honda Civic hit by the Tesla, at least one of which was critically injured.

Contrary to reports that the driver is dead, Sgt. Morien of the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Department says the driver is still alive; listed in critical condition.

The ordeal took place in the wee-hours of the morning, and began with a phone call to police by Tesla store personnel saying someone was “tampering or messing with” a Model S.


The perpetrator somehow got the car, and police gave chase into the downtown area beginning at around 12:45 a.m., according to Sgt. Campbell with the Los Angeles Police Department’s Pacific Division.

As reported by KTLA 5 news, the pursuit at high speed ended when the Model S hit a pole, was cut in two, and sent bits of its battery pack on the roadway which began to flame and pop with small explosions “just like fireworks,” said one witness.

The front half of the Model S also landed on a white Civic, and the back half went several yards and was wedged against a building in the West Hollywood area.

Model S_back_half

“There were fires after that that broke out,” said a witness. “I saw the firefighters — like 25 firefighters – standing around the white car with the Jaws of Life.”

Injuries include the unidentified driver of the Tesla who was ejected through the windshield, and who was later declared dead according to reports – which were later denied by the Sheriff’s department investigating the incident.

There were five people inside the Civic the Tesla slammed into, four of which had various injuries.


Two Los Angeles Police Department officers also said they were injured after they crashed out of the chase, but later were released from the hospital with no injuries. Others remain in the hospital, and the whole incident is under investigation by the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Department. KTLA 5

Tesla slams into the rear of Toyota


smashed Tesla

Was this man in the Tesla doing a speed show? Was he texting or looking at the 17-inch touchscreen in the Model S?

We don’t know, police said he was not intoxicated, but Ric Garrson, 58, was named as the driver of a 2013 Model S that slammed the rear of a 2004 Corolla on the freeway with five occupants.


Killed were the driver of the Toyota, a 40-year-old man, and a 13-year-old boy and 8-year-old boy’s lives were also ended prematurely. Reports say they were family members and residents of Los Angeles.

The Tesla driver got out with minor injuries. The incident occurred around 10:35 p.m. on the 4th on southbound highway 14 in the Antelope Valley.


Another passenger in the Toyota, age 6, was sent to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles with minor injuries.

Also, Tyree Lavon Nash, a 31-year-old male passenger in the Toyota suffered major injuries and was transported to Antelope Valley Hospital.

All passengers in the Toyota were wearing seatbelts.

The Tesla did not catch fire. The Toyota did.


NBC Los Angeles


Jul 04

Seven cars contributing the most to energy independence … on Independence Day


This is in descending order from No. 7 to No. 1.

Hope everyone has a great weekend! Enjoy the barbecue and fireworks or what ever else you do.

A Chevy Volt paused in front of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed July 4, 1776.

Happy Independence Day America!

Now, how would you like freedom from petroleum dependence, less concern about geopolitical instability, while enjoying positive environmental and economic effects that could follow?

For four decades since a wake-up call known as the Arab Oil Embargo of 1973, we’ve been chasing an elusive goal called “energy independence.”

Some who point to now-accessible petroleum and natural gas via fracking and horizontal drilling have already declared energy independence, saying America is on its way to becoming self sufficient.

Be this as it may, that energy is not without environmental consequences, and we still spend close to $1 billion per day importing 40 percent our oil – around the 35 percent we did in 1973 when OPEC punished the U.S. for its support of the Yom Kippur War.

Today, nearly 70 percent of petroleum in the U.S. is used for transportation, and of this 65 percent is for our personal vehicles.

Without wading into a morass of political, economic, and technological discussion, we’ll declare a simple truism: Using less oil means we’d need less.

This sentiment has been widely shared, including by Nobel physicist and former U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu.

“The most direct way to reduce our dependency on foreign oil is to simply use less of it, starting with the cars and trucks we drive,” he said. “Energy independence means changing how we power our cars and trucks from foreign oil to new American-made fuels and batteries.”

SEE ALSO: Is Electricity a Clean Energy Source?


To highlight some of the best antidotes for an America “addicted to oil” as former President G.W Bush once ironically said, we’ve compiled a top-7 list of cars.

These are ranked as those which most contribute or stand to contribute – without detracting from quality of life or personal mobility.

Most are either produced by U.S. automakers, or produced in the U.S., adding to their independence quotient, if you will.

As of 2014, the average new car gets around 23 mpg combined, and federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy targets ramping up through 2025 set a bar of close to 45 mpg for the average car and 32 mpg for the average truck.

The cars on our list would all pass that 2025 level today, and if everyone who could in America were to switch to these, do you think we’d be as worried about what is happening in the Middle East? And, how could they contribute to reduced greenhouse gas emissions?

Granted sales for most of them are still a drop in the bucket against the overall market, so consider this as forward looking, with vehicles considered for their outsized potential influence today and in years to come.

No. 7. Toyota Prius Liftback


The Prius Liftback, as it’s now called has given rise to a “family” of three variant Prius models, and the Prius began as a minor revolution in America in 2000 alongside the Honda Insight hybrid.

Today the market of alternative energy cars and trucks tracked by the sales Dashboard consists of dozens of vehicles, but the 50-mpg Prius is by far the top seller by no less than a ratio of 3:1 over any other next-best-selling green car.

Compared to the most squeaky-clean plug-in hybrids operating in electric mode and pure electric vehicles, the Prius is a gas guzzler needing $1,100 worth of fuel per 15,000 miles.

However, its fuel economy is still better than twice the $2,400 in fuel needed by an average car sold today, and one-third what an SUV or pickup needs.

Toyota’s mid-sized hybrid hatch furthermore has shown what successful branding can do to make an environmentally sensible car acceptable to a mainstream audience.

Because of the Prius, by 2013 Toyota had sold five million hybrid variants across its global lines which all use the “Hybrid Synergy Drive” architecture pioneered in the Prius.

Now in its third generation, with a fourth pending for 2015, the Prius is a grandfather of a new market segment, has directly and indirectly saved a lot of oil, and this is something anyone wanting to one day see “energy independence” can appreciate.

No. 6. BMW i3



Of all cars on this list, BMW’s just-released-in-the-U.S. i3 is the most debatable, but it’s here because, 1) the pure EV version is the most energy efficient car sold in the U.S., and 2) it represents a bold commitment by BMW as the first of a new sub brand.

Mindful of conditions in Europe, other emerging markets, and North America, BMW is committing itself to a sustainable upscale city car with optional gas-burning range extender adding to its potential flexibility and usefulness.

So far it’s only been on the U.S. market for a couple months and is not taking the country by storm with 300-some units per month.

We acknowledge BMW however for offering it in all 50 states when domestic automakers have more affordable EVs like the Chevy Spark EV and Ford Focus Electric that could sell in higher volume, but have not yet offered them outside limited markets.

As we’ve seen by EV makers Tesla and Nissan, buyers reward those who are all in, so while BMW is still only just getting started, it gets honorable mention here.

No. 5. Ford C-Max Energi


The C-Max Energi is a plug-in hybrid rated at 88 miles per gallon equivalent, or 38 mpg combined.

That “38 mpg” itself would place it in the No. 2 best spot on the list of non-hybrid fuel sippers, and it’s a five-passenger family car that’s as quick to 60 mph or the quarter mile (low 15s) as some 5.0 Mustangs from the early 90s.

Annual fuel costs are around the same as a Prius by the way the government figures things, but drivers who stay in the 19-miles of all-electric power – or double this by charging at their destination – can do far better.

Priced in the mid-30s, the C-Max Energi is a part-time EV with no range anxiety, thus it could serve the needs of anyone who does not need a truck or larger vehicle.

If used as intended, this vehicle could save lots of fuel with no real downside perceived.

No. 4. Ford Fusion Energi


Everything just said about the C-Max Energi’s efficiency is true of the Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid, and it is a stylish car that is essentially indistinguishable from other Fusions on the road.

The five-passenger mid-sized sedan and the C-Max Energi were demoted in their EPA rating recently, but that did not stop Ford from crushing its previous best sales of 1,342 units in May by 45 percent, or 1,939 in June.

Priced from the mid-30s, it’s not cheap, but it’s not in an elite category by any stretch either.

Given that it, like the C-Max Energi, resorts to regular parallel hybrid mode much like a Prius or Camry Hybrid when the battery is exhausted, it hits a lot of high spots, including no range anxiety and efficiency everywhere.

No 3. Tesla Model S


The all-electric sedan available in 60-kwh and 85-kwh versions, and starting at around $70,000 is double the average new car price, but still selling in significant numbers and making waves.

We listed the Model S, 1) because it burns no petroleum, but also, 2) because it represents a whole disruptive move within the transportation sector.

Its range is from 208 to 265 miles according to the EPA and this is easily double or more than most other EVs sold.

As mentioned, the boldness of the gambit of this car sold by a company that only sells EVs, and wants to sell them anywhere it can globally, is creating momentum and people are paying attention to its audaciousness.

Yes, the jury is still out, but since around this time in 2012, Tesla has nabbed every award conceivable – an amazing feat for a start-up – and it’s outselling many established luxury cars, challenging their makers to think – and possibly innovate – differently.

Tesla Motors’s next car will be a similarly powered Model X SUV, and after that a car close to half the Model S’ entry point that would not likely ever be in the works if not for the Model S.

No. 2. Nissan Leaf


Manufactured now in Tennessee – and closer to local point of consumption for Europe and Japan at two other plants – Nissan’s Leaf is the global best seller among EVs, and presently the top-selling plug-in car in the U.S.

Priced from the high 20s, it is rated at 84 miles range, but cost per mile on gas-free driving is around 3.6 cents at the nationally average electricity rate of 12 cents per kilowatt-hour.

The vehicle is being marketed as aggressively as possible by a company – and CEO Carlos Ghosn with pride and reputation on the line.

It has been on the U.S. market since December 2010 and is the first of the new wave of EVs and still a benchmark.

No. 1. Chevrolet Volt



Launched also in December 2010, the Volt has had a turbulent ride in the public’s eye even if it has topped Consumer Reports’ owner satisfaction ratings in 2011 and 2012, and still enjoys high marks from raving fans.

The “extended-range electric” car offers the highest all-electric range of 38 miles of any plug-in gas-electric car, and its 37 mpg – albeit on premium gas – would rank it tied for second on the list of most fuel efficient non-hybrids sold in America.

The Volt is a solution that was engineered to meet the needs of 74 percent of average consumer’s daily driving of under 40 miles per day in electric power only.

Its battery pack has proven durable due to liquid cooling and active thermal management in all weather, and GM conservatively set the car up to last while topping safety ratings as well.

It was released the same month as the Leaf and while sales are flattening out as a new generation is being promised next year, it is yet the highest selling plug-in car in the U.S. since launch.

After the original Volt Team of ace engineers built this “moonshot” that has won a laundry list of awards, General Motors keeps it going, unfortunately marketing it mostly in California.

Volt fans still lament on the GM-Volt forum that many people they talk to still do not know what a remarkable car it is. It starts at $35,000 and can qualify for up $7,500 in federal tax credits and state credits where applicable.

The Volt is built in Detroit, has inspired imitators, while still being in several respects a top act to follow as it nears the end of its product life cycle.

On Independence Day, underappreciated as it has been, it is our pick for the car contributing most to energy security, having sent the most ripples into a growing pond.

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