Archive for the ‘General’ Category

 

Aug 29

Chevy Bolt EV Nearly As Quick As 300HP Dodge Charger From 50-75 MPH

 

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GM is touting linear higher speed power for the Chevrolet Bolt EV – and Opel Ampera-e sibling – and they could prove quite satisfying for drivers wanting more on the highway.

While not quite in “Ludicrous” league, in a recent press announcement, Opel of Europe said the Ampera-e will accelerate from 50-75 mph (80-120 km/h) in 4.5 seconds. While this data point may fly over some peoples’ heads, 4.5 seconds is competitive with a list of internal combustion cars posturing with testicularity, replete with big engines and road presence.

Obviously GM’s new EV is not pretending to be a hot electric hatch, but its engineers appear to have set a new high-water mark in highway passing and cruising power for EVs in this class. This 80-120 km/h metric is otherwise important for folks wanting the potential, and Chevrolet similarly emphasized last week that the Bolt EV has a strong powerband above electric cars like the Nissan Leaf, etc.

Opel Ampera-e. The resemblance to the Bolt EV is more than skin deep.

Opel Ampera-e. The resemblance to the Bolt EV is more than skin deep.

On paper, the Bolt EV/Ampera-e have 200 horsepower, 294 pounds-feet of torque, which is strong but not earth shattering for the 3,580-pound car.

How the power is delivered compared to conventional cars is entirely different, however, for the FWD Bolt/Ampera-e with single-speed gear-reduction drive, and full torque from 0 rpm. A large 60-kWh battery lets the engineers tap into the electrons for more oomph on demand.

Lower power EVs are by contrast compromised more toward conserving energy at higher revving, greater-aerodynamic drag highway speeds. The last thing engineers want to do is tip the balance so that usable range will too easily plummet when they only have maybe 62-110 miles to work with. The Bolt’s battery however is big enough to supply the power to keep going strong at highway speeds and the motor and inverter are able to take advantage of it.

Chevrolet has also said the Bolt EV will run from 0-30 mph in 2.9 seconds, and Opel is boasting 0-31 mph (0-50 km/h) in 3.2 seconds, as illustrated by a whimsical video it threw together.

The Bolt/Ampera-e however may not quite match 0-30 times from a Chevy Volt running in EV mode. Chevrolet claims 2.6 seconds from naught to 30 for the new Chevy Volt, so the Bolt appears a tad slower at launching from a stop but the Bolt wins the race at higher speeds. It’s also still quick compared to non-Tesla EVs. In fact, the Volt was clocked last year by Motor Trend with a 0.1 second quicker 0-30 mph than a Model S non-Performance 85.

Notable also is the Bolt EV’s 0-60 time is somewhere under 7 seconds, according to Chevrolet, but this has not been specified.

Good At All Legal US Speeds

The takeaway is the Bolt is in good company off the line, and appears like it will do better than others in its class on the highway. Opel says the top speed is 150 km/h (93 mph), Chevrolet has previously said 91 mph, and while not blazing, this is sufficiently above all posted U.S. speed limits.

To give a grasp of what it takes for internal combustion cars to pull 80-120 km/h (50-75 mph) in a comparable time, an informal video posted by a driver of a 300-horsepower Dodge Charger illustrates:

The car in manual mode is on the boil with tach above 5,000 rpm to do 4.4 seconds, just 0.1 seconds quicker than the Bolt/Ampera-e’s 4.5 (provisionally stated) time.

GM’s EV will meanwhile be relatively quiet doing the same performance, though certainly working hard as well.

Another video indicates an informal test of a BMW i3, which does the 80-120 run in 5.8 seconds.

Another guage of the Bolt/Ampera-e’s new benchmark time is shown by Car and Driver’s 2014 test of competitive EVs from 50-70 – not quite to 75, and that last 5 mph could be the hardest. In its test, only the Chevy Spark EV came close at 4.7 seconds. For others, 50-70 mph was accomplished as follows:

2013 Fiat 500e – 6.2s
2014 Ford Focus Electric – 5.9s
2013 Honda Fit EV – 5.3s
2013 Nissan Leaf – 6.9s
2013 Smart ForTwo – 7.5s

These again are 50-70 mph times, and the Bolt/Ampera-e’s 50-75 mph in 4.5 seconds may be most clearly appreciated in this light.

Compared to a number of other powerful gas cars just for the sake of giving broader perspective, the Bolt EV’s time is still competitive. If left in fourth gear, the likes of Porsches, Maseratis, and Jaguars can’t do much better in this test of highway passing torque without need to downshift to a higher-revving gear.

Some have said they wish GM would commit to a nationwide fast charging network like Tesla has, and increase the rate it can fast charge well above 50 kW.

Some have said they wish GM would commit to a nationwide fast charging network like Tesla has, and increase the rate it can fast charge well above 50 kW.

A list from Supercars.net – from 2007, but featuring some potent vehicles nonetheless – shows times for this metric of 80-120 km/h (50-75 mph).

Subaru Impreza WRX STi [2006, 280 hp, Sport Auto] – 4.4s
Audi RS4 Avant [2000, 380 hp, Sport Auto] – 4.5s
Jaguar XKR [2006, 416 hp, Sport Auto] – 4.5s
Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG [2004, 612 hp, Sport Auto] – 4.5s
Porsche 996 GT3 RS [2004, 381 hp, Sport Auto] – 4/6s
BMW M6 Cabriolet [2006, 507 hp, Sport Auto] 4.6s
Porsche 997 Carrera S Kit [2006, 381 hp, Sport Auto] – 4.6s
Lotus Exige 240R [2005, 247 hp, Sport Auto] – 4.6s
Maserati GranSport F1 Spyder [2006, 400 hp, Sport Auto] – 4.6s
Porsche 997 GT3 [2006, 415 hp, Sport Auto] – 4.7s
Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG [2005, 612 hp, Sport Auto] – 4.7s

A downshift to third gear would shave these times, in which case these much-more powerful cars – posing more dominantly than GM’s humble electric commuter car – would likely all beat it. And, sprint times do vary in any case depending on the tester and the road, but the Bolt/Ampera-e look like a step upward for sure.

This article appears also at HybridCars.com.

 

Aug 26

New Tesla P100D Battery Pack Conceptualized

 

By George S. Bower & Keith Ritter

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The latest Tesla splash is their new 100 kWh battery pack unveiled August 23, 2016 in a conference call with journalists.

“For the 100 kWh battery pack, Tesla is using the same battery cell, but a new module and pack architecture, new cooling system and electronics. CTO JB Straubel described the upgrade as a “significant change”.

So Tesla is using the same battery cells as in the P90 but they have somehow figured out how squeeze in more cells and remove heat more efficiently.

How can this feat be accomplished?

Before we conceptualize let’s look at how the current pack is cooled.

The current pack is cooled by a Tesla patented cooling ribbon that snakes thru the cells as shown below.

The current Tesla battery cooling configuration uses a cooling ribbon that snakes thru the cells. Glycol coolant is circulated in the cooling ribbon.

The current Tesla battery cooling configuration uses a cooling ribbon that snakes thru the cells. Glycol coolant is circulated in the cooling ribbon.

The actual configuration is a tad more complicated than shown in figure 1. Teardown photos of the 85 kwh pack have been well documented but the photos are copyrighted. If you are interested in more detail then you can visit this Tesla TMC forum post or this Ricardo Engineering presentation.

The cooling ribbon in Tesla’s 85 kWh pack takes up room. If we wanted to pack the cells tighter, what could we do?
In our conceptual cooling configuration the coolant is moved from in between the cells to a bottom plate located beneath the cells.

The cooling plate concept is not new. BMW uses it in the i3 and GM uses it in the new Chevy Bolt EV. BMW uses refrigerant directly in the pack cooling plate while GM’s Chevy Bolt EV uses glycol liquid in the cooling plate.

The cooling plate by itself may not provide sufficient heat transfer so, in the concept, thin aluminum fins are thermally connected to the cooling plate to increase heat transfer. These thin aluminum cooling fins transfer heat from the cell to the bottom cooling plate in our concept as shown below:

Conceptual P100D Battery cooling configuration.

Conceptual P100D Battery cooling configuration.


Figure 2 shows the basic concept. However there are many permutations one could hypothesize using the bottom cooling plate design. Here’s just a few:

-Use refrigerant in the cooling plate instead of liquid glycol. This would result in a thinner bottom plate than with glycol coolant

– wrap each cell in a thin aluminum shell to increase contact area with the cell

Cells wrapped in thin aluminum cylinder and placed on dimpled bottom plate.

Cells wrapped in thin aluminum cylinder and placed on dimpled bottom plate.


– eliminate the aluminum fins completely and just use the battery case as the conductor. Once Tesla is making their own cells, we would think that as a definite possibility.

Readers please feel free to comment on the proposed configuration and conceptualize your own version in the comments section.

About the authors: George Bower is a retired mechanical engineer with over 20 years experience in gas turbine power systems.

Co-Author of the piece, Keith Ritter is a mechanical engineer, and licensed professional engineer with over 35 years of experience in heating ventilation and air conditioning systems.

 

Aug 25

Tesla Ups The Ante with 100kWh Battery And Even More ‘Ludicrous’ Speed

 

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On Tuesday Tesla announced the Model S with Ludicrous mode and new 100-kWh battery can provide either 315 miles EV range, or 0-60 times to rival 1000cc superbikes.

“The Model S P100D with Ludicrous mode is the third fastest accelerating production car ever produced,” said the company in its blog post of an upgrade also available for the slightly less brisk Model X P100D billed now at 2.9 seconds to 60.

And, says Tesla, the Model S is also the “quickest production car in the world.”

SEE ALSO: Tesla Model S and Model X 100 kWh Battery Pack Believed Pending

The Model S and X were already quite fleet-footed as upscale chic family sedans and grocery getters go. The re-engineering of the battery pack from 90 kWh introduced less than a year ago is the latest upgrade as Tesla has kept the car relevant by revising it on the go while the underlying Model S is the same as introduced in June 2012.

Model X, introduced last year. Range increases from 250 miles to 289 with P100D version. The new battery pack, available in September, and only in Performance AWD trim for now, uses the same cell technology, but was "a pretty big change in the battery module and pack technology," said CTO JB Straubel, noting the cooling architecture is revised. The upgrade includes also premium seats.

Model X, introduced last year. Range increases from 250 miles to 289 with P100D version. The new battery pack, available in September, and only in Performance AWD trim for now, uses the same cell technology, but was “a pretty big change in the battery module and pack technology,” said CTO JB Straubel, noting the cooling architecture is revised. The upgrade includes also premium seats.

An asterisk with the claim of 0-60 times leads to a disclaimer that these times are the “Expected value using max power mode and Motor Trend benchmark.”

Motor Trend uses rolling starts that other publications have politely called bogus as the car already has a couple-few mph in hand at the start point, and is primed to launch.

The MT formula, for example, was good enough to get a 2016 Chevy Volt to 60 in 7.1 seconds when Car & Driver achieved 7.5 seconds, and GM claims only 8.4.

In any case, people will soon-enough be posting results of the new cars’ capabilities, and perhaps they too will eclipse the advertised times, as has been the case before. Certainly they will be blazing quick, but limited production for now, and initially the 100-kWh packs are limited to 200 units per week, or about 10-percent of Tesla’s total production.

On a conference call with journalists, Tesla CEO Elon Musk noted the technical challenges of what apper to be just one more uptick – as the present 90-kWh battery superseded an 85-kWh pack which has now been discontinued.

“Actually going from a roughly 90 to 100 [kWh] even though it seems like it might be an 11 or 12 percent increase in energy, it’s more like a 50 percent increase in difficulty. So it’s been really quite a challenging development,” said Musk, adding it would likely be “several months before we can offer the 100-kWh pack to non-Performance customers.”

Price for the Model S P100D with Ludicrous mode begins $9,500 over the P90D at $134,500 – a far cry from a once-widely billed sub “$50,000” starting point for a federally subsidized, rear-wheel-drive Model S with 40 kWh battery that was never produced. A 60-kWh model limited to 40 kWh was made available, but the actual 40-kWh battery model was cancelled, Tesla said, due to too few preorders.

Tesla chief Elon Musk did say while the new upgrade is “is obviously an expensive vehicle,” sales of the new top-of-the-range S and X would help finance its down-market Model 3. And, lessons learned in this latest upgrade will also be incorporated in the battery pack for the Model 3, said Tesla.

Tesla_site-e1471984253685

That could be good news for future customers, but as for buyers who’ve already ordered a P90D with Ludicrous mode, these will be able to upgrade to the P100D for $10,000, assuming they’ve not yet taken delivery. Current owners of a P90D with Ludicrous Mode can also upgrade for $20,000.

Tesla’s current model range now consists of variants with 60 kWh, 75 kWh, 90 kWh and 100 kWh batteries, and as noted the formula of staying fresh and stoking public passions has worked for Tesla.

The Model S is the U.S.’ best-selling plug-in electrified car, ahead of models costing half what it does, and the Model X also is the fourth best-selling, also outpacing much-more affordable plug-in vehicles.

Tesla Blog Post, and Tesla Website.

This article appears also at HybridCars.com.

 

Aug 24

Koreans Scratch Their Heads Over Linguistically Indistinguishable Chevrolet ‘Bolt’ and ‘Volt’

 

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Contrary to any rumor anyone may have heard, there are no plans for a Chevy Volt EV, or the Bolt EV being sold in Korea, or even that the Korean co-engineered Bolt should be called the “LG Bolt.”

No, while GM is otherwise still mum on key details like the U.S. EPA-rated range for the “over” 200-mile 2017 Chevy Bolt due in U.S. dealers by year’s end, there is even greater uncertainty in the country which is supplying many of its key powertrain components.

This is a Volt. It is not a Bolt. It runs on electricity for 53 miles, and gas the rest of its 420 EPA-rated miles.

This is a Volt. It is not a Bolt. It runs on electricity for 53 miles, and gas the rest of its 420 EPA-rated miles. The Bolt EV has already been known as the “Bolt EV,” but if it was ever an option to call it just “Bolt,” that’s been nixed in Korea.

As English speakers know, General Motors in its wisdom chose to name the Bolt to rhyme with Volt in English. The catchy one-syllable name stands to tie the new car’s identity to the extended-range paternal grandfather, the Volt, and gives it a neat family identity.

But while Americans have already scratched their head over that one, and have taken to clarify “B” from V” in English, in Korea there’s a bigger issue: the spoken or written words “Volt” and “Bolt” in their native tongue are essentially identical.

That is, V and B have common pronunciation and the printed or written Hangul symbols are identical, so if you say “Bolt” you could just as well really mean Bolt, or Volt, and really, there is barely any way to tell them apart.

Oy! What’s a global automaker to do?

To be sure, the issue has caused more than a little confusion, according to a report by Wards Auto.

Complicating the pre-existing phonetic ambiguity was a recent LG Electronics press release stating it was beginning production this month of 11 components for the Chevy Bolt EV.

The Bolt EV was designed at GM Korea’s Bupyeong Design Center in collaboration with LG. Almost all advanced prototyping and development was done in the U.S But because so many critical components are being produced by LG, including motors, onboard charging system, battery pack, high-power distribution modules and some infotainment systems, observers have taken to calling it the "LG Bolt."

The Bolt EV was designed at GM Korea’s Bupyeong Design Center in collaboration with LG. Almost all advanced prototyping and development was done in the U.S But because so many critical components are being produced by LG, including motors, onboard charging system, battery pack, high-power distribution modules and some infotainment systems, observers have taken to calling it the “LG Bolt.”

LG did not clarify the parts were going to the U.S. for the electric car’s final assembly, and meanwhile the extended-range electric Volt is coming to Korea this year in a car-sharing program, so reports had to be denied that the all-electric Bolt is coming also to Korea.

Wards documented its first-hand experience, not from a Korean person on the street, or an employee at LG, but by no less than a GM Korea media representative who is supposed to be on guard for the tongue-twisting mix-up.

“There is no plan to launch the Bolt in Korea,” a GM Korea spokesman said to WardsAuto. “It will launch in the U.S. and likely in two international markets sometime after that, and Korea may be one of them.”

Aside from the misunderstanding about which car is being discussed, it is correct the Bolt electric car has not been announced as coming to Korea, it is slated for North America, and ultimately Europe as the Opel Ampera-e, but fuzzy distinctions remain.

So, GM Korea came up with a solution. It has chosen to add the English letters “EV” after the Hangul spelling of Bolt but the Volt will just be the “Volt.” Simple right? Now everyone just has to remember the Bolt EV is the new electric car, and the Volt is the EREV now in its second generation.

This expedient may help both consumers and the people involved in the supply chain – and even GM’s media reps themselves – to distinguish the two cars.

The Bolt EV is to be built in the Orion assembly plant. GM has not announced start of production, but it's believed it could be October based on prior disclosure. LG is in process of sending components now.

The Bolt EV is to be built in the Orion assembly plant. GM has not announced start of production, but it’s believed it could be October based on prior disclosure. LG is in process of sending components now.

But whether this puts a clear resolve on the problem will remain to be seen. For his part, difficulties could still arise, said Korean language expert, Brian Ro.

Ro, who served as a linguist in the United States Air Force for several years, posed how a conversation between two Koreans might go:

A: “Hey, did you hear about the Chevy Bolt EV?”
B: “Yeah, the Volt is really cool! My friend in America has one.”
A: “Wait, you talking about the Volt? I’m talking about the Bolt EV.”
B: “Huh? There is a Volt EV? I thought it was an EV already?”
A: “No, the Bolt EV! The one that doesn’t have a gas engine!”
B: “What? There is a Volt EV without a gas engine?? What a stupid idea! Who would buy a car that only goes 53 miles on a charge!”
A: “What?!”
B: “WHAT?!”

The above is fictional, of course, but if you thought Americans had it tough saying “I mean Bolt with a ‘B,’ not Volt with a “V,’” maybe a cultural sensitivity class would be in order for someone in marketing somewhere?

Not sure, but Ro said the above is otherwise reasonable.

“I could totally see that happening between two Koreans,” he said.

Meanwhile everyone is waiting for news revealing the specs for the first 200-plus-mile range EV to sell for under $37,500 before incentives.

It is called the Chevy Bolt EV. That’s Bolt with a “B.”

Wards Auto

This article appears also at HybridCars.com.

 

Aug 23

Hybrid Sales Rising Globally

 

Don’t worry, while this is mainly about the world hybrid market happily dominated by Toyota, there will be a GM angle in this story …

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Media reports have seen hybrid-electric vehicles playing second fiddle to plug-ins, their U.S. sales have certainly declined, but the global market is on the rise.

The source of this report is the automaker with the most to gain or lose – Toyota, which owns more than 80 percent of the global market share, and 73 percent in the U.S., but numbers don’t lie.

One meaningful statistic is Toyota reports it’s on track for 1.4 million hybrid sales this year, exceeding its previous high of 1.3 million in 2013.

Overall, Toyota reports 17-percent global hybrid sales growth for 2016’s first six months, according to a report by Wards Auto.

This was comprised of 708,998 units of its variously branded and badged cars sold around the globe compared to 606,530 during the same period of 2015.

Toyota may also be feeling a pinch however, as aforementioned plug-in cars like those from Tesla, and others steal the limelight as though they are the future personified.

Not helping things either is Toyota along with the entire U.S. hybrid market of around three-dozen models from several brands is in a lull at just 2 percent of the total market – down from a peak of 3.2 percent a couple years ago.

So what’s carrying Toyota? Mainly overseas growth up 26 percent and strong sales in its home market as well.

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One Toyota model that has supplanted cars from the second-to-Prius selling position in the U.S. and doing well in Europe also is the new RAV4 Hybrid.

In Japan meanwhile, certain hybrid models sell better than mainstream cars, with the Prius Liftback (naturally) being one of them. The new flagship hybrid was launched in December 2015, and home-market sales are reportedly up by 90 percent over the outgoing model, with 128,000 sales being three-times what was sold in 2015.

By contrast, in the U.S., the redesigned 2016 Prius Liftback is actually down 10 percent despite prior anticipation of the new model. We’ve seen downcast opinions uttered by Stateside Prius observers saying the third-gen 2010-2015 Prius was the last true Prius, but this would appear to be an insular view, in light of Japan.

What’s more, thanks to Toyota and its hybrid sales, Japanese auto sales rose 11 percent to over 850,000 units for the first-half of, and six of every 10 units were sold in Japan.

Aside from Toyota, other brands selling in the home market, include Honda, Nissan, Mazda, and Subaru.

Best known for hybrids to Americans, Honda has seen its sales decline 16 percent for the first half of the year to 105,797, with decreases in both Japan and overseas markets.

Although Honda started the mainstream hybrid market in the U.S. with its 2000 Insight, it has long-since trailed the Toyota and Lexus full hybrid sales.

2017-Honda-Accord-Hybrid-1-668x409

Honda’s hybrid sales a few years ago were 75 percent in its home market, and today they are closer to 97 percent.

Two Japan-market only Hondas are its best-selling Fit and Vexel. Sales of these are down 23 percent to 30,070 for the Fit, and 12 percent to 26,030 for the Vexel in the first half of 2016.

Small players adding to the sales pie are Subaru which sold 4,200 globally, and which is also down. Mazda sold just 529 hybrids.

Nissan, Japan’s second-largest automaker was responsible for 13,200 units, according to WardsAuto data, and was up 32 percent, aiding Toyota’s lions’ share contribution.

U.S. Outlook

While Toyota has dominated for a decade and a half in the U.S., other automakers are expected to bring along truly competitive models as soon as this year, and as this decade progresses.

Much-publicized low fuel prices have slimmed down the already slim U.S. hybrid market, but regulatory pressure keeps automakers looking for ways to drive up their mpg and reduce emissions.

2016_Malibu_Hybrid1

A glimmer of hope to U.S. hybrid enthusiasts is the 48-mpg 2017 Accord Hybrid which was redesigned after a 2016 hiatus, and could see its technology make its way into more U.S. models.

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

The automaker has otherwise discontinued outdated Civic and Acura ILX hybrid models leaving a void which could be filled by some of its advanced tech now enjoyed in Japan – and in the U.S. Accord Hybrid.

Aside from Honda, General Motors may have the brightest star with most potential in the hybrid space – its new 46 mpg Malibu Hybrid with technology adapted from the Volt.

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

The fuel-saving effectiveness of the hybrid architecture for this midsized sedan dwarfs the unsuccessful eAssist mild hybrid tech GM attempted to market in the Malibu and other models.

Michigan-based auto analyst Alan Baum foresees GM may be preparing an SUV, a crossover, and another compact sedan with the Volt/Malibu system purpose made for just such a spreading of the wealth. News could come as soon as this fall, but GM is not officially saying what it will do in proliferating new advanced hybrids in new segments.

Other brands, including those from Europe including Volkswagen, and Asia, including Nissan are also believed to be preparing models that could breath life into the market.

We knew no one at GM-Volt.com would mind waiting for another story on the three Chevy badged hybrids Alan Baum believes could be introduced as soon as October 2017. So, we'll hold the names for now. Can anyone guess what Baum thinks will be three new hybrids based on the gen-2 Volt/Malibu architecture?

We knew no regular readers of GM-Volt.com would be that curious, or mind waiting for another story on the three Chevy badged hybrids Alan Baum believes could be introduced as soon as October 2017. :) So, we’ll hold the names for now. Can anyone guess which three models Baum thinks will come in hybrid variants based on the gen-2 Volt/Malibu architecture?

Baum projects 25 percent growth in the U.S. hybrid market for 2017 even as consumers and media continue to focus upon plug-in hybrids and all-electric cars.

SEE ALSO: Americans Buy Their Four-Millionth Hybrid Car

In their favor is hybrids come in at lower prices, are proven to significantly cut fuel costs, and potentially pay back in a way average consumers can embrace.

Hybrids have also been on the market longer, and in June, the U.S. market bought its four-millionth model.

Toyota meanwhile says from its worldwide perspective, things look positive, and being most responsible for the hybrids on the roads today, it says hybrid technology will play an increasingly significant part going forward.

Wards Auto

This story appears also at HybrdiCars.com.

 

Aug 22

These Plug-in Cars Are Selling Well Compared to Regular Hybrids

 

17-Volt

Although media reports periodically focus on relatively low sales for plug-in electrified vehicles (PEVs), a few standout models are selling in numbers respectable even next to much-better established non-plug-in hybrids.

The regular, non-plug-in hybrid market has had 16 years in the U.S. to get underway and today the two top sellers – the Toyota Prius and new RAV4 Hybrid – have sold from January through July 58,405 units and 23,943 units respectively.

The redesigned, fourth-generation Prius carries an outsized proportion of the hybrid market. Its sales are down 10.7 percent this year despite the new design, and improved efficiency.

The redesigned, fourth-generation Prius carries an outsized proportion of the hybrid market. Its sales are down 10.7 percent this year despite the new design, and improved efficiency.

Below these, the third-best selling non-plug-in model, the Ford Fusion Hybrid, has tallied 15,006 sales through July and beneath that there are a couple others in the 12,000 unit range atop a slew of lower-volume hybrids.

In all, there are around three dozen regular hybrids for sale in the U.S., and these have traditionally been thought of as the domain of environmentally minded buyers. As PEVs have come along over the past five years, however, they’ve naturally pulled some of these customers toward their green appeal.

Another factor which has sapped non-plug-in hybrid sales the past couple years from a peak of around 3.2 percent of the U.S. passenger vehicle market to below 2 percent today is of course unexpectedly low fuel prices.

Toyota's new RAV4 Hybrid hit the ground running this year, and industry observers say this is proof of a gaping void ready to be filled by PEV versions in this category.

Toyota’s new RAV4 Hybrid hit the ground running this year, and industry observers say this is proof of a gaping void ready to be filled by PEV versions in this category.


As petroleum costs have dipped, Americans are plumping up automakers’ balance sheets for trucks, SUVs, and crossovers. Inexpensive gas has actually removed some of the wind from the sails of the both regular hybrids and PEVs, but between the two categories, automotive analysts and automakers have observed PEVs which attract gas-eschewing customers and combine a new-tech appeal have been less hard hit.

Put another way: A hybrid always needs gas, while PEVs can go without part- or full-time, thus the psychographic appeal for PEV buyers is somewhat different from those mainly looking to save at the pump.

Presently the U.S. has 12 battery electric models for sale, and there are 15 plug-in hybrids. The battery electric vehicles are holding down 0.42 percent of the market share in the over-17.5-million unit U.S. passenger vehicle market, and plug-in hybrids are at 0.36 percent.

This 0.78 percent combined is slimmer than the larger, older hybrid market trending through July at 1.92 percent, but within the pecking order of PEVs are a few leaders, as follows:

Tesla Model S – 14,100 estimated

tesla-model-s-pikes-peak-e1471469714293

The best-selling PEV bar none is Tesla’s Model S. A phenomenon since launched June 2012, and updated in various ways along the way, it has been well documented as competing against European and Asian luxury cars, and it also surpasses lower priced green efforts.

Its 14,100 sales is better than all but the top three hybrids sold in the U.S., an impressive feat considering most hybrids cost significantly less. Not to embarrass anyone, but not only does it outsell a would-be volume leader like the $20,000 Prius c (12,975 sales), it handily beats upscale hybrids.

For example, the Lexus ES Hybrid has 4,935 sales through July, the RX 450h crossover has 5,414, and the Toyota Avalon cousin to the ES has 4,650 sales reported. And never mind higher-up hybrids from Lexus, BMW, Mercedes, Acura, Infiniti, and Audi that sell in low volumes, with some due to be discontinued as their makers think plug-ins to chase Tesla.

Obviously Tesla’s appeal goes beyond incremental gains in green factor as the hybrids represent, and it stands as a unique car in a category of one luring buyers to all it represents.

Chevrolet Volt – 12,214

17_Volt-668x409

The second-generation Volt has not topped the Prius as former GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz had once upon a time suggested it might, but it is doing better than all but five hybrids out of the over-three-dozen for sale.

Despite starting at just around $34,000, it is neck and neck with Toyota hybrids costing thousands less – namely, the Camry Hybrid (12,494 sales) and Prius c (12,975 sales).

Here the comparison is closer than Tesla’s segment-transcending Model S luxury performance sedan. The Volt is positioned as a fuel-saving part-time electric car, and the market is indeed rewarding Chevrolet over better-established, and cheaper hybrids from the well-regarded Toyota.

As true of Tesla, not hurting things is a $7,500 federal tax credit and potential state incentives, which in the Volt’s case gives it nearly net cost parity with the Camry Hybrid which received a through mid-cycle update in 2015.

The Volt is helped by many other factors not least being it was redesigned in 2016, and it has a reputation as being fun to drive and high-tech cool. It’s dimensionally smaller than the true-five-passenger Camry however, and still much more pricey than the Prius c which will be due for a refresh, having been introduced in 2012.

People in this green car demographic otherwise know the Volt’s 53-miles EV range can make it effectively gas-free for more than 80 percent of all daily driving needs, so that and other psychographic factors mean it could be called a relative success.

Ford Fusion Energi – 8,576

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The plug-in version and range topper of Ford’s Fusion line is nearly matching the sixth place Prius v’s 8,673 sales on the regular hybrid list.

Smartly styled, and refreshed this year, it’s well below the 15,006 sales of the non-plug-in Fusion Hybrid on a national basis, although some submarkets in California have reportedly seen more plug-in Fusion sales than non-plug in.

Overall, it is doing alright, being up 66.8 percent compared to 2015’s sales through July.

Tesla Model X – 8,400 estimated

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Built on the same platform as the S, the Model X crossover’s sales have underperformed what was expected, but still rank well. Tesla chief Elon Musk had once said the company would sell more of the X than the S, but numerous teething problems have seen attrition from what was once reported as a backlog of over 40,000 reservation holders for the car introduced late last year.

As it is, the X priced from the 80s to twice that is also handily outselling all but five regular hybrids, and fittingly also just edges out the sixth-place Toyota Prius v, itself a wagon.

Obviously its appeal, as true for the Model S, goes beyond saving fuel or cutting emissions, but as that is the mission statement of Tesla, it’s doing just fine against other traditional green cars.

Others

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Also doing OK is BMW’s just-refreshed i3, which while down for the year by 19.1 percent with 4,359 sales, now has a revised battery option and July’s 1,479 units sold was a 143-percent gain. Nissan’s Leaf even in a very down year also deserves mention with 6,856 U.S. sales through July making it the fifth best-selling PEV – and it is still the world’s best cumulative seller with over 228,000 sold since December 2010.

Other PEVs can be viewed at our sales Dashboard which tracks the entire U.S. passenger market.

Summation

While media reports may correctly highlight PEVs are off to a slower start than projected half a decade ago, they are building on the market acceptance and technology set by hybrids.

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Despite cheap gas, various consumer misconceptions or indifference, PEVs are otherwise on the rise, presently with 0.78 percent market share as hybrids are down from peak years.

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Coincidentally, this 0.78 exactly equals the market share held by high-efficiency diesels – with VW TDIs presently sidelined and counting a lions’ share from the light-duty Ram pickup (29,655), and Ford Transit van (31,435).

As more automakers turn to plug-ins, hybrids also will have a place, but PEV’s market share is due to go beyond the 1 percent of diesels in the VW-dominated heyday up through September 2015 when emissions cheating news broke.

Next on the target is hybrids hovering near 2 percent of the market. The leading PEV models mentioned carry an outsized proportion, as has been the case for several leading hybrids.

With new models like the Chevy Bolt, Tesla Model 3, next Nissan Leaf, and numerous others pending, PEVs could before we know it surpass hybrid market share altogether, but what the future really holds, no one actually knows.

This article appears also at HybridCars.com.