Archive for the ‘General’ Category

 

Aug 15

When’s this electrification revolution supposed to happen?

 

Yesterday I was informed by a retired banker that America has 100 years worth of oil at least, so what’s the worry about energy security? He gets his info from the energy stocks he’s invested in, he said. And he said, who needs a Tesla Model S that takes “six or seven hours to recharge” on a road trip, and is only a “toy for the rich?”

Exactly. But while Superchargers he was unaware of can zap life into a Model S in 20-30 minutes, and Tesla is bound and determined, are the rest of the automakers really doing all they can? Really? (Hint: They all say they are, but actions like Spark EV sold in Oregon and California only and the Volt not aggressively marketed and no mainstream Voltec variants  speak louder than words).

Following is a look at nuances – actions and inactions – choices made against a panoply of push and pull to the market-wide electrification of transportation. I’ll have a counterpoint article to it later if this one depresses or upsets you overly much. It was inspired by Lexus’ GS 450 h which sold 8 units in July and costs $12,700 more than the similar GS 350 ICEmobile – take note Toyota fans, and bashers of the ELR … Sadly, a look at the HybridCars.com sales dashboard reveals a whole lot of “green cars” selling in numbers to give ammo to the haters.

I get that it’s “not a sprint, its a marathon” but here’s hoping for that tipping point!

2011 Chevrolet Volt Battery Animation
Warning: This Obamamobile may run out of electricity in the Lincoln Tunnel. But the taxpayers will be happy to subsidize it for you. Too bad about the batteries that will wind up in landfills. That is, if they don’t catch fire first. What an amphibian!
:)

 

In 1908, the Model T sparked a revolution for Ford’s sales with a boom heard around the world. After the U.S. was introduced to hybrids before 2000, and modern plug-ins late last decade, noises were heard, but advocates still look forward to a “game changer.”

One big reason for hybrid and plug-in vehicles has been to reduce emissions and petroleum consumption, but in many cases maximum savings at the pump has ironically been by vehicles perceived too costly for the majority to buy.

Today 42 U.S. hybrid models, seven plug-in hybrids and 11 electric cars comprise 3.9 percent of vehicles sold in a 15.5-million unit annual market. In July hybrids accounted for 3.1 percent and the two plug-in sub-segments were 0.40 percent each.

Toyota's 50-mpg Prius c is a good value at under $20,000, and sells respectably.

Toyota’s 50-mpg Prius c is a good value at under $20,000, and sells respectably. Some have wondered whether automakers could create more cost-competitive electrified vehicles in more categories, if they really wanted to.

Over the past four years, plug-in sales have grown faster compared to the whole U.S. passenger car and truck market. Being a new category, any new model spikes the numbers proportionately more. Now almost 15 years into it, hybrids have been close to flat, paralleling the growing mainstream market near 3 percent. Market percentage 2010: 2.50 percent; 2011: 2.51 percent; 2012: 3.23 percent; 2013: 2.67 percent.

Up for debate is whether automakers could do more now to create volume-selling alternatives, if they were truly determined to do so. As it is, the average new car price presently hovers around $32,000. This is not cheap for a large number of folks shopping $10,000 or more below that.

There are a slew of electrified vehicles from $20,000-$32,000, some do make sense, but mainly come as hatchbacks or sedans. Beyond that, the “green car” movement has heavily catered to upper socioeconomic demographics and volumes have been limited.

SEE ALSO: July 2014 HybridCars.com Sales Dashboard

 

Government incentives have had positive effect, but said Consumer Reports green car editor Eric Evarts, start-ups like Fisker essentially made Uncle Sam their biggest customer, instead of meeting actual customer needs.

gas-less1
Tesla however is a counterexample. It has started upscale, but repaid taxpayers early and with its gigafactory hopes to shift economies of scale to induce its own Model T effect for its Model 3 and subsequent offerings. It has made its patents free as well, and hopes to provoke others to follow.

Also “disruptive” is a government-enforced “all of the above” regulatory approach holding automakers accountable, and some are rolling out viable choices while preparing for when they will have to do more.

For now, there are no average-priced electrified SUVs, minivans, or pickups – meaning a vast potential market for the biggest fuel wasters has found no automakers providing electrified solutions.

For armchair pundits wanting things to happen sooner, the watchword is patience – and be glad anything is happening at all. Remember “Who Killed the Electric Car?”

Compliance Cars

 
The term for limited-market cars that raise an automaker’s fleet average mpg to satisfy regulators is “compliance car,” and often speaks of plug-ins. Only a few out of 18 EV and PHEV models are sold nationally.

Less well noticed is an equal number of hybrid models selling in volumes that make one wonder why their makers bother at all. Most are by more-respected brands that fly under the public’s radar that targeted Cadillac’s ELR, a plug-in which with help from rebates and perks, has moved 578 units this year. One is Audi, which from January through July sold 182 Q5 Hybrids – six less than the ELR sold in July alone.

2013_ActiveHybrid-3_graf
BMW ActiveHybrid3. Costs more and makes more power than 335i but its extra weight counters the performance and it only gets 2 mpg better.

 

Want more examples of very low volumes after seven months’ sales? BMW Active Hybrid3: 104; BMW ActiveHybrid5: 92; Lexus LS 600 h: 54; Mercedes-Benz E400H: 120; Lexus GS 450 h: 145; Volkswagen Toureg Hybrid: 21, to name a few.

Market Driven

 
Automakers are businesses whose primary mission is to sell cars. Ultimately they, like many buyers, make amoral decisions based on what’s perceived best for them.

While happy to promote “sustainable” reputations, carmakers market what they think they can and must. They’ve long since sold all kinds of vehicles, and most profits do not flow from the greenest varieties.

Progress is taking place against a conundrum of variables including internal combustion engines that are much better and “horsepower wars” that have led to more 500-horsepower cars being produced presently than hybrids.

Perhaps equally perverse, the electrified market appears overly focused on low-volume cars for the well off. More than a quarter of all electrified cars today sell poorly next to conventional alternatives, and aren’t bought primarily for their superior economic value.

Take for example the Lexus GS 450 h which costs almost $13,000 more than the non-hybrid GS 350 – about $8,000 of it being extra features for upscale buyers. Evarts observed the content-rich phenomenon among Lexus and other automakers.

“There’s no shortage of willingness to pay for that so why would you not try to pass on some of the cost rather than eat it yourself?” he said.

2014_Accord_Hybrid_Touring_023
Honda’s Accord Hybrid – $30,000-$36,000. A nice alternative to an Acura.
 

Another less poignant example is the new Honda Accord Hybrid which is positioned atop the Accord lineup, but a fair value. This 50-mpg vehicle is doing pretty well but the base model is configured to Honda’s normally upper-tier “EX” level, and Honda says it’s aimed at households earning in excess of $90,000.

Experience has taught automakers that upper socioeconomic classes will appreciate a hybrid variant and Honda anticipated those customers will want the extras anyway.

Meanwhile that leaves many mainstream shoppers who would love to save at the pump more often choosing average-mpg cars. Even if electrified alternatives might ultimately pay back, their barrier to entry has turned away many buyers.

One notable exception is the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid. Ford’s up-line brand is trying to restore parity with Cadillac and charges the same for the hybrid as non-hybrid.

The 38-mpg combined MKZ with grafted-in Ford Fusion Hybrid powertrain wallops the non-hybrid four-cylinder MKZ by 12 mpg, and guess what?

13LincolnMKZ_04
Lincoln MKZ Hybrid.
 

Not unlike Tesla’s Model S, people are buying Lincoln’s hybrid in respectable volume. Through July, Lincoln sold 6,656 units – more than what Honda managed for the Civic Hybrid with aging Integrated Motor Assist powertrain.

The lesson? It’s not only about price. It’s about perceived value.

Speaking of which, also not helping things, said automotive analyst Alan Baum, is car dealers which may not be willing or able to sell more-expensive hybrid variants with sufficient gusto or plausibility.

SEE ALSO: Should You Buy An Electric Car?

 

“Selling a hybrid or plug-in requires more training and time,” said Baum. “Dealers are generally not compensated for this and therefore often guide buyers away.”

Tesla has said it bypasses the dealer franchise system because conventional automakers have conflicts of interest against Model S undermining their own internal combustion engine products.

Could it be Tesla is more correct than it knows? The numbers prove most upscale electrified powertrain vehicles do not internally compete well against conventional stable mates.

Critics at this point start to talk about “greenwashing.”

Best Value

 
The volume leaders among hybrids are Toyota’s Prius family, Camry Hybrid, and Ford’s C-Max and Fusions Hybrid which can pencil out against conventional alternatives.

Among plug-in cars, it’s the Chevy Volt, Tesla Model S, Nissan Leaf, and Ford’s C-Max and Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid siblings. All these also benefit from being sold in all 50 states.

According to Intellichoice, which uses its total cost of ownership calculations to annually name value leaders, only a few are hybrids, and none are plug-ins.

The Ford Fusion Hybrid strikes a balance of attractive normal looks, good mpg, and reasonable price.

The Ford Fusion Hybrid strikes a balance of attractive normal looks, good mpg, and reasonable price.


 

In the hatchback segment, Toyota’s Prius Liftback vies with the non-hybrid Toyota Yaris.

Among sedans, the Camry Hybrid and Lexus ES 300 h rank with variants of the non-hybrid Acura ILX and BMW 528.

In the SUV category, Toyota’s Highlander Hybrid ranks alongside a number of non-hybrids from Toyota, Lexus, Chevrolet, and Volvo.

In the wagon segment, Toyota’s Prius v ranks with the Subaru XV Crosstrek – including the hybrid and non-hybrid versions.

What hybrid ranked in the convertible, coupe, truck, or van segment? None.

Plug-in cars can offer value too, especially if they recoup federal or applicable state credits and electricity is relatively inexpensive.

Payback for all electrified vehicles also depends on miles driven per year, as low-mileage drivers will take longer to recoup extra up-front expenses.

Because They Don’t Have To

 
Automakers have told us they will “have to” eventually build greener cars to meet mandates, but all along the line there have been objections that costs could be too high, or they could not sell them once they built them.

Federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) mandates are set through model year 2021. Standards for 2022-2025 are tentative, and being reviewed, with a decision expected by 2018. These could get stricter or easier.

Automakers say very efficient trucks are hard to build. VIA Motors aims to prove it can buy new whole GM trucks, remove and sell the stock engine and transmission, install plug-in series hybrid powertrains and still make a profit.

Automakers say very efficient trucks are hard to build. VIA Motors aims to prove it can buy new whole GM trucks, remove and sell the stock engine and transmission, install plug-in series hybrid powertrains, and still make a profit.


 

Baum noted the automakers, particularly concerned over trucks, agreed to rules that are harmonized with California rules on the condition that the tightest standards yet pending could be further reviewed.

Regulations are otherwise pushing the pace, including also California’s Zero Emissions Vehicle mandates followed to varying degrees by 10 other states.

Innovators’ Dilemma

 

Automakers are often criticized, sometimes unjustly. They have markedly improved their products, and must face regulations, costs, and many other challenges.

It takes a lot of money to develop, market, sell, and warrant new vehicles, and automakers don’t normally want to create what they believe will be marginally accepted.

Toyota’s alternative energy spokesman Moe Durand, Ford’s Aaron Miller, and GM’s Kevin Kelly all said their employers – like other automakers – are constantly reviewing what is possible.

Automakers also frequently say they do not believe in shoving tech on consumers. This sounds reasonable, but includes some inside-the-box assumptions.

Durand said Toyota’s eEVT transmission is disliked by drivers preferring a stepped automatic and Toyota is married to this for its Hybrid Synergy Drive. Hyundai, Kia, and some Germans do however offer automatic transmissions and Honda even offers a manual in the CR-Z Hybrid.

Technologies to innovate more do exist, but may not be seen as acceptable.

Toyota Estima. Would Americans go for a 7-seat minivan that gets mileage in the high 30s, low 40s ? Toyota says it's not sure it can make it work.

Toyota Estima. Would Americans go for a 7-seat minivan that gets mileage in the high 30s, low 40s? Toyota says it’s not sure it can make it work.


 

Durand said people have asked about a hybrid minivan such as the Estima and Alphard hybrids Toyota brought from Japan to demonstrate in Michigan last year, but Durand said federal versions would be heavier, and may not be as competitive.

Kelly observed GM has the largest battery lab in North America, is committed to a second-generation Chevrolet Volt, and will have more electrification as it spends billions to back this assertion.

But automakers are usually risk averse. GM’s “political punching bag” the Volt has been an example of no good deed going unpunished, and the dark years it and GM faced – up to today – are experiences GM would like to put behind it.

Also out there, said observers interviewed, are intangible factors. These include blatant corporate greed, out-of-touch or inept marketers, and obtuse bound-up institutional thinking from companies that make decisions by committee.

volt_fog
 

Further, production costs for electric motors, controllers, and batteries are still perceptibly up there, though these are coming down.

Electrified vehicles – especially plug-in – also face similar challenges to consumer electronics in that each new model stands to seriously outdate previous examples, and this can make both automakers and buyers standoffish.

Generally, it’s been observed consumers are reactive, and may make long-term decisions based on short-term feelings.

CR’s Evarts observed in 2008 many were stuck in 13-mpg SUVs and felt stung not having anticipated fuel price spikes. Numerous sources also show consumers have been slow to comprehend alternatives even when they could benefit from them.

What Energy Crisis?

 

While electrification advocates “get it,” others push back or question the validity of climate change theory, technological readiness, or whether energy security is a concern.

Mainstream reports have documented America is now “awash” in newfound fossil fuels from horizontal drilling and fracking. This plus prospects for bio- and man-made fuels also attenuate the sense of urgency.

Plus, Americans pay less per gallon than others for gas, so they feel less pain. Some may hedge against it, but others are not alarmed, and memories can be short.

Leaf_in_grass
 

Last month GM’s media sales report said improved U.S. employment and fuel prices have reduced concerns, and growth for SUVs and pickups is expected to be strong.

Stakeholders otherwise predict internal combustion will be with us for decades to come, if not indefinitely.

Unknown also is the wild card of fuel cells, which Toyota, Hyundai, Honda and Daimler have spoken about, with more expected to follow.

Conclusion

 

If environmentalists, energy hawks, or other proponents have moral or ethical interests woven into desire for more battery electrification, it’s clear their passion is either not sufficiently embraced or battling contrary sensibilities and agendas.

Automakers – mindful of regulatory mandates – say they are pushing as hard as they can and do celebrate acknowledgments for their “sustainable” efforts.

Model_S_red
 

Today’s limited-market cars are providing lessons for tomorrow’s expected competitive market. Projections are for 4.5-times global plug-in electrified vehicle growth over the next decade, and hope is for technological improvement and economies of scale to kick in sooner or later.

Ultimately, what we have to date is the result or a raft of variables both for and against electrification and more is coming as we travel along the road to somewhere.

 

Aug 14

2016 Volt will get ‘fuel economy and efficiency’ improvements, said Mark Reuss

 

Yesterday it was reported Mark Reuss said “fuel economy and efficiency” will increase for generation two Volt.

mm_gal_item_c2

The comment from GM’s executive vice president of global product development, purchasing and supply chain came in Michigan at a meeting for former Buick employees.

Officially, GM has revealed little more than the car to be shown January in Detroit does exist.

The Reuss news came via GM Authority and the improvements will come via a 1.0-liter three-cylinder genset as well as lightweighting and aerodynamics.

teaser_Volt

What range will be is unknown, as are how much the “fuel economy and efficiency” will grow. GM Authority also added its voice to others – including us, via Alan Baum – that the Volt will have five seats.

GM Authority

 

Aug 13

Consumer Reports’ Model S has had its share of issues

 

Have you seen other issues out there? Will Tesla learn fast enogh to morph to a mass marketer and keep the customers just as happy?

By Mark Atkinson

 

Consumer Reports has released an update on its long-term Tesla Model S tester, and while the organization still enjoys its revolutionary nature, driving performance and good safety scores, its example has suffered a decent string of issues.

Having covered nearly 16,000 miles in CR’s care, the Model S – which CR purchased to eliminate ostensible conflict of interest – suffered “many minor problems that merit some reflection.”

While none were ever life-threatening or massive in scope, the automatic door handles failed to operate, the front trunk wouldn’t open and perhaps the most severe, the interior display/control screen went blank.

Most were fixed with either over-the-air updates or, in the case of the display screen, a “hard reset” during the vehicle’s annual service. Other issues CR focused on included one third-row seat buckle needing replacement, along with fixing a creak on the passenger side pillar.

CR did note that the shops regularly did things on their own accord without prompting, including replacing, “…the front bumper carrier hardware… … (the) 12-volt battery, the HVAC filter housing and the powertrain battery’s coolant pump.”

The organization had awarded the Model S an average reliability score based on owner feedback, but with fewer than 650 responses of 2012-13 models, the sample size remains reasonably small. However, CR stresses that its long-term test vehicle results are never reflected in the reliability ratings.

Tesla did in any event receive a huge feather in its cap when it was rated among CR’s top new cars ever reviewed. While CR’s review process begins with anonymity with a privately purchased car, today CR Spokesman James McQueen did say Tesla would likely know it is servicing a car owned by the influential consumer publication, as it flat-bedded the car away from CR’s headquarters in keeping with Tesla’s usual service practice.

But CR maintains it remains detached, and what’s more, its owner surveys cannot skew its own subjective impressions, said McQueen. CR is assessing Model S in an ongoing basis, he said, as did the article.

“Given the number of bits and pieces Tesla has replaced on our car, it might be tempting to guess that the reliability score will go down,” CR’s article continued. “The reality is, it might — depending on the frequency and severity of problems reported by our subscribers and whether they show that reliability is below average.”

Although certainly problematic, CR’s experiences were nowhere near as severe as those from Edmunds, who had 28 service campaigns outside of the regular maintenance schedule, including four drive units, two touch-screens, a battery replacement and more.

Consumer Reports

 

 

Aug 12

Low off-lease Volt values slammed in editorial by long-time GM critic

 

It’s like the rancor of 2012 has come back to haunt us, but with a twist. In this case, 2012 is a model year of Volts coming off lease losing an estimated 65 percent of value.

With a photo of a Volt with open hatch and fire in the rear cargo area (not shown below), an old friend of the Volt added to a long history of diatribes against “President Obama’s favorite, green wonder-car.”

volt_fog
 

Mark Modica of the National Legal Policy Center’s piece is titled, “COLOR ME SHOCKED: Chevy Volt Resale Values Plummet as Lease Returns Hit Market.”

“GM was able to use taxpayer money in the form of electric vehicle tax credits to help drive down costs to lessees,” wrote Modica. ”Taxpayers chipped in $7,500 for each Chevy Volt placed on the road for terms as low as two years. The taxpayer subsidies, along with inflated residual values and other GM incentives, provided for low monthly lease payments and led to a full two-thirds of all Volt ‘sales’ being attributed to leases. That’s about three times the lease rate for the overall industry.

“So, what happens to resale values of vehicles with little mass appeal that are forced upon the public with subsidies and manipulated leases? The result was predictable; those leased vehicles are now being returned and resale values are plunging,” he wrote.

Modica surmised that makes everyone who has actually purchased a Volt a loser as their cars are worth a fraction of what they paid. Lessees may have gotten a deal at taxpayer expense for the democratically forced crony capitalistic boondoggle, but so it goes, he essentially said.

His cheery and objectively measured piece continued:

“A search on the Manheim auction site, a primary indicator of vehicle wholesale value, shows that 81 Chevy Volts, model year 2012, were sold at auction for the week ending August 2nd. The average price was $14,871 for vehicles that are only two or three years old, primarily coming off of the manipulated leases. That equates to an absurd loss of values for Chevy Volts of about 65% in only two or three years.”

Ouch! So much for “a free market devoid of political intrusion.”

“The wonder-car was to save us from terrorism and global warming all at once!” he added. “The management at GM was, and still is, reluctant to admit that the Volt has been an utter failure.”

This latter statement is true, in fact GM’s Kevin Kelly told us yesterday Volt Gen 2 is definitely slated for a reveal in January, though naturally he did not spill the beans.

And, Modica concedes as much, saying he does not expect GM to back down from “money-losing green vehicles like the Volt.”

Further, Modica said, there will be some winners, including anyone who buys a cheap low-mileage super depreciated Volt.


2011

What do you think? As an “NLPC Associate Fellow,” does he have some points? Or not?

Does Gen 2 need to be more than a refresh? Will it be? We’ve seen confident-sounding reports saying what to expect and maybe they are right, but who knows?

GM does. And. it’s faced the music for over four years. Do you think it would like to put critics to silence?

What will it take for GM to shake hate for Government Motors and the Volt?

Directorblue.blogspot

NLPC

 

Aug 11

Review & video – 2014 Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid vs. Tesla Model S

 

Is this a no-brainer? In any event, hope ya’ll like it …

2014_Porsche_Panamera_S_E-Hybrid_Tesla_Model_S_001
 

Unlike misbegotten comparos between barely similar plug-in cars pitted together mainly because they run on grid power, a Porsche vs. Tesla shootout is almost valid.

The rear-wheel-driven standard 85-kwh Tesla Model S and Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid both target similar demographics with comparable curb weight, dimensions, 0-60 time, and glamor. Given one’s an EV, however, and the other a PHEV, they’re otherwise worlds apart.

Therefore this is yet another apple-to-orange matchup. With nary a compromise as endured by lesser EVs, the Model S remains in a category of one and people have noticed.


 

This year Tesla sold an estimated 9,400 through June in the U.S. versus 544 S E-Hybrids. But not to single out Porsche, the Model S is handily walking all over other German, U.S., and Asian upscale luxury performance sedans in that most important arena: the sales race.

Considering this plus the Model S is a nearly pure expression of a maverick vision, Tesla clearly wins. Or does it? Obviously some disagree and a prominent UK publication this year did name the Porsche the winner.

To each his own. What one prefers could reveal good taste and clear judgment – or biases and misinformation. We’ll not speculate who exhibits what, but will venture to compare as long as it’s understood these cars are as dissimilar as much as they are similar.

Proud German Heritage

 
Porsche’s S E-Hybrid was the biggest news during last fall’s otherwise subtle mid-cycle refresh for its Panamera line now boasting 10 variants, with the most-dear fetching maybe $300,000 if you go crazy with options.

The $99,000-plus four-seater replaced the Panamera S Hybrid after only two years on the market and got a 9.4-kwh battery, charge port, and doubly sized 95 horsepower, 229-pound-feet electric motor for part-time EV capability.

Blurring the green vision however is a gas engine. In this case, a 333-horsepower 3.0-liter supercharged V6 adds to a total system power of 416 horsepower, 435 pounds-feet torque.

2014 Porsche_Panamera_S-Hybrid
 

Now that dust has settled from press releases touting the Porsche-with-a-plug’s up to “22 miles” electric range and fuel efficiency up to 84 mpg during a European Porsche-staged mileage contest, federally enforced reality has set in.

The Porsche is EPA rated at 50 MPGe – well below 89 MPGe for Tesla’s 85-kwh Model S, and the 60-kwh version’s 98 MPGe. It’s also less than the 37-mile-range Cadillac ELR’s 82 MPGe. Porsche’s EPA-estimated electric range is 15 miles, or 16 “Elec+Gas.”

In regular hybrid mode, once battery capacity one-ninth that of the Tesla 85′s runs out, the S E-Hybrid is rated at 25 mpg combined – respectable for a 4,600-4,900 pound car, but not astonishing.

Proud American Mold Breaker

 

The Model S we review here with thanks to its owner is not the quickest P85+, but rather the regular 85 kwh.

The approximately 4,800-pound car is rated at 362 horsepower (270 kwh) from 6,000-9,500 rpm. Torque is 325 pounds-feet (440 Nm) – less than the Porsche, but full torque is from 0-5,800 rpm.

gas-less
 

Its floor-mounted battery centers the weight low, and can take advantage of a growing free-access Supercharger network to complement its 265-mile-range.

Outside and in the Model S is simplicity exemplified. It seats five adults and optionally two more kids in rear-facing jump seats. The clean-sheet design is a thesis statement in space utilization.

And so far the formula is working for the gas-free gambit from a company with a point to prove. Not hurting things is the cult of personality surrounding the every day hip billionaire Elon Musk who’s crusading to benefit the world – if not also to make his life story required reading for future history classes into perpetuity.

Face Off

 

Tesla’s Model S is actually a range of configurations based on the 60-kwh or 85-kwh battery and costs from $72,000 to low 130s for a packed P85+.

The Panamera S E-Hybrid starts at $99,000, and per Porsche practice, the bottom line engorges at an alarming rate with options.

2014_Tesla_Model_S_Porsche_S-E-Hybrid
 

Cars we sampled were just shy of $90,000 for the Tesla, with base price of $81,070, and the Porsche as equipped was $131,000.

Design-wise, Porsche’s family sedan has upset purists with the elongated profile that borrows the 911′s front end, and like many Americans, has grown to bulbous proportions it attempts to hide. Aesthetically, it does have some nice angles, but Porsche fans have said cars like the Panamera and Cayenne SUV help pay for the truly focused drivers’ cars from Stuttgart.

The Model S appropriated design elements from other vehicles to conglomerate a high-end sedan for a start-up with finite funds. Its rear clip is borrowed from a Jaguar XF, but its closed-grille sleekness cuts a 0.24 coefficient of drag and most consider it more attractive, if not a bit generic.

Is that a Tesla? No, 2010 Jaguar XF.

Is that a Tesla? No, it’s a 2010 Jaguar XF.

Power-wise, the Model S flicks to 60 in an estimated 5.4 seconds, though some have seen it match the Porsche’s estimated 5.2. Top speed is a different matter. The single-speed Model S is limited to 125 mph for this configuration. The 8-speed Porsche is limited to 167 mph. Tesla likes to tout its simplicity, but it also saved engineering and production costs.

Efficiency wise, Tesla wins 10 out of 10 green car points – and a chocolate macadamia nut cookie from mom, a gold star from the teacher, and a pat on the back from Barack Obama.

On the flip side, some have postulated Porsche – and now Mercedes – has it backwards. As GM has shown with the Volt and ELR, and BMW with the i8, more power could come from the electric motor(s), and the gas engine could be smaller.

Frankly, the powertrain formula Porsche and other plug-in hybrids use do create ostensible bragging rights, but a jaundiced eye could see greenwashed ringers fabricated to ace a test – the EPA’s.

It’s all well and good when the battery is charged, and a zero-emission, zero-mpg electric motor does the heavy lifting. But the finite energy ends too soon, and what you’re left with is a hybrid that gets 25 mpg if used like a Camry, but if used like the Porsche it is, mileage sinks to the low 20s to low teens.

tesla_following
 

But the Tesla doesn’t run for free either – unless you plug into a Supercharger or solar. And in any case, it can sap efficiency and range if driven like you stole it.

Some have observed the point of having a high-performance sedan is so that it may … highly perform.

Bottom line: either car may be nursed to maximum mileage but hard use wastes energy in the name of fun.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

That the Tesla emits nothing and is thriftier with the kilowatts is a huge plus. Additionally, electricity when it is paid for is generally cheaper. The EPA pegs Model S cost per mile at 4.5 cents versus 10.8 cents for the Panamera S E-Hybrid assuming charged battery and averaged fuel pricing, or 15.5 cents if it isn’t charged. Estimated energy costs for 15,000 miles per year are $700 for the Tesla, or $1,900 for the Porsche.

But the Porsche does still costs less to fuel than average internal combustion cars. Considering the demographic these vehicles cater to, the not-insubstantial $100 Teslas save per month might be valued as much for its satisfaction on principle, and buyers of neither car need fear suffering want for all the expense.

Further, aside from the tranny delete, Tesla saves itself money in ways that are not necessarily better. Its simple interior does display what others might call de-contenting, whereas the Porsche packs accoutrements, nice little touches, and does it up right, German style. The Model S doesn’t even so much as come with door pockets or center console, but this is part of Tesla’s contrarian stance. And, Tesla does offer an industry best 17-inch touch screen that controls most functions. Plus, Tesla can download software updates from time to time, so the car can evolve to a point. Pretty clever.

backs
 

In the final analysis however, the Porsche comes across a step above on the luxury scale, though some may disagree. Undeniable is Porsche builds on a legacy of a company that is tops in its game and no one can accuse it of trying to bluff its way into the big leagues.

If Tesla did not exist, the Panamera S E-Hybrid would be more clearly seen as a pinnacle among alternative tech. Its appeal is primarily a multi-legged stool held up by 1) Porsche’s reputation, 2) much higher performance than a Prius plug-in or Chevy Volt, 4) ability to run over a dozen miles with zero gas, 4) styling and techno-gee-whiz factor, 5) extremely nice build quality, attention to detail (see number 1).

The fact that it sells like a Cadillac ELR has rarely been noticed because, well, it is a Porsche, not a perceived wanna-be as critics say when mercilessly pouncing on the Volt-based ELR – and as some have even said of self-promoting Tesla.

The ‘Experience’

Tesla and others call the whole ownership enchilada the “experience.” This cliché du jour already sounds tired to our ears, but characteristic of trite over-used expressions, it does summarize truth.

In this case, both cars are a pleasure to drive, but in different ways. Both make you feel special; both have a presence to them; both are smooth, comfortable, fast when desired.

Porsche_back
 

The intangible extra Tesla abundantly delivers is the knowledge that it is uses no gasoline, emits no hydrocarbons. It represents a societal movement in the face of the entrenched establishment as much as it is a means of transportation.

When owners feel their purchase is actually symbiotic support of the greater good, their zeal can become passionate among the more noble – or rabid among some.

With empathy for the cause, we’ll observe the Tesla does out-do the Porsche in sustainability, environmental friendliness, energy security, and it paves the way for more-affordable cars as soon as feasible. Further, any luxury carmaker would envy Tesla’s quiet ride interrupted only by wide grippy tires making themselves heard on the tarmac.

What the Porsche offers is zero range anxiety, high performance, comfort, style, part-time EV capability that may be enough for some. And, it barters the fact that this is an established brand that sends cars to Le Mans and many other racing events. Porsche’s heritage is competition, and for decades it’s been in the business of making testicular road dominators with few if any perceived compromises.

tesla34
 

That said, ride quality coupled with handling manners are superb for both – considering their heft. Remember. These are family sedans we’re talking about. Yes they preen with sporty intentions, and can back a lot of that posturing up, but race cars they are not.

Our Porsche did come with extra sticky wide upgraded 911-spec tires and wheels. The Model S has a super low center of gravity, and while the battery in the floor is advantageous, it can only work with the laws of physics, not defy them.

From a pure performance car standpoint, both are portly at around 4,800 pounds. They manage their bulk well but probably would make Lotus’ Colin Chapman cringe for the extra 1,500 pounds they carry compared to a real sports car like a Corvette Stingray (or possibly the 3,300-3,400-pound BMW i8).

The $30,000 custom-built carbon-fiber li-ion-powered electric drone was also interesting.

The $30,000 custom-built, carbon-fiber, li-ion-powered electric drone was also interesting.

Further, Teslas pushed on tracks have overheated their batteries, sending them into a sort of limp-home mode. Here, at least the Porsche could at up to 42 mph faster, which may partly explain why Porsche didn’t overly depart from the engine/transmission formula.

In sum, both cars have an element of lifestyle accessory to them. Priced as they are, they’re not bought only to save fuel or the environment. Where they couldn’t be any less alike is Porche represents the old guard. While maybe not an “amphibian,” as Elon Musk calls hybrids, in the eyes of some plug-in enthusiasts it looks like a dinosaur trying not to go extinct.

The Model S by contrast is an all-or-nothing experiment daring the world. But no one has ever seen one a decade old. Will it age like Paul Newman – or a classic air-cooled Porsche 911 – or will more issues than have already been discovered here and there begin to crop up?

The Verdict

 

If you like the Porsche, like who makes it, can live with its finite energy storage, and like that it can run without needing a recharge, it’s not a bad choice. Helping things along is – compared to a Volt or Prius – it’s is a more effective road weapon and a snazzier commuter.

If however you’re attune to what’s trending, and also love what Tesla is all about, clearly it is the winner.

2014_Tesla_Model_S_Porsche_S-E-Hybrid_01
 

But again, this is apple versus and orange. When someone other than Tesla produces a large all-electric sedan with similar range and performance, that will be the day a truly even comparison to the Model S can be drawn.

In the meantime, the upstart is crushing it in the sales wars and plowing the way for others to follow. This it’s doing while established players regroup, react, and make forward-looking statements to grapple with Tesla’s effrontery, not to mention government mandates that will make everyone clean up sooner or later.
 

Further Reading:

2014 Cadillac ELR Review – Video
Tesla Model S Review
Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid First Drive
2014 Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid Review – Video

 

Aug 08

Next gen Volt will be shown January in Detroit

 

They say patience is a virtue … so, now’s your chance to be super virtuous!

Or, we can speculate through the weekend. Yeah, that sounds good. To get us started, I asked Alan Baum who you may know is a green car analyst in Detroit. He suspects GM will make the new Volt a five-seater, cut costs and selling price, increase range, thus offering more on a few counts to get sales volumes up.

teaser_Volt
 

Officially, General Motors confirmed yesterday that it will show its next-generation Chevrolet Volt this January at the 2015 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Want to know how much it will cost, or EV range, or see details and specs? According to GM Spokesman Randy Fox, GM regretfully declines to offer more than a teaser photo. The company has not even said when it will go into production, and did not confirm it will be a 2016 model year as has been conjectured by industry watchers.

Instead GM issued a press release noting the news of the Detroit reveal was already publicly divulged this week at the Center for Automotive Research Management Briefings.

The automaker’s focus is otherwise on accentuating positives for the existing Volt, which are many as indicated by an infographic it issued, but the car has only caught on so far in the marketplace.

SEE ALSO: Is the Chevy Volt Destined To Remain GM’s ‘Niche’ Product?
Among plug-in vehicles, the “extended-range electric” Volt is yet tops, having sold more than 65,000 copies in the U.S., but sales have been flat or declining compared to previous years.

Not helping the issue is GM has nearly given up pushing the car in national ad campaigns. It told HybridCars.com in Detroit this year the Volt is relegated to niche status, and GM is essentially resigned to this.

One impasse seems to be public perception, or put nicely, lack of full comprehension as to the value proposition the Volt could offer.

Chevrolet-Volt-Infographic080714
 

The Volt was developed as a car with close to 40-miles all-electric real-world range to meet the study’s estimates of what three-quarters of Americans need for daily driving – and it was intended as a Toyota Prius beater.

Now late in its life cycle, having received two upticks in battery kilowatt-hour capacity, its 17.1-kwh battery may do that, but GM did not re-certify the 2015 with the EPA. The car started life with 35 miles EPA-rated range, in 2013 increased to 38, and the present 2015 may be better, but that GM didn’t bother re-certifying the car is a big hint its days are numbered.

2015 Volt.

2015 Volt.

And it actually does what GM said it would. With available discounts and incentives now offered for the $35,000 car, the Volt may net out less than a Prius Liftback in the low-to-mid 20s, but even as late-in-life Prius Liftback sales are falling off too, Toyota’s non-plug-in hybrid sells about six for every one Volt delivered.

Speculation has meanwhile been all over the map regarding what’s next for Volt. Will it get up to 60 miles EV range as former CEO Dan Akerson has suggested? Will it get a smaller 1.0-liter turbocharged range extender? Will it cost less? Will GM de-content the car or otherwise cheapen things not immediately perceptible?

In short: Will the engineers and marketers of a company making its bread and butter from conventional tech actually improve the car? Will it be enough, or another hit-or-miss?

The Detroit Bureau said “various sources” said “the new version will not only get a redesign inside and out, but longer battery range and improvements in performance. Perhaps most importantly, GM will aim to reduce the price of the plug-in hybrid to improve its competitors and reverse weakening demand.”

For its part, GM promises this and more automotive electrification, and predicts more people will be buying its electrified cars, be they other models, or the Volt.

SEE ALSO: How Committed Is GM To Vehicle Electrification?
But the Volt is the premier product, if you don’t look at the Cadillac ELR floundering with low sales, and needing heavy discounts.

“Volt is the perfect example of the ingenuity that drives everything we do at Chevrolet,” said Global Chevrolet Chief Marketing Officer Tim Mahoney. “Volt fully delivers on the promises of Find New Roads and will continue to provide consumers with the transportation solutions they need and deserve in the future.”

Alternative energy enthusiasts can only hope GM delivers on its word, which for now is little more than promises in general, and mum on specifics.