Archive for the ‘General’ Category


May 12

5 Plug-in Hybrids We’d Like To See Developed


Today mainstream-priced plug-in hybrids are mostly compact and midsized front-wheel-drive cars while Americans are shifting toward larger cars, AWD trucks, and SUVs.

Do you see a disconnect in this picture? Are automakers’ out of touch with what people would snap up in a heartbeat if only they were made available?

Is the goal in electrifying vehicles to slash petroleum consumption, or to do only enough to barely nurse along a 0.5 percent market share of content-rich and commensurately priced vehicles guaranteed to sell in limited quantities?

While some have wondered whether a conspiracy is in play, realities are what they are at this juncture, but in the interim we’ve come up with a fantasy wish list of vehicles we think could be a hit if done and priced right.

The Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid is actually a plug-in hybrid with 32 mpg, 33 miles EV range from its 16 kWh battery, making it America’s most-efficient gas-electric family hauler.

Aside from the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid 7-passenger plug-in hybrid, which with incentives is priced competitively with its non-electrified siblings, the few plug-in SUVs and AWD crossovers sold in the U.S. now are upscale.

As for what’s motivating automakers to only offer what they do, a plethora of variables are responsible but primarily plug-ins are being spliced into product lines to increase national fleet average mpg and CO2 scores, or to specifically comply with California regulations.

Plug-ins cost more to make and purchase, take special marketing and sales efforts, require new owner behaviors, and automakers – comfortable selling products people want in a time when gas prices erode plug-ins’ competitive edge – are doing mainly what they have to.

More plug-ins will be coming to meet tightening regulations, and increasing consumer demand, but meanwhile the goal of our list is to dream up feasible vehicles that could better meet the spirit of the law, not just the letter of the law.

A genuine SUV, the AWD Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV proves at least 12 kWh in batteries and 20-30 miles EV range is possible in a converted conventional model. The PHEV has been a best seller in Europe, and Americans have expressed great interest, though it’s been delayed numerous times. Meanwhile only upscale Euro plug-in crossovers and SUVs are available while automakers have bypassed offering their own mainstream-priced models.

That is, the intent behind regulations demanding cleaner cars is to cut petroleum consumption and emissions on a significant scale, and that will mean mass volumes.

In brief, big sales come from popular products. Popular products are those that give people what they want at a price they can afford. Never mind that Tesla’s Elon Musk has said automakers have an inherent conflict of interest in selling perceptibly superior electrified vehicles alongside their bread and butter lines, we’re just dreaming here.

And really, our list is only low-hanging fruit: all that would be required to make them so is to revise an existing vehicle to PHEV status. Ideally, as we’ve seen being done already, purpose-built plug-ins are desirable over converted conventional or hybrid vehicles as they are better able to package enough batteries for longer EV range without compromising cargo or passenger space.

Built from the ground up as a plug-in hybrid, the extended-range electric Chevy Volt has space for a large 18.4-kWh lithium-ion battery for an EPA-estimated 53 all-electric miles. That’s above the 20-30-some EV miles most cars converted to PHEVs can muster, but advocates like Drive Electric Cars New England’s Mark Renburke touts benefits of today’s PHEVs as a start in the right direction. Our wish list builds on that ethos.

That said, several plug-in hybrids already are converted from hybrid models, so we’re just expanding on that formula. The technology for more exists, but to date the will has not. It’s believed some of these vehicles will in time be built, but meanwhile, here are some ideas for plug-ins that could be welcome now.

Toyota RAV4 Prime

Introduced last year, the RAV4 Hybrid is an all-wheel drive SUV based on the popular and just updated conventional model, and it would be ideal to make into a plug-in hybrid.

If made into one, its name could just as well be the RAV4 Prime to stay consistent with the Prius Prime plug-in hybrid which is called “Prime” to help distinguish it as the range topper.

Since the RAV4 Hybrid’s dealer launch, Toyota has been selling these in greater numbers than its Prius v and Prius c and Camry Hybrid which formerly were sales chart leaders.

The RAV 4’s engine is the same as in the Lexus NX hybrid and delivers 112 horsepower at 5,700 rpm, 206 pounds-feet torque at 4,100. The electric motor contributes 141 horsepower (105 kilowatts) at 4,500 rpm in front, 199 pounds feet torque, and the independent rear motor can supply 67 horsepower (50 kilowatts) at 4,600 rpm.

Total system output is 194 horsepower, comparing favorably with 176 horsepower for the gas-only RAV4.

Toyota’s electric AWD is a system that could be adopted by other enterprising automakers. Called AWD-i, it senses slippage and comes on as needed to augment traction. It’s found on other Toyota crossovers such as the Toyota NX and Lexus RX.

Stuffing in a 10-14 kWh battery might yield electric range in the 20s, possibly lower 30s while retaining its 34 mpg city and 31 mpg highway economy in hybrid mode – or possibly improving it. Toyota did that with the Prius Prime over the 52 mpg Liftback hybrid by letting it rely more heavily on its bigger battery in hybrid operation, and yielding 54 mpg.

Toyota has not indicated it would build a RAV4 Prime, but if it did, and could price it as aggressively as it does the Prius Prime. Though the ostensible top of the line, it’s priced midway in the Prius hybrid lineup. Similarly, the two RAV4 Hybrid trims are only $700 over the conventional similarly (well) equipped RAV4s. Toyota knows how to sharpen its pencil when it wants to, and a RAV4 Prime could be another model to benefit from that policy.

Honda CR-V Plug-in Hybrid

Honda actually just introduced a CR-V Hybrid in China, odds are good it will eventually make its way to the U.S., and while it is at it, a plug-in version would be welcome.

The CR-V Hybrid uses a version of the dual-motor hybrid system found in the Accord which happens to be the most-efficient midsized hybrid sedan sold at 48 mpg combined.

You might notice however that tall, all-wheel-drive crossovers when hybridized do not tend to do as well over conventional stablemates as hybridized sedans. The Accord gets an 18 mpg (60 percent) improvement over a the most-efficient non-hybrid Accord, and a Camry Hybrid with the same basic powertrain as the RAV4 Hybrid gets a 13 mpg (48 percent) increase over a non-hybrid Camry. The RAV4 Hybrid however is only 6 mpg (23 percent) better than the conventional RAV4, and similarly, a Nissan Rogue Hybrid is only 6 mpg better.

So, how many mpg in hybrid mode and how many miles range in EV model a theoretical CR-V PHEV might get is an open question, but it could be in the upper 30 mpg region, and electric range – a function of battery size – might also be in the 20s or 30s.

Power otherwise could be good if the Accord’s 2.0-liter engine were used which combined with a 181 horsepower (135 kilowatts – traction motor) and 142 horsepower (106 kilowatts – generator motor) yields a class-leading 212 system horsepower.

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

As with all these hypothetical vehicles, pricing would make or break it, and it is likely early but not out of the question for such a vehicle. To date, Honda has been one to max out content for its hybrid and plug-in vehicles making them have limited appeal compared to conventional alternatives.

Otherwise, Honda’s plans are for two-thirds of its global automobile lines to be electrified by 2030 so it will need to get there somehow. It is introducing its plug-in Clarity sedan from the mid $30,000s this year – which also comes in a battery electric and fuel cell version – and to increase sales, Honda knows price for performance will need to come down.

Nissan Rogue Plug-in Hybrid

The Rogue Hybrid comes in FWD and AWD.

Here too, Nissan is already on its way as a Rogue Hybrid does exist, so this is another case of just add batteries.

Not so incidentally, the “problem” with adding batteries, aside from cost, is packaging.

Namely, if simply stuffed unceremoniously in the trunk, room is decreased for cargo, and if the seats don’t fold down, that also takes away from a vehicle meant to be haul stuff.

Assuming Nissan – and others in this list (and while we’re at it, add in a Ford Escape PHEV and Chevy Equinox PHEV as they all follow a similar formula) – can find space to put the batteries, it could create another vehicle to make people clamor less for the elusive Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.

Often a spare tire is forfeited to make way for batteries. This RAV4 Hybrid shows that’s yet an option. Better choices are placement under seats, etc., when possible. Photo: Mark Renburke.

The existing Rogue Hybrid meanwhile combines a 2.0-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine producing 141 horsepower with a 40 horsepower electric motor that’s powered by a lithium-ion battery. The one-motor/two-clutch design has a total system output of 176 horsepower.

AWD models are estimated at 25 mpg city, 32 highway, 28 combined. This could be retained with PHEV mode, and 20-30 or so miles EV range could mean a part-time EV.

Nissan priced the Rogue to go head to head with Toyota’s new hit, the RAV4 Hybrid. Nissan has otherwise said it has advanced batteries for its other plug-ins, including the new pending Leaf EV, its pricing for these critical components is likely competitive, and it so it could be competitive with a Rogue PHEV.

As with the rest of these, there has been no announcement that such a vehicle is in the works, but for you in the snow belt, would you be open to it if it were?

Toyota Sienna/Honda Odyssey Plug-in Hybrids

Honda Odyssey.

These maxi-sized “minivans” are the quintessential “family haulers,” and while Honda and Toyota have been serving up outstanding hybrid minivans in their home market for years, they’ve never been motivated to bring them stateside.

With the introduction of the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, can you think of a better time than now for the Japanese automakers to stop holding out on the North American market?

SEE ALSO: Toyota’s Fuel-Sipping Estima And Alphard Hybrid Minivans – Off Limits For US

The benchmark to beat is actually quite competitive: Chrysler’s 7-passenger plug-in hybrid has an outstanding EPA rating of 33 miles range form its respectably sized 16-kWh battery hidden beneath the floor so as to minimize space compromises. It also gets a great 32 mpg in hybrid mode which is in line with some compact cars.

Toyota Sienna.

This involves V6 power so it has what it takes if you decide to take your spouse and you five children on vacation across country in a loaded-up vehicle.

To date the Chrysler is the only such vehicle in its class, it is by far the most efficient over the present Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna which get low 20s mpg, but those automakers could easily engineer their own versions if they wanted.

Of the two, Toyota has been less gung-ho about plug-ins – the Prius Prime is its only one, and it’s still working toward the Japanese vision of a “Hydrogen Society.” Honda actually is on board with fuel cell vehicles as well, but it’s been more open to plug-ins, and both are open to regular hybrids.

Imagine if they had a change of heart. Regulations have a way of doing that, and so does competition, and now they have both.

Ford F-150 Plug-in Hybrid

America’s best-selling truck simply has to be made into a plug-in hybrid, and it may only be a matter of when.

It’s not that we’re biased toward Ford, and we’ll note plug-in hybrid versions of GM and FCA and Japanese pickups would be great too, but Ford has said the most to date that such an animal could see the light of day.

For starters, Ford has said a hybrid version is in the works for by 2020, and a plug-in version might have been spied road testing as well.

This was last spring, and a spy photographer who snapped a number of copyrighted shots of a semi-camouflaged F-150, at 35 mph said he heard the engine shut down while an electrical sound of a hybrid powertrain seemed to take over.

A hybrid variant with a small six-cylinder engine plus motors might be merged with Ford’s 10-speed transmission instead of a CVT, and the truck would be intended to serve in the half-ton class for towing, and load hauling.

Plug-in trucks offer serious on-site power for work purposes. Shown is Workhorse’s full-size W-15 which it is developing as a purpose-built, for now fleet-only extended-range PHEV with 80 miles EV range, upper 20s-low 30s mpg in hybrid mode, and optimistically aiming for a $52,000 before-subsidy starting price. This is step above VIA Motors which is converting GM trucks to series hybrids. If underfunded startups can run the numbers and make a business case, why aren’t major automakers doing the same?

Under the truck’s body would be enough room to put batteries for as much as 40 miles or more range. This has already been shown by VIA Motors and its plug-in hybrids converted GM light-duty trucks.

As a work vehicle, the Ford could offer on-site power for running tools, and the like.
All told, with fuel economy in the low-mid 30s, and ability to run gas free for a majority of commuters to travel to work and back would be a huge step up from today’s high-teen, low 20 mpg pickups.

All they’d have to do is not over content it like GM did last decade with its two-mode hybrids which it subsequently canceled due to lack of sales because they were too expensive.


May 11

11 Reasons To Buy An Electric Car Now


Since late last decade all-electric cars have been increasing in model selection and sales volume, but have you considered whether an EV would work for you?

If you’re one of the 295,000 people in the U.S. who’ve already left behind the world of gas pumps and tailpipe hydrocarbons with purchase of an EV, the answer is obviously yes, but what about those still on the sidelines?

Going EV is ultimately a very personal decision based on whether a car powered by electric motor(s), lithium-ion batteries, and attendant computer controls is right for you, but there are lots of benefits in EVs’ favor.

For starters, as we’re approaching a decade since Tesla proved its 2008 Roadster was sufficient to base its now-famous business on, and seven years since the 2011 Nissan Leaf, EVs now have a track record.

The Union of concerned Scientists says 42 percent of homes could use an EV.

So, if your risk tolerance is less than that of an early adopter, no problem, because at this stage marketers might call an EV buyer a “fast follower.” Globally hundreds of thousands have proven EVs viable and they’re becoming more so.

And beyond that remain numerous underlying reasons to electrify vehicles that have prompted legislators to give a financial leg up to both their makers and buyers.

After a halting start, EVs are catching on and due to continue eroding market share from petroleum-burning internal combustion engines.

Some manufacturers are now making forward-looking statements predicting sales of 15-25 percent plug-in cars in the next 8 years, and even higher percentages by 2030. These include plug-in hybrids which run part time like pure EVs but have gas backup.

Aside from these factors, here are more reasons why you might want to buy an EV now.

1. EVs Promise Energy Security

Your tax dollars at work. A U.S. aircraft carrier enters Straight of Hormuz.

America’s new president may be less inclined to support regulations the former president approved of to foster the EV movement’s birth, but cars that run on electricity actually have bipartisan appeal.

How so? Whether an EV is assembled in Europe, Japan, Korea, China, or the U.S., its energy is 100-percent made in the U.S. and you’ll never see a massive tanker pulling into port with a load of electricity.

Even if “energy security” has been an elusive goal, it’s still considered a worthy one closely linked to “national security.”

For vehicles, the concept is simple: The U.S. transportation sector accounts for 70 percent of petroleum usage and the the U.S. military patrols oil supply routes around the world to ensure the American way of life. This costs billions leading to trillions.

Wars have been fought for oil which means payment has been with lives and blood of Americans to preserve the monopoly fuel which could also be described as having all of one’s eggs in one basket.

Terrorism remains a threat in part due to oil-related geopolitical issues, and outcomes.

Some terrorists are funded by oil-rich foreign nations.

The “fracking revolution” promises a reprieve perhaps, but it’s not without opponents warning of potential consequences, nor is it enough to replace the need for foreign oil. What’s more, because oil is a “global fungible commodity,” its price is set by world markets and this keeps the U.S dependent on – and needing to preserve stability in – other regions, including those where terrorists and wars threaten.

Further still, say electrification advocates, squeezing the last remaining fossil fuels will eventually mean a tapped supply.

Granted EVs constitute a slim percentage of the market, so one might ask what difference would buying one make?

According to Plug In America’s Richard Kelly, this kind of “fallacy” could lend itself to apathy, or you can choose to vote toward a positive difference.

Kelly says there are other externalities to contend with, and suspects dollar figure estimates may be “way too low,” in terms of costs to the economy.

Whatever your stance, and however you think we should get there, increasing reliance on clean, renewable, and domestic energy is a general prescription for longer term societal, economic and environmental health.

2. Inexpensive To Operate

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, an average all-electric car requires $3.84 worth of electricity to travel 100 miles assuming 12 cents per kWh. A comparable conventional car requires $9.65 worth of gasoline assuming $2.347 per gallon.

This means everyone stands to save money, and on average this is $5.81 per 100 miles traveled.

For someone who drives 15,000 miles per year, a conventional car driver would average $1,448 in fuel costs versus an EV driver who’d pay $576 for electricity.

This equals $872 saved per year, and – not accounting for rising gasoline prices – it equals $4,360 saved in five years.

In many cases, after federal and/or state incentives are factored in, this savings makes EV costs less total to own over five years than an a comparable gasoline only vehicle.

For more info on this analysis, you can consult the Alternative Fuels Data Center.

3. EV Prices Have Come Down

Since the launch of EVs with 70-80 miles range in 2011 costing in the mid 30s to mid 40s before incentives, prices have been coming down, and continue to.

In January 2013 Nissan reduced the Leaf’s price by $6,000, and several EVs can be had now from as low as just under $15,000 to lower 20s, assuming a $7,500 federal tax credit.

This year also the Chevy Bolt EV is rolling out from its launch late last year on the West Coast. This EV offers 238 miles range for $37,500 before credits, and can net for below $30,000.

Also due starting this summer is the over 215-mile Tesla Model 3 from $35,000 plus delivery fee. A long line of paid reservation holders means new orders won’t be filled until next year, but other vehicles are coming as well.

Further, even for EVs with less than 120 miles range, a value proposition can be had.

Some people choose to lease a car to avoid risks associated with ownership, but others are purchasing EVs and happy with what they can do.

Range limits of 70-120 miles per charge for average EVs is otherwise a factor to consider, but average daily driving needs might be under 40 miles.

The range takes a mental adjustment, but given the potential of charging en route or at your destination point – which can increase daily range by 25-100 percent or more – it is do-able.

As an extra reason to go EV squeezed in, electric car drivers will never have to stop to fill up at a gas station. Charging can be done when they are occupied doing more meaningful things like sleeping at night, or during the day while at work, shopping, or dining.

4. Financial Incentives Available

The federal government allows up to $7,500 as a tax credit on an EV purchase. On top of that numerous states and local governments offer some form of incentive as well.

If you can take advantage of these, an EV like the Bolt, Model 3 could come down to the upper 20s – although you would have to front the money for the purchase.

Some lease deals – such as for the Leaf which is due for upgrade this year – will apply the full federal tax credit into the price. Check the fine print before assuming, and you may also still be eligible for state credits in a lease.

With a lease where they fold in the federal credit, the dealer does the paperwork, and lessees can recoup the full benefit early.

Shopping around may prove an EV hard to pass up, but this does vary by region, and your tax status may affect the quality of the bottom line as well. Traveling to get a car out of state, or shipping a car in has also been done if local deals are not so great.

If you do go to such extreme measures, you will want to be sure local service is available.

5. End of Model/Generation Close-outs

That Nissan Leaf mentioned is on its way out, but with 107 miles range, and being a proven performer, it may be marked down by dealers to prices hard to pass uop.

In fact, says New England-based plug-in car advocate, Mark Renburke, prices and options have never been better.

These include deep discounts on first generation EVs like the Leaf, and if you shop around you may find deals on other EVs, and possibly even the new Bolt.

6. Less Maintenance

As Plug In America points out, battery electric cars are relatively simple machines.

“EVs have 10-times fewer moving parts than a gasoline powered car,” says the advocacy group. “There’s no engine, transmission, spark plugs, valves, fuel tank, tailpipe, distributor, starter, clutch, muffler or catalytic converter.”

An EV is otherwise a fully equipped automobile, so it does have electrical systems, HVAC, infotainment, and what not.

Because they have regenerative brakes, this tends to save brake pads and rotors from wearing as quickly, at least this is the potential many have realized.

7. Simpler than a Hybrid

While it is true that a hybrid offers no “range anxiety” and usually better fuel mileage than conventional cars, it also is an electrified vehicle that combines two powertrains.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has disparagingly called hybrids “amphibians,” but many level-headed observers – not least of which, being Toyota – would not go so far as to say they are in a stage of evolution pending a die-off.

However, that hybrids have more complexity is absolutely true, and it’s a reality EV owners can bypass in the tradeoff.

All the maintenance concerns about internal combustion-powered cars apply to hybrids, and then you have the battery, controller, motor, other components as part of the gas-electric powertrain.

The maintenance and resale record for hybrids has been good, and we are not meaning to say they are too risky, but EVs are simpler machines.

8. Infrastructure In Place Now

EVs run on electricity and America is fully wired to handle them. Utility companies do monitor grid demands, and in some neighborhoods where several EVs have added more draw than they’re set up for, utilities have increased equipment, but the country is otherwise EV-compatible.

As for public charging infrastructure, at this stage, there is need for more, and this is in progress.

One big boon is actually coming from a silver lining to the diesel-dark cloud of the VW emissions cheating scandal.

The automaker is on the hook for billions in infrastructure to make amends for its misdeeds.

Tesla also is building out its Supercharger network for its cars, and infrastructure otherwise is coming.

Presently some public chargers require you to pay for their use, but others may provide electricity at no cost – such as at some workplaces, campuses, retail areas, etc.

That is another potential benefit squeezed in here: free juice. It’s like getting free gas, and some report they take advantage of it.

An EV driver’s primary charge point is of course at home, and this assumes one has a place – like a garage, carport, or other private parking – that lets one charge at home.

Lack of suitable home charging has been known to be a deal breaker, although some do find ways to work around it.

The UCS survey showing 25 percent of households as EV compatible did account for available home charging.

9. EVs Mean Cleaner Air

This is not to be confused with the “environmental” concerns that affect our climate, but this is about public health issues and associated costs which affect us all.

Economists call smog, haze, and health problems resulting from emissions “externalities,” a neutral and sterile-sounding word for a nasty reality – people today suffer as a consequence of others’ actions, including releasing toxins into the air.

This is part of why policymakers are pushing to clean up the air and an underlying driver to the whole market.

The same concern over cleanliness of power plant emissions exists as above, but the grid is getting cleaner year by year and several watchdog and advocacy groups say EVs are definitely “part of the solution” rather than “part of the problem.”

Quantifying the “problem” in actual dollars has been elusive, but it could be more than anyone really wants to pay.

Because of too many ramifications to count afflicting society, it as been very difficult to specify an actual dollar cost for America’s “addiction to oil.”

One investigation a few years ago attempted to pin the price of gas at $15 per gallon in terms of its costs to health and the environment.

In contrast, electric motors are clean and more efficient. If many more people adopted them, how would that stand to help the world not just now, but for today’s children and future generations?

10. EVs Leverage Solar Panels

Photovoltaic power generated at your residence amplifies the reason for an electric car, as it’s like getting free fuel when you charge at home.

The environmental benefits here are also off the charts.

Solar systems are not cheap, but may be eligible for tax breaks or subsidies, and costs have come down.

A back-handed way to help justify going solar is to consider an electric car along with it, if you don’t have one already. It’s like buying or leasing a car and running it for free most of the time.

11. EVs Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

EVs have no tailpipe emissions such as carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide, (CO), oxides of nitrogen (NOx), particulate matter (PM), formaldehyde (HCHO), non-methane organic gases (NMOG), or non-methane hydrocarbons (NMHC).

True also, the electricity has to come from somewhere and critics have often cited coal-fired plants as dirty and problematic. Yes they are less desirable, but even if juice is derived from coal, analyses have proven it’s still usually cleaner to run an electric car or plug-in hybrid, but there are exceptions.

“PHEVs and EVs typically have a well-to-wheel emissions advantage over similar conventional vehicles running on gasoline or diesel,” says the U.S. Department of Energy. “In regions that depend heavily on conventional fossil fuels for electricity generation, PEVs may not demonstrate a well-to-wheel emissions benefit.”

On average, CO2 output for an EV per 100 miles is 41 pounds, and for an average 26 mpg conventional car, it’s 95 pounds.

Powering from more renewable resources and cleaner power plant supplied grids of course stands to reduce the CO2 from powering an EV.

Or You Could Buy a Volt

The extended-range electric Volt is for all intents and purposes an electric car with an EPA estimated 53 miles range and gasoline backup.

This is the longest EV range among full-power, full-range gas-electric plug-in cars, and is enough range for most peoples’ daily needs.

Since launched in model year 2011, its battery has proven robust, and owners have become fans because there is no “range anxiety” and they have flexibility to travel as far as they want on gas at an estimated 42 mpg combined.

What would you choose, all things considered?


May 10

Oregon Considers Paying Car Salespeople Extra To Sell EVs


By Tim Healey

Car salespeople in Oregon stand to get a bonus from the state for each all-electric vehicle sold.

That would happen if legislation Oregon’s state senate is mulling becomes law and establishes a $1 million fund to pay bonuses of $250 for each EV sold.

There is one catch – salespeople who work for dealerships that sell only EVs would be exempt. That would rule out Tesla employees.

While there’s been talk of this bill applying to plug-in hybrids, it appears to pertain only to pure battery electric vehicles.

“’Electric motor vehicle’” means a vehicle designed for use as a mode of transportation
on public roads and highways that requires electrical current for propulsion. ‘Electric motor vehicle’ does not include a gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle,” says House Bill 2514.

The term “plug-in hybrid” is not to be found in its wording.

SEE ALSO: California and Oregon now ‘Fully Open’ For Chevy Bolt EV Sales

State Representative Bill Barnhart, the legislator who introduced the bill, said that the average bonus per sale for all cars in Oregon is $100 to $150.

The thought process goes like this – with an extra $250 on the line, a salesperson would have more incentive to teach consumers about the benefits of an EV. Not only that, but over time, as salespeople work harder to explain the benefits, they will become more comfortable with EVs themselves, in turn making it easier to sell them.

SEE ALSO: Uber Encourages its Portland Drivers to Go EV

Of course, there’s the basic reasoning that if salespeople are more incentivized to attempt to sell EVs, they will then try to sell more, and hopefully that will mean more on the road.

In Barnhart’s view, once the EV market gains more than 1 percent market share, EVs will gain further sales momentum. Last year, sales both plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles nationally were 0.9 percent of the market, and all-electric vehicles comprised 0.42 percent.

The bill passed the state’s Committee on Energy in March, but it faces roadblocks – namely concern about where the money will come from.

Charged, Green Car Reports,


May 09

Karma Automotive Beginning Revero Deliveries With TV Ad


By Jon LeSage

Karma Automotive is ready to start releasing the Revero plug-in hybrid luxury performance car later this month.

It’s being promoted through the startup’s TV commercial showing a Revero rolling off the ramp of a delivery truck. “Delivery” shows scenes of the car being delivered in California and Florida to commemorate the first units planned for May.

The one-minute TV spot was shown Sunday during the 2017 U.S. Open Polo Championship on CBS during the championship broadcast. The spot named “Delivery” features beautifully shot scenes of the Revero being delivered in California and Florida in commemoration of first deliveries planned for May.

“This is the car they dream of,” the TV spot’s voiceover says.

The TV commercial will also be shown on social media, digital advertising spots, and on the Karma Automotive website. You can view the TV spot below.

The carmaker’s marketing message taps into the enthusiasm of those who owned the original Fisker Karma plug-in hybrid. The Karma’s appeared on the market in 2012 prior to the startups bankruptcy in 2013. About 2,000 Karmas were sold during that time.

The new company has spent time talking to Fisker Karma owners to shape a plan to revise the sports car for its new identity.

“The spot marks the rebirth of one of the most celebrated silhouettes in automotive history,” said Jim Taylor, Karma Chief Revenue Officer. “We felt this moment in time deserved to be recognized.”

SEE ALSO:  Karma Bounces Back as the $130,000 Revero Plug-in Hybrid Sports Sedan

Revero units will be built at the company’s plant in Moreno, Calif. Despite speculation by other media that Reveros would also be built in China, the company issued a counter statement to correct that it has never said that they’d be built anywhere other than California.

It will start at $130,000 for those interested in making the purchase.

Inside EVs,


May 08

Workhorse Unveils W-15 Electric Work Truck Concept at ACT Expo


By Jon LeSage

Fleet buyers checked out the latest in electrified and alternative fuel vehicles, and watched the unveiling of the Workhorse W-15 electric work truck during ACT Expo 2017.

Held this week in Long Beach, Calif., the annual clean transportation conference saw Workhorse Group showcase its W-15 electric concept pickup that can go 80 miles per charge by way of its 60 kWh battery pack. The startup maker of battery-electric vehicles is also offering a variation to fleets with an on-board gasoline generator that extends total miles to 310 using both electricity and gasoline.

SEE ALSO:  Workhorse Bringing 500 Plug-in Hybrid Pickups to California Utilities

Workhorse has been releasing news on the plug-in pickup for several months, including receiving letters of intent for the purchase of 3,000 units from a few utility and government fleets. It’s still in the concept phase, with no word yet on when it will be ready to reach production level. The company said it will have a starting price of $52,000, and will offer 460 horsepower with the ability to carry 2,200 pounds in payload and tow 5,000 pounds.

Workhorse Group said the W-15 light duty platform design is an extension of the E-Gen electric technology used in Workhorse medium-duty delivery trucks. The vehicle maker is also known for testing a drone package delivery system.

As you can see in the photo gallery below, electrified vehicles were a recurring theme in the exhibit hall. Fleets are seeing more battery electric, plug-in hybrid, and hybrid vehicles in all types of vehicles such as buses, shuttles, port drayage trucks, and delivery trucks.

Product offerings on display include BYD electric medium-duty trucks, the Ford Police Responder hybrid sedan, and Mitsubishi Fusi’s Canter electric work truck.

Renewable natural gas has been another hot topic during ACT Expo. Switching over to renewable natural gas could quickly help California achieve its air quality, greenhouse gas emissions, and climate change-related goals, the two coalitions say.

“The RNG Jobs Report” was released during the conference, which predicts that with fleets deploying trucks fueled by renewable natural gas, it will create up to 130,000 new jobs and add $14 billion to California’s economy. The study was released jointly by the Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas and the California Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition trade groups.

Waste Management, Inc., took the “In It For the Long Haul” achievement award given by ACT Expo, for running nearly 6,000 natural gas powered refuse trucks. About 40 percent of these trash trucks are now powered by renewable natural gas, the company said, with that fuel coming from landfill biogas.


May 05

Which Saves More Gasoline? Toyota Prius or Chevrolet Volt?


The hybrid Toyota Prius is famous for saving fuel and the extended-range electric Chevrolet Volt is touted in that department as well, but which is a better tool for the job?

Obviously there are many considerations that go into buying a car, but since saving fuel is a prime reason for these models’ existence, can it be said their fuel-saving effectiveness is reflected in their popularity?

Last year both cars were all-new revised models, and although inexpensive gasoline has led many consumers to trucks and SUVs, among buyers of this class of vehicle who still care, the Prius soundly trounces the Volt.

Even though Prius sales disappointed last year and were 13 percent down, Toyota sold four of its Liftback hybrids for every Volt delivered in its best year ever, and this was despite the Volt being a better gas miser.

In 2016 Toyota reported 98,863 Prius Liftback sales and it was the best-selling electrified car by a large margin. The Volt sold 24,739 and was the best-selling plug-in hybrid. Source: December 2016 Dashboard.

How is it better? The Volt does what no non-plug-in hybrid can do and that’s run on electricity for a large portion of miles of emissions and gas-free driving.

Among full-range/power plug-in hybrids, the Volt has the biggest battery available enabling an EPA-rated 53 miles of electric range making it a part-time EV and a 42 mpg hybrid the rest of the time.

As of last July – the latest report Chevrolet supplied citing GM OnStar telematics data – 90 percent of Volt trips were gas free, and of all miles traveled, 60 percent were gas free. In other words, among Volt drivers monitored by GM in the real world, they traveled 40 percent of their miles burning gas, and 60 percent on the battery gas free.

The Volt’s 18.4-kWh lithium-ion battery is capable of delivering an EPA-estimated 53 all-electric miles. Studies show average daily trips are under 40 miles for 75 percent of all drivers.

What’s more, the vast majority of those Volts were first-generation with range of 35 or 38 miles rather than the 53 miles of the 2016/17 Volt.

So, even though the Prius is rated 52 mpg – 56 mpg for the Two Eco trim, which comprises 5.5 percent of sales – it winds up using more gas and emitting more greenhouse gases in many cases than the Volt – new style and even first-generation style.

Actually, this a complex question we’re trying to simplify based on averaged assumptions and your actual results may vary. Any way you slice it, however, including when considering the EPA’s “utility factor” which calculates an effective 77 MPGe, odds are good for the Volt.

Putting A Finer Point on Things

One elemental way of looking at the question of gas usage is by nationally averaged EPA figures folded in with GM data.

Based on 15,000 miles per year which the EPA anticipates, a Chevy Volt that averages 40 percent fuel usage actually only burns gas for 6,000 of those 15,000 miles.

At 42 mpg, that’s 143 gallons of gas used annually. Assuming the $2.39 national average price today of regular gasoline, that’s $342 per year on fuel.

As for a 52 mpg Prius, it burns gas for all 15,000 of those 15,000 miles, consuming 288 gallons, or $688 worth per year.

What about greenhouse emissions? The Prius emits 171 g/mile while the Volt puffs out a scant 51g/mile. Further, this 51 g/mile is by the EPA using the Utility Factor to calculate this number. Without upstream emissions, the Volt would emit 0g per mile so the 51g is based on the per-mile UF gasoline used and it’s non-upstream CO2 emissions. This said, the Volt’s advantage is reduced if factoring upstream emissions. Assuming grid energy, the EPA figures the national average at 200 g/mile for Volt, and the Prius is at 205 g/mile. The EPA provides an online calculator to narrow down by zip code emissions by car model for your local grid. Source:

Of course the Volt owner would need to use electricity for the EV miles, and unless “free” charging was available – such as at an employer’s or as excess from solar – the electric bill would need to also be factored.

The EPA figures .12 cents per kWh as the national average. No doubt your cost may be higher or lower, but going with that, 9,000 EV miles at 31 kWh per 100 miles equals 2,790 kWh. At .12 cents per kWh, that’s $335 electricity plus $342 gas for $677 total Volt energy costs versus the Prius’ $688 for gas.

So, at today’s low gas prices, the Volt may make a negligible difference in dollars, but it does save more in gasoline volume.

This article focuses on the Prius Liftback because it is by far the best-selling electrified car, but the plug-in Prius Prime should be mentioned. Its 25-miles range and pricing within the Liftback’s realm make it a strong alternative. Its sales actually lag the Volt’s, but are still improving as the new car rolls out this year.

Meanwhile, on the big picture level, the Prius does actually save more gas.

How so? On a fleet basis, as some enthusiasts are quick to observe, Toyota’s resounding popularity, lower up-front cost, time on the market and other factors mean far more are sold, and each one displaces a 26 mpg average car.

The 98,863 “Prii” sold during 2016, assuming each travels 15,000 annual miles, would use approximately 28.5 million gallons per year.

This also assumes 52 mpg – and considering 5.5 percent are the 56 mpg Two Eco, this number would be less but since 94.5 percent are the 52 mpg variety, we’ll assume 100 percent in the interest of simplicity for what is already a hypothetical scenario.

So, if one imagines 98,863 average 26 mpg cars – with half the mpg of the Prius, these would burn 57 million gallons of gas, and the Prius theoretically saves at least 28.5 million gallons.

Of course these numbers are hypothetical, and not all Prius models sold in 2016 were the new fourth-generation 2016 variety. Some were the 50 mpg leftover generation-three model, but this is a gauge just for comparison’s sake.

With stiffer TNGA global platform and independent rear suspension, the new Prius actually corners flatter and with greater poise. Toyota took journalists to an autocross course and pitted the former Prius against the new one. There is a noticeable difference. The Volt is quicker though – 8.4 seconds est. to 60, and 2.6 seconds to 30. Prius gets to 60 in about 10 secs.

And the same truth would apply for the Volt, as it also was in a transition year to generation two, so older 37-mpg leftovers would have skewed the numbers. This year however far more of the new vehicles will be sold, and assumptions should otherwise carry forward.

So, of the 24,739 Volts sold last year, assuming 6,000 miles (out of 15,000) of gas-burning hybrid mode at 42 mpg, they would use just 3.5 million gallons of gas.

Compared to 24,739 conventional 26 mpg cars, which would use 14.3 million gallons, the Volt would save 10.8 million gallons. If four times as many Volts had been sold to match the Prius’ sales volume, they would have saved 43.2 million theoretical gallons to the Prius’ 28.5 million gallons.

Therefore the Volt only saves less gas on an overall basis because it sells less, but per car it saves much more.

Another Way to Slice it

If you think that was at all complicated, the EPA is from the government, and they are here to help.

The feds calculate a formula called Utility Factor which is not commonly published at the EPA’s comparison site and this can provide another perspective.

SEE ALSO: 2016 Toyota Prius Review – Video

The Utility Factor for the 2016/17 Volt is 0.76 and its overall MPGe when that Utility Factor is used to calculate a mix of gas and electricity use is 77 MPGe.

In short, the Utility Factor for the 2016/2017 Volt projects that 24 percent (1.0 – 0.76) of miles use gas so out of 100 miles, 24 would use gas at 42 mpg.

This in turn means 24 divided by 42 is .57 gallons per 100 miles, whereas a 52-mpg Prius would always use gas, and come to 1.92 gallons in 100 miles.

SEE ALSO: 2017 Chevy Volt Review – Video

Of course, the Utility Factor is a general-purpose projection of long term overall gas versus electric use for a PHEV with a certain EV range and is not really making predictions for a one-way 100 mile trip segment.

It makes for an interesting number though: not counting the electricity used, the Volt would need .57 gallons to drive 100 miles and achieve an effective 175 mpg.

Thousands of “MPG”

Another fringe source of data are the fun folks who try to outdo each other over at That’s a site that tracks Volt owners who register their cars and submit their OnStar data on EV miles, gas miles, total miles, etc.

The present mpg leader, brownvolt in British Columbia, is showing 88,516 “mpg” for a 2014 Volt. Below that superlative number is LaMesa Volt with 15,689 mpg.

If you are a little fuzzy on math, 15,689 mpg is better than 52 mpg for the Prius, but before you retort, we’ll do it for you and say these are skewed numbers.

These outliers on the fringes of fuelmiserhood essentially are using their Volts as pure EVs and avoiding the engine coming on at all costs.

That is, if a Volt has 38 or 53 mile range, they’re using them like EVs with 38-53 miles range most of the time. Intraday charging becomes a familiar practice for people in this category, among other tricks including draining the gas tank or tricking the computer before it forces the engine to burn gas to prevent it from going stale.

Other Considerations

If all you care about is saving gas, buy a Volt.

As noted however, there are other reasons why the Prius outsells it four-to-one.

Among these are the Prius is a midsized car with bigger rear seat and true five-passenger space compared to the Volt’s more-cramped rear seat and middle rear “seating position” good for children and good-natured adults who don’t mind. One of the better uses for the second-gen Volt’s middle seat position is for child booster or infant car seats where the middle position gives it the best protection during a collision.

Other pro-Prius factors include better resale value and a perceived-excellent reliability record (though the Volt also achieves relatively high marks), and other factors that go into a purchase.

Looks come into the equation too and while Toyota blames cheap gas, this may be one reason why the fourth-generation Prius, despite being a superior-handling car to the Prius it replaced, with better efficiency and more space as well, is down in sales.

Exterior styling is actually the top consideration for average consumer purchases – but these are both vehicles to appeal to your inner Mr. Spock.

Further, in some regions like the upper mid-west, coal-intensive grids make the “upstream emissions” worse for the Volt per mile than a Prius, so if that’s a consideration, an environmentalist would think twice.

Another variable in the equation is simply respect for brand recognition, and the Prius, frankly, has more of that among the progressive demographic being targeted by it and the Volt. It also starts in the mid 20s with no subsidies available, and may seem like an easier proposition to get into than a Volt starting in the mid 30s, and with up to $7,500 in federal tax credit plus potential state incentives.

Reports have it the Volt with incentives and possible discounting may be had within realm of the Prius, but realities are what they are.

In Sum

People often love to think of themselves as objective and logical, but many a car salesperson knows buyers often make emotional decisions with enough rational justification stirred in to make the part of their brain that likes to feel logical feel better.

Bottom line is either car can make sense and both the Prius and Volt have their fans, but the Prius has more.

Four-times more, in fact, if sales are an indicator, but if you’re buying a car to save gas, or in consideration of national security or CO2 emissions, perhaps a closer look at the Volt would be in order?