The 2013 Honda Fit EV

Most people would not disagree that the compact and good looking, if slightly quirky Honda deserves a mention when discussing the hottest of the hot hatches that are on the market right now.

This is thanks in large part to its unique space saving design and excellently designed and laid out interior. In the 2013 Honda Fit EV the guys at Honda may have actually outdone themselves as this car has all the charm and function of its older gas guzzling sibling with the added advantage that as an all-electric vehicle (not a hybrid) it allows its drivers to whiz their way around town without ever needing to worry about wasting time at a gas station.

2013 Honda Fit EV 300x144 The 2013 Honda Fit EV

Power and Performance 

The  2013 Honda Fit EV is powered by a cleverly engineered 92-kW electric motor that is capable of outputting 123 hp and 189 pounds-feet of torque, that makes good use of a 20-kWh lithium-ion battery. This little workhorse of an engine can be driven for 82 miles on a single charge. Not quite up to Tesla standards but as the Fit EV is designed specifically as an urban runaround than that is about perfect.

The EPA estimate performance numbers are 132 mpg city/105 mpg highway and 118 mpg combined, numbers which outstrip both the Ford Focus Electric and the Nissan Leaf, cars that will logically become the Honda Fit EV’s competition.

The little Fit EV also ranks as one of the faster of the new crop of all electric cars. It can make it from 0 to 60 in a very respectable 8.9 seconds (in Sport mode) and eventually reach a top speed of 120 mph.

Provided you have access to a 240 volt outlet the 2013 Honda Fit EV will charge in three hours. If you do not have a 240 volt outlet you may want to invest in one along with a new Fit EV as charging it from a 120 volt outlet will take a whopping fifteen hours.

Honda Fit EV interior 

At a quick glance it is very hard to tell that there is really much of a difference between the standard gas powered 2013 Honda Fit and the ecofriendly EV version. There is a single trim level on offer but the standard features are plentiful. These include a nifty rear spoiler, generously sized 15 inch alloy wheels, a three-mode drive system, LED taillights, power accessories throughout, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with a tilt-and-telescoping feature and a 60/40-split backseat. The battery pack does take away a little of the functionality, as the seats cannot be folded completely flat because of its presence, but, like any good hatchback, there is plenty of flexibility in terms of storage.

2013 Honda Fit EV interior 300x200 The 2013 Honda Fit EV

In terms of its tech offerings, the 2013 Honda Fit EV boasts full Bluetooth phone connectivity, a reasonably good GPS navigation system, a six speaker CD player with iPod interface, a rear view camera and limited voice controls. On the safety front you’ll get   antilock brakes, all wheel stability control, front side airbags, side curtain airbags and active head restraints.

All in all the Honda Fit EV is an excellent entrant into a growing market. There is only one big issue with the 2013 Honda Fit EV right now, and that is actually getting one. The car is not currently being offered for direct sale in the US. It can be leased in select states (California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York) and that lease is not cheap ($389 per month for those with good credit.)

Given that the 2013 Honda Fit EV is a fun to look at, fun to drive example of a small EV, the hope would have to be that Honda decide to expand the its  reach in the future, and offer it for outright purchase nationwide.

2014 Toyota Auris Hatchback

The 2014 Toyota Auris Hatchback is Toyota’s latest entry into the hybrid market that its Prius already dominates. Along with its half sibling, the just released Toyota Auris Touring Sport, the company says that it represents a new direction for their already successful hybrid division. But is the new entrant into the already slightly over-saturated hot hatch market worth giving a second look?

Toyota Auris Hybrid 2014 Toyota Auris Hatchback

Performance

Both of the Auris hybrid models boast the Hybrid Synergy Drive system, which features a 1.8-litre VVT-i petrol/gas engine and an electric motor that offers a maximum power output of 134bhp/100kW.This translates into a rather respectable for a hybrid top speed of 120 mph and a 0-60 time of 10.9 seconds, not so speedy, but not horrifically slow off the mark either. In terms of fuel efficiency both the Hatchback and the Touring Sport manages a combined fuel economy is 61.9 mpg-US/74.3 mpg-imp.

In terms of the drive, the 2014 Toyota Auris handles well enough and does everything that it is supposed to. It does feel a little clunkier than other cars in its class but it corners efficiently and holds the road well. At lower speeds the engine is almost as quiet as an all-electric vehicle but as the revs have to climb to build speed it does get a little noisier.

Interior

The Auris’s dash locates all of the important controls neatly and within easy reach for most drivers and overall it is very user friendly. The exception is the touch-screen infotainment system, which is rather slow to respond and not at all that intuitive. Unfortunately the visibility in the rear is not really that great either, as the rear window itself is very shallow.

The one thing that is a must for a good hatchback, traditional or hybrid, is that it provide good storage along with comfortable passenger accommodations in a reasonably small space. Here, the Auris comes into its own.

It is not as physically spacious as the biggest of its biggest, but there is plenty of head- and legroom for everyone and even the rear seat backrests recline individually, something that is a very nice touch. The Auris also accommodates three back passengers in more comfort than most of the competition, thanks to the fact that it has a totally flat floor.

The Auris’ trunk space is well sized and efficiently shaped an a rather ingenious floor allows you to split the space in two.

Toyota Auris Hybrid interior 2014 Toyota Auris Hatchback

Extras

There are two trim levels for the 2014 Toyota Auris Hybrid (as compared to four in the traditional gasoline engine class) In order of luxury (and price) they are the Sport and the Excel. Both feature air-conditioning, electric windows, remote locking and a CD player as well as DAB radio and alloy wheels. Bumping up to the Excel trim adds automatic headlights and windshield wipers and a leather-trimmed dashboard.

Pricing

The 2014 Toyota Auris Hatchback is currently only slated to be sold in the UK and European markets. In the UK it is not necessarily bargain priced at £22,145, but it is already proving popular as a company car choice, based of pre-orders, in the UK, thanks to the excellent fuel economy and relative ease of maintenance.

The 2014 Ford Focus Electric

The Ford Focus is not a new car, it has been a bestselling compact car in both the US and European car markets for well over a decade. The Ford Focus Electric is something new though, and another example of how the big car companies that were once accused of trying to kill the electric car are now slowly, but surely, moving to the forefront of the movement. The new and improved 2014 Ford Focus Electric is currently set to roll out in both Europe and the US to ‘replace’ the original 2012 model which was considered so groundbreaking by many.

Ford Focus Electric by the Numbers

When lined up side by side with its all gas and hybrid counterparts – as the Ford Focus Electric is technically only a trim level in the third generation of the Ford Focus – it is rather difficult to tell at a glance that it is in any way different. It is still a five door hatchback, it still has the distinctive Focus shape and all the space a small family could want in an everyday vehicle as well as some rather nifty handling.

ford focus electric 300x168 The 2014 Ford Focus Electric

The difference is of course obvious once the hood is popped. At the heart of the 2014 Ford Focus Electric is a 143 hp (107 kW) synchronous electric motor that is powered by a 23kWh, high-voltage, lithium-ion battery system. This system gives the car a single charge range of 73 miles, but that can be extended when driving in highway rather than stop and go city traffic. The 0 to 60 time was clocked by Edmunds at a shade over eight seconds.

Driving the 2014 Ford Focus Electric

There is something of a learning curve involved in driving an electric vehicle and of all the similar models available at the moment – the Focus, the Nissan Leaf and the Fit EV – Ford have created a car that best responds to this and educates its driver in mastering the art of getting the most out of an EV with an in-dash system that includes a Brake Coach, to help new drivers get used to the use of the regenerative brakes and how doing so properly can extend the range of the car without detracting from the actual driving experience.

Looks and comfort are still as important to drivers as they ever have been when it comes to the interior of a car, whether it is an EV or not and the new 2014 Ford Focus certainly delivers in that respect. Features that are considered to be ‘top of the line’ in the gas trim levels of the Focus are standard here, including MyFord Touch system and a soft and luxurious upholstery that is crafted from  REPREVE® fiber, a material that is comprised of 100% recycled materials.

ford focus electric inside 300x168 The 2014 Ford Focus Electric

Charging the 2014 Ford Focus Electric

Standard charge time for the new Ford EV is around four hours on a 240 volt outlet. Ford do offer a separate charging station that can be relatively easily installed in the home that decreases that time and will, Ford says, also be compatible with planned future Ford EVs.

Meet the BMW i3 Electric Car

If you are a company as well known as BMW for innovative engineering, it only makes sense that you get a foot into the electric vehicle business as it begins to really take off. In August 2013 the Germans entered that market with its very first production vehicle, an new entrant into the very competitive hot hatch market, the BMW i3.

It should be made clear that this is not an all electric vehicle in the way that the Tesla vehicles are, or the likes of the Nissan Leaf. The BMW i8, the more high end offering that will debut in 2014 will not be completely all electric either. But as BMW are one of the biggest car manufacturers in the world most people in the green movement see both the i3 and the i8 as a step in the right direction, and given their long track record for making strides in technology it is difficult to imagine that a true EV to rival the Tesla Models S is not too far behind (especially since Tesla are outselling BMW in a number of markets.)

BMW i3 electric car 300x176 Meet the BMW i3 Electric Car

So what does the BMW i3 have to offer? It is a beautiful to behold ultra-lightweight hatchback car, but it is deliciously light. In fact, it is officially the very first mass-produced car that is complexly constructed from carbon fiber reinforced plastic, which means that it weighs in at just 2,700 pounds.

The BMW i3 really is a car designed for the urban driver, the everyday city commuter, unlike the i8 which will be a true performance machine in the classic BMW style. At the moment though,  when it makes the move from Europe to the US in early 2014, it is priced a little out of the range of the current hot hatch market at $43,000. That is actually a full $23,000 less than a base level Tesla S but also $14,000 more than the rather lovely Nissan Leaf and $3,000 more than the snappy Chevy Volt.

In terms of range on electric power only the new Beemer is only barely average – managing 80-100 miles (depending on whose estimates you believe) but you can extend that range by allowing the gas powered range extender to kick in (although Mother Nature would really rather that you didn’t.) That little gizmo is a 34-horsepower, 650cc engine – about the size of that on a half decent motorbike – and it will pick up the slack as soon as your battery depletes to a preset level and then double the range if you really need it too. However, it never does directly send any power to the wheels, so that is what the makes the BMW 3i unique. It’s not a hybrid because of that fact, but it is also not a true EV because a stop at a gas pump is a possible necessity.

In terms of speed (which is still important to most drivers if they tell the truth) the i3 can manage 0 to 60 mph in a little under 7 seconds and has a top speed of 93 mph. If the owner opts for the fast charge accessory it can recharge its battery in 30 minutes and without the extra gadget the average is 3 hours on a 240 volt outlet.

As any BMW fan would imagine its features and tech in cabin are nothing short of beautiful though. And in order to create the kind of super luxe interior the company wanted they still managed to be green, as 25% of the plastics in the interior are sourced from recycled materials and there is no leather in sight.

BMW i3 electric car inside 300x199 Meet the BMW i3 Electric Car

It is kind of hard top see the BMW i3 making a huge impact in the EV market early on because it is very much targeted at an urban market. But BMW is savvy in that it knows that is the market to crack in order to make the idea of an EV mainstream. The green people and those who live in suburban and rural areas are an easier sell. Urban drivers tend to want a classic, reliable vehicle that also has a lot of ‘street cred’. The kind of driver who would probably rather walk than ever get into a SMART but does not quite want to move up to the Tesla S price range just yet in order to go green with dignity. And the BMW i3 may just be the right car for them.

It is also a very positive development for the EV market in general. It is, relatively speaking, a great time for the EV industry. In the first half of 2013  there were 440,000 EVs sold, according to data from research firm Mintel and the fact that a huge hitter like BMW seems committed to pushing forward with the idea of developing low-carbon transportation that is also an acceptable choice in the eyes of the petrol-head can only be a good sign that even better is yet to come.

Greg ‘Gadget’ Abbott

If Tesla Motors co founder Elon Musk is the poster boy of the electric vehicle movement then Greg ‘Gadget’ Abbott aka Reverend Gadget is its Nutty Professor. To many he, were they to meet him, they might think that he is yet another slightly eccentric LA mechanic who likes to soup up and tinker with cars, a sort of car version of the Orange Country Chopper guys. The truth is a little more complicated though as he is actually at the forefront of a less talked about electric vehicle phenomena, the conversion car.

As showcased in the documentary “Revenge of the Electric Car,” Abbott is the leading light in the movement, the person who all of the other amateur car converters look up to and also look to for advice and wisdom for their own projects.

Abbot has been converting gas powered cars into electric ones for a long time, long before Musk came along, or GM’s Bob Lutz managed to convince his bosses to produce his vision in the form of the Chevrolet Volt. He has endured through shop fires, living in a trailer and nearly facing bankruptcy, but he has persevered and is truly now a real part of the EV revolution.

He plans eventually to create a specialist kit that can be sold to consumers to make the job of converting a gas powered car to an electric one more efficiently and without the need for as much technical knowledge as he and his friends have. He also has dreams of potentially creating a production model one day, but until that happens he will, he says continue to work his magic by turning regular cars into electric vehicles!

Click Here to visit his official website

Electric Cars on the Big Screen

Chris Paine has two major passions in life, movie making and environmental action. He has combined the two working with Jack Hanna, the people of New Orleans and storm survivors in the Philippines, but he is currently best known for his two documentary movies about electric vehicles 2006′s ‘Who Killed the Electric Car?‘ and the 2011 follow-up, ‘Revenge of the Electric Car’.

‘Who Killed the Electric Car?’

Paine’s first documentary examined the rise and fall of the General Motors EV1, an all-electric vehicle that debuted in the early 1990s. The car was only ever made available for lease and as a response to a legal mandate from the state of California that mandated that seven major car companies produce EVs in order to comply with the regulations set by the California Air Resources Board in order to be allowed to continue to sell gasoline powered internal combustion engine cars in the state of California at all.

The GM EV1 was the first of those cars. The documentary then details the California Air Resources Board’s reversal of the mandate following almost endless pressure and suits from automobile manufacturers, from the oil industry, at the time falsified hype over a future hydrogen car, and finally the George W. Bush administration. Eventually it also attempts to apportion the blame for just who was more responsible for the ‘death’ of the 1990s electric vehicles, most of which were eventually crushed for scrap, barring a handful that were donated to museums.

In the interests of suspense we will not reveal all the details here, but this is a movie well worth renting and even several years after its release it is still, in many places quite an eye opener about the way governments and oil companies work together against the environmental good. And it’s a good view in general too, as it won Best Documentary at the won 2006 Mountain Film in Telluride, The Canberra International Film Festival Audience Award, and was also nominated for Best Documentary at the 2006 Environmental Media Awards and Best Documentary by the Writers Guild of America

click here to visit the official website of the movie

‘The Revenge of the Electric Car’

The second of Paine’s movies is a far more upbeat affair that chronicles the rise of the electric car in the 21st century, mainly by following four entrepreneurs from 2007 through the end of 2010, as they fight to bring the electric car back to the world market in the midst of a global recession; Bob Lutz from General Motors, Elon Musk from Tesla Motors, Carlos Ghosn from Renault-Nissan, and Greg Abbott, an independent electric car converter from California and then the creation of the Tesla Roadster and the Tesla S, the Nissan Leaf and the all EV version of the Chevrolet Volt.

Because the film was more of a cheerleading portrayal of some very passionate entrepreneurs and car makers rather than a muck raking expose in the way that ‘Who Killed the Electric Car?’ It received less critical praise, but as a historical piece that chronicles the beginning of what is hopefully a new era in worldwide car making it is hugely valuable and very watchable.

click here to visit the official website of the movie

How Do Electric Vehicles (EVs) Really Work?

Although to many of us the idea of an electric car as very futuristic and certainly extremely ‘of the 21st century’ ,but in actual fact at the turn of the twentieth century electric cars were the norm. However, once the likes of Henry Ford and his peers had perfected the use of the internal combustion engine in a car gas guzzlers completely eclipsed electric vehicles and they quickly became a thing of the past.

However back then gasoline was cheap and no one had really given too much thought to what having millions of cars spewing out gas fumes and more on a regular basis would do to the environment and neither had anyone entertained the idea that perhaps one day all of the ‘black gold’ would start running out. Now we all are aware of all of these things, which is why all electric vehicles are making a comeback after decades in the car manufacturing wilderness.

Electric Cars versus Hybrid Cars

An electric car and a hybrid car are not the same things. A car like the Toyota Prius, which many people cite as a very ‘green’ car, still has a gasoline powered engine that is only supplemented by electric power, allowing for less gas usage. It’s a step in the right direction, but not an ultimate solution. A car like the Tesla Roadster is different though, it is an all-electric powered vehicle, it never needs to go near a traditional gas station, and yet it, and an increasing number of peers, is also an attractive, fun to drive vehicle that even the most die-hard of ‘petrolheads’ can appreciate to a certain extent.

So How Do Electric Vehicles Work Anyway?

As we previously mentioned, the basic technology behind electric cars is really nothing new, although obviously that being employed in today’s new crop of EVs has advanced a great deal.

When seen driving on the road, an EV looks the same as any other car on the road and from looks alone most people would not have a clue that they were looking at a car powered by electricity rather than one propelled along by a gasoline engine. What may give it away, even before you get a peek under the hood, is the lack of engine noise, although in some of the higher end new EVS, the ones designed to lure internal combustion engine fans to electric, additional features have been added that simulate engine noise so that that aspect of the driving experience, which many people love, is not lost.

At the very heart of any electric car there are three main components:

  1. The electric motor itself
  2. The motor’s controller
  3. The batteries

The main controller draws its power from the batteries and then delivers it directly to the motor. The accelerator pedal is linked to a set of potentiometers (variable resistors) that then provide an informational signal that relays to the controller how much power it is to deliver.

The biggest difficulty facing electric car makers for years has been the battery system and how and when it charges. Slowly though, improvements have been made. The best-selling pure EV in the US in 2013 was the Nissan Leaf. It has a range of an EPA estimated 73 miles (117 km) although Nissan themselves claim that is an underestimation, and indeed in Europe the car is rated at 175km ( 109 miles) by the New European Driving Cycle and consumer driving experience has found that the ‘truth’ lies somewhere between the two numbers at around 99-100 miles (159-160km)

The second bestseller, the Tesla S, which is very much like a luxury car such as the BMW 5 series in both looks and performance, is even more impressive, as it boasts a single charge range of between an EPA estimated 208 miles (335 km) and 265 mi (426 km) depending upon the battery size chosen (and again, the European Driving Cycle estimates are higher than the EPAs)

In terms of charging using a fast charge option and a hardwired 249 volt outlet (the kind you have installed in the home to safely power a tumble dryer) full charge times for both vehicles is less than an hour. When recharging from a standard 120 volt outlet the time obviously increases to around eight hours for the Tesla S and six for the Nissan Leaf although both companies are debuting faster charge options even from low power outlets for their 2014 lines. Tesla are also in the process of building a series of highway based charging stations in the US that allow for a 90 second battery swap!

Then of course there is speed. The popular misconception about all electric cars is that they are exceptionally slow compared to their gas powered counterparts and that even keeping up with the general flow of traffic is somehow going to be hard. However, the Leaf currently boasts a top speed of 93 mph and the Tesla S can be cranked up to 125 mph.

The Leaf and the S are far from the only electric vehicles available right now though, they are simply those that are selling best. In fact in the highly competitive luxury car market Tesla outsold BMW, Mercedes and Audi in the first half of 2013 and the Leaf racked up 40,600 US sales in the first half of 2013, beating out a great many gas powered alternatives.

Electric cars are far from perfect yet, but they are getting there. More manufacturers are getting into the idea as well, with the likes of BMW, Ford, Toyota, General Motors and Mitsubishi all getting in on the act as well.

Real Reasons to Buy an Electric Vehicle

So, you have probably been hearing, reading, and seeing a lot of things about how great electric cars are and that we should all consider trading in the gas guzzler sitting our driveway or garage for a nice, new, shiny all electric vehicle instead. The problem is that a lot of the information in the popular media is pretty vague – EV’s are ‘good for the environment’ and ‘will save you lots of money’.

But these are little more than buzz phrases, which, coupled with the fact there are still a lot of misconceptions out there about just what EVs can and cannot do in the 21st Century, it should not come as too much of a surprise to learn that many people are still very skeptical about even entertaining the idea of buying an electric car, even if their government is offering to pay them an incentive to do so (which is the case in the US and Europe)

So why should you consider an EV? Especially since, in all honesty, none of the current options could really be called ‘budget’ choices? There are certainly things to consider before you make the switch, but there are definite advantages, both for you and your family and the planet in general:

Fuel Costs – Using an electric vehicle is certainly not free, you have to pay for the electricity to charge it’s battery, and, in fairness, electricity is not the cheapest thing in the world. However, most people are still likely to save money over the cost of gas.

For example, if you take the largest, most powerful, and certainly most luxurious of the electric cars available to average consumers in the US and Europe right now, the Tesla Model S, the US Department of Energy’s tests found that for a driver who puts 15,000 miles on the clock in a year – an average of 41 miles a day – the annual running cost using a US average of 12 cents per kw hour of electricity as a guide would be $700 a year. If you translate that into gas costs, an average of 3.70 a gallon (which would be low for the 2013 market) you would get 189 gallons of gas, certainly not enough to take you anywhere near as far as 15,000 miles.

And not everyone wants or needs a luxury high performance sedan anyway. The compact 2013 Scion iQ EV would, by the same calculation method, cost $500 per annum to run and the bestselling mid-size 2013 Nissan Leaf the same amount!

Maintenance Costs – This is the one money saving aspect of an EV that many people forget about at first. But think about it – how much do you spend every year on car fluids, oil changes, service appointments and so on? Quite a lot when you add it up right? There are far fewer such costs associated with owning an electric vehicle.

For example, EVs use regenerative braking to slow the car rather than the use of mechanical friction, so the brake pads last a lot longer than those on a gas vehicle and the average battery life of today’s electric vehicles is a guaranteed eight to ten years, probably as long as most people will own the car before trading up for something different.

Environmental Impact – As long as electricity companies still use coal fired plants to generate electricity even an EV is not completely eco-friendly. However, the use of wind and water power to generate electricity is increasing all over the world so that situation is improving. It is the fact that electric cars do not emit gasses into the air is the big reason why they are considered so ecofriendly though, as well as the reduced dependence on foreign oil. And contrary to what you might think, every EV on the road does make a positive impact in these crucial areas, just in the same way as every individual vote does in an election.