Archive for the ‘New Electric Cars’ Category

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.