Electric vehicles go mainstream
By CHERYL JENSEN Motor Matters June 27, 2012 4:26PM
Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid
Updated: July 3, 2012 4:10PM
From A to V — Acura to Volvo — a significant number of automotive manufacturers are moving into the gas-electric hybrid and plug-in hybrid car markets; it’s been big industry news during auto shows.
“The two most significant vehicles launched earlier this year were the Honda Accord plug-in hybrid and Ford Fusion plug-in hybrid,” said Eric Evarts, associate autos editor at Consumer Reports.
They are significant, he said, because they are big-selling sedans from major automakers.
Honda confirmed that Accord models will feature the first U.S. application of both a 2.4-liter direct-injected engine and two-motor plug-in hybrid system. There was no mention of a standard hybrid.
Ford reported its 2013 Fusion will be the first sedan to offer gasoline, hybrid and plug-in hybrid powertrains. Ford also revealed two versions of its C-MAX, a five-passenger “multi-activity” vehicle — similar to a small minivan, like the Mazda5. The C-MAX Energi is a plug-in hybrid; the C-MAX Hybrid is just that. There is no conventional gasoline engine model of the C-MAX.
Toyota is offering a Prius plug-in hybrid, which it says is capable of 10 to 15 miles in pure electric mode. It entered showrooms around the same times as the smallest member of the Prius hybrid family, the Prius c.
Toyota says the Prius c gets 53 miles to the gallon, which it calls the highest city fuel efficiency of any car in the American market “without a plug.” Toyota also says that the Prius c is one of the lowest-priced hybrids with a starting price of less than $19,000. Toyota also showed an NS4 plug-in hybrid due in 2015 that is separate from the Prius family.
Other hybrids are coming as well. BMW is offering its ActiveHybrid technology for both the 3 Series and 5 Series. Its 2012 BMW ActiveHybrid 5 is currently on showroom floors. It starts at $61,845, including destination and handling charges. BMW said the car can be driven in all-electric mode at speeds up to 37 mph and has an all-electric driving range of up to approximately 2.5 miles at an average speed of 22 mph.
Mercedes-Benz showed the E 400 hybrid for the U.S. market with a combined fuel economy estimate of 27 mpg. Volkswagen introduced a hybrid version of the compact Jetta, which it said has an estimated combined fuel economy of 45 mpg and can be driven in electric mode at speeds of up to 44 mph and for up to 1.2 miles, depending on operating conditions.
Lexus, Toyota’s luxury division, showed the LF-LC a hybrid sports coupe concept, which it says has a “next-generation” hybrid powertrain. Acura, Honda’s premium brand, showed two hybrid concepts. The ILX hybrid concept is the almost-production version of Acura’s first-ever gas-electric hybrid. The hybrid will be one of three different powertrains for the ILX. The second-generation NSX concept is a performance hybrid, which Honda says it “expects” to come to market within the next three years.
Volvo also showed the XC60 plug-in hybrid concept. One of three electric concepts highlighted in Detroit was the electric van concept from Nissan. Volkswagen showed the E-Bugster, an electric hard-top convertible version of the Beetle. And Smart showed an electric pickup truck called the “for-us.”
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