Nearly a decade and a half after its 1997 launch in Japan, the Toyota Prius is the undisputed king of hybrid vehicles. If someone shows you the silhouette of a Prius, you likely know the shape. The Prius has sold more copies in its history than all of its competitors combined. In fact, the Prius continues to outsell its combined competitive set, even today. But is it the king of the plug-in vehicles as well? We spent a week one of the newest members of the Prius family, the Prius Plug-in, to see how it stacked up against both the regular Prius and its most obvious competitor, the Chevrolet Volt.
Remember when plasma TVs were $10,000? Well, now they’re less than $400 – and that’s for a Panasonic 42″ model at Wal-Mart, not even a Chinese knockoff unknown brand.
Well, if a report from McKinsey released today (via Automotive News) is to be believed, we may see a similar price reduction in lithium ion battery technology, used in the newest hybrids and EVs. And just as a $10,000 price tag on a plasma TV is a huge barrier to mainstream adoption and a $398 price tag invites it, falling EV/hybrid battery prices could spur EV adoption fairly rapidly, as long as manufacturers’ product plans, battery availability and costs, and consumer demand all stay in sync.
Yesterday, we posted a review of the 2012 Chevrolet Volt, a car that is controversial for a number of reasons, from GM’s bailout, to the huge expectations heaped on the car, to the giant pre-release hype that GM built for it. I thought it might be interesting to look at what the Volt might need in order to be more successful in the marketplace. Continue Reading →
GM CEO Dan Akerson was told Congress this past January that the Chevrolet Volt is a “political punching bag.” He’s right, of course. The car has not come close to meeting GM’s previously-stated sales targets (which have since been unceremoniously dropped), and part of the blame does lie at the feet of the fact that GM accepted a taxpayer-funded bailout. But could there be other reasons the Volt isn’t selling well? We borrowed a 2012 model for a week to find out. Continue Reading →
By Chris Haak
There is more than a little chatter over the past week or two in the autoblogosphere about the Chevy Volt. Normally, in these media frenzied times, that would be good news for GM’s environmental halo vehicle, but perhaps there *is* a such thing as bad publicity.
You see, the Volt seems to have a bit of a problem with catching fire following crash tests.
By Chris Haak
Back in the sixties – a decade which, scary enough, began more than a half century ago – the creators of the cartoon The Jetsons imagined a future world in which robots served humans, there were pushbutton conveniences that automated mundane tasks, and the cars could fly (and fold into a space the size of a briefcase).
We’re now halfway to 2062 when The Jetsons was allegedly taking shape, and we certainly do have many automated conveniences, but we seem to be barely any closer to all having flying cars. People living in 2062 also only have to work three hours per day; it seems that we’re trending in the opposite direction from that. However, I really do believe that the Chevrolet Volt is about as close as you can get to driving (ahem, *not* flying) the car of the future.
Odds and ends about cars and the car business
By Chris Haak
On the eve of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, there are a few news items that may not necessarily warrant a full article. However, they’re probably still worth mentioning.
FORD’S new Focus Electric, slated to hit the market in late 2011, made its worldwide debut not at the Detroit show, but at Las Vegas’ CES show. In the keynote address in which he revealed the car, Ford CEO Alan Mulally called his company as much of a technology company as a car company, and he may be right. Ford has been on the leading edge of infotainment with its SYNC and MyFord Touch system, and has done a great job of pushing high tech features such as self-parking down from luxury cars into more mainstream offerings.
By Chris Haak
You may have seen Powermat chargers before in your local Best Buy or somewhere online. They’re kind of a cool concept; you attach them to the back of your smartphone or music player, and they allow you to just set the devices on a charging mat, and they will charge without having to actually plug a power cord into them. You can imagine the convenience of eliminating the clutter of multiple power wires. For instance, I have an iPhone as well as a BlackBerry, and some nights, I have to charge both of them, which makes a tangled web of wires on the countertop next to my wallet and keys.
The thing I’m not crazy about with Powermat technology, aside from its fairly high cost for what it’s providing, is that it bulks up the back of your device. The thin iPhone becomes a thick iPhone thanks to its Powermat “backpack”, which allows for the wireless charging. For that reason, I just stick with the old fashioned wires to charge my devices.
By Charles Krome
One of the more unique vehicles to visit the SEMA show in the fall of 2010 was a certain American-made product capable of 50 miles of all-electric driving and a further 350 miles of travel when powered by its onboard generator. The car put out zero tailpipe emissions using pure electricity, of course, and even when relying on its generator, the net result was about 40 percent fewer emissions than a Toyota Prius. The generator offered another bonus, too: When used to recharge the car, it was responsible for 48 percent fewer emissions than would be produced if the vehicle were plugged into the U.S. power grid—although that’s an option here, too. Oh, and when it is plugged in, any extra electricity could be fed back into the grid, too.
A secret Chevrolet Volt variant? Nope. A reincarnated vehicle from Chrysler’s ENVI project? Hardly. Some under-the-radar effort from Ford? Not exactly. It was none other than Neil Young’s LincVolt, a 1959 Lincoln Continental outfitted with a high-tech powertrain featuring a UQM 150-kW turbine motor, a bio-diesel “microturbine” generator from Capstone and 850 lbs. worth of lithium-iron phosphate batteries.
By Chris Haak
The conventional wisdom is that green cars such as hybrids and EVs have to look like something a little different from the standard three-box sedan if they hope to enjoy sales success. Accordingly, it explains why the Prius outsells the Camry Hybrid.
Well, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV certainly fits the bill of looking different. Technically, I suppose that it’s a one-box car, though in reality, it is far more ovoid and organically shaped to call it a box. It’s smaller than nearly everything on the road today, and will certainly attract attention wherever it goes. Several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to drive an i-MiEV (Japan spec, right hand drive) at a media event, and I found the car to be a curious blend of the normal and abnormal as I tallied a few miles in the little EV.
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