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June 15 2017

05:01

What Make More Sense – Chevrolet Volt or Toyota Prius Prime

The Chevy Volt is America’s best-selling plug-in gas-electric car but as sales this year of Toyota’s new Prius Prime are improving, which would make better sense for you?

If that most-telling measure – consumer purchases – is any indicator, the Volt is still ahead in the general popularity contest, but not by much. Through May the Volt has 9,187 sales to the second-place Prime’s 8,073. The Prime has led by slim margins the last couple of months and this spring was just being introduced to dealers, though Toyota says it’s now available nationwide.

Aside from sales, there are of course other meaningful measures of relative value to compare the U.S. built “extended range EV” to the Japanese-imported plug-in hybrid. To explore these, we’ll highlight some of the key factors.

The World’s Only Gen-2 Plug-ins

Plug-in electrified vehicles are relatively new, and the Volt was the first to receive a full redesign in 2016 following its origination in 2011. On its heels came the 2017 Prius Prime – renamed from “Prius PHV’ which had been released as a mid-cycle variant in 2012 of the 2010-2015 era Prius Liftback.

Both are purpose-built electrified vehicles, and not modified versions of conventional petroleum-powered models, distinguishing them from several other plug-in hybrids in their competitive set.

Plug-in Hybrids

For those who still think the Volt is a series hybrid whose gas engine does nothing but generate electricity, that was not completely true for gen-1, and is not the case at all for gen-2. In updating the Volt, GM modified the powertrain architecture so as to make it suitable as gene stock for future hybrids and plug-in hybrids, but its “extended-range electric” operation remains.

Significantly, the Volt will accept full acceleration without kicking its gas engine on for backup power all the way to its 102 mph top speed. The Prius Prime also has been given something similar. With a fully charged battery, it defaults to EV mode and will stay in EV mode without turning the engine on at full throttle up to 84 mph.

All-Electric Range

Arguably the biggest reason why anyone buys a plug-in hybrid over a conventional hybrid is its ability to drive in EV mode. The idea is to bridge the benefits of a pure EV without concern for “range anxiety.”

2017 Chevrolet Volt


If that’s your reason to buy one of these cars, you can stop right here and declare the Volt the winner. Its 53 miles of EV range is accomplished by a big – and more costly to produce – 18.4-kWh battery pack. The Prius Prime makes do with 8.8-kWh for 25 miles range.

Toyota points out that 50 percent of drivers’ daily traveling needs may be served by the range provided by its Prius with a plug, but the Volt is good for more than 75 percent of drivers.

The key question for a prospective buyer is whether 25 miles is enough to satisfy you minimum daily requirement, or would 53 be so much better? If you’ve never driven a plug-in hybrid, we’ll hint the EV range is addictive and many a PHEV driver does wish for more EV range.

MPGe

“Miles per gallon equivalent” (MPGe) is the EPA’s virtual measure of efficiency with electric power, and the Prius Prime is astonishingly efficient with 133 MPGe in EV mode, versus the Volt’s 106 MPGe.

Another way to slice this is the Prime is rated 25 kWh/100 miles, and the Volt is rated 31 kWh/100 miles.

MPG

Though the Volt is dominant in all-electric range, a layer of complication comes in when assessing mpg in gas-burning hybrid mode. With either car, eventually, the reality of gasoline burning returns when the battery is depleted, and here the Volt looks less impressive.

2017 Chevrolet Volt

Specifically, it’s rated 42 mpg combined, and the Prius Prime is rated 54 mpg – midway between the 52 mpg Prius Liftback its based on, and the ultra-efficient 56 mpg Prius Two Eco.

That’s superb efficiency, and Toyota’s engineers placed a priority on actually improving mpg while GM cut back on what is possible. This is shown by the larger, more powerful Malibu Hybrid, which uses a Volt-based powertrain, yet gets 46 mpg.

A Volt that got closer to 50 mpg would be nice, but if you stay in EV mode, its 42 mpg rating becomes less relevant. Even on drives past the battery power’s range, the Volt retains an advantage in total energy consumption, but after a point the Prius matches it, and surpasses it.

Long drives well over 100 miles will see the Prime doing better, but as observed above, many drivers don’t do that kind of distance except occasionally.

Total Energy Costs

According to the very standardized metrics of the EPA, the Prius Prime saves $4,250 over five years compared to a 26 mpg car, which is average for 2017. The Volt saves $3,750 over five years, so the feds declare the Toyota cheaper to operate.

These measures go out the window however depending on how much EV driving one does, what you pay for electricity (if anything, if you happen to have solar), what gas costs in your area, and otherwise how aggressively or carefully you drive.

With more than double the EV range, the Volt stands to beat the averaged numbers of the EPA, but again, this question is answered on a case by case basis.

Functionality

Unlike the Prius Liftback, Toyota chose to make the Prime a four-passenger car. Its rear seat area is divided like the gen-1 Volt’s back seat was and this is ironic. GM caught flak for the lack of rear middle seat space and in response gave gen-2 a compromised rear middle “seating position” in which a child (or child seat) can fit.

2017 Chevrolet Volt.

Toyota seemed to take a step backwards, but realistically, the compromise is not that great. For one, the rear leg room for the right and left passengers is greater for the midsized Toyota than the compact Chevy. An adult can fit on the Volt’s middle hump perch but it is definitely the “cheap seat.”

Beyond this, both cars are well-equipped with roomy front seat space. Being hatchbacks, they can cram in a lot of stuff, but the Prime is larger. Interior cargo volume is 19.8 cubic feet next to the Volt’s 10.6 cubic feet.

2017 Toyota Prius Prime Advanced.

Other meaningful measures are Prime’s EPA passenger volume measures to 91.5 cubic feet, compared to the Volt’s 90.3 cubic feet.

Drive Experience

The 1.8-liter hybrid powertrain in the Prius Prime is good for 121 net system horses. The Volt’s 1.5-liter hybrid powertrain is rated 149 horses, and GM provides a torque figure of 294 pounds-feet.

Bottom line is the 3,543-pound curb weight Volt scoots from 0-30 in 2.6 short seconds, quicker than the Bolt EV, and makes it to 60 in an estimated 8.4. In its testing, Car & Driver pegged 0-30 in 2.5 seconds in either hybrid or electric mode. Zero-60 took 7.6 seconds in electric and 7.4 in hybrid, and the quarter mile was accomplished in 16.0@85 in electric, and 15.8@86 in hybrid.

For the 3,365-pound Prime, acceleration to 60 is comparable to the former Prius, or in the neighborhood of 10 seconds. The car is not sluggish, but it’s no hot hatch either. Car & Driver timed it to 30 in 3.5 seconds in electric mode, and 3 seconds in hybrid. To 60, it took 12.2 seconds in electric mode, and 10.2 seconds in hybrid. The quarter mile took 18.6 long seconds @72 slow miles per hour in electric mode, and 17.7 seconds @79 in hybrid mode.

In the corners the Volt was known since 2011 for being a step above the Prius, so for the updated Prius Liftback and Prius Prime, Toyota spent extra on an independent rear double-wishbone suspension, along with a stiff Toyota New Global Architecture chassis for a stiffer, better handling car. Gone is the virtual hinge in the middle, and the vehicle is confidence inspiring through twisty bends.

Same goes with the Volt, and combined with the peppier powertrain, the sporty factor is still a step above – Car and Driver measued roadholding on a 300-foot skidpad at 0.81g for Volt, 0.76 for Prime.

In our test drive on California’s Route 1 above San Francisco, the Volt proved reasonably tossable, and fun. The left-side regen paddle also makes things interesting, and works like an alternative brake, while feeding energy to the battery.

Style

Clearly the Prime is much better looking than the Volt, so this case is closed.

What? You disagree? If you do, you would not be alone, and seriously, scores of readers have found the looks of Toyota’s new Prius most incongruous, but to be fair others like it.

Obviously we were just kidding about the Volt, and it is actually a well-proportioned car intended to not stand out as any kind of green car statement. In fact, its design language borrows elements from the Kia Forte, Honda Civic, and a whole lot from the Chevy Cruze.

The Prime, being the range topper in the Prius line, does get tweaks here and there and people have said it is net prettier than the Prius Liftback non-plug-in.

And then again, if you are biased by a form-follows-function ethos, both wind-cheating, and energy conserving vehicles are quite attractive, and realistically, they tend to blend in on the road though between the two, the Prius does stand out more.

Inside, both cars are modern and functional, with amenities like heated seats and info screens that pair to your smartphone.

Recommended is a trip to the dealer to see for yourself.

Brand and Reliability

It’s little secret that Toyota enjoys greater brand credence than Chevrolet, but before anyone scoffs at the Volt, it has been a reliable car and its powertrain – the crown jewel of the vehicle – has proven excellent.

GM reports no batteries have had to be replaced under warranty due to range degradation out of more than 100,000 Volts sold and its ability to maintain range is aided by liquid cooling.

In Long Beach, Calif., Edmunds Total Cost of Ownership calculator estimates despite Volt Premier costing almost $2,000 more, 5-year TCO winds up being almost $2,300 less. Price and TCO varies by zip code. Source: Edmunds.com.

Chevrolet furthermore reports it has won more awards for quality in the past few years than any other brand.

Price

The Prius Prime comes in three trims, Prime Plus ($27,985), Prime Premium ($29,685), and Prime Advanced ($33,985) – all including an $885 destination fee.

The Volt comes in two trims, the LT ($33,995), and LTZ ($38,345) – including an $825 destination fee.

The inverse is true. Although the Prime Advanced sells for almost $2,000 less, TCO winds up being almost $2,300 more. Source: Edmunds.com.

Looking at entry level, the Prime, which is perched midway in the price range of the non-plug-in Liftback, is eligible for a $4,500 federal tax credit, and potential state incentives as the case may be. The Volt is eligible for a $7,500 federal credit, so it stands to halve the $6,010 difference in sticker prices between the less-expensive Prime and itself. Assuming federal credit, the Volt nets to $26,495 and the Prime nets to $23,485.

That $23,485 by the way is $875 below the price of the base Prius One Liftback which stickers for $24,360. This surely helps explain in part why the Prime has sold so much better than the more costly, snd shorter range former plug-in Prius. If it does much better, it could also in the next seven months close the 1,114 unit sales lead the Volt has through May and if it does, it could finish the year as America’s best seller.

Wild card issues could include state incentives, and what you can actually get one of these beauties for at the dealer – i.e., are they willing to cut the price? By how much?

Combine that with the sum total of what each car represents, and you can decide for yourself, what would makes better sense for you?

The post What Make More Sense – Chevrolet Volt or Toyota Prius Prime appeared first on HybridCars.com.

June 14 2017

23:55
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23:19

Cadillac XT4 Spy Photos Hint at Plug-in Hybrid Powertrain

The latest Cadillac XT4 prototype suggests the new crossover will be a plug-in hybrid.

The test car is still heavily camouflaged, but we can see Cadillac’s signature pentagonal mesh grille up front, along with pointy LED headlights, and an overall edgier profile. If you look carefully, you can also make out an intercooler in the front bumper, indicating there are turbocharged engines under the hood.

It’s most likely the XT4 will have a turbocharged four-cylinder mill under the hood, possibly paired to a nine-speed automatic transmission. Look for all-wheel drive to be offered as optional, although there’s a chance it could be standard.

The latest set of spy photos reveal an extra fuel cap hidden on the front left fender, which is likely where a charging port is located.

The Cadillac XT4 is expected to make its debut in mid-2018. Look for it to compete with the Audi Q3, BMW X1, and Mercedes-Benz GLA, although it should be bigger than all three of them.

This article originally appeared at AutoGuide.com

The post Cadillac XT4 Spy Photos Hint at Plug-in Hybrid Powertrain appeared first on HybridCars.com.

19:02
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18:34

DS Automobiles Aims To Release a New Electrified Vehicle Every Year

French carmaker PSA Groupe’s premium brand DS Automobiles has announced it will be releasing a new electrified model each year, starting with the DS 7 Crossback.

The DS 7 Crossback E-Tense will have a plug-in hybrid powertrain capable of 300 horsepower and 60 kilometers (37.28 miles) of battery range. An SUV will arrive in spring 2019.

DS Automobiles is taking lessons learned from its part competing in the Formula E electric racing series over to its electrified models. The DS team has participated in races held in Monaco, Paris and Berlin, soon to be followed by those in New York and Montreal. This offers the automaker an opportunity test and evaluate new technologies for future production models.

“A competition series involving all-electric race cars obviously makes an ideal testing environment for our forthcoming technologies. With each successive race or test-session, we’re accelerating this development and every new component to achieve a better understanding of how to optimize the electric motor drivetrain and the management of energy in particular with cooling in mind,” said Xavier Mestelan Pinon, DS Performance director.

The DS 7 Crossback’s gasoline engine has 200 hprsepower THP (Turbo High Pressure). It also carries two 80 kW electric motors to drive each axle. The company said that the SUV is capable of producing a total deployable power output of 300 horsepower with four-wheel-drive.

With energy loss being a challenge for automotive engineering teams working on electrified vehicles, the Formula E series has been an ideal testing ground. Developing the DSV-02 (DS Virgin 2nd generation) race car with its top speed of 140 mph has been part of it.

“In their year-long work on developing the DSV-02, the team of 10 engineers and the accompanying host of technicians identified a number of ways for optimizing the operating efficiency of the electric motor and transmission system, and the most-suitable aspects of which are being developed for the road-going petrol-electric PHEV drivetrain of the forthcoming DS 7 Crossback E-tense,” the company said.

The DS 7 Crossback comes with the automaker’s new Efficient Automatic Transmission with 8-speeds (EAT8) located between the internal combustion engine and electric motor.

SEE ALSO:  PSA Group Ups Plug-in Vehicle Count to 27 New Models by 2023

The company plans to have more than a third of DS vehicles sold in hybrid or all-electric versions by 2025. Three specific projects already in their advanced stages, with the Formula E series being ideal for testing out the new technology, the company said.

In March, parent company PSA Group said that its count of plug-in electrified vehicles launched in the next few years will more than double from the initial goal of 11 up to 27 models. These will be coming out through the Peugeot, Citroen, and DS brands.

The post DS Automobiles Aims To Release a New Electrified Vehicle Every Year appeared first on HybridCars.com.

18:29

Proterra Gets $55M Backing From BMW And Al Gore’s Investment Firm

California-based electric busmaker Proterra just scored $55 million through a funding round backed by BMW i Ventures and Al Gore.

Proterra announced yesterday the funding was led by Generation Investment Management LLP, which was joined by BMW i Ventures, the German automaker’s corporate venture capital team.

Former Vice President Gore serves as chairman at Generation Investment Management, a long-term, sustainability focused investment firm.

“More than ever before, cities are looking for sustainable transportation solutions that can reduce pollution efficiently and effectively. Proterra is incredibly well positioned to help accelerate the growth of sustainable cities and continue our transition to a clean energy economy,” Gore said.

The busmaker has been doing well in seeking financial backers. Proterra said that the $55 million Series 6 round has just closed, and that it followed on the heels of an “oversubscribed” $140 million Series 5 in January. That means the Series 5 security was underpriced or in greater demand than had been expected at its launch.

The new funding round will support its east and west coast production facilities and its commitment to creating technology innovation. Those facilities are located in South Carolina and Los Angeles. Tech innovation will be carried out at its headquarters office in Silicon Valley.

Proterra claims to have 60 percent of the market share in North America’s electric transit market; with Chinese manufacturer BYD likely coming in second.

The company reports having sold more than 400 Proterra electric buses across the country including Seattle, Dallas, Nashville, San Jose, Philadelphia, and Reno.

Proterra says it will remain committed to cultivating a talented workforce. That talent has been behind the recent launch of the autonomous bus development project in partnership with the University of Nevada, Reno, Proterra said.

SEE ALSO:  Proterra Rolls Out New Electric Bus that Can Average 350 Miles

Generation Growth Equity has been investing in startups for several years through its mission of “embedding sustainability into mainstream capital markets.” Other investments have included electric vehicles, bike sharing, and fleet management technology.

This is BMW i Venture’s first investment in heavy duty EV manufacturing. The company said that it ties into support it wants to show for electric mass transit.

“BMW i Ventures invests in companies that will transform mobility and transportation, and Proterra is pushing the mass transit industry forward with the most innovative heavy-duty electric bus,” said Zach Barasz, partner at BMW i Ventures. “Due to Proterra’s efforts, electric mass transit is overtaking fossil-fuel buses as the new standard.”

 

The post Proterra Gets $55M Backing From BMW And Al Gore’s Investment Firm appeared first on HybridCars.com.

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