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03.07.2015
To date, the green car market includes over three dozen hybrids, about a dozen each of plug-in hybrids and battery electric vehicles – some not nationally available – but our list consists of the most cutting edge 50-state plug-in cars.
Due later this year, the Ioniq gets an asterisk next to its name because aside from being offered in plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and battery electric (EV) versions, it is due first as a conventional hybrid. The model had been anticipated for a couple years and debuted last year in Korea, and this year for the U.S. The hybrid version of course does not plug in, but does threaten to edge out the new fourth-generation 2016 Prius’ spec sheet in several important criteria, including mpg which – prior to EPA certification – Hyundai says may even be north of 56 mpg in the most-efficient trim.
The battery electric Ioniq to launch soon after the hybrid this year will in turn delete the entire engine, and replace it with an all-electric powertrain with modest 110-mile EV range.
Based on the new Prius liftback, the Prime is positioned as a plug-in hybrid variant atop the range.
Merged into total Prime offering is a powertrain that when not running on electrons should get fuel economy in line with the 52 mpg Prius liftback hybrid from which it was taken. Riding on Toyota’s New Global Architecture, the 60-percent stiffer chassis promises respectable cornering prowess and is adorned with a body with ultra low coefficient of drag, and lots of amenities. The former plug-in Prius was sold just in 15 states, and 50-state availability when released this fall signals greater confidence by Toyota in its new Prius Prime. As a four-wheel-drive true sport utility vehicle, the Outlander threatens to open a segment until now occupied by relative elites from Volvo, Porsche and BMW. Capable of running gas free for a significant, but to be disclosed EPA-rated range from its 12-kWh battery, the vehicle utilizes a twin motor 4-wheel drive and “Super-All Wheel Control” (“S-AWC”) system.
In the UK, it’s been advertised under that country’s rating system with EV range as high as 32.5 miles, while emitting as little as 44 grams per kilometer of CO2 and returning 148 mpg combined. Mitsubishi is however being investigated in Japan for misreporting Japan-market mini-cars’ mpg.
The company does face challenges its president says has its survival in question, so how things play out remain to be seen.
An electric vehicle that will push the envelop the farthest this year in miles range for the dollar is the all-new 2017 Chevy Bolt.
Built in response to Tesla’s expected Model 3, GM doubled down on its engineering and production resources to show the production Bolt early this year with an anticipated starting price of $37,500 and range estimated north of 200 prior to EPA certification. Built on a skateboard type chassis which GM originated and which was used first by Tesla in its Model S, the Bolt uses it to free up interior volume atop the flat floor with 60-kWh battery inside. Zero to sixty mph is supposed to take less than 7 seconds making for a peppy ride 3 seconds quicker than a Prius, through slower than the sub-6-second Model 3 projected by Tesla for late 2017.


Styled like a hatchback, it is not as sleek as the Model 3 sedan either, though with 10.2-inch touchscreen, a number of advanced features, and with GM experimenting with semi-autonomous examples, it is not low tech. Look for EPA numbers within a couple months or so, and ordering to open up nationwide later this year.
And now, from the company that brought the world the minivan in the mid 80s is the first plug-in hybrid minivan. In introducing what is also its only hybrid model at the moment, Fiat-Chrysler also opened a segment that was Toyota and Honda’s game to lose – and one advocates may hope will yet lure other automakers in besides. At this stage, the Pacifica Hybrid – renamed from the Town & Country and deliberately called “Hybrid” to not confuse people about plugging in – is in a class of one.
It utilizes a 16-kWh battery under the rear seats for up to an estimated 30 miles EV range and 80 MPGe. When not running in EV mode, its V6 Pentastar engine based hybrid powertrain may provide class-leading mpg as well. The mystery car, and one that will garner instant headlines as soon as it breaks cover is the next-generation Nissan Leaf which is expected to get a full redeisgn and range competitive with the Chevy Bolt. What it will look like has people guessing, but it’s long been rumored that more-mainstream styling will come in to steer the design away from the frog-eyed super-eco-car look of 2011-present. Not a rumor is Chief designer Shiro Nakamura said in Beijing it will look very much like the IDS concept shown. Nakamura told journalist Bertel Schmitt of the Daily Kanban he is aware that the frumpy present design doesn’t work any longer.
Whether Nissan rolls it out for 2017 is not looking likely, and Michigan-based analyst Alan Baum projects early 2018 is when we’ll have access to it. In its favor is Nissan has long been bullish on EVs, it is likely to support and market it more effectively than Chevrolet does the Bolt, and it will cater to an existing owner base of more than 200,000 worldwide who have purchased the first-generation Leaf.
Specs like 0-60, actual range, are anyone’s guess but a conservative bet would be it will stay within realm of what came before while improving everything. The Model 3 is last on the list not because it is least, but because its place on the list goes without saying. After all, this list is about cars that are “worth waiting for,” and with around 400,000 paid reservations by Tesla intenders, this qualification is a given. To be priced from $35,000 – plus potential delivery fee – the EV will deliver 215 miles range or more from a battery slightly smaller than the Chevy Bolt’s, and upper trim levels with larger batteries stand to push well beyond.
All-wheel-drive, semi-autonomous autopilot, and access to Tesla’s growing Supercharger network are also perks for this vehicle which has attracted unprecedented interest.


Pre-production prototypes this year reportedly had production-level powertrains, but more development work is needed as Tesla last week announced it was increasing plans to produce more cars by far than it ever has. Last year Tesla sold close to 52,000 vehicles worldwide consisting mostly of Model S with a few Model X deliveries as well.
After the flood of Model 3 orders, it is now saying by 2018 its three models –S, X, 3 – are to account for half a million vehicles produced that year as the company shoots for as many as 1 million by 2020. If that feat is accomplished, that could mean nearly 20-times the volume of just five years prior, and this is quite stretch goal.
Whatever happens, clear at this stage is the Model 3 has amplified consumer interest and sends a signal that people want what it is offering. The car represents a cause and a movement as much as it is a product, and to say eyes will be on how things go is the understatement of the year. Each forthcoming car, truck, and SUV is an as-yet-unrealized promise, but none emerges wholly from the ether. These are the vehicles that make news each time they shed a bit of camo or whenever a jet-lagged executive reveals a detail about a redesigned wiper stalk. Curating this stream of information is nearly as fraught as managing the billions it takes to develop a new model.
True enough, this is not exactly entry level when the new car transactions today averaging cars priced in the teens as well as those in the six figures works out to low 30s. It is expected the pricing for these Ioniq variants will make them competitive, though more on that will be disclosed closer to launch. Clean sheets of paper are found at Staples not car companies, whose planners juggle plants, partnerships, powertrains, and platforms to feed global sales channels. We beg and borrow insights from around the business, tap sources, and hold our bladders until after the wine glasses have been cleared from the dinner table before asking questions. It promises to set new benchmarks and Hyundai has said it wants to be in the global top 2 by 2020 for green car sales.
This guarantees a high likelihood of product success, but often also a bland if competent uniformity. This year we are even ranking them, counting down to the one that’s most worth waiting for.



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