Alternative-fuel vehicles continue to proliferate; every year, the list grows longer and longer. It’s not hard to foresee a time when we don’t have to make note of which cars are “green,” simply because they all are.
This year sees the introduction of a number of new plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and some full electric debuts as well. Diesel is also gaining acceptance, as American manufacturers start to get into the market that’s been historically dominated by Europeans.
For the time being, though, here’s the latest list of significantly updated or new hybrid-electric, full-electric and diesel vehicles for sale in the U.S. for 2013.
Acura ILX Hybrid/Honda Civic Hybrid: Honda’s Civic hybrid has been a staple of the lineup since 2001. The ILX (above) is a newcomer, but Acura’s new premium compact is closely based on the Civic, so its hybrid model shares the Civic Hybrid’s 1.5 liter four-cylinder with an electric assist. Total system horsepower is 111, and this powertrain’s good for 38mpg on the highway. The Civic is the sportier of the two, while the ILX focuses on luxury with Acura’s high-tech sound system and active noise control.
BMW ActiveHybrid 3 and ActiveHybrid 7: BMW’s hybrid models are geared more toward performance than fuel savings, like many luxury hybrids. By taking advantage of the instant torque provided by an electric motor, the ActiveHybrids provide impressive performance gains. With a 3.0 liter twin-turbo engine hooked up to an eight-speed automatic transmission, the ActiveHybrid 3 and 7 produce a total of 335 horsepower from the hybrid system. That’s good enough for 0-60 runs under six seconds and 22/30 fuel economy. BMW has equipped the ActiveHybrid models to run on full electric power at speeds up to 60 kilometers per hour.
BMW i: Coming soon from BMW is a lineup of fully electric vehicles, known as “i.” BMW will introduce the new division as a means to produce cars that provide “sustainable mobility,” while still retaining the brand’s driving enthusiast-friendly characteristics. The first is expected to be based on the i3 Concept Coupe, which has been shown as a concept several times over the past few years. A production version is expected to go on sale in the next year or two.
BMW X5 xDrive35d: The diesel-powered version of BMW’s X5 crossover distinguishes itself with a 265-horsepower diesel straight-six engine. The modest horsepower, as in most diesels, is offset by a healthy 425 pound-feet of torque. The diesel X5 is a BW through and through; it’s an eager performer that’s confident on twisty roads. It also boasts a towing capacity of 6000 pounds.
Cadillac ELR: The 2014 Cadillac ELR was unveiled at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. This limited-edition luxury coupe is Cadillac’s first range-extended electric vehicle, with a capable electric motor and battery pack that are recharged by a compact gasoline engine to extend the ELR’s well beyond the usually limited scope of fully-electric vehicles.
Chevrolet Volt: Entering its third year, the revolutionary range-extended electric Chevrolet Volt continues to make the notion of plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles seem less ridiculous. The slow rise in Volt numbers can also be credited with convincing urban planners to improve the electric-vehicle charging infrastructure. For 2013, the Volt’s range on fully electric power is up to 38 miles, and the options packages have been tweaked.
Fiat 500e: Some folks will be surprised to learn the that diminutive Fiat 500 wasn’t already an electric car. A gasoline-free version debuts for 2013, and it offers a 111-horsepower electric powertrain that provides the equivalent of 116 miles per gallon in the city and about eighty miles of range. Aerodynamic tweaks give the 500e a unique look, and an additional gauge on the dash provides information about power flow. Level 2 charging takes about 4 hours.
Fisker Karma: After a year that saw financial difficulties, poor marks from Consumer Reports, questions about its performance and just to top it all off a hurricane, Fisker might not seem to be in the best of shape. The Karma is still in production, though, and this luxury range-extended electric is just as beautiful to look at as ever. The company says that quality improvements are on the way. They can’t come soon enough: the Cadillac ELR and Tesla Model X are waiting in the wings.
Ford C-Max Hybrid and C-Max Energi: This is Ford’s first serious challenger to the Toyota Prius. The new-for-2013 C-Max is a versatile do-all with a tall body that was built for urban errand-running. The C-Max Hybrid is equipped with a 2.0 liter four-cylinder, and returns 47-mpg fuel economy in addition to being able to carry five passengers and 24.5 cubic feet of cargo. That space doubles with the seats folded. The C-Max Energi is a plug-in hybrid that takes the economy even higher, into triple digits in the city.
Ford Fusion Hybrid and Fusion Energi: The all-new Fusion’s Aston Martin-esque looks aren’t the only impressive thing about it. The high-efficiency Fusion Hybrid is back, with better fuel economy than ever. A smaller gasoline engine (2.0 liters, down from last year’s 2.5) and greater range in full-electric mode (up to 62mph) have provided significant increases in fuel economy, which is now rated at 47mpg on the freeway. The Fusion Hybrid is joined by the Fusion Energi, a plug-in hybrid that takes the efficiency to the next level with a 2.0 liter gasoline engine making 141 horsepower. It’s paired with a permanent-magnet AC synchronous motor, for a total system horsepower of 188. Fuel economy is rated at 108 city, 92 highway and 100 combined, and the freeway fuel range is over 600 miles.
Ford Focus Electric: The fully-electric Focus is new for 2013. With the gasoline engine replaced by a permanent-magnet electric motor that makes about 143 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque, the Focus provides triple-digit fuel economy and a 3-4 hour charging time on a 240-volt charger and doesn’t sacrifice its fun-to-drive nature. You’ll know the Focus Electric by the plug-in port on the left front fender and its Aston Martin-style grille.
Honda CR-Z, Insight: Honda’s Integrated Motor Assist hybrid drive powers both of its dedicated hybrid models. The CR-Z is a sporty, lightweight two-seater that gets a more powerful electric motor and higher-voltage lithium-ion battery pack for 2013. Fuel economy is up slightly, and there are some styling tweaks as well. The Insight is a practical five-door that distinguishes itself with affordable pricing and styling updates.
Honda Fit EV: Honda’s electric Fit is a limited-availability vehicle, with customer leases offered in Oregon and California. The Fit’s equipped with a 92-kW AC electric motor and a lithium-ion battery pack. Honda claims a 132-mile range in the city, and 82 on the highway.
Honda Accord plug-in hybrid: The plug-in hybrid version of the Honda Accord is currently on sale in California and New York, and it’s currently the winner of the EPA MPGe ratings sweepstakes, with a 115 MPGe rating. Gasoline economy is 47 in the city and 46 on the highway. Those ratings have been changing every few days, it seems, so who the next champion will be remains to be seen. For the moment, though, the Accord Plug-in Hybrid’s two-motor system connected to a 2.0 liter Atkinson cycle four-cylinder engine is the top of the heap. Full electric power provides a range of about 13 miles.
Jeep Grand Cherokee diesel: Jeep announced that the updated 2014 Grand Cherokee will be available with a 3.0-liter diesel V6 to go along with its new face and interior treatment. The new engine boosts the Grand Cherokee’s freeway range to over 700 miles, and it’s got enough grunt to tow up to 7300 pounds. Freeway fuel economy is estimated at 30 mpg.
Lexus ES 300h (pictured), GS 450h, RX 450h: The bulk of Lexus’ hybrid lineup is geared toward performance rather than fuel savings, and the ES and GS are all-new for 2013. It’s true that the ES 300h gets 40 mpg in the city, but Lexus’ Hybrid Synergy Drive’s benefit is more in the boost that it gives the engine, allowing the relatively small four-cylinder to smoothly produce 200 horsepower. Likewise, the GS 450h and RX 450h are the most powerful models of their respective lineups. The new, more distinctively styled GS 450h has improved its fuel economy by about 25% while total system output is up to 338 horsepower.
Lincoln MKZ Hybrid: In addition to its stunning new design, the Lincoln MKZ’s hybrid powertrain returns 45 miles per gallon on the highway and in the city. Without giving up any of the impressive new MKZ’s luxury or style, the hybrid version’s 2.0 liter four-cylinder and electric motor produce 188 horsepower that’s channeled through a continuously variable transmission.
Mazda6 diesel: Announced at the Los Angeles Auto Show, Mazda’s first diesel in the U.S. is expected to arrive in 2014, wrapped in the sexy sheet metal of the new Mazda6. Mazda’s clean-diesel engine SKYACTIV-D powerplant is a new 2.2 liter turbodiesel but the company is mum on further details.
Mercedes E250 BlueTec: In addition to being a high-efficiency diesel, the E250BlueTEC has the additional distinction of being the first four-cylinder in the E-Class lineup for the U.S. market in quite some time. The E250 BlueTEC replaces the six-cylinder E350 BlueTec and produces 190 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. It’ll also be available with all-wheel drive.
Mercedes E400 Hybrid: The all-new 2014 E-Class gains a hybrid model in addition to the BlueTEC diesel. The E400’s 3.5 liter V6 is supplemented by a 27-horsepower electric motor, resulting in excellent performance with 24/30 fuel economy–as well as all of the grace, pace and technological superiority of the E-Class.
Mitsubishi i: Mitsubishi’s egg-shaped electric car is designed for congested urban areas. It may look liek a golf cart, but there’s room inside for four full-sized adults and up to 13.2 cubic feet of cargo. The 49kW, 66-horsepower electric motor provides 62 miles of gasoline-free range.
oyota Avalon Hybrid: Toyota’s Avalon joins the Camry and Highlander in offering a hybrid-electric version for 2013. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder connected to a Hybrid Synergy Drive transmission and electric motor is shared with the Camry Hybrid.
Toyota RAV4 EV: An addition to the all-new RAV4 lineup is a fully electric version, which is the result of a partnership with Tesla. The RAV4 EV’s electric motor and battery were designed and produced by Tesla, and they endow this compact crossover with a 103-mile range and the equivalent of 78 MPGe int the city. It’s available in California, and Toyota plans to produce about 2600 in 2013 and 2014.
Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid: The Jetta Hybrid has little to distinguish it design-wise; it looks and drives just like the conventional Jetta. And that’s just what Volkswagen wanted it to do. The Jetta Hybrid stands out by being a sporty Volkswagen sedan first, and a fuel-sipping hybrid second. The 150-horsepower turbocharged 1.4 liter direct-injection four-cylinder under the hood is an engine that might have been in a Jetta all on its own a few years ago. It’s augmented with an electric motor and a 222-volt lithium-ion battery pack, and matches the 2.5 liter Jetta for total output. Full electric power is available up to 44mph, and Volkswagen’s DSG seven-speed dual-clutch transmission is standard.
Tesla Model S: Though it made its mark with a stripped-down performance car, Tesla is quickly becoming a full-fledged manufacturer. The Model S is a near-luxury sedan that’s so handsome and well-appointed that you might not realize it’s an electric car at first. The liquid-cooled electric motor powers the rear wheels through a single-speed transmission, a setup that worked quite well for the Tesla Roadster. The Model S is a full-fledged car as well, with stability control, ABS and a 17″ touchscreen for multimedia controls.
Tesla Model X: Up next for Tesla is the Model X, a radical take on an urban people mover that’s somewhere between a minivan and an SUV. With vertically-opening “falcon doors” and plenty of cargo space front and rear, the Model X seats up to seven and provides available all-wheel drive performance that’s on par with the rest of Tesla’s surprisingly powerful products. The Model X goes on sale in 2014, and it’ll compete with premium SUVs.
Source: Decisive Magazine