Electrified vehicles are continually being announced, some of them merely to satisfy California regulations, but this year three of the more significant models to come along this decade are due within the next six months.
Spliced in among presently cheap U.S. gasoline and ambivalence in quarters toward battery reliant technologies, the 2016 Chevy Volt, Tesla Model X and 2016 Toyota Prius each stand to push against the tide and America’s love affair with conventionally powered SUVs and trucks.
Each of these vehicles represents a fundamentally different way to use said batteries in the goal of cutting emissions and increasing fuel efficiency.
The Chevrolet is a plug-in hybrid, the Tesla is all-electric, and the Toyota is a hybrid. Each however has a contingency of fans eagerly awaiting the varying technological solutions indicating among other things divided opinions that surround the proposed betterment of the way we travel.
2016 Chevy Volt
Chevrolet began accepting California orders late in May for the world’s first plug-in car to go through a full redesign and the rest of the country will be offered it in October.
First deliveries are due in a few months into the fall, but unclear is whether Chevrolet might offer a surprise in slightly increased fuel economy. As we reported last month, the carmaker – which has not released final EPA numbers – slipped up and posted higher than projected numbers only to retract some of them.
Known is just about every other key specification for the compact extended-range EV starting at $33,995. It will deliver 50 miles rated all-electric range – double the next-nearest plug-in hybrid, Hyundai’s also-pending 2016 Sonata PHEV. The Volt’s gas-only fuel economy was preliminarily projected at 41 mpg combined but the slip revealed 43 mpg, and an electric efficiency of 106 MPGe was also posted, instead of 102. Chevrolet says it will make an official announcement soon.
But if these numbers are less consequential to your ears, here’s another number for you: Number One. Excluding the limited-range BMW i3 REx, the 2015 Volt is already number one on the EPA’s list of gas-plus-electric cars at a calculated 62 mpg four years after its launch and the 2016 now does better.
Another feather in its cap is the Volt was found by the Idaho National Lab to be capable of traveling nearly as far on battery alone as pure electric cars in its sub-$45,000 price range.
Because the first-generation 2011-2015 Volt could be driven right up to empty on its battery electric drive, it competed favorably against pure EVs with 70-80-some mile range which must reserve a cushion because they have no gas backup like the Volt does.
Critics have meanwhile panned the compact Volt for being tight in rear seat space compared to midsized blended plug-in hybrids, and the new 2016 Volt only offers a little more space, so this will remain a concern for some.
Why the 2016 Volt Matters
What the Volt signifies for the market is a next-step by a major automaker which caught enormous pressure as sales did not meet early projections, and which admitted it stopped marketing the Volt outside of California where half are sold.
The 2016 Volt, General Motors says, signifies “commitment” to the car and electrification in general, and the new model has been designated as veritable seed stock for more plug-in cars to come.
Unlike the first generation Volt, the second generation’s powertrain was designed to be adaptable to other vehicles which shows foresight. General Motors’ Pam Fletcher, executive chief engineer for electrified vehicles, told us in an interview that contrary to critics’ musings GM does indeed have an electrification strategy, and the Volt has been central to it.
The first Volt did develop fiercely loyal supporters among those who embraced what it can do for them. It twice was a Consumer Reports top owner satisfaction winner.
Unless GM surprises us though, the Volt may still only sell in limited numbers next to bread and butter cars. Michigan-based analyst Alan Baum projects 24,000 sales for 2016, though we shall see what really happens beginning in a few months.
Tesla Model X
The follow-up to the Model S and interim car until the mass-market Model 3 arrives has more than 24,000 intenders waiting with paid reservations.
That is a lot of pent-up demand for any new car, and you never hear of such a thing, say, for a new Mercedes-Benz.
Still a startup company, 10-year-old Tesla’s stock has ballooned in lockstep with hopes riding on it as a petroleum-free goad to all established carmakers.
As evobsession.com observes, the Model X has double the reservation the Model S once did, and all these people are waiting even though actual specifications are not known.
One reason for all the reservations is Tesla is now far-more established than it was in 2012 when the Model S was launched.
Another reason is it’s been delayed a few times, so people have been waiting in line in cases for a few years.
Enough is known however of the crossover utility vehicle with reportedly increased appeal for women. The EV is to have all-wheel-drive and it’s reported a 70-kwh and 85-kwh battery will be offered as they are with the Model S.
Range could be 10-percent less than a Model S, or in the lower 200s to middle 200s, as it could weigh 10-pecent more.
It will share more than half of the Model S’ parts content and like the Model S, acceleration will vary from impressive to intense, possibly low-3-second 0-60, depending on configuration.
While many obviously adore it, critics have said it looks like a bloated Model S, and one said the “falcon wing” doors make it impractical for throwing things like a roof rack for kayaks, bikes, and whatnot on top as per customary SUV practice.
The three-row deluxe family hauler otherwise is being received as chic transport priced in the 70s and up.
Why the Model X Matters
Tesla needs this vehicle due third quarter this year to improve cash flow and further reinforce the brand and Elon Musk told CNBC recently it could do just that.
“With the Model X there’s a potential to double Tesla’s volume because the demand for SUVs and sedans is about equal,” said Musk. “That would suggest that if the Model X is well received, it would be a doubling of Tesla’s volume.”
This year the Model S already has outsold all other plug-in vehicles, including the aging 2015 Volt and Nissan Leaf.
Also significant is it enters a segment of family haulers and threatens to “disrupt” as the S sedan has before it.
According to analyst Baum, Tesla could sell 23,000 units for 2016.
Next year the Model 3 is due to be shown and Musk has said it will be available by 2017 – there’s a priority not to let delays happen as did for Model X.
The Supercharger-compatible Model X, while lacking the range or infrastructure and as-quick fueling of a long-haul Audi diesel, for example, will require more care if long trips are planned, but it’s still expected to keep the excitement going.
2016 Toyota Prius
No one has seen more than photos of the masked Prius Liftback being tested though one website posted what may be images of the car.
The 2016 Prius’ specifications have also not been divulged by Toyota, but will be soon. Its flagship fourth-generation regular hybrid may be shown at the Tokyo Motor Show at the end of October, and then at the LA Auto Show in November.
It’s believed it will get mpg in the middle 50s, maybe 55, give or take, and design-wise it’s to be more sporty to broaden appeal.
One photo circulating shows the vehicle is more like the Volt’s kammback hatchback in profile than is the present car.
The drive experience too is supposed to be more engaging for the lighter-weight eco-car riding on the Toyota New Global Architecture.
Unknown is whether a plug-in hybrid version will also be shown. The article with the supposedly representational images said it will be, and if true, it may upset the market as well with double the present PHEV’s electric range, somewhere in the 20s.
Why the 2016 Prius Matters
The hybrid market is carried by the Prius Liftback which sells three times the volume of the nearest hybrid.
Since last year as sales have tapered off for the third-generation Prius Liftback introduced in Japan in 2009, the U.S. hybrid market has suffered. Gas prices have also played a part in this, as a reactive American public’s buying habits have shifted back toward more SUVs and trucks.
But the new Prius, probably to be priced within range of the just-over $25,000 present model, is Toyota’s push to continue its 69-percent U.S. hybrid market share counting Lexus products. Lessons learned with the Prius will in time find their way into its other hybrids, presently counted at 13 Toyota and Lexus models.
Plug-in fans – who will be energized by the plug-in hybrid if the double battery capacity is correct – otherwise will scoff at the Prius, but this is a car that has transcended into mainstream status.
Now entering its 16th year in the U.S., it’s actually the top-selling alternative energy car in America, and Baum projects 130,000 units for 2016.