Saturday, January 30, 2016

Acura NSX and David Lee Roth wail together in Super Bowl spot

Super Bowl 50 is just over a week away, but carmakers are already rolling out their big ads. Acura's newly released commercial uses the screams and moans from Van Halen's David Lee Roth and the songRunnin' with the Devil to build excitement about the upcoming supercar.

As Van Halen plays, the NSX evolves from a slab of metal into the turbocharged, hybrid coupe. In a patriotic touch, the commercial uses red, white, and blue to subtly communicate the supercar's US development and production. It's a clever ad, sure, but we wish it showed more of the new NSX's high-performance capability. There's never a bad time to listen to some Van Halen, though.

The video above is the 30-second Super Bowl commercial, which airs during the first quarter. However, the clip below is a one-minute version that lets the visuals breathe more. The longer cut is the better one, but Acura's choice is understandable given the expense of Super Bowl ad time.

Acura Rolls Out American-made NSX Supercar with Super Bowl Commercial Set to Van Halen Classic, Runnin' with the Devil

Jan 29, 2016 - TORRANCE, Calif.

Iconic Van Halen song infuses high-voltage energy into NSX rollout

Comprehensive activation includes social media sweepstakes, enabling consumers to experience the NSX
Acura is one of the first brands to use Twitter Conversational Video to launch Super Bowl spot
Acura is showcasing the next generation NSX, the only supercar made in America1, to the soundtrack of an iconic American rock song in a new commercial that will debut during Super Bowl 50. The high-energy vocal effects of the Van Halen classic Runnin' with the Devil provide the powerful beat for the Acura commercial that will appear during the first quarter of the big game. The spot is a showcase of the Precision Crafted Performance brand direction that is core to the Acura brand and vividly represented in the NSX supercar.

The new Acura Super Bowl commercial is posted to and Acura social media channels for previewing before the big game and is augmented with a series of unique social media activations and live experiences, including one of the first applications of Twitter Conversational Video to launch a Super Bowl spot.

"In our Acura commercial, we wanted to convey the excitement of the NSX to a big Super Bowl audience," said Jon Ikeda, vice president and general manager of Acura. "The high energy visuals are complemented by a big rock anthem, giving viewers just a taste of the emotion this new Acura supercar elicits."

Acura Super Bowl Spot Creative Concept

Tagged with the words "What He Said," the Acura Super Bowl commercial demonstrates the NSX is better described through raw emotion than words alone. This is the first time Van Halen has released Runnin' with the Devil for use in advertising. The 30-second visual tour de force relies on the elegant design and powerful inner-workings of the NSX, with Runnin' with the Devil building softly in the background, before erupting in a powerful crescendo through rapid-fire vocals – hollers and screams responding to every camera movement across the intricate details of the NSX.
The color palette of the NSX Super Bowl commercial is a deliberately vibrant red, white and blue, a celebration of the all-new 2017 NSX, the only supercar designed, developed and manufactured in the U.S. Exclusive global production of the NSX is set to begin this spring at the new Performance Manufacturing Center in Marysville, Ohio1. Acura was the first international luxury nameplate to develop and manufacture products in America.

Social Media and Digital Activations and NSX Experience

Acura's social media activations culminate in delivering a Precision Crafted Performance experience. Through Twitter Conversational Video, viewers generate a pre-populated tweet featuring the 30-second commercial, which when shared using #DriveAcuraNSXContest and tagging a friend, will enter them into a sweepstakes for a VIP NSX driving experience. The sweepstakes will also be accessible via the Acura Twitter and Facebook pages.

Extending to the digital space, the brand will unveil a 60-second version of the Super Bowl commercial and a countdown clock beginning Jan. 29 that leads to the Feb. 25 launch of the Acura NSX online vehicle configurator. The NSX configurator will enable potential customers and fans alike to design and build their dream NSX. Additionally, starting Feb. 25, those interested in purchasing an NSX can contact an authorized Acura retailer to place their order.

The 2017 Acura NSX

Created to bring a new experience to the supercar segment, the next-generation Acura NSX challenges conventional beliefs about supercars, with cutting-edge and world-first technologies. Much as the first generation NSX did a quarter century ago, the 2017 NSX breaks the mold through a first-of-its-kind Sport Hybrid Super Handling All-Wheel Drive power unit, a multi-material body structure, advanced aerodynamics and a cockpit that supports performance driving on every level without sacrificing comfort.

Precision Crafted Performance

Precision Crafted Performance – performance delivered with incredible precision, outstanding quality and elegant, innovative engineering – defines Acura's core character and authentic brand DNA. Acura's Super Bowl commercial and related activations are high-profile elements in a newly-launched brand campaign that focuses on communicating Precision Crafted Performance as the Acura brand direction.

The Acura brand is committed to sharpening its focus on these core values, expressed in the dynamic capabilities and styling of Acura products, as well as in the brand's marketing and customer experience, in order to create a more distinct and powerful image for Acura in the marketplace.

The Acura Super Bowl commercial can be viewed at Additional media assets and information, including screen shots, 2017 Acura NSX pricing, features and high-resolution photography is available at The spot was created and produced by MullenLowe, agency of record for Acura.

About Acura

Acura is a leading automotive luxury nameplate that delivers Precision Crafted Performance through advanced product design and innovative technologies. On March 27, 2016, Acura will celebrate the 30th anniversary of its launch as the first luxury nameplate from a Japanese automaker. More than 90 percent of the products Acura sells in America are built in America using domestic and globally sourced parts.

The Acura lineup features five distinctive models – the RLX luxury flagship sedan, the TLX performance luxury sedan, the ILX sport sedan, the 5-passenger RDX luxury crossover SUV, and the seven-passenger Acura MDX, America's all-time best-selling three-row luxury SUV. This spring, Acura will launch its next-generation, electrified NSX supercar as a new and pinnacle expression of Acura Precision Crafted Performance.

Acura Social Media Channels

Ford Will Add Diesel Option For F-150 Pickup Trucks

The F-150 may soon come with an diesel engine option. Despite historically low fuel prices, fuel economy is still an important factor when it comes to buying a vehicle. Logically, it makes little sense to choose one pickup truck because it gets one or two miles a gallon better mileage on the highway, but people do anyway.

Ford F-150
Ever since Dodge decided to slide a diesel engine into its Ram 1500, buyers have been flocking to the Mopar brand in record numbers. 15% of all Ram 1500s were equipped with the EcoDiesel engine in 2015. Most people think that’s because the Ram EcoDiesel is rated the highest of all full size pickup trucks at 29 mpg on the highway. The Ford F-150 equipped with a 2.7 liter V-6 is rated only 26 mpg.
Ford says, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” Soon, it too will offer an oil burner under the hood of its F-150 pickups in hopes of equaling or beating Dodge at its own game. According to Automotive News, F-150s with diesel engines have been spotted motoring around Ford’s product development center in Dearborn.
Ford is keeping mum about all this, but Dave Sullivan, an analyst for AutoPacific, says Ford’s is planning to introduce a diesel powered F-150 mated to the new 10 speed automatic transmission it developed in cooperation with General Motors. He thinks it will come to market as a 2017 model. “A diesel F-150, with its lightweight body and 10-speed automatic, would have all of the necessary hardware to win the fuel economy race,” Sullivan says.
The most likely diesel engine Ford would use in the F-150 is the 3.0 liter, twin turbo V-6 made at its Dagenham factory in England. That engine was developed jointly by Ford and Peugeot in 1999 and has been used Peugeots, Jaguars, Land Rovers and the Ford Territory, an off-road vehicle sold  in Australia. It is presently used in the Range Rover Sport, where it makes 254 hp with 440 lb-ft of torque at 1,750 rpm. The Ram EcoDiesel is rated at 240 hp and 420 pounds-feet of torque at 2,000 rpm.
The Range Rover weighs 4,727-pounds and has an EPA rating of 22 city/29 highway. The 2016 F-150 Lariat Crew Cab weighs 4,942 pounds and has about the same aerodynamic characteristics as the Range Rover, which suggests its fuel economy numbers should be about the same.
All this fretting over fuel economy is somewhat silly. If people were that interested in fuel economy, they wouldn’t buy a pickup truck in the first place. The numbers on the Mulroney sticker we see at the dealership often have little relationship to the numbers people get in real world driving. Nevertheless, Chevrolet, GMC and Nissan now offer diesels in their entry level pickup trucks. Ford doesn’t want to be odd man out in the diesel fuel economy wars, even if the higher cost of diesel fuel wipes out any marginal gains having a diesel under the hood may offer.
There is an old expression that says, “People buy on emotion and justify their purchase decision later with facts.” Most people buy trucks for the way they make them feel. Fuel economy numbers are just the incidental facts that validate their choices.

Friday, January 29, 2016

France Is Planning To “Pave” 600 Miles Of Roads With Solar Panels

It’s not often that you see a story inspired by Global Construction Review. In fact, this may be the first. GCR reports that France is working on a project to cover 1000 kilometers of roads with specially modified solar panels. Ségolène Royal, France’s minister of ecology and energy, says, “The maximum effect of the program, if successful, could be to furnish 5 million people with electricity, or about 8% of the French population.”
Wattway solar panels from Colas
This is not some solar sidewalk we are talking about here, folks. This is a major step forward in the greening of the world’s electrical energy supply. According to France’s Agency of Environment and Energy Management, 4 meters of solarized road (about 14 feet)  is enough to supply the electrical needs of one household, not counting heat. One kilometer (0.62 mile) will supply enough electricity for a community of 5,000 inhabitants.
The specialized solar panels were developed by Colas, which bills itself as the “World leader in the construction and maintenance of transport infrastructure.” It introduced its Wattway panels last October. They took 5 years to develop and consist of 7 millimeter thick strips glued to the road surface. The strips use a thin film of polycrystalline silicon to make electricity from sunlight. Colas says they have been tested extensively and can withstand the weight of a 6 axle truck. They are also said to be skid resistant.
Minister Royal says installation of the first Wattway panels will begin this spring. She plans to install 600 miles of Wattway panels over the next 5 years and pay for them by raising taxes on fossil fuels. Royal says the best time to raise fuel taxes is now while prices are low. New taxes would contribute up to $440 million for the construction of her Positive Energy plan.
The idea sounds wonderful, on paper. I happen to live in New England, where millions of pounds of salt are dumped on our roads each winter, local radio stations conduct “biggest pothole” contests every spring, and frost heaves are a way of life. Would a solar highway be able to stand up to such rigors?
Joseph Palmer left this comment to the GCR story: “This really seems impracticable. The electrical panel connections are exposed to pooling water in the rain. The panels are near horizontal, which makes sense at the equator, but loses a lot of efficiency in Northern countries. The surface will be quickly worn by traffic, and will get dirty and scuffed up very quickly. It looks like the panels must be shoulder to shoulder – looks fine on the pictured parking lot, but road surfaces frequently crack and separate, making the mounting surface uneven, placing stress on the panels. We’ll see, but this idea is up against a number of real world problems.”
What do you think about this idea? Would it work in the US if it was limited to states where ice and snow are not a problem? There are thousands of miles of sun drenched roads between San Diego and Jacksonville. If they were all covered with solar panels, they might produce enough electricity to meet much of the country’s energy needs. But wouldn’t it be easier and cheaper to just install conventional solar panels in all the median areas along the way?

Dodge Dart, Chrysler 200 Get The Heave Ho From FCA

The first rule of business is to give the customers what they want. Right now, when gasoline costs less than Pepsi, what customers want are trucks, Really big trucks, the kind of heavily muscled, in your face trucks that make you feel you are in your own version of Mad Max as you commute to work every day. Such trucks are also excellent for picking up some finish nails at Home Depot or a quart of milk on the way home. People are also crazy for all sorts of SUVs — the bigger the better.
Chyrsler 200 sedan by FCA
What people are not so crazy about are sedans. 4 door transportation modules are just not cool right now. Fiat Chrysler’s profits fell 40% last year, according to the Detroit Free Press. FCA boss Sergio Marchionne blames a lot of that on poor sales of its Dodge Dart and Chrysler 200 sedans. So he has decided to throw them overboard and let the FCA banner be carried forward solely by trucks, SUVs, and assorted Jeep products. The only sedan Chrysler will sell from now on is the 300.
During a conference call with Wall Street analysts on Wednesday, Marchionne said, “There will be a number of things that will be put in place in the next 18 months — things that have been agreed and detailed, that will effectively withdraw the Chrysler 200 and Dodge Dart from the marketplace, for a long period of time, during which we will be continuing discussions with potential partners. We have decided to de-focus, from the manufacturing standpoint, to de-focus on the passenger car market. There are two cars in particular, the Dodge Dart and Chrysler 200, which will run their course,” Marchionne said “Without creating additional capacity, in the United States, we need to … to try and deal with the development of both Jeep and the Ram brand.”
Part of the reason for this is that FCA has run out of factory space to build all the trucks, SUVs and Jeeps the market wants. Those vehicles make a lot of profit, sedans only make a little profit. The choice was easy; the sedans had to go. Marchionne has hinted they might return if someone else wants to build them. Both cars have gotten good reviews and won praise for their excellent styling. The news surprised investors. FCA spent $1 billion to overhaul its Sterling Heights Assembly Plant to build the Chrysler 200 midsize sedan that just went on sale in 2014. It also spent $600 million to launch the Dodge Dart compact car in 2012.
My old Irish grandmother would wonder whether Chrysler is cutting off its nose to spite its face. Yes, the market for trucks and SUVs is red hot at the moment, but what happens when the famously mercurial tastes of consumers change? And how will FCA make a fleet composed solely of behemoths comply with upcoming fuel economy standards? No doubt, Machionne, in his infinite wisdom, has a plan, but what it is remains a mystery.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Opel GT Returns! Coming To Geneva In March

Many people were not even born yet when the last Opel GT roamed the world’s roadways. Compared to today’s automobiles, the tiny little two seater was crude in a way that only those who had drivers licenses in the 60s can understand. But for the times, it stirred a lot of passion in the souls of auto enthusiasts. It was sometimes known as a “baby Corvette.”
1968 Opel GT
When I say crude, I mean stone age technology. The base car came with a wimpy 1.1 liter push rod engine which made 67 horsepower at 6,000 rpm. Not surprisingly, most buyers went with the optional 1.9 liter overhead cam engine that produced 102 hp at 5400 rpm. When emissions regulations first went into effect in 1971, Opel reduced the compression ratio of the 1.9  liter engine used in the US, which knocked output back to a meager 83 horsepower.
The attractively styled coupe came with a 4 speed manual transmission as standard equipment. That was pretty hot stuff for its day. The car was in production from 1968 through 1973. A version of an updated car was introduced in 2007 and sold in America as the Pontiac Solstice and the Saturn Sky until 2010. If you can find a Sky with the turbo engine, grab it. They are much in demand by collectors.
Opel GT
Now Opel is back with an all new, thoroughly modern and highly innovative GT that will debut at the Geneva auto show in March. “Purebred, pared down, yet unashamedly avant garde, the GT Concept is even shorn of door handles and door mirrors, its breathtaking form clothing a classic front mid-engined, rear-wheel drive chassis that will appeal to driving enthusiasts,” reads the official Opel press release.
Mark Adams, GM’s vice president of design for Europe says, ”We created the GT Concept to capture the bold, emotional spirit of both the Vauxhall and Opel brands. It is dramatic, sculptural and full of innovations, which is our great tradition that we intend to continue…..[T]his GT Concept today [is] absolutely pure, minimalistic, yet bold and uncompromising. This coupe impressively demonstrates the continuous development of our design philosophy.”
The first thing you will notice about the new Opel GT is a prominent red stripe that begins behind the front wheels and flows up and over the doors to the rear of the car. Hidden within that stripe is a touchpad that operates the doors, which are hinged behind the front wheels rather than beneath the A pillars. It is unlikely the goofy red front tires will be included in the production car, assuming there is one.
The new concept will not be challenging many Teslas at the local drag strip. According to AutoBlog, it will come with a 1.0 liter turbocharged three cylinder engine in front driving the rear wheels through a 6 speed sequential gearbox. The triple makes 143 horsepower and 151 ft-lb of torquea, enough to propel the 2,200 lb car to 60 mph in under 8 seconds. It has a calculated top speed of 134 mph.
Not sure you can call such performance “exhilerating”, but its not far off the numbers for the latest generation Mazda Miata in terms of weight and power. Among enthusiasts, this would be known as a “momentum car,” meaning slowing for corners is something you must never do. It is meant to be driven flat out, foot to the floor at all times. Screaming up through the gears can be its own reward, even if overall forward progress is leisurely, relatively speaking.
No production plans have been released. No doubt the folks at Opel and its English cousin, Vauxhall, are anxious to see what sort of reception it gets from show goers in Geneva. If Gas 2 would like to send me to that event, I would be delighted to give you all my full written report.
Photo credit: Opal via Autoblog.

Texas Company Ready To Start Making “New” DeLorean

When John Z.DeLorean shuffled off this mortal coil after snuffling untold quantities of white powder up his nose, the assets of his car company were purchased by DeLorean Motor Company of Humble, Texas. It has quietly stayed in business repairing existing DeLorean cars, thanks to a large stockpile of original DeLorean parts.
DeLorean reborn as a replica
Now, a change in federal law is opening the way for it to actually start putting those parts together to make “new” DeLoreans, according to The Verge. The law exempts small volume car manufacturers from the safety requirements applied to most new car makers. It only applies to “replica” vehicles, which means cars that resemble the body of another vehicle produced at least 25 years ago. Think the original Shelby Cobra, the 65 Mustang and of course, the DeLorean.
“It’s fantastic! It is a game changer for us. We’ve been wanting this to happen,” Stephen Wynne, CEO of DeLorean Motors told NBC News in Washington. He estimates he has enough original and replica parts on hand to build 300 new DeLoreans. He will start by making one a month, with hopes to get that up to about one a week in time. Because he has all those original parts, “There’s no need to change the appearance of the car,” Wynne said.
The new law does not apply to engines, however. They must still conform to all current emissions standards. Wynne is investigating the purchase of new crate engines from different manufacturers. All of the engines he is considering have between 300 and 400 horsepower — almost triple the 138 horses supplied by the original four cylinder engine. The new cars will also get larger wheels and tires, Wynne says, because nobody makes high performance rubber for the original 14″ or 15″ wheels any more.
There are still a lot of regulatory hoops to jump through before production can begin. Both DOT and NHTSA regulations must be complied with. Assuming that process goes smoothly, Wynne foresees starting to build cars in the first quarter of 2017. He anticipates the cars will sell for between $80,000 and $100,000 each. That seems like a bargain for a genuine low volume iconic car like the DeLorean, especially one with a healthy increase in horsepower. Maybe Wynne should take reservations the way Tesla does.
John Z. was an interesting fellow. He created the Pontiac Firebird and the original Pontiac GTO. After he left General Motors, he pioneered an innovative 6 wheeled motor home with an air suspension that is still highly prized by the RV crowd. When he decided to build his own car, the government of Northern Ireland made him an offer he couldn’t refuse in order to induce him to build a factory there. The government desperately wanted to create manufacturing jobs at that time.
DeLorean picked out the site himself, but there was a problem. There was a large whitethorn tree right where DeLorean wanted his factory built. He ordered the workers to rip it out. Now, not all of our readers may be steeped in Irish legend as I am, but everyone in Ireland knows the fairies make their homes in the roots of whitethorn trees. Disturbing the “little people” is akin to calling down all the bad luck imaginable upon your sorry head.
The workers tried to convince DeLorean to change his plans but he was having none of it. The rest, as they say, is history. Perhaps now the “little people” have rescinded their curse and are ready to let the DeLoren be reborn, faster and better than ever. It won’t have a flux capacitor, but with up to 400 horsepower, it will have no problem reaching precisely 88 miles per hour.
Photo credit: DeLorean Motor Company

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Porsche Turbocharges Boxster And Boxster S

Did you know that Porsche made mid-engine 4 cylinder race cars in the 50s and 60s? If not, you soon will. Those cars carried the designation “718”. Porsche is honoring those cars by adding a “718” badge to the rear of the new Boxster and Boxster S due in American showrooms in June.
Porsche Boxster
What else is new for these cars? Each gets a turbocharged flat 4 engine — 2.0 liter in the Boxster and 2.5 liter in the Boxster S. According to AutoBlog, the Boxster engine produces 300 horsepower, which is 35 more than the engine in the current car. It also has 74 lb-ft more torque which helps propel it to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds — 0.7 less than before. The Boxster S engine also has 35 more horsepower but only 43 lb-ft more torque. It scoots to 60 in 4 seconds flat.
Despite the more powerful engines, both cars are about 13% more fuel efficient. The Boxster scores 34 mpg in the European test cycle while the Boxster S is rated at 32 mpg. EPA numbers are typically quite a bit lower but have not been released yet.
Cosmetically, both cars get a new face that is slightly more aggressive. Four point LED lights integrated with the headlights are optional. Along the sides, Porsche has enlarged the rear air intakes ahead of the rear wheels and added black strakes that blend into the doors. They are not quite as prominent as those on the Ferrari 348, but do give the cars a more menacing look. At the rear, the most prominent change is the addition of the numbers “718.”
The 718 Boxster is priced at $57,050. The 718 Boxster S begins at 69,450 for the S model. Both prices include destination charges. A 6 speed manual transmission is standard in both cars with an PDK dual clutch automatic available as an extra cost option. Porsche says it has given the electric steering system a more direct feel and incorporated subtle changes to the suspension. An optional active suspension package with variable dampers lowers the car by 4 tenths of an inch.
How many people will honor Porsche’s wishes and refer to their new cars as “my 718 Boxster” or “my 718 Boxster S”? The name change might make more sense if applied to a model more associated with racing. But in any event, a Boxster by any other name is still a Porsche. Now the only question is, will the Boxster get a hybrid or electric powertrain anytime soon?
Porsche Boxster S

2017 Cadillac CT6 Plug-In Hybrid To Be Imported From China To U.S.

2016 Cadillac CT6
2016 Cadillac CT6

Of the three vehicles using GM's newest hybrid system, we know rather less about the 2017 Cadillac CT6 Plug-In Hybrid than we do about either the Chevrolet Volt or the Chevy Malibu Hybrid. But with first media drives of the conventional CT6 now published, we know a bit more than we did before. For one thing, while the various gasoline versions of the CT6 large luxury sedan for the U.S. will be built at the Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant, the plug-in hybrid CT6 will only be built in China.

And U.S. buyers of next year's CT6 Plug-In Hybrid will actually be taking delivery of cars made in China, unlike the conventionally powered models The plug-in CT6 will contain a battery pack assembled in GM's Brownstown battery plant, using LG Chem cells also fabricated in its plant in Holland, Michigan. And the electric motors for its drive unit will be built at GM's plant in White Marsh, Maryland--which previously built Spark EV motors.
2016 Cadillac CT6
2016 Cadillac CT6

All of which points to an interesting global aspect to GM's plug-in hybrid luxury sedan: It uses technology designed, developed, tested, and built in the U.S., but the vehicle is destined primarily for the Chinese luxury market--and hence it's assembled there. That's because local, state, and national government bodies in China now incentivize the sale and registration of so-called New Energy Vehicles, meaning battery-electric and plug-in hybrid cars and SUVs. It's one tactic to address the highly hazardous air pollution in many parts of the country, and it's led to surging sales--though how many of the plug-in hybrids actually ever get plugged in remains an open question.

Last week, Shanghai-GM opened its first Cadillac factory in China, which will supply several vehicles that replace luxury models imported from the U.S. The company is a joint venture between GM and its main Chinese partner, Shanghai Automotive Industries Corporation; the plant can built up to 160,000 vehicles a year. China has been the world's largest car market for several years now, but its luxury sector is dominated by Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz.
2016 Cadillac CT6
2016 Cadillac CT6
Both Cadillac and Ford's Lincoln are making strenuous efforts to establish themselves in China, where younger and first-time buyers may be less wedded to the German trio and more willing to try new luxury brands.
While the plug-in hybrid CT6 is aimed mainly at that market, it will be offered in small numbers in the U.S. to counter plug-in hybrid sedans from BMW and Mercedes-Benz. The CT6 plug-in should arrive late this year or early next year, according to Cadillac executives interviewed by High Gear Media's Kirk Bell, who attended the CT6 drive event.

But it will be treated as just a separate powertrain option, not a different model (and it may not carry the cumbersome CT6 Plug-In Hybrid name). Putting together numbers from a variety of Cadillac executives and sources, it appears that Cadillac anticipates fewer than 1,000 plug-in CT6 sedans a year will be sold.
That will represent 4 or 5 percent of the model's total sales, according to the company.
2016 Cadillac CT6
2016 Cadillac CT6

GM may issue more information on the technology specifics behind the plug-in hybrid Cadillac CT6 later this year, as it has done in the past with the Malibu Hybrid. Both vehicles use variants of the latest Voltec drivetrain first launched in the 2016 Chevrolet Volt. The hybrid Malibu has a much smaller battery pack and no plug, while the Cadillac has a differently shaped battery pack with the same capacity as the Volt's, 18.4 kilowatt-hours.
Its range has been quoted as "about 30 miles," but it's unclear whether that applies to U.S. or Chinese test routines.

What Makes More Sense – All-Electric Vehicles or Plug-in Hybrids?


It’s been half a decade since the first major manufacturer plug-in electrified vehicles (PEVs) came to the U.S. market, but what would make more sense – a pure EV or plug-in hybrid?
To ask this question is sort of like shooting at a moving target as the state of technology and products on the market is evolving.
That said, for those of you just starting to mull your options, we’ll cover some of the highlights to kick start your thought processes and hopefully help you toward a more informed decision.

A Solution

First off, why do plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles exist?
Answer: They are a first viable step toward weaning away from petroleum.
To do that, PEVs build on existing automotive technology with the core difference being what makes them go. Their powertrains make use of far-more efficient electric motors to reduce or eliminate petroleum use, as well as curb or eliminate tailpipe emissions.
Electricity is domestically produced, and the grid is getting cleaner year by year.

Two Approaches

In broadest terms a plug-in hybrid is defined as a hybrid electric vehicle with a larger battery and connection to the grid (or renewably sourced electricity). It stores more electric energy so as to be able to run on pure electricity for longer runs. Of course there are different (and better or worse) technological approaches, but the general idea is part time electric range, with gas backup.
SEE ALSO: Why An Electric Car Is Greener Cradle to Grave
A battery electric or “all-electric vehicle” uses a battery and traction motor(s) and no internal combustion. It also has connection to the grid (or renewably sourced electricity).


There are 26 plug-in electrified cars for sale in the U.S. out of more than 50 globally, but most of these are cars. There are no plug-in trucks (yet) available for retail consumer sale, there are only a couple high-end SUVs and only one minivan due late this year.
Of these vehicles, 15 are plug-in hybrids, 12 are battery electrics, and there have been some that have already come and gone from the market – like the Honda Accord plug-in hybrid, Honda Fit EV, Toyota RAV4 EV.

Approaching Mainstream

Of the plug-in cars, all carry a price premium over comparable conventional cars with the idea that they pay back in other ways – such as reduced operation costs, maintenance, or enhanced environmental benefits.
The ones that offer a better case for superior economic sense are the ones priced below a $40,000 threshold. As is true of any luxury purchase, there are benefits to high-end plug-in cars like the all-electric Tesla Model S, Mercedes S550 PHEV, Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid but we’ll arbitrarily remember here a prime raison d’etre for PEVs.
The vehicles hoped to move the dial away from sole reliance on internal combustion are those intended to have broadest mass appeal. Granted the Model S was the best-selling PEV last year, and quite the exception, but even Tesla wants to build a Model 3 priced from $35,000 as well, and that has been its aim all along.

Core PHEV Benefits

The single biggest reason to go plug-in hybrid versus a regular hybrid is to be able to use it like a part-time all-electric vehicle. As one example, a Ford Fusion Energi is EPA-rated 4 mpg less when run in hybrid mode than a Fusion Hybrid – but if one drives it within its 19-miles EV rangedaily, gas consumption – and gas price – are not so relevant.
Another benefit of course is no range anxiety.

EV Benefits

All-electric cars have a simpler powertrain instead of two merged together, and offer several benefits.
They cost much less to operate than gas cars, emit nothing at the tailpipe – though upstream emissions as applicable for grid energy should be factored, though it is typically less than what comes from a high-mpg hybrid.
The EPA has a calculator to help determine upstream emissions in your zip code.
A bunch of other subjective benefits that more or less may apply to PHEVs also can be weighed. These include that EVs are quiet and convenient to “fuel” from home, and high-tech, novel, and fairly fun to drive.
EVs run off and leave PHEVs however with regard to scheduled maintenance and gone are such things as air filter and oil/filter changes, spark plug changes, exhaust system concerns including emission testing, multi-speed transmission and potential long-term concerns.
This said, any implication that EVs are nearly trouble free just because they lack internal combustion can be over-billed by the zealous. They still have body, chassis, paint, interior components, suspension, tires, HVAC, power equipment, other servo motors, onboard computers, and a host of things that “can go wrong” like any automobile. Those items must be well designed and constructed or gas engine or no, EVs may still wind up in the shop – though so far the record for most has been good.
SEE ALSO: Consumer Reports Downgrades Tesla Model S To ‘Below Average’ Reliability
As for PHEVs, those that run on electricity more also save their engine and thus maintenance intervals may be spaced farther.
All plug-in cars also tend to be easier on brake pads as their regenerative brakes spare them from use as hard as would be seen on conventional vehicles.


Among close-to-mainstream priced vehicles in the plug-in hybrid segment, there are several.
SEE ALSO: Idaho National Lab Shows Chevy Volts Go Nearly As Far on Electricity As Pure EVs
These are the “extended-range electric” Chevy Volt with 53-mile EV range, and the 19-mile Fusion Energi and its C-Max Energi sibling sharing the same powertrain. Also, there’s the 27-mile-range Hyundai Sonata PHEV and later this year Kia will have an Optima PHEV with the same powertrain.
For good measure, we might include the BMW i3 REx which is more a range-extended EV than pure PHEV, and Audi A3 PHEV.
Among pure battery electric cars, there’s the 240-270-mile range Tesla S and now X crossover, 81-mile BMW i3 BEV, 84-107-mile Nissan Leaf, 83-mile VW e-Golf, up-to-over 100-mile Mercedes B-Class Electric, Kia Soul EV, Chevy Spark EV, and Fiat 500e.
Some of these are not 50-state available.


There is no silver bullet in terms of function and performance. In an ideal world, people have expressed the desire for an EV with range of a typical gas car that fills up in 3 minutes and priced about the same also. People who insist on this will find no cars that meet their criteria.
The closest thing to that yet known will be the 2017 Chevy Bolt due to cost just below $30,000 with federal tax credit factored in, and with range of 200-plus miles. That’s less range than a Toyota Corolla, VW Golf, Chevy Cruze, or nearly any other gas car, but it’s double the range of other EVs in that price segment. And, what EVs offer in other benefits offsets range objections for those who buy them.
In favor of all pure EVs today is they are eligible for a larger $7,500 federal tax credit, and most PHEVs get less than $5,000 with the exception of the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica PHEV minivan which with 16-kilowatt-hour battery will be eligible for $7,500 as well.
The main benefit of PHEVs is the aforementioned zero range anxiety compared to any internal combustion car. They fill up at a gas pump if desired, and the idea is just this – to give the best of both worlds – EV and gas – within limits. One drawback – and worth checking into further for snowbelters – is the degree to which the cabin heat may induce the gas engine to come on just to provide said heat. This can vary from model to model.
With EVs charging from home is usually considered a convenience when possible – but if home situations don’t permit, this can be a deal breaker for them next to PHEVs or simply regular hybrids.
Also, it does take more resourcefulness to compensate for less public infrastructure as well as charges that can take hours instead of minutes.
On the flip side, the main drawback to pure EVs in today’s sub-$40,000 or so level is potential for range anxiety, though this can be overblown and early adopters have been known to vociferously say what they have is enough. Indeed, daily driving is under 40 miles for 75 percent of people, so an EV with double that or more can easily work day in and day out.

Cost of Ownership

A comprehensive cost of ownership analysis for all models is beyond this article’s scope, but before anyone gets sticker shock at loftier prices, this question may prove surprising results.
For example, in southern California, Edmunds True Cost to Own calculator says a 2014 (latest year available) Chevy Volt bought for $35,063 has a five-year total ownership cost of $36,417 – a paltry $1,354 over what it cost over five years! Compare that to a Chevy Cruze Eco bought for $22,456 and with TCO of $38,090. Considering Volt owners may drive 80-percent or more in pure EV mode, they may beat this, especially with renewable or free charging available, as the case may be.
A 2016 Volt likely will do better.
A 2016 Volt likely will do better.
Another EV example is the Nissan Leaf driven 15,000 miles annually. A base S model bought in Ohio for $28,832 has a TCO that seriously pays back of $25,788 after five years. This too can be beaten under certain circumstances by resourceful owners and it is about the same as a Versa Note bought for $18,061 with TCO of $25,798.
Leasing deals may also be available that are more attractive, and leases eliminate some of the liability with owning a vehicle that may be surpassed by more-evolved products sooner than would be a conventional car.

Looking Ahead

In the next year and beyond more plug-in hybrids are due, as are more battery electric cars. More range is in the offing so as mentioned, this question is a moving target.
Obviously more variables would be in play, everyone’s unique circumstances ultimately dictate what car is most ideal, but with caveat emptor in place, the main takeaway here is first-gen cars of either type can make sense.