Hybrid-electric vehicles power up

2013-02-08T00:00:00Z Hybrid-electric vehicles power upBob Kroupa Automotive Writers Group nwitimes.com
February 08, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Gasoline prices topped out over $4 per gallon across the nation last year, gaining the attention of Chicago consumers, which accelerated sales of Hybrid-Electric vehicles.

Adding to this growth in consumer popularity is the trust associated with hybrid technology.

At an all time high, the fleet of hybrid-electric vehicles sold in the U.S. since 1999 exceeds 2.5 million units. Of these, more than 1.5 million were sold under the Toyota Prius name plate.

Japanese automaker Nissan aims to challenge Toyota in the hybrid vehicle segment with plans to expand its hybrid offerings by 15 models in five years.

“Eleven of our new gasoline-electric cars will feature Nissan’s new front-wheel drive hybrid system, scheduled to debut in 2013," said Chief Operations Officer Toshiyuki Shiga.

Ford Motor Co. has become a major player in the Hybrid Segment with its 2013 line of C-Max Hybrid, plug-in C-Max Energi, Focus Electric and Fusion Hybrid models on display at the 2013 Chicago Auto Show.

Ford enjoyed strong sales of its hybrid vehicles during the last quarter of 2012 and as a result is tripling production capacity of electrified vehicles for 2013.

On the electric side of the equation, Chevrolet Volt owners have collectively driven more than 100 million "all-electric" miles since the vehicle went on sale two years ago.

The average Volt owner travels more than 65 percent of the time in pure electric mode just as the car was designed, using only the gasoline-powered generator for trips longer than 38 miles.

General Motors will have up to 500,000 vehicles on the road with some form of electrification by 2017 with a focus on plug-in technology.

“The plug-in (vehicle) offers a unique opportunity to change the way people commute,” said Mary Berra, senior vice president of GM Global Product Development. “Plug-based solutions will play a significant role in our technology portfolio going forward.”

For 2013, Nissan improves the driving range of their 100 percent electric Leaf by 14 percent to 140 miles. The Japanese automaker also is reducing Leaf’s base price to $28,800.

Premium Circuit

Cadillac has jumped into the electric mix with its sleek and luxurious plug-in 2014 Cadillac ELR Coupe. ELR is the production version of Cadillac’s Converj Concept vehicle revealed in 2009.

Cadillac ELR's power source is GM’s Extended Range Electric Vehicle system combining pure electric drive with an efficient range-extending 1.4 liter gasoline-powered electric generator capable of 154 kW (207 hp) of total system power.

Total driving range is expected to exceed 300 miles with the combined propulsion systems.

ELR’s interior design is a four-passenger 2-plus-2 configuration with rear fold-down seat backs to accommodate large items including multiple sets of golf clubs. Up front is an array of drive safety features and the latest connectivity capabilities.

“Cadillac ELR is an unprecedented combination of luxury, advanced engineering and progressive coupe design that is both sporty and environmentally friendly,” said Bob Ferguson, Cadillac global vice president. “This is a pivotal moment in Cadillac history as we continue our product-driven expansion.”

Lincoln Motor Co’s. approach to Hybrids is unique with their midsize 2013 Lincoln MKZ model priced the same as the MKZ non-hybrid gasoline powered version.

The 2013 Lincoln MKZ is a direct knock-off of the Lincoln MKZ Concept that was shown on the nation’s auto show circuit last year.

Tesla Motors, a California-based electric car company founded in 2003, reached recognition status with their two-passenger all-electric Tesla Roadster sports car that tipped into the $100,000 price range.

For 2013, the Tesla Roadster has been dropped, replaced by a luxuriously stylish all-electric four-door Model S sedan priced to start at $65,000.

The Tesla Model S base 40 kW battery pack provides 160 miles of driving range per charge.

Three other battery packs also are available: a 60 kW with a range of 230 miles; an 85 kW with a 300-mile range; and a performance version of the 85 kW battery pack that has a 300-mile range while at the same time eclipsing 0-60 miles per hour in 4.4 seconds.

Plug-in electric vehicles continue to qualify for a $7,500 federal tax credit until a given manufacturer reaches 200,000 production units.

If you are or want to be an early adapter of new technology, these hybrid-electric vehicles now offer some amazing capabilities with sound ecological performance. Look for them at the Chicago Auto Show tomorrow through Feb. 18.

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