As we have previously reported, the market is ready for advanced vehicles. Consumers are making major purchasing decisions based on fuel economy and energy costs associated with vehicles. People purchasing cars for personal use have similar priorities as private and public institutions purchasing cars for large fleets. Recently the news has been full of examples of automobile manufacturers rising to meet the challenge posed by consumers in need of advanced vehicles.
General Motors is on schedule to release its first electric vehicle (EV) since the EV-1. The Spark mini-car will be available as either a traditionally-fueled vehicle or battery powered all-electric vehicle. The Spark will be powered by a nanophosphate lithium ion battery pack from A123 Systems. Although the Spark has been criticized by some as being nothing more than a "compliance car" to be sold largely in California, GM has made it clear that its investment in advanced energy is solid and long-term. Recently, GM made a $7 million investment in Envia Systems, a battery manufacturer. GM's CEO, Dan Akerson, is serious about the future of electric vehicles. Forbes reports:
According to Akerson, “I think we’ve got better than a 50-50 chance to develop a car that will go to 200 miles on a charge [with Envia batteries]. That would be a game changer….These little companies come out of nowhere, and they surprise you.”
GM is not the only major automobile manufacturer expanding further into the EV market. Honda recently announced its all-electric Fit would be available for the American market in 2012. CNET's recent review of the Fit EV called it "the best of the bunch" of new EV models. The Fit EV has an average fuel economy of 118 miles per gallon equivalent for highway and city, which places it at the top of the efficiency market. The Fit EV has a range of 82 miles, which is fairly standard for current battery systems, but it requires only three hours of charging while connected to a 240-volt source. Honda cites a three-year savings of about $4,000 in fuel costs. Wayne Cunningham, the CNET reviewer, also found the Fit EV fun to drive, citing its different modes: efficient, normal, and sport. Cunningham reports:
The real fun came after I saw the car still had 60 miles of range, and it was getting close to the time to return it to Honda. Engage Sport mode, and the instrument cluster turned an angry red. Suddenly, the full 92 kilowatts of the electric motor was available. I had 189 pound-feet of torque on tap, which made the little Fit EV step off the line in a much livelier manner.
Meanwhile, Toyota claims its all-electric RAV4 is ready to set a new standard for miles per charge. The RAV4 EV has a single-charge range up to 113 miles, in addition to being the only available crossover electric vehicle. The company has partnered with Tesla to produce the motor and battery pack, which will be produced at a plant in Fremont, California. Businessweek reports:
“The RAV4 EV’s driving performance, dynamics and cargo capacity are equal to or exceed the gas-powered RAV4 V-6,” said Bill Fay, group vice president of U.S. Toyota-brand sales. “It’s the most practical, versatile and convenient electric vehicle on the market.”
As the market for advanced vehicles expands, it becomes clear that we may expect a greater diversity in advanced vehicle options available. From mini-cars to crossover vehicles, manufacturers are meeting the demands of consumers looking for more advanced automobiles.