Thursday, September 22, 2016

Chevrolet Bolt -- GM's first pure EV -- is looking a lot like a $40,000-plus econobox

The 2017 Chevrolet Volt is expected to go on sale late this year, but will be available only in limited numbers, according to the automaker.


The good news for consumers is that the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV will have a starting MSRP of $37,495.

But such options as front collision braking, forward pedestrian alert and OnStar automatic crash response is expected to push that past $40,000.

In an email this week, Chevrolet delivered the bad news the Bolt will be available only in limited numbers this year.

So, greedy Chevrolet dealers likely will sell each Bolt they can get their hands on for list, then pile on "added dealer profit," making the Bolt a lot less "affordable" than the company claims.

There will be two versions of the Bolt -- GM's first purely electric production vehicle -- LT and Premier, but Chevrolet hasn't released the starting MSRP for the Premier trim level.

The Chevrolet Bolt will have a 10.2-inch touch screen.

238-mile range

The Bolt also is the first $40,000 EV to achieve an EPA-estimated range of 238 miles on a full charge.

But Chevrolet is calling the Bolt an urban vehicle, and owners will have to pay to recharge the car when they are on long trips.

At home, using a 240-volt outlet, a full charge takes 9.5 hours, according to Chevrolet.

Chevrolet's 240-volt charging unit requires the services of an electrician, and the price tag for installation is expected to be about $2,000.

The four-door hatchback certainly is stylish, but it also reminds you of any number of econoboxes.

This is no Tesla Model 3, which is expected to go into production in late 2017.

Monday, September 12, 2016

If you pay to park in a municipal garage and get free charging, is it a good deal?

In downtown Englewood, a municipal parking garage offers five free PSE&G charging stations. Today, a Tesla Model S 90D, two Smart EVs, and a Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid hooked up to four of them.

The Volt driver thought nothing of running the charge cable across the hood of the new car and possibly scratching it.


I've owned a Tesla Model S since April 2015, and have never had to pay to charge the car on trips away from northern New Jersey.

I either charge the car at my home, where solar panels generate the electricity I use, or take advantage of Tesla's extensive network of free Superchargers or destination chargers at hotels and resorts.

So, what do you do when you have a non-Tesla EV or a plug-in hybrid without free charging?

Today, I saw the owners of four cars using free charging stations at the municipal garage in Englewood, where the first two hours of parking cost $1.50.

It's likely that no matter what the rate of charge, owners of EVs and plug-in hybrids are getting a break on the cost of electricity, even after the parking fee is figured in.  

The garage uses pay stations that accept paper currency, coins and credit cards.

But the machine won't make change of, say, a $5 bill, as one woman I encountered today found out too late.

Charging your car is free, but not parking in the garage. The rates are 50 cents for the first half hour and $1 for each hour after that. I don't know how fast these chargers are.

My last electric bill said 1 kWh hour of electricity cost a total of 17 cents to 18 cents, including delivery to my home. You can travel on electricity more cheaply than on gasoline.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Nissan hedging its bets with new Leaf EV, new Armada and other gas-guzzling trucks

The homely Nissan Leaf EV is available with a bigger battery in the 2016 model year and added range -- up to 107 miles on a full charge. You can still get a Leaf that goes a maximum of 84 miles before you need more juice.


Jose Munoz, chairman of Nissan North America, delivered good news and bad news to consumers worried about climate change and the 53,000 deaths blamed on auto emissions every year.

Speaking to members of the International Motor Press Association in Manhattan, Munoz said Nissan is "close" to launching a new-generation all-electric Leaf with a redesigned body.

There was no indication whether the second-generation Leaf will have more range than the 107 miles available with a 30kWh battery in the 2016 model.

Leaf lags behind Tesla

The homely Leaf, introduced in December 2010, once led electric-vehicle sales in the United States, but it has changed little and has been eclipsed by Tesla, which cost more than twice as much.

Meanwhile, Munoz -- also executive vice president of Nissan Motor Co., Japan's No. 2 automaker -- had plenty of bad news for environmentalists.

To take advantage of the low price of gasoline, Nissan is launching the "Year of Trucks."

He promised a new Armada and Pathfinder, and a "brand new" Rogue, a crossover.

And if the price of gas rises again, Munoz said, Nissan will market its herd of gas-guzzlers as the most efficient on the market.

In answer to a question from the audience, Munoz delivered more bad news regarding Manhattan's traffic congestion and pollution.

The automaker has no plans to add a gas-electric hybrid version of the Nissan NV200, the so-called Taxi of Tomorrow.

So, the Nissan NV200 instantly becomes the Taxi of Yesterday.

The roomy Nissan NV200 taxi.

Autonomous driving

The Nissan executive did say the company is rolling out autonomous driving features, starting this year, to prevent accidents.

By 2020, he said, Nissan will sell cars that will be fully autonomous in a city environment.

Of course, if Nissan introduces a fully autonomous NV200 taxi, there's no telling how many drivers will be thrown onto the unemployment lines.

The free lunch is alive and well in Manhattan, thanks to Nissan North America, one of the automotive companies that play host at meetings of the International Motor Press Association, described as the nation's oldest organization of automotive journalists and public relations professionals.

I enjoyed a plate full of salad, roasted vegetables, smoked salmon and tomatoes with bite-size mozzarella balls.

I also was able to get two crisp-skin fillets of branzino instead of the same fish prepared in a butter-cream sauce for the buffet. I drank red wine and had fresh fruit for dessert.

Monday, September 5, 2016

315-mile range of new Tesla leaves plans of German luxury carmakers in shambles

In this image from, Porsche's Mission E all-electric concept with suicide rear doors bears a strong family resemblance to the German automaker's sports cars. 


When the Porsche Mission E -- the first all-electric car from the German automaker -- appears at the end of the decade, it will have less range than a Tesla you can buy today.

The story is the same at Audi and Mercedes-Benz, two more German carmakers who are loudly talking up their plans for purely electric luxury vehicles.

Tesla says its Model S P100D has a range of 315 miles on a full charge and accelerates from 0-60 in 2.5 seconds.


Tesla Motors has unveiled the first all-electric car with a 100kWh battery, which is available in the Model S four-door hatchback and the seven-seat Model X SUV.

The California-built Model S P100D has an MSRP of $134,500, including a $1,200 destination charge, before a $7,500 federal tax credit.

In New Jersey, buyers don't have to pay the 7% sales tax, a savings of $9,415.

You get performance all-wheel drive, 315 miles of range, a top speed of 155 mph, and 0-60 mph in 2.5 seconds.

Ludicrous Speed Upgrade and Smart Air Suspension are included, according to the company website.


You can't escape those annoying Mercedes-Benz TV commercials for the cramped CLA and the AMG performance line of gas-guzzling sedans and sports cars.

What's especially galling is that the Mercedes B-Class, the automaker's lone electric car, uses a Tesla power train and gets only 87 miles of range on a full charge.

"The best or nothing" -- a motto you hear repeated in Mercedes commercials -- turns out to be "nothing" when it comes to EVs that can challenge Tesla.