Category Archives: GREEN CAR

2014 BMW I3

After more than two years of speculation and piecemeal details, the fully electric BMW i3 has arrived (although, we’ve already had a go behind the wheel of a prototype). It’s a polarizing vehicle, to put it mildly. Optimists, such as BMW sales and marketing chief Ian Robertson, believe that the launch of the i3 “heralds the dawn of a new era for individual mobility.” Skeptics fear it will be a blunder on par with (or even surpassing) the company’s still-not-forgotten C1 debacle.

2014 BMW I3

2014 BMW I3

Designed from the ground up as a fully electric vehicle, the 2014 BMW I3 is the direct result of a strategic decision taken by the company’s board at the height of optimism about electric vehicles. Emboldened by political encouragement and the anticipation of a race toward e-mobility between premium automakers, BMW forged ahead with arguably the boldest electric-vehicle strategy of any major manufacturer on the planet. Thus, the i brand was conceived the i3 is just the beginning, the i8 plug-in hybrid sports coupe will follow.

2014 BMW I3

2014 BMW I3

Unlike many EV efforts, the i3 was designed to be an electric from the ground up. This approach liberated BMW from the packaging restraints posed by a conventional powertrain. Moreover, no expense was spared to take weight out of the vehicle in an effort to offset the hefty 450-pound, 22-kWh battery pack. That spare-no-expense strategy yielded considerable usage of aluminum, magnesium, and carbon fiber, as well as a respectable curb weight of 2700 pounds, according to BMW.

2014 BMW I3 concept

2014 BMW I3

The i3 is propelled by a 170-hp electric motor that churns out 184 lb-ft of torque driving the rear wheels through a single-speed transmission. That’s sufficient to hurl the tall-roof vehicle from a standstill to 60 mph in 7.2 seconds, BMW says. Smiles fade soon thereafter, as top speed is limited to 93 mph. This makes the i3 the slowest series-production Bimmer since the venerable BMW 700, a two-cylinder compact, went out of production in 1965.

2014 BMW I3 concept

2014 BMW I3

The driving dynamics of the 2014 BMW I3 will seem peculiar to those who’ve never driven an EV. It’s configured for “single-pedal driving,” which means that the energy recovery that occurs on throttle lift is so strong that the brake pedal almost never needs to be used at lower speeds. There is, however, a position in the accelerator set between application and lift that allows for coasting; at higher velocities, coasting is the standard setting as to what constitutes “higher” or “lower” speeds, BMW’s not saying just yet.

Handling will be helped by a 50/50 weight distribution, a low center of gravity, and a sophisticated strut and multilink suspension setup. Electromechanical power steering, unsurprisingly, is standard; the i3 sits on 19-inch aluminum wheels 20s are optional wrapped in skinny 155/70 rubber.

2014 BMW I3 rear wiev

2014 BMW I3

The i3’s 360 Electric support program includes installation and setup of a home charging station, as well as providing assistance in finding the nearest public charging station. As a part of the 360 Electric service is the iRemote app that links the car with the owner’s mobile phone, allowing owners to monitor charge status, and operate the HVAC system, locks, lights, and even the horn. In the U.S. market, the compact hatchback is offered in three trim levels honoring the metric system: Mega, Giga, and Tera. All come with a navigation system, BMW’s ConnectedDrive telematics interface, and 19-inch aluminum wheels. The Mega is fitted with a cloth and faux-leather interior; the Giga comes with wool cloth and leather and adds a garage-door opener, a sunroof, satellite radio, and keyless entry; while the Tera trim gets all the goodies from Mega and Giga and adds a full leather interior.

2014 BMW I3 interior dash

2014 BMW I3 interior

BMW says that the “usable range” for the i3 is 80 to 100 miles in the car’s standard Comfort setting, and promises figures will be improved by selecting the Eco or Eco Plus modes. Sport and Sport Plus modes, as found in conventionally powered BMWs, are conspicuously absent. Once the battery pack which may be considerably lower depending on driving profile and HVAC use is depleted, charging takes three hours with a 220-volt outlet. Needless to say, plugging it into a 110-volt household charger will take a lot longer.

2014 BMW I3 interior

2014 BMW I3 interior

It is reassuring that 2014 BMW I3 offers an optional range-extender engine: a 34-hp, 650-cc two-cylinder that adds 330 pounds and a whopping $3850 to the i3’s $41,350 base sticker of heft. Customers thus have a choice to go purely electric, Tesla-like, or enjoy the added flexibility and range of an internal-combustion engine, as in a Cadillac ELR or a Chevrolet Volt…

2014 Chevrolet Spark EV

2014 Chevrolet Spark EV

2014 Chevrolet Spark EV

Tossing its divisional hat in the pure-electric ring, Chevrolet will launch the 2014 Spark EV in mid-June at select dealerships in California and Oregon. Priced from $27,495 in base 1LT trim before the $7,500 federal income tax credit and any other state or local incentives are applied, the Spark EV’s MSRP (Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price) will position it below the entry ante for the Nissan LEAF S ($29,650) and Fiat 500e ($32,500). According to Chevy, the effective cost of a Spark EV in California could be cut to just $17,495. Chevy also will offer the new Spark EV on a 36-month/12,000-mile annual lease deal for as low as $199 with $999 down. While that figure matches the monthly pop for a LEAF S and 500e, Chevrolet’s news release also indicated that it will depend on the local dealer as well as securing funding through GM’s house lending agency.

2014 Chevrolet Spark EV

2014 Chevrolet Spark EV

With its 21kWh lithium-ion battery pack fully charged, the subcompact Spark EV has an estimated EPA range of 81 miles and is expected to net an estimated 119MPGe combined stat when the final numbers are released. A 130-horsepower motor that cranks out a prodigious 400 lb-ft of torque also makes it one of the quickest (0-60 mph in less than 7.6 seconds) zero-emissions models this side of a Tesla Model S, while its well-sorted chassis gives the Spark EV impressively confident handling.

2014 Chevrolet Spark EV

2014 Chevrolet Spark EV

In addition to its unique EV-related instrumentation, Chevrolet MyLink connectivity, three years of OnStar Directions and Connections plus a host of dedicated apps and various dealer assistance touches, the Spark EV will be the first vehicle to offer a DC Fast Charging option that will permit 80 percent battery replenishment in 20 minutes using a Level 3 commercial charger. Given the current dearth of these units, buyers also can opt for a more conventional 240V home alternative that will do the job in less than seven hours or charge on a basic 120V line in roughly 20 hours…

2014 Chevrolet Spark EV interior

2014 Chevrolet Spark EV

2014 Audi A3 Sportback G-Tron

The Audi A3 Sportback g-tron is a 4-door luxury hatchback, running on both natural gas and gasoline. The total driving range between both fuel sources is over 800 miles. Audi will manufacture a special carbon-neutral gas called Audi e-gas for the Sportback g-tron.

In a novel twist on the plug-in-hybrid concept, the Audi A3 Sportback g-tron offers a one-two energy punch of its own: first compressed natural gas (CNG), then regular gasoline, if necessary. It’s one of the high-tech highlights of the 2013 Geneva Auto Show.

2014 Audi A3 Sportback g-tron

2014 Audi A3 Sportback g-tron

What’s more, if you’re able to fill your CNG tanks with the proprietary Audi e-gas blend, your CNG emissions will be CO2-neutral, because e-gas is made using recycled waste fuel. That’s right — Audi’s in the gas business. Fun fact: The automaker’s e-gas plant in Werlte, Germany, recycles as much CO2 in a year as 224,000 beech trees absorb.

2014 Audi A3 Sportback g-tron

2014 Audi A3 Sportback g-tron

What’s more, if you’re able to fill your CNG tanks with the proprietary Audi e-gas blend, your CNG emissions will be CO2-neutral, because e-gas is made using recycled waste fuel. That’s right — Audi’s in the gas business. Fun fact: The automaker’s e-gas plant in Werlte, Germany, recycles as much CO2 in a year as 224,000 beech trees absorb.

2014 Audi A3 Sportback g-tron rear

2014 Audi A3 Sportback g-tron

Under the hood of the A3 Sportback g-tron is a turbocharged 1.4-liter 4-cylinder engine that’s been modified for CNG duty. Rated at 110 horsepower and about 147 lb-ft of torque, it’s enough to get the g-tron up and moving, but the 0-to-60-mph sprint is estimated at a leisurely 11-plus seconds.

2014 Audi A3 Sportback g-tron dash

2014 Audi A3 Sportback g-tron

The g-tron’s estimated driving range is 248 miles on CNG and 559 miles on gasoline. Twin display screens on the dashboard keep the driver apprised of each source’s status and other vehicle information.

2014 Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid

For this new-generation Pathfinder, Nissan abandoned the SUV’s underlying truck platform for a car-based crossover architecture and braced itself for two dirty words: “soft-roader.” The last-generation Pathfinder was a heavy, rugged truck adept at off-road adventure and towing. But Nissan gambled that the Pathfinder was better off with improved ride quality and expanded second- and third-row quarters. With the 2014 Pathfinder Hybrid, Nissan adds improved fuel economy to the equation.

2014 Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid

2014 Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid


Instead of the stout V6 used in the standard seven-passenger Pathfinder, the hybrid uses a supercharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. The four-cylinder alone is good for 230 horsepower, but when combined with a 15kW electric motor, output jumps to 250 hp with 243 pound-feet of torque. Those numbers are comparable to the V6’s 260 hp and 240 lb-ft, yet Nissan says the hybrid should return up to 26 mpg in combined driving. The standard Pathfinder returns 22 mpg combined in front-wheel-drive configuration.

2014 Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid

2014 Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid

Like the regular Pathfinder, the hybrid uses a continuously variable transmission (CVT) and will offer front- or all-wheel drive. The hybrid won’t be able to tow as much as the V6 Pathfinder, but still offers a respectable 3,500-pound capacity.

Aside from LED taillights, feel-good badging and hybrid-specific info screens, the 2014 Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid won’t look much different inside or out. The second row still slides and reclines, and Nissan says a super-slim battery pack design mounted under the third row doesn’t infringe on rear legroom or cargo space.

2014 Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid

2014 Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid

Quality interior materials and fit and finish don’t fall far from Infiniti-esque standards, and controls are intuitive and easy to reach. Nissan will offer the 2014 Pathfinder Hybrid in SV, SL and Platinum trim levels, starting with standard 18-inch wheels, Bluetooth and a rearview camera. Options and standard features on SL and Platinum models include 20-inch wheels, leather in all three rows, tri-zone climate control, a navigation system, an 8-inch touchscreen display, a premium 13-speaker Bose audio system and a rear seat entertainment system.

2014 Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid interior

2014 Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid interior

Nissan hasn’t announced pricing for the 2014 Pathfinder Hybrid yet, but says the hybrid will carry a $3,000 premium over the standard model, which starts at $28,650. By our math, that’s a 25 percent increase in fuel economy for a 10 percent price hike. The 2014 Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid is available this summer. Check back for a full review, including specs, driving impressions and buying advice as it becomes available.


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