It’s fun to bet against Elon Musk and Tesla – that’s the best reason we can find for so many people doing it even though the man, his company and his cars are still here and still very popular. The latest name inscribed in the column labeled “Skeptical of Tesla” is John Shinal at Market Watch who, in year-end commentary on Tesla’s financials, says that the “carmaker’s financials are reminiscent of a dot-com’s.” He does not mean that in the good way.
To be fair, Shinal isn’t exactly betting against Tesla, he’s saying that if you check the bottom lines, the only thing keeping Tesla alive is the hundreds of millions in Federal Department of Energy loans it has received. Based on its filings, he says the company has less than six months of cash on hand, hasn’t produced as many cars as it promised and had to lower its revenue forecast for 2012, has had a “year of net losses and negative operating cash flow,” and was underwater by at least $37 million at the end of the third quarter.
But Shinal’s not done there, summarizing Tesla as an operation with “a poor habit of failing to deliver to customers the cars it has promised them, while simultaneously raising the prices of those yet-undelivered cars,” and “a lousy level of customer service.” He says there are more damning things to be found in Tesla’s SEC registration settlement from September, but we’ll have to wait for his next column to find out what those are. The takeaway, in Shinal’s opinion, is that even though Tesla will keep getting money from the government, that investors have no business dealing in Tesla stock.
Early in his piece, Shinal says Tesla’s financials are worse than those of Zynga and Groupon, two hot dot-coms that have fallen on their faces since their IPOs. Shinal knows far more about finances than we do, but we wonder if it makes the most sense to compare a brand new car company developing brand new technologies – with the colossal amounts of up-front cash each one of those things requires, and a company with Tesla’s record so far – to a social media game developer and an online coupon distributor. Head over to Market Watch to read the full piece.
Related Gallery2012 Tesla Model S: First Drive
Tesla Motors turned the “penny wise, dollar foolish” axiom on its head by staking its lithium-ion battery technology on a more expensive and more complex layout than its competitors, according to Tesla Chief Technology Officer JB Straubel in an interview with Bloomberg News.
Instead of using battery packs with hundreds of larger cells for its Roaster, Tesla deployed thousands of smaller lithium-ion cells for its inaugural model in 2006. This made the battery pack more expensive to produce, but this costlier architecture was considered safer and less prone to breakdowns. Straubel said. Since then, Tesla has cut the cost of its battery packs in half during the past seven years while avoiding any recalls or reports of breakdowns due to the packs.
Earlier this month, Tesla said it delivered its first quarterly profit during the first quarter, boosting its sales 83 percent from a year earlier to $562 million and selling 4,900 Model S EVs, which was more than what the Chevrolet Volt extended-range plug-in and Nissan Leaf battery-electric achieved.
Related Gallery2012 Tesla Model S: First Drive
By Danny King
In which we bring you motoring news from around the Web:
• Under scrutiny for bypassing a traditional, dealership-oriented retail model in favor of manufacturer-owned stores, Elon Musk, chairman of Tesla Motors, defended his company’s strategy in a blog post on Monday. Mr. Musk said Tesla products would be undermined in the setting of a traditional dealership, where a salesperson would be unable “to explain the advantages of going electric without simultaneously undermining their traditional business.” Mr. Musk said two lawsuits asserting Tesla circumvented state laws aimed at protecting franchisees were baseless because Tesla has not granted any franchises. (Tesla Motors)
• Facing a crisis of overcapacity at its plants in Europe and a projected loss of more than $1 billion in the region this year, Ford has called a meeting for Wednesday with union leaders to discuss the status of its plant in Genk, Belgium. Some media outlets, including the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, have reported that Ford intended to close the plant outright. (Bloomberg)
• On Monday, the eve of the São Paulo auto show, BMW announced its intention to build a production plant in the southern state of Santa Catarina, Brazil. Plans for the facility are subject to government approval, but BMW has aggressive targets, saying it would inaugurate the plant in 2014 with capacity to produce 30,000 vehicles annually. (BMW)
• Chevrolet said it would introduce the next generation of the Silverado 1500 full-size pickup truck on Dec. 13, a month ahead of the 2013 Detroit auto show. The automaker has not disclosed pricing or powertrain information for the truck, but emphasized it would have progressive design elements, including “jewel-like, projector beam headlamps.” (General Motors)
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E-mail from Tesla P.R. person: “Where is my baby?”
I look around. Gads, I’m still in Costa Mesa, a good 50 miles from Tesla’s dealership in Santa Monica.
I knew the car needed to be returned today after our five-day stint, which included two days of testing and lapping, but only now was it dawning on me that the luscious orange Roadster Sport I’m screwed into needed to be returned this morning so that it could be cleaned up and recharged in time for its next journalist-driver (our pal Aaron Robinson; sorry, Aaron). But after leaving our office last night with enough battery charge for maybe 220 miles, well, what would you do? Return it with a three-quarter-full battery? Ohhh, no. Those miles were going to be put to good and proper use — all while gradually nearing Santa Monica, of course.
And so, daughter Catherine, age 10, got a ride to school. Her pal, Lukie, who lives down the street, appeared to need a quick jolt of big-g acceleration, and wound up with a smile that could have been painted on. Of course, Lukie’s big sister, Edyn, couldn’t be left out. And what about Patrick, their dad? We’re all kids at heart, you know.
Then, heading up the 405 freeway I realized I’d better do some coast-down tests on a nearby road that’s perfect for such things.
Okay, that part sounds strange — let me explain. You see, for people like me, cars are simultaneously what you normal people perceive — cool hardware, driving fantasies, and all that stuff. But in addition, hovering above them like floating small clouds, I also see bunches of swirling equations and graphs and vectors, with unknown coefficients just aching to be figured out. Don’t see them? Next time stare harder. Among those coefficients is drag, what I’m after with my detour (and unusual for a sports car, the Tesla’s front camber is zero to minimize rolling resistance). Oh, and my apologies to the befuddled traffic following me that must have been wondering why this idiot Tesla driver kept accelerating like crazy and then coasting nearly to a stop.
And then — oh, heck, what’s this e-mail on my blackberry? “ETA on car?” Hmm. Gosh, I happened to be really near pal Paul Van Valkenburg’s house and if I didn’t drop in, Paul would never forgive me.
As I silently rolled to a stop, Paul magnetically appeared as if perceiving an approaching EV. His skill at sensing interesting automotive technologies like this traces back to his days at Chevrolet where he had a hand in the great Chaparral Can Am cars, and it’s still evident in his own top-secret EV project…about which I’d better not say anything more.
“So, a Tesla! What a surprise!” Paul greeted me, and we quickly went for a ride. First off, I explained that this is the new Sport version.
In Sport form — which adds $19,500 to the standard Roadster’s $110,950 base price (including destination charge) — its motor produces the base unit’s same 288 horsepower but at 600 fewer revs (4400 rpm), as well as 295 lb-ft of torque (up from 273) at zero rpm. Credit a hand-wound stator with increased winding density. Its black, Tesla-original forged alloy wheels wear Yokohama Advan tires, sized 195/50R16 up front and 225/45R17 at the rear. And in support of this meaty rubber are 10-position adjustable shocks and three-setting shock absorbers. Moreover, our particular example was kitted-out with generous exposed carbon fiber and a stitched leather interior (pushing the all-up price toward $160,000, though it’s eligible for a $7500 federal tax credit). In fact, the interior has evolved quite a bit since my original drive in a roadster (back when it still had a two-speed transmission).
Now, there’s a glovebox, transmission selections are accomplished by an easy button push on the center console (the scene of the crime when I mistakenly pressed reverse for a simulated drag race for our video guys — yikes!), and the multiscreen info display (which does such things as provide recharge scheduling and calculation of your energy costs) is now properly located below the radio.
I showed Paul how all you have to do to access full power is briefly twist the ignition switch to its full throw (though it doesn’t ignite anything, of course). And under power, the Sport emitted a strong whine which neither of us could determine to be entirely gear noise or electronics goings on (even after experimenting with coasting in neutral). Regardless, its acceleration is breathtaking. Make that breath-extracting. At the track, we confirmed the car’s 3.7-second scream to 60 mph — but, that’s just a number. Three-point-seven — what’s that mean? Felt, it’s such an unnatural thrust that it actually brings to mind that hokey Star Trek star-smear of warp-speed. The quick, linear accumulation of velocity makes you smile and hold on, shake your head, and eventually learn to carve unimaginable moves through traffic that’s populated by completely flat-footed internal-combustion cars.
While the Tesla’s other performance measures are impressive too, they’re simply extraordinary instead of unnatural. Yes, the car’s lateral acceleration averaged an impressive 0.98 g, but the steering’s feedback at the limit doesn’t do the number justice; you find yourself regarding tire slide with a hesitant reserve. This wasn’t an issue during our figure-eight test, set in a broad asphalt expanse. But on a narrow road, you just don’t have enough information at hand (literally) to explore beyond 90 percent or so.
Another curiosity is that while there’s a giant amount of regen deceleration when you lift throttle — so much so that the brake pedal often doesn’t need touching in typical traffic — lift-throttle on the skidpad doesn’t illicit the kind of rotation you need to adjust the attitude mid-corner. And that’s despite the car’s considerable rear weight bias — 65 percent — though power-oversteer is almost too easy. A sports car needs to have both tools available, and in balance. Perhaps the front wheels’ zero camber accounts for some of this. Or that Tesla thinks its clientele is interested only in acceleration, and maybe they are. But it would be awfully interesting to spend a day tinkering with the car’s setup to see what its real handling potential is.
After dropping Paul off, I briefly stopped by our office, then headed to Tesla’s Santa Monica dealership to sheepishly hand over the keys. In a drizzle, I noted the remaining range — still half left, darn it — then wormed my way out of the seat, shut the carbon-fiber door (the entire body is carbon), and considered its big questions.
What about range? Omitting our testing, the car generally traveled beyond 200 miles per charge, a distance that permits a comfortable degree of freeform driving (even in L.A.) before the eventual range calculations in the brain begin. Our charging was mostly done in our new garage, which is handily fitted with several 240-volt, 50-amp connectors. And there, everything worked without a hitch — indeed, it got to be commonplace. But typical 120-volt (wall plug) charging is so slow — about 5 miles of added range per plug-in hour (compared with 32 mph on our 240-volt plug, and as quick as 3.5 hours with an installed wall unit). Well, it’s like filling your tank with a straw. All this makes me really question the 100-mile range we’re commonly hearing about with the new crop of pure battery electrics (Nissan Leaf, Mitsubishi MiEV). Personally, I’m finding my range anxiety setting in at about 50 percent of battery depletion. The Tesla’s 200-plus miles seems to me to be the minimum any EV should provide.
And the cost. At about $130,000 (base price), our Roadster Sport is within pocket change of Porsche’s 911 Turbo, which, as a value, is simply a hell of a lot more car for the dollar. Yet, how do you honestly compare the Tesla with a conventional sports car? The Tesla’s technology is so different, so early-stage, that it’s a bit like comparing the memory capacity of cheap new computer hard drives to the latest solid-state, big flash memories. Flash is expensive, but is it ‘worth it?’ Not for most, but it depends on your finances and enthusiasm for cutting edge tech.
Last, it’s time to start regarding Tesla as an actual car company. With 900 Roadsters delivered, Mercedes-Benz now owning a 10-percent stake, a federal loan of $465 million, and a new factory being created for the Model S sedan, Tesla is the first maker to crack the EV legitimacy barrier in a century. And as such we’re going to start doing the same things with them we do with any other new cars.
So Tesla — with all apologies about your car’s late return — ah, when can we get it back?
|2010 Tesla Roadster Sport|
|Base price||$130,450 (eligible for $7500 tax credit)|
|Price as tested||$153,900|
|Vehicle layout||Mid-engine, RWD, 2-door, 2-pass, convertible|
|Motor||375-volt/288-hp/295-lb-ft AC electric motor|
|Transmission||Single reduction ratio|
|Curb weight||2778 lbs|
|Length x width x height||155.4 x 72.9 x 44.4 in|
|0-60 mph||3.7 sec|
|Quarter mile||12.6 sec @ 102.6 mph|
|Braking, 60-0 mph||113 feet|
|Lateral acceleration||0.98 g (avg)|
|MT figure eight||24.6 sec @ 0.81 g (avg)|
|EPA est city/hwy energy consumption||29/32 kW-hr/100 mi|
By Kim Reynolds
A number of news outlets reported yesterday that the upcoming 2012 Toyota RAV4 electric vehicle would only be offered for fleet sales and not to the general public. Toyota has just released a statement refuting those claims and says the new EV will in fact be open to all.
The automaker didn’t provide an exact date on when we could expect the new all-electric RAV4, but it should arrive in showrooms by 2012. In addition to the RAV4 EV, Toyota will also release an EV version of the upcoming Scion iQ mini car.
The RAV4 EV, which debuted at last year’s Los Angeles International Auto Show, is a product of the collaboration between Toyota and Tesla Motors. Toyota would provide its manufacturing expertise while Tesla would share its experience in EV powertrains and battery technology.
Toyota previously sold an electric version of the first-gen RAV4 more than 14 years ago, but was never a sales hit due to a number of reasons. The upcoming RAV4 should be a more robust EV and should do well in the current push for all things electric. Aside from a revised front fascia and badging, the electric RAV will look nearly identical to its gas-powered counterpart. It will be powered by a lithium metal oxide battery and will weigh 220 pounds more than a RAV4 equipped with the V6 engine, and should have the same 0-60 time, according to Toyota.
Taste is a fickle thing. What’s cool today is lame tomorrow. Few things vex automakers more than this aspect of human nature, because new and even updated cars can take years to reach showrooms while the instant gratification generation loses interest. The following are perfect examples of the trouble automakers find themselves in.
These vehicles are as much rumor as they are fact. They’ve been rumored, alluded to, teased, promised, and delayed more times than we can recall, and have achieved a nearly mythical status that often evokes guffaws and cries of “I’ll believe it when I see it” from our staff. Whether the pet project of an executive, the demand of a vocal group of hardcore fans, or a technology that just isn’t viable yet, all of these vehicles have managed to hang around in limbo for years, feeding fans’ hopes and driving everyone else nuts. In no particular order, we present 10 of the longest-running broken promises in the automotive industry today.
Tesla Model S
After a string of high-profile growing pains, things have gone quiet over at Tesla. The company is working furiously to get its Model S electric sedan (pictured above) to showrooms by 2012. This might not seem like an unrealistic goal, until you consider the fact that Tesla doesn’t even have a factory to build the car in yet. The company is rumored to be deciding between three empty factories in the Los Angeles area that it would have to retrofit before ever beginning production, a process that’s estimated to require nearly two years working around the clock. Add to that the fact that the company hasn’t yet revealed a production-intent model of the car, and it’s not hard to believe that the Model S will miss its big dance number.
Mahindra & Mahindra Pickup
Though known globally for its rugged, inexpensive small trucks and SUVs, India’s Mahindra & Mahindra is completely unknown in the U.S. and looks to stay that way for a while. The company has been promising to bring its diesel pickup here since 2007 with tentative launch dates in 2009 continually pushed back. We hear now that the company is hoping to get trucks in dealers by December, but we’re not holding our breath, since we heard the same thing this time last year. We can only hope for the best for the shuttered Chrysler dealers who signed on as Mahindra dealers and are still awaiting product.
Global Ford Ranger
There’s nothing particularly wrong with the current Ford Ranger. It’s just ancient. The current model has been on the road more than a decade with only minor updates, and is long overdue for a replacement. When we’ll get one, though, is anybody’s guess. Global markets have had updated Rangers for years and we’ve spotted the latest redesign out testing more times than we can count. While it’s obvious that Ford is working on a new Ranger, we have no idea when it will actually see our showrooms, if ever. Of course, if the F-100 project rises from the dead, we may never see the next Ranger, but at this point we’re not sure which of those scenarios is less likely.
The world’s cheapest car costs the rough equivalent of $2000, and if Indian manufacturing powerhouse Tata has its way, you’ll see one in the U.S. Of course, for that to happen, Tata will need to catch up with Indian market demand first. Delays, cost overruns, and the relocation of the primary factory all put the Nano behind schedule, but it’s finally on the streets of India, glued-on rear hatch and all. And it’s catching fire. Tata’s got a recall out for some faulty wiring that’s led to several car fires, and even without that issue there’s serious concern that the little bean-shaped car wouldn’t meet U.S. crash standards anyway.
Re-Badged Ram Pickup
First it was Nissan that wanted in on the Ram pickup’s act. Building the Titan in-house wasn’t especially cost-effective for Nissan considering its low volume, so Nissan made a deal with Chrysler to build a new Titan that would essentially be a re-skinned and re-badged Ram. The project was on and off for some time until Chrysler entered bankruptcy and put the kibosh on the whole affair. With Nissan out of the way, word has it that Hyundai is sniffing around Auburn Hills looking for a Ram with a shiny Hyundai badge on it. Chrysler reportedly said no to that request, but it doesn’t matter since Hyundai’s issued an official press release denying any pickup plans for the “foreseeable future.” Nissan, meanwhile, has decided to press on with the Titan on its own.
GM RWD Large Car
We can probably thank former VP of Awesome Bob Lutz for this one, along with his replacement Mark Reuss. Both are big proponents of Holden and the work they’ve been doing down under, particularly on the Zeta large passenger car platform. After the Aussie-based Pontiac GTO flopped, they tried again with the Zeta-based Pontiac G8 only to see the brand put out to pasture. Still, they did get the Chevrolet Camaro built on the Zeta platform, but it’s said to be migrating to another platform with its first redesign. With the G8 gone, rumors continue to fly around GM fan sites of RWD Impalas, Buicks, and other large GM cars. Lutz fanned the flames before his departure, but now that he’s left the building, we’re not holding our breath.
Porsche/Volkswagen Small Roadster
A few years back, Volkswagen unveiled the surprisingly cool Concept BlueSport Roadster, a diesel-powered, mid-engine, two-seat sports car that promised a happy compromise between fuel efficiency and sportiness. Most everyone loved the idea, but it didn’t get enough love from VW brass to hit the streets. Then the whole Porsche/Volkswagen takeover debacle occurred, and suddenly there were rumors of a joint project between the companies, a la the old Porsche/Volkswagen 914. Word has it Porsche is looking for a new entry-level car below the Boxster, and sharing it with Volkswagen would seriously curtail the bill. The car’s been stuck in rumor phase ever since, and we don’t see it coming out any time soon.
A Viable Hydrogen-Powered Car
Sure, GM and Honda have built small fleets of hydrogen fuel-cell cars, and Mazda’s tricked a couple of its cars into burning the stuff straight up, but none of them has much of a prayer of mass production. Hydrogen remains expensive to harvest, volatile to store and use, and lacks anything even resembling a refueling infrastructure that could be used by more than a handful of enthusiastic early adopters in Southern California. Though the technology is impressive, it’s likely to be forgotten as battery-powered and range-extended cars like the Chevrolet Volt take to the market, what with their ability to take advantage of the massive electrical infrastructure in the U.S.
Any Car from a Chinese Automaker
China has dozens upon dozens of automakers in its home market, but only a few have a shot at becoming real powerhouses like their international brethren. The frontrunners, in a bid to expand their reach into what is now the second-largest car market in the world, have all declared they’ll bring their cars to the U.S., and soon. Geely, Chery, and BYD have all made and broken this promise more times than we care to recall, and they show no signs of slowing down. BYD even shows up in Detroit every year promising to bring its cars to our shores in the near future. While we don’t doubt that a Chinese car will someday be offered in the U.S. market, we aren’t planning any comparison tests yet.
The Entire Alfa Romeo Lineup
After an embarrassing withdrawal from the U.S. market in 1995, Alfa fans have pined over the possibility of a reintroduction. The legendary Italian automaker teased us with a small number of 8C Competizione supercars a few years back, but ever since the promise of Alfa’s triumphant return has been a string of broken promises. Things looked bleak until last year when Fiat, Alfa’s parent company, took control of bankrupt Chrysler. Alfa’s back! Or is it? The brand’s return has continued to fluctuate ever since the merger and its status has changed twice already in 2010 alone. For now, the plan is to have Alfas in U.S. showrooms in 2012, but we expect that story to change a few more times before then.
Toyota/Subaru FT-86, Carbon E7, Dodge Viper replacement, Chevrolet Camaro Z/28, Fisker Karma, Hummer H4, Dodge Hornet/subcompact car and nearly every electric car start-up and cottage supercar-maker out there.
By Scott Evans
Right about … now, Tesla Motors is unveiling its new proprietary Supercharger high-speed charging network. The livestream can be seen here, and we’ve got the first official release about the network below. Here are the details – as we know them – of the “Free! Solar! Energy!” from the headline:
- The first six Supercharger stations have already been built – under complete secrecy in various locations in California – and now “will allow [higher-end] Model S to travel long distances with ultra fast charging throughout California, parts of Nevada and Arizona.” The high-speed charging system is only compatible on Models S version with an 85-kWh (where the necessary Supercharger bits are standard) or 60-kWh (optional) battery packs.
- The electricity “used by the Supercharger comes from a solar carport system provided by SolarCity, which results in almost zero marginal energy cost after installation.”
- Tesla even says each Supercharger will generate more solar energy than the Tesla vehicles will use, resulting in “a slight net positive transfer of sunlight generated power back to the electricity grid.” This point is apparently important enough to repeat: “Supercharger system will always generate more power from sunlight than Model S customers use for driving.”
- More Supercharger locations are coming to other, “high-traffic” parts of the U.S. “by next year” and will be installed in Europe and Asia starting in late 2013.
- Superchargers can fill up a Model S with three hours of driving (at 60 miles per hour) in around 30 minutes. The charger currently provides “almost 100 kilowatts” of power, but could be reconfigured to 120 kW down the road.
We knew some of these things based on discussions with Tesla CEO Elon Musk and other sources. There will be more details ferreted out in the coming weeks, but at first blush, this looks exactly like we’d expect a Tesla charging product to be: big, brash and beyond expectations. The dreams are big over there. What do you think the reality will be like?
Missed seeing the TAG Heuer Tesla Roadster in person at the Geneva motor show? You may still have a chance to do so, as the car is about to embark on a 24,000-mile, eight-month drive around the world.
Dubbed the “Odyssey of Pioneers,” the trip will be the first of its kind. Sure, EVs have made road trips before (in fact, a Roadster Sport recently made the trek from Los Angeles to Detroit), but never before has a zero emissions vehicle completed such a task. The car is poised to visit some 15 major cities and at least 150 smaller towns during the course of its journey.
The Roadster won’t be specially prepared for the journey. First shown at the Geneva motor show, the TAG Heuer car is primarily a cosmetic enhancement of the stock Roadster Sport. Apart from green and red mirrors, a swoopy grey paint scheme, and a special edition watchpiece mounted inside the car, the car is untouched.
The car is scheduled to embark on its first leg tomorrow, traveling 53 miles from Basel to Zurich in a convoy formed by 20 other Swiss Tesla owners. With a range of approximately 150 miles, the car will need to be charged nightly, which may create some issues in some remote parts of the world.
The journey is expected to take approximately eight months, and should it make it to Paris come October, it’ll be the star at a huge celebration.
Tesla Motors has announced Canadian pricing for its 2012 Model S sedan. It looks like Canucks will have to shell out C$65,500 (around $66,400 U.S. at today’s rate) to get into the least expensive, 40-kWh battery version of the all-electric. The 60-kWh variant will be C$75,200 ($76,200) and the 85-kWh, C$85,900 ($87,000). Those interested in the Model S Performance are now looking at a bill for C$100,400 ($101,700).
Yes, that’s a lot of loonies, but buyers can, at least, be assured that the automaker isn’t overcharging just to pocket some extra cash. The price difference, as Tesla explains it, is mostly due to an import duty of 6.1 percent – the cost of the Japanese-sourced batteries places the Model S outside of the non-North American allowed content under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). An additional 1.5 to 2 percent is being charged to cover “incremental transportation costs and country specific business expenses.”
In addition to those amounts, the increase also covers the cost of allowing all customers north of the 49th parallel to luxuriate in now-standard Nappa leather interiors with heated seats. While Canada doesn’t have a federal electric vehicle tax rebate scheme, residents of Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia, can advantage of $8,500, $8,000 and $5,000, respectively, in provincial
tax credits rebates. Not so bad then, eh?
You can check out all the pricing and options over at Canadian portion of Tesla’s website. Scroll below for the official press release.
Related GalleryTesla Model S
Brad Berman for The New York Times
Spring is in the air, and Earth Day is just behind us. Apparently, that means it’s green car choosing season, at least for the people who take the time to determine such things. But with the list of more environmentally friendly cars and trucks at an all-time high, choosing the best one can be tough.
Kelley Blue Book and the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy tried to make the choice simple by doing the choosing for consumers. Four vehicles made Kelley Blue Book’s 10 Best Green Cars of 2013 list and the council’s Greenest Vehicles of 2013 list.
Kelley Blue Book and its online arm, KBB.com, which published the study, rates the values of new and used vehicles, and the council is a Washington-based nonprofit financed by foundations, electric utilities and state and federal agencies. Both companies use different methods to calculate a vehicle’s green credentials, so it isn’t surprising that only four vehicles showed up on both lists.
Here’s a summary of what KBB.com editors said about the four 2013 models that were on both lists:
Ford Focus Electric
With Ford’s four-door hatchback as its foundation, the Focus Electric starts with a leg up. Toss in some cool features and an advanced powertrain that pairs a 107-kilowatt electric motor with a liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery and the result is a fun, practical runabout.
Honda Fit EV
The Fit EV shares most interior and exterior bits with its gas-powered counterpart. Though only 1,100 units will be produced, the lease-only Fit EV impresses as one of the most powerful and energy-efficient electric vehicles available.
Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid
With a combined fuel economy rating of 50 miles per gallon, it’s hard to believe that anything can top the Toyota Prius. Enter the Prius Plug-in, which adds 11 miles of all-electric driving.
Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid
The first gas-electric Jetta is a fun-to-drive European sedan that returns 45 combined m.p.g. and starts under $26,000. The Jetta Hybrid is a triple threat that lets you go green and have fun.
Ford’s C-Max was on both lists as well, but each organization chose a different version of the car. The C-Max Energi (a plug-in hybrid) was on the KBB.com list, and the regular C-Max hybrid was on the council’s list.
In an e-mail, KBB.com said it made its choices for their “standout mix of efficiency, range, innovation, affordability and overall appeal, as judged by the KBB.com editors.” The Nissan Leaf took the No. 1 slot “based in large part on its affordability,” while the premium-priced Tesla Model S came in second “on the strength of its desirability, surprising refinement and the longest range of any all-electric.”
The council’s method seems more scientific and holistic. It considers the emissions associated with a vehicle’s full life cycle — from manufacturing to disposal – and the fuel it uses, whether gasoline or electricity. The final calculation includes emissions from electricity generation used to recharge electric vehicle batteries as well as emissions involved in transporting petroleum.
All the vehicles on the KBB.com list are either hybrids, full electrics or plug-in hybrids. On the council’s list, the only nonhybrid and nonplug-in vehicles were the Scion IQ and Smart Fortwo (convertible and coupe).