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Autoblog Podcast #308

Motor Trend Car of the Year, 2013 Honda Civic, 2014 Ford Mustang, Global Ford Ranger wins award



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Episode #308 of the Autoblog Podcast is here, and this week, Dan Roth, Zach Bowman and Jeff Ross talk about the Tesla Model S being named Motor Trend Car of the Year, the 2013 Honda Civic and the new hybrid systems and Micro Commuter concept also coming out of Honda, the 2014 Ford Mustang and the departure of the Boss 302, and the global Ford Ranger winning an International Truck award. For those of you who hung with us live on our UStream channel, thanks for taking the time. Keep reading for our Q&A module for you to scroll through and follow along, too. Thanks for listening!



Autoblog Podcast #308:



play




Topics:

  • 2013 Honda Civic, plus new hybrid systems and Micro Commuter concept
  • Rest-of-World Ford Ranger wins International Truck award
  • Motor Trend Car of the Year
  • 2014 Ford Mustang details and the departure of the Boss 302



In the Autoblog Garage:

2013 Volvo S80 T6 AWD Inscription

2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe

2013 Infiniti FX37



Hosts: Dan Roth, Zach Bowman, Jeff Ross





Runtime: 01:17:54




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Feedback

Email: Podcast at Autoblog dot com



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By Dan Roth

2012 Toyota RAV4 EV [w/video]

Tesla-Hearted Toyota Offers Real Sport And Utility



2012 RAV4 EV



The 2012 Toyota RAV4 EV is the most advanced Alpha prototype electric vehicle we’ve ever driven. Or maybe it’s a poster child for the 21st Century automotive industry where all sorts of new things are being tried, like when old-school automakers and ambitious start-ups find common purpose in rushing an all-electric crossover to market in two years. Or maybe it’s the end result of a decade-long process of getting the Japanese automaker to bring back its popular – by EV standards, anyway – first-gen RAV4 EV for the new era of electric cars? It is, of course, all of these things, and that’s what makes the RAV4 EV such an interesting vehicle: It not only offers surprisingly good performance on the road, it can also tell you some compelling stories as you jump from 0-60 in seven seconds. In a CUV. With an easy-to-achieve 100-mile range.



Most compelling, perhaps, is that the RAV4 EV is a real electric crossover with a real on-sale date. Namely, $49,800 (before any tax credits) and late summer 2012. Of course, the problem, aside from the hefty price, is that this CUV will only be available – initially, anyway – in four major California markets: Sacramento, San Francisco Bay Area, San Diego and Los Angeles/Orange County. Since the RAV4 EV will go on sale in The OC (don’t call it that), it made sense that Toyota brought journalists to Newport Beach for some time behind the wheel. If you’re not interested in the technical details or the three story lines we saw represented, here’s all you need to know. When we first put the RAV4 EV into Sport driving mode, our honest reaction was to say out loud: “Holy crap!”

Related Gallery2012 Toyota RAV4 EV: First Drive

2013 Toyota RAV4 EV2013 Toyota RAV4 EV2013 Toyota RAV4 EV2013 Toyota RAV4 EV2013 Toyota RAV4 EV2013 Toyota RAV4 EV2013 Toyota RAV4 EV2013 Toyota RAV4 EV



2013 Toyota RAV4 EV side view2013 Toyota RAV4 EV front view2013 Toyota RAV4 EV rear view



The second-generation RAV4 EV isn’t really the second-generation at all. Toyota stopped making the original RAV4 EV in 2003 and there hasn’t been much work done (publicly, at least) since then. In fact, it is unlikely that the 2012 version would have come to pass had Akio Toyoda, the president and CEO of Toyota Motor Corporation, and Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk not announced in May 2010 that they would work together on electric vehicles, with the RAV4 EV being named as the candidate vehicle in July.


“People love SUVs and their current moral dilemma is the need for occasional versatility at the expense of everyday fuel economy.”

As we noted in our Quick Spin of an early RAV4 EV prototype last year, the project is a rush job. We saw the first prototype at the LA Auto Show in November and the first demonstration program vehicles were on the road in February 2011. The frenetic pace doesn’t mean that Toyota was first to bring an EV to the current market, just that the company was very clearly not interested in waiting any longer to offer something without a tailpipe.



It also happens to be an EV unlike anything else on the market. As Greg Bernas, chief engineer in the product development office (PDO) at the Toyota Technical Center (TTC), put it, “For us, the RAV4 was the obvious choice. We knew there was a void in the product offering in the market, and the RAV4, we felt, fit that void perfectly. Also, people love SUVs and their current moral dilemma is the need for occasional versatility at the expense of everyday fuel economy. Not so with the RAV4 EV.”



2013 Toyota RAV4 EV badge2013 Toyota RAV4 EV badge2013 Toyota RAV4 EV badge



Since the summer of 2010, then, Toyota and Tesla engineers have worked to adapt the Silicon Valley powertrain into a RAV4 V6. After deciding that Toyota would be in charge – originally, each thought the other would lead the development – the engineers started with a current-gen internal combustion-powered RAV4 and got to work. Snagging the long-in-the-tooth model means that, when the new version of that vehicles arrives, possibly later this year, the electric version will retain the older styling. Right now, the EV has new exterior features that identify it as having rejected the gas-burning engine – things like a markedly different front fascia and grille, unique mirrors, light fixtures, a rear spoiler, as well as EV badging all around.


The aero tweaks give the RAV4 EV a cD of .30, which Toyota points out is more like a sedan than your average CUV.

All of the exterior’s zero-emission chrome doesn’t hide the fact that this is still a RAV4, it’s just that this is a significantly more aerodynamic RAV4. Those mirrors, for example, are styled after the Camry that’s sold in Korea and reduce the coefficient of drag by 1.1 percent. The rear spoiler? A 2.5-percent improvement. The smoother underbody, which is possible thanks to there being a battery there instead of a lot of mufflers and whatnot? An 8.2-percent improvement. All together, the aero tweaks give the RAV4 EV a cD of .30, which Toyota points out is more like a sedan than your average CUV. When asked why these sorts of little improvements were not added to the gas-burning RAV4, Toyota’s Sheldon Brown, the executive program manager in the TTC’s PDO department, said that it’s not so simple. The underbody panels, for example, didn’t need to be designed to deal with a hot exhaust pipe and so you can’t just use the same plastic and shape on the ICE RAV4. The mirrors and rear spoilers, though? Those seem easy enough to use no matter what the powertrain, so we’ll keep our eyes open when the new model appears.



But the lesson here is clear: Make the vehicle as slippery as you can and the range will thank you for it. When Toyota unwrapped the RAV4 EV, it was proudly “powered by Tesla,” and based on all of the discussions we had with Toyota representatives about the 100-mile-plus range of the RAV4 EV – thanks in large part to Tesla’s 41.8-kWh battery – Toyota is still proud of the benefits it received out of the deal.



2013 Toyota RAV4 EV headlight2013 Toyota RAV4 EV wheel2013 Toyota RAV4 EV charging port2013 Toyota RAV4 EV taillight


The RAV4 EV uses the same AC induction motor as the Model S with a different gear set.

Does Tesla or Toyota come out the winner from this partnership? It’s unclear. Sure, there’s a case to be made that they are both winners, but if we had to guess, it kind of feels like Tesla might be getting the better deal. Toyota, which is also working on other cars with plugs – namely the all-electric Scion iQ EV (coming soon) and the Prius Plug-in (now available) – has learned about a different way to integrate a battery and how to develop an electric powertrain for a large vehicle. The RAV4 EV weighs 4,032 pounds, after all, compared to the ICE RAV4′s range of 3,360 to 3,699 pounds, depending on trim level and engine, and weight kills efficiency. The aero tweaks, powertrain enhancements and low-rolling resistance P225/65R17 all-season tires all work together here to make up that difference.



Tesla, too, learned something about making an electric CUV – the RAV4 EV uses the same AC induction motor as the Model S with a different gear set, for example, and the two companies jointly filed patents on the battery structure design to make the pack fit into the ICE platform – but when you look at the overall picture for the two firms, Tesla has more to gain. The company is currently developing the Model X CUV, which shares the Tesla Vehicle Platform with the Model S, and this is why we can look at the RAV4 EV as a sort of stealth test bed for the Model X, that we can see the RAV4 EV as a weird alpha prototype. The official line is that this is not the case. Christina Ra, Tesla’s senior manager of communications, told us that since the Model X is, like the Model S, built from the ground up to truly leverage the EV powertrain, “It’s safe to say that the experiences of developing Model S and RAV4 EV were very different – and both very successful – for Tesla. Model X development will follow suit more closely to Tesla’s experiences with Model S.”


Autoblog Short Cuts: 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV



But the evolution of the Model X is a story for another time. Today, the focus is on the RAV4 EV, and what it’s like behind the wheel. As we said, “Holy crap.”


Click over to Sport mode, where the dash turns red and the top speed climbs to an impressive and illegal 100 mph, and you won’t notice the noise.

Those were the words of my driving companion for the day, Autoblog writer Michael Harley (who is more used to testing 500-horsepower gas-guzzling supercars than electric CUVs) uttered the first time he engaged Sport mode and accelerated. His words don’t mean the RAV4 EV – with a motor that has a maximum output of about 115 kW, or around 154 horsepower – was as quick as a supercar, but the 0-30 miles per hour performance certainly exceeded the expectations of a veteran road tester not used to the instant torque of an electric vehicle.



That is, at least in Sport mode, with its 273 pound-feet. In Normal mode where the 0-60 time drops to 8.6 seconds, max torque falls to 218 lb-ft and top speed is 85 mph, people would likely assume it was just a surprisingly powerful ICE CUV if you didn’t tell them the car was electric. A quiet one, with just a hint of road noise in the rear, but nothing that’s overly bothersome or that can’t be overcome by turning up the radio. Click over to Sport mode, where the dash turns red and the top speed climbs to an impressive and illegal 100 mph, and you won’t notice the noise. Shift from D to B for extra braking power – which brings back the enthusiastic regen of the prototype – and it might just be the most fun you can have using just one foot, outside of a Tesla-branded vehicle, of course. The front-wheel drive RAV4 EV uses blended braking, with regenerative brakes to capture energy and hydraulic brakes that kick in when the force required to stop the CUV exceeds the ability of the regen brakes. When in D, this is all transparent and feels like an ICE vehicle.



2013 Toyota RAV4 EV engine



The truth is, the RAV4 EV can almost be too fast. We managed to keep it roughly at the speed limit – mostly because we were boxed in by southern California traffic on the highway – but we heard multiple reports from other drivers who were shocked to realize they were going over 90 mph. The quiet smoothness of the RAV4 EV easily hides this. This is why we’re pretty sure that Toyota would sell more of these if it lets people test the Sport mode out for themselves. Well, it would if the beancounters had any faith in this EV (they don’t), but we’ll get into that below.


If you’re prone to range anxiety, then “max range” is your comfort number.

From the test drive position, the RAV4 EV steals from the Prius (the shifter is lifted from the third-gen hybrid model) and like many modern vehicles that have gone on a knob-diet, it has lost tactile input devices in favor of a touchscreen (for navigation, music and apps) and capacitative touch switchgear (HVAC controls). As much as we like what these screens show us, we still feel that physical buttons beat touchscreens any day of the week, any hour of the day. Also, the smudge-loving glossy panels to either side of the screen need to go. Even with these complaints, the new center stack does wonders to update the look of the inside of the RAV4; the ICE model’s interior has been around since 2005, a painfully long time in such a hot segment.



Toyota has done something interesting with the “miles to empty” display, and that is to give you two numbers. The first, the one you’ll use most of the time, is how many miles you’ll be able to go if you keep up your current driving style and HVAC settings. The second, the one you’ll never use until you really, really need it, is the “max range.” That is, if you turned off the A/C or heater and drove like there’s an egg under the acceleration pedal, how far could you go? If you’re prone to range anxiety, then this is your comfort number.



2013 Toyota RAV4 EV interior2013 Toyota RAV4 EV front seats2013 Toyota RAV4 EV gauges2013 Toyota RAV4 EV gear selector



These two numbers give rise to two differently shaded circles on the navigation map screen when you ask the vehicle how far you’ll be able to drive. After you select between one-way and round trip, the screen shows you a rough estimate of just how far away you could end up from where you currently sit. If your destination is in that target area, especially in the lighter, inner circle, start driving and don’t worry about range, emissions or finding time to gas up.


Official EPA estimates are not out yet, but the RAV4 EV appears to be a true 100-mile electric vehicle.

It can be kind of fun to play with this map and the HVAC settings to see how much your range changes based on how quickly you want to get hot or cold. There are four HVAC modes: Normal, Eco Lo, Eco Hi and off. Off gives you max range and Normal the least. The two Eco modes split the middle, and we were perfectly comfortable with Eco Hi (the more efficient of the two) during our drive.



So, how much range is in the battery? We started our drive with a full battery and the max range read 155 miles. We then proceeded to run around The OC (don’t call it that) on a day with temperatures in the high 70s with the air conditioner on Eco Hi and spent most of the time in Sport mode – why wouldn’t we? – and, after 40.5 miles in the city, highway and going up and down hills, our max range was still 92 miles. The EcoCoach said we scored a poor 68 out of 100, and our “keep driving like this” range estimate was just under 70 miles. Official EPA estimates are not out yet, but based on our limited testing, the RAV4 EV appears to be a true 100-mile electric vehicle.



2013 Toyota RAV4 EV climate controls


Toyota will warranty the battery for eight years, 100,000 miles.

It can be, at least. On top of the driving modes and the HVAC modes, Toyota also offers two charging modes, standard and extended. Toyota has partnered with Leviton to offer a 40-amp home charging station (lower amperage versions are also available) for $1,590 installed, but the RAV4 EV does not have a DC fast charging option. Standard charging, which is what Toyota recommends people use most of the time and only charges the pack to 35 kWh full, should get a 92 mile-range estimate from the EPA. This will take as little as five hours when using a 40-amp, 240-volt system. Extended uses the whole 41.8 kWh and would get 113 miles from the EPA, taking six hours to fully charge. Lower output charging stations will obviously extend this time, and with a regular 120-volt home outlet, it would take over 44 hours to fill an empty battery. As for the RAV4 EV’s final EPA range number, it will be a blend of these two modes. No matter which mode you charge in, Toyota will warranty the battery for eight years, 100,000 miles. Both the standard and extended mode use the 10 kW on-board charger.



Aside from the expected smartphone apps, the Chevrolet Volt and the Nissan Leaf both have a little charging indicator light on the dashboard, visible from outside the car. On the RAV4 EV, this light is located in the tinted window above the charging post, which itself is above the passenger side rear wheel. Toyota uses two lights to lights to indicate what the status is:



a. Left light blinking: charging is zero to 50 percent complete

b. Left light on, right side blinking: charging is 50 to 99 percent complete

c. Both lights on: charge complete

d. Both lights blinking: charging malfunction



Did we mention there’s a smartphone app?







Which brings us to the big picture. A decade ago, Toyota was selling a RAV4 EV that was based on the gas-powered RAV4, got around 100 to 120 miles of range and had a top speed of 78 mph. 450 of those vehicles are still around. We’ve been in them. Owners love them and have been asking the company for years to offer them again, even though the old RAV4 EVs still work great. Around 2,000 hand raisers have already said they’d like to know more about the 2012 RAV4 EV.


Rear cargo space is unchanged at 73 cubic feet behind the front row with the rear seats folded down.

Today, Toyota is getting ready to sell an electric CUV with almost the exact same specs as the one from 2002. Sure, so much has been updated and changed that it’s not entirely logical to call this the “second-gen” model, but there it is. Plus, some of specs that everyday drivers care about are similar to the current ICE RAV4, too. Rear cargo space, for example, is unchanged at 73 cubic feet behind the front row with the rear seats folded down. The RAV4 EV seats five and there is even that little extra cargo cubby in the floor behind the rear wheels.



If we’re right that this is going to be a popular EV, then Toyota is going to need to revamp its production plans. Right now, the agreement with Tesla is for 2,600 vehicles over three model years. If this were to really take off, Toyota will have to sit down with Telsa and see if it’s possible to build more. And Tesla’s already busy with ramping up Model S production, getting ready for the Model X and more.



2013 Toyota RAV4 EV rear 3/4 view


“Will the RAV4 EV help us meet our compliance requirements? Absolutely. Did we create a barebones EV just to earn credits for the mandate? Absolutely not.”

For whatever reason – and it probably has more to do with how much money will be lost on each one sold than anything else – Toyota is being conservative with its sales approach, trying to target the exact same high-earners, green-minded in California that have already been bombarded by ads for the Leaf and Volt. Toyota calls its sales plan “measured and focused.” Sure, the CUV offers more room than either of those vehicles, but why the initial sales markets don’t include CUV-happy green places like Seattle or Portland mystifies us. Bill Fay, group vice president and general manager of Toyota Division at Toyota Motor Sales, says Toyota had four goals to fill with the RAV4 EV program. Three are vague, feel-good items: “environmental leadership,” “develop a unique electric vehicle” and to fulfill the Toyota-Tesla partnership. The fourth, though, is telling: to meet Toyota’s California zero-emissions vehicle mandate. He said, “Some people have called the RAV4 EV nothing more than a compliance car… will the RAV4 EV help us meet our compliance requirements? Absolutely. Did we create a barebones EV just to earn credits for the mandate? Absolutely not.”



Unlike when the new RAV4 EV was unveiled in May, Toyota representatives were a bit more open to the idea that 2,600 might be the starting point, not the ending number, and we heard a lot of things like, “We’re still going to find out what the market for EVs is,” and that the initial response is a “positive first step.” It seems wasteful for Toyota and Tesla to spend all this money and engineering effort on just 2,600 electric vehicles, and it will be tremendously interesting to see how the market reacts to the first real all-electric CUV of the 21st Century.

Vital Stats

Engine:
AC Induction Motor
Power:
154 HP / 273 LB-FT
Transmission:
Single-Speed
0-60 Time:
7.0 Sec. (Sport Mode)
Top Speed:
100 MPH (Sport Mode)
Drivetrain:
Front-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
4,032 LBS
Seating:
2+3
Cargo:
37.2 / 73.0 CU-FT
MPG:
100 MPGe (est.)
MSRP:
$49,800 (before credits)

Research the Toyota RAV4 »

By Sebastian Blanco

2012 Toyota RAV4 EV [w/video]

Tesla-Hearted Toyota Offers Real Sport And Utility



2012 RAV4 EV



The 2012 Toyota RAV4 EV is the most advanced Alpha prototype electric vehicle we’ve ever driven. Or maybe it’s a poster child for the 21st Century automotive industry where all sorts of new things are being tried, like when old-school automakers and ambitious start-ups find common purpose in rushing an all-electric crossover to market in two years. Or maybe it’s the end result of a decade-long process of getting the Japanese automaker to bring back its popular – by EV standards, anyway – first-gen RAV4 EV for the new era of electric cars? It is, of course, all of these things, and that’s what makes the RAV4 EV such an interesting vehicle: It not only offers surprisingly good performance on the road, it can also tell you some compelling stories as you jump from 0-60 in seven seconds. In a CUV. With an easy-to-achieve 100-mile range.



Most compelling, perhaps, is that the RAV4 EV is a real electric crossover with a real on-sale date. Namely, $49,800 (before any tax credits) and late summer 2012. Of course, the problem, aside from the hefty price, is that this CUV will only be available – initially, anyway – in four major California markets: Sacramento, San Francisco Bay Area, San Diego and Los Angeles/Orange County. Since the RAV4 EV will go on sale in The OC (don’t call it that), it made sense that Toyota brought journalists to Newport Beach for some time behind the wheel. If you’re not interested in the technical details or the three story lines we saw represented, here’s all you need to know. When we first put the RAV4 EV into Sport driving mode, our honest reaction was to say out loud: “Holy crap!”



2013 Toyota RAV4 EV side view2013 Toyota RAV4 EV front view2013 Toyota RAV4 EV rear view



The second-generation RAV4 EV isn’t really the second-generation at all. Toyota stopped making the original RAV4 EV in 2003 and there hasn’t been much work done (publicly, at least) since then. In fact, it is unlikely that the 2012 version would have come to pass had Akio Toyoda, the president and CEO of Toyota Motor Corporation, and Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk not announced in May 2010 that they would work together on electric vehicles, with the RAV4 EV being named as the candidate vehicle in July.


“People love SUVs and their current moral dilemma is the need for occasional versatility at the expense of everyday fuel economy.”

As we noted in our Quick Spin of an early RAV4 EV prototype last year, the project is a rush job. We saw the first prototype at the LA Auto Show in November and the first demonstration program vehicles were on the road in February 2011. The frenetic pace doesn’t mean that Toyota was first to bring an EV to the current market, just that the company was very clearly not interested in waiting any longer to offer something without a tailpipe.



It also happens to be an EV unlike anything else on the market. As Greg Bernas, chief engineer in the product development office (PDO) at the Toyota Technical Center (TTC), put it, “For us, the RAV4 was the obvious choice. We knew there was a void in the product offering in the market, and the RAV4, we felt, fit that void perfectly. Also, people love SUVs and their current moral dilemma is the need for occasional versatility at the expense of everyday fuel economy. Not so with the RAV4 EV.”



2013 Toyota RAV4 EV badge2013 Toyota RAV4 EV badge2013 Toyota RAV4 EV badge



Since the summer of 2010, then, Toyota and Tesla engineers have worked to adapt the Silicon Valley powertrain into a RAV4 V6. After deciding that Toyota would be in charge – originally, each thought the other would lead the development – the engineers started with a current-gen internal combustion-powered RAV4 and got to work. Snagging the long-in-the-tooth model means that, when the new version of that vehicles arrives, (possibly later this year), the electric version will retain the older styling. Right now, the EV has new exterior features that identify it as having rejected the gas-burning engine – things like a markedly different front fascia and grille, unique mirrors, light fixtures, a rear spoiler, as well as EV badging all around.


The aero tweaks give the RAV4 EV a cD of .30, which Toyota points out is more like a sedan than your average CUV.

All of the exterior’s zero-emission chrome doesn’t hide the fact that this is still a RAV4, it’s just that this is a significantly more aerodynamic RAV4. Those mirrors, for example, are styled after the Camry that’s sold in Korea and reduce the coefficient of drag by 1.1 percent. The rear spoiler? A 2.5-percent improvement. The smoother underbody, which is possible thanks to there being a battery there instead of a lot of mufflers and whatnot? An 8.2-percent improvement. All together, the aero tweaks give the RAV4 EV a cD of .30, which Toyota points out is more like a sedan than your average CUV. When asked why these sorts of little improvements were not added to the gas-burning RAV4, Toyota’s Sheldon Brown, the executive program manager in the TTC’s PDO department, said that it’s not so simple. The underbody panels, for example, didn’t need to be designed to deal with a hot exhaust pipe and so you can’t just use the same plastic and shape on the ICE RAV4. The mirrors and rear spoilers, though? Those seem easy enough to use no matter what the powertrain, so we’ll keep our eyes open when the new model appears.



But the lesson here is clear: Make the vehicle as slippery as you can and the range will thank you for it. When Toyota unwrapped the RAV4 EV, it was proudly “powered by Tesla,” and based on all of the discussions we had with Toyota representatives about the 100-mile-plus range of the RAV4 EV – thanks in large part to Tesla’s 41.8-kWh battery – Toyota is still proud of the benefits it received out of the deal.



2013 Toyota RAV4 EV headlight2013 Toyota RAV4 EV wheel2013 Toyota RAV4 EV charging port2013 Toyota RAV4 EV taillight


The RAV4 EV uses the same AC induction motor as the Model S with a different gear set.

Does Tesla or Toyota come out the winner from this partnership? It’s unclear. Sure, there’s a case to be made that they are both winners, but if we had to guess, it kind of feels like Tesla might be getting the better deal. Toyota, which is also working on other cars with plugs – namely the all-electric Scion iQ EV (coming soon) and the Prius Plug-in (now available) – has learned about a different way to integrate a battery and how to develop an electric powertrain for a large vehicle. The RAV4 EV weighs 4,032 pounds, after all, compared to the ICE RAV4′s range of 3,360 to 3,699 pounds, depending on trim level and engine, and weight kills efficiency. The aero tweaks, powertrain enhancements and low-rolling resistance P225/65R17 all-season tires all work together here to make up that difference.



Tesla, too, learned something about making an electric CUV – the RAV4 EV uses the same AC induction motor as the Model S with a different gear set, for example, and the two companies jointly filed patents on the battery structure design to make the pack fit into the ICE platform – but when you look at the overall picture for the two firms, Tesla has more to gain. The company is currently developing the Model X CUV, which shares the Tesla Vehicle Platform with the Model S, and this is why we can look at the RAV4 EV as a sort of stealth test bed for the Model X, that we can see the RAV4 EV as a weird alpha prototype. The official line is that this is not the case. Christina Ra, Tesla’s senior manager of communications, told us that since the Model X is, like the Model S, built from the ground up to truly leverage the EV powertrain, “It’s safe to say that the experiences of developing Model S and RAV4 EV were very different – and both very successful – for Tesla. Model X development will follow suit more closely to Tesla’s experiences with Model S.”


Autoblog Short Cuts: 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV



But the evolution of the Model X is a story for another time. Today, the focus is on the RAV4 EV, and what it’s like behind the wheel. As we said, “Holy crap.”


Click over to Sport mode, where the dash turns red and the top speed climbs to an impressive and illegal 100 mph, and you won’t notice the noise.

Those were the words of my driving companion for the day, Autoblog writer Michael Harley (who is more used to testing 500-horsepower gas-guzzling supercars than electric CUVs) uttered the first time he engaged Sport mode and accelerated. His words don’t mean the RAV4 EV – with a motor that has a maximum output of about 115 kW, or around 154 horsepower – was as quick as a supercar, but the 0-30 miles per hour performance certainly exceeded the expectations of a veteran road tester not used to the instant torque of an electric vehicle.



That is, at least in Sport mode, with its 273 pound-feet. In Normal mode where the 0-60 time drops to 8.6 seconds, max torque falls to 218 lb-ft and top speed is 85 mph, people would likely assume it was just a surprisingly powerful ICE CUV if you didn’t tell them the car was electric. A quiet one, with just a hint of road noise in the rear, but nothing that’s overly bothersome or that can’t be overcome by turning up the radio. Click over to Sport mode, where the dash turns red and the top speed climbs to an impressive and illegal 100 mph, and you won’t notice the noise. Shift from D to B for extra braking power – which brings back the enthusiastic regen of the prototype – and it might just be the most fun you can have using just one foot, outside of a Tesla-branded vehicle, of course. The front-wheel drive RAV4 EV uses blended braking, with regenerative brakes to capture energy and hydraulic brakes that kick in when the force required to stop the CUV exceeds the ability of the regen brakes. When in D, this is all transparent and feels like an ICE vehicle.



2013 Toyota RAV4 EV engine



The truth is, the RAV4 EV can almost be too fast. We managed to keep it roughly at the speed limit – mostly because we were boxed in by southern California traffic on the highway – but we heard multiple reports from other drivers who were shocked to realize they were going over 90 mph. The quiet smoothness of the RAV4 EV easily hides this. This is why we’re pretty sure that Toyota would sell more of these if it lets people test the Sport mode out for themselves. Well, it would if the beancounters had any faith in this EV (they don’t), but we’ll get into that below.


If you’re prone to range anxiety, then “max range” is your comfort number.

From the test drive position, the RAV4 EV steals from the Prius (the shifter is lifted from the third-gen hybrid model) and like many modern vehicles that have gone on a knob-diet, it has lost tactile input devices in favor of a touchscreen (for navigation, music and apps) and capacitative touch switchgear (HVAC controls). As much as we like what these screens show us, we still feel that physical buttons beat touchscreens any day of the week, any hour of the day. Also, the smudge-loving glossy panels to either side of the screen need to go. Even with these complaints, the new center stack does wonders to update the look of the inside of the RAV4; the ICE model’s interior has been around since 2005, a painfully long time in such a hot segment.



Toyota has done something interesting with the “miles to empty” display, and that is to give you two numbers. The first, the one you’ll use most of the time, is how many miles you’ll be able to go if you keep up your current driving style and HVAC settings. The second, the one you’ll never use until you really, really need it, is the “max range.” That is, if you turned off the A/C or heater and drove like there’s an egg under the acceleration pedal, how far could you go? If you’re prone to range anxiety, then this is your comfort number.



2013 Toyota RAV4 EV interior2013 Toyota RAV4 EV front seats2013 Toyota RAV4 EV gauges2013 Toyota RAV4 EV gear selector



These two numbers give rise to two differently shaded circles on the navigation map screen when you ask the vehicle how far you’ll be able to drive. After you select between one-way and round trip, the screen shows you a rough estimate of just how far away you could end up from where you currently sit. If your destination is in that target area, especially in the lighter, inner circle, start driving and don’t worry about range, emissions or finding time to gas up.


Official EPA estimates are not out yet, but the RAV4 EV appears to be a true 100-mile electric vehicle.

It can be kind of fun to play with this map and the HVAC settings to see how much your range changes based on how quickly you want to get hot or cold. There are four HVAC modes: Normal, Eco Lo, Eco Hi and off. Off gives you max range and Normal the least. The two Eco modes split the middle, and we were perfectly comfortable with Eco Hi (the more efficient of the two) during our drive.



So, how much range is in the battery? We started our drive with a full battery and the max range read 155 miles. We then proceeded to run around The OC (don’t call it that) on a day with temperatures in the high 70s with the air conditioner on Eco Hi and spent most of the time in Sport mode – why wouldn’t we? – and, after 40.5 miles in the city, highway and going up and down hills, our max range was still 92 miles. The EcoCoach said we scored a poor 68 out of 100, and our “keep driving like this” range estimate was just under 70 miles. Official EPA estimates are not out yet, but based on our limited testing, the RAV4 EV appears to be a true 100-mile electric vehicle.



2013 Toyota RAV4 EV climate controls


Toyota will warranty the battery for eight years, 100,000 miles.

It can be, at least. On top of the driving modes and the HVAC modes, Toyota also offers two charging modes, standard and extended. Toyota has partnered with Leviton to offer a 40-amp home charging station (lower amperage versions are also available) for $1,590 installed, but the RAV4 EV does not have a DC fast charging option. Standard charging, which is what Toyota recommends people use most of the time and only charges the pack to 35 kWh full, should get a 92 mile-range estimate from the EPA. This will take as little as five hours when using a 40-amp, 240-volt system. Extended uses the whole 41.8 kWh and would get 113 miles from the EPA, taking six hours to fully charge. Lower output charging stations will obviously extend this time, and with a regular 120-volt home outlet, it would take over 44 hours to fill an empty battery. As for the RAV4 EV’s final EPA range number, it will be a blend of these two modes. No matter which mode you charge in, Toyota will warranty the battery for eight years, 100,000 miles. Both the standard and extended mode use the 10 kW on-board charger.



Aside from the expected smartphone apps, the Chevrolet Volt and the Nissan Leaf both have a little charging indicator light on the dashboard, visible from outside the car. On the RAV4 EV, this light is located in the tinted window above the charging post, which itself is above the passenger side rear wheel. Toyota uses two lights to indicate what the status is:



a. Left light blinking: charging is zero to 50 percent complete

b. Left light on, right side blinking: charging is 50 to 99 percent complete

c. Both lights on: charge complete

d. Both lights blinking: charging malfunction



Did we mention there’s a smartphone app?







Which brings us to the big picture. A decade ago, Toyota was selling a RAV4 EV that was based on the gas-powered RAV4, got around 100 to 120 miles of range and had a top speed of 78 mph. 450 of those vehicles are still around. We’ve been in them. Owners love them and have been asking the company for years to offer them again, even though the old RAV4 EVs still work great. Around 2,000 hand raisers have already said they’d like to know more about the 2012 RAV4 EV.


Rear cargo space is unchanged at 73 cubic feet behind the front row with the rear seats folded down.

Today, Toyota is getting ready to sell an electric CUV with almost the exact same specs as the one from 2002. Sure, so much has been updated and changed that it’s not entirely logical to call this the “second-gen” model, but there it is. Plus, some of specs that everyday drivers care about are similar to the current ICE RAV4, too. Rear cargo space, for example, is unchanged at 73 cubic feet behind the front row with the rear seats folded down. The RAV4 EV seats five and there is even that little extra cargo cubby in the floor behind the rear wheels.



If we’re right that this is going to be a popular EV, then Toyota is going to need to revamp its production plans. Right now, the agreement with Tesla is for 2,600 vehicles over three model years. If this were to really take off, Toyota will have to sit down with Telsa and see if it’s possible to build more. And Tesla’s already busy with ramping up Model S production, getting ready for the Model X and more.



2013 Toyota RAV4 EV rear 3/4 view


“Will the RAV4 EV help us meet our compliance requirements? Absolutely. Did we create a barebones EV just to earn credits for the mandate? Absolutely not.”

For whatever reason – and it probably has more to do with how much money will be lost on each one sold than anything else – Toyota is being conservative with its sales approach, trying to target the exact same high-earners, green-minded in California that have already been bombarded by ads for the Leaf and Volt. Toyota calls its sales plan “measured and focused.” Sure, the CUV offers more room than either of those vehicles, but why the initial sales markets don’t include CUV-happy green places like Seattle or Portland mystifies us. Bill Fay, group vice president and general manager of Toyota Division at Toyota Motor Sales, says Toyota had four goals to fill with the RAV4 EV program. Three are vague, feel-good items: “environmental leadership,” “develop a unique electric vehicle” and to fulfill the Toyota-Tesla partnership. The fourth, though, is telling: to meet Toyota’s California zero-emissions vehicle mandate. He said, “Some people have called the RAV4 EV nothing more than a compliance car… will the RAV4 EV help us meet our compliance requirements? Absolutely. Did we create a barebones EV just to earn credits for the mandate? Absolutely not.”



Unlike when the new RAV4 EV was unveiled in May, Toyota representatives were a bit more open to the idea that 2,600 might be the starting point, not the ending number, and we heard a lot of things like, “We’re still going to find out what the market for EVs is,” and that the initial response is a “positive first step.” It seems wasteful for Toyota and Tesla to spend all this money and engineering effort on just 2,600 electric vehicles, and it will be tremendously interesting to see how the market reacts to the first real all-electric CUV of the 21st Century.

By Sebastian Blanco

2012 Tesla Model S [w/video]

Proof That An Impressive Sport Sedan Doesn’t Need To Burn Dead Dino Juice



2012 Tesla Model S



One-hundred years from now, the Smithsonian museum at our nation’s capital will host a display of history’s most revolutionary automobiles. The collection will include the 1866 Dudgeon steam wagon (one of the earliest self-propelled vehicles), the 1886 Benz Patent-Motorwagen (recognized as the first combustion-powered automobile) and the 1908 Ford Model T (the first automobile mass produced on an assembly line).



Most certainly included, among the dozen or so other pioneering automobiles, will be a 2012 Tesla Model S.



Slightly more than a few years after the first prototype debuted in March of 2009, Autoblog was able to spend an evening with an early production model of the innovative all-electric sedan touted as “the next step to accelerate the world’s transition to electric mobility.” Much has been said and written about Tesla’s enormous undertaking, but we brushed off the hype, ignored the rumors and cut through the layers of misinformation. It was time to drive.



After several inquisitive hours behind the wheel, we were smitten – the Tesla Model S really is the world’s first practical, no-compromise, non-combustion automobile.

Related Gallery2012 Tesla Model S: First Drive

2012 Tesla Model S2012 Tesla Model S2012 Tesla Model S2012 Tesla Model S2012 Tesla Model S2012 Tesla Model S2012 Tesla Model S2012 Tesla Model S



2012 Tesla Model S side view2012 Tesla Model S front view2012 Tesla Model S rear view



The last time we were in a Model S was October of 2011 when Tesla invited us to its Fremont assembly plant for a ride in an early beta model. It is hard to judge a vehicle from the passenger seat, so the exercise left us more frustrated than appeased – we needed time behind the wheel.



It didn’t take long. Elon Musk (Chairman and CEO of Tesla Motors) delivered the first ten production vehicles to customers in June of this year. Unfortunately, with vehicles exiting the plant at a relative trickle, the company still wasn’t lending out cars to the media for extended reviews.



Circumnavigating the dilemma, we called Jason Calacanis. The Internet entrepreneur founded Weblogs, Inc., in 2003. The publishing company is credited with starting Engadget, Joystiq and Autoblog – yes, he’s our founding father. Jason was fortunate enough to take delivery of VIN S00001, the first Signature Performance model handed to a customer, a few weeks ago. A happy customer of Tesla from the early days (there is also a Roadster in his garage), he was generous enough to allow Autoblog an extended test drive.



2012 Tesla Model S headlight2012 Tesla Model S wheel2012 Tesla Model S taillight2012 Tesla Model S VIN



Jason’s 2013 Tesla Model S is the range-topping Signature Performance model. While Tesla offers the sedan with a standard 270-kW (362-horsepower) electric motor and a base 40-kWh battery (good for a range of about 160 miles), the Signature Performance features a 310-kW (416-horsepower) three-phase, four-pole AC induction motor with copper rotor generating 443 pound-feet of torque. Powered by an 85-kWh microprocessor-controlled lithium-ion battery, it promises a range of about 300 miles on a charge. For those keeping score, those numbers put the Model S in an A List performance category.


The Model S cheats the wind with a stunningly low .24 drag coefficient.

When ordering his Model S, Jason went click-happy on the options and purchased just about every accessory. Base price of the Signature Performance is $97,900 – Nappa leather with carbon fiber interior accents, active air suspension and 21-inch alloy wheels are all standard. The black paint is a no-cost item, as is the black upholstery with contrasting piping and gray wheel finish. However, add-ons such as the all-glass panoramic roof ($1,500), anti-chip paint armor ($950), rear-facing seats ($1,500) and high power wall connector ($1,200) will push the price into six-figure territory. As configured, Jason’s car was about $103,050 before incentives and credits. (Jason ordered the third row option, with two rear-facing seats bringing total passenger capacity to seven, but the module has not been installed in his vehicle yet.)



One should approach the Model S from the side to appreciate its enormity. Even in flattering black, pictures don’t do its stage presence justice – the flagship Tesla is five inches longer than a BMW X5 sport utility vehicle and one inch wider. The styling is very European, with more than a hint of Jaguar in its lines. Sleek and sexy from just about any angle, the Model S cheats the wind with a stunningly low .24 drag coefficient.



2012 Tesla Model S side marker2012 Tesla Model S door handle2012 Tesla Model S badge2012 Tesla Model S logo



With the sleek car-like black key fob in pocket, a quick tap of any of the recessed door handles will awaken the sedan. After a momentary pause, the requisite door handle extend slowly. The procedure is impressively futuristic to onlookers, but the process is slow and the door still requires a slight manual tug to open.


The center stack’s stunning 17-inch capacitive touchscreen flat panel captures everyone’s attention.

Unlike the RAV4 EV, Honda Fit EV, Coda sedan or even Tesla’s own Roadster (itself built on a modified Lotus platform), the Model S was engineered from the onset to be an electric vehicle (EV), it’s not constructed on a modified internal combustion engine (ICE) platform. Instead of putting the battery down a spine, or eating up space in the trunk, the four-inch thick battery pack is bolted beneath the chassis. This location keeps the space-devouring energy storage below the passenger compartment. It also delivers more room for passengers and cargo.



At first glance, the cabin appears overly simple (many would consider it spartan). By design, it lacks most of the traditional switchgear, buttons and knobs found in today’s vehicles. However, once the key-wielding operator drops into the driver’s seat, the Model S comes to life – there is no ignition switch – as multiple glass panels are energized. While the primary flat instrument panel (viewed through a sculpted three-spoke multi-function steering wheel) is impressive by itself, it is the center stack’s stunning 17-inch capacitive touchscreen that captures everyone’s attention. The oversized rectangular piece of glass, stretching from the top to the bottom of the dashboard and bordered in aluminum, effectively eliminates all mechanical switchgear for the climate controls, infotainment, navigation, ride height, heated seats, defrosters, moonroof, door locks, truck, frunk, vehicle configuration and more. Although intimidating initially, it is very intuitive and easy-to-use in practice – no owner’s manual required. It is, without question, brilliantly executed.



2012 Tesla Model S interior2012 Tesla Model S front seats2012 Tesla Model S rear seats2012 Tesla Model S front cargo area



The only physical buttons or knobs, besides the tiny hazard switch and glovebox releases on each side of the flat panel, are the window switches on each door, the obligatory steering wheel stalks and the column-mounted transmission lever. Even then, all are very high quality components taken straight from the Mercedes-Benz parts bin (keep in mind that the German automaker is a key investor in Tesla).


Unlike most of the EV models we’ve recently piloted, the Model S has no “creep.”

As mentioned, the operator does not “start” the Model S in the traditional sense of turning a key or pressing a button. Instead, proximity sensors acknowledge that a fob is within the cabin and that an adult’s derrière is in the driver’s seat. Once these two requirements are met, the vehicle automatically boots up, just like a quick computer. It’s a bit awkward unlearning decades of conditioning about how to start a vehicle (and a real pain-in-the-ass when moving a car around for a photo shoot), but after a dozen times, we became comfortable with the process.



The parking brake (clamping those additional sets of calipers on the rear rotors) is electronically actuated when the transmission is moved in and out of a forward gear. Unlike most of the EV models we’ve recently piloted, the Model S has no “creep” – the term applied to automatic transmission-equipped combustion-powered vehicles when they edge forward slowly when in gear – but an upcoming software update will include that option. Instead, for now, the driver must apply gentle pressure to the accelerator to move the Tesla at slow speeds. Thankfully, the engineers have done a very good job tuning throttle sensitivity. After a few moments, low speed parking maneuvers become very natural. Unfortunately, we found rearward visibility challenged, even with a high-definition reverse camera. Audible parking sensors at each end and a forward-looking camera to alleviate some of the blind spots are on our wish list.



2012 Tesla Model S display screen2012 Tesla Model S touch screen2012 Tesla Model S emergency button2012 Tesla Model S dash



Those who expect the Tesla Model S to drive like a large version of the company’s Roadster will be wrong. Instead, it behaves like a well-honed European sport sedan.


It is indisputably quick whether pitted against EV, hybrid or ICE vehicles.

While the Roadster makes muted electric motor gear noises, like a zippy golf cart on steroids, the Model S is eerily silent. Only the g-forces of acceleration and the blurring outside scenery give hint of the change in velocity. The single-speed fixed gear (with a 9.73:1 reduction ratio) makes quick work of accelerating the sedan off the line. There is no exhaust note, or even an electric whine, to mask the sound of the rubber tires squirming under the stresses of torque. It is indisputably quick whether pitted against EV, hybrid or ICE vehicles (recent testing by Motor Trend pegs the Performance Signature Model S at 3.9 seconds to 60 mph). Top speed, according to the automaker, is 130 mph.



Tesla has used an extraordinary amount of aluminum in the construction of the Model S chassis. Peel back the painted aluminum sheetmetal to find lightweight alloy stampings, alloy castings and alloy extrusions everywhere. All are designed to keep mass to a minimum (the effort only helps so much with an EV, as the Model S still comes in at a rather portly 4,647 pounds). The low mounting position of the batteries, the necessary unwieldy part of an EV, keeps the center of gravity just above the pavement.


Autoblog Short Cuts: 2013 Tesla Model S



The rigid chassis, featuring double-octagonal alloy rails running lengthwise and high-strength steel optimally placed for bracing, forms a solid platform for the sedan’s active air suspension. Damping is fixed, but as the Model S accelerates, the chassis is automatically lowered to optimize aerodynamics (the center flat screen may be used to alter ride height when approaching obstacles, such as driveways). Chassis flex is non-existent and we didn’t hear a single panel utter a peep or squeak. The bane of EVs is often numb electric steering. Again, the Model S seemed to pass with flying colors (the steering effort is adjustable, also through the flat panel – no surprise, we liked the Sport setting best).


Chassis flex is non-existent and we didn’t hear a single panel utter a peep or squeak.

Thanks to the powertrain’s rear-mounted configuration, the five-door boasts a very favorable weight distribution for handling (about 52 percent of the vehicle’s mass is over the back wheels). We didn’t have a chance to tackle any canyons, but we did dart through plenty of traffic effortlessly. The chassis felt heavy and solid, like the large sedan it is. Body roll was minimal and the sedan felt very stable and comfortable regardless of how quickly we transitioned from one lane to the other.



Placing the electric motor in the rear has other advantages too. With the propulsion system mounted far from the driver’s ears, the sedan is ghostly quiet at cruising speeds. Add in arrow-like wind resistance and the sound attenuating effect of that thick layer of batteries between the passengers and the road, and the cabin becomes as peaceful as a yoga studio.



2012 Tesla Model S front 3/4 view



Battery-powered vehicles use regenerative braking to recover some of the energy wasted during slowing or stopping. To prevent an unnatural feel (many overly aggressive systems cause excessive drag to extract as much energy as possible), Tesla engineers deliberately toned-down the amount of regenerative braking to ensure the Model S retained a sports car feel from the driver’s perspective. The sedan, from our seat-of-the-pants impressions, reacts much like a six-cylinder ICE sports car when downshifting a gear. It is so familiar that we frequently forgot we were driving an EV. Regenerative braking traditionally has another drawback, of course. Most of the time, it delivers an odd pedal feel, when the system transitions on and off, but none of that was apparent with the Model S.


The ICE-like range of nearly 300 miles completely eliminated our EV anxiety.

Unlike most EVs that are fitted with undersized brakes to take advantage of regeneration, Tesla has engineered its Model S like a high-performance sports car. All four corners feature thick ventilated disc rotors, with massive multi-piston monobloc calipers clamping down on each. Braking is a non-event, especially with sticky high-performance Continental Extreme Contact DW summer compound tires (size 245/35ZR21) at all four corners.



Design, chassis and driving dynamics aside, the real game changer for the Model S is its available 85 kWh lithium-ion battery – the ICE-like range of nearly 300 miles completely eliminated our EV anxiety. Jason brought the car to us with less than half a charge. We understandably fretted, until noticing that the numbers weren’t falling rapidly like prices at Wal-Mart. They were holding steady, with real-world estimates based on driving style that were accurate and, well… comforting. Jason was not the least bit concerned over how much battery we were using either, even though he still had another appointment to get to after our drive. And, for the first time in recent memory, our eyes were not locked on an EV’s battery gauge.



2012 Tesla Model S rear 3/4 view



While this first attempt is impressive, Tesla has also left room for improvement on future models. In addition to the aforementioned need for backup sensors we would like to see additional cameras to ease parking. More importantly, second-row occupants deserve their own climate control in the spacious rear half of the cabin as this type of passenger pampering is all but expected at the price range.


Tesla’s all-electric sedan excels at being an impressive and engaging sport sedan first.

But skeptics of the Tesla Model S need just to take one for a spin.



We frankly approached our first drive with leeriness – after piloting dozens of advanced-powertrain vehicles over the past few years, we’ve been let down more often than not. But it took only ten minutes of jockeying though congestion, and a few foot-to-the-floor acceleration runs, to erase our doubts. The Model S truly is truly revolutionary. Unlike all if its predecessors, burdened with concessions, trade-offs and compromises in the interest of technology, Tesla’s all-electric sedan chooses to excel at being an impressive and engaging sport sedan. The fun-to-drive four-door then seals the deal with its powerful, long-range and emissions-free powertrain.



Pioneering vehicles end up in museums – expect to show your great-grandchildren a Tesla Model S someday.

Vital Stats

Engine:
310 kW AC Motor
Power:
416 HP / 443 LB-FT
Transmission:
Single-Speed
0-60 Time:
3.9 Seconds
Top Speed:
130 MPH
Drivetrain:
Rear-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
4,647 LBS
Seating:
2+3+2
MPG:
89 MPGe (EPA)
MSRP:
$97,900 (base)

Research the 2012 Tesla Model S »

By Michael Harley

Autoblog Podcast #322

2014 Jeep Cherokee, Tesla profit, 2014 Bentley Continental Flying Spur, Ford Atlas chief designer Gordon Platto autoblog podcast logo



Episode #322 of the Autoblog Podcast is here, and this week, Dan Roth, Zach Bowman and Jeff Ross talk about the 2014 Jeep Cherokee, Tesla’s cautious announcement of a first-quarter profit, the 2014 Bentley Flying Spur and Zach and Dan share an interview with Gordon Platto, chief designer for the Ford Atlas Concept truck from this year’s Detroit Auto Show. We wrap with a couple of your questions, and for those of you who hung with us live on our UStream channel, thanks for taking the time. Keep reading for our Q&A module for you to scroll through and follow along, too. Thanks for listening!



Autoblog Podcast #322:



play




Topics:


  • 2014 Jeep Cherokee
  • Tesla predicts a profit
  • 2014 Bentley Flying Spur
  • Interview with Ford Atlas Concept designer Gordon Platto



In the Autoblog Garage:

2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek

2013 Toyota Prius V

2013 Lincoln MKS





Hosts: Dan Roth, Zach Bowman, Jeff Ross




Runtime: 01:26:23




Get the podcast

[UStream] Listen live on Mondays at 10PM Eastern at UStream

[iTunes] Subscribe to the Autoblog Podcast in iTunes

[RSS] Add the Autoblog Podcast feed to your RSS aggregator

[MP3] Download the MP3 directly



Feedback

Email: Podcast at Autoblog dot com



Review the show in iTunes




By Dan Roth

Autoblog Podcast #307

Suzuki bankruptcy, Hyundai/Kia mileage, Scion FR-S supercharger, Tesla Model S awards, Consumer Reports top 10 most reliable American cars



autoblog podcast logo



Episode #307 of the Autoblog Podcast is here, and this week, Dan Roth, Zach Bowman and Jeff Ross talk about Suzuki departing the US market, the debacle surrounding Hyundai and Kia fuel economy numbers, rumors of a Scion FR-S supercharger kit, the Tesla Model S being named one of the best inventions of 2012 by Time magazine and Consumer Reports ranking its top 10 most reliable American cars. For those of you who hung with us live on our UStream channel, thanks for taking the time. Keep reading for our Q&A module for you to scroll through and follow along, too. Thanks for listening!



Autoblog Podcast #307:



play




Topics:

  • American Suzuki Motors files chapter 11, will no longer sell cars in the United States
  • EPA says Hyundai/Kia mileage claims inflated
  • TRD Supercharger kit for Scion FR-S
  • Tesla Model S named one of 2012s best inventions by TIME
  • Consumer Reports names top 10 most reliable American cars



In the Autoblog Garage:

2012 Scion iQ

2012 Nissan Frontier

2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata



Hosts: Dan Roth, Zach Bowman, Jeff Ross





Runtime: 01:17:49




Get the podcast

[UStream] Listen live on Mondays at 10PM Eastern at UStream

[iTunes] Subscribe to the Autoblog Podcast in iTunes

[RSS] Add the Autoblog Podcast feed to your RSS aggregator

[MP3] Download the MP3 directly



Feedback

Email: Podcast at Autoblog dot com



Review the show in iTunes




By Dan Roth

CO2 credits: The ultimate rebate?

Time For Buyers To Have Some Skin In The EV Game



CO2 warning

Politicians know that $8- or $9-a-gallon gas like in Europe would end their careers.

The back-and-forth between those writing the fuel economy rules and auto manufacturers is designed to see how far the CO2 regulations can be pushed without inconveniencing the general public.



Rather than taxing fuel like they do in Europe to encourage buyers to opt for the most fuel-efficient vehicles, in America it’s up to the manufacturers to develop a fleet that averages some magic number, in this case 54.5 mpg by 2025. That’s because most politicians know that $8- or $9-a-gallon gas like in Europe would end their careers.


Matt DeLorenzo is the former editor-in-chief of Road & Track and has covered the auto industry for 35 years, including stints at Automotive News and AutoWeek. He has authored books including VW’s New Beetle, Chrysler’s Modern Concept Cars, and Corvette Dynasty.


There is no fundamental change in overall buying preferences.

On the other side of the coin, the manufacturers will work the system using whatever credits or loopholes they can carve out until it becomes apparent that they will no longer be able to build V-8 engines or large pickups. In fact, CAFE is precisely why fullsize rear-wheel-drive sedans and station wagons have largely been replaced as the family vehicle of choice by fullsize SUVs because of the two-tier fuel economy regulations that gave trucks a break.



This approach is what I call trying to solve a retail problem at the wholesale level. By making the manufacturers do all the heavy lifting, the public does benefit with cleaner, more fuel-efficient cars. On the one hand, we are getting cars that are good for us, on the other, the changes are so subtle, we really don’t notice it. Naturally, interest in small, fuel-efficient cars increases when gas spikes up, but then dissipates as prices fall. There is no fundamental change in overall buying preferences.



And by not having any skin in the game, it’s hard for anyone to get truly excited about new technologies like clean diesels, hybrids and EVs.


Elon Musk could offer the Model S for much less than the fake $500 per month lease rate.

So, if government lacks the courage to pass high fuel taxes that would encourage the use of hybrids, diesels or EVs, why don’t they open the doors up to incentives instead? I read with interest in the Los Angeles Times that Tesla has been able to sell CO2 emission credits that amount to as much as $45,000 per car for each Model S it sells and that the company expects to reap a cool $250 million in the process.



Why not require manufacturers to pass those credits along to the customers who will actually be driving the cars and making a difference in air quality? If it’s true that Tesla stands to make 45 grand on emission credits per car, then Elon Musk can pass that along and offer the car for much less than the fake $500 per month lease rate he initially calculated by factoring in your time saved at the pump.


Keep the sticker prices where they are, and let the consumer decide what to do with the credits.

Better yet, keep the sticker prices where they are, and let the consumer decide what to do with the credits. In fact, if the emission credits are part of the package, it might allow makers to sell EVs closer to their true cost rather than at some subsidized rate.



If buyers get the CO2 credits, they can opt to sell them immediately back to the manufacturer to lower their cash outlay, peddle them to another higher-bidding manufacturer or hang onto them in the hopes that their value will climb over time as government standards tighten. Or, if they are truly altruistic, never cash in on them. If they do so, they will be making a real difference in lowering CO2 because those credits would give someone else the ability to offset excess emissions.



Best of all, it takes behind-the-scenes-maneuvering and makes it a public topic, thereby making both the costs and benefits of high fuel economy standards much more transparent.

By Matt DeLorenzo