There are more electric cars than ever, but which is the best one for you?
In 2015, the electric car market is booming. According to the UK’s Society for Motor Manufacturers and Traders, 512 electric cars were sold in January of this year, a 58% rise from the same period in 2014. Sales of hybrid cars increased even more dramatically, with a rise of over 1,035% on the year before.
So why the huge upturn in electric cars? Simply put, electric cars are now a viable mode of transport. Electric vehicles (EVs) have manageable range, a good network of charging stations and excellent fuel economy, making them perfect for quick trips from A to B, or extended city driving.
It’s not just a niche sector, either. First pioneered by the Toyota Prius, the EV and hybrid market has gone on to see cars released from premium marques such as BMW, Volkswagen, Kia and Renault. Electric vehicles are no longer a gimmick – they’re the future of transport.
But which are best electric cars on the market today? We’ve compared the range, cost, features and economy of each EV to find out which is best for you.
It’s a big hit here, and the Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in SUV has just got better
Mitsubishi’s plug-in hybrid is a big success. To quantify that, this one vehicle takes 50% of all sales in the EV and PHEV sector in the UK. In those sectors it’s the biggest seller in both the UK and Europe. Sales in the UK to June 2015 were 7255 units, which is more than double the sales of Nissan’s Leaf. That’s a success.
Part of it is down to the fact that it is the only petrol-electric hybrid SUV on the market. That means it also gets the £5000 government grant so the price to the consumer is about the same as that of the diesel version. But the emissions mean it has a BIK tax rate of only 5%, which makes for an attractive company vehicle.
And it’s all been upgraded. This is a market where Mitsubishi has gained an early advantage and it intends to hammer that advantage home. The idea is to make this latest version more European. Certainly the front end has a more dynamic appearance, while the bumpers, which have added 40mm to the length, help make the Outlander look lower and more purposeful.
Indeed. As owners collectively scratch their chins about just how clean their diesel cars really are, Nissan has given its Leaf an extra 26 per cent of range – hiking it to 155 miles – as well as a bit of a spruce-up.
It’s fortuitous timing rather than a clever plan, but you could say the stars have aligned, the most convincing Leaf yet arriving just as internet searches for electric cars exponentially increase.
It looks no different. Why should I care?
It’s unlikely to grab headlines quite like the more obviously revolutionary Toyota Mirai, true. But the Leaf is the world’s best selling electric car, ever. Over 200,000 have been shifted, 11,500 of them in the UK. It currently accounts for more than half of all EVs sold here, and a fifth of plug-in vehicles if you include plug-in hybrids like the Prius and, erm, Porsche 918.
Owners love them, too; the Leaf has the highest satisfaction rate of any car Nissan sells. So you can understand why little has changed: the styling is identical, remaining divisive, and its 109bhp electric motor is untouched, with the only mechanical tweaks occurring to the batteries that lie in the floor.
Their size and packaging are actually identical, but the cathodes are upgraded, helping energy output climb from 24 to 30kWh. In simple terms, this means a claimed 155 miles from a full change, as opposed to 124 miles. Fast chargers will top most of the power back up in 30 minutes for longer journeys via appropriately equipped motorway services.
The 30kWh battery is an option – a £1,600 option, no less – with sales of the 24kWh Leaf continuing. But 80 per cent of buyers are expected to go for the more accommodating setup.
A Tesla Model S will go quite a bit further.
Yeah, but it will also cost quite a bit more than the 30kWh Leaf’s £24,490. And the numbers are spot-on for what people actually use cars in the Golf and Focus class for, according to Nissan. It reckons so-called C-segment buyers travel an average of 30 miles a day, with 98 per cent of them covering fewer than 100 miles daily.
If you’re thinking “the old one could do that,” you’re right. But it’s all about perception: an extension of the range makes people more secure, makes them worry less about driving their EV in a mollycoddling way. Likewise an eight-year warranty on battery degradation is probably overkill in an age of short-term lease deals, but it’s all added peace of mind.
Nearly 21,000 plug-in hybrids and EVs sold in 2015 so far, as new tiered Plug-In Car Grant to be brought in for 2016
After the announcement that the UK’s Plug-In Car Grant (PICG) is to be replaced by a new tiered system, sales of both plug-in hybrid and pure electric vehicles have soared.
So far in 2015 20,992 plug-ins and EVs have been registered, with just over 14,000 of those being petrol or diesel-electric hybrids. That’s a 226.5 per cent rise over last year according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.
The current £5,000 grant will run out at the end of the year at a date to be confirmed later. The tiered system will see different categories brought in with CO2 and electric range taken into account instead of today’s flat under-75g/km of CO2 requirements.
The success of the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV – which has sold 9,300 in 2015 – along with a growing EV market means the limit of 50,000 plug-in cars is expected to be met soon and the allocated cash will run out. It was first estimated that the allowance for 50,000 grants could last until as late as 2017 but plug-in car sales have exceeded these expectations.
Despite low gas prices, world automakers from Toyota to VW are moving ahead on nonpolluting vehicles.
It may be a strange time to talk about fuel efficiency when gas prices worldwide have been plunging – in the United States to little more than $2 a gallon.
But worldwide automakers are still stretching for that brass ring of fuel efficiency, pushed in part by government regulations and perhaps pulled by their own sense of corporate responsibility.
Toyota, for example, loves the idea of nonpolluting cars powered by hydrogen fuel cells. Tesla Motors is showing that its all-electric vehicles can generate the “gotta have it” appeal of the latest iPhone, even if they are not yet affordable by the masses.
Volkswagen is reeling from people discovering that it had made false claims for its “clean” diesel engines, which at least temporarily puts a big question mark on whether diesel technology will be a viable way to squeeze extra miles out of a gallon of fossil fuel.
This week Toyota, perhaps with an eye toward polishing its own green credentials while VW stumbles around in a cloud of diesel soot, announced that by 2050 it would cut the average emission from Toyota vehicles by 90 percent (compared with 2010 levels) while trimming sales of its conventional gasoline-powered vehicles to close to zero.
Toyota’s first fuel-cell car, the Mirai, went on sale last year in Japan and should be available in parts of the US and Europe this year.
VW now says it plans to add expensive (but real) new emission controls to its diesel models. And it also said it would bring out an all-electric version of its Phaeton sedan, along with more VW models that would offer plug-in electric-gasoline hybrid engines.
But the biggest players in the electric car game may turn out to be a group of Chinese companies. China represents a huge and growing domestic automobile market as its people become more affluent. Combine that with a serious problem: the air quality in China. The Chinese government is prepared to go to great lengths to put more nonpolluting cars on the road.
Indications are that Chinese companies will be making close copies of Teslas at a fraction of the cost, taking advantage of the country’s loose copyright laws and Tesla’s own willingness to share its technology openly. “Real environmental benefits will only happen if the big car companies make risky decisions to make electric vehicles,” Elon Musk, chief executive of Tesla, has said. “I hope they do. We’ll try to be as helpful as we can.”
At the same time China is placing a luxury tax on Teslas imported into that country. As a result Mr. Musk has been critical of the Chinese companies, which he says aren’t interested in advancing knowledge in the field.
One top contender in China, according to an article in WIRED online, is the Le* Car, a new venture by LeTV, China’s version of Netflix headed by billionaire Jia Yueting. Le* Car may debut at the Beijing auto show next spring.
“Five years ago, I didn’t think Tesla would become a viable business. Today, though, they make a really good car,” says Joe DeMatio, deputy editor of Road & Track magazine. “There’s no reason to believe that a Chinese company can’t do the same thing.”
In 2006 a controversial documentary film asked “Who Killed the Electric Car?” The answer in 2015, apparently, is not the world’s automakers. Even as gasoline prices plummet (for now), automakers are gearing up for a post-fossil-fuel era.
The truth of Exxon’s complicity in global warming must to be told – how they knew about climate change decades ago but chose to help kill our planet
I’m well aware that with Paris looming it’s time to be hopeful, and I’m willing to try. Even amid the record heat and flooding of the present, there are good signs for the future in the rising climate movement and the falling cost of solar.
But before we get to past and present there’s some past to be reckoned with, and before we get to hope there’s some deep, blood-red anger.
In the last three weeks, two separate teams of journalists — the Pulitzer-prize winning reporters at the website Inside Climate News and another crew composed of Los Angeles Times veterans and up-and-comers at the Columbia Journalism School — have begun publishing the results of a pair of independent investigations into ExxonMobil.
Though they draw on completely different archives, leaked documents, and interviews with ex-employees, they reach the same damning conclusion: Exxon knew all that there was to know about climate change decades ago, and instead of alerting the rest of us denied the science and obstructed the politics of global warming.
In mid-August, TomDispatch’s Michael Klare wrote presciently of the oncoming global oil glut, the way it was driving the price of petroleum into the “energy subbasement,” and how such a financial “rout,” if extended over the next couple of years, might lead toward a new (and better) world of energy. As it happens, the first good news of the sort Klare was imagining has since come in. In a country where the price of gas at the pump now averages $2.29 a gallon (and in some places has dropped under $1.90), Big Oil has begun cutting back on its devastating plans to extract every imaginable drop of fossil fuel from the planet and burn it. Oil companies have also been laying off employees by the tens of thousands and deep-sixing, at least for now, plans to search for and exploit tar sands and other “tough oil” deposits worldwide.
In that context, as September ended, after a disappointing six weeks of drilling, Royal Dutch Shell cancelled “for the foreseeable future” its search for oil and natural gas in the tempestuous but melting waters of the Alaskan Arctic. This was no small thing and a great victory for an environmental movement that had long fought to put obstacles in the way of Shell’s exploration plans. Green-lighted by the Obama administration to drill in the Chukchi Sea this summer, Shell has over the last nine years sunk more than $7 billion into its Arctic drilling project, so the decision to close up shop was no small thing and offers a tiny ray of hope for what activism can do when reality offers a modest helping hand.
As Klare makes clear today, when it comes to the burning of fossil fuels, reality — if only we bother to notice it — is threatening to offer something more like the back of its hand to us on this embattled planet of ours. He offers a look at a future in which humanity, like various increasingly endangered ecosystems including the Arctic, may be approaching a “tipping point.”
As a new chairman is appointed to the Intergovernmental Panel on climate Change (IPCC) a University of Manchester climate expert has said headline projections from the organisation about future warming are ‘wildly over optimistic.’
In an article published today in Nature Geoscience Professor Kevin Anderson says that IPCC claims that “global economic growth would not be strongly effected” are unrealistic and that if we are to meet the 2C warming target wealthy and high emitting individuals will need to make dramatic cuts in the energy they use and in the material goods they consume – they will have to accept immediate and fundamental changes to their way of life – at least until the transition away from fossil fuels is complete
Professor Anderson also says that many climate scientists are censoring their own work in order for their results to be more politically palatable, something that does society a “grave disservice.”
Professor Anderson’s claims are a wake-up call to Professor Hoesung Lee, who was installed at the new IPCC chair last week and are well timed in the lead-up to the climate negotiations in Paris, which take place later this year.
A statement last year from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said that “to keep a good chance of staying below 2 °C, and at manageable costs, our emissions should drop by 40–70 per cent globally between 2010 and 2050, falling to zero or below by 2100”, and that mitigation costs would be so low that “global economic growth would not be strongly affected.”
Professor Anderson notes:
“If the IPCC’s up-beat headlines are to be believed, reducing emissions in line with a reasonable-to-good chance of meeting the 2 °C target requires an accelerated, but still evolutionary, move away from fossil fuels; they notably do not call for an immediate and revolutionary transition in how we use and produce energy. Yet, in my view, the IPCC’s own carbon budgets make it abundantly clear that only a revolutionary transition can now deliver on 2°C.”
According to Anderson, the IPCC’s positive outcomes are:
“Delivered through unrealistically early peaks in global emissions, or through the large-scale rollout of speculative technologies intended to remove CO2 from the atmosphere.
“In stark contrast, I conclude that the carbon budgets associated with a 2 °C threshold demand profound and immediate changes to the consumption and production of energy.
“The complete set of 400 IPCC scenarios for a 50% or better chance of meeting the 2 °C target work on the basis of either an ability to change the past, or the successful and large-scale uptake of negative-emission technologies. A significant proportion of the scenarios are dependent on both. That is unrealistic.”
According to IPCC research, it is cumulative emissions of CO2 that matter in determining how much the planet warms by 2100. The IPCC concludes that no more than 1,000 Gt of CO2 can be emitted between 2011 and 2100 for a 66% chance, or better, of remaining below a 2 °C rise.
However, between 2011 and 2014 CO2 emissions from energy production alone amounted to about 140 Gt of CO2. To limit warming to no more than 2 °C, the remaining 860 Gt of CO2 (out to 2100) must be considered in relation to the three major sources of CO2; those released in cement manufacture, changes in land-use and, most importantly, energy production.
“The severity of such cuts would probably exclude the use of fossil fuels, even with carbon capture and storage (CCS), as a dominant post-2050 energy source. If we are to meet the 2C target, us wealthier high emitting individuals, whether in industrial or industrialising nations, will have to accept radical changes to how we live our lives – that or we’ll fail on 2°C.”
Environment minister vows to make gasoline, diesel taxes even
Decline in diesel’s share of Europe car market may accelerate
France plans to end tax breaks for diesel, ending the special status long enjoyed by the fuel in the wake of Volkswagen AG’s emissions scandal.
French Environment Minister Segolene Royal told journalists after a cabinet meeting on Wednesday:
“It’s obvious today that there’s an inconsistency between the advantages given to diesel and its drawbacks in terms of pollution.”
Officials agreed that, starting with the 2016 budget, diesel taxes will rise and those on gasoline will fall “to neutralize the difference” in the next five to seven years. The price advantage in France amounts 15 euro cents per liter (89 U.S. cents per gallon) of fuel, Royal said.
The move could help further accelerate diesel’s decline in Europe, where four of the five biggest car markets impose lower taxes than on gasoline. The favorable treatment has helped diesel become the dominant technology for cars in Western Europe. But health and pollution concerns had already begun to erode diesel’s popularity even before revelations last month that VW duped regulators about emissions for these cars.
European auto buyers have been attracted by both the lower pump price and better fuel consumption on diesel cars. About 68 percent of cars and light commercial vehicles on French roads as of Jan. 1 were using the fuel, according to the CCFA, the country’s carmakers’ association. The share had started to decline as cities, including Paris, blame smog on diesel exhaust.
The French government’s announcement comes after Volkswagen admitted that it installed technology in nearly 11 million of its diesel vehicles designed to fool emissions testers. The scandal may cause the technology’s market share to drop to as little as 35 percent of cars sold in Europe in 2022 from 53 percent in 2014, according to industry consultant LMC Automotive.
The Volkswagen diesel-emission cheating scandal has caused executive heads to roll, cars to be yanked off sale, and regulators to pore over real-world emission data with a laser-like focus.
It has made the future of the VW Group as the world’s largest carmaker seem far more perilous than it did just one month ago.
This morning, the company’s board of directors released a statement laying out its plans to move forward, even as it cuts capital investments by 1 billion Euros ($1.14 billion) to cope with the crisis.
It contains a laundry list of adjustments to VW’s planned future technology investments, including more focus on electrified drivetrains.