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Chevrolet Volt Unplugged: GM Slashes Prices to Spur Sales

Buyers now can get as much as $5,000 in incentives.

by on Jun.11, 2013

Chevy hopes to spur lagging Volt sales.

With signs that sales of its Chevrolet Volt battery car could be coming unplugged, General Motors is offering potential buyers as much as $5,000 in incentives – making it the latest maker to try to cut prices in a bid to boost lagging demand for electric vehicles.

Whether the move will work remains to be seen, as GM has already trimmed the price on the Volt plug-in hybrid. But rival Nissan has had some clear success after cutting the price on its own Leaf battery-electric vehicle, or BEV, earlier this year.

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Both vehicles were introduced to high expectations nearly three years ago, but they have so far consistently missed sales targets. In fact, only a handful of battery-based vehicles have come close to meeting expectations, most notably the Tesla Model S.

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Tesla Plans Cross-Continent Expansion of Supercharger Network

Battery-carmaker hopes to end “range anxiety.”

by on May.30, 2013

Tesla plans to place "several 100" Supercharger stations across the U.S. and Canada by mid-decade.

Battery-car start-up Tesla Motors hopes to put a quick-charging “supercharger” within the reach of all U.S. motorists – and most of those in Canada – over the next several years, something that could eliminate the so-called “range anxiety” that has so far been a factor in the limited sales of plug-based” vehicles like Tesla’s Model S.

The roll-out of the Tesla Supercharger network will now come twice as fast as originally planned, with about twice as many of them being put in place, according to the maker’s founder and CEO Elon Musk. The fast-charging system will also be upgraded to reduce charging times by nearly half compared to the first chargers now in place, said Musk.

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“It does mean quite a lot to mainstream customers, being able to drive you (battery) car wherever you want to go…at a moment’s notice,” said the South African-born executive. “So (this is) very important to accessing a broader audience” for battery-electric vehicles like the Tesla Model-S sedan that went on sales last summer.

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Desperate for Sales, EV Makers Slash Prices

Honda trims lease on Fit EV by a third.

by on May.30, 2013

Honda will trim the price of its Fit EV by a third.

Honda will slash by a third the cost of leasing its new Fit EV making it the latest maker to try to boost demand for battery cars by reducing their hefty price premium.

Other makers who have already taken steps to improve the affordability of their electric vehicles include Nissan with the battery-electric Leaf, and Chevrolet with the plug-in Volt. High prices are one of the key reasons potential buyers have steered clear from so-called advanced propulsion vehicles, according to industry research.

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Honda says it will reduce the price of the Fit EV lease from $389 to $259 a month, and customers will no longer face mileage limitations.  Existing customers will see their lease prices adjusted, as well.

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Are Battery Car Sales Charging Up?

Chevy Volt to set a record in August

by on Aug.30, 2012

Chevrolet Volt sales are gaining momentum -- apparently driven by the 2013 model's ability to get an HOV-lane sticker in California.

With the second anniversary of the launch of two critical battery-electric vehicles fast approaching, many observers have been questioning whether the public has been turned off to the costly technology.  There’s no question that the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf got off to a slow start.  And, when you add in less advanced battery technology, namely gas-electric hybrids, demand has clearly slowed since fuel prices hit their April peak.

Yet, despite recent, largely negative headlines highlighting plant shutdowns, recalls and other setbacks, there are signs that battery car sales may be charging up, after all.

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Perhaps the biggest sign of a turnaround has come from Chevrolet which is reporting that it expects sales of the Volt to top 2,500 by the time it closes the books on August.  That would be a tripling of sales compared to year-earlier levels – and a 10% jump from Volt’s previous record, the 2,289 sold in March of this year.

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Consumers Fail to Plug into Electrics

A critical year for battery carmakers.

by on Jul.09, 2012

Slow to charge up buyers: the Ford Focus Electric.

There’s a growing supply but where’s the demand?  That’s the question industry officials are increasingly worried about as more and more battery cars enter a market that shows little sign of embracing them.

While sales of some models are up over year-ago levels, notably those of the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid, demand for others, such as the Nissan Leaf, have slipped year-over-year.  And still others, new to the market such as the Ford Focus Electric, are moving at such a slow pace they’re little more than rounding errors on the sales charts.

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Few now believe demand for plug-ins, in particular, will come near to meeting a target set by an Obama Administration that has strongly advocated alternative power – and backed it with billions of dollars in federal loans and grants to automakers and battery car manufacturers.

The President had forecast 1 million plug-ins would be on the road by 2015.  But “There is little evidence” that can happen, according to a new report by Pike Research, a Boulder, Colorado firm focusing on clean technologies such as battery power.

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First Drive: 2013 Honda Fit EV

Honda plugs-in with first battery car in two decades.

by on Jul.02, 2012

The 2013 Honda Fit EV is now rated as the most fuel-efficient vehicle in the U.S.

Driving the 2013 Honda Fit EV even a couple of hundred meters easily disproves the mindless chatter, heard in some quarters, about electric vehicles being nothing more than gloried golf carts.

In fact, the light, nimble Fit EV, which is a pure battery-electric vehicle with no gasoline motor tucked away onboard for support, is a blast to drive. It’s well-balanced, handles nicely and incorporates new technology that neutralizes the relatively harsh and unnatural brake feel common in hybrids and EVs equipped with regenerative braking.

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In addition, the Fit EV, which also has an independent rears suspension as well as the new brake set, outperformed the Nissan Leaf, its nearest competitor, on a small handling course that Honda set up during a first drive of its battery subcompact. The Fit EV also is equipped with three different driving modes, sport, normal and Eco, which can be reached by pushing the appropriate button.

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Honda Fit EV Gets Best-Ever 118 MPGe Rating

Limited roll-out scheduled for coming summer.

by on Jun.06, 2012

The 2013 Honda Fit EV wins the EPA's highest mileage-equivalency rating yet, at 118 MPGe.

The new Honda Fiat EV has landed a 118 MPGe federal fuel economy rating, the highest ever granted by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Scheduled to go into limited distribution over the summer the 2013 Fit EV is Honda’s first battery-electric vehicle in two decades and enters a fast-emerging market segment that will soon include offerings from most of the major automakers – as well as new start-ups like California’s Tesla Motors.

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The EPA’s Combined 118 MPGe rating shoots Honda past the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, at 112 MPGe, the Ford Focus Electric, at 105 MPGe, and the Nissan Leaf, rated at 99 MPGe.

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Honda Debuting EV and Plug-In Hybrid at Geneva

Marks big, albeit belated, push into advanced battery technology.

by on Feb.11, 2011

Honda plans to have the Fit EV in production in 2012.

Honda will roll out a pair of new prototypes at the upcoming Geneva Motor Show meant to underscore the maker’s new commitment to battery propulsion.  Until recently, the automaker was earning a reputation for recalcitrance, dismissing lithium-ion technology in favor of older, more limited hybrids and hydrogen power.

The star of the Honda stand at the PALExpo convention center will likely be a prototype Honda Fit EV, which the maker intends to bring to market in 2012 – and use to directly challenge its Japanese rival, Nissan, which recently launched the Leaf, the world’s first mass-production battery-electric vehicle.

“The Honda EV Concept hints strongly at the direction and styling for Honda’s upcoming production battery electric vehicle, the Fit EV, which will be introduced to the U.S. and Japan in 2012,” said a statement from the Japanese maker, which referred to the battery car as intended “to meet the daily driving needs of the average metropolitan commuter.”

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Honda has long dismissed lithium-ion technology as limited in application and too costly for the mass market.  Instead, the maker has steadfastly stuck with its “mild hybrid” IMA drivetrain, which relies on less powerful but well-tested nickel-metal hydride batteries.  Longer-term, Honda has contended that the future is in hydrogen power – as used in the fuel-cell-powered Honda FCX Clarity.

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First Look: 2012 Honda Fit EV

Maker sets entry into emerging battery-car market.

by on Nov.18, 2010

Honda will bring out a production version of the Fit EV in 2012, the maker confirmed.

Honda made an appropriately auspicious splash, Wednesday, as it staged its first-ever global preview at the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show.

And, suitably enough, the event marked the debut of the Japanese maker’s new Honda Fit EV Concept, a thinly-disguised version of the battery car it will put into production in 2012, said the automaker’s CEO Takanobu Ito.

Though Honda was the first to bring a hybrid-electric vehicle to the U.S. market, it has been struggling to set a clear course for its future electrification efforts, in part due to its concerns about the viability of lithium-ion battery technology.  But earlier this year, Ito decided Honda could no longer dither and has announced a relatively aggressive program to expand its use of battery power.

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“A change of this scale is not easy for consumers, for the auto industry or for the (electric) infrastructure,” he acknowledged in explanation of Honda’s continuing concerns about battery propulsion.

But the maker has clearly recognized it must move beyond its current mild hybrid technology.  And the production version of the Fit EV – which will begin field testing next year – is only part of Honda’s strategy.

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