End of an era, start of another: Volvo out of full ICE market in 2019
July 16, 2017 8:58 PM   Subscribe

"We are convinced that the future of Volvo is electric" -- Håkan Samuelsson, CEO of Volvo Cars Corporation AB, in a short promotional video from Volvo. The company has recently announced that "the cars that [they produce] from 2019 onwards will range from battery-only to plug-in hybrid – which can run for a significant distance before switching to petrol or diesel – and mild hybrids, where a battery helps a conventional engine achieve greater fuel economy." While this serves customers who have asked for more electric and hybrid car options, Adam Vaughan, writing for The Guardian, also points out "the move will also help the Swedish firm meet legally-binding carbon targets for new cars sold in the EU from 2020."

Volvo will be the first major car manufacture to stop producing pure internal combustion engine (ICE) cars.

In March of this year, Green Car Reports noted that a minimum of six new all-electric models are expected in 2018 and 2019, all promising ranges of 200 miles or more—which until a few months ago had been the exclusive province of Tesla Motors. This was before Volvo's announcement, which could bring that total up to 11, as the firm will introduce five 100% electric models between 2019 and 2021, as reported by The Guardian.
posted by filthy light thief (79 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
 
Good move. Hope it ends up counting for something.
posted by Artw at 9:01 PM on July 16 [5 favorites]


A quarter of UK carbon emissions are from road transport, but Volvo was less than 2% of UK car market in 2015 and 2016, and that carbon emissions statistic doesn't split cars from trucks, let alone pickups vs heavy-duty trucks. In short, the direct impact will be limited, but I hope more for the broader market impact, as hybrid and electric vehicles increase in market share.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:14 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]




I'm on my second electric car, and have no intention of going back.

First I had two cars, and thought I'd use the electric when I could, just as an experiment. I quickly discovered that the gas powered car was only coming out of the garage on Sundays, and only to be exercised because I hadn't used it all week. Since it was a lot more expensive, payments-wise, than the electric car, it didn't make sense to keep.

So I sold the gas car, and figured I'd use the monthly payment savings to rent gas powered cars when I needed to, as renting a car every weekend would still be cheaper than the monthly payments and insurance on the gas car. Except that I almost never need one. I've only rented a few times, so I've saved a ton of money.

The only thing that leaves me dissatisfied is the low-end, compliance car nature of the electric cars I've chosen (500e and Spark EV); they've been remarkably cheap to lease and operate, surprisingly fun to drive (like little muscle cars), and very very reliable and maintenance free, but I want something nicer. These Volvos (and other cars coming from other manufacturers other than Tesla) should be much more like the cars I'm used to driving, without entering Tesla Model S territory in terms of price (and long service appointment wait times.)

Frankly, I can't wait.
posted by davejay at 9:16 PM on July 16 [26 favorites]


I would love to see a small electric ute on the market that can do 300km per charge. I've no idea if it would be popular or not but I'd be all over it.
posted by deadwax at 9:50 PM on July 16 [2 favorites]


I've owned a Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV for about a year now - it only gets about 50km off a charge before switching to hybrid, but it's still incredible. I can't imagine driving a petrol car again. I'm getting an average fuel efficiency (long term) of 3.4 L/100km (69 MPG) in a four wheel drive SUV. And it tows a trailer beautifully. As batteries continue to get cheaper and better, this is clearly the future.
posted by Jimbob at 10:19 PM on July 16 [5 favorites]


>"the cars that [they produce] from 2019 onwards will range from battery-only to plug-in hybrid – which can run for a significant distance before switching to petrol or diesel – and mild hybrids, where a battery helps a conventional engine achieve greater fuel economy."

Mild hybrids are the norm here in Japan (a large, if declining, auto market), and at every price point. I wonder what is taking the rest of the world so long.
posted by My Dad at 10:40 PM on July 16 [3 favorites]


It's a start. It's all incremental, though. We won't be making big gains until we eliminate the daily commute in personal vehicles.
posted by oheso at 11:38 PM on July 16 [4 favorites]


I mean, yay I guess. In Canada, Volvos START at $39,000 already, so wow those electric ones are gonna be $$$$$.
posted by chococat at 11:43 PM on July 16 [2 favorites]


and the rich shall lead them
posted by philip-random at 12:44 AM on July 17 [1 favorite]


Mild hybrids are the norm here in Japan (a large, if declining, auto market), and at every price point. I wonder what is taking the rest of the world so long.

Patents are a thing, unfortunately. The Hybrid Synergy Drive that Toyota invented and patented is a beautiful thing. Many engineering teams have tried inventing a "similar but different" method of combining an electric and gasoline motive source, but none managed to design something better - most solutions have been judged too close in concept and the risk involved is far too high - a company could invest 1 billion dollars into a new engine line up only to have it tied up in expensive patent litigation arguing whether it is too similar!

The other alternative, is to deliberately seek less efficient solutions - Honda, for example, developed something called Integrated Motor Assist which I have heard described to be a more complex, less efficient and less durable system. Mazda uses i-ELOOP which captures braking energy into a supercapacitor bank to power the vehicle's electrical systems. Volvo talked about using KERS to capture kinetic energy in a spinning flywheel in a vacuum sealed package at the rear wheels (like F1 race cars) but I don't think it ever eventuated.

Ford has some hybrid vehicles, but they basically licensed the tech from Toyota, after spending time and money trying to "reinvent the wheel" so to speak, and concluding any system they invented would be too conceptually similar to what Toyota had patented.
posted by xdvesper at 1:22 AM on July 17 [7 favorites]


I'm still waiting for a electric-only pickup. Preferably full size, but it definitely doesn't need to be lux.

A guy showed up at our local car monthly get-together with a 1995-ish Ford F250 four-wheel-drive, full electric conversion, using leaf battery packs. Said he got about 120 miles of range out of it, which would make me perfectly happy. I happen to have a 2WD (20 years older) F250 which I love but which gets about 8mpg. So I was excite. And then I asked how much he had into the conversion.

$25,000.

I'll wait for someone to make an electric truck, le sigh.

(I'm curious. Does any current electric vehicle manufacturer use small(er) motors at all four corners rather than a single motor and a drivetrain?)
posted by maxwelton at 2:36 AM on July 17 [1 favorite]


I like electric bicycles.

I don't mean I have one or want one personally. I like pedaling. But I bet a lot of car drivers would instead commute on a bicycle if that actually meant relaxing in the breeze while their bicycles propelled them all the way to work or school and back, probably a lot faster than the cars stuck in traffic. That's got to be as close to zero energy consumption as you're going to get for a personal motorized commuter vehicle.
posted by pracowity at 2:49 AM on July 17 [10 favorites]


(I'm curious. Does any current electric vehicle manufacturer use small(er) motors at all four corners rather than a single motor and a drivetrain?)

Some of the limited-run AMG branded electric Mercs used this sort of setup, didn't they? And some of the BMW electric concepts? Don't think it's in any mass-market vehicle yet, but it'll hit the very very high end first when it does.
posted by Dysk at 3:00 AM on July 17


I've mostly decided that my next car will be some form of electric but seeing as my nine year old Honda Fit shows no signs of ever wearing out, it might be a decade before I'm in the market.

My ultimate goal is to line the garage roof with solar panels and charge the car with solar energy.
posted by octothorpe at 3:52 AM on July 17


(I'm curious. Does any current electric vehicle manufacturer use small(er) motors at all four corners rather than a single motor and a drivetrain?)

Well my Outlander, being '4WD' has twin electric motors, front and rear, so that's half-way there.
posted by Jimbob at 3:52 AM on July 17


In Canada, Volvos START at $39,000 already, so wow those electric ones are gonna be $$$$$.

Yeah but the fuel savings... we lease ours in an agreement that includes petrol, and it was significantly cheaper for us to lease a 2015-model PHEV than an equivalent 2012 petrol car when fuel costs are taken into account.
posted by Jimbob at 3:55 AM on July 17


Yeah but the fuel savings

That is the thing for us, we don't actually spend that much on gas right now so electric wouldn't save us that much. I fill up the tank on my Honda about once every three weeks at a cost of about $25US. So fuel costs us < $500 a year. An electric is going to have to cost $25,000 for it to break even against the $20,000 gasoline car we could normally buy.

I like the idea of electric for other reasons but saving money isn't going to really be a factor unless they get much cheaper or fuel goes to $5 a gallon.
posted by octothorpe at 4:32 AM on July 17 [5 favorites]


I've owned a Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV for about a year now - it only gets about 50km off a charge before switching to hybrid, but it's still incredible. I can't imagine driving a petrol car again. I'm getting an average fuel efficiency (long term) of 3.4 L/100km (69 MPG) in a four wheel drive SUV.

I have one too - since our weekday and most weekend car use is around 20 miles, we barely use any petrol at all during everyday use and it's only when we head out of the city that any significant petrol use occurs. In June we didn't leave the city for about 5 weeks and subsequently got 106mpg for that tank of fuel (and only used up the tank when we went to London). Even when you factor in the cost of the electricity, it still worked out at a £/mile cheaper than every car I've ever owned except the Smart despite the fact being an SUV it's by far the largest car I've ever owned.

I'd love to have a pure electric vehicle but the market for non-luxury family* EVs is still pretty limited and a PHEV was the best we could manage.

(*ie big enough for a pushchair and shopping in the back)
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:34 AM on July 17 [1 favorite]


In talking to friends with electric cars (mostly Nissan, Chevy, and Ford here in Georgia), in addition to the fuel savings, they note that the maintenance costs are very low (until you need to replace the battery, obviously). Basically, sometimes you need new tires. But there's no oil changes, no replacing hoses or belts or filters.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:41 AM on July 17 [6 favorites]


The Tesla 3 was intriguing me but the final product is a fastback, so overall the shape is a hell of a lot less practical than the early hatchback concepts. This is what happens when you let the design of a product get controlled by car nerds.

Also, getting a Tesla 3 requires paying $1,000 to enter the queue for the opportunity to buy one fourteen months from now. I get that demand outstrips supply and, for what the car represents, I think that's kind of awesome. But I don't think I want a Tesla until they have the balls to defy the motorsports obsessives and make something as functional and simple as my Impreza is, or as VW Golfs used to be.
posted by ardgedee at 4:42 AM on July 17 [1 favorite]


it was significantly cheaper for us to lease

How much do/did you spend on gas, and how far do you travel a year?
posted by GhostintheMachine at 4:42 AM on July 17


We'll have to make sure that their electric cars don't have a secret diesel engine that only runs when the car isn't being inspected...
posted by Salvor Hardin at 4:56 AM on July 17 [11 favorites]


ADVChina made an interesting vblog post "Is China Leading the World in Electric Vehicles?" . China has been pushing electric bikes for a while and has learned from their deployment on a very large scale. The CCP is pushing for bigger introduction (12% of vehicles should be electric by 2020) - rather faster than most other countries in the west (where it is being held up more by politicians and regulation than it is by technology).

- I think that Volvo's Chinese owners, Geely, might have pushed the company in that direction with this market in mind. There is money to be made there sooner and in greater quantities than in other places.
posted by rongorongo at 4:57 AM on July 17 [3 favorites]


Next up: Australia announces it is working on a car powered by “clean coal”. The federal Industry Minister, Mr. Ian the Climate Denialist Potato, has said that the government's $1Bn grant to this end will be “a shot in the arm” for the struggling Australian car industry.
posted by acb at 4:57 AM on July 17 [4 favorites]


We traded in my TDI two months ago for a PHEV that has a 22-mile battery. It gets me to work and back, and then often to the gym and back, without using gas.

We do longer trips on weekends, and with the 1.4L gas engine that gets 39mpg on its own, end up averaging 50-60 mpg over the tank of gas.

Our electric bill was down the first month, then up by less than 10% the second month (which was also a hot month, so AC usage).

So far so good. My favorite part is how dead quiet it is in electric mode. It's wonderful.

On the other hand, this is a VW product, and while it's the luxury one and feels nice, I do wonder about longevity, since it's also clearly a low-volume compliance car for them. And I'm scarred from the TDI thing anyway. But hybrid cars have generally seemed to be good products overall, so here's hoping.
posted by Dashy at 5:53 AM on July 17 [1 favorite]


... and mild hybrids

Ah, right. Those would be the ones where 100% of the power used comes from an internal combustion engine using gasoline or diesel, even if it goes through a battery before getting to the wheels. Despite being at the end of the list in the press release, I expect they'll make up the majority of sales.
posted by sfenders at 5:53 AM on July 17 [2 favorites]


I want my next car to be electric, but I currently rent in Chicago with street parking and no reliable way to charge a car.

Once this problem is solved here (or I move) I'm ready.
posted by AlexiaSky at 6:08 AM on July 17 [1 favorite]


Doesn't really matter here in the UK, as we'll all be using horse and cart soon anyway.
posted by rolandroland at 6:29 AM on July 17 [3 favorites]


Well, before the horses are eaten, anyway.
posted by Artw at 6:38 AM on July 17 [6 favorites]


So far so good. My favorite part is how dead quiet it is in electric mode. It's wonderful.

You've really got to watch out for pedestrians who have come to rely on hearing to detect cars (not a criticism, I do it too). Multiple times I've been crawling along behind someone walking along a quiet road or in a car park who hasn't heard me behind them (despite the mandatory "space-car noise" they add so it's not completely silent). Often when they notice you they jump a bit in surprise.

street parking and no reliable way to charge a car.

Yeah I think aside from battery-capacity, charging infrastructure is a massive issue. In the UK most major motorway service stations have some fast-chargers (80% charge in ~25 minutes, some are Tesla-only though), but in cities it's a mess of different providers that you usually have to pay a monthly or annual substriction to even before you pay for the actual charging. With our PHEV we got 6 months of free use of one of the networks, and even then we probably used that network fewer than 10 times since their chargers weren't in particularly convenient places for us. And if you don't have your own driveway/garage for your car then home-charging (which is probably the cheapest) can be very difficult/impossible.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 6:49 AM on July 17


On the other hand, this is a VW product, and while it's the luxury one and feels nice, I do wonder about longevity, since it's also clearly a low-volume compliance car for them.

VW have made commitments to launch 30 electric vehicles by 2025 - and to shift their sales of zero emission vehicles to between 20 and 25% of overall sales by that point.; they are also building their equivalent of Tesla's giga-factory in Europe to supply batteries. The VW group are the world's #2 and currently churn out 18 vehicles for every 1 from Volvo - so their stance is likely to go some way beyond mere compliance. (and if, as seems plausible, if they are doing all this out of remorse for dieselgate - then that may be a profitable sentiment for them to act on).
posted by rongorongo at 6:53 AM on July 17 [1 favorite]


I want my next car to be electric, but I currently rent in Chicago with street parking and no reliable way to charge a car.
You - or rather your street - wants street lights with Ubitricity charge sockets, I think.
posted by rongorongo at 7:00 AM on July 17 [1 favorite]


Often when they notice you they jump a bit in surprise.

obligatory u-turn
posted by entropicamericana at 7:57 AM on July 17


Does any current electric vehicle manufacturer use small(er) motors at all four corners rather than a single motor and a drivetrain?

It's hard to make motors that are both grunty enough to push a car and lightweight enough to let the suspension work well. A single motor linked to a pair of wheels via a couple of universals and CV joints is dead simple as drivetrains go, and makes it way easier to get the dynamics right.
posted by flabdablet at 8:01 AM on July 17 [1 favorite]


Volvo's an interesting company, and I think a good example of a smaller outfit being more able to make big moves. It's also said that it intends to sell its self-driving cars with free lifetime insurance, because the accident statistics will be so much lower than with human-driven cars the insurance costs can be buried in the ticket price.
posted by Devonian at 8:08 AM on July 17 [2 favorites]


Ubitricity

I like the lamppost sockets - those are cool. But putting the smarts in the cable seems a bit iffy to me unless your cable won't work for any car but yours, in which case you might as well just put all the smarts in the car and keep the cable dumb, in order that it stays cheap enough that you could rely on mechanical combo locks to secure both ends.
posted by flabdablet at 8:16 AM on July 17


My Dad: Mild hybrids are the norm here in Japan (a large, if declining, auto market), and at every price point. I wonder what is taking the rest of the world so long.

Idiotic machismo is part of it in the US. A co-worker told me her parents scoff at her jeep, because it's not as big as their SUVs. And we're also home to rolling coal, fooking idiots who make their trucks run less efficiently and belch black smoke, as the "anti-Prius." Are those a thing in Japan (or anywhere outside of the US)?


chococat: In Canada, Volvos START at $39,000 already, so wow those electric ones are gonna be $$$$$.

One reason to make your whole entire product line use new technology is that it's much cheaper that way. When we bought our first new, "modern" car, we were looking at hybrid Accords. A local dealer had one on the lot, and it had right turn and backup cameras, bluetooth and USB support, and I'm sure there are more features. And it's all stock-standard, because it's cheaper that way. I can't imagine that Volvo decided "let's increase the cost of all our vehicles significantly!" when they're not a top seller, but their sales numbers are improving.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:23 AM on July 17 [1 favorite]


It's hard to make motors that are both grunty enough to push a car and lightweight enough to let the suspension work well.

There's no reason not to put them inboard on the chassis and have four short driveshafts linking them to the wheels, rather than mounting them as sprung weight (which I believe is how the few limited production cars using a wheel per motor do it - like the Rimac) which gives you the benefit of being able to selectively vary torque (even into the negative, with regen braking) to each wheel individually. Like I say, it's going to be limited to the very top end of the market for a while.
posted by Dysk at 8:27 AM on July 17 [1 favorite]


that carbon emissions statistic doesn't split cars from trucks

keep in mind that Volvo semi-trucks are very popular in the US, and the major brand in Europe.
I don't see a specific mention of their commercial truck fleet line, but it can't be far behind.
posted by Xyanthilous P. Harrierstick at 8:29 AM on July 17


And we're also home to rolling coal, fooking idiots who make their trucks run less efficiently and belch black smoke, as the "anti-Prius."

I have only seen one of those idiots, in the state of New Hampshire. I had just picked up my new (used) Impreza, and was driving it home, when I pulled out behind a yahoo whose oversized pickup had those silly-looking big-rig stacks. I was the only car behind him, so his sudden emission of clouds of black smoke was clearly addressed to me. Fortunately, I had the windows closed and had already located the button that closes the vents, so I didn't even smell his oily display. What a maroon.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:58 AM on July 17 [1 favorite]


My Camry is a mild hybrid (I didn't know that's what it was called), and I love its frugality with gas. But I've never understood, for purely electric vehicles, where you're supposed to plug them in. I have a house, but I don't have a garage or even a driveway, so how do I charge it at home? Once in a very great while, I'll notice a charging station, but until they're at least as ubiquitous as gas stations I could never feel comfortable relying on them. Am I, in fact, seeing them all the time and just not recognizing them for what they are?
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:59 AM on July 17


I myself want an electric truck. As a native Texan, my first vehicle was a Ford Ranger. Don't need a behemoth. There are a few new manufacturers to watch that have prototype electric trucks. I like the looks of Workhorse's plugin hybrid. Bollinger Motors is one to watch, but they look more in the prototype stage than Workhorse.

It's pretty exciting.
posted by Mister Cheese at 9:05 AM on July 17 [1 favorite]


... and mild hybrids


Ah, right. Those would be the ones where 100% of the power used comes from an internal combustion engine using gasoline or diesel, even if it goes through a battery before getting to the wheels. Despite being at the end of the list in the press release, I expect they'll make up the majority of sales.


...

The Prius has an elegant design, where the gas engine and two electric motors work together. It's continuously variable, no shifting from first, to second, to third. The gas engine starts and shuts off as needed, the change is only noticeable at very low speeds.

I assumed the mild hybrid method of just attaching an electric motor onto a conventional gasoline drivetrain wouldn't be nearly as efficient.

But Hyundai has a Prius clone, the Ioniq, that has a 6-speed transmission, and an electric motor along with the gas engine. It's rated 58 mph EPA. (And will have plug-in and all-electric versions, too.)
posted by jjj606 at 9:06 AM on July 17


Are those a thing in Japan (or anywhere outside of the US)?

I live in rural Australia, and we have rolling-coal fucknuckles here as well.
posted by flabdablet at 9:11 AM on July 17 [2 favorites]


For those curious, I drive 12,000 miles per year. My average is 4 miles per kilowatt-hour (rounding down to be conservative, for both my current and previous EVs); assuming a 25% charging overhead, that makes my per-mile cost $0.0625.

By comparison, in my last gas car (a VW GTI) I averaged 24mpg; right now the average price for gas where I live is $2.91, for a per-mile cost of $0.12125, basically twice as much.

For 12,000 miles a year, that's $121.25 per month in gas vs $62.50 in electricity from my home charger, without the additional savings that come from a separate meter with a discounted electric rate (available in my area but I haven't bothered.)

To put it more simply: regardless of the number of miles I drive, my EV operates with the same fuel cost as a 24mpg car with $1.50-per-gallon gas.

When I got my first EV, gas averaged more than $4 per gallon, so I saved even more back then. I had to pay the cost to purchase and install a home charger, which (if memory serves) was $1,260. At $60 a month in fuel savings, it would have have taken 21 months to pay off, but as I was saving more than $100 a month in fuel costs back then, it took less than a year.

Also, a weekend rental in my area (Jeep Renegade or similar) costs $45 with taxes, so even if I rent one weekend per month (I typically go 4-6 months between rentals) a single month's fuel savings is larger than that rental cost.
posted by davejay at 9:17 AM on July 17 [4 favorites]


Am I, in fact, seeing them all the time and just not recognizing them for what they are?

Electric Vehicle Charging Station Locations (US) says there are:
16,170 electric stations
43,675 charging outlets
in the United States
Excluding private stations
and there's a map so you can check your area.
posted by pracowity at 9:17 AM on July 17 [1 favorite]


Am I, in fact, seeing them all the time and just not recognizing them for what they are?

Unlike gas stations, I've found there is no standard location for them, for example in my neck of the woods you can find them in commuter rail parking lots (which makes way too much sense I know) and some of them are subsidized by electric companies and can be found on town property. It seems like a 3 hour time limit is relatively standard.

In addition to that great map linked above, the Chargepoint Network is gaining traction and they have a nice online map.
posted by jeremias at 9:32 AM on July 17


Last time I shopped for a car I was hoping for a pure electric, but they were still unavailable here. I didn't want a plug-in hybrid because I already have a motorcycle and I don't want to worry about fuel stability and the problems inherent to E10, any more than I already do. I feel the same about lawn care machinery - electric FTW, I am sick of fussing over small carburetors.
posted by elizilla at 9:50 AM on July 17 [1 favorite]


I'm not usually one to buy a brand-new car, but I broke tradition and purchased a new Chevy Bolt EV a couple of months ago. I spent the better part of a year on a waiting list just to get a test drive, and I loved it as much as I suspected I would, so I scooped it up before someone could beat me to it. I have no regrets.

The demand for electric vehicles is there, and finally the manufacturers are rising to meet it.
posted by Hot Pastrami! at 10:13 AM on July 17 [1 favorite]


In February this year, I bought a Chevrolet Volt.

It's powered by the GM Voltec drivetrain - two electric motors and a 4-cylinder gas engine, all serially connected. It uses inline clutchbrakes to use the two electric motors together, as regenerative braking, or as a propulsor/generator pair with the gas engine.

The Volt came out in 2011, and got a new major revision in 2016. Electric range is 40-60 miles pure battery, and it has a 9 gallon gas tank. The fuel efficiency of the system is 40MPG if you don't plug-in charge it. The gas engine is predominantly a generator, paired with the weaker electric motor.

My normal work commute is 37 miles each way, so I installed an L2 EVSE at home and at work. Since February I've only used gas when going longer road trips.

I have 12k miles on it, and 7800 have been electric. My electricity in both locations costs 11¢/kWh. 4200 gas miles have cost me roughly $205, and 7800 electric miles have cost me roughly $220.

GM has developed an incredibly stable platform in Voltec. The battery pack is temperature-conditioned and they've built in substantial charge/discharge margins so it has a much better lifespan than other companies' products.

I'm glad Volvo has committed to (hybrid) electric. I hope this spurs GM to phase-in Voltec engines to more models.

On preview, Hot Pastrami!, congrats on the Bolt. It wasn't yet on the market when I bought my Volt. I want one!
posted by tomierna at 10:27 AM on July 17 [4 favorites]


Thanks tomierna! It's a quirky but lovable ride. The Volt is a nice car too, a satisfactory compromise between cleanliness and range. I might have gone with one myself, but we have a little gas-powered Toyota we use for long-distance travel. We're a hybrid household on average.
posted by Hot Pastrami! at 11:14 AM on July 17 [1 favorite]


One more thing: previously, for decades I drove cars with manual transmissions, because I find the automatics sloppy at best and infuriatingly indecisive at worst, and because I enjoy using engine braking to drive with (mostly) one foot. EVs -- with their single-ratio transmissions, instantaneous throttle response, uninterrupted acceleration and off-throttle battery regen -- are amazingly smooth, graceful and direct. My preference for the EV driving experience over the manual transmission experience is as strong as my preference for manual over automatic was. Plus carpool lane access...
posted by davejay at 12:07 PM on July 17 [6 favorites]


davejay, we must be driving-preference twins. My Bolt EV replaced a 5-speed Tiburon, I have always preferred manual transmissions. You would probably really enjoy the Bolt's "L" mode that puts the car in an aggressive regenerate braking configuration; the instant you let up on the pedal you can feel the regen kicking in. The default drive mode mimics a traditional automatic transmission, with gradual coasting and slight automatic acceleration upon release of the brakes.
posted by Hot Pastrami! at 1:18 PM on July 17 [1 favorite]


Over the weekend a friend and I made the case to a 3rd friend to buy an electric second car as it would be significantly cheaper to buy one for the commute to work than for him and his wife to take transit. On the one hand yay electric cars, but this is a situation where getting the electric car is a loss for the environment.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 2:21 PM on July 17


Mild hybrids are the norm here in Japan (a large, if declining, auto market), and at every price point. I wonder what is taking the rest of the world so long.

Given that Japan is a resource poor nation that must import most (all?) of its petroleum products, the government probably has strategic reasons for pushing everyone in that direction that, say, the US does not.
posted by indubitable at 2:29 PM on July 17


Another Volt driver here -- we love it. 95% of our driving is pure electric, but we can take a cross-state drive at a moment's notice without worry. By random chance I happened to drive both a BMW and an Audi in the last week, and the Volt's acceleration and smoothness are at least as good -- from 0-30 anyway. We've only put a few thousand miles on the ICE, so it should last a long time, and as was pointed out above, existing Prius patents notwithstanding, the engine appears to be an elegant and sturdy design. I also come from a manual, and thought I'd given up my strong feelings until I was driving the BMW, where not only was it still annoying to listen to it make wrong decisions in automatic mode, even manual mode has come to feel weirdly clunky. (Though I will say, the Volt's L mode is a bit of a fraud, at least in how it's sold as a energy saver -- the car is both smoother and more efficient in D, since the brake pedal allows softer (and therefore more efficient) deceleration than L, and all the "braking" is regenerative until the last couple mph.) Plus, after dealer discounts and federal and state rebates, it was around $20K net for a $35K car that would probably be a loss for GM even at sticker price.
posted by chortly at 2:59 PM on July 17


Something for the hive mind: we'll be buying a new vehicle in the next year (I hope) and while I'd love to get a hybrid I have a concern. In the winter it gets damn cold up here. Minus 20F is quite common, a week or three below zero isn't either. This is utter hell on standard batteries. How do hybrids fare under such conditions?
posted by Ber at 3:15 PM on July 17


You would probably really enjoy the Bolt's "L" mode...

Yep, my Spark EV has "L" mode, too. I never drive the car in "D", although it's occasionally a bit of a surprise when I roll out of the garage on a freshly-charged battery and there's no room for regen, so it unexpectedly coasts without slowing down when I lift my foot. Hopefully they've learned and left a bit of battery overhead in the Bolts so that doesn't happen.
posted by davejay at 3:36 PM on July 17


...the Volt's L mode is a bit of a fraud, at least in how it's sold as a energy saver -- the car is both smoother and more efficient in D, since the brake pedal allows softer (and therefore more efficient) deceleration than L, and all the "braking" is regenerative until the last couple mph.)

My understanding is that "D" in these GM cars is set to mimic a traditional automatic, but the stronger regen in "L" is set to provide maximum regen efficiency, so it's less smooth (until you get used to lifting your foot more slowly, like you would in a manual in a low gear) but delivering you a closer-to-optimal regen amount. If you wait longer before lifting, and maintain a steady speed before you get to the point you're lifting, you should get more efficiency with "L".

In my experience, the most I've gotten out of my Spark in "D" on my ten-mile surface street commute is in the low 6mi-per-KwH range, but using "L" on the same route I've gotten in the mid 7mi-per KwH range, and I've used "L" (and adjusted my driving style accordingly) ever since.
posted by davejay at 3:42 PM on July 17


On our second LEAF. So much fun to drive. A Rocket car. Needs a bigger battery though. Hoping for the new models to be up there.

Also have a Tesla S. Nice range but we got the smallest, cheapest, one, and even getting to Salem and back to Seattle takes an hour plus of charging.

Driving gas cars feels so weird now, without the regen braking I'm used to.

EVs rule.
posted by Windopaene at 3:53 PM on July 17 [1 favorite]


My understanding is that "D" in these GM cars is set to mimic a traditional automatic, but the stronger regen in "L" is set to provide maximum regen efficiency, so it's less smooth (until you get used to lifting your foot more slowly, like you would in a manual in a low gear) but delivering you a closer-to-optimal regen amount. If you wait longer before lifting, and maintain a steady speed before you get to the point you're lifting, you should get more efficiency with "L".

My understanding based on reading the Volt forums and thinking through the physics is that the optimal amount of (negative) g's when decelerating is 0, just as it is with accelerating: the harder you accelerate, the more energy it consumes, and similarly, the harder you decelerate, the more energy you waste. The best scenario would be coasting to a halt every time: i.e., letting your velocity burn off through the inevitable friction with air, road, internal gearing, etc. The closer you can approximate this, such as "braking" as softly as you can over as long a distance before the light as possible, the less energy you waste, assuming that "braking" is regen. So D is actually better than L because it allows for milder deceleration, and every time you get the harder pull of L or the regen paddles, you're actually more wasteful of energy than with the lighter deceleration of the brake (regen) pedal. This could be wrong, but appears to be the consensus among those who have most obsessively thought it through. So just putting it in plain old boring D appears to be most efficient -- though one may of course still prefer the other aspects that one-pedal driving that L allows.
posted by chortly at 4:51 PM on July 17


But Hyundai has a Prius clone, the Ioniq, that has a 6-speed transmission, and an electric motor along with the gas engine. It's rated 58 mph EPA. (And will have plug-in and all-electric versions, too.)

I bought a Kia Niro a couple months ago, which has the same hybrid guts as the Ioniq but wrapped in the body of a large hatchback (they're calling it a crossover, but it's not quite that large). I'm averaging 4.5 L/100km and I love it to bits.


In Canada, Volvos START at $39,000 already, so wow those electric ones are gonna be $$$$$.

It is steep, but note you can get some serious EV rebates in Canada. For example, Ontario will give you up to $14,000 for a BEV vehicle. This rebate makes the EV Ioniq cheaper than the gas hybrid Ioniq.
posted by emeiji at 7:33 PM on July 17


The best scenario would be coasting to a halt every time: i.e., letting your velocity burn off through the inevitable friction with air, road, internal gearing, etc.

Any energy you lose to the friction with air, road, internal gearing, etc., is energy that isn't going back into the battery pack, so that would probably be the worst case scenario rather than the best. Luckily, any regen at all (regardless of D, L or paddle usage) will recapture some of electricity that would otherwise be lost, and the more you recapture, the better.

So D is actually better than L because it allows for milder deceleration, and every time you get the harder pull of L or the regen paddles, you're actually more wasteful of energy than with the lighter deceleration of the brake (regen) pedal.

As long as the battery can absorb the electricity being generated, the electricity isn't going to waste. I don't know my Spark EV's rate of recharge during regeneration, but I know its fast charge port can take 44KwH, and that's more than I generate during full L-based regen without the brake pedal, so presumably the battery can take it.

As for D allowing for milder regen than L, that's demonstrably not true; the accelerator is not an on/off switch. Any rate D can do, L can do, and L can do an increased amount on demand. The only way to get L-like rates with D is by using the brake pedal. Technically that's no better or worse than using L, except it is less smooth (as you have to use a different pedal) and has a small but non-zero chance of engaging the brake pads (which is wasted electricity.)

Ultimately, though, I think the regen amount between L and D is a wash, provided you're good at timing your stopping point so you don't have to use the brakes or speed back up because you're stopping too soon. In my experience, the key efficiency in L vs D is that L enforces smoothness.

Consider: in an automatic transmission car with overdrive, it's common for drivers to lift-push-lift-push with the throttle, because the acceleration/deceleration between lifting and pushing isn't particularly noticeable -- in a high gear, the shock of transitioning from one mode to the other is slight, and the torque convertor absorbs what little shock there is. Using your cruise control prevents that lift-push-lift-push cycle -- the cruise control can make much more minute adjustments than you can -- and that smoothness results in better gas mileage.

Similarly, if you drive your EV in D, you're not feeling the transition shock, because that mode is designed to feel like an automatic in overdrive (i.e., no noticeable shock, very little slowdown on throttle lift.) The next time you're driving on the freeway at a steady speed in D, try to maintain that speed without the lift-push-lift-push cycle; for most people, it isn't easy. On the other hand, L gives you an experience like a manual transmission in a lower gear, which means the transition is much more severe, so you have to make more minute adjustments to avoid discomfort. It quickly teaches you (through negative reinforcement) to hold a steady pedal position, and gives you the additional sensitivity to make holding that pedal position easier.

At the end of the day, I was getting noticeably better miles per kilowatt-hour with L than with D in my Spark on the same commute. Perhaps it was because I'm used to driving stickshift, so holding steady pedal positions and timing my regen slowdowns was already a habit developed over decades of practice, not to mention that you get used to timing traffic lights and such so you don't have to go through the gears again. If you're not used to driving that way, I can understand why L would generate mediocre results.
posted by davejay at 10:58 PM on July 17


Not to belabor the point, but General Motors has actually weighed in on this. From this page, which has more info than I'm quoting below:
General Motors conducted some internal tests and found that by “using one-pedal driving while in Low and also the Regen on Demand paddle” range can be increased by approximately 5% in heavy stop-and-go traffic.
My experience of mid-6mi-per-KwH in D vs low-7mi-per-KwH in L -- which was on a consistent ten mile one-way surface street commute -- works out to a roughly 9% range improvement, a bit better than the roughly 5% range improvement they saw in simulated testing. Of course, they simulated a Bolt, and I have a lighter Spark, so that might account for some of it.
posted by davejay at 11:04 PM on July 17


Any energy you lose to the friction with air, road, internal gearing, etc., is energy that isn't going back into the battery pack, so that [coasting] would probably be the worst case scenario rather than the best.

Not so sure about that.

If you coast to a stop, that means that you never initially supplied the car with such energy as the regen brakes would be trying to recapture.

The energy you lose to air and internal friction while coasting to a stop is energy you would have lost anyway just by virtue of being in motion. The difference between coasting and driving at a steady speed is that driving at a steady speed requires continuous drawdown of energy from storage to overcome those frictional losses, while coasting does not.

In order to have some kinetic energy for the regen brakes to capture during a stop, you need to have added more kinetic energy to the car than you would have needed in order to achieve a coasting stop. It's only that extra increment of energy that's actually available to be captured by regen, and when it is captured, it suffers round-trip losses through the storage system as a result. Better if it never left storage in the first place.
posted by flabdablet at 11:21 PM on July 17


What regen is really for is to minimize losses in stop-start city traffic where conditions frequently make coasting stops impractical and/or unsafe and/or really irritating for other road users.
posted by flabdablet at 11:24 PM on July 17 [1 favorite]


We're waiting for delivery of a Renault Zoe (with the 41 kWh battery pack) which will be our daily driver. Our other car is a diesel VW Multivan, which I really hope we will be able to replace with a hybrid in a few years. We regularly go on road trips down to the continent (we live in Norway) and a full-electric car simply won't do. In addition the Multivan hauls trailers and a load of kids for activities and suchlike, something a smaller car can't.

An for the person upthread wanting an all-electric pickup; Tesla has one in the pipeline.
posted by Harald74 at 11:48 PM on July 17 [1 favorite]


Loving all of the happy EV drivers in this thread. With my ten-mile commute and all of the state and federal incentives, it was actually cheaper for me to lease my VW E-Golf than to continue using my paid-off '03 Taurus station wagon at ~17 mpg. I even had a happy moment today in which I met a fellow E-Golf driver at a stop sign and we exchanged knowing waves to each other. I expect EVs will become the norm far sooner than most people anticipate. They're just so fun to drive, and I never realized how much I wouldn't miss gas stations.
posted by Dokterrock at 2:03 AM on July 18


Volvo talked about using KERS to capture kinetic energy in a spinning flywheel in a vacuum sealed package at the rear wheels

This was tried as a 2kWh solution from Beacon Power and it seems they are out of their 2011 bankruptcy. They have pictures for size comparison.
posted by rough ashlar at 3:28 AM on July 18


I remember reading about a carbon fiber flywheel battery back in the early eighties. I'm pretty sure that there was a prototype electric car running with a flywheel battery back then.
posted by octothorpe at 6:03 AM on July 18


keep in mind that Volvo semi-trucks are very popular in the US, and the major brand in Europe.
I don't see a specific mention of their commercial truck fleet line, but it can't be far behind.


The announcement comes from Volvo Cars, aka Volvo Personvagnar AB. Although often conflated with the Swedish heavy truck and construction equipment conglomerate AB Volvo, also based in Gothenburg, the two firms have been independent since AB Volvo sold Volvo Cars to Ford Motor Company in 1999. Volvo Cars has been owned since 2010 by the Geely Holding Group, a Chinese multinational automotive manufacturing company.
posted by delegeferenda at 12:51 PM on July 18 [1 favorite]


Ultimately, though, I think the regen amount between L and D is a wash, provided you're good at timing your stopping point so you don't have to use the brakes or speed back up because you're stopping too soon. In my experience, the key efficiency in L vs D is that L enforces smoothness.

This is actually a pretty vigorous topic of debate in the EV forums, so I don't want to launch into all of that here. As you point out, L does allow graduated regen, so technically it can do anything D can do with two pedals, and vice versa. Empirically, on the Volt at least, it seems that all but the most expert L drivers tend to use much stronger deceleration than people usually employ when using the brake pedal as if they were driving an automatic, and this is in part due to the fact that the lightly-"braking" zone on L (when lifting the gas pedal) is much narrower than with the brake pedal, so you have to be much more practiced in finding the sweet spot with the uplifted gas pedal in L than you would using the brake to get an equivalently light deceleration. In heavy traffic, L may indeed work better for some because you are less likely to slam on the "brakes" when using just the gas pedal. But I believe the basic principal is generally agreed-upon: the lighter the deceleration, the more efficient the drive; for many, D with the brake pedal with its larger zone of light deceleration works better, but for others with different driving styles, practice in L, or in dense traffic, L may be more efficient. For me personally it's all pretty irrelevant though, because while I brake gently, I keep it in Sport all the time to enjoy the sportscar-like acceleration, at the cost of a few extra dollars/lb-carbon a year.
posted by chortly at 4:11 PM on July 18


For 12,000 miles a year, that's $121.25 per month in gas vs $62.50 in electricity from my home charger

It is steep, but note you can get some serious EV rebates in Canada.

Well, in Ontario, Quebec, and BC. The rest of us are screwed. Comparing the VW line (since I'm most familiar with it), the e-Golf here is about $12k more than a comparable gas version. Add a $14k rebate and it's worth considering, but with the kinds of cost savings noted above, it'd take over 16 years to recoup the difference without a rebate.

Given Nova Scotia's electricity is mostly generated by coal-fired plants, it's doubtful a switch to electric cars would even benefit the environment here. Hopefully they continue to grow in popularity to bring the price down enough for it to be worthwhile here.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 6:44 PM on July 18


EndsOfInvention: "And if you don't have your own driveway/garage for your car then home-charging (which is probably the cheapest) can be very difficult/impossible."

Yeah, this is the major thing holding us back from going electric.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:31 PM on July 18


In line with France, UK government wants to ban sale of gas and diesel cars starting in 2040 (Sebastian Anthony for Ars Technica) -- New air pollution plan is hard-hitting, but 23 years is a long time to wait.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:18 PM on July 26 [2 favorites]


Bollinger Motors is livestreaming the reveal of their electric truck.
posted by Mister Cheese at 4:02 PM on July 27 [2 favorites]


Given Nova Scotia's electricity is mostly generated by coal-fired plants, it's doubtful a switch to electric cars would even benefit the environment here.

This point gets raised in every discussion on EVs and it sounds very plausible, but it's not actually correct. Turns out that the energy efficiency of the coal to steam to generator to grid to battery to motor to wheels chain is better than that of the well to refinery to tanker to tank to engine to wheels chain, by an amount that more than offsets coal's greater carbon intensity over oil's; even in the worst case where all the electricity used by every EV in the world was generated from coal, which it never will be, replacing every ICE vehicle at the end of its service life with a comparably capable EV would still represent a moderate carbon emissions win.
posted by flabdablet at 10:40 AM on July 28 [4 favorites]


As Rex Tillerson tells US diplomats to stay vague when answering foreign officials' questions on climate change plans and diplomats should make it clear that the United States wants to help other countries use fossil fuels, Britain, France, Norway, The Netherlands, Germany, India and CHINA all have plans or widely announced intentions to ban all vehicles that run on gas or diesel. Norway is on the leading edge, with plans to ditch ICEs by 2025, with France and England looking out to 2040. China already has better incentives to "increase sales of so-called New Energy Vehicles" than the US. (Cross-posting from the current mega-Trump thread)
posted by filthy light thief at 11:00 AM on August 9


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