Search

The Review Garage

Rating the best and worst in cars, SUVs, trucks, motorcycles, tools and accessories.

Category

Electric Vehicles

2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge P8: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

“Volvo” is Latin for “I roll,” and the Swedish manufacturer rolls into what it believes is its future with the 2021 XC40 Recharge P8, a purely electric small crossover sport utility vehicle.

But it’s more than the company’s first foray into what it calls “a new era of electrification.” There are quite a few all-electric cars already on the market from Nissan, Porsche, Hyundai, Chevrolet, Tesla, Audi, Honda, BMW, Kia, Jaguar, MINI and Volkswagen.

To Volvo, however, the new XC40 Recharge is its future. Moreover, it is more than just an economical, non-polluting conveyance like some of the others, it is a genuine high-performance luxury machine with a price tag to match. It starts at $54,985.

At the time of this writing, the XC40 Recharge had not yet been introduced. But Volvo made a few of them available for brief drives by automotive journalists who are members of the North American Car of the Year jury, including this one. There are 50 members and they drive and vote for car, utility and truck of the year awards. The Recharge was nominated for utility of the year.

From a size standpoint, the XC40 Recharge is classified by the Environmental Protection Agency, which handles fuel economy ratings, as a small SUV. Except for its electric motors, it is almost identical to the gasoline-fueled XC40, a substantial luxury crossover. However, its electric power earns it an EPA miles per gallon equivalent rating of 85/72/79 MPGe, compared to the city/highway/combined rating of 23/31/26 mpg for the gasser.

Though it doesn’t look the part, the Recharge also is a sneaky stoplight performer with the stuff to embarrass some snooty European marques. Volvo rates the zero-to-60 mph acceleration at 4.7 seconds with a top speed of 112 mph. 

With only an hour and about 35 miles of driving, there wasn’t enough time or distance to fully evaluate the XC40 electric’s bona fides. But it certainly left a solid impression.

Looking to the future, this cookie doesn’t even have an ignition keyhole or a pushbutton to get underway. The pressure of the driver’s tush on the seat and a touch of the loud pedal switches the motors on. There’s no feel to it; just a notation on the instruments that it’s ready. But it is disconcerting; the guess here is that most drivers will want the  sensation of touching a button to start.

After that, a push on the pedal activates two electric motors—one for each axle — the XC40 Recharge has all-wheel drive. The motors deliver 402 hp and 486 lb-ft of torque, or twisting force. There’s no need for a conventional automatic transmission because electric motors deliver maximum torque as soon as they are activated.        

On the road, the Recharge conjures a comparison to the celebrated Muhammad Ali, a heavyweight and one of the greatest boxing champions of all time. The steering feel is heavy, as befits a luxury car, but this XC40 is light on its tires and changes direction with a twitch of the steering wheel. Its suspension system also soaks up road irregularities without upsetting forward motion.

Like any electric, it cruises quietly, abetted by extra insulation for the compartment where the battery lives low in the chassis to enhance handling. It delivers 78 kilowatt hours of power, 75 of which is rated as usable. Unusually, the front electric motor leaves some space for a tiny trunk of about one cubic foot under the hood — a good place to stash valuables. Behind the rear seat, there’s cargo space of 16 cubic feet, expandable to 47 cubic feet if you fold the rear seatbacks.

The range on a fully charged battery is advertised as 208 miles, not in the high range for electric cars. It could have been better but for the high performance orientation. Fully recharging from empty takes about eight hours with a 240-volt charger. On a commercial so-called fast charger, the XC40 Recharge can top up to 80% in about 40 minutes.

On the center screen resides Volvo’s new UX infotainment system, which makes use of an Android Automotive operating system with Google Maps and Google Assistant. As with other luxury cars, this one takes more than a bit of casual learning, especially figuring out how to pre-set radio stations and fine-tune climate controls. 

Specifications

  • Model: 2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge P8 four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Motors: Electric, on front and rear axles; 402 hp, 486 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Single speed automatic.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 6 inches.
  • Height: 4 feet 5 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 95/17 cubic feet. (one cubic foot in front trunk). 
  • Weight: 4,824 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 2,000 pounds.
  • Range: 208 miles.
  • Charging time (240-volt charger): 8 hours.
  • Miles per gallon equivalent: 85/72/79 MPGe.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $54,985.
  • Price as tested: N/A.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

Photos (c) Volvo

2020 Hyundai Kona EV Ultimate: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

As electric vehicles go in 2020, the Hyundai Kona motors at or near the front of the pack.

The Kona EV is a small crossover sport utility vehicle, similar in many respects to the Kia Niro, no surprise because Hyundai owns almost one-third of Kia and the South Korean sister companies share engines and transmissions, though they do their own styling, other engineering and tuning.

Large-37051-2020KonaElectric

The Hyundai engineers have squeezed about as much power and range as possible from the Kona’s electric motor, which makes 201 hp and 291 lb-ft of torque, sent directly to the front wheels. There’s no need for the torque multiplication of a conventional automatic transmission because electric motors deliver maximum torque the instant they are switched on.

Unlike Kona gasoline-engine models, the EV comes only with front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is not available. Still, independent tests have demonstrated that the EV is slightly quicker off the line than the Kona with the 175-hp, 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine.

Large-37020-2020KonaElectric

With a base curb weight of 3,750 lbs, that amount of power enables the Kona to scamper to 60 mph in the six-second range — not bad for what is described as a subcompact sport ute that has interior space of 111 cubic feet. That’s as much as a midsize sedan, though the back seat has a shortage of knee room.

Moreover, it is stingy with natural resources. With no fossil fuels directly involved — the electricity comes off the same grid as the juice that feeds your TV set and kitchen range — the Kona EV is rated by the Environmental Protection Agency as equivalent to 132 mpg fuel economy. And that’s around town. On the highway, the so-called MPGe is 108 and overall the happy owner gets 120 MPGe.

Large-37031-2020KonaElectric

Better yet, this little scooter is a joy to drive. The 64 kW hour battery pack, which enables an advertised range of 258 miles on a charge, is located under the floor. The lower center of gravity makes for a more stable set around curves, though the weight and suspension tuning makes for a choppy ride on rough surfaces. Of course, the Kona is blissfully silent at any speed.

Part of the reason for the decent range is an aggressive regenerative braking system. When the driver lifts off the throttle, the Kona immediately slows down, feeling as if the brakes had been applied. The energy produced goes right into the battery pack.

Large-36970-2020KonaElectric

The driver can control the system’s regeneration with paddles on the steering wheel, to the point where so-called one-pedal driving is possible. Much like the BMW i3, the Kona can be carefully driven without ever using the brake pedal.

There are three selectable drive modes: normal, sport and eco. Normal enhances the regenerative braking and eco shuts down some systems like the heating and air conditioning to extend battery life. Sport puts more power on tap, similar to higher engine revs on a gasoline-engine vehicle.

Large-36989-2020KonaElectric

Though there’s an onboard charger and a cord to plug into a standard 110-volt household outlet, it’s not anybody’s first choice because it would take a couple of days to get a full charge from a depleted battery pack. Better to use a 240-volt Level 2 charger at home, which can do the trick in about 9.5 hours overnight. If you have access to a commercial Level 3 DC charger, you can top up the Kona’s battery pack in about an hour.
Kona EV prices start at $38,310, including the destination charge, for the SEL trim level. Others are the Limited, at $42,920 and the top-line Ultimate, tested here, at $46,520. All versions get automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection and lane departure warning with lane keeping assist.

Large-36961-2020KonaElectric

The Ultimate also came with blind-spot warning, rear cross traffic collision alert, DC fast charging capability, navigation system, SXM satellite and HD radio, head-up display, leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, motorized glass sunroof, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, Apple Car Play and Android Auto connectivity, LED lighting and rain-sensing windshield wipers.

In the current panoply of electric sedans and crossovers, the Kona EV stands out in a group that includes the Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Bolt and, of course, its garage-mate Kia Niro. But it also looks capable against  such higher-priced machines as the Jaguar E-Pace, Audi E-Tron and even the Tesla Model 3.

Large-36979-2020KonaElectric

Specifications

  • Model: 2020 Hyundai Kona Electric Ultimate four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Motor: 356-volt electric; 201 hp, 291 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Single-speed direct drive automatic with front-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 13 feet 9 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 1 inch.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 92/19 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,750 lbs.
  • EPA Miles Per Gallon Equivalent city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 132/108/120 MPGe.
  • Advertised range: 258 miles.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $46,295.
  • Price as tested: $46,430.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

Large-36981-2020KonaElectricPhotos (c) Hyundai

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E: A DriveWays Preview…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Hawthorne, CA — With an event that would have done justice to a herd of stampeding wild horses, the Ford Motor Co. unveiled its newest and most radical Mustang, an all-electric crossover SUV named the Mach-E.

More than 600 witnesses, including automotive journalists from around the world and  a host of Ford supporters, engineers and designers, gathered Sunday evening, November 17, in an airport hanger in this suburb southwest of Los Angeles. Presiding was none other than William Clay Ford Jr., the great-grandson of founder Henry Ford and Executive Chairman of the Ford Motor Co.

Mustang Mach-E 15Mr. Ford has a reputation as an environmentalist, and pronounced this new machine as “a new Ford for a new age,” a non-polluting vehicle that, as some naysayers might point out, gets its electric power from a variety of sources, including fossil fuels.

The event was both a gamble and a bold leap into the future for the storied automobile manufacturer, which made a calculated decision to trade on the name of its original and still popular pony car, the Mustang, which was introduced in 1964 with a small six-cylinder engine and a three-speed floor-mounted stick shift, and without air conditioning.

Mustang Mach-E 05Contrast that with the 2021 electric Mustang Mach-E, which goes into production next year with a choice of all-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive and powered by one or two electric motors that in the top performance model can hit 60 mph in three seconds, faster than the current top performing Mustang Shelby GT500 — and without any of the ear-splitting exhaust sounds.

More realistically for consumers, Ford says the Mach-E, depending on the model, will deliver 225 to 332 hp and 306 to 417 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels or all four wheels. It will have a range of 210 to 230 miles in rear-drive or all-wheel drive trim. The former will deliver a zero-to-60 mph acceleration time in the low six-second range; the latter in the mid-five second  range.

Mustang Family PhotoMost important, from the company’s view, is the presence. The Mach-E, for all of its four-door crossover utility, looks like a Mustang from the outside with a comfortable and accommodating interior that, with its infotainment functions, vaguely resembles a Tesla, with a giant center screen.

At 15 feet 6 inches long and 5 feet 3 inches tall, the Mach-E slots into the heart of the crossover SUV category, somewhere between a compact and midsize. It has adequate space inside for four, and even the fifth center-rear passenger can plant his or her feet on a flat floor. Cargo space behind the rear seats totals 29 cubic feet and more than doubles to 60 cubic feet with the rear seatbacks folded.

Mustang Mach-E 26With production not scheduled until sometime in 2020, the Mach-E for now is something of a dream. It is Ford’s first foray into an all-electric vehicle. To the company’s credit, it could have introduced a battery-electric power train into an existing vehicle like the Escape compact crossover but chose instead to make a bold leap.

At this stage of the betting on the future, there were no specific prices announced for the Mach-E. Unofficially, the word at the debut was that the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E would start at around $45,000 for the base rear-wheel drive model and climb to around $65,000 for the ultimate performance all-wheel drive version. Under current law, it would be eligible for a federal tax credit of $7,500, as well as other state and local credits.

Mustang Mach-E 27To inject a note of celebrity into the occasion, the company brought a rousing performance by the Detroit Youth Choir of TV’s “America’s Got Talent,” along with Idris Elba, the English actor, producer, writer, musician and rapper, who recalled that he had worked for Ford in Dagenham, England, and said he still felt like a member of the Ford family.

If Ford gets its way, the Mach-E could considerably expand that family.

Mustang Mach-E 14Disclaimer: This preview was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

Mustang Mach-E 04 GTPhotos (c) Ford

2019 Kia Niro EV: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Although it sometimes seems as if Elon Musk’s Tesla gets all the publicity, an increasing number of fine electric vehicles are rolling into the market. An intriguing new one is the 2019 Kia Niro EV.

It is an engaging small crossover sport utility vehicle that also comes as a gasoline-electric hybrid or a plug-in hybrid. The EV competes against half a dozen other electrics in the sub-$40,000 category, including the Chevrolet Bolt, Kia Soul and Nissan Leaf hatchbacks; the Hyundai Kona subcompact crossover, and the Tesla Model 3 sedan.

2019 Niro EV

Because South Korea’s Hyundai owns about 38% of Kia, the Niro EV shares its power train with the Hyundai Kona, though with slightly different tuning. Kia and Hyundai gasoline and hybrid models also share engines and transmissions but do their own designs, styling and other components.

The Niro EV uses a 356-volt electric motor that delivers 201 hp and 291 lb-ft of torque. Power makes its way directly to the front wheels because electric motors deliver maximum torque immediately so there’s no need for a conventional automatic transmission.

Though Kia lists the zero to 60 mph acceleration time at 7.8 seconds, independent tests put it in the 6-second range. Top speed is 104 mph and the government rates the electric equivalent city/highway/combined fuel consumption at 123/102/112 mpgE.

2019 Niro EV

Among the current purely electric powered vehicles, the Kona EV delivers a respectable advertised range of 239 miles on a full charge, less than the Kona’s 258 miles. However, the Niro is heavier, five inches longer than the Kona and more expensive. Also, you are likely to get fewer miles in real-world driving.

You can enhance the range two ways: Select the Eco drive mode instead of Normal or Sport, which increases motor drag to regenerate the battery pack. You also can use the steering-wheel mounted paddles to accomplish the same thing, even in Sport mode. However, the owner’s manual does not tell you how the paddles work.

If you opt for the Niro EV, with all its virtues, make sure to invest in a Level 2 240-volt charger, which will recharge your Niro in nine hours and 35 minutes, easily overnight. If you stick with your standard 110-volt household outlet, figure on a weekend. That charging time is 59 hours. If you have access to a 100-KWh DC fast charger, you can top up your Niro’s battery to 80% in an hour. All numbers come from Kia.

2019 Niro EV

The Niro’s base price is $37,995, including the destination charge. But because it is new it qualifies for the federal government’s $7,500 tax credit for electric vehicle purchases. The credit has phased out for the Chevy Bolt and Tesla Model 3. Unfortunately, for now the Niro is available in only 12 of the 50 states: California, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas and Washington.

Tested for this review was the top-line Niro EV EX Premium, which had a starting price of $44,995. It includes full basic safety equipment plus forward collision avoidance, lane keeping and following assist, driver attention warning, blind spot collision warning and rear cross-traffic alert, and stop-and-go adaptive cruise control.

2019 Niro EV

In addition, the tested EX Premium came with automatic climate control, heated and ventilated leather-upholstered front seats, navigation system, motorized sunroof, Harman Kardon premium audio, SXM satellite radio, Apple Car Play and Android Auto, wireless smart phone charging, Bluetooth wireless connectivity, power driver’s seat, and LED headlights and taillights.

On the road, the Niro EV is a sprightly performer. With the electric motor’s instant torque, it gets a quick jump off the line while other automobiles and trucks are just getting revved up.

2019 Niro EV

The steering has a hefty feel, not unlike that of some European luxury cars. It validates the old adage that a small car should drive like a big car, and vice versa. Small bumps and potholes do not upset the suspension system, which easily soaks them up.

However, the Niro EV’s short wheelbase — the 8 feet 10 inches distance between the centers of the front and rear wheels — results in some fore-and-aft pitching on undulating surfaces.

Overall, the handling is competent and secure, partly due to the Niro’s low center of gravity. The battery pack is housed under the floor. Front seats are well bolstered and the outboard back seats deliver space and comfort.

2019 Niro EV

Specifications    

  • Model: 2019 Kia Niro EV EX Premium four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 356-volt permanent magnet synchronous electric motor; 201 hp, 291 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Single-speed direct drive automatic; front-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 4 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 2 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 97/19 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,854 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined mpgE: 123/102/112.
  • Advertised range: 239 miles.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $44,995.
  • Price as tested: $47,155.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

2019 Niro EV

Photos (c) Kia

All About Electric Motorcycles

by Jason Fogelson

Electric motorcycles are here, and soon they’ll make sense for many riders. In order to understand the latest crop of electric motorcycles, I think you have to look backward to the development of batteries, electric motors, the bicycle, and the motorcycle itself, which takes us back to the 19thcentury (and even earlier).

A battery is a device that generates and stores electrical energy through a chemical reaction. The first wet cell battery was created in 1800. In 1859, Gustave Plante invented the rechargeable lead-acid wet cell battery that was used in just about every motorcycle until the 2000s. Dry cell batteries were invented by Carl Gassner in 1886, and are used in flashlights, portable electric tools, and now in electric motorcycles. 

Michael Faraday image (c) Wikimedia Commons

Michael Faraday described the theory of electrons and magnets creating motion in 1821, which led to the development of the first electric motor by Thomas Davenport in 1834.

Gustave Trouvé’s 1881 Electric Tricycle

The pedal bicycle was put into commercial production in 1868, and bicycles took the world by storm. Of course, innovators wanted to up the ante, and immediately began to explore the idea of adding an electric motor to a bicycle. Louis-Guillame Perreaux filed the first patent for a motorcycle in 1868. The first functional motorcycles were steam-powered. In 1869 patents were filed for electric motorcycles, though batteries and motors were not well-suited to two-wheelers. Gustave Trouve demonstrated the first working electric vehicle in 1881, a tricycle with rechargeable batteries and an electric motor. 

Butler Petrol Cycle of 1888

Most sources say that the first commercial design for a self-propelled bicycle was the Butler Petrol Cycle of 1888, a three-wheeler. The first production two-wheeler to be called a motorcycle was 1894’s Hildebrand & Wolfmüller. The first production motorcycle in the United States was the Orient-Aster, built in Waltham, Massachusetts beginning in 1898. Indian Motocycle (sic) followed in 1901, and Harley-Davidson began production in 1903. 

1894 Hildenbrand & Wolfmüller image (c) Mecum

Electric motorcycle development receded into a niche as petrol bikes took off. The big challenge has always been the power source, as wet-cell batteries are bulky and difficult to integrate into a two-wheeled motorcycle. Fuel-cell bikes were developed and built as prototypes, beginning in 1967, and various low-powered, short-range production vehicles began to emerge in the last decades of the 20thCentury.

The 21stCentury has seen a rapid expansion in the production of electric motorcycles. Harley-Davidson has announced production plans for the LiveWire, an all-electric motorcycle, and has teased us with further electric plans. Polaris, Indian’s parent company, bought an electric brand, Brammo, and has hinted at the eventual arrival of electric bikes. Zero Motorcycles currently produces and sells a lineup of five models. Many more brands are working on products to follow.

Harley-Davidson LiveWire image (c) H-D

Why electric? 

There are several very good reasons to go electric. First of all, electric bikes use no gasoline (obviously), and are cheap to operate. The maintenance on an electric bike is minimal – there’s no oil, no transmission, no radiator. It’s a breeze to keep an electric bike running. Just keep the battery charged. 

An electric motorcycle is nearly silent, which makes it somewhat less offensive to non-riders. This silent operation is good for ear health, and good for situational awareness. You can hear more of what’s going on around you on an electric bike.

MotoE image (c) Ego Electric

Electric motors excel at delivering torque, the twisting force that bikes use to accelerate. Peak torque is available as soon as you open the throttle and continues to be delivered throughout the rev range. On a gasoline-powered bike, you have to wait as torque builds with RPM, and then shift to the next gear as torque tails off, and begin the climb again. One of the bigger challenges with an electric bike is modulating torque so that it doesn’t overcome available traction. Manufacturers accomplish this with electronic intervention, and it gets better and better all the time.

Like any good thing, there are downsides.

2017 Zero S image (c) Zero Motorcycles

The big concern with an electric motorcycle is range. Even the best production electric motorcycles right now are rated for range under 130 miles per full charge. That doesn’t seem so bad, until you factor in charge time, which can extend to 10 hours or more using 120-volt household current. Level 2 (240-volt) chargers can cut that down significantly, and some Fast-Charge-capable bikes can be returned to a full charge from “empty” in 45 minutes or less. But even the fastest charges available take much longer than a gas-station fill-up, and charger availability varies greatly, depending on where you’re riding.

CSC City Slicker image (c) CSC Motorcycles

While I see silent operation as an advantage, many riders are concerned that without sound, they’re invisible to other traffic and pedestrians. While I don’t agree with the “Loud Pipes Save Lives” crowd, there is some legitimate concern that an extremely quiet bike might not get noticed on the road. 

The biggest barrier to widespread adoption of electric motorcycles today is cost. The least-expensive worthy examples at present start at about $9,000. Harley-Davidson’s LiveWire has been announced with a starting price of $29,995, and there are many bikes in between. New gasoline-powered motorcycles of similar capability and range can start as low as $4,000, and used bikes can be even cheaper than that. 

As more people explore and buy electric motorcycles, the technology will continue to develop, and prices are bound to fall. The big question isn’t whyconsider an electric motorcycle – it’s whento consider an electric motorcycle. 

Fuell image (c) Fuell Motorcycles

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑