Plug-in Cars News Roundup

By · November 30, 2012

2014 Accord PHEV

The 2014 Honda Accord PHEV will go on sale in California and New York in January, starting at $39,780.

Each week, we try to bring you not just news but a range of insights relating to plug-ins. At the end of the week though, there are inevitably some stories left over that we think are important but didn't get a chance to cover. Here are a few that caught our eye from last week:

Honda Announces Fuel Economy Numbers for Accord PHEV

At the Los Angeles Auto Show, Honda showed off its forthcoming 2014 Accord PHEV and announced efficiency details, claiming that the car will have “the highest fuel economy of any plug-in vehicle, period." The vehicle is scheduled to go on sale in California and New York in January, providing 13 miles of electric range, 115 MPGe, and a combined fuel efficiency of 47 mpg running on gas.

Of course, as Autoblog Green points out, when it comes to plug-in hybrids, numbers can be deceiving. Regardless of MPGe or non-electric fuel economy stats, real world fuel economy for plug-in hybrids like the Accord PHEV, Prius Plug-in or Chevy Volt are more dependent upon how drivers use their cars than the numbers displayed on the sticker. The Accord PHEV will carry a starting price of $39,780.

Fisker Suspends Karma Production

Fisker has temporarily halted production of its Karma electric sports car due to a shortage of battery packs in the wake of the A123 bankruptcy announcement last month. CEO Tony Pasowatz said this week that the carmaker hasn’t built any new Karmas for about a month. Though Fisker has reserve packs on hand, those units will be saved as possible replacement packs for vehicles already on the road. Pasowatz told Bloomberg News that the company hopes to resume production shortly after details of A123’s sale to either Johnson Controls or Wanxiang Auto Group have been finalized.

Via Green Car Reports

DOE Awards $120 Million to “5-5-5” Battery Research Goal

The Department of Energy has announced that it will fund a research partnership comprised of more than a dozen entities from the worlds of research, academics and manufacturing, to the tune of $120 million over five years. The goal of the collaboration will be to create new materials and technologies capable of yielding electric vehicle batteries that are “five times more powerful and five times cheaper within 5 years.” If the goals are met, the grant will be renewable for further research.

Via Green Car Congress

Tesla Ups Model S Base Price to $59,900

Tesla has announced that the starting prices for the forthcoming 40 kWh and 85 kWh models of the Model S will each increase by $2,500 next year. Tesla says the increased prices come as a result of inflation that has taken place since the company first floated Model S pricing four years ago. Reservations placed before January 1, 2013 will retain the originally announced base starting prices of $57,400 and $91,900 respectively.

Why Do Many Plug-ins Have Grilles?

Jalopnik wondered this week why so many of the electric vehicle designs unveiled by major carmakers include grilles when EVs have no need for them. The “vestigial tradition” stems from a design requirement for ICEs, which use radiators to regulate engine temperature and thus require extra venting in the front of the vehicle. The article is an interesting examination of how tradition and familiarity can be just as influential on a design as the technology it houses.


· · 5 years ago

As far as Jalopniks wondering about grilles on EV's I wanted to say that the heat exchanger (condenser) for the A/C needs a little frontal intake cool off the hot freon. I think the inverter for the drive motor needs airflow for it's radiator, too.

Not exactly vestigial there.

· · 5 years ago

But take a look at some of those ICE cars without grills in that Jalopniks article, Jiminy. It can be done. Figure, also, that heat exchanger requirements (liquid cooled motor, controller, etc.) are going to be far less demanding on an EV than having to cool off a big hot cast iron engine block with a massive radiator. Sure, we'll need some intelligent way to get air flowing to critical areas inside EV service compartments. But big ostentatious grills aren't really needed. They're basically bad nostalgia.

Speaking of big ostentatious grills that serve no purpose . . . what's with that buck-tooth-with-braces thing hanging off the front of that Honda Accord PHEV in the above photo?

· Warren (not verified) · 5 years ago

While I think better batteries would be great, if they reach their goal, we will have no incentive to make cars more efficient. The best thing IMO, about battery power, is that it encourages people to conserve energy.

It isn't just the grill, but the entire design of current EV's, that is a “vestigial tradition”.

· · 5 years ago

Good point, Warren. But better batteries should translate to something like a solid state cell (ie: no liquid electrolyte) that recharges quicker and doesn't require a complex thermal management system to moderate temperature extremes that ruins the performance of today's batteries.

The result is that not only will these new cells have better energy density characteristics, but the big metal box to house all those cells - with matching radiator, pumps and coolant - becomes less all-encompassing and, perhaps, totally unnecessary.

Less weight, less in the way of cell-pampering infrastructure and less in the way of space requirements translates to a small and efficient EV that can be charged quicker, driven further and enjoy greater flexibility as to how passenger and/or cargo requirements can be configured. We are then in a new paradigm of automotive design, so long as we can get the Googie-obsessed design department to abandon those garish decorative grills.

The less desirable aspects of human nature, however, will find a way of adapting better batteries to street-legal monster truck and luxury land yacht status. But the "super-size me" phenomenon should be thought of as a separate social problem and not one unique to EVs.

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