Tag Archives: EVs

Poll: What Weirds You Out When It Comes to Alternative Fuels?

I’m working on a new e-book to help women navigate the strange forest of green(ish) vehicles on the market, and I’m wondering what you might be wondering.

For instance, what if anything worries you about owning an electric car? What mystifies you about plug-in hybrids? Are you down with diesels? If you’ve got questions or concerns that you’d like to have answered before the new year in a new e-book, let me know!

You can email your answers to khallgeisler [at] gmail [dot] com, or head over to the Take the Wheel Facebook page, or tweet it to me; I’m @kristenhg.

Thanks for the input, ladies!

Fast Fight! Fiat 500e vs. Chevy Spark Electric

It has been a zero-emissions whirlwind at Llyfr Da Publishing lately. The number-one lesson I’ve learned after driving a total of nearly two dozen green cars is that manufacturers have heard your concerns and they are rolling out eco-friendlier cars that don’t compromise on comfort, power, or handling. Real back seats, quick acceleration, easy-to-understand information right in front of your eyes are all part of the modern electric car.

Chevy Spark EVs waiting patiently for their journalists.

Chevy Spark EVs waiting patiently for their journalists.

Two in particular seem poised to go head-to-head for the title of funnest little EV on the planet: the Fiat 500e and the Chevy Spark EV. Here’s what they have in common.

  • Both are based on gasoline-powered cars that already exist.
  • Both are all electric powered — no gasoline or diesel at all.
  • Both have a range of 80+ miles on a full charge.
  • Both have an estimated annual fuel cost of $500, according to the EPA.
  • Both are more expensive than their gas-powered sisters.
  • Both are eligible for bunches of tax credits and incentives.

But here’s the thing: the engineers in both cases took great pains to make these cars fun, not fussy or fuddy-duddy. The battery placement in the Fiat 500e evens out the balance between the front and rear so it’s nearly perfect, meaning it handles like a little sports car. And the Chevy Spark EV has a whopping 400 lb-ft of torque, for neck-snapping starts, if you like that kind of thing. I do.

These cars also come with all kinds of bells and whistles so you don’t have to some kind of self-flagellating eco-monk to drive one. For instance, the 500e has all kinds of airbags, rear park assist, power everything, a nav system, a/c, heated front seats, and more. The Spark EV has remote start, a/c, heated seats, and Chevy’s MyLink hands-free smartphone integration.

The Fiat 500e shown nearly full size.

The nearly-full size Fiat 500e.

Now for the differences. The Fiat is the design champ here, with its distinctive Italian flair inside and out. The Chevy Spark is cute, but it lacks panache. The Spark EV does have usable back seats, which the Fiat 500e definitely lacks. The Spark EV also has a confidence gauge that gives you all the range information you need clearly and quickly, a plus as we all adjust to range anxiety and ways to get rid of it. The 2013 Fiat 500e won the NW Automotive Press Association’s first ever “Top Electric Vehicle” award, but the Spark EV wasn’t quite ready for prime time the week that event was held and did not compete. The Spark EV I tested lists at $27,010, while the 500e with special-edition orange paint and white interior was $33,495. And the Spark EV will be available later in 2013 with optional DC fast charging, which gets you from empty to 80% charged in about 20 minutes.

But this is a fight to the fun, not to the fastest charge, and in that case, the Fiat 500e is the winner. The Spark EV has all that zippy torque, but the Fiat looks like it’s having a great time even while sitting still, and it handles far better than its gasoline counterpart. As a matter of fact, if you’re deciding between the gas Fiat and the EV, go electric (as long as you live in California, the only state where it’s available for now). The Fiat 500e is the funnest.

Endurance Racer Keiko Ihara to Promote EVs with Nissan

Ihara making everything she does look cool.

Ihara making everything she does look cool.

Keiko Ihara started racing in an unusual way. She didn’t follow her brothers to dirt tracks or insist on going to track school for her sweet sixteen. She didn’t even get her driver’s license until she was in her 20s. No, Ihara was a Formula 1 “race queen,” one of the models who pose for pictures with drivers and cars during the event weekend.

But Ihara quickly became interested in the driving rather than the posing. She got her license and became in short order the first female driver to race from the pole position to the winner’s podium in an FIA-sanctioned race, the first female Japanese driver to earn points in an international race, and  the only female Japanese driver to enter the World Endurance Championships (WEC), where she still races.

Now, Ihara will combine her racing cred and her people skills to act as Nissan‘s ambassador of zero-emission mobility. (Nissan engines power her WEC race cars.) She’ll be on hand to help promote things like a network of electric vehicle charging stations in Japan between race duties with  her team.