With a busy week behind you and the weekend within reach, there’s no shame in taking things a bit easy on Friday afternoon. With this in mind, every Friday TriplePundit will give you a fun, easy read on a topic you care about. So, take a break from those endless email threads, and spend five minutes catching up on the latest trends in sustainability and business.
Electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids are inching closer to the mainstream. U.S. plug-in electric and hybrid vehicle sales nearly doubled in 2013, and EV production worldwide is projected to increase by 67 percent this year. Almost all automakers have at least one electric vehicle in their portfolios, and some truly drool-worthy rides are set to hit the market in 2014. Everyone has their favorites, but here are eight new EVs and plug-ins that we can’t wait to drive.
1. BMW i8
The highly anticipated BMW i8 plug-in hybrid electric car is entering production in April, with customer deliveries beginning in June. Its electric-only range is decent at 23 miles, but it gets 112 mg and can go from 0 to 62 mph in 4.4 seconds. It’s set to hit the European market first and is reportedly already sold out, but we can dream, can’t we?
2. Toyota i-Road
The ingenious Toyota i-Road program combines the convenience of a bike rental service, the comfort of an enclosed car and the compact footprint of a motorcycle in an electric three-wheeler. Commuters in Aichi, Japan are already testing the vehicles in self-service sharing stations, and Toyota recently announced it will deploy 70 additional vehicles for a three-year test in in the town of Grenoble, in the French Alps.
The i-Road automatically leans around corners, and Toyota says no specialized skill is required to operate it — which leads to the second reason we’re so excited about this clever little car: It holds vast potential as a form of “last-mile” transport. Potentially, i-Roads could serve as a form of transport that carries commuters from train stations and other public transport hubs to their office complexes — freeing up dense urban grids and maybe even solving the “Google bus” problem.
3. Tesla Model X
The Tesla Model X crossover offers an all-electric alternative to standard three-row minivans and SUVs. With an 85 kWh battery option that equates to more than 250 miles in range, the Model X can go farther than any other vehicle on our list, and it has some pretty sweet falcon doors to boot.
With the Model X expected to ship by the end of this year and the mass-market Model E in the works, Tesla is showing no signs of slowing down. Its planned battery “Gigafactory” will support the manufacture of 500,000 electric cars per year and will also produce batteries for energy storage.
4. Volkswagen XL1
Volkswagen only plans to make 250 of these hand-built, plug-in-diesel vehicles as test units, but the XL1 made our list because of its sleek and smart engineering. The super aerodynamic plug-in gets its name from the fact that it uses less than one liter of fuel to go 100 kilometers (equivalent to 235 mpg). It’s also up for World Green Car of the Year.
5. BMW i3
While not as sexy or sporty as its high-end cousin, the i8, the BMW i3 offers solid range at a reasonable price — meaning it may fair well in the mass market. At around $40,000, the i3 can travel up to 100 miles on a single charge and can go from 0 to 60 mph in 7 seconds.
6. Kia Soul EV
Those who are sold on the boxy car trend are sure to love the forthcoming Kia Soul EV. Set to hit the market late this year, the Soul offers long range for a low price. It is expected to travel 120 miles on a single charge at a reported price of only $35,000. Count us in!
7. Volkswagen E-Golf
The standard Volkswagen Golf is one of the most popular small cars in the world, and the E-Golf looks strikingly similar — except with respect to miles per gallon, of course. The E-Golf is expected to travel 90 miles on a single charge and is Volkswagen’s first electric car to hit the mass market.
8. Cadillac ELR
We’re more or less excited to drive this one to see how it compares with the Chevy Volt. A great deal of its internal specs are similar (a 1.4-liter gasoline engine and 16.5-kWh lithium-ion battery pack), but the ELR boasts a sleek and angular body that’s characteristic of Cadillac. Naturally, it has a bit of extra torque, too. We’re not sure it’s worth it for the 35-mile range and $75,000 price tag, but it’s nice to see General Motors expanding its EV offerings into the luxury market.
Speaking of EVs: Triple Pundit hosted a live panel discussion yesterday on the fate of sustainability in the auto market. If you missed the chat, featuring Mike Tinskey of Ford Motor Co., Deb Frodl of General Electric’s Ecomagination and Haukur (Hawk) Asgeirsson of DTE Energy Co., catch it here or on our YouTube channel.
i8 image courtesy of BMW Group
i-Road image courtesy of Toyota
Cadillac ELR image courtesy of Cadillac
Based in Philadelphia, Mary Mazzoni is an editor at TriplePundit. She is also a freelance journalist who frequently writes about sustainability, corporate social responsibility and clean tech. Her work has appeared on the Huffington Post, Sustainable Brands, Earth911 and The Daily Meal. You can follow her on Twitter @mary_mazzoni.