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RP Siegel headshot

Will 2015 Be the Year of the Plug-in Hybrid?

Words by RP Siegel

As we start the New Year, there is a quiet sense of optimism that says perhaps we are reaching a tipping point in the race against time that will determine the future of life on our planet. Whether it’s the impressive growth of renewable power, the recent agreement between the U.S. and China to take meaningful action to curb emissions or the various moves towards a zero-waste economy, there are signs everywhere that humanity is slowly beginning to pull together in a unified way to save ourselves from our epic miscalculations of the past.

Another sign is the transformation of the transportation sector. According to the website EVObsession, there will be at least 15 new electric vehicle models hitting marketplace this year. Most of them are from well-established brands including Chevy, with an updated Volt, BMW, with a plug-in version of its 3-series, along with the X5 eDrive luxury-style SUV with crisp performance that, at 62 mpg, squeezes more out of a gallon of gas than a Prius. Think about that for a minute.

That machine will be vying for attention against the new Tesla Model X. Tesla, having established itself as the team to beat when it comes to electric vehicles, will certainly attract attention with this latest model. With benchmark styling, gull-wing doors and exceptional performance, this car will certainly turn heads. Though with a price tag in the same range as the Model S, it won’t be the EV for the everyman that the Model 3 (due out in 2017) promises to be.

Also competing in what I’d call the SUEV space will be the diesel hybrid Audi Q7 plug-in, the Mitsubishi  Plug-In Outlander (with 512 mile cruising range), the Mercedes GLE-class, and the twin-engine Volvo XC90 T8 (with a 4-cylinder gasoline engine driving the front wheels and an 80 horsepower electric motor driving the rear).

I must confess that despite living in a snowy climate, I have resisted the temptation to purchase an SUV in my desire to minimize my carbon footprint. Vehicles like these could be game changers in that regard.

Other sedan-style plug-ins in the works include the Volvo S60 plug-in, new C-class and E-class plug-ins from Mercedes, the Audi A3 eTron sportback, and the Volkswagen Passat GTE Plug-in.

There are some other, less familiar brands also mentioned, including the Chinese BYD Tang and the $1 million Croatian electric muscle car known as Rimac Concept One. This car has 1,088 horsepower and can supposedly go from zero to 60 in 2.8 seconds. If the idea of sharing the road with something like that frightens you -- that makes two of us. Closer to home, and along similar lines though not mentioned in EVObsession, is the Renovo Coupe which will be shown at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next week. This car can deliver over 1,000 foot-pounds of torque and go from zero to 60 in 3.4 seconds, while fast-charging in just 30 minutes.

All of this is not to mention the plug-ins already on the market, including the Toyota Prius Plug-in, and the three Ford models: the Fusion, the Focus and the C-max Energi, as well as the Nissan Leaf and the Tesla Model S.  These and others represent plenty of choices designed to fit a wide variety of lifestyles and budgets.

For those who consider electrified vehicles too new to seriously consider, I would point out this blog by Tom Moloughney, who has been driving plug-in EVs for five years, accumulating some 157,000 miles on them. He started with a BMW mini-E in 2009, as part of a test program. Then he moved up to an Active-E and is now driving an i3. Charging them primarily from a solar array on his roof, Tom might very well represent the future of transportation.

Image credit: ontoseno 2010: Flickr Creative Commons

RP Siegel, PE, is an author, inventor and consultant. He has written for numerous publications ranging from Huffington Post to Mechanical Engineering. He and Roger Saillant co-wrote the successful eco-thriller Vapor Trails. RP, who is a regular contributor to Triple Pundit and Justmeans, sees it as his mission to help articulate and clarify the problems and challenges confronting our planet at this time, as well as the steadily emerging list of proposed solutions. His uniquely combined engineering and humanities background help to bring both global perspective and analytical detail to bear on the questions at hand.

Follow RP Siegel on Twitter.

RP Siegel headshotRP Siegel

RP Siegel, author and inventor, shines a powerful light on numerous environmental and technological topics. His work has appeared in Triple Pundit, GreenBiz, Justmeans, CSRWire, Sustainable Brands, Grist, Strategy+Business, Mechanical Engineering,  Design News, PolicyInnovations, Social Earth, Environmental Science, 3BL Media, ThomasNet, Huffington Post, Eniday, and engineering.com among others . He is the co-author, with Roger Saillant, of Vapor Trails, an adventure novel that shows climate change from a human perspective. RP is a professional engineer - a prolific inventor with 53 patents and President of Rain Mountain LLC a an independent product development group. RP was the winner of the 2015 Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week blogging competition. Contact: bobolink52@gmail.com


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