Tag Archives: Electric and Hybrids

Porsche 918: 78mpg and a Nurburgring time of 6:57

Porsche 918 Spyder cutaway
Porsche 918 Spyder cutaway

Fuel economy isn’t usually a concern for supercars, but Porsche’s new 918 Spyder will supposedly show a Prius what’s what. Back when Porsche first released the 918 Spyder concept, they claimed it would be able to do 78mpg — the world laughed at the idea. Well now, with the production car finally released at the Frankfurt Motor Show , they are holding fast to that claim, so one must presume they have done a few tests that confirm it is possible.

The 918 Spyder can also produce 887hp, but certainly not at the same time it is doing 78mpg. Yes, the choice will be yours from the driver’s seat. While I’m sure that few will actually bother trying to best a Prius in MPG with that sort of power on tap, it is nice to know you can if you want to. The 918 Spyder allows you to have your cake and eat it too, and that is not something true of most similar such cars.

Continue reading Porsche 918: 78mpg and a Nurburgring time of 6:57

Thoughts on the 2014 BMW i3

2014 BMW i3

Just yesterday I was telling a friend of mine how I thought the Tesla Model S was currently the only truly viable electric car on the market. Less than 24hrs after that conversation it would seem things have changed. BMW dropped the details on their production ready i3 city car today, and it looks mighty promising in many respects. That said, it also raises a few questions for me.

The basic details of the i3 are as follows:

  • Pricing starts around $41k — before any government discounts
  • Range is said to be 80-100 miles per charge
  • A full charge takes only 3 hours, or just 30 minutes with the optional SAE DC Combo Fast Charger
  • A 650cc range extending gas motor is available as an option
  • 170hp and 184ft/lbs of torque go to the rear wheels — from zero rpm
  • Performance: 0-30 in 3.5sec, 0-60 in 7sec, and a top speed of 93mph
  • The chassis is a carbon fiber reinforced plastic monocoque, a mass production first, which helps keep the weight down to around 2700lbs.

Looking at the details I see a few things that stand out…

Continue reading Thoughts on the 2014 BMW i3

VW Jetta Hybrid observed MPG


I have been getting many questions about the real world fuel economy of the VW Jetta Hybrid. I figured I would share this to give people an idea of what is possible with smart attentive driving.

On my trip to class today, roughly 40 miles on back roads with lots of hills and corners, I averaged 50.7 mpg. That is almost 3mpg more than the EPA says the maximum highway mileage is for this car. I did this not by “hyper mile-ing”, but by driving normally and paying attention to the car’s systems in conjunction with my surroundings. I stayed within 5mph of the posted speed limit as well, as to keep things realistic. Weather was around 60 degrees F, with a light breeze.

Our car has just under 5000 miles on it now, and is just getting fully mechanically broken in. When we first got the car we were seeing averages in the lower-mid 30s, and MPG has steadily increased as we have put miles on the car.

Now, keep in mind I was trying to drive as efficiently as reasonably possible, so I was paying special attention to how much throttle I was using, and planning when to use the gas motor to keep the battery charged. I have found that when I drive the car like i normally drive, typically 10-15mph over the speed limit, then the car seems to average more in the high 30mpg range. The Jetta Hybrid is turbocharged, so your mpg depends mostly on your right foot. It is pretty quick, especially for a car capable of 50mpg, but realize that there is a big tradeoff between using its performance abilities and getting “great” fuel economy.

That said, this is definitive proof that the VW Jetta Hybrid will deliver its claimed fuel economy in the real world, so long as it is driven properly.

Edit: I drove home using the same methods, this time on an all highway route, and saw 48.3mpg, exactly what VW claims. It is more difficult to “sail” on the electric motor at highway speeds, especially with the varied terrain in my area. I was able to coast on downgrades, but in general there were less opportunities for the electric motor to do its thing, and more traffic to deal with. My average for the day wound up being 49.5mpg, much higher than the EPA’s stated average of 45mpg. I think the Jetta Hybrid’s true fuel economy potential (with good driving) is more like 51 mpg in town and country driving, and 48mpg on the highway. Again, this is all staying within 5mph of the posted speed limit. It is both a realistic and acceptable driving style, but if you let your lead foot get the best of you then you will see you mpg drop off.


Chris Harris tests the Mercedes SLS Electric Drive

The SLS Electric Drive is the first electric car that can legitimately be considered a supercar. 750hp and 737ft/lbs of torque going through electronic all wheel drive means that this car will have some staggering straight-line performance. It seems the biggest surprise, though, was the torque vectoring system Mercedes has devised, which can actually apply negative torque to the inside wheels during a corner. Chris seemed pretty blown away by this car, watch the video to see. Enjoy.


Road Review: 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid (9/10)

VW Jetta Hybrid

This is my mom’s new car, Volkswagen’s brand new Jetta Hybrid. Her Volvo was rear-ended and totaled back in December, so naturally the car search began. For some reason this car managed to fly under my radar until just recently. There hasn’t been much media coverage, and it debuted quietly at NAIAS last year. I had been triaging, and test driving a few different options when my dad asked me what I thought of the Jetta Hybrid. That got me looking, and when I saw the details, I was pretty blown away. I went and test drove one the next day, and my recommendation was set. This was the car, and you will soon see why.

Hybrids have really caught on as a way of saving gas here in America. For most hybrids, the focus is on fuel economy alone, all in an effort to woo people with the showroom window sticker. The undisputed leader of the hybrid movement has been Toyota, with cars that are as much a political statement as they are a form of transportation. We all know the Prius, some love it, some hate it, but it has set the standard for the hybrid segment. Other carmakers, like Ford, have hybrids too, but they are basically copies of the Toyota’s design formula. Because of this, people tend to know what to expect when they see a hybrid, but Volkswagen has taken a different approach.

Continue reading Road Review: 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid (9/10)

Obscure Auto: Toyota Prius

Yes, the Prius. A different sort of car than we normally feature in this section, yet a car that has had a resounding impact on the automotive world in recent years. Everyone knows a Prius when they see one, and most people know that the car has become as much a political statement as a mode of transportation. Whether you buy into the whole Green movement or not, there is no denying that the Prius has been an incredible marketing success. It paved the way for an entirely new sort of car in the world, one that puts priority on efficiency and cleanliness over all else. We all know the car, but behind every car there is a story to tell. This is that story.

Continue reading Obscure Auto: Toyota Prius

Motor Trend: Tesla Model S

Tesla’s Model S gets tested properly… as a car. They ask the question of, “Is it fun?”, and they compare it to the Mercedes E63 as a rival. Oh, and before you scoff at the 416hp figure, just know that the motors are hooked up directly to the wheels so there is no drivetrain loss. This means this car is comparable to petrol cars in the 500hp range. Have an open mind, this may be the future.


Drive goes to Fisker Automotive

Drive’s J.F. Musial goes to Fisker Automotive in California to try out the Karma, and get some fantastic insights from company founder, Henrik Fisker. Listen to what he says because he is absolutely right about the future of cars, and the need for something like the Karma to keep our roads interesting. Not to get all political, but Mitt Romney said Fisker was a failure, and seeing this I would have to ardently disagree. Enjoy.

Test Driven: Toyota Prius C (9/10)

Toyota Prius C: Small Car, Big City

This was my first time driving a Prius of any sort, although I have driven other hybrids. The Prius is special though because society has made into the poster child for the green car movement. The Prius C is the newest, smallest member of the Prius family, and it is selling like hotcakes right now. Like many car guys, I have always had a good deal of contempt for the Prius over the years for various reasons, but I figured it would be a good idea to at least go try one out for myself before closing the book on the car for good. What lay ahead tuned out to be an interesting experience.    Continue reading Test Driven: Toyota Prius C (9/10)