Gas-sip­ping electrics now ‘fun to drive,’ au­tomak­ers say

Sun.Star Cebu Weekend - - Wheels - By Tom Kr­isher AP Auto Writer

NEW YORK — When Toy­ota aired a Su­per Bowl tele­vi­sion ad fea­tur­ing a sur­pris­ingly quick Prius gas-elec­tric hy­brid elud­ing police, it marked a turn­ing point for the auto in­dus­try.

For years, au­tomak­ers pushed fuel ef­fi­ciency to sell hy­brid and elec­tric ve­hi­cles. Now, in an era of cheap gaso­line, the mes­sage is: These cars are faster and qui­eter than their gas-pow­ered coun­ter­parts. And, yes, you still save on fuel.

“They’ve grad­u­ated out of the class of some­thing that’s a bit of an od­dity to drive,” says Mike O’Brien, vice pres­i­dent of prod­uct plan­ning for Hyundai. “It’s all about mak­ing these cars bet­ter.”

Un­til now, hy­brids and electrics have largely ap­pealed to the en­vi­ron­men­tally-con­scious crowd. The ve­hi­cles cost thou­sands of dol­lars ex­tra, and al­though driv­ers even­tu­ally re­couped their money in fuel sav­ings, the ve­hi­cles lacked the power and han­dling of gas-pow­ered ri­vals. Electrics also suf­fered from driver con­cern that the bat­tery could run out of juice on a trip.

Now, the tide is slowly turn­ing. General Mo­tors and Tesla will bring elec­tric ve­hi­cles to mar­ket next year priced around $30,000, in­clud­ing a $7,500 fed­eral tax credit. Bat­tery range has im­proved

sig­nif­i­cantly, ex­perts ex­pect gaso­line prices to even­tu­ally climb higher, and the ad­vent of au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles fa­vors mo­tors pow­ered by elec­tric­ity over gas.

At the New York In­ter­na­tional Auto Show on Wed­nes­day, Hyundai and Toy­ota showed off new elec­tric and hy­brid ve­hi­cles, with pre­sen­ters from both com­pa­nies tout­ing them as “fun to drive.” Hyundai un­veiled bat­tery, gas-elec­tric hy­brid and plug-in ver­sions of a new car called the Ioniq, while Toy­ota showed the plug-in Prius Prime, which can go 22 miles on elec­tric­ity be­fore the gas-elec­tric power sys­tem kicks in. The elec­tric range is dou­ble the old ver­sion.

The Prius hy­brid, pow­ered by gas and elec­tric mo­tors, started the al­ter­na­tive fuel move­ment in the US in 2000. Toy­ota de­lib­er­ately made it look dif­fer­ent than other cars, know­ing that buy­ers wanted to make a state­ment about be­ing en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly. Other com­pa­nies set their green cars apart as well.

Elec­tric ve­hi­cles have few mov­ing parts. “They re­quire far less ser­vice,” Re­nault-Nis­san CEO Car­los Ghosn said Wed­nes­day. “No oil changes, and they are ex­tremely re­li­able.”

As a power source, elec­tric­ity out­paces gaso­line in just about ev­ery area, says Karl Brauer, se­nior auto an­a­lyst for Kel­ley Blue Book. Ad­vance­ments have made bat­ter­ies smaller, in­creased their stor­age ca­pac­ity and brought prices down. Elec­tric mo­tors can take off faster than gas en­gines, and hy­brids can power wheels with both elec­tric and gas mo­tors for bet­ter ac­cel­er­a­tion. Electrics also are far qui­eter.

The com­ing de­buts of the Chevro­let Bolt and Tesla Model 3, which will have 200 miles of elec­tric range, should make bat­tery elec­tric ve­hi­cles more ap­peal­ing, even with cheap gas, Brauer said. A lack of charg­ing sta­tions, once thought to limit adop­tion of electrics, be­comes al­most moot be­cause of the longer range, he said.

Self-driv­ing cars, which would use elec­tric mo­tors that can be recharged with­out hu­mans, also would boost sales.

Brauer thinks electrics and hy­brids will make up more than half of US sales in the next 12 years as SUVs and trucks get the new sys­tems. Hyundai’s O’Brien thinks the shift will hap­pen sooner.


IONIQ. The 2017 Hyundai Ioniq elec­tric ve­hi­cle on dis­play at last month’s New York In­ter­na­tional Auto Show. .


NEW ELECTRICS. Top photo: 2017 Toy­ota High­lander Hy­brid. Cen­ter photo: 2017 Mit­subishi Out­lander PHEV, a plug-in hy­brid elec­tric ve­hi­cle with a 2.0-liter, four-cylin­der en­gine and an elec­tric mo­tor at each axle. Above photo: De­signed to trans­port two...

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