Four Second-hand Hybrids to Avoid

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Sep 252012

And one to keep an eye on

The Toyota Prius is by far the most popular eco car, and one of the best on the market. When looking at second-hand green cars this is the one to keep your eye open for but, since the rise in popularity of eco cars, there have been plenty of others showing up throughout the country.

Toyota Prius - Plug In Hybrid Eco Car

Toyota Prius – Plug In Hybrid Eco Car

Just because a car is labelled as a hybrid, does not particularly mean it is a good car or is fuel-efficient. If this is important got you, here are four second-hand hybrids on the market to steer clear from, or at least think twice about before heading to the bank.

2010-2011 BMW ActiveHybrid X6

It has the BMW name and looks like a regular BMW X6, but this now-discontinued car used a tailored two-mode hybrid system that was designed for a large truck, together with a custom 4.4-litre twin turbo V8 engine that resulted in an output of 407hp. Although the efficiency was better than BMW’s conventional X6, it still used 19mpg of fuel.

BMW ActivE - Electric Car

BMW ActivE – Electric Car

The idea behind BMW’s green car was to design a vehicle that would mimic a seven-speed transmission using four gears and three electric assists. This way the car would feel like a regular BMW when behind the wheel. The problem with this green car was that the two-mode hybrid system ended up costing more than $10,000 per vehicle. Now that this car is discontinued, it is very pricey to fix as parts are unavailable, which is something to consider before purchasing.

2008-2009 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid

GM launched this green car a few years ago using a mid-hybrid Belt-Alternator-Starter system. It was only offered for two years and was paired with a 164hp 2.4-litre Ecotec four-cylinder engine. The problem was that its EPA ratings were only marginally better than a regular six-speed automatic transmission Malibu, which cost $2,000 less than the Hybrid.

The Malibu Hybrid does not offer drivers a smooth ride due to the rotation of the electric motor switching over to regenerate the battery charging. When GM declared bankruptcy in 2009, the Malibu Hybrid disappeared.

2009 Dodge Durango Hybrid / 2009 Chrysler Aspen Hybrid

A Hybrid SUV sounded like a fantastic idea, but it only took Chrysler a few months to realise that this was not the case. After making less than 1,000 Dodge Durango Hybrids and Chrysler Aspen Hybrids, production of this eco car ceased.

Since then, these hybrids are the only green cars Chrysler has manufactured using the two-mode hybrid system that it developed with BMW. Like the BMW ActiveHybrid X6, that system is extremely expensive, not only to manufacture, but also to repair.

2005-2007 Honda Accord Hybrid

This was the only time Honda used its Integrated Motor Assist mild-hybrid system with a 3.0-litre V-6 engine, and it was quite confusing to consumers who saw eco cars as fuel-efficient. Due to its unpopularity, this green car was only made for three years, selling a total of only 28,500 units.

Honda Accord Hybrid Eco Car

Honda Accord Hybrid Eco Car

The Accord Hybrid was 20 per cent better on petrol than the conventional Accord, but it did not only drive by using electric.  Luckily Honda  made other hybrid cars that are high-mileage compacts, but the Accord Hybrid fell short.

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Renault set to finally release Zoe

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Mar 262012

Renault Zoe – Electric Car

After numerous prototypes were all released under the same name going as far back as early 2005, most auto watchers would have been forgiven for thinking that Renault was never destined to actually release a vehicle named ‘Zoe’. But that looks set to change later this year.

Renault Zoe - Electric Car

Renault Zoe – Electric Car

Renault Zoe – Electric Super Mini

Vastly different to the concept vehicle displayed at the 2005 Geneva motor show, an open-top car with three seats, the real Renault Zoe will instead be an electric super mini just a bit longer than a Renault Clio and a hell of a lot greener. What looks set to stand the Renault Zoe apart from its EV competitors is the car’s stated range, which is due to reach up to 130 miles. As such, this looks certain to be something of a plug-in revolution, a vehicle that can actually produce the kind of range only usually available with petrol and diesel cars.

Renault Zoe – Top Speed

The trade-off appears to be small and fairly insignificant. Reaching a top speed of just 84 miles per hour, the Renault Zoe would be comparable to other commercially available plug-ins such as the Chevrolet Volt and the Nissan Leaf. And of course a car of this size in a petrol or diesel version would hardly produce much more in the speed stakes.

Indeed, buyers of vehicles the size of a Renault Clio or Zoe are hardly factoring in top speed as their most important consideration. Vehicle range, on the other hand, is important, no matter the type of vehicle, so Renault could be on to a real winner with the Zoe.

Renault Zoe – Purchase Price

Of course, the other major factor associated with electric vehicles, and the reason they are still struggling to catch on, is price, and here again the Zoe looks to be a winner. When Renault showcased an older prototype of the car in Paris in 2010, it was suggested that the retail price would be around €15,000 (£12,500) which would again put it top of the class when it comes to electric vehicles in this segment of the market. This also leads to other possibilities.

Renault Zoe – Subsidy

Most electric vehicles already on the market have been supported by generous government subsidies designed to reward manufacturers and the buyer for investing in green technology. This is mainly due to the high retail price, which manufacturers and buyers alike argue would simply be unaffordable and therefore not commercially viable otherwise. In turn, this has attracted criticism from detractors who argue that the car industry should be subject to costly subsidies in what is supposed to be an age of austerity.

Renault Zoe – Cheaper than a regular Clio

The point about the Renault Zoe is that, at this price, it would barely be more expensive than a vehicle of a comparable size. A new Renault Clio, for example, starts at about £11,000 in the UK. So when you facture in road tax and the saving on fuel, we could be about to see the launch of an electric vehicle that works out a great deal cheaper than a diesel or petrol equivalent when all the extras are factored in. That’s even without the need for a single government subsidy.

Ford Focus Electric sees low sales in US

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Mar 202012

Disappointing Sales

Released in the US for the first time in September last year, the much anticipated Ford Focus Electric has shown that the EV market remains a difficult nut to crack, having sold just 10 vehicles so far. Since sales of the car started in California, New York and New Jersey, the number of units sold also appears to be tailing off, with only seven sold in December, three in January and none leaving showrooms last month. So what’s behind what can only be described as disappointing results?

Ford Focus Electric Car (EV)

Ford Focus Electric Car (EV)

Ford Focus EV – Selling Price

Certainly, the retail price is very high for a car of this size in an economy that is showing mixed signs of recovery. The Ford Focus Electric sells for $39,200 (£25,000), which is a great deal higher than cars of a similar performance, albeit those that do not qualify for tax incentives that reach $10,000 in California and $7,500 elsewhere in the US. It’s difficult to know whether the range of the vehicle is a factor, but certainly recent opinion polls point to this being an enduring problem in the EV market.

Ford Focus EV – Driving Range

The Ford Focus Electric manages 76 miles on one charge, which is perfectly acceptable for short runs to work, school or the shops, but it does create problems for family holidays. Recent surveys suggest consumers are ideally looking for a vehicle that does over 100 miles per charge, but preferable 200 miles, a target that remains some way off in terms of the available technology.

Ford Focus EV – Performance

Still, this is an impressive vehicle. It generates 130 horsepower and ranks as the most fuel-efficient vehicle in the compact class in the US, which certainly represents progress. It now remains to be seen how Ford will tackle underperforming sales as the company looks to expand availability throughout the US and beyond. The automaker has announced plans to sell in an additional 16 markets by the end of this year. In terms of Europe, the Ford Focus Electric should be in showrooms by the end of 2012.

Ford Focus EV – Government Funding

In the UK, the Ford Focus EV featured in the Ultra-Low Carbon Vehicles initiative at the start of 2010. This involved a test fleet of 15 Ford Focus electrics doing the rounds in Hillingdon, a borough of London, to try out the newly installed charging infrastructure. The idea was to introduce the concept of plug-in vehicles with the help of government funding.

Chevrolet Volt EV - vs - Ford Focus Electric

Chevrolet Volt EV - vs - Ford Focus Electric

Ford Focus EV –vs- Volt & Leaf

Ford has pointed out that hybrids took a long time to take hold in the market when they were first introduced more than a decade ago. However, Ford’s answer to the plug-in seems to faring worse than other competitors such as the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf, at least in terms of sales. The company has stated its aim to have electrified vehicles responsible for between 10 and 25 per cent of its total global sales by 2020, which includes plug-ins as well as hybrids, most of which will be made up by the latter. That represents a pretty wide margin for error and suggests that hybrids will deliver the bulk of these sales. The jury is therefore still out on whether the Ford Focus Electric can deliver.