Friday, July 19, 2013

Discovering EVs, Hybrids, and Clean Diesels: Drive Revolution in Portland, OR

Over the last several years, Portland, Oregon has been considered a hub for all things “green” or eco-conscious. Whether it be the city’s recycling and composting efforts, tons of retail outlets selling anything and everything sustainable, or its environmentally friendly vehicles and their many places to “plug-in and charge.” (Have you heard of Electric Avenue? And I'm not talking about the song.)

I had the pleasure of attending the Oregon Museum of Science & Industry’s (OMSI) alternative-fuel vehicle showcase known as Drive Revolution. This was a chance to ride in, drive, and learn about the latest electric vehicles (EVs), hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and clean-diesel automobiles—a first of its kind event. With over 15 different models and several manufacturers like Honda, Ford, Volkswagen, and Fiat in attendance, I had the opportunity to drive most makes and models presented. From the modestly-priced 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Turbo Diesel (starting at $25,795), to the luxurious 2013 Lexus LS 600h L ($128,529 as presented), there was something there for everyone. Sedans, hatchbacks, convertibles, and SUVs—it was a play land of all types of sustainable vehicles.

2013 Fiat 500e
The smallest all-electric vehicles included the five-door Mitsubishi i-MiEV SE, the Smart Electric Drive Cabriolet, and the Fiat 500e. They may be small, but each boasted huge amounts of personality. They also achieve combined “fuel economy” ratings from 107 MPGe to 116 MPGe, with ranges anywhere from 50 to 87 miles on a full charge. (MPGe is the equivalent mileage an electric vehicle achieves compared to its gasoline counterparts). These mini models can be parked virtually anywhere and are surprisingly fun to drive. Also present were the slightly larger Honda Fit EV, Ford Focus Electric, Toyota Prius hybrid, and refreshed Nissan Leaf SL. Note all those mentioned are full EVs, sans the Prius. The most affordable mini model there was the Smart Electric Drive. This particular drop-top stickered at $30,850 before tax incentives and $23,350 after.

2012 Ford Focus Electric
In the mid-size segment, there was the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid and 2014 Cruze Turbo Diesel, Ford’s C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid, Kia Optima EX hybrid, Volkswagon’s Beetle TDI clean-diesel convertible, Jetta hybrid SEL, and the Passat TDI SE clean-diesel models. These larger vehicles easily seat 4-5 passengers, have lots of storage, and many exterior styles to choose from—these mid-size “green” getters are the perfect addition to a family.

2014 Audi A8 L Quattro with clean diesel
2014 Audi A8 L TDI Quattro Tiptronic
Lastly, but certainly not least, a few high-end luxury vehicles were presented. Audi’s 2014 A8 L TDI Quattro Tiptronic and Mercedes-Benz’s 2013 GLK 250 BlueTec clean-diesel models were accompanied by Lexus’ 2013 LS 600h L hybrid. These vehicles boasted impressive mileage ratings, were beautifully designed, and the Lexus even had a bamboo-accented steering wheel and interior. Plus, all three of these vehicles were gorgeous. 

Honda Fit EV at OMSI
2013 Honda Fit EV
Many of the mini cars there, as well as their larger eco-conscious cousins, have federal tax incentives of up to $7,500, plus state and/or other tax benefits that could drastically lower the cost of the vehicle and possibly entice buyers to buy an EV or hybrid.

Watch for more soon, as I discuss a few of these models and give a quick synopsis on time spent with them.

Review: 2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible TDI
Review: 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid SEL
Smart ForTwo Electric Drive
Review: 2012 Toyota Prius c
Review: 2012 Mitsubishi i SE
Review: 2011 Nissan Leaf

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