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Lean, Green, Exhaust-Fighting Machines

 

Automotive acronyms like 4×4, SUV and FWD readily roll off the tongues of most Northern Arizona consumers. But when a new generation of electric vehicles rolls off assembly lines later this year, auto aficionados will be speaking a new acronymic language. For instance, EV translates to electric vehicle. Simple enough. Add an H and get HEV — short for hybrid electric vehicle, while PHV means plug-in hybrid vehicle.

Both the Nissan LEAF and Chevrolet Volt are expected to be available for order before the end of the year. In the new language, the 100 percent electric Nissan LEAF is a true EV, while the Chevy Volt can be considered a HEV or PHV. Nissan LEAF’s 100-mile range per charge of electricity bests the Volt’s 40-mile per charge range. However, Volt has a secret weapon up its proverbial sleeve.

Once the Volt’s lithium-ion battery pack reaches the end of its 40-city-mile range, a small gasoline engine, which acts as a generator, powers the electric motor for an additional 300 miles.

“There is a lot of buzz around the Volt,” said Frankie Ruiz, new car manager at Tyrell-Marxen Chevrolet in Flagstaff. “People are chomping at the bit for it to hit the ground. It is a proud moment for GM to be part of the green movement. “The biggest challenge will be in production,” added Ruiz, who confirmed that car enthusiasts will be able to order the Chevy Volt in late December or January. In the meantime, GM just released the Cruse- Eco, a gas-powered vehicle that delivers an impressive 40 mpg. “The Cruze-Eco delivers hybrid-like efficiency without the price tag,” said Jim Campbell, U.S. vice president of Chevrolet. “Along with the Volt electric vehicle with extended range, it demonstrates how Chevrolet is working to bring new products to market that range from gas-friendly to gas-free.”

Of the 20,000 Nissan LEAF EVs already reserved by Japanese and United States drivers, only 1,000 are slated for Arizona in 2011. Nissan Chief Executive, Carlos Ghosn, said in a recent interview that Nissan plans to deliver 500,000 cars in the next three years. Last May, Nissan broke ground on a manufacturing facility in Smyrna, Tenn. that will produce the lithium-ion batteries that power the zero-emission vehicle. The LEAF will be produced at Nissan’s vehicle assembly facility in Smyrna beginning in 2012.

Ford Focus EV will be made in Warren, Mich. Ford is not making a distinct model for its plug-in like Nissan and GM. By using existing Focus plants, Ford can adapt to the unpredictable demand for electric cars more easily. Although no price tag has been put on the Ford Focus EV that is to be out in late 2011, shared components with the gas- powered Focus should reduce costs.

While Toyota celebrated the 10-year anniversary of the hybrid Prius last month, it will take a few more years to see the plug-in Prius PHV hit the showroom floor.

EV enthusiasts raring to go test-drive an electric car or truck may visit Go Electric Sedona, a dealer offering Miles EV, Zap and American Golf Carts.

Some consumers wonder how utility companies will meet the increased demand for electricity. In Arizona, APS has already set a strategy to prepare both customers and service territory for electric vehicles. A study conducted for the utility found that in APS territory, electric vehicles will comprise only two percent of motor vehicle sales by 2018.

“After 2025, sales are expected to increase significantly, and by 2035, electric vehicles could account for about 17 percent of sales, assuming that battery performance improves and costs decline,” stated the “After 2025, sales are expected to increase significantly, and by 2035, electric vehicles could account for about 17 percent of sales, assuming that battery performance improves and costs decline,” stated the report. The study forecasts that electric vehicle charging will add only six to 15 megawatts to the APS load by 2015.

As the first utility to commercialize new quick-charging capabilities for electric vehicles, APS has been a leader in EV technology. Technology developed at APS reduces charging time from hours to minutes.

APS currently offers twenty EV charging stations in the Phoenix area, including one at Sky Harbor Airport.

EVs purchased in or after 2010 may be eligible for a federal income tax credit of up to $7,500. The credit amount will vary based on the capacity of the battery used to fuel the vehicle. FBN

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