Chevrolet’s New All Electric Bolt EV

The Chevy Bolt EV is an all new model—not to be confused with the similarly named Volt which is a plug-in hybrid with far less electric range. The new Bolt EV boasts a 238-mile EPA-certified driving range with surprisingly powerful electric motor. The Bolt is also a roomy, practical hatchback with lots of leg room and cargo space all at a very affordable price.

The LT base model includes: a 10.2 inch touchscreen (Apple CarPlay and Android Auto ready); proximity-key entry and push-button start; backup camera; 4g LTE with mobile Wi-Fi. That is a lot of modern features in a base model. Coming in at just under $40,000 dollars (and considering the $7,500 tax credit available for electric-vehicle buyers) Chevrolet potentially has a real winner on their hands—ultimately not as “cool” as a Tesla, but the pricing and feature set seems set to place a lot more drivers behind the wheel of an electric car than more expensive competitors.

At these prices many might consider the DC fast-charging package for $750 (recommended by Car and Driver). There is also the $555 Comfort and Convenience package that includes heated front seats and steering wheel. And finally the $495 Driver and Confidence package that favors features like blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alerts and rear parking sensors.


VW Cross Coupe Concept

The VW Cross Coupe GTE is a five passenger hybrid SUV. The talk is it will become a seven seater when it goes into production in Chattanooga lat 2016. (GT stands for Grand Tourer or Gran Turismo and E as in electric – thus GTE.)

It combines 276 hp 3.6 liter VR6 engine with two electric motors and all-wheel drive. The front electric motor is 54 hp and the rear is 114 hp. When fully charged, the lithium ion battery will go 20 miles when on electric power only.

There are different operating modes:
E-mode – all electric (up to 20 miles – uses rear motor only)
Hybrid – default mode – uses engine and both motors – emphasis on fuel efficiency
GTE – uses engine and both motors – emphasis on performance
Off-road – front motor will act as a generator to ensure power makes way to rear motor and wheels – emphasis that power gets to all four wheels
Battery Hold/Battery Charge – allows to plan ahead for city driving and keeps energy levels constant and will continue to charge while driving.

The interior boasts a 10.1 inch display for information. The main instruments are digital even though they may look like traditional analog.

VW Cross Coupe GTE Concept


Another interesting car: Toyota i-ROAD


The Victor crew found a “car” at the New York International Auto Show that is more like a motorcycle-car hybrid. It is the Toyota i-ROAD. It is perfect for urban areas. It can seat two (if you put a small person in the back.)

There are two wheels in the front that move up and down independently but synchronize with the driver’s steering. You can lean just like you do on a motorcycle. Two of them will fit in a parking space. It is the answer for those who may want a motorcycle but don’t want to get wet on a rainy day. Its lithium-ion batteries will go a little over 30 miles on one charge.

See it in action:

Cutting Edge Hybrid Searching For Thrill Seekers

In this the term “hybrid” is referring to yet another vehicle running on a combination of gasoline and battery power. This time Polaris is at the wheel and has taken their years of ATV, motorcycle and snowmobile engineering to present a street vehicle that combines a bit of them all.

The Victor crew found The Slingshot, a three-wheeled street vehicle, is clearly targeting thrill seekers who are looking for something a little safer than a motorcycle. The vehicles angled, armor-like side panels and tube-framing make it look like something out of the newest Batman incarnations. The front is composed of a double-wishbone suspension, coil-over shocks and a sway bar while the back sports a single aluminum swing arm.

Although it is driven like a car (it really looks like some kind of sci-fi dune buggy) operators will require a motorcycle license as it doesn’t meet crash test standards or have air bags. It does, however, have lateral seating, stability control, antilock breaks. And last, but not least, a glove box. Oh, and you’ll have to wear a helmet while operating it. It is a far different animal than the up and coming Can-Am Spyder and is more on par in size with a Mazda MX-5 Miata. The standard version will come in around 19K while the “luxury version” will come in around 24K—it will include wind screen, larger wheels, an entertainment system with Bluetooth and a backup camera. The Slingshot is strictly a topless roadster, making it a fair-weather ride. But, just in case, the seats are waterproof and there are lockable bins in the rear for storage.

It is good to see Polaris innovating in area of the recreational production vehicles as there are is a market for forward thinking thrill seekers who are looking for something a little bit different.

Joe Victor

Audi Developing Energy Generating Suspension

Think of all the things that cause loss of energy in a vehicle: mechanical friction, braking, aerodynamic drag, etc. As Audi enters the electric and hybrid market with the release of their first-ever plug-in hybrid, the A3 e-tron and their development of their so-called all-electric super car, the R8 e-tron, Audi seem almost obsessive on their “search and destroy” mission when it comes to energy drains. With this set of lenses Audi has turned it’s eyes to suspension.

Strangely enough, yes, suspension—Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg, Audi R&D chief, discussed the companies work on their “generator suspension that will hopefully make it into future productions.”

“What people don’t realize is that dampers get very hot,” he said. “When working hard over a bumpy road, the dampers are perhaps 100 to 125 degrees. This energy is wasted as heat into the atmosphere. So, we will replace the suspension with a generator.”

Audi is looking into the possibility of using a rotating generator inside each damper that could be spun during compression and rebound. Then, captured electrical energy could be directed to batteries for storage. This energy could provide power for an electric or hybrid’s drive system or electrical accessories. Bumps in the road could power your radio! Dr. Hackenberg even offered some ideas on how such a energy recycling suspension system to could benefit performance cars:

“Because we can send energy back into the damper, you will have an independently variable suspension. This can [mitigate body] roll.”

More Info:

Joe Victor

Exciting Innovations Featured at Japan’s SAE Expo

This year’s Society of Automotive Engineers meeting includes 488 participants (a record number) along with 80,000 some visitors. Among all the expositions a few particular innovations stand out from the crowd.

Electric Twist Beam, from ZF
German transmission maker ZF is developing an in-axle motor drive system for electric vehicles. ZF has named it the Electric Twist Beam. The Twist Beam positions two electric motors at either ends of the axle; conventional axles join the wheels.
Fair enough, but what’s? The axle-motor assembly can be easily swapped for a traditional axle, allowing automakers to seamlessly create all-electric versions of nameplates with standard internal combustion engines.

SiC Inverter
Denso, a top supplier for Toyota Group, is working on a new inverter for electric and hybrid vehicles that boasts one-quarter the energy loss of today’s inverters.
Using energy-efficient semiconductors made out of silicon carbide, instead of silicon as is done now, is the secret to the increase in energy efficiency.
The initiative dovetails with efforts at Toyota Motor Corporation to develop silicon carbide semiconductors for the power control units in hybrid vehicles. Toyota estimates it will increase fuel economy by ten percent.

Denso Corp. can make the next generation inverter smaller and more powerful by using these same chips.
The inverter under development is 0.75 liter in volume, compared with 10 liters for the inverter Denso currently supplies for the Toyota Camry Hybrid. Its power density is 100 kilowatts per liter, as opposed to 20.

New Rotary Engine
Mazda is presenting a new rotary engine, deployed as a range-extending generator for hybrid vehicles.
The almost microscopic 0.33-liter single-rotor engine is coupled with a 75-kilowatt electric motor and 20-kilowatt-hour battery. It is being shown at SAE mounted on a Mazda2 subcompact hatchback.

The exhibition drew attention from Mazda fan-people eager to see Mazda revive the engine it made famous in vehicles such as the RX-7
The Mazda range extender concept is like that of Chevrolet’s Volt. The battery and electric motor power the wheels as in an electric vehicle. But when the battery needs a recharge, the engine kicks on to generate more electricity.

More cool SAE exhibitions here:

Joe asks Jody Victor®: Best Quality Cars, 2012

Did you ever wonder how auto makers figure out where they went wrong? What could they improve? What makes us happy or unhappy with a vehicle? Me, too! That’s why I asked Jody Victor® to tell us about it.

Jody Victor®: Hey, Joe, the answer is:  surveys! Customer satisfaction surveys go a long way to tell manufacturers what they are doing right, but more importantly, what they might be doing wrong. Here’s a list, in 4 parts, of quality vehicles from an article by Clifford Atiyeh of

Top Subcompact Car: Toyota Yaris

The Yaris, with its old 4-speed automatic transmission and plebian interior, isn’t a stellar compact car compared with its more sophisticated competition. The redesigned, edgier 2012 model carries over much of the same equipment. But befitting a typical Toyota, the Yaris is cheap to maintain and simple to operate in either hatchback or sedan form. Toyota, at 88 problems per 100 vehicles, clearly has something right on its hands.

Top Compact Car: Toyota Corolla

Is it any wonder the world’s best-selling car winds up here? The Corolla name is nearly as old as Mustang, and when it comes to no-frills, dead-reliable transport, nothing is more renowned. Like the Yaris, the current Corolla is outclassed by its many rivals in technology, design and performance. That doesn’t seem to matter.

Top Compact Sporty Car: Mazda MX-5 Miata

When it was introduced 23 years ago, the Miata was meant to re-create the spirit of those iconic British roadsters — the lightweight and zippy MGs, Austin Healeys and Triumphs. What it left out were the atrocious electrical failures and other mechanical problems that plagued those old roadsters. A true enthusiast’s car, the Miata sets the standard for affordable sports cars that can go the long mile.

Top Compact Premium Sporty Car: Volvo C70

Refreshed for 2011, the Volvo C70 is an attractive alternative to the usual crop of $40,000 German convertibles. The folding hardtop, floating center control stack and understated interior blend well with the car’s turbocharged engines. But don’t get confused; the C70 is a cruiser, not a corner-dicing sports car. Safety, of course, is paramount; the C70 was the world’s first convertible with head curtain airbags.

Top Entry Premium Car: Lexus ES

Lexus once again leads the J.D. Power list as the most reliable automaker, with an average of 73 problems per 100 vehicles. The ES 350 is all new for 2013, with a more aggressive front end and sculpted interior, plus a hybrid trim. In any model year, the ES is smooth, steers with a finger and offers a lot of luxury for the money.

Thanks, Jody! More next time.

Joe Victor

Joe asks Jody Victor®: 12 Best in Class Car Values For 2012 II

All except one of these Best in Class winners are also Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Top Safety Picks (no sports cars made that list this year). Here’s Jody Victor  to give us the second intallment.

Jody Victor: Hey, Joe, here’s the next four vehicles from and article by Jessica Anderson Of Kiplinger, from

CARS $40,000-$50,000: BMW 5 SERIES

Sticker price: $47,575 (528i)
Invoice price: $43,840
TrueCar national average price: $44,838
3-year resale value: 54%, 5-year: 37%
City mpg: 23, Hwy: 34

Direct injection and turbocharging make the 528i one of the most fuel-efficient vehicles in its class. An eight-speed automatic transmission also lends a hand, as does start/stop technology, which shuts the engine off when you’re stopped and automatically restarts it when you press the accelerator.


Sticker price: $52,565 (Luxury)
Invoice price: $48,947
TrueCar national average price: $48,997
3-year resale value: 56%, 5-year: 37%
City mpg: 21, Hwy: 32

Best in Class for the second year in a row, the E-Class diesel sedan proves it can go the distance on value. The BlueTec’s fuel economy — 32 miles per gallon on the highway — beats all except hybrid competitors in its class, and it sports higher resale values for 2012. Safety gets a boost with a standard driver’s knee airbag, Attention Assist drowsiness monitor and collision warning system.


Sticker price: $32,750 (1SS)
Invoice price: $31,476
TrueCar national average price: $32,546
3-year resale value: 59%, 5-year: 41%
City mpg: 16, Hwy: 24

Kiplinger’s Best New Car pick when it was reintroduced in 2010, Chevy’s Camaro SS sticks to its hot-rod roots. The brawny 6.2-liter V8 delivers 426 horses and is cloaked in a muscular exterior with styling cues from the pony car’s past. Plus, at just over $32,000, it won’t break the bank.


Sticker price: $30,670 (2.5XT Touring)
Invoice price: $28,767
TrueCar national average price: $29,259
3-year resale value: 60%, 5-year: 46%
City mpg: 19, Hwy: 24

Named Best in Class two years running, this baby ute also has sky-high resale values and picks up Best Resale plaudits. Subaru’s standard Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive sends power to the wheels with the best grip so you always stick to the road securely.

Thanks, Jody! Last four in the series, next time.

Joe Victor

Joe asks Jody Victor®: 12 Cars We Can’t Wait to Drive III

The annual North American International Auto Show in Detroit can induce serious sensory overload. For a true car nut, it’s like being a kid in a candy store – drooling over all that tasty sheet metal. I asked Jody Victor  to tell us about 12 of them (in 3 instalments) from an article by Kirk Bell of MSN Autos, and

Jody Victor: Hey Joe, can’t wait to see and drive some of these fantastic vehicles. Here’s the third batch.

Lexus LF-LC Concept – Though the LF-LC is just a concept, the hybrid sports coupe signals a new design direction for Lexus. If the luxury car brand gets positive response here in Detroit, it might be inspired to build the car, which would be super. Ideally, we’d like it to possess the handling prowess of the automaker’s celebrated LF-A, come in a rear-wheel drive platform and have the turbocharged V6 hybrid powertrain pump out between 450 and 500 horsepower. Now that would be a world-class sports car.

2013 Mercedes-Benz SL – In Mercedes parlance, SL stands for Super Lightweight. But the SL roadster hasn’t stuck to that philosophy in recent years. The 2013 SL550 gets back to those roots. With a body and structure rendered in almost all aluminum, the new SL is 242 pounds lighter than its predecessor, the equivalent of a good-sized middle linebacker. That should translate into improved handling for this grand tourer, as well as make the new turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 engine’s 429 horses all that more effective. Add in Mercedes’ responsive Direct Steer variable steering ratio and available active body control, and the new SL should be sportier than ever.

Mercedes-Benz E300 BlueTec Hybrid – Hybrids aren’t usually the objects of passion for auto enthusiasts. They are, after all, usually underpowered and bland in the handling department. But we appreciate the compatible technologies involved in the E300 BlueTec Hybrid. Diesel engines offer great highway fuel economy and hybrids do the same for city efficiency, so combining the two is only natural. Mercedes has said the E300 BlueTec Hybrid will be offered only in Europe, at least initially, so U.S. fuel-economy numbers aren’t available, but we expect 50-plus mpg. Hopefully, Mercedes will see fit to bring this efficient car to these shores in the future. It’ll offer Prius-level efficiency in a fun-to-drive luxury package.

2012 Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet – The last generation of the Porsche 911 was a model of precision and agility. With its longer wheelbase, wider track and lighter weight, the all-new 911, code name 991, is even better. We’ve driven the coupe and it is more refined, more efficient, more luxurious and even more agile than the outgoing model, which was outstanding. The 2012 Cabriolet, shown here, gets a lighter top thanks to a new design that incorporates magnesium bows. Give us the 400-horsepower 911 Carrera S Cabriolet with the 7-speed manual transmission, a winding road and a clear summer day, and we’ll be in automotive heaven.

Thanks, Jody! We can’t wait to check ’em out!

Joe Victor