What's Coming: Alternative Vehicles 2013-'15
Lots of Choices With New Hybrids, EVs, PHEVs and Diesels
With federal rules calling for mpg ratings in 2025 that will be nearly twice the current standards, it's no wonder that the cars we will see on the road in the next decade will change dramatically. And the change is coming quicker than you realize, as you can see in our list below of alternative vehicles that will be on the road by 2015.
Even if you think you're not really interested in new technologies for improved fuel efficiency, it's likely that a car or truck with some type of electric drive or alternative fuel will wind up on your consideration list the next time you shop for a new vehicle.
A Growing Market
By our count, there are nearly four dozen conventional hybrids, plug-in hybrids, battery-electric vehicles, diesels and fuel-cell electric vehicles planned for introduction in the U.S. from now through the 2015 model year. (Remember, these are new vehicles for the U.S. and are additions to alternative vehicles already on the market.)
To help get you acquainted with what's coming, the following list presents vehicles that we expect to see introduced through the 2015 model year. They're arranged by year, make and model. We've given release dates when we know them, and included pricing if the information is available. Prices listed are for the base model and do not include a variety of incentives provided by federal, state and local governments and utility companies. Federal tax incentives, which are based on battery size and can run up to $7,500 for a battery-electric vehicle, are good for the first 200,000 qualified vehicles produced by each manufacturer. Other incentives vary widely.
The list does not include vehicles that already have gone on sale. Volvo and Saab aren't listed because their new owners have said that the future EVs and hybrids from these brands will target just the Chinese and European markets. Also excluded are a few vehicles, such as a Bentley plug-in hybrid, that rumors say are in the works, but which we couldn't pin down.
The list only presents three model years, because things get too iffy after that. We'll add vehicles and new model years as information becomes available.
Model Year 2013
2013 Audi Q5 Hybrid: Arrived late 2012. This compact crossover SUV packs a 208-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 engine and a 44-hp electric motor. An eight-speed automatic transmission transmits power to the front wheels. Fuel economy is EPA-rated at 24 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway, or 27 mpg combined. Pricing starts at $50,900.
2013 Fiat 500e: This battery-electric subcompact is what some call a "compliance car," which means it's being built only to satisfy California's zero-emissions-vehicle (ZEV) mandate. The Fiat 500 EV will be sold only in California when it is introduced in mid-2013, because Fiat has said that even a price of close to $45,000 would represent a loss of $10,000 on each one sold. The 2013 Fiat 500 EV will use a lithium-ion battery pack and an electric motor rated at about 111 hp. Driving range on a single charge of the lithium-ion battery will be about 80 miles and Fiat estimates the 500e will earn an EPA fuel economy rating of 116 MPGe.
2013 Ford Fusion Energi: On sale now. As with the C-Max, Ford is launching the Fusion in both conventional and plug-in hybrid versions in the same model year. The powertrains are the same as in the C-Max hybrids, blending a 2.0-liter inline-4 Atkinson-cycle engine and an electric motor. But the Fusion Energi delivers195 horsepower, versus 188 hp for the C-Max Energi. The Fusion Energi has been EPA-rated at 100 MPGe fuel economy, with up to 21 miles of all-electric range. Ford says it will travel in all-electric mode at speeds of up to 85 mph. EPA fuel economy for the gasoline engine is 43 mpg combined. Pricing starts at $34,495.
2013 Scion iQ EV: The name might change by launch time, but the idea behind Toyota's tiny EV won't. The Scion iQ mini is the basis for a short-range, full-service electric car that will appeal to fuel-conscious fleet managers and the students, city dwellers and commuters who use car-sharing programs. That's right. Scion intends to sell the 3+1-passenger, limited-production electric car only to fleets and car-sharing operations, which suits the vehicle's expected cruising range of only 65 miles.
2013 Toyota Avalon Hybrid: Toyota's newest hybrid is the industry's first full-size hybrid sedan. A 2.5-liter engine and a pair of electric motors will produce 200 hp and deliver fuel economy estimated at 40 mpg in the city and 39 mpg on the highway. The 2013 Avalon Hybrid's small battery can support 1.5 miles of all-electric range at up to 25 mph in EV mode (perhaps good for rolling through school zones without disturbing classes).
Model Year 2014
2014 Acura RLX Hybrid: Arriving early 2013. Acura's first use of its Sport Hybrid all-wheel-drive system will provide this midsize luxury sedan with a total of 370 hp and an estimated EPA rating of 30 mpg for city, highway and combined driving. The system mates a 350-hp direct-injection V6 with a complex electric drive system that features three motors. A seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission directs power to the wheels.
2014 Audi A6 Hybrid: Arriving early 2014. This midsize luxury sedan is already on sale in Europe, but its launch in the U.S. has been delayed. It will debut here with the same gas-electric powertrain as the 2013 Audi Q5 Hybrid. Fuel economy is expected to be just south of 35 mpg combined.
2014 Audi R8 E-tron EV: Arriving late 2013. This battery-electric sports car has electric motors for each wheel — a true Quattro. Audi is keeping information about the drive system quiet for now, but word is that the electric R8 could deliver about 150 miles of range. This will be a limited-production car for those with relatively deep pockets. Pricing hasn't been set but is expected to come in at around $240,000.
2014 BMW i3: This battery-powered EV is a four-passenger subcompact. Occupants will sit in a lightweight carbon-fiber passenger cell that rides on an aluminum chassis. The 22-kWh lithium-ion battery pack will deliver close to 93 miles of range and funnel sufficient power to the 170-hp electric motor for a 0-60-mph acceleration time of just under 8 seconds. BMW has promised a two-cylinder gasoline generator as an option to extend cruising range.
2014 Cadillac ELR: General Motors has given the green light to a plug-in hybrid sedan from Cadillac. GM's updated version of the gasoline-electric powertrain found in the Chevrolet Volt will be combined with distinct Caddy styling, luxury appointments and technology.
2013 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel: This version of the Chevy Cruze will pack a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 diesel. Fuel economy is expected to be about 47 mpg city and a very respectable 50 mpg on the highway. The European version of GM's 2.0-liter turbodiesel packs 161 hp and 265 pound-feet of torque, although it will make a bit less power in U.S. trim because of our tougher air emissions standards.
2014 Chevrolet Impala Hybrid: Early 2013. General Motors is slowly migrating its "eAssist" mild hybrid system across its vehicle lines, and the 2014 Impala is the first Chevy to get it. Introduced in the 2013 Buick LaCrosse, eAssist provides an engine stop-start system and a limited amount of electric motor assistance for the 2.4-liter Ecotec engine. GM says it expects an EPA rating of 35 mpg combined.
2014 Chevrolet Spark EV: Arriving late 2013. This battery-electric version of the mini-compact Spark hatchback is GM's first pure EV since the ill-fated EV1 that was discontinued in 2003. Initial sales will be confined to select markets in California and a few other states that have similar ZEV mandates. Chevrolet says the Spark EV will work best as a city or commuter car, with about 80 miles of range. The technical package includes a 20-kWh lithium-ion battery pack paired with a 130-hp electric motor and single-speed transmission. The high-powered motor delivers 400 lb-ft of torque that will help make the Spark EV one of the quickest 0-60 sprinters in the electric vehicle segment. Pricing is expected to start at around $32,500.
2014 Fisker Sunset: This range-extended EV is a retractable-hardtop version of the 2012 Fisker Karma. Plagued by financial and quality-control woes, Fisker has postponed a series of lower-cost Atlantic models that had been slated for a 2014 launch. But the company still has loyal investors and high-profile customers, so it hasn't yet pulled the plug on the Sunset — but consider it iffy for now.
2014 Honda Accord Plug-in Hybrid: The car, which was just rated by the EPA at 115 MPGe, features a 134-hp, 2.0-liter inline-4 engine augmented by a 161-hp electric motor that draws its power from a 6-kWh lithium-ion battery pack. At peak output, the combined gas-electric system produces 193 hp and 226 lb-ft of torque. Meanwhile, a second electric motor acts as an onboard generator. The gas engine doesn't connect with the driven wheels until the car reaches speeds of 40 mph and greater. At lower speeds the drive power comes from the electric motor; the engine is used to spin the generator. Honda says the Accord plug-in will deliver up to 13 miles of all-electric range. Sales initially are limited to California and New York. Pricing begins at $39,780.
2014 Honda Accord Hybrid: On sale now in California and New York, with other states to follow. The five-seat sedan has been EPA rated at 115 MPGe with up to 13 miles of all-electric range. Fuel efficiency with the gasoline engine operating is 46 mpg combined. The Accord PHEV features a 134-hp, 2.0-liter inline-4 engine augmented by a 161-hp electric motor that draws its power from a 6 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. At peak output, the combined gas-electric system produces 193 hp and 226 lb-ft of torque. Meanwhile, a second electric motor acts as an onboard generator. Pricing starts at $39,780.
2014 Hyundai Sonata Plug-in Hybrid: Arriving mid-2014, this will be a plug-in variant of the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid. Expect overall fuel economy to be lots better than the conventional hybrid's 36 mpg overall, thanks to a larger battery pack that will permit some amount of all-electric driving. And as has been the case with other plug-in versions of conventional hybrids, expect a heftier price tag as well, closer to $30,000 than to the unplugged hybrid's $25,850 starting price.
2014 Infiniti LE: This battery-electric Infiniti is based on the Nissan Leaf but likely will offer more power and more cruising range, plus sportier handling and styling. Think sport sedan instead of hatchback. Infiniti might change the vehicle's name before the introduction, though.
2014 Infiniti JX Hybrid: Nissan and its upscale Infiniti brand have promised 15 new conventional and plug-in hybrids and battery-electric vehicles globally by 2017. A hybrid version of the seven-seat JX crossover will be one of the first for the U.S. market — along with the Nissan Altima Hybrid listed later — using Nissan's new front-wheel-drive hybrid system. Like the Altima hybrid, the Infiniti is likely to use a supercharged four-cylinder gas engine and an electric motor with a lithium-ion battery pack. Don't expect Infiniti to be advertising any all-electric range with the JX, though. The battery won't be big enough to hold the power needed for that.
2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Diesel: Expected mid-to-late-2013. Jeep has reengineered and redesigned the Grand Cherokee for 2014 and says it will offer a diesel version. What's expected is a 3.0-liter oil burner with 406 lb-ft of torque, sourced from Fiat, Chrysler's controlling shareholder. The Fiat diesel would boost Grand Cherokee fuel economy to around 22 mpg city and 30-32 mpg highway even as it increases towing and load hauling capacity. The standard gasoline-burning 2013 model is EPA-rated at 17 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway.
2014 Mercedes-Benz B-Class E-Cell Plus: This subcompact, range-extended plug-in electric car likely will use a three-cylinder gasoline-powered generator. The rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack will provide up to 60 miles of all-electric range before the engine starts up, extending cruising range another 300 miles.
2014 Mercedes-Benz F-Cell: Arriving mid-to-late-2014. Mercedes-Benz has been testing hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles for more than a decade and presently is running a demonstration program in Europe and the U.S. The company pledged in 2011 to have mass-market fuel-cell cars ready by 2015, but recently said it plans to sell the F-Cell, a fuel-cell electric vehicle that's based on the Mercedes B-Class, a year earlier.
2014 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG E-Cell: Arriving late 2013. This limited-production, all-electric supercar is expected to generate 525 hp and 649 lb-ft of torque via four compact electric motors positioned near the wheels. A 48-kWh lithium-ion battery pack will store the power. Mercedes is aiming for 0-60-mph acceleration in less than 4 seconds. No word yet on whether Mercedes will use all the juice for acceleration or whether it will reserve some for increased range.
2014 Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-in Hybrid: Arriving late 2013 or early 2014. Mitsubishi wants to be among the first to market with a plug-in hybrid SUV. The Outlander PHEV will feature an all-wheel-drive system powered by electric motors, plus a gasoline engine that will deliver several hundred miles of range and allow for continuous operation even when there's no charger available for the battery pack.
2014 Nissan Altima Hybrid: From 2007 through 2011, Nissan offered a limited-production Altima Hybrid that used a hybrid system licensed from Toyota. Flash forward to 2014, when the Altima Hybrid will use a front-wheel-drive version of Nissan's own gas-electric system, which the carmaker first offered in the rear-wheel-drive 2012 Infiniti M35 Hybrid. Nissan is believed to be planning a supercharged 2.5-liter engine and a single electric motor that when combined will deliver about 270 hp and fuel economy that's in the neighborhood of 40 mpg.
2014 Porsche Panamera Plug-in Hybrid: Arrives late 2013, early 2014. Porsche is leading VW Group's drive to become a player in the electric-drive world. According to early specifications, the Panamera PHEV will feature a gas-electric powertrain and a 9.4-kWh lithium-ion battery pack capable of delivering up to 19 miles of all-electric travel and, Porsche says, up to 60 MPGe fuel economy. When the 95-hp electric motor isn't operating, power will come from a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 rated at 333 hp. Drivers can select hybrid, all-electric or all-gasoline modes.
2014 Porsche 918 Spyder Plug-in Hybrid: Arrives 2014. This will be a limited-edition model with a price tag close to $850,000. For that, buyers will get a drop top with a complex powertrain consisting of a 4.6-liter V8 that's rated at 476 hp and a pair of electric motors — one front, one rear — with a combined rating of 215 hp. All are linked to the wheels via a dual-clutch transmission. Top speed is estimated at 198 mpg and 0-60 time is said to be less than 3.2 seconds. Porsche is estimating peak U.S. fuel economy at something close to 80 mpg if the driver can keep the accelerator pedal off the floor.
2014 Subaru Hybrid: Arriving in 2013. Subaru's first U.S. hybrid (which hasn't yet been named) will likely be an all-wheel-drive model like the Legacy or the Forester crossover. It will use a gasoline-electric powertrain based on the company's 2.0-liter flat-4 engine. Early reports suggest that Subaru plans a mild hybrid system somewhat like Honda's, so it doesn't provide for all-electric operation.
2014 Tesla Model X: This is Tesla's first crossover — a utility vehicle based on the Tesla Model S sport sedan that launched in the summer of 2012. It will share about 60 percent of the Model S parts. The 2014 Model X will be the industry's first all-electric crossover and the first with overhead-opening doors, a system Tesla calls the "falcon-wing."
2014 Volkswagen E-Golf: Arriving late 2013, early 2014. An electric motor delivering 199 lb-ft of torque will power this battery-electric five-door hatchback. A 26.5-kWh lithium-ion battery will store and deliver energy to the motor. VW says that range between charges will be up to 93 miles.
Model Year 2015
2015 Acura NSX: Arriving sometime in 2015, possibly as a 2016 model. This is the long-awaited replacement for the original Acura NSX that was discontinued in 2005. It will feature a midengine V6 coupled with a high-performance version of the three-motor Sport Hybrid system introduced for the 2014 Acura RLX. One of the three electric motors will drive the rear wheels, while the other two will turn the front wheels. The car is expected to be quite light to maximize fuel economy and likely will make use of lots of aluminum or composites.
2015 Audi A3 E-tron Plug-in Hybrid: Expected mid-2014. After testing an all-electric version of its A3 hatchback, Audi has decided instead to launch a plug-in hybrid. Powertrain particulars are still under wraps, but expect Audi to deliver a car that provides double-digit range in all-electric mode, plenty of power in hybrid mode and decent fuel economy overall.
2015 Honda FCX Clarity: Possibly arriving late 2015. Honda's hydrogen-fueled electric sedan is now being offered to a select group of consumers as a demonstration vehicle. A smaller and less expensive production version could make it to the retail market in limited areas.
2015 Hyundai Fuel-Cell Electric Vehicle: Hyundai was one of several major car companies that pledged to consumers and government air quality regulators in Asia, Europe and North America a few years ago that it would begin producing fuel-cell electric vehicles for the retail market by 2015. As a longtime proponent of fuel-cell electric cars and trucks, Hyundai has been developing and testing experimental models based on the Santa Fe SUV for years. Expect the carmaker to base this as-yet-unnamed 2015 retail model on its Santa Fe SUV or the smaller, lighter Tucson crossover.
2015 Kia Borrego FCEV: Where parent Hyundai goes, Kia usually follows. The company has been testing its own version of the jointly developed fuel-cell system and had been expected to launch a Borrego SUV powered by a fuel cell in 2015. More recently, though, Hyundai has said that it intends to be the fuel-cell leader and leave battery EV development to Kia. If that is the case, look for Kia to cancel the Borrego FCEV
2015 Kia Soul EV: Likely to arrive in 2014 when the Soul is redesigned. No details have been released, but Kia's parent, Hyundai Motors, has shown several battery-electric concepts that could be adapted to Kia models. That would be in keeping with the corporate plan that features battery EVs as Kia models, and fuel-cell electric cars as Hyundai vehicles. One concept that seems Soul-sized was the system in Hyundai's BlueOn concept, which used a 90-hp electric motor and 16.4-kWh battery pack to deliver 83 miles of range on a single charge.
2015 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Plug-in Hybrid: Mercedes has been teasing us with concept versions of an S-Class plug-in hybrid since 2009, but it now appears that the redesigned S-Class, due to launch in 2014, will include a plug-in hybrid version somewhere in the lineup. Whether it will appear in 2014 as a 2015 model or be launched a bit later is still a mystery, as are the exact specifications. But the S500 Vision PHEV concept shown at the 2009 Frankfurt Auto Show was promising U.S. fuel efficiency in the range of 65-70 MPGe from a gas-electric powertrain. The 10-kWh battery pack was capable of delivering sufficient power to move the big car up to 18 miles on electricity alone.
2015 Nissan FCEV: Nissan plans a fuel-cell electric vehicle for this year. It doesn't have a name yet, but it likely will be based on one of the company's crossovers.
2015 Porsche Cayenne Plug-in Hybrid: Arrives mid-to-late-2014. This will use an all-wheel-drive version of the hybrid system introduced in the Panamera PHEV, combining a 95-hp electric motor and a supercharged, 3.0-liter V6 engine rated at 333 hp. It should deliver approximately the same 55-60 mpg fuel efficiency and 19 miles of all-electric range as the Panamera system.
2015 Tesla Midsize Car: The third-generation Tesla has not yet been named, but it will be the company's shot at entering the mainstream midsize family-car market with an electric vehicle that's priced under $45,000. The carmaker is discussing a multiple-model lineup, including a sedan and a crossover. Tesla Chairman Elon Musk says he's hoping for an early 2015 launch, but considers this an aspiration, not a promise.
2015 Tesla Sports Car: When Tesla discontinued its Roadster EV at the end of 2011, executives promised a replacement as early as 2013. But Elon Musk later said he'd decided to hold up on that as-yet-unnamed car until the company launched its third-generation car. It is unclear whether Tesla plans another two-seat roadster or is thinking of an enclosed model.
2015 Toyota FCV: Toyota also was a signer of the fuel-cell pledge and has been running a fleet of fuel-cell electric Highlander SUVs for several years. Its first retail model, however, will likely be a sedan based on the fuel-cell vehicle concept it displayed at the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show. The four-seater could deliver more than 400 miles on a tank of hydrogen, with fuel economy pegged at the equivalent of 70 mpg. Toyota has said it hopes to get costs down by 2015 so it can price the car at about $50,000.