Hybrid Launch: 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid

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Apr 082018
 

2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid

By Lyndon Conrad Bell

Completing the trifecta that is Honda’s Clarity lineup, the 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid joins the Clarity Fuel Cell and Clarity Electric Vehicle (EV). Latino Traffic Report recently attended the launch in Calistoga, CA.

If it looks suspiciously like Honda is angling to get a foothold in the electrification business, this is indeed the case. The company predicts electrified passenger cars will comprise two-thirds of global sales by 2030. Like its Clarity siblings, the Plug-in Hybrid version of the five-passenger sedan delivers premium appointments, an exceptionally quiet and smooth demeanor, and outstanding fuel economy.

For an automobile with a footprint similar to Honda’s flagship Accord sedan, the Clarity Plug-in Hybrid has an EPA estimated fuel economy of 42 miles per gallon and 47 miles on electricity alone. Even better, you can see this kind of range driving perfectly normally. The powertrain produces a total system output of 212 horsepower and 232 lb.–ft. of torque.

You also have the flexibility of choosing to cruise around town on electrons, while only burning dino juice out on the highway. This, in fact is the most efficient use of the powertrain. Gasoline engines deliver their best fuel economy at cruising speed on the highway and fall down when forced to deal with stop-and-go city driving. Electric motors have no such qualms. You can also set the powertrain to recharge the battery when you’re on the highway, so you have full charge with which to negotiate city streets when you arrive in town.

 

With seating for five adults, the Clarity Plug-in Hybrid (as does the entire Clarity family) falls firmly into the mid-sized sedan category. Yes, the rear middle passenger will be in hip contact with seatmates, but there’s more than adequate leg and headroom. Ingress and egress are easy too. What’s more, trunk space solidly approaches generous.

As impressive as all the above is, Clarity’s quiet will absolutely blow you away. Even when the gasoline engine is powered up, you’ll be hard-pressed to tell it’s running.

With all of that said, let’s address the 400-pound gorilla that is Clarity’s styling. Yes, it’s solidly inline with the contemporary Honda family, but regardless of the angle from which you view the sedan, this is one frumpy-looking car. Yes, we understand those rear fender skirts improve the aerodynamics, and yes, we know all of those slots and vents in the body are functional too. But this is an exterior design very few people (if any) will characterize as lovely.

Meanwhile, the interior is one of the nicest we’ve ever seen in a Honda. In fact, they could’ve badged Clarity an Acura and we would’ve been just as impressed. High quality finishes abound. Handsome shapes please the eye and the ergonomics are outstanding. Well, except for the audio system. Honda still insists on going knob-less in that regard and we’re solidly in the, “Oh, no not again,” camp. Would it kill them to give us rotating dial for the volume and tuning controls?

However, this is the only real issue we could find inside the beautifully turned out sedan. What’s more, you can feel good about it, because 80 percent of the materials are either recycled or originate from sustainable sources. When Honda says its down for doing its best to ensure blue skies for our children, moves like these leave us believing they’re serious about it.

Pricing for the 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid starts at $33,400

 

Minivan Review: Chrysler Pacifica

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Nov 232017
 

From features to specs, the first in class sets a new benchmark in the auto industry and that’s usually a good thing for consumers. Introduced in 2016, the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica plug-in hybrid goes where no minivan has gone before. On a recent test drive of the Pacifica Platinum for Latino Traffic Report, it did indeed go much farther while using less gas.

The Pacifica stirred controversy when Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) opted to resurrect its name for the Chrysler minivan, replacing the Town and Country. Once introduced, however, it quickly made amends, named the 2017 North American Sport Utility Vehicle at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. A trailblazer in the minivan segment, FCA US added 37 minivan firsts to its portfolio for a total of 115 innovations in the segment.

With plug-ins, however, there’s a trade-off—the longer the electric range, the longer it takes to recharge, especially using a 120-volt outlet in the garage. On paper the Pacifica’s all-electric range of 30–33 miles on electric energy seemed limited, but the minivan recharged overnight and on the test drive, the range didn’t dissipate as soon as I pressed the gas, as others have. It held true and on some occasions recharged to extend the range so that the Pacifica rarely needed to switch to gasoline power.

The plug-in should earn an EPA estimated combined fuel economy of 32 miles per gallon (mpg) and 84 mpge using electric power. I averaged 37.2 mpg and during the test-drive.

Its powertrain consists of a dual-motor eFlite electrically variable transmission (EVT) with two electric motors matched to a modified version of the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 gasoline engine. Rather than take up cargo space, the 16-kWh battery pack is stored under the second-row floor. Setting itself apart from other hybrids, the Pacifica uses a one-way clutch that allows the motor, typically used only as a generator, to deliver torque to the wheels, depending on driving conditions.

Standard safety features add value on family vehicles. On the Pacifica plug-in hybrid they include three of my favorites­—a blind-spot monitor, rear park assist with stop, and a rear backup camera. The Platinum that I drove added forward collision warning-plus, adaptive cruise control, and a 360-degree Surround View camera, among other features.

Standard created comforts begin with a beautifully appointed interior inspired by Juneau, Alaska with ivory leather seats, blue accent stitching and black piping, heated front seats, remote start, three-zone climate control, a seven-inch full color customizable driver information display, and the Uconnect infotainment system with an 8.4-inch touchscreen.

The test model was the Platinum top-of-the-line trim (trims change for 2018 to Touring Plus, Touring L, and Limited) and included a rear entertainment system, ventilated front seats, the available tri-pane panoramic sunroof ($1,795), and a handsfree power tailgate and power sliding doors, On the down side, the captains chairs did not fold flat into the floor like the innovative Stow N’Go third-row seat, limiting cargo carrying ability.

Pricing for the 2017 Pacifica plug-in hybrid starts at $43,090 but it also qualifies for a full $7,500 federal tax credit. The as-tested pricing came to $47,885.

Sí: The Pacifica plug-In hybrid is a great step forward in the minivan segment plus the battery holds the electric charge better than others.

No: Seating is heavy and clunky to maneuver, and even if the second row seats are removed, that solution is super outdated.

 

FCA Recalls Certain 2017 Pacifica Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles

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Jun 252017
 

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

Latino Traffic Report has learned that Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling certain 2017 Pacifica Plug-in Hybrid Electric vehicles (PHEV) for two issues.

• The affected vehicles have diodes in the Power Inverter Module (“PIM”) that may fail due to an overvoltage condition. If the diodes fail, the vehicle will not move under its own power.

• The tire placard on the affected vehicles incorrectly lists the seating capacity as six occupants rather then seven occupants, with a combined weight of 950lbs rather than 1,100lbs. As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 110, “Tire Selection and Rims.”

A vehicle that suddenly cannot be driven, increases the risk of a crash and the incorrect tire label may cause customer confusion, potentially resulting in vehicle overloading, increasing the risk of a crash.

Chrysler has not yet finalized its remedy plans for the PIM recall. The recall is expected to begin on July 24, 2017. Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 1-800-853-1403. Chrysler’s number for this recall is T34.

Regarding the tire placard, Chrysler will notify owners, and dealers will replace tire placard label, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin July 28, 2017. Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 1-800-853-1403. Chrysler’s number for this recall is T37.

Owners may also contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153), or go to www.safercar.gov.

Vehicle Launch: 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid, Electric, and Plug-in Hybrid

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Jun 092017
 

Like it or not (Mr. President), the clean energy train has left the station, which means alternative fuel vehicles will continue to arrive at a dealership near you. This year Hyundai bolstered that prediction with the introduction of its all-new hybrid, the 2017 Ioniq. Latino Traffic Report recently attended the regional launch in Durham, North Carolina to drive not one, not two, but all three versions.

Rather than wait years to complete the lineup, Hyundai will build three powertrains on one dedicated platform, the Ioniq Hybrid, Electric (with a range of 124 miles), and a Plug-in Hybrid (available in 2018). All three were at the launch where they performed nicely, and like the name, a cross between “ion and unique,” the Ioniqs displayed distinctive good looks.

Ioniq Electric

I appreciated its sporty accents, like LED daytime running lights, and while the arched roofline may resemble that of other hybrids, it’s a functional necessity to maximize aerodynamics and achieve an industry-leading 0.24 coefficient of drag.

According to WardsAuto, in the United States, “Total EV sales grew to 79,915 units from 72,374 in 2015. Plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) sales, counted in a separate category, totaled 71,329 units, up 63 percent from 43,815 in 2015, and hybrid sales totaled 373,359 units in 2016, up from 341,792 in 2015.” Hyundai believes that millennials will energize the market further, increasing sales, according to Brandon Ramirez, senior group manager, product planning at Hyundai Motor America.

A recent addition to the segment, the Ioniq gets the benefit of bringing up the rear, improving on what the first hybrids started, like offering the best combined fuel economy in its class, 58 miles per gallon (mpg) with the Ioniq Blue trim (non-Blue trims should achieve 55 mpg combined). At the launch, I averaged 51 mpg with the Ioniq Hybrid Limited trim. A new 1.6-liter direct-injected Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine powers the Ioniq Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrids, delivering an estimated 104 horsepower and an estimated 109 lbs.–ft. of torque. On the Hybrid, it’s matched to a quick-shifting six-speed double-clutch transmission, an electric motor that delivers an estimated 43 horsepower with an estimated maximum torque of 125 lbs.–ft., and a 1.56 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery (with a lifetime warranty). With an 8.9 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery, the Plug-in Hybrid provides an all-electric range (before the gas-powered engine kicks in) of more than 27 miles while the Ioniq Electric offers an estimated driving range of 124 miles with a 28 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery . Mated to a single-speed reduction-gear transmission, the electric motor has a maximum output of 118 horsepower and 218 lbs.–ft. of torque. The Ioniq Electric has an EPA-estimated 136 miles per gallon gasoline equivalent (MPGe) rating, better than any electric vehicle sold in the U.S.

Range anxiety plus the length of time needed to charge can discourage potential buyers. The Ioniq may offer some solutions. Charging the Ioniq Electric to 80 percent should take approximately 23 minutes using an SAE Combo Level-3 DC, 100 kW fast charger. An integrated In-Cable Control Box also allows drivers to charge their Ioniq using a standard household electric socket.

Enhancing the car’s fuel efficiency and dynamic driving characteristics, the driver can select either SPORT or ECO modes. On the launch, the SPORT mode did add oomph but it was the Plug-in Hybrid and Electric models that offered noticeably smoother rides.

The Ioniq reflects a deeper commitment to green from Hyundai with its use of recycled or ecologically-sensitive materials, like interior door covers made of plastic combined with powdered wood and volcanic stone.

Innovations continue on the inside with a seven-inch TFT instrument cluster that displays all gauge functions and Hyundai’s Blue Link connected car system, which is standard on the Electric model for three years. Placing the battery underneath the rear seats also adds extra passenger space on the Ioniq hybrid, an estimated 122.7 cubic feet and best-in-class cargo of 26.5 cubic feet, plus it gives the Ioniq a lower center of gravity for better road hugging. Handy features, like a rearview camera are standard, but safety technology, like a blindspot warning system, remain optional, even on the more expensive Electric model.

Looking to the future, Hyundai and the all-new Ioniq will continue to attract consumers to the green car segment. Pricing for the Hybrid and Electric (pricing for the Plug-in was not available) models should start at $23,035 and $30,335 respectively, and the Electric will be eligible for government tax credits of $7,500, according to the IRS.  

Ioniq Hybrid