August 15, 2012

WHICH IS WHY YOUR NEXT CAR WILL BE A VOLT:

Honda's Fit EV gives battery cars a much-needed jolt (Alex Taylor III, 8/14/12, FortuneMagazine)

The Fit takes most of the mystery out of EVs, gives drivers a clear understanding of the car's potential as well as its limitations, and is more fun to drive than anything I've been in recently -- gasoline or electric.

The key is transparency. Honda has cleared away extraneous data from the instrument panel and prominently displayed the single piece of data most essential to EV drivers: range.

Moreover, the range decreases in a measured, methodical way that -- at least in my experience -- isn't subject to any stomach-churning drops. There's nothing like being ten miles from home after being abruptly informed that your EV range has sunk to nine miles.

All the factors that can affect driving range are clearly posted. The Fit EV has three levels of energy usage: Econ, Normal, and Sport. Select any of the three, and the change in range registers immediately. Turn on an energy-sucking accessory like air conditioning or heater, and another gauge passes on the bad news.

The Fit EV even has enough oomph to make it an eminently practical daily driver. Running in Econ mode, my fully recharged car registered a range of 116 miles. Shifting to normal driving and it dropped to 100 miles -- still ample for most uses. Sport mode exacted an additional mileage penalty of 10%, but it did increase the fun factor. Honda says the acceleration in sport mode is equivalent to a gasoline car like the Volkswagen Jetta with an engine displacement of 2.0 liters or more.

Quick and responsive, the gasoline-powered Fit has always been fun to drive, and the instant torque generated by the battery-powered motor makes it even more so. By, in effect, downshifting from Eco to Normal to Sport, you get an immediate and gratifying jump forward. Although the lithium-ion batteries add more than 600 pounds of weight, you hardly know they are there.

Posted by at August 15, 2012 9:27 AM
  

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