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It’s not easy being a ‘green’ car award Add to ...

It has been headlined in some quarters as a “snub” of electric vehicles, but the top five finalists for the inaugural Canadian Green Car award don’t include a battery electric vehicle (BEV), as none of the five zero local emissions cars available in Canada made the short list.

The finalists for the award, to be presented at the Green Living Show on April 12, include three hybrids (Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, Ford Fusion Hybrid, and Volkswagen Jetta Turbocharged Hybrid), with one plug-in hybrid (Ford C-Max Energi) and one tech-laden but internal-combustion-only Mazda3 SkyActiv.

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Some Canadian BEV owners were not happy with these awards already, with owner forums online buzzing about why not even one zero local emission vehicle made the list. “The top five don’t seem very green to us BEV drivers,” lamented one Nissan Leaf driver.

As a fellow BEV owner, regular EV Facebook poster, as well as a volunteer organizer of the awards, co-presented by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada and Green Living Enterprises, I understand the disappointment. But a closer look at the criteria used for the award favours the best green car, and possibly, but not necessarily, the greenest car individually.

The criteria places the highest percentage (35 per cent) on the vehicle’s carbon footprint, in which BEVs obviously excel, but also factors in their range and recharge times.

Then 30 per cent going to mass-market factors such as availability, price, consumer appeal and others, on the basis that a more widely popular vehicle will sell more and therefore reduce overall emissions more than cars too pricey or limited in their appeal. Factor in another 25 per cent for driving experience (comfort, quality, features) and finally 10 per cent for innovative features outside the drivetrain, such as recycled seat fabrics and infrastructure or factory efforts.

“After all, a car loaded with ‘green’ features will make a difference only if it sells in large numbers and supplants lesser models,” said Peter Gorrie, chair of the award’s steering committee. “While EVs represent impressive technology, that focus might have prevented the four battery-electric nominees from making the final five.”

The new award came together rapidly after it was announced at the Toronto auto show in mid-February. Organizers arranged for AJAC members with some interest in, and experience with, green vehicles and their technology to look over and evaluate background material on all 15 or so entrants, and then fill out the detailed scoring ballot for each, all on a volunteer basis.

Other online commenters expressed surprise that cars from Toyota and Tesla were not in the final five, or even on the entry list. They were asked, but declined to participate, as was the case with Honda Canada.

BMW X4.
 

BMW unveils X4 crossover ‘coupe’

BMW will add a new four-door crossover “coupe” to its popular X family of crossovers in early 2014, the company confirmed recently; the new model will be called the X4, a near-production concept version of which will make its world debut later this month at the Shanghai auto show.

The X4 Concept will become a little brother to the larger X6 crossover, and will roll out of the same production plant as the X5, X6, and X3 in Spartanburg, S.C.

The new X4 may sound like it’s on the 4-Series Coupe, but the fastbacked four-door will likely be more comparable in size and function to the newly minted 3-Series GT, the X3 or possibly even the 328i xDrive wagon, which will only come in all-wheel-drive form in Canada.

No drivetrain information was released, but it’s a safe bet to suppose that under the X4’s hood will lie similar powertrain choices as offered now in the 3-Series, and soon in the 4-Series (real) coupes and cabriolets: a 2.0-litre turbocharged four of near 240 hp and a 3.0-litre turbo inline-six, perhaps familiarly offered in 28i and 35i high-output versions.

Detroit Electric EV maker reborn

The circle of life may be completing itself in plug-in circles soon, since just after Detroit Electric announced it would produce a new breed of Lotus-based electric sports cars, embattled plug-in hybrid maker Fisker Automotive laid off three-quarters of its staff to enter a corporate “limp-home mode” as it searches for fresh capital from a new buyer.

The awkwardly named SP:01 will be a relatively lightweight convertible, built on a Lotus Exige body, and planned for a low-volume build of 999 units. Like the Tesla Roadster that it will inevitably be compared to, the DE Roadster will have a large-capacity battery and a promised range of 240 km, with a top speed of 250 km/h, along with a 0-100 km/h time of 3.7 seconds.

The Detroit-based firm revives the brand that went dormant in 1939, though a planned revival in 2009 with the design and sale of two mainstream electric vehicles in the United States by 2010 never came to fruition. This time, the company will start with the pricey and zoomy sports car, which will start around $135,000 (U.S.), before DE plans more moderately priced hatchbacks and sedans.

At the other end of the spectrum, Fisker Automotive is now facing a lawsuit from some employees who were not given the required 60 days notice required before a mass layoff, the suit alleges, according to a report in trade journal Automotive News.

Fisker of Toronto general manager Michael Cornacchia didn’t comment on what happens now to Fisker Karma owners in Canada, or Fisker buyers who have laid down a deposit for the car, e-mailing he was still busy all week with some upcoming shows.

Porsche introducing plug-in Panamera hybrid

A radical shake-up of available engines in Porsche’s fleet but ungainly lineup of four-door hatchbacks will include an all-new plug-in hybrid version, the Panamera S E-Hybrid, as well as replacing the Panamera’s V-8 engines with turbocharged V-6s.

Porsche’s Panamera E-Hybrid becomes the German sports car maker’s first vehicle that can use grid electricity to run anywhere from 18 to 36 kilometres in fully electric mode, or perhaps more in ideal conditions, Porsche says. Top speed in fully electric mode is 135 km/h, the company says, and it can be recharged in a regular 110V outlet in four hours, or about 2-1/2 hours using a 240V EVSE.

The E-Hybrid’s drivetrain produces 416 hp thanks to a larger and more advanced 9.4 kWh lithium-ion battery, replacing the 1.7 kWh nickel-metal hydride battery in the soon-to-be-replaced Panamera Hybrid system. Porsche says the system will yield an overall fuel economy average of 3.1 litres/100 km in European efficiency ratings, which tend to be optimistic, but still represent a major gain over the previous Panamera Hybrid’s 7.1 litres/100 km NEDC average.

The twin-turbo V-6 engines put out 420 hp, and offer an 18 per cent improvement in fuel economy, while new extended-wheelbase Executive models will also be added.

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