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National News / Automotive

Friday, 29 June, 2012 8:04 PM

Attendees enjoy test driving electric vehicles for the first time in L.A.

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

The $102,000 Fisker Karma was one of several electric vehicles available for test drives and ride-alongs at the 2012 Dwell on Design conference.

 

by Jason Rzucidlo
americajr@americajr.com

 

|

LOS ANGELES -- The 2012 Dwell on Design conference was a three-day celebration of modern design and featured 2,000 products, 150 speakers on three stages, three days of modern home tours and five full-scale prefab homes. It took place at the L.A. Convention Center from June 22 to 24. A Green car ride-and-drive activity was also a part of the annual event. For most attendees, it was their first time getting behind the wheel of an electric vehicle (EV). Those I spoke to said they are looking to trade in their gas-guzzling rides for a newer, Earth-friendly automobile within the next six months to a year.

Once again, Green Car Journal Editor Ron Cogan organized the Green car ride-and-drive opportunity just outside the convention center's West Hall.

"Some people would say that an electric vehicle is the greenest vehicle," Cogan said in an exclusive interview. "Others would say that's not the only definition of a Green vehicle. If you happen to be well healed and you are a celebrity, I think those people would consider the Fisker Karma their choice of a Green vehicle. Chevy Volt was out 2011 Green Car of the Year. It is certainly way up there in our eyes. The more conventional hybrids would have the lowest pricetags because the extended-range hybrids tend to be a little more expensive. Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) tend to be a little more expensive. I would think the Acura ILX hybrid is probably at a $30,000 price point."

He added: "All of these cars are available on the market place right now except for the Audi A3 e-tron. It is a developmental electric vehicle. I'm glad they brought it out here. We also have the Audi A3 TDI, which was our Green Car of the Year in 2010, which gets 42 mpg on the highway. I know that some of them are being made here in the states, even if they have an import brand. I know that CODA, for instance, is a mix. It gets created on an assembly line in China. I believe the electrification is done there and here. It's a mix bag these days trying to determine what's built where. There comes a time where a tax credit isn't going to exist anymore. These cars have to stand on their own. Not just the Volt, but all of the battery electric cars and plug-in hybrids that are using the $7,500 tax credit as part of their marketing plan."

The Infiniti M hybrid, Chevrolet Volt, Fisker Karma, CODA electric sedan and Acura ILX hybrid were some of the vehicles available for test drives at the event.

"This is the one I specifically came to check out," said Alicyn Roy, an attendee from Altadena, Calif., who was sitting inside the Fisker Karma. "I'll also look at an Infiniti and an Audi. I wish they had the Tesla roadster out here. Today, we're driving a Toyota Prius. I am looking to buy an EV in the next six months. It is my first time here at Dwell on Design."

The 2012 Fisker Karma is an electric vehicle with extended range just like the Chevrolet Volt. The Karma is more luxurious than the Volt and it comes with a much higher MSRP of $102,000.

"You have a battery pack that you can drive for 33 miles or so on electricity alone," said Kellen Schefter, who works in the public policy and incentives division at Fisker Automotive. "We tend to get a little more. When I drive it, it's usually closer to 40-45 miles, it depends on how you drive the car. If you want to go further than that, the engine comes on and generates electricity and continues to drive the car that way. It's unique in that it's the only electric vehicle with extended range in its class right now. This is for people that want luxury performance, a car that looks really good and to lessen their environmental impact. MPGe is a number that the EPA uses to characterize the efficiency when you're in electric mode."

He added: "What they've done is said, 'How much energy is in a gallon of gasoline?' and converted that to electricity. So this car gets 54 mpg. It is efficient as a 54 mpg vehicle when in all-electric mode. If you are on 110 volts, it will be charged in 11-12 hours. If you get the 240 volts, it is closer to six hours. It is a lithium ion battery, it comes from A123 Systems, that's our supplier. They are built in Finland, a contract manufacturer. Being a new company, we didn't want to start our own manufacturing facility right away. We offer three different packages: a dual-tone leather and an animal-free interior that uses eco suede. The wood is reclaimed from sunken wood in the bottom of Lake Michigan or downed trees from California forest fires."

Additional vehicles that were available for test drives include the Ford Electric Focus, Mercedes-Benz B-Class F-Cell, VW Touareg hybrid and the VW Passat biodiesel.

"I've never driven an electric car before," said Jeff Macrittie of Los Angeles. "Currently, I drive a Toyota Prius. I just wanted to try the Fisker. It was cool, great. I might drive the Acura or the Volt next. I'm looking to buy an EV in the next year or two years. This ride-and-drive was excellent."

The B-Class F-Cell is the first hydrogen vehicle offered by Mercedes-Benz. It is currently available for lease only at this time.

"It is a zero-emissions vehicle and it is pretty much just like your conventional car," said Lora Renz, a communications specialist in the fuel cell and vehicle operations division at Mercedes-Benz. "We're now leasing it to select individuals here through dealerships throughout southern California. We'll be doing the same in northern California once we have some infrastructure up there. You fuel it just like a regular gasoline-powered vehicle and it has a similar range of 200-240 miles, unlike the battery electric cars, which do have limited range. Right now, it takes three to five minutes to refuel with hydrogen. It varies from station to station. Stations are still in development. The size of the tank is a little over four kilograms [almost nine pounds]."

She added: "The development takes place in Germany as does the production. All together, 200 of these have been produced in Germany. We'll be deploying about 70 of them here in California. Right now, we're leasing these. We have a three-year lease of $599 a month with a down payment of $2,700 and 38,000 miles. That includes fuel, service, maintenance and physical damage insurance. There's also a two-year lease at $849 with a $2,000 down payment and similar conditions. They are stations that we have improved. There are six stations here in southern California that our customers are using. Right now, we're looking to have them for sale in 2015. It depends on the extent to which the hydrogen infrastructure has reached a critical mass."

The all-new Audi A3 e-tron was only available for short ride-alongs in the convention center parking lot, because it was only one of 15 built so far.

"I think the ones that are full electric have a big to go," said Hank Tuey, an attendee from Bakersfield, Calif. "So far, I've driven the Infiniti and the Audi. I'm waiting to drive the Fisker. Right now, I drive a Chevy pickup and a Jeep. I'm looking to buy an EV in probably a year. Pricewise, I think the Infiniti is the best. Overall, this ride-and-drive has been excellent."

For more information about the Dwell on Design conference, visit http://dod.dwell.com

Related Story: Ford Focus Electric Becomes America’s Most Fuel-Efficient Five-Passenger Vehicle with 110 MPGe EPA Rating

 

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

A look under the hood of the 2012 Karma EV.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

The Karma features 22-inch Circuit Blade wheels wrapped in Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar tires.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

The Karma is similar to the Chevrolet Volt, just more luxurious and more expensive.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

It features a solar roof to extend the driving range for up to an additional 200 miles annually.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

The wood trim is sourced from reclaimed lumber, seating foam is fashioned from soy-based bio fiber and the carpet backing is created from recycled post-consumer materials.

 

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