Best new hybrids and plug-ins of 2012
With the help of Fortune
Fortune Magazine has offered up its Most Anticipated Cars of 2012 list which includes a number of hybrid cars and plug-in vehicles, including the Ford C-Max, Tesla Model S, Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid, as well as the BMW 3 and the Chevy Malibu — both of which will include a new hybrid versions.
And almost all of these new vehicles offers a pretty interesting 2012 story.
I covered the Ford C-Max yesterday. In a nutshell it’s time for Ford to make a statement and the C-Max provides the perfect vehicle for a forward-thinking product statement. Hopefully, Ford grasps the opportunity.
The Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid and the Tesla Model S, the only two plug-ins on the list, are almost polar plug-in opposites. The Model S starts at $50,000+ and a 300 mile range version costs nearly $100,000. But, compared to the competition in the luxury segment, the Model S offers up interesting potential. In fact, for $100,000, I think the 300 mile Model S could be the best vehicle in the bunch.
That should mean Tesla moves forward as a company for many more years, and that will make it extremely interesting to watch how any Tesla success impacts mainstream automakers.
The Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid, ironically, doesn’t make as much sense as the Tesla Model S, at least not in 2012. To be sure, the Prius plug-in is the smartest plug-in by far — at least before tax credits — based upon the potential of mainstream cost-effectiveness. Unfortunately, it’s hard to make a strong case for the plug-in Prius versus the conventional Prius.
Still, it’s a Prius and that might be the most comfortable way for many hybrid consumers to give plug-in technology a try.
Nevertheless, imagine if the plug-in Prius qualified for a $7500 tax credit, like the Nissan Leaf or Chevy Volt. That would make the plug-in Prius a far more compelling story. With such a credit the price of the plug-in Prius would offer the potential to take plug-in adoption to a whole new level.
Then there’s the BMW 3 ActiveHybrid. Sorry, but it’s hard to find much excitement over that one. It’s just not breaking much new ground, but I’m sure it’ll be a great hybrid for BMW buyers
The Chevy Malibu hybrid, however, seems boring at first, but it could actually be the biggest game-changer of the bunch, although that’s a very big could.
At first, according to early reports, the new Chevy Malibu will be offered as a hybrid only, although eventually, a new 4-cylinder non-hybrid will also be offered. Nevertheless, if GM can price the Malibu hybrid correctly, perhaps the Malibu hybrid could be the first hybrid to give its mainstream, conventional counterpart a run for the sale’s money.
Sure, the Malibu hybrid won’t be as fuel efficient as most other players in the hybrid sedan game, but if it can better mainstream, it could still make a bigger difference in terms of overall fuel economy. If that happens, extending this technology across the fleet could be game-changing, regardless of how mild GM’s new lithium hybrid powertrain might seem.
Of course, I’d be extremely surprised if that was GM’s interim goal.
Anyway, lots of interesting hybrid and plug-in potential in 2012. Hopefully, at least one these vehicles lives up to the hype.