Smart undercuts all others in electric car pricing

Tooling around San Francisco in a convertible, taking in sights such as the Golden Gate Bridge, is a real treat. Doing it in an electric convertible car fits the city's compact dimensions and progressive, high-tech culture even better.

And the only car for this mission is the 2013 Smart Fortwo Electric Drive, mostly because it is the only electrically driven convertible on the market.

Smart brought a selection of its Fortwo Electric Drive vehicles to San Francisco for a press event, and I grabbed the Cabrio, in Rally Red. The Fortwo Cabrio is sort of a half-convertible. The cloth … Read more

First look at the BMW i3 electric car

For the amount of fanfare and effort BMW gave to its i3 electric car, I would have expected something at least nearly competitive with the Tesla Model S. But BMW's vision for a clean, futuristic urban vehicle doesn't reach far beyond what has already been put on the market by Nissan, Mitsubishi, Ford, and Honda, at least when it comes to raw performance numbers.

With an electric vehicle, performance primarily means range. BMW estimates the i3 will go 80 to 100 miles between charges, putting it in the same class as the majority of electric cars launched in … Read more

Electric aircraft start finding a foothold in aviation industry

LE BOURGET, France -- Maybe we should call them e-craft.

At the Paris Air Show here, a handful of companies tried out their own version of a change sweeping the automotive industry: electric power. There are abundant challenges to the approach, but some believe that the technology will catch on at least in some circumstances.

Early electric cars were small and light, and electric aircraft are following suit for the same reason: having less mass to push around means a vehicle can get farther on a limited amount of energy. Thus, you shouldn't expect a 250-passenger electric jet any … Read more

Tesla battery swap a dead end

One hundred years ago, car makers could have devised different fuel types and filling techniques for their internal-combustion cars, and drivers would have had to visit a Ford station, a Dodge Station, a Chevy station, or whatever the make of their car, to fill the tank. Fortunately, gasoline and filling standards prevailed.

In a publicity stunt last night, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk began pushing electric cars on the nonstandard path that gasoline cars didn't take.

At Tesla's design studio in Los Angeles, Musk showed a video of a Tesla employee filling the tank of an Audi, while … Read more

Tesla announces partial recall on Model S vehicles

Some Tesla Model S vehicles may contain a defect, the electric car maker announced Wednesday.

According to Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Model S vehicles produced between May 10 and June 8 of this year could contain an issue with the mounting bracket on the left-hand latch of the second row seat. Musk specifically said that the mounting bracket could be "weaker than intended" in the four-door sports sedans.

"This reduces our confidence that the left hand seat back will be properly retained in the event of a crash," Musk wrote in a blog post Wednesday.

Musk … Read more

The RAV4 EV is no Tesla in Toyota clothing

Just about every automaker has an electric vehicle in its lineup now, from the Nissan Leaf to the soon-to-be-released BMW i3, but among this crop of quiet cars there is only one electric SUV. The Toyota RAV4 EV came about as tribute from Tesla Motors, in recompense for Toyota ceding its Fremont, Calif., manufacturing digs. I think Tesla got the best end of that deal.

However, the RAV4 EV, powered by a Tesla Motors driveline, steals a march on Tesla's own upcoming Model X electric SUV. With the Tesla-derived 41.5-kilowatt-hour lithium ion battery pack, the RAV4 EV boasts … Read more

Elon Musk promises Tesla battery-swap demo on June 20

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has promised a swappable-battery demo at a company event on June 20 event.

In a Tuesday tweet, Musk said the Tesla event, which will take place at 8 p.m. PT Thursday at the company's design studio in Hawthorne, Calif., will include a "live pack swap demo."

Rumors have been swirling for months that Musk's Tesla was working on a technology that would allow drivers with batteries running low to get out of one of its electric cars and swap the battery for one that's ostensibly full. That would allow for … Read more

Honda heats up EV battle with reduced lease price

Tesla may have muddied the waters when it used tortured logic and financing agreements to come up with a $500-per-month price for the Model S, but Honda sets out to clear things up with its own simple lease plan for the Fit EV. The company announced today that it would offer its Fit EV for $259 per month on a three-year lease with no down payment, unlimited miles, and included insurance coverage.

When Honda introduced the Fit EV last year, it offered similar lease terms at a price of $389 per month. Along with the new, reduced price, Honda is … Read more

Chevy sets Spark EV price below 20 grand

Forget pricey Teslas; Chevrolet announced pricing for its Spark EV model at $27,495. If a buyer qualifies for the full federal tax credit of $7,500, that price drops to $19,995.

The Spark EV goes on sale in June but will be limited to California and Oregon. California owners will be able to apply further credits up to $2,500. Oregon may be less friendly, as the state considers charging electric car owners a special per-mile tax.

Chevrolet's announcement also notes that dealers can offer lease deals for $199 per month, and that the Spark EV will … Read more

Tesla alters financing following criticism

Last month Tesla said a new financing arrangement would make the Model S cost a mere $500 a month. Following critique in the press of Tesla's creative accounting, CEO Elon Musk announced revisions to the financing plan, now citing a net cost of $580 per month.

The two substantive changes to Tesla financing involve a revised resale value guarantee and longer term loans from partners Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank.

With the longer term loans, Tesla says the per-month cost of a Model S will be $580, taking into account the savings gained by running the car on … Read more