Green cars are the future, but due to high prices and “range anxiety,” many drivers are still clinging to their gasoline-guzzling vehicles. To help make hybrids and electric vehicles more appealing to consumers, automakers are stuffing their green cars with high-tech amenities. From smartphone apps that let you remotely charge your vehicle and massive touch screens to in-car apps and even Siri integration, these are 2013’s 10 most teched-out green cars.
Coming to a city near you, BMW’s i3 “megacity” all-electric vehicle is meant to get drivers from place to place without ever having to use a drop of gasoline. The car’s 125-kW electric motor gets drivers from 0 to 60 in less than 8 seconds, and should offer a range of between 80 to 100 miles. Inside, the pint-size i3 includes a large Central Information Display that provides driving information as well as convenience features via BMW’s ConnectedDrive telematics system. Using an available smartphone app, drivers will be able to monitor their i3’s charge state, locate charging stations and precondition the vehicle prior to driving.
Cutting a striking profile, Cadillac’s 2014 ELR is one of the sexiest electrics around. Under the hood, the ELR packs a 1.4-liter gasoline-powered electric generator that sends juice to a 16.5-kWh battery pack capable of producing 295 lb.-ft. of torque. GM says the vehicle will be able to travel for roughly 35 miles on electricity alone. Inside, the ELR includes Cadillac’s CUE infotainment system with its customizable 8-inch touch-screen display. Smartphone integration via Bluetooth or USB allows users to stream music and make hands-free calls. With its electric underpinnings, the ELR’s CUE system is expected to get an upgrade that will let users monitor the vehicle’s energy usage, charging options and driving efficiency.
Hitting the road in time for spring 2013, the Fiat 500e puts an electric twist on this European micro car. The 500e features a 24-kWh lithium-ion battery that charges in roughly 4 hours with a level 2 charger. And with 111 horsepower and 147 lb.-ft. of torque, the zippy 500e will get you from 0 to 60 miles per hour in an estimated 9 seconds. Inside, the Fiat features a six-speaker Alpine Premium Audio System with SiriusXM satellite radio. Bluetooth and USB connectivity let users stream music and make hands-free phone calls. The Fiat Access smartphone app lets users remotely check the 500e’s charging status and tire pressure, control HVAC settings and schedule the vehicle to charge at a certain time.
Set to go on sale late this summer in limited markets, the 2014 Chevy Spark EV is a dead ringer for its gasoline-powered sibling. The EV features Chevy’s MyLink infotainment system, complete with a 7-inch touch-screen display. Smartphone connectivity via USB or Bluetooth allows users to stream music and sync apps such as BringGo Navigation, Pandora and Stitcher from their phones to the MyLink system. The Spark EV is also the first vehicle to support Apple’s Siri Eyes-Free mode integration, allowing iPhone users to access the voice-activated assistant by pressing the voice control button on the Spark’s steering wheel. An OnStar RemoteLink app lets drivers check their vehicle’s charge, tire pressure and other information remotely via their smartphone. Chevy estimates the Spark EV’s 20-kWh lithium-ion battery will charge from empty to 80 percent in 20 minutes via an optional charger. Unfortunately, there’s no word on estimated range.
Mercedes’ first-ever E Class hybrid may be green, but that doesn’t make it any less powerful than its gasoline-chugging stablemates. Packing a 3.5-liter V-6 engine married to a lithium-ion battery pack that pushes out 27 horsepower and 184 lb.-ft. of torque, the E400 Hybrid creates a combined 302 horsepower and 273 lb.-ft. of torque. The E400 also gets a huge tech package courtesy of Mercedes’ optional mBrace system. Users can access such in-car apps as Google Local Search with Facebook, Street View and Yelp, as well as real-time news and stock updates. A 7-inch display and Mercedes’ Comand with central control system allows users to stream music and make hands-free calls from their smartphones. An optional rear seat entertainment system, complete with two LCD monitors built into the back of the front headrests, lets passengers watch movies and play video games. Shoppers can also choose to equip the E400 Hybrid with dual iPad docking stations built into the headrests.
The new entry-level LEAF S is designed with the express purpose of putting an electric vehicle in the hands of everyday consumers. With available federal and state incentives, Nissan says the LEAF S’ price could be less than $19,000. With its 14-kWh battery and 80-kW electric motor, the LEAF makes 107 horsepower and 187 lb.-ft. of torque. Not bad for an electric. The S gets a 4.3-inch display and USB smartphone connectivity; if you step up to the SV or SL models, however, you get a 7-inch display, Pandora link for iPhone and SiriusXM satellite radio. Google Local Search helps drivers easily search for nearby points of interest via Google’s POI database.
Lexus’ 2013 ES 300h is the first vehicle in Lexus’ ES line to get the hybrid treatment. Featuring a 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder Atkinson cycle engine using Lexus’ Hybrid Drive system, the ES 300h gets an estimated combined 40 mpg. The vehicle’s hybrid powertrain means you’ll hit 60 mph from a standstill in 8.1 seconds — not exactly breathtaking, but we’ll take it. Naturally, Lexus offers its excellent Enform infotainment system, which allows drivers to sync their smartphone, stream music, access apps and more. Available apps include Bing, Facebook Places, iHeartradio, MovieTickets.com, OpenTable, Pandora and Yelp. With SiriusXM satellite radio, users can also access live traffic and weather updates, fuel prices, sports scores and schedules, stock prices and more.
The 2014 Infiniti Q50 Hybrid is a teched-out beast in the best way. In addition to its hybrid powertrain, which consists of a 3.5-liter V-6 engine paired with a 50-kW electric motor and battery pack, the Q50 Hybrid is also one of the first vehicles to come equipped with Infiniti’s new InTouch telematics system. Outfitted with dual touch-screen displays, the system offers smartphone connectivity for music streaming, hands-free calls and app syncing. The top touch screen gives users access to important apps, including navigation, while the bottom screen controls media, phone and other apps. Infiniti says the system will also incorporate gesture controls, though details are scarce for now. Safety features include Direct Adaptive Steering and Active Lane Control, which helps keep drivers from inadvertently veering.
For 2013, Ford’s Fusion gets a new plug-in hybrid model. The Fusion Energi features a 2-liter, 4-cylinder engine coupled with a lithium-ion battery pack and electric motor that combine for a fuel efficiency rating of 100 MPGe. Total range is estimated at 620 miles, and Ford says the car can be driven for up to 21 miles in electric-only mode with a top electric speed of 85 mph. To help drivers monitor their power consumption, the Fusion Energi includes Ford’s SmartGauge with EcoGuide display. The MyFord Mobile app allows drivers to monitor and schedule charge sessions for their Fusion Energi from anywhere in the world. The app can also be used to remotely start the Energi, lock and unlock its doors and heat or cool the car’s cabin. The included MyFord Touch telematics system provides hands-free calling support, USB and Bluetooth music streaming and more.
Looking for a fuel-efficient vehicle? How does one that gets 115 MPGe sound? That’s what Honda estimates its 2013 Accord Plug-In Hybrid is capable of, thanks to its 2-liter, 4-cylinder engine and 6.7-kWh lithium-ion battery pack. Charge times for the system range from less than three hours on a standard 120-volt household electric outlet to as low as less than an hour with a 240-volt adapter. As with many plug-ins and electrics, users can remotely monitor the Accord Plug-In Hybrid’s via the HondaLink EV smartphone app. Inside, the Accord Hybrid packs the same high-tech telematics system as the standard Accord. Features include Honda’s HandsFreeLink smartphone connectivity and Honda- Link app streaming system. Then there’s Honda’s Eco Assist, which helps coach you to drive more efficiently.