If you’re like most electric vehicle enthusiasts, you’re probably able to contain yourself when thinking about the 2016 Chevy Volt debuting at the Detroit Motor Show. That’s because the Volt is hardly bringing anything new to the table in terms of advancing the green car industry. In other words, it has a lot in common with the original Volt.
Despair not, EV boosters and drivers, for the year that just passed featured dozens of exciting electric vehicle debuts. Whether you like battery-powered systems, fuel-cell technology, or old-fashioned plug-in hybrids, brighter days appear to be on the horizon.
Forget about the Volt. Here are Autos Cheat Sheet’s top 10 electric vehicle debuts of 2014, in no particular order.
1. Tesla Model S P85D
So you thought you could forget about Tesla until the debut of the Model X? Big mistake. While auto journalists were scrambling around Paris taking in the annual motor show, Elon Musk et al opened a second front in California and launched the rocket-ship version of its performance 85 kWh model. Capable of 691 horsepower and hitting 60 miles per hour from go in 3.2 seconds, the P85D is an extremely lethal weapon powered entirely by electricity. We say bravo for matching ICE supercar makers in such grand fashion.
2. Mitsubishi Concept XR-PHEV
Speaking of the Model X, do you notice how there still are no crossovers or SUVs sporting an electric powertrain in the U.S.? Considering trucks outsold cars in every month of 2014 stateside, we propose someone is asleep at the wheel. Mitsubishi has a plug-in hybrid selling abroad that beat Tesla in net sales in 2014, but it still isn’t available here.
Enter one of several plug-in hybrid crossover concepts that Mitsubishi took to the Paris Motor Show in October. While the standard Outlander PHEV Concept S is likely close to what the finished product will be, we prefer the more radical Concept XR-PHEV. It’s more in line with the latest crossovers, and with a plug-in powertrain featuring 30 to 50 miles of electric range, it would be a hit for an automaker that needs one.
3. Volkswagen Golf SportWagen HyMotion
Hydrogen fuel cells had their first big moment in 2014 with Toyota presenting its first real-world model for consumption. Out at the L.A. Auto Show in November, the Volkswagen Group brought a fleet of hydrogen models for the public to see. In the VW Golf SportWagen HyMotion, attendees got a taste of a vehicle with 310 miles of range on its hydrogen-electric powertrain. With reports of greener hydrogen fuel production in the works, we salute Volkswagen for bringing out a concept wrapped in familiar Golf packaging.
4. Mercedes S500 Plug-in Hybrid
If someone replaced your Mercedes land cruiser with a hybrid model, would you be able to tell the difference? The German luxury automaker finally seems ready to take the plunge with a plug-in version of the S-Class, and visitors to the L.A. auto show got a look. Sporting 436 horsepower, 479 pounds-feet of torque, and 84 miles per gallon in Euro cycle testing, the S500 hybrid represents a remarkable step forward in green car development. For the doubters in the audience, life-cycle impact testing showed the hybrid model offering a 43% reduction in emissions over the gasoline model.
5. Renault Eolab
Renault may not sell cars in the United States, but the automaker certainly showed the green car world something with the debut of the Eolab concept in Paris. Featuring quotes of an impossible 282 miles per gallon (European cycle) and a slick front end to quiet those who crave flash in their EVs, the Eolab showed off a gasoline-electric hybrid that everyone agreed would work. We hope automakers stateside were taking notes.
6. Volkswagen Passat GTE Plug-in Hybrid
Before showing off hydrogen powertrains in L.A., Volkswagen showed it has a handle on gas-electric systems with the first Passat plug-in hybrid. Debuting in Paris in August, the Passat GTE got 31 miles on electric power in European testing while cranking with 295 pounds-feet of torque — enough to hit a top speed of 136 miles per hour. The Euro cycle returned 141 miles per gallon overall, making this car something of an engineering marvel.
7. Toyota Mirai
There had been speculation, angst, and debate about the car’s funky styling, but Toyota spirited on and turned out a production version of its first fuel cell vehicle, the Mirai (Japanese for “future”). There are still questions about the viability of fuel cell vehicles, but this leap forward by the world’s top automaker is reminiscent of its charge forward with the Prius. While GM fumbles ahead with its next Volt, Toyota presented a potential game-changer with the Mirai fuel cell vehicle.
8. Lamborghini Asterion Concept
Wait, Lamborghini makes green cars? In the Asterion concept car the brand strutted out at the Paris Motor Show, we got a look at what plug-in technology can do in a supercar rolling with 910 horsepower. In case you’re keeping score at home, that’s more than Porsche presented in the 918 Spyder. Lamborghini’s Asterion also topped the Spyder in electric range with 31 miles available in its battery pack.
There is little chance this Lambo concept will ever get made, but we love the sheer onslaught of technology and design. Let’s suppose for a moment it did get made. What if every supercar took its lead and made the first 31 miles of performance in electric mode? That would save an awful lot of gasoline (or rocket fuel, depending on the make). With coal’s biggest supporter fronting the U.S. Congress through 2016, we’ll take whatever small victories we can get.
9. Audi A7 Sportback A-tron
Over the course of 2014, we saw the possibilities of hydrogen fuel cells and new plug-in battery systems, but Audi showed what could be done when both were combined in the same luxury car with the A7 h-tron. Featuring a battery pack that delivers 31 miles of electric range (sound familiar?) and 310 miles of total range using the hydrogen fuel cells, Volkswagen’s luxury brand showed there is no reason to limit use of any technology. Maybe they can all get along.
10. Ford C-Max Solar Energi
For the final entry, we’ll take you back to the first days of 2014, when Ford released a electric hybrid concept that charged its battery with solar power. Since using coal plants to generate electricity for vehicles provides little (if any ) benefit as far as emissions are concerned, the C-Max Solar Energi presented the cleanest power source for green vehicles to date. The calendar may have flipped to 2015, but Ford’s plug-in concept running on sunlight remains one of the best things we’ve seen since the dawn of 2014.