Electric Avenue

Only a few pure EVs appeared at CIAS

May 2, 2012
by Tony Whitney

Purchasingb2b March/April 2012 print edition: Fleet Management

Most exhibitors at the Canadian International Auto Show highlighted fuel economy advancements, but only a select few displayed series production “pure electric” zero-emission vehicles, or EVs. Some EVs can actually be seen on Canadian roads now—especially in municipal and public utility fleet applications—while others were making their CIAS debut. It’s a segment that seems certain to grow, despite expectedly modest initial sales.

Both the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i-MiEV have arrived at the dealerships and there’s strong competition between this duo since they both fit the same size class and have comparable performance. Chevrolet’s Volt (which has a small engine for backup charging and is thus not a pure EV) was prominent at GM’s displays, despite recently announced production cutbacks. The Volt comes closest in the eco-segment to matching the roominess and performance of a conventional mid-sized sedan.

In the minicar class, Mercedes-Benz was showing its new smart fortwo electric, which will go on sale this spring. This product will likely be an economy standout even among other EVs, thanks to its compact dimensions and light weight. The people at smart are claiming a 140-km range for their fortwo electric, which tops both Leaf and i-MiEV by most evaluation standards. The Daimler group has built a new plant in France to turn out these tiny EVs in large numbers and many of them will likely end up in fleets of one kind or another.

There were a couple of opulent (and expensive) electric sports cars at the CIAS, but neither Tesla nor Fisker are likely to attract business users to their products—unless they happen to be running an exotic car rental operation. Several major automakers have affordable EVs waiting in the wings right now though, led by Ford, which has electric versions of its Transit Connect van and Focus subcompact in the pipeline. Toyota will start building an EV version of its RAV4 compact SUV later this year at its Woodstock, Ontario plant.

For more details on the Auto Show see “Excitement and optimism“.