Listen to “AD #3540 – Toyota to Make Major Pivot to EVs; RAM EV Gets 500 Miles of Range; Ford Debuts Small Electric Van” on Spreaker.
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0:00 Toyota to Make Major Pivot to EVs
1:36 GMC Adds Diesel to Off-Road Model
2:39 Foxconn Makes EV Tractors in Ohio
3:49 Ram EV Gets 500 Miles of Range
5:33 Jeep Wrangler Updated
6:30 Hyundai Reveals Kona EV Details
8:09 Ford Debuts Small Electric Commercial Van
9:56 Toyota Prius Prime Will be Limited
This is Autoline Daily, the show dedicated to enthusiasts of the global automotive industry.
TOYOTA TO MAKE MAJOR PIVOT TO EVs
Look for Toyota to make a major pivot and start a big push into the EV segment. In fact, look for it to start copying a lot of what Tesla does. Toyota is not going to give up on hybrids, but it is going to scrap its current EV architecture, called eTNGA, and go with a clean sheet design. Toyota underestimated how fast battery costs would come down and how fast demand for EVs would go up. It’s now significantly behind Tesla and other OEMs which is hurting its sales and profitability. As we reported, Toyota lost $558 million in North America last year, and its sales dropped 9% in the first quarter. So why the sudden change in heart when it comes to EVs? Akio Toyoda, the former CEO, was skeptical of electric cars, but the new CEO, Koji Sato, recognizes the old strategy puts the company at a severe disadvantage, and that he needs to make big changes fast.
By the way this is going to be one of the topics on Autoline After Hours this afternoon. Laurie Harbour, a manufacturing expert with Harbour Results, and Dan Carney from Design News will also be on the show. And we invite you to join John and Gary when the show goes live this afternoon at 3 pm eastern time.
GMC ADDS DIESEL TO OFF-ROAD MODEL
Looks like General Motors is hedging its bets on which way the market will go. The General is firmly committed to EVs, but how fast and how much will customers go for them? In January we reported that GM is coming out with its 6th generation small block V8. And now it’s offering its Duramax diesel in the AT4X version of the GMC Sierra. The 3.0L diesel is paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission and cranks out 305 horsepower and 495 lb-ft of torque. The engine upgrades include new steel pistons, retuned turbo compressor, new fuel injectors and improved temperature control features. The diesel was already available in lower trim versions of the pickup, and 20% of buyers opted for the engine. So the diesel is now standard on the off-road AT4X version of the truck.
FOXCONN MAKES EV TRACTORS IN OHIO
Foxconn landed a contract to assemble electric tractors at its plant in Lordstown, Ohio. And It just built the first five of them, the MK-V tractor for the Monarch Tractor agricultural equipment company. The fully electric tractor is also autonomous. If it detects a human within 6 feet of it, it will stop, and if it detects a human within 1 foot it will shut off. Foxconn says the next phase is to fine tune the production line and acquire the materials it needs for mass production.
RAM EV WILL 500 MILES OF RANGE
Ram is going to be late to the party with its all-electric pickup truck. But it’s going to show up dressed to kill. The Ram REV rides on the STLA-large platform, which it widened in the middle to make room for the battery pack, and it features an 800-volt electronic architecture. There’s two battery sizes available; either 168 kWh or a giant 229 kWh. The smaller one should deliver 350 miles of range, while the big one will be around 500 miles. Charging at 350 kW, Ram says both versions can add up to 110 miles of range in 10 minutes. Power comes from two 250 kW drive units located on each axle. They combine for 654 horsepower and 620 lb-ft of torque and provide a 0-60 time of 4.4 seconds. It features an electronic locking rear differential and will be able to tow up to 14,000 pounds. But the front drive unit can also be disconnected to improve efficiency. This ought to be a fairly smooth riding truck as well with a fully independent rear suspension and a 4-corner air suspension system. But tack on optional 22-inch wheels and plenty of tech and it also doesn’t sound like a cheap truck either. Ram says an “XR” version with “class-shattering range will follow,” which we can only imagine is the range extender model.
JEEP WRANGLER UPDATED
Sticking in the Stellantis family for the moment, Jeep is giving the Wrangler a slight refresh. The only real difference visually is that the slots of the grille are a little slimmer, which helps improve cooling and clears up space for an available factory-installed Warn winch. Another new option is a full-float Dana 44 rear axle. This increases the Wrangler’s towing capacity to 5,000 pounds and makes it easier for customers to install bigger tires. Upgrades to the interior include a standard 12.3 inch touchscreen and available power front seats. Jeep is also adding a lower priced version of the 4xe as well as two new off-road models to the Wrangler lineup. It says they’ll start arriving at dealers in the U.S. later this year.
HYUNDAI REVEALS KONA EV DETAILS
Hyundai revealed more details about the new Kona. The electric version is offered with two batteries, a 48.6-kWh pack that’s matched with a 99-kW or 133 horsepower electric motor. That setup provides an estimated 197 miles of range. And the other battery is a 64.8-kWh pack that’s paired with a 150-kW or 201 horsepower electric motor and it has an estimated 260 miles of range. The electric features active grille shutters which helps it achieve a 0.27 coefficient of drag. And there’s two powertrains available for the ICE version. A 2.0L 4-cylinder, that’s mated to an intelligent variable transmission, which is similar to a CVT. That setup produces 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque. The Limited and sporty N Line trims come with a 1.6L four-cylinder turbo that’s paired to an 8-speed automatic transmission, which produces 190 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque. Other new features include Over-the-Air software updates, updated advanced driver assistance technology and two 12.3-inch display screens. The gas-powered version of the Kona arrives at dealerships in the U.S. this summer, while the Kona EV goes on sale this fall.
FORD DEBUTS SMALL ELECTRIC VAN
Ford of Europe is getting ready to launch a new version of its small commercial van, the Transit Courier. It will be available with both gas and diesel engines, which will be on sale before the end of the year, but Ford will also make an all-electric version for the first time, starting in 2024. It says it offers more rear space than ever thanks to an all-new architecture, body design and rear suspension setup, allowing it to carry two Euro pallets. The E-Transit Courier is rated for a maximum payload of 700 kilograms and towing of 750 kilograms. That’s roughly 1,550 and 1,650 pounds. It’s powered by a 100 kW or 134 horsepower electric motor, but Ford doesn’t say what the battery size is. It only says it will charge from 10-80% in 35 minutes and can add 87 kilometers of range in 10 minutes charging at 100 kW. All versions of the Transit Courier will be made in Romania.
TOYOTA PRIUS PRIME WILL BE LIMITED
Toyota calls it the Prius Prime. It’s the plug-in version of the Prius and John got a chance to test drive it and here are his driving impressions.
First off, the Prius is drop dead gorgeous. That alone is going to help sell this vehicle. But it’s not a car for large people. This is a small car, which will limit its appeal. And Toyota seems to realize that. It’s only planning to sell 15,000 of them this year in the American market.
As you slip into the driver’s seat you’ll find that the instrument cluster is kind of awkwardly placed. Unless you put the steering wheel as low as it can go, it can cut off your view to most of the gauges and displays. That’s annoying if you don’t like setting the wheel as low as it can go, but it does serve as a work-around.
Once you’re underway the Prime is an easy car to get used to. But I was expecting more performance. Toyota claims that it has 220 horsepower, but it doesn’t feel like a 220 horsepower car. You don’t get that crisp response that electrics deliver, and if you want to go fast you really have to floor it. However, anyone coming out of the current generation Prius will think this thing feels like a rocketship. I was able to do back-to-back comparisons between the last generation and this one and the difference is significant.
The new Prime feels so much more solid. It rides more stiffly but handles much better. And the cabin is noticeably quieter especially at highway speeds. Better still, the layout of the instrument panel is much more intuitive and doesn’t look as goofy. But you have to dive into the center screen to adjust the regen settings and it would be much better to do it with paddles on the steering wheel.
Here are the important stats. The Prime is rated at 52 miles to the gallon and will deliver 44 pure battery miles from its 13.6 kWh battery. But that’s with the base 17 inch tires; bigger tires drop that to 39 miles. There’s an optional 185 watt solar roof panel that only costs $610 but Toyota doesn’t say how much charging or extra range you can expect from it.
There’s also an optional hands-free Traffic Jam Assist feature that works at speeds up to 25 miles an hour. But I can’t tell you how well it performs because I could not find any traffic jams during my test drive. Go figure. It’s the only time in my life I wanted to get caught in a traffic jam.
At a time when the average car costs nearly fifty grand, the Prius Prime is quite affordable. It starts at $33,445 and walks up to $42,160 for a fully optioned XSE Premium model. If this car appeals to you, I’d get my order in early. It looks like there’s going to be a very limited supply.
But that brings us to the end of today’s show. Thanks for watching.
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Seamus and Sean McElroy cover the latest news in the automotive industry for Autoline Daily.