Photography by Doug Berger / NWAPA
Every year, members of the Northwest Automotive Press Association gather at Drive Revolution – held in Portland, Or. – to learn about and test the latest in hybrid, all-electric and alternative fuel vehicles. While this year was no different, it did show how alternative fuels are inspiring manufacturers.
“The market for hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and electric vehicles has matured to the point that consumers aren’t just looking for one car that can go farther than another,” said NWAPA President John Vincent. “To stand out, they need to provide great driving experiences, excellent quality, advanced safety features, and technology that keeps drivers connected to their digital lives.”
At the 2017 Drive Revolution, there were gas-hybrids, plug-in hybrids, all-battery EVs, and one hydrogen fuel cell (HFC) vehicle. The entire lineup for the event included 18 vehicles: Acura MDX, BMW i8 and i3, Chevrolet Bolt and Volt, Chrysler Pacifica, three Honda Clarity (HFC, hybrid plug-in and ev), Hyundai Ioniq EV, Kia brought the new Niro, the Optima PHEV and the Soul EV, a Lexus LC 500h, Nissan’s Leaf and Rogue, the Toyota Prius Prime, and the Volkswagen eGolf.
Drive Revolution NW Battery-electric or Fuel Cell Vehicle of the Year: 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV ($43,510, MSRP as tested)
The 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV takes first place in Battery-Electric or Fuel Cell Vehicle of the Year, and it’s easy to see why when driving it around. The most reassuring aspect of the Bolt is its range, taking away the anxiety for those of us who have drained EVs.
“The Bolt EV more than doubles the range of other affordably priced, battery-electric vehicles,” said event co-chair Sarah Shelton of U.S. News & World Report. “With the ability to travel up to 238 miles on a single charge, the Bolt EV is a game-changer in the green vehicle market and a glimpse of things to come.”
Along with a stress-free drive, the 2017 Bolt EV has good styling, OnStar and MyLink technology, Apple CarPlay, and more. We enjoyed it’s predecessor and fellow winner, the Chevrolet Volt, so we’re keen to see how this pint-sized EV changes the way consumers view electric vehicles.
Drive Revolution NW Family Green Car of the Year – 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid ($47,885, MSRP as tested)
The Minivan is back in style and the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid is the first on scene to adapt hybrid technology to this family friendly vehicle. New features include the Stow-N-Go seating, Remote Start, and the 3.6L V6 eHybrid engine. The electric only range is 33 miles, while the gas engine can get drivers up to 570 miles.
The Chrysler Pacific Hybrid tested came with the Advanced SafetyTec Group package featuring parking and driver assistive technologies, and the Uconnect Theater package with 13 Alpine speakers, seatback video screens, dual HDMI inputs, DVD and Blu-Ray player, and other road trip-necessary tech.
For under $40,000, the 2017 Chevrolet Volt is one impressive hybrid. It has around 50 miles of pure EV driving, and another 420 miles from the 1.5L direct injection engine when the juice runs dry. Regen on Demand system transfers power from braking to the battery, while the Power Flow meter helps keep your lead foot green.
It comes with leather-appointed heated front and rear seats, the Chevrolet MyLink infotainment system, Apple CarPlay, and a 4G LTE Wifi Hotspot (limited free trial). We loved the 2017 Chevrolet Volt when we got it for a test drive, and we still love the way this vehicle makes being green so easy.
Drive Revolution NW Alternative Fuel Sports Car of the Year – 2017 BMW i8 ($146,195, MSRP as tested)
The BMW i8 looks and feels like something electrifyingly special and seriously futuristic. From falling into the seat like it’s a supercar to the sound of the turbocharged 3-cylinder makes while hauling down the road, the i8 gives the driver an experience worthy of being among BMW’s prestigious lineage. At the front is an electric motor system while the engine sits poised behind the passenger compartment, the whole system pumping out 357 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque.
On the inside, the BMW i8 comes with a Harman Kardon surround sound system, satellite radio, BMW’s concierge and Remote Services, internet access, along with a nifty heads-up display. The leather interior looks like it came from deep space rather than Planet Earth, but it’s comfortable enough to chase the stars on a midnight road trip.
My Notable Mention: 2018 Lexus LC 500h ($99,450, MSRP as tested)
Whereas the BMW i8 feels like an extreme machine, the 2018 Lexus LC 500h feels like a day at the spa… on wheels. The leather and Alcantara interior exudes luxury and refinement, while the engine serenades you with silence (EV mode) or spine-tingling echoes of the 3.5-Liter, V6 engine. Personally, I’d rather be able to sit in a car like the LC 500h, rather than fall into it like one does in the BMW i8 (FYI, don’t sit in the i8 in a short skirt, ladies, I’ve made that mistake for you). And, the LC 500h only has 3 less horsepower than the i8, coming in at 354 hp.