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2017 AltCar Expo Santa Monica: Highlights

The 2017 AltCar Expo in Santa Monica took place the over third weekend of September, in a part of the world that might be called infamous for being emissions-aware. Santa Monica is Los Angeles-by-the-sea; many celebrities live in this ultra-genteel pocket of genteel southern California. The ferris wheel on Santa Monica Pier runs on solar power; finding an environmentally friendly dry cleaner is no problem; look at the traffic and it seems the Toyota Prius and Tesla Model S are the biggest-selling cars.

The perfect spot, then, for a car show that focuses on low (or preferably no) emissions. And even if there weren’t any world debuts, several cars were newsworthy.

2018 Honda Clarity Electric

2018 Honda Clarity Electric

Following up on the hydrogen-powered Clarity fuel-cell vehicle, this battery-powered version is available for lease in California and Oregon. Like its sibling, this model is a well-equipped, roomy and upscale sedan. The electric drivetrain sends a healthy 161 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque to the front wheels, while the lithium-ion battery pack provides a total range of 89 miles. Using a 240-volt charger, energy may be replenished in 3 hours, or there’s an “80 percent in 30 minutes” charge feature. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates 114 miles per gallon equivalent (mpge) in combined driving.

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2018 Honda Clarity Electric

2018 Honda Clarity PHEV

This is the Clarity if cargo space is a priority. The fuel-cell version has much of its trunk taken up by a hydrogen tank. The EV model puts its battery pack out back. This plug-in hybrid variant can still run for 47 miles with electric power only (the longest distance to date among midsize plug-in hybrids) and achieve 110 mpge combined, yet still take a bunch of luggage. Honda has not quoted any figures yet, but the good thing about the 2017 AltCar Expo is that it was possible to open the trunk lids of all three Clarity cars side-by-side and make visual comparisons. This Clarity is also going on sale nationwide later this year. Pricing has yet to be announced, but the mid-$30,000s is a useful estimate.

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2018 Karma Revero

2018 Karma Revero

At its most basic, the meaning of karma is “what goes around comes around.” And the erstwhile Fisker Karma has come back around. Only the script has flipped, and Karma is now the name of the marque, while the model name becomes the Revero. This premium plug-in hybrid comes from a company under new ownership, although the car itself is still basically the same as it was under Henrik Fisker. But without that irritating tendency to catch fire.

Some Revero buyers had bought the original car. It’s virtually the same size as a Mercedes-Benz S-Class (but not as roomy), weighs roughly as much as a pickup truck, isn’t quite as quick (standstill to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds) as its 403 hp and 981 lb-ft of torque suggests (that’s from two electric motors; there’s also a 235-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine), and starts at about $132,000. Which just goes to show that people like what they like and justification isn’t always necessary.

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2018 Kia Niro PHEV

2018 Kia Niro PHEV

By now, anyone who takes an interest in new hybrids is probably aware of the Kia Niro with the conventional gas/electric drivetrain. But a new variation is on the horizon: the plug-in hybrid Niro. This gives the Niro some range on battery power alone. Sadly, there are no facts and figures to share right now. But a quick drive around the block (Kia was offering rides and drives at the Altcar show) demonstrated this hatchback with a raised ride height (Kia calls it an “urban crossover”) rides smoothly and quietly. It goes on sale later this year. No prices yet, but the 2017 Niro hybrid starts at around $23,000, so expect the PHEV to be a little more.

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2017 Nissan Rogue Hybrid

2017 Nissan Rogue Hybrid

The regular Rogue compact crossover is one of Nissan’s best-selling vehicles. The hybrid version is a fairly recent addition to the range, and there aren’t many competitors. There’s the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid and … that’s about it, until Honda brings out a CR-V hybrid sometime in 2018. The good news is the Rogue Hybrid SV doesn’t cost a lot more than a regular SV version — about $1,000 extra. The front-drive version is capable of averaging 34 mpg, whereas the RAV4 Hybrid is all-wheel-drive-only and is rated at 32 mpg combined. The point of saying this is not to imply the Rogue Hybrid is better all round, but that anyone wanting a hybrid compact crossover now has a choice.

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2017 Volkswagen e-Golf

2017 Volkswagen e-Golf

It’s taken some time for the 2017 model year of the all-electric Golf to reach dealerships. But now it’s here, and Volkswagen recently announced pricing. Starting in SE trim, we’re looking at $31,315. The Limited version is priced from $34,615, and the SEL Premium trim starts at $37,815. That’s before a federal tax credit of $7,500 and any additional state incentives there may be. The 2017 e-Golf has had its range extended to 125 miles. The Golf is the class of the compact hatchback world, with a relatively upscale cabin and the best maximum cargo capacity of 52.7 cu ft. Despite having to find room for a battery pack, the e-Golf offers the same amount. It’s only some underfloor stowage that’s affected.

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Colin Ryan
Colin Ryan specializes in writing about new cars. But he has also covered trucks, vans, 3-wheelers, even the occasional motorbike. That’s the kind of thing that happens while contributing to the Los Angeles Times, Autotrader, Kelley Blue Book, Popular Mechanics, Variety, Mazda and Lexus customer magazines, as well as many enthusiast sites and publications. He was also a staff writer at BBC Top... Read More

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