Electrified rides keep on coming

As is becoming the case today, the New York Auto Show’s underlying theme was green. The show included the EV Pavilion -an 80 x 45-metre section of display floor where prospective customers could take the likes of the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i-MiEV for a drive around said patch. Thankfully, the rest of the show had a little more pizzazz. On the show floor, the BMW ActiveE and Volvo C30 electric vehicles led the electric charge.

The BMW ActiveE, which is based on the 1 Series, is powered by a 170-horsepower electric motor that delivers 184 pound-feet of torque from Rev One. The power comes from a large lithium ion battery that consumes much of the under-hood space as well as the central tunnel. Once charged, which takes between three and five hours using a 220-volt outlet, the ActiveE has a driving range of around 160 kilometres. BMW says the ActiveE zips to 100 kilometres an hour in nine seconds and has an electronically controlled top speed of 144 km/h. The drivetrain in the ActiveE will eventually evolve into the unit that will power BMW’s i3 MegaCity Vehicle. In all, 1,100 of these electrified 1 Series will be produced and leased to a select clientele around the world. While 700 ActiveEs will be leased in North America, not one is slated to come to Canada. Pity.

The Volvo C30 Electric is another electrified ride but with a welcomed twist, especially for those of us who live in cold climates -it has not one but three heaters. One provides the warm and cool air to the cabin, the second is used to control the battery temperature. In both cases, the heating/cooling comes from the battery or electrical outlet when the C30 is plugged in. The third is an innovative solution that warms the cabin during a cold winter without draining the battery. This heater gets its fuel from a 14.5-litre tank filled with bioethanol -remember the old VW Bug with its gas heater? It’s a clever solution to a perennial electric car problem.

As for the rest of it, the C30 Electric features a 24 kWh battery pack (it operates at 400 volts) and a 111-hp electric motor that twists out 162 lb-ft of torque. The time needed to recharge the battery is around six to eight hours when charged from a 220-volt outlet. Volvo says the C30 runs to 100 km/h in 10.5 seconds and delivers a driving range of up to 150 km. It is being readied for limited release -the first sales contract for a C30 Electric has already been inked.

As Monty Python often said: “And now for something completely different.” In this case, Hyundai has announced something it is touting as a game-changer. Blue Link is an all-encompassing system that includes everything from in-car infotainment to telematics, along with a host of features -from a remote car start function to a feature that warns the little darlings they are past curfew and it’s time to come home! After listening to the hype, I was left longing for a simpler time -a time when a quiet drive was exactly that: no digitized voice blurting back texts and no electronic overseers to disturb the peace and quiet of a solo run.

The perfect set of wheels for that moment of solitude? Try the AR-1 by Alessi Fiberglass Inc. Here’s a one-off ride that is as rare as it is customizable. It all starts with a C5 Corvette chassis and suspension on to which hand-laid fibreglass is moulded over a tubular roll cage. In base form, the AR-1 arrives with GM’s supercharged LS3 engine. This 6.2L V8 puts out 600 hp and 580 lb-ft of torque. For most, that will be more than enough as the company says the AR-1 gallops to 100 km/h in 3.4 seconds and does the quarter-mile in 10.7 seconds.

However, for the more adventurous, there is an option that replaces the blower with two very large turbochargers. These bump the motive power to 750 hp and, gulp, 690 lb-ft of torque. However, the prospective owner can specify any engine. Any way the AR-1 is ordered, engine-wise, power is relayed to the road through a five-speed manual gearbox (again, the choice of box is up to the customer) to the rear rubber bands -P325/25R20 tires. Braking comes from six-piston calipers that clamp down on 14-inch front rotors.

Inside, everything from the choice of seats to instrumentation is, again, completely up to the buyer. In fact, the customizable aspect stretches so far that it even allows the amount of legroom in the cabin to be tailored to the driver. For the long of leg it is possible to move the rear firewall rearward to suit. Only 50 of these one-offs will be built.

The basic package starts at $275,000; the monster with its twin turbos will set a potential owner back a cool $325,000. Expensive to be sure, but the chances of parking next to another AR-1 is somewhere between none and absolutely none.

Photograph by: Ramin Talaie, Getty Images