Motoring journalists have been brainwashed to misreport on EVs

A trend I’ve been noticing recently is that motoring journalists, or people who have been involved in the motor industry for a significant time, don’t really understand EVs fully even if they like them and want to encourage their take-up.

Nico Rosberg, Jason Fenske (of Engineering Explained), Tiff Needell, Countless other motoring journalists and many more besides. These people are EV curious or already big fans, but because they’ve been so entrenched in the motor industry, they don’t really get EVs and what makes them different. They compare charging with fuel stations. They talk about range in a way that suggests everyday use means taking long road trips all the time, and that EVs could only possibly work for city driving. Which to me is ridiculous. I would never want to drive in a city if I could avoid it.

In some cases, they even talk about well-to-wheel emissions and compare EVs running purely on coal to just the tailpipe emissions of gasoline cars. It’s totally unacceptable and just wrong.This misinformation spreads like wildfire. People won’t be aware of how easy it is to live with an EV and charge at home, or charge away from home on all different types of chargers to suit different situations. They won’t believe that EVs are cleaner or they’ll think that they can afford to wait until solid state batteries because lithium ion is supposedly so bad for the environment.

If people who like EVs are inadvertently misrepresenting them, then that’s the least of our problems. We’re facing another year or two of having to fight off a toxic cocktail of misinformation and flat-out lies.

On the plus side, this situation will naturally improve over time regardless. So we can look forward to the day where we no longer get presented with false information by people who’ve just read something anti-EV on Facebook or some tabloid not worth the paper it’s printed on.

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SUVs / Crossovers: Are they actually better at anything?

With this post, I’m not talking about real 4×4 off-roaders that have an actual purpose. I’m talking about the bigger cars that have a higher ride height, are often FWD and don’t have any real off road capability to speak of.

These cars cost more to buy, use more fuel and handle worse than an equivalent hatchback or estate. They are likely to cost more to insure, take up more space on the road in many cases and generally are taking the car industry in the opposite direction to where we should be going in order to tackle all the huge problems we currently face.

The benefits people give for SUVs include a higher seating position for more comfort, a commanding view of the road, inherent safety in a larger vehicle, and apparently they are more stylish, although that is extremely subjective. They also hold their value better than the equivalent hatch. However, by the time you sell it, you’ve been spending significantly more money on fuel than you would otherwise have been, and that will have cut into the resale value advantage quite significantly.

The comfort argument I’m not an expert in since I’ve not been in SUVs much at all. However, I find it hard to believe that a similarly sized hatchback with a comfort focus couldn’t be as good of a ride. Especially as the most comfortable cars produced historically have been saloons and not high riding cars.

As far as the higher riding position, my Renault Zoe (B Segment hatch) has quite an upright seating position, so I don’t really think that element has to be exclusive to SUVs. Probably the reason it is mostly exclusive to SUVs is because they want to sell you a car that costs thousands more, and make that a prominent feature.

So far, I can’t see any advantage of SUVs, apart from the aforementioned hardcore off-roaders that I’m excluding from this argument against crossovers.

So what about electric SUVs? Surely if they’re being powered with 100% renewable energy then we can all drive huge SUVs everywhere. Not so fast. Yes, the environmental impact will be massively reduced with an electric SUV, but that doesn’t mean they’re automatically the best choice. They’re still big and heavy, inefficient compared to smaller, lighter and more aerodynamic cars. They still wouldn’t have the exclusivity on seating positions or comfort. They wouldn’t necessarily be able to store as much stuff as estates. The tyres are likely to cost more to replace. They’re a pain in the ass to deal with in towns and cities, even if you have rear axle steering like some luxury models have now.

Just because they’re massively better than ICE cars doesn’t mean they’re immune to criticism. If you compare a Tesla Model 3 with a Model X, the 3 long range version has a battery pack of 75kwh and does 310 miles of range. The X 100D which is the longest range version, has 295 miles of EPA rated range. So that’s 15 miles less than a car with 25kwh less capacity.

I’m not saying you can’t create inefficient EVs. We create endless inefficient ICE vehicles. But as we’re currently limited by the number of battery cells we can create, it would probably make sense to focus more on efficient use of those batteries until we can ramp the production to a point where we’re no longer constrained. It also goes against the electric movement to reduce consumption and be smarter with how we use energy in general. That’s not to say cars like the New Roadster shouldn’t exist. That car will be a monster, but it will also be incredibly efficient when driven sedately. Not something you can say about electric SUVs. Especially ones that are significantly less efficient than the Model X.

Having said all that, what if we didn’t make electric SUVs on principle, and sales of EVs started stalling, while sales of ICE SUVs skyrocketed. No one wants that situation either. I just hope that I’m not forced in future to buy a car body style that I strongly disapprove of. We always need to have choice, even in the self driving future when we’re no longer driving ourselves and have no need for sporty handling or fun driving characteristics. Even then, I want any car I get in to be the most efficient it can be, while also giving me the comfort that we’ll all really prize when our sole focus is on getting somewhere in the most relaxing and enjoyable way possible.

Will Geneva 2018 be the turning point for EVs?

No. It won’t be. It will certainly be big for EVs, but until we get to a point where 51% of the cars on show are EVs, then we won’t be there in my opinion.

However, in terms of public perception of EVs and the idea that they will take over entirely from fossil fuels, this may indeed be it. Jaguar, Audi and Mercedes will all unveil either prototypes or full production EVs. But I see this trend where people still don’t fully understand that EVs are here to take over. They think of them as an accompaniment to an ICE car. A second car for running errands around town. I’m hopeful that the I-Pace, e-Tron Quattro and eQC will change that. Tesla already should have, but many still have never heard of Tesla and seeing it from established luxury ICE car makers should make a difference. Perceptions won’t change overnight but I don’t think it will take that long.

Make no mistake, Geneva will be huge for EVs, but most likely 90% of the cars shown there will not be electric. Which for me will be deeply frustrating and depressing. It may take until 2020 before we get to that magical 51%. It may happen sooner, and I really hope I’m wrong, but I think 2020 is a reasonable assumption.

My Upcoming EV Predicament – Renault Zoe Owner

I currently have a Renault Zoe with the original 22kwh battery pack which I can get around 100 miles out of in summer. I love my car, but at the end of my PCP deal which runs 2 years from October 2016-18, I have a predicament.

Renault have said that my car is worthless and that I can’t trade it in using the guaranteed future value. I had bet on this trade-in because I knew the Zoe Z.E. 40 would be more expensive than what I paid before, and even then I was stretching my finances due to wanting an EV so much.

There are other issues too. When I got my current Zoe, the PCP options were either 2 or 4 years. There was no way I was going to do 4 years. 2 was ideal. This time, 3 years is the only option. The Renault Zoe is a fantastic car, but it is undeniably old at this point. It hasn’t really been updated significantly other than the battery size since 2013. If I was to sign up until 2021, I would be paying through the nose for a car still with only 22kw charging ability. And let’s not forget Apple CarPlay. I know it might seem trivial, but it matters.

Two things in the EV world that are widely known are that battery costs are coming down massively every year, and that type 2 AC rapid charging is not a standard for the future. By 2021 I would be paying so much more than the going rate for batteries. It would be Hinckley Point-esque financially. Not only that but I wouldn’t be benefiting from the rapidly expanding charging network. Even if 43kw rapid AC continues to be expanded, which it may do because of it being included on some rapid charging units, then I would still be stuck charging at 22kw. This isn’t the worst thing in the world, and I have done long road trips with this speed. But in 2021, I doubt I would still be enthusiastic about the prospect of using that.

The problems don’t stop there. I’m a car fan, and while admittedly, this may not be the most convincing reason I’ve given for my decision, I like switching things up. After 2 years driving the Zoe, I’m sure that I’m going to be ready for the next chapter in my driving life. But once I hand the car back, what next?

There seems to be a dearth of small, affordable EVs coming in 2018, which is truly depressing. My best hope at the moment is one or two new small EV hatchbacks being announced at Geneva in March and perhaps being released early 2019. That would mean around 6 months without a car.

It wouldn’t be the end of the world. I can cycle to work, I could take taxis or the bus. I could even use an app like Turo to hire someone else’s car. With me currently working part time, it’s a definite possibility and all of those options should cost me less than my current monthly car payment.

However, I don’t want to drive an ICE car, and these options are all limited in that regard. In this area, we can’t get Uber and our local taxi company still requires cash, which I generally no longer carry. They also are behind the times in terms of propulsion as I mentioned. They use diesel saloons, and that fuel bill must cut massively into their profit margin. Hopefully they’ll realise how much they could be saving and buy some next gen Leafs in the next 9 or so months.

Buses are diesel, noisy, vibrate incessantly and are always late, so perhaps a no go there. Turo and other more traditional car rental services are also EV challenged at present. Enterprise, Hertz etc should realise the cost benefits sooner rather than later, and Turo can only get better as more people buy EVs and realise how great they are for sharing. The traditional rental places are so far behind the times that it’s still difficult to get a small automatic car from them. And that would be another issue for me. I chose to take an automatic only test in order to save time and money on driving lessons.

The only option that is guaranteed to work and be ICE vehicle free is cycling. But that doesn’t mean it’ll be pleasant. Worthing isn’t a cycling town, and the road network is woefully inadequate to support large numbers of riders. We have narrow roads, wider and wider SUVs by the day, and parked cars clogging up both sides of many streets. Then there’s the weather. I have ridden a scooter to work previously, and although it is perfectly doable, it’s not always the most fun in the cold, wet and dark conditions you often encounter. Cycling may actually be better as you at least don’t have a visor that can fog up to the point where you’re practically guessing where that traffic island is. And you’re also not going as fast, so less of that biting wind chill.

So what’s the point of this post? Well, mainly to vent my frustration at the lack of choice and affordability in EVs by this point in time. But also to show that there are other options that can work well, especially for people who have no inherent love of driving and vehicles, as I do. (Although I do accept and welcome our autonomous driving future).

Even though I’m making this decision which will be a bit painful in the short term, I know that it’s the right one to make. We’re in that odd empty period before the EV market really explodes, and in my situation, I’m just unlucky to be stuck in the middle of it.