The Most Progressive Motorcycle Manufacturer in 2018 is….. Harley-Davidson?

This can’t be right. Harley-Davidson, that company that makes huge, old fashioned, rumbly, V-Twin cruisers. They’re leading the charge into electric motorcycles. I never thought I would be saying that.

They are reinventing themselves at pace into a company fit for the future with plans for multiple electric bikes. A powerful naked bike, urban runabouts, even an ebike. I would like to know of anyone who predicted this.

The biggest aspect to this, is the fact that they’re blowing Yamaha, Honda, Suzuki and the rest out of the water. This has got to be hugely embarrassing for all of the major manufacturers. Beaten to electric by the company everyone expected to be consigned to the history books because of the rise of electric, not embracing it.

Even BMW and Piaggio, who are embracing the change more than the others, haven’t done anything for a long time, and keep delaying their debut EV respectively.

When I was a kid, I was drawn to Harley-Davidson. Then over time I lost interest as I got more and more into technology and modern designs. But now it’s great to see the transformation they’re on the path towards, and I’m fully back onboard as a fan of the company. I just hope they can convince their customers to make the switch, while simultaneously attracting a whole new audience.

I really hope it pays off for them, because it would have been so easy for them to bury their heads in the sand and do nothing. But they came out swinging, fighting for a better future for the company.

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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.

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.