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Electric Cars: Like it or not, most of us will change to an EV within the next ten years. Are you ready?

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For all my adult life I’ve been a petrol head. I got my licence at the age of 16 and lost no time in buying a motorbike. I rode bikes for 40 years, enjoying every minute, and even managing to incorporate powered two-wheelers into my career. This love of motorcycling ran in parallel with a passion for cars.

The joy of taking delivery of a new car, even if it's had a previous owner. Enter the Macan S, my last diesel motor...
The joy of taking delivery of a new car, even if it’s had a previous owner. Enter the Macan S, my last diesel motor…

I’ve had the lot, from my first car, a Hillman Imp, through Renaults and Citroens to Audi, Mercedes and BMW. I’ve owned no fewer than four Minis, one back in the day when they were like roller skates; three in this century with the BMW influence. I’ve had love affairs with Golfs, especially the GTI, a sober couple of years with a Volvo, ditto with Lexuses.

But it was the Porsche 911 that always got the juices running. I’ve had three of them, two 996s and one 997, although I have never owned a “real” 911. Our Australian contributor, John Shingleton, is a real 911 nut and much prefers the raw excitement of 70s Porkers to the effete modern designs with all their in-built caution.

Sober days

In recent years, though, I’ve forsaken the 911, turning my attention eventually to a Macan S—a car that has the Porsche build quality and style while hinting at the handling a real Porsche. Let’s face it, though. It’s an SUV. You can sit behind the familiar wheel and fascia thinking you’re in a 911 but…

In 2015, I got the electric spark when Nissan kindly loaned me a Leaf for 18 months. I took part in a national survey to assess the impact of EV charging on the national power infrastructure. At the end of the least, disappointed in the miserly 85-mile range of that early Leaf, I returned to pistons and conrods. First I bought a BMW 2 series, thinking it was all I needed. Of course, it was. But it wasn’t all that I wanted.

Is it time for you to plug in to the future of motoring?

Enter the Porsche Macan, the elephants’ graveyard for old 911 hacks. I loved that car, but I couldn’t overlook the gathering clouds of diesel doom. Diesel had become a dirty word, especially in London where road-use charging has been imposed for congestion in the central area and (soon) emissions in wider London. We’ll soon have to pay to drive the car to the supermarket. Unless that is, it’s electric.

In the EV market, though, things had moved on apace. The range had improved dramatically and, perhaps it was time to take the plunge. That’s when I encountered the Jaguar I-Pace.

The 2019 Jaguar I-Pace, an exceptionally handsome beast that matches the Porsche Macan and delivers blistering performance. But how does it fare when it comes to range, charging and cost? Find out tomorrow.

To EV or not to EV?

Tomorrow I’ll be writing about my experiences of owning a “real” electric car over one year and 7,000 miles. My annual mileage has been severely curtailed because of Covid. Otherwise, the car would have been to Berlin at least once and would have been pounding up and down the British motorway system. It really wasn’t the year to change cars and, in retrospect, I should have kept the Macan until all this is over.

The big questions hanging over EVs remain. How far does it go on a charge? How long does it take to charge? Where can you find a charger? No one asks much about performance (it’s blistering, in case you’re interested…) or any of the other usual questions relating to a car. The fact that it’s an EV trumps all the arguments.

So how did it go? Please read my review of one year with the Jaguar, to be published on Macfilos tomorrow. Find out if I’ve had my fill of electric vehicles or whether I’ll be back for a third helping.

32 COMMENTS

  1. The challenge I have for the motor industry is to find a technology that makes the quantum leap and takes away some of the charging issues. Where I live it isn’t yet possible to charge your car while at home. This is something the industry will need to overcome to get more buy in. I am not even guaranteed a parking spot in my own street. This may explain why there is not a single electric car around here.

    They are however a few hybrids which are trade off of sorts, and I have hired a couple and found them to be a decent compromise, in that I could get over 75mpg out of a combination of a 1500cc engine, hybrid battery power, without compromising my journey distances.

    I suspect we are only a few years from a quantum leap in either batteries, charging methods or fusion batteries (there is patents around where Apple looked at these for phones) – you can see the leap for cars and vehicles.

    The science of all of this, is excellent and interesting.

    The one question it leaves for me though is how much environmental damage are we doing to build batteries and the metals for batteries verses different types of vehicles. 🤔

    • Thanks, Dave. I agree it is a monumental challenge to enable people without garages or private drives to use EVs. There is talk of equipping all London roads with charging pods to power vehicles. And, with faster charging, up to 350 kWh, it is even now possible to charge a car in 15-30 minutes. But that will mean having a massive quantity of ultra-fast chargers. I can imagine charging parks with adjacent retail facilities, entertainment and food where you can plugin and do a bit of something useful. It’s a quantum leap from the quick fill up at Shell.

      On the pollution front, the one big benefit of EVs is that they do not pollute cities. The pollution involved in the manufacture and disposal of the batteries is somewhere else, not in Piccadilly. That will bring tremendous health benefits in decades to come, just as the clean air acts of the 1960s got rid of all that fog and smog. However, once we get 100% EVs, the hate-car lobby will turn their attention to tyre pollution. They are already banging on about it. In fact, nothing we do will satisfy extremists who won’t be happy until we are all back on horses and pulling carts behind us.

      • I bet even then there will be someone who complains about cruelty to horses.

        I still think there can be a scientific advancement in how the batteries operate, and how they charge. I suspect even charging from a strip in the road, in a larger scale way that my Apple Watch charges on its base.

        We could end up with a network of almost permanently charged cars running on a scalectrix style charging strip. Or even something embedded in all streets and parking spots that auto charges the car.

      • I’ve been driving an EV without my own charging point for over a year and it’s been fine. We have a few public ones in my neighborhood and the ratio to the amount of EVs so far holds well. They also keep adding charging points to keep up with the growth in EVs, which I do see more and more. Curious to see if that pace remains now that some of the local (NL) tax benefits have run out.

        • I agree that it will be necessary to keep a good balance between supply and demand for public charging. While no one minds waiting up to five minutes to access a petroleum pump, the electric equivalent wait can be up to an hour. I am convinced that incentives should be devoted to improving the infrastructure (as Tesla has done) rather than paying people to buy cars.

          • They need infrastructure that gives convenience. As we are used to parking outside our homes, used to filling up where ever, but it is never far away. And let’s be honest we are human beings and always take the path of least resistance – even in the COVID era if that could affect our chances of survival (for some unknown reason).

            I strongly suspect, as I have said above, that some technological break through will make the when you charge less of an issue.

  2. Mike, you write: “… Find out if I’ve had my fill of electric vehicles or whether I’ll be back for a third helping.” My guess is that it will not be long before you are seduced by the Gull-wing Tesla

    And it is only a question of time before HMRC demands some payback from those EV owners sapping the nation’s electricity supply and who have abandoned taxable fossil fuels. But all of this hypothetical. Most of us continue to go nowhere, and I can’t see it changing anytime soon.

    • Ah! Our old friend Ivor Cooper has one of those gullwing Model X models. It’s his new pride and joy although, in common with the rest of us, he isn’t going anyway. I admit it’s an attractive proposition, but far too big for me (and my drive) and who needs 7 seats? I’d be more inclined to opt for the smaller Model 3 which handles really well…

    • Thats a fair point David, the incentive to get us over will be cheap electric charging points, and pay less road tax, until the majority of us make it over and the revenue drops, and then it will be game on for home many electric units you use as a taxable elements, and the price of electric at the hook up doubles, or quadruples as it gets taxed more to make up for the decline in fossil fuel revenue.

      It has many elements we have seen in the past – come to diesel, its cheaper to fill up, goes further so uses less – but boy does it burn a hole in the planet. hmmmm. and that was what? fifteen years ago.

      • And, as I mentioned, ecologists are even now ramping up the pollution caused by tyres rubbing on the roads. We shouldn’t forget that it was the green lobby (primarily in Germany) which claimed back in the early 80s that diesel was far kinder to the planet than petrol. So diesel was promoted. For decades it cost half of petrol in many European countries (but never in the UK). When you combined the cheap fuel with double the mileage, it’s no wonder people were suckered in. Then diesel sell out of favour and it’s back to petrol… or electricity. You are right, of course, as soon as the EV argument has been won, we’ll pay through the nose for road tax and electricity. We’ll probably even have to pay a premium for using tyres.

        Just pop downstairs, Watson dear chap, and hail a Hansom.

        • I forgot about the bloomin tyre debate – you are right, we will have rubber tax next. When surely we can recycle old tyres and make new ones – surely someone has cleverly fixed that one by now. Or have I missed something, and are we still sending millions of tonnes of rubber to a watery, or deeply buried grave to worry some future generation.

          • I don’t think the current tyre debate is about recycling the tyres, it’s about the dust caused when vehicles drive through city streets, accelerating and braking. However, EVs have the advantage that you really don’t need to brake that often, unless trying to drive like a racer. So, I presume, they cause less pollution.

  3. What is being ignored is the pollution created to generate the electricity that charges the batteries. It may not be in Picadilly, but it is somewhere.
    BTW, anything new on the mysterious BMW trip through Switzerland and Italy? I can research the US archives near Washington DC (albeit remotely) that hold a lot of Army papers from WW II and beyond. I would have done that sooner, but have been occupied with the trivia of life. The remote search will also save a six-hour drive from my home in New Hampshire.

    • We have made no progress on finding the car and therefore no clue on the identities. Any research you can do would be useful, I am sure.

  4. This is a PS to my earlier comment: Range anxiety. I had a V60 FWD Volvo that attained 37 highway MPG, yielding a range of well over 600 miles. I never let my tank get below 3/4 full in case I get stuck in a big traffic jam, maybe in winter conditions, or there is a widespread electric outage (which means you can’t get any fuel to run your ICE). So, I want to always have a minimum of 300-400 miles left in reserve when I refuel. I have swapped it for a V60 Cross Country with AWD. The same engine but my highway MPG has dropped to a bit over 500 miles (sorry, we still aren’t using km). Even the Haldex system exerts a big mileage penalty.

  5. I suspect that in as little as 10 years, those rows of charging points will seem very quaint and the EVs they’re designed to feed will be osolete. Why would anyone want to mess about with power leads and add 45+ minutes to a journey for charging, when they’ve been accustomed to a 5 minute fuel stop? Instead, think slot-in fully charged battery packs, standardised for every EV – one pack for little runabouts, two or three for mile munchers – can even be branded with Shell, BP, whatever. Drive up, unclip discharged pack, slot in charged one, whoosh and away. That would also solve the Government’s problem of replacing the income from fuel duty, rather than levy a surcharge on all electricity consumers, including domestic – hardly a vote winner. Far fetched? Keep your eye on a Chinese company called NIO …

    • No it’s not far fetched by any means. There will have to be a lot of development and new ideas. Battery technology will improve and, as you suggest, replaceable batteries are a positivity. Elon musk tried this with the Model 3 about six years ago but it never got off the ground. In a way it is wrong to predict the situation in ten years’ time based on current technology. Something will come along, I’m sure.

    • WHAT? Most charging uses is when parked at work or at home, only hopeless people charge at expensive charging points. Heck, even TESCO offers free charging at their parking spots, while you shop!

      Charging is NOT the same as filling up tank, and thus it is done differently and at other locations.

  6. I won’t be switching. I’ll still be riding my bicycle! So non issue for me ( I’ve never owned a car my entire life and believe it or not it hasn’t stopped me getting around, getting to work or traveling the world).
    I’ll appreciate the cleaner air though.

  7. I can imagine owning a hybrid but not a full electric until the charging infrastructure, from power production through to the connection to the car, is fully in place sufficient to meet my needs.

    • Agreed in general. Everyone must make their own decision. I am happy that a BEV meets my needs and I can live with it, while enjoying the ownership. Many people cannot buy BEVs because they park by the roadside and have nowhere to charge, other than public charging which, as I said, is nowhere near adequate.

      • As an update I learnt this weekend that Sadiq Khan the London Mayor is proposing to extend the congestion charge zone out to near where I live. This means that my wife would be liable for the charge on her daily commute across the M25 orbital motorway to a London borough. Perhaps it’s time to think about replacing our diesel engined car but I still think a full electric is a step too far for us at the moment because of the lack of charging infrastructure for long journeys. Anyway I assume the proposal is just a political gambit; I would be surprised (unpleasantly so) if it actually came into force.

        • It’s not the congestion charge (which is going to remain as at present, east of Park Lane and the City, but the low emission zone. Drivers will have to pay that, plus the congestion charge if they go into the centre. Apparently, the low-emission zone will extend to the M25 and anyone driving past there would have to pay. I also understand residents will have to pay every day, although they get a substantial discount. Happy days!

    • You may find that Hydrogen becomes the hybrid of the future, Toyota are fairly advanced in their version of the tech.

      But as with the BEV’s, they will need us to change some of our refuelling infrastructure to Hydrogen, so may suffer with the same problems as the electrics are with the charging opportunities.

      • I’m afraid I don’t know much about hydrogen fuel and I need to do a bit of research. It could be a solution as you suggest. But one factor we can’t overlook is that the electric motor is perfectly suited to vehicle use. No gears, smoothness, quietness, smooth power delivery and maximum torque always on hand. As more and more people experience this, the attractions of the ICE for all but enthusiast use will wane. Once the infrastructure and charging time problems are addressed, EVs will be a natural choice.

  8. Hello Mike.
    the “most of us” you mention is in reality “most of yous”
    That is, the very rich cream of the human population on planet Earth, while the billions of plebses are getting poorer and poorer.
    Sad, but true. Billions of people will be dead several times over before those will be able to afford anything like a new car.

    • There’s truth in that. But I am just reporting on a specific case and it will be of interest to those buying electric vehicles.

      One of the big problems of the whole drive away from fossil fuel is that the beendig are being enjoyed by richer people, able to invest in the technology. Most people, as you imply, are stuck with older polluting vehicles and continue to pay through the nose for fuel, road charges, congestion zones and, even, parking.

      It’s why I say that cash incentives to buy EVs are wrong because they benefit only the rich. Spending the money on the charging infrastructure is far more sensible.

  9. I think hybrids are a good, though expensive, solution for those who do lots of long journeys. If you can find a straight EV with a range that meets your needs, then that is both environmentally, mechanically and financially the way to go. A little side-show, which is financially much cheaper (50%) than the others is the Suzuki “mild hybrid”. This uses a combined battery/generator to reduce petrol consumption, boost acceleration when necessary, and switch into recharge mode cruising and downhill and into petrol-saving idling mode at traffic lights. Since I do not reckon to have many more driving years this made sense for me because of the lower outlay and shorter time-span in which to break even financially and environmentally (no big fat battery using lithium resources). Not a solution for everyone, but well worth considering if you are in your eighties or even upper seventies.

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