Time for sensible EV advice
The main issue is a complete lack of neutrality about electric vehicles, in all forms, which I think is breeding blurred perceptions of the whole market. While the concept itself isn’t new, the reality of usable vehicles being on sale is now upon us, and what we really need is intelligent debate, not scaremongering.
This comes from both sides. In the electric vehicle corner, manufacturers of the cars and supporting infrastructure are militantly flying the flag for ditching petrol and diesel power (or substantially downsizing it), presenting staggering cost benefits for doing so, and advocates repeat it verbatim to their readers.
Undoubtedly there will, for some, be a real benefit to making the switch. But it isn’t a one-size-fits-all proposition. Range, residual values and the real-world longevity of the technology are still issues, and regardless of laboratory testing can anyone actually stand up and say for sure that they know what these batteries will be like – good or bad – after five years of actual daily use?
And then there are the nay-sayers – those who see only the negatives, the burning Chevrolet Volts and the expensive battery pack failures. It’s thanks to this sort of reporting that the Volt has unfairly become a political topic in the United States – used as a symbol for the much-lauded failings of the Obama administration’s electromobility plans.
The reality is that like all cars an EV should be considered on its suitability for the end user. You wouldn’t buy a Lotus Elise if you needed to take four children to school, and likewise you wouldn’t expect to be setting lap records at the Nürburgring in a Renault Scenic. Yet, by pointing out that you can’t drive a Nissan LEAF from London to Edinburgh in one go, you’re making exactly that sort of suggestion. Of course it can’t – but if you regularly needed to drive that far, you wouldn’t buy one.
I’ve also heard the Volvo V60 Plug-In Hybrid come in for some stick this week, mainly on the grounds that it’ll be impossible to ever reach its 148mpg fuel economy claims.
Perhaps true if every journey is hundreds of miles long. But I know plenty of drivers who could easily cover their daily mileage on its electric range, while still getting a large upmarket estate car to drive around in. And, for the moments when they do need to go further, they would at least get 30 or so miles without burning a single drop of fuel. These people would easily exceed the claimed fuel economy. It’s all about balance.
Unquestionably electric vehicles, and the emerging hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, have some catching up to do compared to the well-established internal combustion engine. But it’s by no means a one-stop fix, and it’s also not something to dismiss out of hand.