BEHIND THE WHEEL
Editor’s thoughts and opinions on this month’s motoring happenings.
seemingly either induce boredom, hatred, disinterest or a combination of all three. But it need not be, because we are on the edge of a time where electric vehicles are getting a lot more interesting.
We’ve had hybrid cars for more than 20 years now, but we’re now seeing an influx of pure plug-in EVS that are changing the way we drive, and the way we think of them.
With the introduction of LDV’S V80 electric van, and the Kia Niro and Hyundai Kona EV SUVS, we’re right in the middle of a big step towards an electric vehicle future. And happily, it’s not that bad. Having just sampled the Kona EV for a week, I had to think of the last pure electric car I drove apart from a golf cart… and I actually had to go way back to the very first.
I was one of the first motoring journalists in the world to drive the first electric production car, the GM EV1 - a year before its launch in 1996. In 1995, in Disneyland, California, GM had set up a preview driving experience with the GM EV1, and a 0-60mph challenge (I think mid-eight-seconds). It was strapped down on a dyno and less exciting than playing an Atari 2600 video game, the experience involving waiting for a countdown timer and flooring the throttle until it hit 60mph. But it was my first and only taste of an electric car… until 23 years later in the 2018 Kona.
And if I wasn’t impressed then, I am now. What was remarkable wasn’t the expected attributes like the immediate torque and quiet running, but the unexpected aspects: when sitting on 100km/h, a conventional engine is pulling low rpm, a high gear and is lazily idling along conserving as many resources as possible. In a situation where a single lane road expands into an overtaking lane, and the inevitable multi-lane Grand Prix starts, a conventional engine to downshift one, two, maybe even four gears: it then summons the power or torque of the engine by swinging the revs into the right range and/or even build turbo boost; obviously the intensity of this happening is dependent on the engine, capacity and its performance, but the EV creates a distinct difference: nail the throttle and it instantly goes! EVS are insanely fast in those situations; say from 80-100km/h simply because of response time between throttle pedal moving and the car accelerating. Of course if we move up to vehicles like the Tesla Model X, as we highlighted last issue as the world’s fastest SUV, then it just SHOUTS THE SAME MESSAGE IN CAPS AND TRIPLE EXPLANATION POINTS!!!
After a week of driving an EV and feeling the nature of regenerative braking and energy scavenging, getting back into a normal car feels wasteful; that every time it’s rolling downhill or using the brakes, it’s simply letting all that energy go to waste.
With the first prime movers and large trucks being announced this year, the transport industry is often the first to embrace this new technology, with performance being a positive by-product of the technology.
We’ve seen supercars receive drip-down technology from Formula 1 over recent years with the likes of the La Ferrari and Porsche 918 Spyder both using batteries and electric motors for ultimate performance. And while we’re starting to see it in the SUV world, over the coming years, we’ll see the same EV and battery tech spread across the whole range of vehicles, from two-seat sports cars to seven-seaters and even utes.
And with that will come improved convenience: the current method of thick, chunky charging cables plugged into the car will surely be replaced by cordless inductive chargers built into home garage floors and office parking bays.
With company and government mandates for the electrification of fleets, it’s an exciting time for electric vehicles because manufacturers realise it’s increasingly becoming less about the high-priced, feel-good side, and more about reducing fuel bills while keeping it exciting. I sat in front of the TV for the Bathurst 1000, I’ve burnt my fair of premium fuel just driving for the enjoyment, and I love the sound of a V8, highly strung four-cylinder, turbo or supercharger, but I’m quite happy about heading towards an electric future because the car industry is still full of car people who know buyers and drivers want and need a bit of excitement. Charge!