Which EV?

Three electric carsEveryone has different needs, and different reasons for going down the EV path.

Whether it be for environmental considerations, cost savings, or just keeping up with the latest stuff, your purchasing decision is likely to be influenced by…

  • Cost
  • Battery size / Range
  • Body shape / Size
  • Dashboard / Tech
  • Accessories / Apps
  • Dealer / Service / Parts – local location
  • Single vs Twin motors (2WD vs AWD)

Vehicle cost and Battery size

Vehicle cost and battery size are very much related, given that the battery is such a major – and expensive – component of any Electric Vehicle.

Bigger battery = longer range (km) = more dollars.

But ask yourself…. really, how far do you actually drive each day? How much daily battery range do you need, especially if the car will be used mostly for commuting/shopping/etc?

Battery size vs costElectric vehicles are considerably more expensive to purchase than their petrol / diesel powered equivalents – though they are gradually becoming more affordable.

Battery size and engine efficiency determine how far you can travel between battery recharges. Again, it is early days – battery technologies will evolve and improve along the way, as will the efficiency of the electric motors consuming the stored battery energy. Given that most EV motors currently have similar energy consumption, battery size is the big variable that determines how far you can drive before needing a re-charge.

I have no doubt that in the future we will look back at the vehicles that are available today and shake our heads when comparing them to the vehicles that might be available in 10 years time. Already researchers are experimenting with materials that will result in batteries that provide a range in excess of 800 kms.

EVs with battery sizes around 40-50 kWh (range of around 200 – 300 km) are perfectly suited to ‘around town’ and commuter transport, rather than regular inter-urban or holiday travel. If you are travelling under 150 kms each day this is well within the range of EVs with smaller batteries, which can be re-charged overnight at home.

Mid-size batteries (60 kWh) are a popular compromise between kilometres and cost, with a range of around 350 kms, which is OK for longer journeys, if you are able to connect to a charger when you need a top-up to continue your trip.

More expensive vehicles with a larger battery capacity (70 kWh+) are able to travel distances of over 400 km before requiring a recharge. These more expensive vehicles also often have more ‘high tech’ options included too.

Regardless of the cost of the vehicle, and the size of the battery, longer journeys are dependent on the availability of public chargers, and while this isn’t necessarily guaranteed, public charging infrastructure is improving all the time. (Use the PlugShare app to check for charger availability.)

Reality? Most of our travel is ‘local’, well within the capacity of a smaller battery, which can easily be recharged at home each night. Charging at home is much cheaper than using commercial chargers.

Body shape & size

There wasn’t too much variety in the body shape of the first generation of electric vehicles, with many early EVs shaped like a traditional sedan ‘coupe’ – similar to the Tesla. This is partly due to the efforts of manufacturers to increase battery range through improved aerodynamics.

There are now a number of EVs shaped more like a traditional family SUV – the Hyundai Kona, MG ZS EV and BYD Atto are all examples in the sub $70k price range.

BMW, Jaguar, Volvo and Mercedes also offer larger SUV body styles but, as you might expect for those brands, they are mostly at the upper end of the price range, at over $90k.

Vehicle size is another obvious consideration – a single daily commuter living in the inner-city has different needs to a family with three children loading up for sport every weekend! Again, there are now a variety of larger EVs on the market, but larger vehicles (usually with bigger batteries) are often up at the higher end of the price spectrum.

EVs with sedan and SUV shapes

Driver Interface – Dashboard and Tech Stuff

Tesla led the way with modern EVs, along with their high-tech interface between driver and vehicle. The only interface for the operation of a Tesla is through a touch screen in the centre of the dashboard – even for simple operations like opening the glove box – which can be very frustrating.

At the other end of the spectrum, MG have built their ZS EV range on the body of a regular car, removing the combustion engine and fuel tank, and adding an electric motor and battery, leaving the driver interface to be much more ‘traditional’. There is even a handle on the glove box!

Other EVs have found a place in between the above extremes on the tech-interface scale.

Dashboards compared

Not critical, but worth keeping in mind when choosing a vehicle.

On the actual tech front, most EVs include a range of modern safety and monitoring features, including automated cruise control, front collision warning, lane monitoring and assistance, rain-sensing wipers, iPhone/Android mirroring, blind spot detection, rear cross traffic alert, etc, etc.

As first introduced on the Tesla. many variations of an auto-pilot facility are also available on most EVs, but often at a very basic ‘stay beyween the lines’ level of implementation.

Accessories and Apps

Spare wheelThe common ‘accessory’ missing from most new EVs (and many other new vehicles) is a spare tyre. EVs are supplied with a tyre repair kit, which includes a can of injectable sealant and a pump. If you are purchasing a new car, and you would prefer to have an actual spare wheel, ask for this to be included in your purchase.

If purchasing a used vehicle, check that there is space available to carry a spare, then make enquires at your local brand dealer or tyre fitter regarding the size and specification of a wheel to fit your car. This could be a regular wheel, or a thinner ‘space saver’ wheel.

Another ‘accessory’ that varies between vehicles is the adjustment of seating position. While not the sole province of EVs, some cars have manual adjustment levers and knobs, others have electrical adjustments, others include preset configurations to suit multiple drivers. This also applies to vehicle entertainment systems which can be preset for different drivers. If this is something that is important to you, check before purchasing.

Many EVs include a mobile phone app for remotely monitoring a vehicle. This is particularly useful for checking the battery’s State of Charge (SoC), remotely enabling heating, cooling, seat warmers, etc. Again, not critical in the performance of the vehicle, but it may be a useful extra for those who have a need for that type of service.

New or Used?

Used EVs are gradually finding their way on to the market, as early adopters update to newer vehicles. Keep in mind too that some state governments offer significant rebates on new EVs, which should be considered when comparing new and used vehicle prices.

Used car for saleThese subsidies will also influence the price of a used EV, as the pricing generated by these subsidies flows down through the market.

Governments are now purchasing new EVs for their fleets, and these will find their way through to the used market over the next few years.

Used EVs, only a couple of years old, with relatively low kms, can be found for $10,000 to $15,000 less than their new price, with over 5 years factory warranty remaining for both vehicle and battery. Often, after testing the EV waters, the vendor has updated to a newer EV simply for a model with a larger battery and newer tech stuff. Or maybe they have picked up a leased vehicle through their employment. Their used car is virtually a new car, in terms of finish and performance.

Also be mindful of the fact that the resale value of your current petrol-powered vehicle is going to decrease once the price of used EVs drops down into the price range of used petrol-powered vehicles. I expect that there will be some real ICEV (internal combustion engine vehicle) bargains in the not-too-distant future for those not upgrading to an EV.

One thing that is certain though …… even with free electricity it will take a long time for fuel and servicing savings to balance out the higher up-front cost of an EV – even a relatively cheap EV. This will change over time, but for now the purchase of an EV is an early adoption / ethical / environmental / experimental toe-dip into a new transport technology.

Dealer servicing and parts location

If you live in a regional town, local dealer and service support is a consideration.

For example, our nearest Tesla and BYD service centres are in Sydney, a 2 hour drive away. The local MG dealer and EV service centre is just 15 minutes away, right next to Bunnings, OfficeWorks, Anaconda, etc, to fill in time while waiting!

Maybe not a huge deal, considering the long EV service intervals, but certainly worth considering.

Single vs Twin Motors

A single motor, driving one axle, is the standard option on most EVs, and is equivalent to 2WD. Twin motors, with a motor driving both front and rear axles, provides the equivalent of AWD, plus additional power, but at the expense of consuming more battery capacity than a single motor.

So, which EV for you?

Thinking personHorses for courses. For suburban commuting to work, shopping, weekend sport, family visits, etc, a 45kW – 50kW battery in a small to medium SUV will be just fine. (A dedicated home wall charger really is essential, and will make regular home charging easy – no need to worry about public chargers.)

If you regularly travel longer distances, then a vehicle with a larger battery is a good option.

If you enjoy ‘performance’ driving, or winning the the traffic light blast-off, then a twin motor vehicle might be just the ticket (they are very fast off the mark!)

With any of these options, a dedicated wall charger (7 kW, 11 kW) installed in your garage at home is the key to providing cheap and reliable battery charging. Especially if you have solar panels supplying your daytime electricity, or an energy reseller providing a discount off-peak EV charging option. (If they don’t, find another reseller.)

Another reality check is that for many families, their first EV will most likely be a second vehicle, so a petrol/diesel powered vehicle can still be available when required.

More reading….