Everybody’s talking about electric cars these days, but how many of us have actually driven one? Very few, which is the reason for an ongoing and misleading debate about the future of the technology. I recently had the opportunity to...
Everybody’s talking about electric cars these days, but how many of us have actually driven one? Very few, which is the reason for an ongoing and misleading debate about the future of the technology. I recently had the opportunity to drive a BMW I3 for an extended test drive and the experience changed my perception of battery powered driving forever. Here’s the myth versus the reality:
Electric cars are gutless
Check the 0-60 mph times of today’s electric cars, like the Tesla, and they stack up well against all-out sports cars. In the real world, torque delivers acceleration, not horsepower, and electric motors deliver maximum torque at zero rpm. . . . that’s right, zero. This means that a relatively small motor launches an electric car strongly off the line, where it matters most. Except for the lack of engine noise, most drivers won’t notice a difference compared to gasoline powered cars.
Electric cars have inadequate range
What’s adequate? The BMW I tested delivered 110 kilometres of range on a charge in real-world mixed city and highway driving. It’s a lot less than a gasoline model. On the other hand, nobody has a gas pump in their garage . . . the ability to simply plug-in the car when you get home means starting every day with a full charge. A long road trip is out of the question, but few of us drive anything like 110 kilometres every day . . . and now that charging plugs and sockets are standardized, the increasing number of public charging stations comes into play. Here in Toronto, charging stations are now available in many public parking garages and lots and the infrastructure is building every day. For those with serious range anxiety, models like the I3 offer a range extending small gasoline engine, but few users will need it. As the population increasingly moves to urban areas, the advantages of electric will increase.
Electric cars are unaffordable
The Tesla is a premium car to be sure, but the BMW I3 is about the price of a loaded mid-size SUV and has plenty of the electronic gadgets most drivers want in modern cars. Now that Tesla’s Elon Musk has opened his patents to the automotive industry and announced his massive battery “gigafactory” in Nevada, the most expensive part of the new technology is about to get a lot cheaper. The battery in the I3 carries a factory warranty similar to that on modern gasoline engines . . . suggesting a potentially lucrative used vehicle market going forward.
There’s no doubt now, electric cars and light trucks are not a fad . . . they’re coming to your neighbourhood and despite the lack of a conventional drive train, the rest of the vehicle is the same as the current fleet, so service opportunities are there beyond the dealer network. It will take training for sure, but there are enough hybrids on the road now that the electric drive train shouldn’t stop independents from chasing the business.
After an hour of two, I had forgotten that the BMW I drove was electric . . . it’s technology that’s truly production ready. Are you?
Have your say: