What’s new in the EV world?

Although EV’s are not the focus of this blog, there’s quite a bit happening on the EV front so that I feel it’s worth giving you a small round-up of what I believe to be the most important recent developments. The first thing to point out is obviously that the long awaited jump in EV sales is now really happening. The below graphic gives a nice illustration of where sales are surging (China, Europe and the US in order of importance) and where not (somewhat surprisingly Japan, where EV’s make up less than 5% of all EV sales worldwide. Japan has a lot of hybrids however). Putting these numbers in context shows that EV’s hereby represented 12% of all cars sold in China, approximately 11% in Europe (including PHEV) and 3% in the US. So the growth is clearly there and accelerating, but we’re still not at the point where EV’s are close to taking over.

Tesla claims the two top spots in the US with its models 3 and Y, and the Model 3 is the best selling EV in Europe as well, ahead of the VW ID3, the Renault Zoe and the VW ID4. In China the top seller is a car I’m sure you’re all familiar with – the Wuling Hong Guang MINI EV. No? The Wuling is a Chinese mini electric car, the size that actually makes most sense for an EV. It’s ahead of, yep, the Tesla Model 3 and Y. It’s worth noting that not only do the two Teslas claim the top spots in most markets, they are also by far the most expensive of the EV top sellers, making their numbers even more impressive. It’s also interesting that even in the US, the two other models S and X don’t see many buyers anymore.

The leading Chinese EV is rather small and not very aerodynamic

So much for existing sales, but much more interesting is looking at the new market entrants, and there’s quite a few of those. I’ll focus here on the ones I for different reasons believe are the most important: Mercedes with the EQS and other EV models now being rolled out as representative of the the in my view leading traditional brand, Lucid Motors as the most exciting new EV brand, and to round it off, why not a couple of electric pick-ups?

Mercedes-Benz landed a real PR punch a few weeks ago when it became the first car maker to receive the approval for level three self-driving in Germany. This is a major snub to Tesla but certainly not a coincidence. MB’s Swedish CEO Ola Källenius is not only using social media to the fullest, he’s also repositioning MB as a car maker that will exclusively be building EV’s by 2030. The EQS that came out a few months ago is the flagship in this regard, with the EQE (E-class) and other models now following. I’ve had the opportunity to study the EQS inside and out several times although I haven’t driven it yet, and it’s very surprising to me hearing how various commentators put it on par with the “normal” S-class. Let’s be clear, and take my word for it: if you forget the giant screens and look at other interior materials and perceived quality, the EQS is nowhere near an S-class. At the same time it’s however far ahead of Tesla and other EV’s, but so it should, given it’s also quite a bit more expensive at around EUR 200′ fully equipped. You get a pretty fully equipped, “normal” S-class for that kind of money…

Keep your eyes on the screens – what is below is less fun…

Lucid Motors is the new star on the EV sky and perhaps one that can challenge Mercedes on the luxury EV throne. Lucid’s CEO Peter Rawlinson was previously part of the senior management at Tesla, and the Lucid Air of which a few thousand have been delivered by now is an impressive large sedan that scores high both in quality, space and materials (although given what I mention on the EQS above, I’d like to be the judge of that first). The drive train is no less impressive with up to 1111hp in the top model Air Dream Edition, and a range of around 800 km (in ideal conditions). Interestingly the battery pack operates at 900V which complemented by its size helps speed up charging, something Lucid is happy to talk about. The company comes from California, the cars are built in Arizona and plans are to open up in Europe soon. There’s obviously always a risk with new brands, but Lucid has a lot going for it (including around USD 1bn of Saudi money).

The Lucid is a large car, however not a hatchback as you may think.

We will not see many of the other two EV’s I’ve chosen to mention here in Europe, but the US readers will have the opprtunity to enjoy them. They are both pick-ups, the first being the Hummer EV, easily recognized as a Hummer, meaning it still looks cool and is now fully electric. The roof can be removed in four different parts, and the Hummer also has a lot of other gadgets of the kind that seem to appeal to EV buyers. It’s also the only EV (actually, any car) in the market that can do the crab walk, meaning it can move forward diagonally. I have no clue what the practical side of that is, but I’m sure it’s fun. The second is less known until now, it’s also a US pick-up from a new brand called Rivian. The company has been around for ten years but it’s not until last year they showed their first car, the fully-electric R1T. It’s an interesting concept with quite a few interesting features which are new to the EV world, and it comes at an interesting price point around USD 75′ in the US.

Finally, let me bring you some stories of what life with an EV is like during the winter months in Europe. This is not some I’ve spent hours googling about, rather things I’ve picked up from friends or read about. It’s also not out of a wish to be mean to the EV collective, but it seems important to me that if the plan to have the whole world drive these, we need to know what’s going on out there – even in the European winter.

  • A colleague of mine set out from northern Europe to the French Alps in his Model S for a week’s skiing with the family. With around 1.000 km to drive, they needed to charge three times on the way there, as the real range in the winter months is only 250-300 kms. When they picked up the car from the (unheated) parking a week later, the battery was almost empty as it had lost a few km range every day by just being parked when it was cold outside. They just about made it to the next charging station.
  • A friend of mine put his Model X on support charging in northern Sweden as you’re supposed to, however the smaller, second battery that powers notably the screens froze, making the car unusable. I don’t know whether this was his fault or not but as a result the car had to be transported back to Stockholm on a tow truck, over 500 km away, since there was no garage in upper Sweden that could assist.
Not ideal when you’re 500 km away from the nearest garage…
  • A lady in Germany wanted to pick up her new electric VW herself at the factory in Wolfsburg to save the EUR 700 delivery costs VW required for sending it to Munich where she lives. That was a bad idea. The 600 km back home took her more than 12 hours with three charging stops. She was also freezing cold during the whole trip since the car apparently warned her from turning on the heating, as it would cost too much energy. VW told her she should have planned her charging stops better – but perhaps VW should build a car that would save her the work, as Tesla has been doing now for close to 10 years?

Let’s be clear on a couple of points. EV’s are an interesting alternative with a more efficient engine than a classical combustion engine – under certain conditions. In cold temperatures they are very far from the range claims being made, and also run into various other issues. Range anxiety during the winter months is thus very much still an issue. Also, some of the above problems could probably have been avoided by more informed buyers and owners, but as EV’s as rolled out in large numbers, we can certainly not demand of all drivers to be EV experts. Issues such as the above need to be solved by manufacturers, as spending 12 hours in an unheated car in the middle of winter shouldn’t be the future thrill of driving!

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