The Next Car You Buy Should Be Electric
— a full Battery Electric Vehicle, not a hybrid
I used to be a petrolhead. The first car I bought (after driving a self-repaired / built junk) was a Honda Civic type-R. I loved the high revving engine, which then lead me into buying a Honda CBR-600F as my first motor bike. From that one I bought my dream car, a real sports car a BMW e46 M3 (SMG, the only real M3 gearbox, I’ll hear no arguments otherwise).
I’ve done the cross-alps drive to the French Riviera with a convertible V8 and all the jazz. I thought the engine noise was the thrill. It’s time to move on, the world has moved on.
An EV — driving perfection
Let’s ignore the environmental and sociological aspects of mobility for a bit. Let’s focus purely on selfish pleasure and enjoyment of driving experience. As if we pretend that enjoyment, thrill and excitement doesn’t matter, we might as well move back to the cave. Our lives can’t be void of all the good stuff.
Electric motor is vastly superior to an Internal Combustion Engine (ICE). It becomes very clear to anyone driving a modern EV for even a short time. You can’t stall it, the torque is instantaneous making throttle response unrivaled, the is no change in power when revs change and there is no need to change gears. As a driver, you can fully focus on where and how fast you want to go.
Parallels to software UX designs are many. An EV is like a well designed user interface where the user doesn’t have to care about the internal implementation but can, instead, focus on what they are doing.
Now, at this point I can practically hear the old-school petrolheads screaming at their screens that part of the fun is to be pat of the machine and change gears manually, feel the gearbox working and so on. I get it, I used to think the same way. But I don’t anymore. It’s like the old-school nerds refusing to adopt graphical user interfaces in the 80s. It’s a mindset that once gotten rid of, looking back you can’t understand why you ever thought that way. An open mind will eventually lead into the realisation that actually, what one thought important played a very little role in reality.
The increased usability applies to all EVs from cheap to expensive. But what about speed, the ultimate petrolhead quality? Well, I think all readers know where this is going. Rimac.
There are quality-of-life things in EVs that are not possible in ICEs. One-pedal driving is one of the things you did not know you absolutely needed until you tried it. I could not go back.
This is simple. On an EV, the break pedal is only for emergencies. In normal driving you stop the car by lifting the accelerator. The car then automatically engages regen, i.e. reverses the electric motors to use the kinetic energy of the vehicle to charge the batteries while slowing down the vehicle. The deceleration is as smooth as acceleration and, as a bonus, your breaks are not wearing down. It really is exactly like cars should be driven, smooth, easy to use and energy saving.
New design freedom
An internal combustion engine is big and heavy. While the ingenuity of car designers have seen the engine been put in front, middle and back in the past it creates huge design constraints. EV world unleashes the same fantastic car designers to rethink cars. The current generation of EVs are still very much transitional vehicles but we’re already starting to see glimpsed of the future and what could be.
Car companies haven’t really been in the foreground of user facing technology development. Well. Ever. This is about to change. User’s won’t be tolerating 5 year old user interface design running on 10 year old hardware in their cars anymore. Users are demanding the in-car software to be comparable to the fantastic smartphones and tablets we use every day.
And the car companies have noticed. Most car companies are adopting use of modern operating systems in their new cars. Most companies seem to couple this generational leap in in-car systems to their EV launches. If you, like me, want the best UX of the in-car system the quickest, it’s an EV you need to get.
Even Jeremy Clarkson is admitting that the the climate is in a bad state and humans are the cause. In first part of this post I was explaining why one should be buying an EV even if all you care about is yourself and your personal well being and enjoyment. In the following part, I’ll be talking about the impact of EVs to others and to our planet.
Greenhouse gasses are causing the planet’s temperature to raise. The temperature change is already causing problems and will cause even more as we keep on pumping the gasses into our atmosphere. We don’t need to stop the pollution to save the planet, we need to stop it to save ourselves. The planet will be fine, our society won’t.
Please consider reading Bill Gate’s book “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster”. It communicates very clearly how screwed we are and what needs to be done. What I’m writing below heavily leans on the well researched and sourced information in the book.
“But whatabout <some other country>”
Why bother doing anything here as China is polluting so much? The reality is that we have to eliminate all greenhouse gas emissions. All. That includes every tonne we release here, in our home country. No matter what <insert another country> does, we have to stop our pollution here Now.
“But transportation is only small part of all the CO2 emissions”
Yep, true. Cement is one of the worst offenders, so is our food, especially meat. We need to solve those issues as well! But, we need to stop all greenhouse gasses. All. So no matter what happens in the other areas, we must stop our cars from releasing CO2. Now.
Many of the other greenhouse gas sources are still looking for solutions. Cement, for example, doesn’t seem to have a viable alternative yet. Transportation tough, does. EVs. Now.
“But private cars are only a portion of transportation CO2 emissions”
True. But we need to stop all greenhouse gas emissions, now. Aviation is still looking for a solution. The solution to private cars is already here, EVs. This is one of the parts of the problem we have a solution, a viable solution, already.
“The grid is powered by coal power plants”
True. This is a national embarrassment in Germany. A new coal power plant came online in 2020. I do not understand how this was let to happen.
However, the gird is getting cleaner in Europe and in the US. When the grid improves so do all the EVs plugged into the grid. Even if the grid isn’t fully clean now, it will be in the future, it will have to. Your EV keeps on getting greener every day.
“Making a car pollutes”
Yes it does. Fortunately, car companies are pledging to improve the situation. Companies like Polestar have made public pledges to aim to produce climate neutral vehicles. You should keep this in mind and support companies who are actively working on reducing the CO2 emissions of the car production.
Please read the “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster”!
Carbon gasses is not the only thing that comes out of the back end of an ICE vehicle. For some reason, portion of the population has accepted and even praise cars with artificially increased (or intentionally not lowered) noise. To me the most telling sign of our twisted view of the situation is that many car manufacturers and after-market kits emphasise the very part of our cars that lets loose both the pollution and noise. We add chrome highlights and in some cases even add additional, decorative exhaust pipes. I can’t get my head around on how we ended up with this.
Just imagine cities with no ICE noise. I can’t wait. The noise belongs to a race track not where people live.
No car is better than any car
I had to rewrite the post title couple of times to make it clear that I’m not advocating buying an EV unless you’re buying a car anyways. No car is way better for the environment than any car, no matter how clean.
I use an e-bike for my commute. With the right gear there are very few weather conditions outside icy roads that prevent me from taking the bike.
For city dwellers public transit is the second best option (at least once the pandemic subsides).
We have too many cars on the roads. We need less cars, not more. But the cars we have, need to be dominantly electric.
Other EV concerns
EVs are faster, better to drive, look better, annoy others less and are less bad for the environment. So why not?!
Cost of an EV — Green premium
EVs cost more, for now. Bill Gates talks about “green premium” in his book. This is the extra cost you have to pay to go green compared to the alternatives. There’s definitely a hefty green premium in the purchase price in EVs at the moment but that is rapidly changing. Costs are coming down and competition is kicking in.
Depending on how governments approach EV subsidies and CO2 taxes a cutoff point might be closer than expected.
I’m arguing that those of us who can (and chances are that if you’re reading this, you are one of those) should pay the green premium. Maybe we don’t need the massive SUV and can get an EV serving the same purpose instead. Or maybe we simply use a bit more money and get the EV now.
We’re in midst of a structural transition in mobility. The more of us jump on board now, the sooner the rest can join. Early adopters are the ones helping the infrastructure to be setup and allow companies to work on iterating on their vehicle designs to bring new innovation to bear pushing the price down. The transition needs us to pay the green premium.
EV Range and charging time and charging infrastructure
But what about range? How far can you drive with one? Do you have to stand and wait for hours for the car to charge?
EV charging infrastructure is rapidly getting better in Europe but it is not ready. There are certain inconveniences that come with being an early adopter of this tech. Again, this is a bit of an chicken-egg problem. In my opinion those of us who can, should bite the bullet bear with the inconveniences to allow the transition to pick up speed and create economy for companies to improve the required infrastructure.
However, there are quite a few misconceptions about EVs. In fact, I spend less time bothering with charging than I did spend refilling my last ICE. And I’ve yet to get a charger installed in my garage spot. I’m using a public street charger.
Unlike with ICEs, you don’t charge your EV when it is empty, you charge it when the battery is towards the lower half and you have time. The reality is that in normal car use an average trip is far from the maximum charge of any modern EV. I just plug it in when convenient and it always has enough power to get me to wherever I need to go.
After I have a charger in the garage the situation will be even better. The car is just always full. I’ll literally spend no time at the fuel station. So in real world, an EV saves you time. It just charges same way as your smartphone, while you’re sleeping.
Most of us never drive longer than few hundred kilometres per day, even when on a longer trip. But what if you need to get further. With an ICE you never have to worry about it. But if you start to think about it a bit more and look back on your longer trips. How often you go 500km without stopping at all? You will have to stop. With an EV, you just have to plan your stops at fast chargers. In Europe the network is getting very good so you have options. The real life inconveniences of EVs are rare.
EV innovation is at the very beginning
The internal combustion engine has gone through amazing levels of innovation and development in the past hundred years. Some of the engines we have seen in the past years are nothing sort of technical marvels and masterpieces. But longer something has been under development the smaller the development increments become as revolutionary steps happen much more rarely. EV technology, on the other hand, especially battery tech, has multiple revolutionary leaps in reserve. Sold state batteries, for example. These are technologies that can over night double EV range. This is the innovation we support when we buy cars from manufacturers betting their future on EVs. This is the innovation we should support right now.
Don’t buy a hybrid. A hybrid doesn’t support the development of EVs. They don’t help with the infrastructure and they aren’t even very green. Go for an EV. Pay the green premium. Suffer the early adopter inconvenience. Our planet, our cities, your neighbors will thank you for it. And you. You will discover a whole new way to enjoy driving. Unlike anything you’ve known or valued before. Something way better.
An EV is just better.