Here’s a confession: I secretly love old V8s. There’s something about that distinctive, deep burble. Fanging a ’77 HX Sandman ute along a dirt track and hearing that rumble makes my soul sing. So, yes, I was a little sceptical when asked to test drive a fleet of new electric vehicles — including the Porsche Taycan Turbo, the Tesla 3 and the Mercedes EQC. Would these EVs ever compete with the rich roar of my beloved V8s?
Conversely, like many, I am keen to slash my petrol costs. More importantly I want to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions wreaking havoc on the environment.
What’s more, fossil-fuel-slurping combustion engines are, well, soon to be fossils themselves. In fact, some car companies, including Hyundai, are phasing out diesel models altogether. And petrol is not far behind. The NRMA has called for a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars as early as 2025, claiming, quite rightly, Australia’s lagging behind the rest of the world when it comes to adopting low-emissions vehicles.
So as the world inexorably moves towards EVs, here are some of my observations about the sustainable cars of our future:
I slip behind the wheel of the new Porsche Taycan Turbo. It looks like a Porsche. Feels like a Porsche. Even smells like a new Porsche. But when I accelerate it’s eerily… silent. Just an alien whooshing sound. For a rev-head this is most, excuse the pun, disquieting. It’s even more alarming for pedestrians who don’t hear your arrival. I’m told Porsche’s “Electric Sport Sound” is an optional extra in this mid-range model. Still, I find the Sounds of Silence takes some getting used to. Despite this, an overall reduction in noise pollution is welcome relief in a loud, busy city.
Okay, so the thought of never having to crawl to a grimy servo when empty and fill up is indeed enticing. For most of these fully electric cars, if you charge overnight at home, you can wake up to a full battery every morning. I guess we’re all accustomed to plugging in our smart phones. Same deal here with your car.
Problem is, not everyone has access to a garage and power point. If you rely on street parking this can be an issue. In addition I did wonder just how much home charging was cranking up my electricity bill.
On the road, it’s easy-ish to plug in at any public station or part of the car company’s charging network. Unfortunately they’re not all compatible.
The Tesla’s estimated range on a full charge is 657km. The EQC is 454km. The Taycan Turbo 484km. So enough for the school trip and some.
My feeling is the infrastructure has a bit of a way to go before consumers feel confident taking a full blown cross-country National Lampoon’s Vacation with the family in an EV.
Here is the consolation prize. The oddly named “Turbo” (no turbocharger here of course) rockets from 0–100km/h in a breathtaking 3.2 seconds. I had the same exhilarating experience in the Tesla 3 (0-100km/h in 3.3). Hold on to your hat — these cars are quick. So why is this? EVs generate more torque than petrol vehicles — and this is what helps a car accelerate. Single (or occasionally two-speed) gear boxes mean fewer gear changes to hinder rapid progress.
As with all new technology, the first incarnation of EVs do not come cheap. Thankfully, the electric car market has seen the arrival of new, slightly more affordable vehicles including the Nissan Leaf and the MG ZS. Even so you’re looking north of $40K.
Good news is that fewer moving parts in an EV means less chance of mechanical failure — hence fewer trips to the mechanic.
HYBRIDS AND FUEL FLEXIBILITY
If a fully electric vehicle is out of your price range — or the thought of running out of electric power mid trip is too terrifying — you could consider a hybrid, which is often only slightly more expensive than its petrol-powered counterpart. What is it exactly? Hybrids have both an internal-combustion engine that consumes petrol and an electric motor powered by a lithium-ion battery.
While both EVs and hybrid cars have a battery that can be recharged with a mains electricity, hybrids are more flexible in that they can run on petrol as well. What’s more, hybrids don’t always need to be charged via an external source. Some of these clever vehicles can generate their own electricity to store in the battery.
If you’re ready to commit to neither EV nor hybrid, you could consider eco-friendly interiors. In the past most vehicles contain heaps of non-recyclable synthetic fibres — a sickening thought when you consider how much ends up in landfill. Now some automakers are considering sustainable and recycled alternatives:
– Take the Ford EcoSport. This model uses 470 recycled plastic bottles in its carpets.
– Jaguar Land Rover models will feature something called Econyl nylon — a fabric made from waste found in the ocean and landfill.
– The BMW i3 uses kenaf – a lightweight material from the mallow plant – while the seats are crafted from sustainable wool.
– The Hyundai Ioniq Electric employs both recycled plastic and volcanic stone.
– Recently, Mercedez-Benz has been using Dinamica — a kind of microfiber made from recycled polyester from PET bottles and plastics — as an upholstery option.
– Vegan leather is also an alternative to the real thing. Bentley crafts its interiors with Vegea, a faux leather made from grape skins, seeds and stalks discarded during wine production.
To be truly environmentally sound it’s important to consider being sustainable inside and out.
So the future is electric. Now… if only they could fit a battery in the ‘77 Sandman ute. With “Electric Sport Sound” as an optional extra, of course!
Want to hear more from Elise? You can follow her here @eliseelliott_media