April 7, 2021
e‑Mobility has won the race”.
It was with this statement that CEO Herbert Diess opened Volkswagen’s Power Day on 15 March, following close in the tracks of Tesla’s Battery Day. The German group also presented its intention to become a leading player in batteries and energy, with plans to build six gigafactories in Europe. The event will be remembered as a red-letter day for the auto industry’s shift to e‑mobility. Let’s get an overview.
We are currently witnessing the auto industry rapidly pivot to electric power. EV sales clearly show an acceleration, with figures in Europe now at the characteristic inflection point — or tipping point — of the S‑curve.
I have identified three factors behind this much-anticipated development.
A “forced-march” offering1
Environmental regulations – announced and known for some years now — have at last spurred car manufacturers into action. To hit the average emission target of 95g CO2/km for new cars, in 2020 a wide range of electric vehicles entered the European market: the VW ID3, Peugeot e-208, Opel Corsa-e, DS3 e‑tense, Fiat 500e, joining the Renault Zoé, BMW i3, Audi e-tron, Hyundai Kona, and the Tesla Model S, Model X and Model 3. Under the European Green Deal for 2025 and for 2030, this target should be lowered, and be even more of an incentive.
The economic edge is increasingly visible
Driving an electric vehicle is also starting to make sound financial sense. EVs are becoming more affordable as the cost of batteries steadily decreases. Depending on the case, the type of vehicle and its use, it is only a matter of time before EVs have the economic edge over their combustion‑engine counterparts. A study by LeasePlan in 20192 suggest that this is already the case in over half of use cases when taking into account the total cost of ownership (TCO). Buyers don’t always base their decisions on such calculations, nevertheless some manufacturers are already offering upfront purchase price parity, i.e., electric models at the same sale price as their fossil-fuel equivalents. An example of this is the Dacia Spring. Many users already see the economic advantage of driving an EV, and as this advantage becomes more apparent it will increasingly be factored into buying decisions.
A clear preference for electric
But what’s really driving EV buzz is demand: users want to drive electric cars. Indeed, the driving experience is described as vastly superior to that of the petrol car. When Tesla designed the Model S its goal was to build “the best car in the world”, and not despite its electric propulsion, but because of it.
For some users it’s the silence, for others the acceleration. There’s a good reason for everyone to enjoy the EV driving experience.
Many have experienced the sensation of an electric car starting to move without a sound, as if flying on a magic carpet! The high-speed torque response from start‑up — not only with the Tesla but with all electric vehicles — allows the driver to weave neatly through traffic, gently (or generously!) applying available power.
Most users cite silence as the EV’s main draw card, and also the reason why they can no longer do without it. I often chat to ride-sharing chauffeurs in Paris, and they all cite the EV’s silence as its biggest advantage, followed by its supreme fuel economy (up to €500/month).
Charging the battery — often a sticking point in the buying decision — is huge plus for some. Simply plugging in your car at the end of the day gives you a full “tank” in the morning, making the odious task of filling up at the service station a distance memory…
Parents waiting in front of the school gates can keep warm in their car without polluting the entire neighborhood by keeping the engine running.
Thanks to the architecture of cars designed to be fully electric, there’s more room for the driver and passengers. The battery’s placement in the footwell makes the electrical system far more compact than its thermal ancestor with its large diesel engine, tank, and exhaust line running the length of the car. This explains why the interior of the VW ID3’s is almost as spacious as higher‑range vehicles (like the VW Passat) — despite measuring 1cm shorter than a Golf! Tesla drivers can therefore pop open the bonnet and show off their front-boot space.
Another little anecdote on the EV’s power of attraction: a couple discussing over breakfast who gets to take the electric car — the so-called “spare”!
EV owners also rave about how little maintenance their vehicles require: no more draining the oil, take it in for a service, replacing the fan belt or changing the oil filters. Even the brake pads last longer, thanks to electric regenerative braking.
Several studies show that the vast majority of EV buyers would never go back to a petrol car. And car manufacturers are now inviting interested buyers to take home an electric car to test its daily use over a few days. The results are conclusive.
What’s getting your excited about switching to electric?
1 To quote Carlos Tavares.