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Should your next car be an EV?
By Jastej Singh Matharu
The answer to that is ‘it depends’. Just like any other decision, this decision will also factor the concerns you have and what reality is.
To begin the most important criteria normally would be the range an electric car is able to give. Why? Because this will be an EV and while an internal combustion car can be refueled within minutes, the fuel of an EV, that is the charge in the battery, takes a prolonged time to fill. Even fast chargers typically take about an hour to charge the battery of an electric car. So if you compare just on this one issue the internal combustion engine wins because of it’s sheer convenience of refuelling. So the range an EV gives between charges is a major factor to be considered.
You would need to decide what is the range you need in your EV. A car which is used only for city driving would need lesser range than a car which is planned to be used for long distances on highways.
Charging stations for electric cars have yet to come up in India. On the other hand internal combustion engine cars have refueling stations around every corner.
Having said that one must also consider that potentially we have a charging station in every home. If you want to wait for the infrastructure for charging stations to come up then you should not be buying an EV at this point of time. However if you feel that it is possible for you to set up a charging station at home, which is, for slow charging, just a matter of plugging in to a 15 ampere electrical point, then in that case your range anxiety is misplaced. For while every home is not a refueling station for an internal combustion engine car, it is a refueling station for an EV. Electricity is being delivered to every home unlike fossil fuel.
So if you are convinced that you will be able to charge your EV every night when it is parked at your home, then buying an EV as your next car becomes an option which you may like to consider.
The next issue is how much do you drive on an average per day. If you drive your car a 1000 km or so per month it means that your car covers 30 to 40 kms per day. If you drive your car 2000 kms per month then it covers 60 to 80 kms per day. And if the monthly distance is 3000 kms then it is 90 to 120 kms per day. As the starting range of EVs today is 100 kms it follows that an EV may be considered as an option for the next car by someone who drives less than 2000 kms per month. If you are unable to charge your EV at a place other than your home you would like to buy an EV only if your need for range is less than 100 kms per day. Of course with time, as office parking lots instal charging points, charging outside of your home would become easier.
As of now the only assured charging point you may have for some time is the one you install at your home. This must therefore be a factor in your decision to consider buying an EV as your next car.
EVs range starts from about 100 kms and goes upto as much as 900 kms for the top end cars. There is a relationship between the range a car gives and it’s cost. Typically higher ranges mean higher cost. So the other factor which comes in is how much would you like to pay for the car.
For somebody who has been buying the smaller hatchbacks rather than luxury cars the maximum cost may be around Rs 8 Lakhs. Typically an EV version of a car will cost 40% more than the internal combustion engine version. So you are paying more to start with. Undoubtedly the running cost of an EV will be lesser than an internal combustion engine car. This may offset the initial higher cost.
Handling of a car, the ride and comfort, brake design features and safety features are also important design parameters of a car. These can be imported from internal combustion engine variants and used more or less as they are.
In the internal combustion engine car, the most important part is the engine as it is expensive and has a life which means it may have to be replaced after a certain amount of usage. In the EV the electric motor can last longer and is not the most expensive part but the battery is. The battery of the EV would need to be replaced after 6 to 8 years and it will be expensive to do this. So this is another factor you must consider. It also follows that the resale value of an electrical vehicle will be decided by the amount of life left in it’s battery.
One interesting feature of the EV market is that it has a number of startups which are offering EVs along side of the mainstream manufacturers. This has become possible because the ease with which an electric motor can be designed into an electric car. However a key challenge startups face is developing the capacity to manufacture EVs at the scale needed by the market. Mainstream manufacturers do not face any such problem as they are already in the mass manufacturing market. Further technologies like car suspension, transmission, steering, braking and safety features are well refined and available with mainstream car manufacturers.
This issue may impact the after sales service capability of a car manufacturer, and may therefore also be another factor while deciding to buy an EV.
Consider the cars which are having a range of upto 200 kms and a price of 30000 Euros or less. The following cars are available within these parameters.
SEAT Mii Electric, Skoda CITIGOe iV,Citroen C-Zero,Peugeot iOn,Volkswagen e-Up! ,
Smart EQ Fortwo coupe, Smart EQ forfour, Volkswagen e-Up! ,Sono Sion, MG ZS EV, Volkswagen ID.3.
Cars in this bracket are becoming available in India as well. Tigor EV is now available for a cost of INR 12.59 Lakh which is equivalent to 16000 Euros. It has a range of 213 kms and a battery of 21.5 kWh. E Verito is available at a price of INR 13.17 Lakhs which is equivalent to 16600 Euros. This car has a range of 140 kms and a battery of 13.91 kWh.
If you consider the area of the chart for range between 200 kms to 500 kms and the cost from 30000 Euros to 50000 Euros then a considerable number of currently available EVs come in this area. The list below shows the vehicles out of these which have the highest sales in Europe in August 2019.
Tesla Model 3, Renault Zoe, Nissan Leaf e+, BMW i3, VW e-Golf, Hyundai Kona EV, Kia Niro, Hyundai Ionic Electric, Smart Fortwo EV.
From this list Hyundai Kona has already been launched in India and is available for a price of INR 23.71 Lakhs which is equivalent to 30000 Euros. Also Renault Zoe is expected to be launched in 2020 and may be available for a price of INR 8 Lakhs which is equivalent to 10000 Euros considerably lower than the cost in Europe, so we will have to wait and see what finally comes out as an offer when this car is launched.
The Indian market is very price sensitive and any car giving a range of more than 200 kms and offered at a cost of INR 8 Lakhs or thereabout is likely to attract buyers in numbers. Therefore if the Renault Zoe is made available at the price of INR 8 Lakhs it could become a popular EV in India.
Some more EVs which may become available in the near future are Wagon R Electric, Mahindra eKUV100, Tata Altroz EV, Tata Nexon EV, Ford Aspire EV, Mahindra XUV300 Electric, MG ZS EV and Audi e-tron.
It is to be noted that homegrown designs are being offered by Tata Motors and Mahindra, this for me is a matter of rejoicing. If these brands are able to take on the competition in the Indian market from international brands then they will be able to offer their EVs in the global market. This is something one will follow with interest.
Here is another scatter chart for prices from 50000 Euros to 100000 Euros .
In the 50000 Euros and above price bracket and having a range of more than 300 kms we the following cars which are in the first 20 highest selling EVs in Europe in August 2019.
Jaguar i-Pace, Tesla Model S
JLR is a subsidiary of the Indian automobile company Tata Motors. So it is a matter of pride for both companies that Jaguar i-Pace is competing effectively with the Tesla car.
The third scatter chart covers EVs costing more than 100000 Euros. This has the high end cars.
One of the main challenges that all EV manufacturers face is how to increase battery capacity and battery efficiency. Getting battery efficiency higher than 16 kWh/100 km is proving to be a challenge. Battery sizes of cars are restricted by the size of the car itself, therefore the range of the car gets restricted.
Battery efficiency as a result becomes a factor to be considered when choosing an EV.
Here is a chart comparing price with battery efficiency.
Cars having battery efficiency better than 16 kWh/100 kms, that is those which are on the left of the 16 kWh/100 km line in the chart above, are listed below:
Smart EQ Fortwo, Sono Sion, Renault Zoe, Mini Cooper SE, Hyundai Kona Electric.
Interestingly three of the above cars, that is, Smart EQ Fortwo, Renault Zoe and Hyundai Kona Electric figure in the top 20 selling EVs in August 2019. Is there some correlation between battery efficiency and car sales? There does seem to be some.
So returning to the original question, ‘should your next car be an EV?’. Well the answer to that is, certainly, if you are looking at driving from upto 1000 to 2000 kms in a month and you are using the car within a city for daily commutes this is a good time to consider buying such a car because you will be able to use it by charging it overnight every day. And technology is improving so buying an EV as your next car is going to keep becoming an even more attractive option.
Overall the percentage of EVs on roads worldwide are going up. In the first half of 2019 in Norway 58% of the new cars purchased were electrically chargeable! 
This is a sure indicator that volumes of EVs on roads of all countries are likely to go up.
The main point is would you be driving one such car?