Awesome Performance, as in Mind Blowing.
If you have never driven an electric car, you should give it a try. Just head over to a dealer (who hopefully has one in stock) and give one a whirl. Even the least expensive EVs are FUN to drive. EVs are more powerful than their gasoline colleagues because electric motors can deliver maximum torque at all speeds. Teslas are famous for their 0-60 mph times (2.5 secs in the Model S), but all brands have amazing zip. Ford recently promoted its forthcoming electric pickup truck (E-150) by televising it pulling a railroad locomotive.
The quiet of an EV comes as a particular surprise given the incredible acceleration they can deliver. For many it is the quiet that makes the car seem so powerful and smooth. An internal combustion engine runs on explosions, and vibrating, knocking, and rumbling sounds usually subliminally suggest something mechanical is amiss. An electric motor purrs rather than roars. It sounds like a finely tuned machine, which it is.
The batteries used in EVs are relatively heavy; thus traction is excellent, all things being equal. Cornering in tight curves is AWESOME, as demonstrated by the Volkswagen EV which set a new overall record at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in 2018. But all things are not always equal and there is currently an unmet need in our part of the world for affordable all-wheel drive electric cars.
Aren’t you looking forward to your next oil change?
A superlative machine rarely breaks down. Because battery electrics (BEVs) are so mechanically simple (Tesla says they took out 2000 moving parts and replaced them with 17), BEVs rarely break down. Brakes are rarely used, because regeneration can be called upon to slow the car down without wasteful frictional braking. No oil changes. Some models, such as Teslas, do not even need to be returned to the dealer to upgrade the software. They are smooth, quiet, and exceptionally reliable. They are simply a joy to drive.
So what’s the downside?
One con is BEVs try to avoid consuming electricity for heating the cabin in the winter. Because there is no waste heat from the motor, as with a petroleum fueled car, electricity must be used to heat the cabin. Furthermore, batteries produce less power in the winter and so the effective range of an electric goes down significantly in our cold winters. Thus winter driving can sometimes be disappointing, especially if one is used to bathing in a shower of hot air produced by all the waste heat inherent in an internal combustion engine. One good winter strategy is to get an EV with seat heaters, which consume far less energy than does heating up the entire car.
Are they too quiet?
A much discussed safety aspect is whether electric vehicles are a special hazard to pedestrians, because the cars are so quiet. Some EVs come with a pedestrian-friendly horn, to gently coax inattentive pedestrians into paying attention. Some give back-up beeps to warn pedestrians of cars that are silently backing up. Virtually all electrics come with radar-based sensors facing in all directions, which warn the driver when the car is approaching objects such as fire hydrants or pedestrians. These are effective at low speeds, but would not help a pedestrian blindly crossing a road against traffic. Pedestrians, or for that matter other drivers who are distracted by cell phones or loud music, constitute a primary hazard for our times for drivers of all kinds of vehicles.
Fortunately, most new cars, including electrics, have wireless connections to cell phones, which enable drivers to verbally dismiss or answer calls or texts without taking their hands off the wheel. All electrics also seem to have back-up cameras, which aid the driver in spotting wayward pedestrians in an otherwise blind spot. In seven years of driving silently, I have not had any near misses with pedestrians. The greatest risk is with other cars backing up at the same time in crowded parking lots, but this problem is no different from that in a gasoline car.
By Gordon Rodda and Sarah Kelly