#VOTY2022 will be the first to feature a number of battery-electric vehicles to be considered for our annual best-of award.
History might be made this year.
#VOTY2022 will be the first to feature a number of battery-electric vehicles to be considered for our annual best-of award. Over the past 15 years there had been hybrids and plug-in hybrids considered for this honor. Out of all of the previous winners, only one winner had a hybrid driveline available – #VOTY18: The Lexus LC coupe.
Could this be the year that a fully electric vehicle take #VOTY2022?
EVs have been the hot topic of late. Between rising gasoline pump prices earlier this year and emissions mandates being made worldwide for the next decade, electrification has been at the front of every automaker’s minds towards delivering vehicles to meet the competition form start-up companies.
This year alone, I worked with seven battery-electric vehicles from three different manufacturers on the regular evaluation rotation. In addition, I have driven three other EVs in the past 12 months. In total, these vehicles came from five different legacy manufacturer groups representing eight brands.
Shall I add the other hybrid and plug-in hybrids that have gone through the doors at V&R?
What I want to focus on here is my experience with the seven battery-electric vehicles that came to live with me for a number of days. In turn, George and I had a chance to look at these vehicles from the “living with it” aspect, as with all other vehicles we get to work with.
What have I gleaned from these vehicles through their experiences?
A MIX OF CHARGING INFRASTRUCTURES: When George said he was installing a Level 2 charger at his townhome, I had questions. In the end, he was able to get it installed and running for several vehicles we worked with. So far, so good. Overnight charging was done on average about seven hours per vehicle.
Since I do not have a charging setup at home, I have to rely on public charging stations nearby. When I lived in Robbinsdale, it was a challenge between broken DC Fast Charging stations and restricted locations. I had to make the drive to Woodbury for the Electrify America station to get better charging results. Once I moved to Saint Paul, the Woodbury location was much closer. That has since been augmented by a ChargePoint DC Fast Charging station in Inver Grove Heights at the Volkswagen dealer. That station is open to everyone 24 hours a day.
While Electrify America offers a faster charge rate at 350 kW, the ChargePoint does a good job delivering electrons, even at a much lower rate. Recharging rates from a half battery are lower than gasoline, which helps in the bottom line.
There is a flip side to all of this…
DO I MISS THE GAS STATION? Yes, I do. The time to recharge a battery in an EV takes longer from 50% is much longer than just pumping a half-a-tank of gasoline. That takes a fraction of time, but at a greater cost. In my case, I have to make time for recharging a vehicle. That includes bringing my laptop, or going into Walmart (in Woodbury and Eau Claire) for some items. If I charged up at the Volkswagen dealer in Inver Grove Heights, at least there’s a service lounge to hang out with beverages. It also helps to check in on a friend of mine who is the General Manager of the dealership. Not that’s required, but…
I STILL HAVE RANGE ANXIETY: I’m glad that some EVs can go 300 miles on a full battery. However, most of the gasoline-fueled vehicles that I work with can go further on a tank of gas. Hybrids can go even further. Driving an EV and watching how many miles of range I have left is still an uneasy feeling. The rate that a battery is used over miles is completely different than a gasoline-fueled vehicle, which is still a puzzle for me.
Still, a Volvo that is rated to go just 226 on a full battery is inadequate for a lot of urban commutes. If you just concentrate on smaller commutes, errands, school runs, and such, then that range would be just fine. Add overnight charging at your home for a greater benefit. But, for someone like me in a shared dwelling and no at-home charging – I’m not sure if I can live with a vehicle with even 250 miles of battery range.
My bottom line is that EVs need to find a way to equal battery range with comparable fuel tank range in order for consumers to buy into EVs. I know that some start-up models have achieved ranges in those target areas, but I am also hoping that the legacy manufacturers will get there, as well.
THEY DRIVE LIKE ANY OTHER VEHICLE ON THE ROAD: I agree with that statement – to a point. It does like any other vehicle on the road. The instant torque from the electric motors is welcomed, especially in passing maneuvers and getting away from tailgaters. Still, there are a few things I have taken under consideration regarding driving an EV.
Driving dynamics have been on par with their gasoline-fueled counterparts. That I’ll give these EVs credit for. Some have even turned in a better driving experience overall. Namely, the Ford F-150 Lightning.
For one, I am not a fan of one-pedal driving. I’m used to modulating the brake pedal for traffic stops. Certainly, the benefit of one-pedal driving is regeneration of energy back into the battery for less “consumption” of electrons and extended battery life. Still, I need to feel in control of my vehicle – braking included.
The heavier weight may mean a more secure drive, but it is still a lot of weight to push around. At this point, I do not see this as a problem. Then again, I have yet to experience a GMC Hummer EV.
In all, I have learned a few things about EVs through the usual approach of “living with it” in our evaluation of them. They are no longer strange, exotic and requires the fandom of science fiction to experience them. Their normalization comes from the quest towards consumer acceptance of them in the marketplace.
There are a few things that would help their cause. Expanding DC Fast Charging infrastructures, extended ranges, and equipping them appropriately for all climates will improve their viability in the marketplace.
WHAT YOU LIKE – AND DISLIKE – ABOUT EVS: Based on your engagement in person and online, there is still a mixed bag between excitement and absolute hatred for electric vehicles. Instead of pointing which group falls into what category, let me acknowledge the fact that you’re talking about them and making them relevant in the automotive lexicon.
I could take the high road and bless the haters. Or, coddle those who love them. Yet, I take each EV when they come, experience as they come, and draw my conclusions on their individual merits.
We’re automotive journalists…not fan boys or members of the haters’ club.
As for me, I’ll keep on working with them as they are sent our way. After all, they’re part of the story of the automobile.
All photos by Randy Stern