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The Electric Adventure

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So, it’s obvious, at least in 2023, that battery electric vehicles (BEVs) are going to be the direction in which the world heads towards, as part of the ongoing fight against non-renewable energy, and as a Car enthusiast myself, I cannot be happier that this is the direction that cars are taking.

Electric cars aren’t exactly new. In fact, some of the earliest examples of self-powered road-going personal transport were electric vehicles. In 1828, the very first electric vehicles began appearing and the first crude electric car came in the form of Robert Anderson’s electrified motor wagon, invented in 1832. The first mass-produced petrol-powered car, the Patent Benz Motorwagen was released in 1886, with commercially available EVs becoming available in the 1890s.

So, Electric vehicles are certainly not a new invention. They’re mechanically simple, clean, quiet, efficient, and these days, faster to accelerate than their petrol powered counterparts. With advances in battery and motor technology coming to the forefront, and a looming climate crisis right ahead of us, it makes sense that the next leap forward in efficiency and performance is a return to electric power.

So it’s about time I bought an EV.

But what to get? We are certainly past the early adopter phase of technology, and we’re now into the niche sector of EV use. Teslas and BYD Attos are becoming more and more common on Perth roads. Mercedes, Volvo, BMW, Hyundai and Kia are all rolling out EVs left right and centre. VW’s committed to selling nothing but EVs in Europe by 2033, and phasing out their controversial diesel engines in their entirety by 2026.

In addition to that, in my home state of Western Australia, almost half a million homes (including mine) are fitted with rooftop-mounted solar photovoltaic power systems, which on their own, produce upwards of 2.3 gigawatts of electricity, making the rooftop solar PV network twice as powerful as the Muja coal-fired power plant in Collie, and equally as powerful as the 13 gas-fired power stations that supply the SWIS.

This means the push towards renewables is in full swing.

Now this benefits me, as a car guy, because well… Not only do I take a train to work, but an electric vehicle, charged from excess electricity generated by my Solar Panels, means I can own a mechanically simple, low-maintenance vehicle that does not require fossil fuel dependency to operate, and not only that, can be powered completely for free using the sun, effectively cutting its lifetime emissions in half.

All good, right? Well, there’s one slight problem.

The electric vehicle market is damn weird.

Just to put things into perspective, the vehicle market is weird in general, but things get extra spooky when you get into the weeds when it comes to EVs. Take for instance, the current market leader, the Tesla Model 3. Its current pricing is $57,490 (as at the time of writing), which puts it competetively inline with other ICE counterparts of similar kinds. For example, a top-spec Toyota Camry will set you back about the same price, and still has less features than the Tesla. The Mazda 6 sits in the same price for a similarly specced model. With the Tesla packing so much more tech than its petrol-guzzling counterparts, even if you consider fuel efficiency as a key factor, the Tesla smashes both of these cars for performance, efficiency, technology, and service costs. It’s CEO however, could tank or boost the value of these cars in the flick of a wrist… If he’s not busy destroying Twitter, that is.

Because of how strange the electric vehicle market is right now, it’s going to be really tricky for me, let alone the average consumer, to nail down what vehicle is the best, and I also have a propensity to fall in love way, way too easily… So in this series of posts where I go out and test EVs, I’ll basically be doing so with the kind of rigour expected of a well-skilled Vietnamese former accountant.

Yes, my partner is coming with me for these tests to stop me from doing something completely stupid.

So… What am I testing First?

Well, it helps to have a yardstick. Whenever you want to do comparisons it helps to be able to compare it to the biggest, baddest, nicest thing you can get and then come up with reasons as to why you shouldn’t get the big, bad nice thing. At almost $74,000 including onroad costs, the Polestar 2 is going to be one big, bad, sexy Swedish Yardstick to me.

The Standard range model ticks all the boxes for me. It has around 500km of range, a nice, well fitted interior, all the tech you could possibly want, with built in Android Automotive, and the exterior fit and finish as expected of its sister company Volvo. Volvo after all, is owned by Geely, which might be a hard sell for said Vietnamese former accountant, but purely for geographic reasons, pretty much every single EV on sale in Australia today is in some way, made in China. Even Tesla, who prides itself on its new Texas Gigafactory, builds all its Australian market Teslas in Shanghai, China.

And that to me, is kind of a good thing. I am typing this out on a chinese made, Logitech Keyboard, connected to a Chinese-made Lenovo docking station, to a Chinese-made Apple laptop, which is connected to a Chinese-made Netgear switch and a Chinese-made modem router to the internet, through routers and switches that were also, likely made in China… After all, they produce a solid 2/3rds of the worlds electronics. There’s some real heavy hitters out there and it’s time we sorted the wheat from the chaff. Whose features work the best? Whose price tag is actively worth it? Whose interior has the most guitar strings? What sort of battery chemistries do these vehicles use? Well, I will tell you all of this, in my articles about my short times in these vehicles. I’ll try to do the best I can to capture the full experience. Write about the sales staff, the vehicle itself, the purchasing experience potential, the service networks, the tech, I’ll do what I can.

After all, i’m a humble car enthusiast, and it’s about time I grew up from the world of ICE, and embrace a new Electric Adventure. In 18 months, I will likely be behind the wheel of a shiny new EV. Which one I pick, will be down to my reviews.

TL;DR, I’m testing the Polestar 2 tomorrow. Now, for a quick-fire questions round.

What sort of budget am I looking at?

No more than $75,000. A lease payment of $500/ftnight is my maximum target. Yes, I intend on leasing it. It means I can simply return the car when done, and have everything handled in a single payment.

What sort of range am I looking at?

Ideally, between 400 and 500km of range is perfect for us. We like to do roadtrips and I feel that this is the bare minimum you need, especially considering the nature of the plans for WA’s regional charging network.

What cars will you refuse to test?

Cars that try to copy others. MG and GWM, I am looking specifically at you.

Will you just end up buying a Tesla anyway?

The Tesla Model 3 is what I will be testing last as it is the Goliath to Polestar’s David. I see so many of these damned things that it’s become a bit of an overused meme. I mean, if all other factors are weighed up and it works out that yes, it is indeed the best, that is what I will do. But there is more than just “the raw numbers” that makes a car to me. If I had my sensible shoes on when it comes to buying an ICE car, i’d say buy as much Corolla as you can afford, as I drive off in my i20N.

How will you deal with pushy salesmen?

Well, when I apply for test drives I will be upfront and say that I am leasing this car and I am testing the cars out to see which one I am going to lease through my work. This is how I will likely go about acquiring an EV anyway (for various reasons) although if it works out cheaper over its lifespan to finance it, that’s what i’ll do. If they know less about the car than I do, or are less enthused about the product than I am, it’s a sign that they really, really don’t care about the car. In terms of a Sales experience, I will probably use the fella I met at Lexus a while back as the yardstick for this, as he was a diehard car enthusiast who had a genuine passion for EVs, even going so far as to show me pre-production renderings of the Hyundai Ioniq 6 as a direct competitor to the UX300e.

Aren’t you skeptical about Chinese cars?

Not at all! In fact some of them look pretty darn promising. BYD’s Seal, Atto and Dolphin look really nice. They’re all on my list.

Okay, Okay… What’s on your list so far?

In order? easy.

  • Polestar 2 Standard Range, with the Pilot Pack
  • BYD Atto 3 Extended Range
  • Nissan Leaf e+
  • Kia Niro EV
  • Hyundai Kona Electric
  • BYD Dolphin Extended Range
  • BYD Seal Standard range
  • Volvo EX30
  • Mini Cooper Electric
  • Fiat 500e
  • Tesla Model 3 Standard Range
What factors are you looking for?
  • Price to range comparison. More juice for less squeeze.
  • Build quality. If it’s slapped together badly, it’s not going to go the distance
  • I also have very specific interior demands:
    • Cloth seats are preferred over leather, unless ventilated seats are a standard option
    • Glass rooves must either be able to be tinted, or come with a cover if they are standard features. Otherwise, no glass rooves. It gets damn hot in Australia.
    • Physical controls are more desirable than touch screens, especially for HVAC.
    • The seat has to be comfy, because I’m getting old.
    • No cheapening of the rear space. If a manufacturer cannot maintain consistency throughout the interior, focusing on the front seats whilst leaving the rear seats in a lesser trim, or with scaled back features, it tells me that the manufacturer is once again, nickel and diming you.
  • Looks. I want it to look nice. No cloning other cars unless the car is related to another car. I know Polestars look like Volvos, for example. Chinese manufacturers can and do design nice cars in their own unique style. Knockoffs will not be tolerated. If the car looks as jaw-droppingly beautiful as the Polestars do, then that is a big thing for me.
  • Service network. I know it’s an electric vehicle but I want to be able to at least be able to take it in to get fixed easily.
  • Driving feel. I want this car to feel nice, but to also make me feel special. Generic cars are also a copout. I want them to feel comfortable, yet supple. Taut is the right word to describe it. Comfortable but not wallowy. Stiff but not crashy. Just a nice, comfortable ride. Think a newer Holden Commodore in terms of feel. The 4th Gen Commodore practically nails that feel.
  • Unique and useful design features. If there’s a neat idea that a manufacturer tries that’s you know, kinda cool, then It will score highly in my books.
  • CCS ports are preferrable fast charge ports to ChaDeMo ports. Sorry Japan.

So… Yeah, wish me luck on this adventure into the Electric Unkown. I’ll be sure to keep you posted along the way.

Beano Out.