Electric Happiness Will Swiftly Turn To Fury When Real Range Becomes Obvious.
“(WLTP) remains a laboratory test which
cannot reflect all driving conditions and usage”
A brand-new electric car is gleaming on your driveway and your first reaction is going to be excitement, followed perhaps by a smidgeon of smugness.
Make sure you enjoy that moment because the next one will be fury after you plug the thing into your house and the range attained after a full charge has no relation to the number suggested by the dealer, or the one written down in the car’s specification details.
Manufacturers are reluctant to produce much accurate information, and organizations like the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association wouldn’t respond to my emails or phone calls. Meanwhile, BEUC, the European Consumer Organization, isn’t happy and wants action. EV manufacturers are hoping that by the time sales reach the same level as internal combustion engines (ICE), technology might advance to a point where battery-electric cars can compete head-on, but there seems little chance of that any time soon. Brussels-based BEUC brings together 45 European consumer organizations from 32 countries.
For example, if you’ve purchased a Mini e 32.6 kWh and charge the battery, the shortfall might reach 32% – 98.5 miles versus 145 miles, according to my data . For a Vauxhall/Opel Corsa E 50 kWh it’s close to 25% – (154.5 miles versus 209 miles). Buyers of the Polestar 2 78 kWh will be relatively happy. The range possible is only about 7% less than the promised 292 miles at 270. That won’t last though because when you tackle your first long-distance journey on the motorway/highway, you will be shocked to find that you will only get about 40% of the offered range, that is if you drive at normal cruising speeds with the air conditioning on, the media system doing its stuff and the heater making you snug. Just like drivers of ICE powered cars enjoy without worry.
“Normal” cruising speed in Britain is about 75 mph. The actual legal limit is 70 mph, but the accepted speed which can most drivers seem to think will avoid prosecution is about 80 mph. In mainland Europe, the actual speed limit on highways is 82 mph, so 90 mph should be possible. At these higher speeds the impact on range is even more devastating. In Germany, there are still some unlimited sections of motorway.
When the new buyer’s misinformation fury has subsided, the next reaction will be to look around for culprits, and that won’t help the mood. The manufacturers all hide behind the same excuse. The range claims are based on so-called WLTP (Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicles Test Procedure) data, a scientific attempt to make sure all the claims offered are based on the same methodology. That’s true, but because this relies on computers rather than actual real-world experience the claims are all overstated, but perfectly comparable.
There is also constant stream of surveys from management consultants heralding the imminent triumph of electric cars with barely any negatives. Earlier this month a survey from EY found that 49% of British drivers “want” an electric car to replace their ICE vehicle, up from 21% two years, said to be a “tipping-point” in the U.K market. Almost 75% of Italians were “seeking” the same thing, according to a survey of 18,000 people in 18 countries, according to the EY Mobility Consumer Index f . Would any sane EV investor place much weight on a likely purchase by people who had said they would “seek” or “wanted” to buy electric?
But EY said this.
“These findings truly mark a tipping-point in the U.K. car-buying market. Nearly 50% of consumers across the U.K. (and even more in Italy) indicating that they want an EV is a significant milestone in the transition from ICE to EVs. The speed of this change has also been eye-opening, with a rise of 28% in just two years of potential buyers who would opt for an EV over an ICE vehicle,” according to EY’s Maria Bengtsson.
To be fair, EY does concede that sales might be inhibited a bit by the huge upfront cost of an EV, the lack of a charging network, and range anxiety.
Meanwhile, Boston Consulting (BCG) says pure battery cars will be the “most popular” globally by 2028, three years earlier than its 2021 prediction.
The EVBox Mobility report says more than half of Britons – 52% – “are more inclined” to buy electric compared with the rest of Europe, not least because they see this as a help in stopping climate change.
The trouble with all these warm feelings is they have no connection to the real world. The undeniably powerful start to electric car sales has been driven by well-heeled early adopters who aren’t too concerned that their EV doesn’t really do what it says on the tin.
To own it is to revere it.
But as politicians demand an early demise for new ICE vehicles, this means mass market EV sales are crucial and here, every penny counts.
The value-seeking electric car buyer will demand that if the manufacturer says the battery, fully charged, will offer say 300 miles, it will offer 300 miles. No finagling and bamboozling with concepts like WLTP will be acceptable. Only real-world data should be used. The manufacturers must come clean about extended motorway fast-lane cruising. On most EVs this cuts range by between 30 and 50%. This must be conceded. The impact of cold weather on range can mean up to a 30% range cut. Similarly, the impact of full loads of people and luggage is a reality, and the necessity of regularly filling to only 80% of capacity must be admitted. This protects the life of the battery. We also hear that tire wear might be excessive because of the huge weight of the batteries, but this currently is only conjecture and needs to be confirmed.
Organizations like the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) don’t want to comment on this. ACEA, (its acronym in French), didn’t respond to emails or telephone calls. The same goes for Britain’s automotive voice, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. A couple of organizations which look out for motorists’ interests, the AA, and the RAC, also remained silent. Brussels-based green lobby group Transport & Environment declined to comment.
BEUC, the European Consumer Organisation, has been vocal on the issue though, calling for more details to be available to EV buyers, like real electric range, charging speed and average charging time. Brussels-based BEUC doesn’t much like the WLTP system, although it concedes it is better than the system it replaced.
“(WLTP) remains a laboratory test which
cannot reflect all driving conditions and usage. Also, more than for diesel and petrol cars,
the real range will differ widely depending on the driving conditions: a battery electric car
will drive much longer in urban areas than on highways. It is therefore crucial to inform
consumers properly about the real driving range of their vehicles, under different
conditions,” BEUC said in a report.
In an email response, BEUC Sustainable Transport Officer Robin Loos said this –
“BEUC is calling for clearer information to consumers about the actual mileage they can get out of their electric cars. At the moment, when going to the dealership, one gets a general WLTP value of which the test cycle is unclear to consumers. This WLTP value also cannot be broken down for each of the various driving situations consumers face – such as urban driving, high-speed, motorways only,” Loos said.
“We call on the EU to legislate to provide more real-world data to consumers, and have that information displayed at dealerships. For instance, it’s now possible to make use of the electricity consumption data from cars on the road, as they are equipped with an on-board fuel or electricity consumption meter. The specific thing to tackle is the EU’s 20-year-old legislation on car labelling, which must be updated,” Loos said.