Can a Petrolhead like an EV?
by Paul Gerring
As an avid Petrolhead with access to cars from pre-war to normally aspirated V12’s, should I admit to actually liking and wanting an electric vehicle (EV)?
Much has already been said about our need to consider the environmental impact of the internal combustion engine (ICE). I have no real concerns about the occasional use of classic and vintage cars that made their mark on the carbon footprint decades ago. The FBHVC has conducted great research into the ongoing impact of the classic car movement that supports my view.
Like many, I’ve read various articles about EVs and anyone who truly enjoys driving will go cold at the thought of driving one but, like traditional ICE cars, not all are the same…..
I recently had the opportunity to spend a day with a Porsche Taycan 4 S. I collected the car from Bristol and drove it up through the Wye Valley and some great roads up into Herefordshire for the day.
The first impression was that this is a Porsche. OK, it’s missing the flat six synonymous with the brand, but its feel, layout and quality all made it feel familiar even though it wasn’t.
Press the start button and all the various screens come to life, not least the battery gauge telling me I’ve got 100% charge and 201 miles. When I collected the car the air temperature was only 4 degrees C. Air temperature affects the range; I’ve heard that at 25 degrees C that range could increase to 240 miles.
Using the tiny gear selector I select drive and release the footbrake to move silently off the forecourt and down to join the main road. When the traffic lights turn green I gently squeeze the throttle pedal and I’m rewarded by effortless acceleration with just the slightest hint of a whine. I’m reminded of Star Treks’s Mr Zulu engaging ‘warp drive’ on the starship USS Enterprise! There are no detectable gear changes and gosh the torque is impressive.
The Taycan is a very stylish but different looking car, some 5 metres in length, low slung 4 door sports saloon, batteries set low under the floor with a considerable girth. It shouldn’t go, stop or corner like this… and what a drive.
Once up to motorway speeds and cruising there’s tyre noise, though not excessive and of course not combatted by the usual low thrum from an ICE. It reminds me of rides in limousines where manufacturers go to great lengths to suppress drive train noise. So far so good.
Off the motorway and on to the winding roads of the Wye Valley. Time to select sport and sport plus… “warp factor 4, Mr. Zulu”. The ride height reduces, the air suspension firms and there’s more positive feedback from the classic Porsche steering wheel. We come up on a slow moving articulated lorry and take a look, the straight’s not that long but wow!!! Mid- range instant acceleration is breath-taking and my passenger instantly accuses me of giving her whiplash. Through the twists and turns of this scenic road through the Wye Valley also gives plenty of opportunity to experience the car’s all wheel drive (AWD) system. The road holding and corning are better than many a sports car, this in a four door saloon that weighs two tonnes. A glance at the battery gauge now shows 75% charge and 145 miles range, better back off and select “normal”. We don’t want to have to find a charging station today!
We arrive at our half way venue just outside Ross-on-Wye to meet family and have lunch together. The car’s an instant magnet in the car park. Its silent arrival, low roof line and very modern looks all make people take a look, with the obvious questions that follow. We reversed the route on the way home and took time to reflect. Is this a car for us? Well, I think it is. We can do all the routine journeys whilst still having fun but in a ‘green manner’. Our plan is to generate our own solar power to run the car for most journeys without needing to ‘fill up’ out on the road all that often and use the CO2 ‘allowance’ for Petrolhead motoring.
The move to EV’s of this calibre isn’t an issue in my mind for the Petrolhead. This model demonstrated to me that EV motoring can very much be fun and rewarding. I do want to drive it again and soon. However, Taycan’s are expensive luxury cars. There’s no doubt about that. Whilst cars of this standard are superb pieces of technology, it’s the lack of charging infrastructure required to support them in the real world that’s the issue.
Did we have range anxiety? Yes, and charging out on the road for anything other than a top-up to get you home can be frustrating and slow, currently. Without careful planning, driving to Scotland (from Somerset) and having to fully recharge every 200 miles, could add many hours and probably require extra overnight stays.
Careful use of the car’s satnav and Apps will be crucial, for sure. Using an EV will take a shift in thinking and creation of new habits, much like remembering to put your mobile on charge at bedtime. Living with an EV won’t be as straightforward as using an ICE for some time. Let’s remember, it’s taken 100 years to perfect the internal combustion engine and the infrastructure to support its use. So in summary, without doubt in my mind, the Taycan is a great car. It’s exhilarating and fun to drive and, if charged at home, 200 miles costs only £10.40. That’s on the tariff we’ve been quoted and after installing solar panels, but that’s another story…
Paul’s article started me thinking about another aspect of practicality that time will take to provide the answers.
- Paul mentioned that it’s necessary or at least advisable to input your destination to the car’s Sat Nav system before setting off on any lengthy journey, regardless of how well you know the route. That is so the car can work out how much charge you’re going to need and align that with the availability of working and available charging points en-route. Thus, the car might advise you to pull over for a (quick?) top-up somewhat out of the blue. That means for every business meeting you plan to attend you should probably add-on 30/40 minutes additional time just in case your car tells you to stop. Ignoring such a request may risk you not getting home!
- Paul’s experience was on a quiet mid-week day in April. What about mid-January when there’s minimal daylight hours, it’s cold and needs the heater (and heated seats) on? If the weather closes in, say it snows, traffic slows to a crawl, might you not even make it to the recommended (available) charging point?
- If the car breaks down, such as running out of charge on a snowy winter’s day, what kind of rescue options exists? Walking to a petrol station to buy a gallon of fuel is relatively easy (assuming you didn’t top up earlier). Will the AA, RAC, et al be able to provide rapid charging services to stranded motorists?
The EV charging infrastructure situation is analogous to finding fuel stations at the start of the 20th century. In those days chemists provided ‘spirit’ until they were replaced by the rapid growth in ‘gas station’ coverage.
Until there’s a universal ‘plus & socket’ arrangement for all EVs and, of course, increased availability of charging points, ‘range worry’ will continue to stop drivers extracting the maximum pleasure that EVs clearly have the power (sorry) to deliver.
For now at least, touring far afield will remain the domain of fossil fuel-powered vehicles.
Maybe that’s the longer-term medium too: EVs to improve the air quality of cities and ‘classic’ vehicles to provide weekend pleasure in far flung places.