There was a time, before children, when Mr C and I had a bit of a gadget thing going on. New bits of technology would come into our home regularly, after crazy amounts of online research by Mr C to make sure he understood exactly what it did and how it did them. When we needed a new car he just considered it like buying a new gadget, albeit a big one. These days our crazy gadget buying days are somewhat behind us, but Mr C still likes to daydream and many a time I find him doing some online fantasy car shopping. Here he has a bit to say about electric cars which are now a real option for many in the market for a new car.
This is an exciting time in the car industry, and for the average car-buying person the choices are more diverse than they have been in decades. Small displacement turbo and super-charged petrol engines with variable valve timing and waste heat capture are miracles of power and efficiency compared to what was available only ten years ago. Diesel engines are ever more refined and efficient. But most excitingly of all, the age of the electric vehicle has truly arrived and offers a tantalising proposition.
There are many big wins to be had from using a battery and motors rather than an internal combustion engine:
- Refilling is very cheap – just plug in at home and use a few pounds worth of electricity.
- Power is immediate and smoothly delivered without any gear changes.
- The momentum lost when braking can be recaptured then used again.
- Driving is much quieter – just an electric woosh and the sound of the tire on the road.
Driving a small electric car for one mile is approximately equivalent to running your hairdryer for 10 minutes, if that helps to appreciate the energy used. Of course that energy has to come from somewhere, and usually that means a power station, which may be burning fossil fuels, depending on where you live in the world. Still, the power station is optimised for efficiency, and doesn’t spit out pollutants into the heart of our cities. Personally I very much look forward to having clean air to breathe in London, and I won’t miss the roar of traffic.
Another great result arising from the advent of mainstream electric cars, is that it gives the designers a chance to skip a few years and aim for ‘futuristic’ as seems befitting of this new technology, and of course in the name of marketplace differentiation!
BMW is a great case in point, with their incredibly distinctive BMWi cars. The BMW i8 looks like a wild concept sports car, perhaps envisioning what a BMW might look like in 20 years. But it’s here now and as a hybrid it mixes electric motors driving the front wheels, with a 231 hp 1.5 litre 3 cylinder petrol engine (tiny by BMW standards) driving the rear wheels. It’s not just the drivetrain and bonkers exterior that are notable however. BMW are using carbon fibre reinforced plastic throughout the structure and body to reduce the weight of the whole car, further improving efficiency and driving pleasure. They are the first manufacturer to use this material in volume production.
Perhaps of even more interest is the i3, which bundles the same technological feats, including the carbon fibre reinforced plastic construction, into a compact 5 door car. Powered by batteries alone it has a up to 100 mile range, though there is a “range extender” (REx) option which adds a very small petrol engine purely to charge the battery on the go when needed. That increases the range to about 180 miles.
This is a very exciting time to be buying a new car!
Disclaimer: This featured post was brought to you in association with BMW.