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EV battle has started

The development of the automobile over the past, say, one hundred and twenty years has not been particularly impressive. Sure, the car became safer, more luxurious, faster. But the Benz Patentwagen in which Bertha Benz made the world's first car journey in 1886 contained petrol, i.e. fossil fuel. And that's how we still did it until recently. Now, however, changes are hitting us hard. Whether we like it or not, the arrival of the electric car is irreversible. Which winners and losers will this mobility transition produce?

Text: Werner Budding
Statue:

Before we look for the brands that are using this titanic battle to capture additional market share, let's first look at the history of electrifying our mobility. If we conveniently forget the steam car (from about 1870), the car came to help humanity get around in 1886. Both at the beginning and in between (see box), attempts were made to make the electric car breakthrough, without serious success. Only when Elon Musk became involved with Tesla, which had already been established, did some support and enthusiasm gradually emerge among consumers and governments. But in fact it was dieselgate that made electrification an irreversible process. The world's largest car manufacturer, Volkswagen, saw, after reluctantly admitting that it was quite wrong, that it was time for emission-free mobility. By the way, the management teams of Renault and Nissan had been thinking about that idea for a while. In the meantime

We have started the third decade of the 21st century and the EV (Electric Vehicle) has a market share of almost twenty percent in new car sales in the Netherlands. There are even quite a few countries where a future ban on the sale of new cars with a fossil fuel engine has been announced, including the Netherlands in 2030. And so you can say that we will all eventually switch to electric cars.

Cost efficiency

That has quite an impact on the industry. Many thought Tesla would not make it, but the American brand now sells half a million EVs every year. The Volkswagen Group will spend 150 billion euros on development money over the next five years, about half of which will go to the development of new electric cars and the associated software. The knowledge that the transition from fossil to electric involves such amounts immediately makes it clear that the less wealthy brands must work together. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and PSA (Peugeot and Citroën) have entered into a marriage that has a somewhat pragmatic background. The bombastic name Stellantis covers fourteen brands, including Fiat, Peugeot, Citroën, Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Jeep, Opel and Maserati. Brands that are having challenging to difficult times. If they clump together, opportunities arise within the sharing of techniques, which leads to cost efficiency. Nevertheless, it seems logical that some of those fourteen brands will disappear. Apart from the extremely high costs associated with the development of new electric powertrains, a major opponent awaits. Or rather: he is now scratching the door with his paws.

The Chinese, they're really coming! Now with the barely interesting models from the brands MG, Aiways and Seres, which sell compact SUVs of questionable quality, without innovative techniques. But within just one year, really interesting, good electric cars are coming this way from China.

With the EQS, Mercedes is the first manufacturer to launch an electric sedan in the high class. This happens almost at the same time that other prestige brands such as Bentley and Rolls-Royce announce that they will switch completely to building electric cars this decade. Especially in these types of elite brands, where comfort has been taken to the highest degree, the electric drivetrain provides extra convenience.

 

Combative

Developments in China are moving fast, partly helped by a dictatorial regime, which invariably has a hold on the car brand in question. In other words: a government that supports the car industry and does not slow it down, as we are used to in Europe. Various Chinese brands have damaged confidence in European consumers in the past by supplying cars of inferior quality. New brands NIO, Polestar, BYD, Lynk & Co and Byton are on a completely different journey. Based on progressive software, car sharing systems, groundbreaking technology for autonomous driving and a wide range, they will quickly make you forget those inferior Chinese EVs. But which well-known brands are affected by these newcomers? These are probably the generalists, brands such as Opel, Ford, Renault, Peugeot, Toyota and Honda. For the time being, it seems that the Koreans are combative. Both Kia and Hyundai, which belong to one group, are currently launching the EV6 and the IONIQ 5 respectively. Both models are equipped with 800V charging technology on board. This means that they charge twice as fast as the current generation of EVs. Only Porsche and Audi provide this technology, on the Taycan and the e-tron GT.

Lord and master

Can Porsche and Audi compete with Tesla? When it comes to brand value, image, build quality, driving character and equipment, certainly. When it comes to software techniques, driving performance, autonomy and range, Tesla is the lord and master. In response to the Taycan and the e-tron GT, Tesla released an update for the Model S. As if Elon was ready with the Model S 2.0, the American car manufacturer's response followed so quickly. You have to seriously focus on the appearance of the Tesla to see the changes. However, there is much more going on underneath. If you choose a Model S Plaid+, the EV has a 1100 hp powertrain. Yes, read correctly: 1100 hp! This means the Tesla sprints to 100 km/h in 2,1 seconds and reaches a top speed of 320 km/h. If you are not too enthusiastic with the right pedal, you can manage 840 kilometers on a full battery. Bam, and then it became quiet in Germany.

Revolutionary

Anyway, the so-called European premiums are not premium brands for nothing. Does a Tesla have status? Maybe for some, but a Mercedes, BMW or Audi are on the wish list of many. And these brands are now coming up with new EVs at a rapid pace. The battle is increasing, and is certainly not over. BMW as a technology pioneer kicked off years ago with the daring i3, after which it became quiet for a while. The i4 and iX will follow this year, and the iX3 was launched last year. BMW believes in platforms that can accommodate various types of drivetrains. You can get the X3 as a diesel, petrol, plug-in hybrid and with an electric drivetrain (iX3). Just like the i4, which can also be called a 420d, 430i or M4. The iX, on the other hand, is undoubtedly revolutionary in terms of technology, driving range (+600 km) and appearance. The innovations in the Audi Q4 e-tron are less impressive, but hey, it comes with a price of less than half a ton. This midsize electric SUV is based on the Volkswagen ID.4/ID.3. The Seat Born and the Skoda Enyaq also share this technology. And that is exactly what car manufacturers need to do: share new technologies. The development costs of electric powertrains and EV platforms are shockingly high and can therefore only be recouped if they are deployed on a massive scale. Mass is cash register. That is why the enormous Volkswagen group also shares the EV platform with third parties. For example, Ford will soon launch an electric mid-sized car based on Volkswagen technology.

The history of the electric car

More than 120 years ago, the car rapidly took over the streets of the Western world. Also in America. Who doesn't know the photo of New York on Easter Sunday 1900, where horses and carts compete for space on the streets of the Big Apple? Some years later, a photo also taken on Fifth Avenue in New York, and the street scene is completely filled with cars. It went that fast. The majority of American carts in the early days of the automobile were equipped with an electric powertrain. Which, according to tradition, did not quite fit in with the vision of the Texan oil industry. The electric car soon lost the battle, while the EV's range at the time was already several dozen miles, on one full battery pack. After several car manufacturers briefly, and with little perseverance, focused on the development of the electric car during the oil crisis in 1973, General Motors suddenly seemed serious in the early 1990s. In 1, the car conglomerate launched the EV1.117 at the Los Angeles Motor Show: the first mass-produced post-war electric car. General Motors built 299 units, which the brand leased for $1. Actor Danny DeVito, among others, drove an EV1. When GM wanted the cars back after the lease term had expired, there was a commotion. The majority of drivers were quite satisfied and wanted to extend the lease term. Some even made an offer to the automotive company to take over the electric two-seater. No, GM said firmly. All EV1s were returned to GM and all but a few dozen units were destroyed. The cars that escaped the shredder were treated in such a way that they could never drive again. Apparently except for one; which is in the Smithsonian Institution, in Washington DC. Filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola has a restored EV1 in his car collection. The reason behind the large-scale disablement of the revolutionary electric car is easy to guess: the oil industry had little interest in mobility for which fossil fuels are not necessary. And the power of the oil barons was such that even the enormous General Motors finally took the innovative EVXNUMX off the street.

Higher segment

The world's oldest car manufacturer, Mercedes-Benz, has lagged behind a bit when it comes to developing EVs. Apart from some small-scale projects, the EQC is the first really serious electric Mercedes, which is somewhat disappointing with its driving range. The just-launched EQA, based on the Mercedes GLA, makes more of an impression. But the car that should excite buyers with a CEO position in the higher segment is the approaching EQS. If you have an aversion to digital screens, ignore the EQS. Digitalization radiates from all sides of this electric sedan, and this is especially reflected in the enormous screen of 1,41 meters wide, which takes up almost the entire dashboard. Partly thanks to a revolutionary low power line (0,20 cW value), the EQS can travel approximately 700 kilometers on a full battery, according to the factory. With the EQS, Mercedes is the first manufacturer to launch an electric sedan in the high class. This happens almost at the same time that other prestige brands such as Bentley and Rolls-Royce announce that they will switch completely to building electric cars this decade. Especially in these types of elite brands, where comfort is taken to the highest degree, the electric drivetrain still provides
extra comfort again. An electric motor always delivers power, and a lot of power if desired. Moreover, this happens in peace and quiet.

 

Synthetic fuel

That the transition is going fast is evident from Volvo's statement: 'There is no long-term future for cars with a combustion engine.' Audi also recently announced that it would immediately stop developing new combustion engines; The Germans only continue to keep existing engines up to date. And what about brands like Porsche, Ferrari and Lamborghini? Simple, they also have to believe in the electric drivetrain. By 2028, 85 percent of all new Porsches will be EVs. Only the hyper models such as the 911 GT3 RS and the GT2 will continue to roll off the production line with an engine in which fuel is detonated. Namely synthetic fuel. Its emissions are approximately equal to those of a fully electric car. Could synthetic fuel be the savior for everyone who hates electric cars? No, the transition from fossil to electric has started and there is no way back. But some of the approximately one billion cars that drive around the world and are connected to a tank of gasoline or diesel will use this fuel consisting of hydrogen and CO2 that does not use fossil raw materials. Because an electric car may be a blessing for our environment, but replacing more than a billion cars at breakneck speed is certainly not a blessing for the environment.