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A different relationship to the automobile | The Press

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The electric vehicle seems, at first glance, not suitable for all situations. But on closer inspection, we believe that many drivers could benefit from it.

When revealing the characteristics of its first production electric vehicle, the bZ4X, to the press, Toyota management did not fail to point out that this vehicle was not for everyone. A precision that is still useful today in the face of the challenges that this type of vehicle sometimes poses mainly in terms of price, but also, for some, autonomy, recharging and winter performance.

The autonomy of electric models is constantly improving, but often at the cost of a heavier battery and therefore longer to recharge. Hence the need for consumers to properly assess their needs. In this regard, according to the most recent study available (2016), Canadians traveled an average of 57 km per day. In addition, according to data collected by Statistics Canada, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the percentage of teleworkers from 13% in 2019 to 39.1% in March 2020.

Therefore, the presumed range of all electric vehicles on the market is more than sufficient, unless said home is now further from the workplace than it used to be.

Regardless of the distance to get to work, the possibility of counting on a charging station at home (and at work too?) greatly reduces the anxiety often felt by new converts.

Quebec motorists have the privilege of obtaining two subsidies for the acquisition of an electric vehicle. These sums are subject to certain conditions (see the next tab) and are not enough to fill the gap with a conventional vehicle (read gas-powered) offering similar characteristics. There is hope. According to a study conducted by Bloomberg, tariff parity could however be envisaged by 2026.

A little planning

Leaving Montreal to travel the Cabot Trail in Nova Scotia involves certain preparations. We must take into account the (ideally fast) terminals available. There should also be a back-up solution in case the equipment is busy or malfunctioning.

To help in planning, motorists benefit from several mobile applications (including the one offered by the vehicle manufacturer) to properly plan their outings.

Is it so different from the days when he had to trace his route on a road map?

As for winter performance, it’s a bit more complicated. Heat pump and preheating device are all solutions to keep occupants warm during the cold season, but these devices affect autonomy in a rather worrying way (up to 50%).

Finally, virtually all electric vehicles currently on the market offer a two-wheel drive configuration (traction, like Toyota’s bZ4X, also offered with all-wheel drive, or rear-wheel drive).

If it is a propulsion, the weight and its ideal distribution on an electric vehicle will not pose real problems of traction on open and flat roads. However, this configuration could be more complicated if you have to climb a slope to access the chalet or the sports station. The four-wheel-drive option, despite its reduced autonomy caused by the presence of a second motor on the other running gear, remains preferable to face our climate.

Beyond the price

In its latest budget, the Government of Quebec is revising downwards the subsidies granted to new and used electrified vehicles (see table below). This change will come into effect from 1er next July. Note that owners of eligible vehicles delivered and registered by June 30 will benefit from the bonuses paid before the budget is tabled.

For its part, the federal government has renewed its $5,000 bonus, always on the condition that the price of the coveted vehicle does not exceed $45,000.

These discounts are essentially intended to narrow the price gap between an electrified model and its thermal “equivalent”. At present, they do not fill them. However, this gap narrows if user costs are taken into account. Maintenance costs associated with an electric vehicle are lower (around 30% in general) compared to a vehicle of comparable size gasoline. Electricity is also much cheaper than oil. In fact, to illustrate the difference, to travel 100 km, it costs up to six times less to drive electric.

In addition to these budgetary advantages, there are certain privileges. Like having access to reserved lanes, being exempt from tolls (highways 25 and 30), taking ferries for free and, finally, benefiting from reserved parking spaces in certain municipalities in Quebec.

From 1er July 2022, the Quebec government will grant the following maximum amounts

  • $7,000 for a new 100% electric vehicle
  • $5,000, $2,500 or $300 for a new plug-in hybrid vehicle
  • $3,500 for a used all-electric vehicle

When the electric mixes genres

Sedan, utility and, recently, van switch to all-electric. What about other categories? Volkswagen has announced that it will reinterpret the Combi (a minivan) from 2024, and Tesla has been promising the arrival of a roadster for some time now. Polestar and Alfa Romeo are also planning convertibles before the end of this decade.


PHOTO PROVIDED BY POLESTAR

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Considering the industrial costs of this shift to all-electric and consumers’ appetite for utilities, the automotive sector is playing it safe. It naturally concentrates its offer on the segments most in demand.

But the SUV that was once believed to be the easiest “to plug in” does not keep all its promises due to its greater air resistance (aerodynamic coefficient) and its substantial weight. This is all the more important with these hundreds of kilos of batteries on board. This is why we are witnessing the deployment of a new generation of high models on wheels, sometimes imposing, but cut to cut through the air more easily.

Burst of creativity

But electric mobility will have an even greater impact on forms and will inevitably give rise to a different segmentation.

The compact size of an electric motor as well as lining the floor with batteries open up several possibilities. Already, stylists and engineers are varying the dimensions of the overhangs and the interior space. This is reassuring.

Paralyzed for years by the singular profile of the SUV, the automotive industry is about to rediscover its creativity. And his extravagances too!

Does the hybrid still have any under the hood?

Faced with the reduced availability of electric vehicles, hybrid motorization remains an interesting alternative solution to limit its ecological footprint. Not only does it reduce consumption, but it also represents a way of introducing customers who are still reluctant to electricity.


PHOTO PROVIDED BY TOYOTA

The plug-in hybrid technology had to ensure a long and smooth transition between the internal combustion engine and the electric.

Combining two motors (one gasoline, the other electric) and equipped with a battery that can be recharged, these hybrids with a wire at the wheel cannot generally (there are rare exceptions) travel, at best, only fifty kilometers thanks to their electric motor alone. No real evolution on this side, and this, for a few years already.

Moreover, some analysts are wondering if the heyday of these models designed to facilitate the transition from all-thermal to all-electric will not be shorter than expected.

Perceived as a transition technology, the plug-in hybrid engine cannot do everything. Once the battery is discharged, fuel consumption increases.

This is the crux of the matter: how these sophisticated hybrids are used. To reap the benefits of this technology, it must always be connected to a terminal.

And the hydrogen

Hydrogen-powered fuel cell technology remains in the clean car race, but far behind batteries. It offers electric mobility, but for the time being, its distribution network is embryonic and, at the pump, this gas costs almost as much as gasoline.

For those who have the soul of pioneers and the means to satisfy it, Toyota has just launched the second generation of the Mirai on the Quebec market.



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