Motoring News

Everything you need to know before buying an EV

NEW YORK, USA – The electric revolution will be coming soon to a street near you. In a matter of weeks, Volkswagen will reveal the production version of the ID.4 electric SUV, part of a worldwide strategy to deliver millions of electric vehicles to help combat global climate change.

Such owners know all about owning a battery car: others are on the fence about the idea, so VW has developed this Q&A…

OWNING : Why should I buy an electric vehicle?
ELECTRIC VEHICLES have zero direct emissions from driving and can help reduce carbon dioxide emissions compared to fossil-fuelled vehicles. Researchers suggest that there may be no way to combat global warming without millions of electric vehicles worldwide.

They’re fun to drive, quiet on the road, and you can recharge them at home. They are also far more efficient than liquid -uel vehicles, which waste about two-thirds of their fuel as heat and friction.

Simply put: Electric vehicles are the future of personal transportation.

(What VW doesn’t tell you, however, is that the production, materials mining and cost of eventual destruction is higher than that of a conventional vehicle. – Editor)

Why can’t I buy one today in America?
IN THE United States EV supplies have mostly been limited either to specific states or to luxury vehicles. VW aims to change that starting with the ID.4 electric compact SUV, the first of a line of EV’s it plans to launch in the US over the next several years. They are said to be affordable and fun to drive.

Why is Volkswagen building so many EVs?
The VW GROUP has pledged to make its global business carbon-neutral by 2050 (THIRTY YEARS HENCE!)  and electric vehicles will, it believes, help make that possible. By 2025, the Group plans to build about 1.5-million electric vehicles a year worldwide.

Are they as safe as regular vehicles?
YES. ALL VW vehicles are crash-tested. They must meet rigorous safety standards and crash tests required by law.

Aren’t the batteries in EVs just versions of what I have in my phone or laptop?
WHILE MOST electronics use some form of lithium-ion battery the chemistry and design of an EV battery is not the same as those used in consumer electronics.

The battery in my phone lasts only a few years. Will I have to replace the battery in my EV?
EV BATTERIES ARE not designed to be replaced like those in phones; it’s rare for an EV owner to have to. EVs are designed to provide a certain amount of power for many years of ownership. While all batteries can lose charging capacity over time, VW EVs have several strategies to help combat that process, from liquid cooling to energy reserves.

For example, the e-Golf came with an eight-year or 160 000km (whichever occurs first) limited warranty on the battery pack.

CHARGING

How long does it take to charge an EV?
THAT DEPENDS ON how much power the charger can provide and how fast the vehicle can accept it. There are three general levels:

• Level 1 is your typical 120V socket. Most EVs can get roughly eight km of range per hour of charging from this source.

• Level 2 chargers are the most common. They run off 240V circuits and can add up to 25km per hour of charge. Most charging is Level 1 or 2 and about 80% of all vehicle charging takes place at home – usually overnight.

• Level 3 is commonly known as DC fast-charging and requires special equipment with heavy cables and inverters. These systems typically are only found at public charging stations and used for occasional recharging on long-distance drives.

A Level 3 charger can recharge an EV battery to 80 percent capacity in roughly 30-40 minutes. (Charging with a DC fast-charger slows for the final 20%of capacity due to heat build-up.)

Because the power coming out of an outlet is typically alternating current (AC), and vehicle batteries rely on direct current (DC), that electricity has to be converted, and the vehicle’s onboard converter can only handle a certain amount at a time.

(That’s also the reason fast-charging uses DC – it bypasses the onboard converters.) Charging times can also be affected by temperature extremes; very hot or very cold weather can slow charging rates and lower the total amount of energy the battery can hold.

Can I plug in anywhere, or to any EV charger?
Not quite. Every Level 1 and Level 2 charger uses the same plug but there are different plugs for DC fast-charging.  It can be frustrating but more automakers are moving to use the combined charging standard already used on all VW Group EVs.

Your Volkswagen EV will come from the dealer with a Level 1 charger that plugs into a standard three-prong, 120V, outlet. However, if you have a driveway or a permanent parking place, you will likely want to have a Level 2 charger installed. Many apartment buildings and parking garages are also installing Level 2 chargers across America. There are about 59 000 public Level 2 CCS chargers available in the United States, about 2 500 CCS DC fast chargers, and more are being created.

What if I don’t have a set parking place?
That’s one of the challenges that VW, along with companies such as Electrify America, have been working on. Some EV owners may be able to rely on charging at their workplace, or paid public charging. Other firms are building chargers that can be added to public streets.

Some people who want to buy an electric vehicle might find this to be too big a hurdle to overcome today but many companies want to solve it soon.

How much energy does an EV battery pack hold?
The non-scientific answer is: A lot. According to federal energy data, the average  US home uses 30.5kW/h a day. The smallest battery pack in the Volkswagen ID.3 electric hatchback sold in Europe could power that typical home for a day and a half.

The largest available pack for the ID.3 holds 82kW/h – or roughly 5500 times that of your smartphone.

Can I plug it in when it’s raining?
Electric vehicle charge ports and plugs use software to confirm they’re properly connected before sending electricity to a battery and are designed to work in all weather.

DRIVING

EV people say driving one is fun. What’s so fun about it?
It’s the very nature of electric driving. Your petrol or diesel engine makes its maximum torque and horsepower when it revs up to a few thousand RPM. An electric motor makes its maximum torque the instant it begins spinning and that creates a great driving experience.

The previous-generation e-Golf was as quick to 50km/h as the same-generation Golf GTI, even though the GTI has nearly 75kW more power than the e-Golf.

Volkswagen EV’s will come in rear- or all-wheel-drive versions and the VW electric vehicle chassis locates the battery at the bottom of the car, giving it a low centre of gravity – which means more stability.

All VWs have what their maker calls ”engaging vehicle dynamics” and that can get even better in an EV.

Oh, and it’s quiet to drive – no engine or exhaust noise.

How far can I go in an EV?
Every EV in the US has an EPA-rated range estimate from full charge. In daily use, EV’s offer a constantly updated estimate of available range, based on your current driving data, your recent past driving history, and temperature and HVAC usage.

Your range estimates may be lower in winter or higher in summer than the official number; batteries tend to work best at moderate temperatures and lose some capacity in extreme cold or heat.

What about range anxiety? EV owners must worry about that all the time.
Range anxiety can happen to EV owners but it’s the same as planning your fill-ups in a liquid-fuelled car. According to US federal data, the average American commuter was driving about traveling about 60km a day before the Covid pandemic; the next-generation Volkswagen EV’s will be engineered to have EPA estimated ranges that well exceeds that distance.

Beyond that, the number of public charging stations continues to grow and more tools than ever are available to help EV drivers find a charging spot.

What is regenerative braking?
EV’s all work the same way: the battery feed electric power to a motor, which turns the wheels. One way EVs can can save energy is regenerative braking, which simply reverses that flow — using the wheels to turn the motor and send power back into the batteries.

VW EV’s have sophisticated sensors/software that lets a driver decide how much regenerative braking is wanted and whether they want the system to kick on the moment they take their foot off the accelerator. At higher speeds, you may want to coast as far as possible. In stop/go traffic the regenerative braking can make driving even more efficient.

Such brakes can handle a lot of speed reduction, EVs do also have traditional friction brakes’; the software decides which to use.

What kind of tyres does an EVs have?
Typically, low rolling-resistance that help to extend range while still providing assured handling. They typically don’t cost more to replace than comparable regular tyres.

Why do EVs seem to have strange wheel choices?
Aerodynamics. A well-designed EV tries to reduce aerodynamic drag as much as possible to maximize range. Wheels designed to smooth  airflow around the car can make a noticeable contribution in most EV’s.

What about a transmission?
Volkswagen EV’s don’t have a traditional multi-gear transmission and don’t need them; the motor connects with the wheels through a single-speed gearbox and various driving modes offer either faster acceleration or energy-saving.

SAVING

Q: Do EVs really reduce scarbon dioxide compared to gas vehicles?

Yes they can, over time, especially when using renewable energy sources. They do use slightly more energy to build but can make up that CO2 deficit (and then some!) over their lifetimes.

Exactly how much less CO2 emissions driving an electric vehicle results when compared to driving a petrol- or diesel-powered vehicle depends on the source of the electricity the owner uses for charging. Many places are converting to better CO2-free sources such as solar and wind and as that trend continues the CO2 benefits of an EV will grow.

However, even at today’s mix of energy sources in the US, electric vehicles can have a CO2 benefit: most emissions are lower for electricity generation than burning fossil fuel.

Q: Do electric vehicles cost more or less than comparable combustion engine vehicles?

Electric vehicles typically have higher maker recommended prices because of the battery pack. That said, many electric vehicles, including the upcoming VW ID.4, qualify for US (and other countries) government incentives, such as a potential US federal tax credit of up to $7500 (about R130 000).

They can also be cheaper to run, as the cost of charging is generally lower than the cost of liquid fuel over the same distance. Plus fewer parts are needed during servicing (think no more oil changes) which can result in less scheduled maintenance. Depending on how long you own the car and how much you drive, these lower costs may help offset an EV’s initial higher purchase price.

VW’s strategy to make electric vehicles for millions involves driving down the cost of the components, including batteries, by building EV’s globally.

Q: How much does it cost to charge an EV?

If you’re at home, your EV recharging costs are based on your electricity prices. In some places, EV owners can get special deals that offer discounts for night charging or during off-peak times.

The current US average price of residential electricity is 13 US cents/kW hour. A full charge would cost about US$10 (about R170).

Public chargers range from free to more expensive than home charging for fast charging but, in general, is cheaper.

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