They say you never forget the first time you try out something really good, and that certainly applies to electric car newbies.
Dashing off in an EV for the first time is a whole new motoring experience – odd but exhilarating.
The first thing a driver feels when pressing down the accelerator of an electrified city runabout or weighty off-roader is a hefty response as the car surges forward.
This acceleration “kick in the pants” used to be confined to lusty sports cars with powerful petrol engines.
Over the first few metres from a standing start, not even a Porsche can keep up with a small electric car like the Peugeot e-208.
At the other end of the spending scale, the luxury Tesla Model X weighs twice as much as the little EV from France and is anything but streamlined. Despite that, it will shrug off any high-performance McLaren at the traffic lights.
Compared to their petrol or diesel peers, electric cars do not make any noise either, which makes the dramatic acceleration seem even weirder.
Having maximum torque on hand from the moment the car pulls away is one of the most exciting aspects of driving an EV.
An EV motor produces its pulling power as soon as you press the accelerator. It will spin up to 20,000 revolutions per minute, or four times higher than a conventional diesel or petrol engine.
However, the acceleration is not linear, and it decreases noticeably depending on the make and model.
Small cars such as the Opel Corsa or the Renault Zoe begin to flag a little even on country roads, while luxury editions such as the Audi e-tron or the Mercedes EQC will run out of urge at high speeds on the motorway.
“Electric cars have only one gear in the transmission, which means we have to find the right compromise between acceleration and top speed,” said EQC project manager Michael Kelz from Mercedes, describing the dilemma facing engineers.
The top speed of electrics is usually lower than for many conventionally power cars, since using the power to streak through the landscape saps battery electrons and rapidly reduces range.
Mercedes-Benz and Audi have both opted to limit the maximum speed of their battery-electric models to 180 km/h. Sportier models like the upcoming e-tron Sportsback S are given more gusto, with maximum speed raised to 210 km/h.
The technology means developers need to rethink how a pure electric performs at high speed – it also places more demands on the driver.
Drivers will have to brush up their reaction times too, since it is often hard to know just how fast you are travelling when there is no engine noise to give a clue. This applies particularly at lower city speeds, although once the road opens up, above-80-km/h wind and tyre noise help the driver get his bearings.
Another new experience is braking. EVs rely on recuperation, which makes the electric motor act as a generator. It then turns the kinetic energy from motion into electricity, which is used to help stop the vehicle.
If more braking torque is required than the generator alone can provide, additional braking is carried out by the regular friction brakes.
Some e-drivers say they can manage well by hardly ever using the regular pedal-operated brakes .
This slowing effect differs between manufacturers. Tesla’s recuperation is strong, and you can feel it jerk the moment the driver lifts his foot. Porsche’s system on the Taycan seems to let you glide on forever.
With no fuel-burning motor on board, electric cars tend to offer more luggage space. The silent motors are smaller, and most makers install the batteries low down in the floorpan.
Take the Golf-sized VW ID.3, for example. On the outside, it is as large as the famous hatchback, but inside, space is on a par with the upper range Passat limousine.
Everyday operation of an electric car also takes some getting used to. Charging is controlled by a smartphone app, but what about so-called pre-conditioning? This means you can get behind the wheel of a car that is already heated or air-conditioned 30 minutes before departure time. Many Renault electric come with this feature.
Range is another aspect, although there is much less need to be anxious about how far a typical EV will travel on a single charge.
Between 300 and more than 500 kilometres are now standard.
Electric cars have a progressive image, which usually means they break new ground in the cockpit as well.
The minimalistic cockpit layout of the BMW’s pioneering i3 runabout was unveiled eight years ago. Now Porsche has fitted the Taycan with a curved battery of touchscreens that would not look out of place in a spaceship.
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