Originally published June 2021.
Prices are too high, availability too low, and the charging network is a dog’s breakfast. Hold your horses – or just get a bike.
Tackling climate change makes fixing the pandemic “look easy”, according to Bill Gates, and change is upon us. Cars are going electric. Jaguar will be EV-only (electric vehicle) by 2025; all UK vehicles must be emissions-free by 2035; and tahe Petrolhead Society is considering rebranding to Batteryhead. There is only one problem – EVs are crap right now.
When the lease on my Audi A6 estate ran out, my conscience kicked in. On average, a car emits between six and nine tonnes of greenhouse gases a year, so I started researching EVs. First up was a Lexus RX with promises of fancy hybrid technology. But hang on – the CO2 emissions were higher than for my Audi A6 (180g/km versus 168g/km). Er, what’s the point of the hybrid if it pollutes more than a normal car? The Lexus salesperson squirmed and bullshitted and we exited stage left. First lesson: beware the marketing claims of hybrids.
I test drove a Kia Nero. This is a fantastic car – a range of 350 miles and serious acceleration. Just about big enough for a couple of suitcases and a dog, though perhaps not at the same time. Ignoring the brand’s profound lack of sex appeal, I said: “Great! I’ll take it.” The reply: “Ah, there is one problem. We don’t have any. If you pay £1,000 then at some point next year you’ll get the car.” Second lesson: check the availability before you test-drive.
The third lesson is that there are very few mid-market cars. The Kia sold out as it is the only EV that isn’t a £70,000 SUV or a city runaround. Eventually I leased an Audi e-tron. It is expensive and ugly, as if the designers argued over whether to build an estate car or an SUV and smashed the two models together in a fit of German pique.
To drive, the e-tron is a beast. With no combustion engine, the power comes flowing out of the motor and the acceleration feels ten times that of the Audi A6. The ride is silent (which feels bizarre), the cockpit is full of gorgeous electronics, and generally it is a dream.