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Living Electric

Living Electric

It’s still about making the right car for the right driver

Globally, people aren’t buying as many second Teslas as you might think. This is very market-dependent of course, but based on a recent round table discussion of the different global award-giving bodies with which we are affiliated, it does seem to be a trend. So why is this?

It may well be a difference between the technical and the real-world, or between the talk and the actual walk. It could well be that we cannot lump different cars under the banner “full electric” (Porsche Taycan and Nissan LEAF”) any more than we can lump together different internal combustion engine cars. They are just too different to be discussed together in the modern infrastructure available to most of the world.

Let’s first define electrics. The internal combustion engines or what people now call the ICE cars use liquid fuel, gasoline or diesel. The full electrics have just that, electric motors that run off batteries that you need to plug in to charge. Then you have hybrids, which generally means a combination of the two systems. Even within the hybrid world, you have plug-ins and non-plug-ins. For much of the world, and in particular the Philippines, we still believe the hybrid is the way to go as we have no real infrastructure to support full electrics yet. But again, the question of if a full electric is right for you is very dependent on what type of car you want to begin with.

Then let’s focus on global markets where there is or should be or the industry already says there are proper public charging systems in place. Let’s use the example of Tesla in the US. People loved Tesla, consumers did and investors did. So why are they concerned about the fact that people aren’t buying another Tesla after their first one? In many cases, it is because the experience doesn’t live up to the expectation.

It may have looked cool or trendy before, to drive up to Tesla fast charger stations and hang out with other forward-thinking individuals while you waited. But waiting was getting tedious. As was the purchasing of over-priced coffee while you waited, or watching movies in your car while you charged. If the public chargers were secondary sources because you could charge overnight at home, then great. But that isn’t always the case. Especially for younger people who should be quite enamored with the full electrics. In school or just out, new apartment in not the newest areas, no way to charge the family electric. These buyers are moving back to gasoline.

The experience is very different for different countries. In places such as China or Korea where the company that builds the car is connected to the company that builds the apartments and the factories and the business towers, there are synergies at work. Things can be seamless. In other areas that aren’t being built from the ground up, not as smooth.

We always ask the question, what are you trying to accomplish with something? With full electrics, what are you trying to accomplish? If you want to clean up the environment, you need to look at the source and cost of the electricity you will use. In some countries, the vehicle and the charge and the infrastructure are heavily subsidized so there is tremendous reason to go electric from a pocketbook point of view.

But that’s not the only reason for full electrics. The drive is hugely more quiet and more pleasant, the acceleration for some is quite addictive, there is much flexibility and efficiency to be had when you aren’t designing a vehicle with a huge lump of metal somewhere. That’s why we think the model for people like Porsche and Audi is the way to go for many markets. You aren’t buying an electric, you are buying a Porsche or an Audi that drives and behaves as you want it to or even better, it just uses a different power source. And if you are in the segment that can buy these cars because they are so much fun, economics probably aren’t your main concern. But it is these cars that can force companies to put charging stations in key places for that key crowd, and that will drag along the rest of the world. If you are looking at an electric as a more day-to-day economy driver, the numbers may not work for you. The resulting inconvenience if you don’t set up your house and office to charge may not work too well either.

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Do not get us wrong, we love full electrics. But we love them for what we know they can do, create a more quiet environment, allow much better weight distribution and more flexible vehicle design, be a step in the direction of a more environmentally friendly world. Whether they are actually better for the environment may well depend on things we cannot control, such as how the electricity itself is produced and how cleanly.

So we truly, madly, deeply love cars like the Taycan and the incoming Audi e-trons but not just because they are electric. We have high hopes for other more consumer-friendly full electrics but let’s please stop all the talk and think about how the real world use will be. That’s why, for most of our Philippine real world, we still like hybrids. The fact that Lexus has taken the lead in luxury hybrid technology, that Toyota offers the Camry locally only as a hybrid, the wonderful Corolla Cross Hybrid, this are the way to go for most we would guess. Many of the positives we like, the peace and quiet primarily, without the negatives at all really. Especially when the plug-ins that operate skewed more towards electric than internal combustion start appearing. Gateway drugs for a more electric world.

And that is what the modern world is really about now. More options, more abilities to individualize, more choices. Especially after the last two years, we really need to decide where exactly our time, money and energy should be spent.