Is this the right time to buy an electric car?

Tesla Model S
mean, moody & magnificent - the Tesla model S

Definitely not, argues Andy Goundry.

The ever-increasing backlash against diesel cars is just one of the reasons why every industry analyst predicts that we will all be forced into driving electric cars in the not too distant future. And scarcely a day goes by without news of further planned electric vehicles from the world’s motor industry.

Indeed, according to the latest registration figures, after years of selling handfuls of vehicles, full electric and hybrid registrations have increased significantly recently.

So is now a good time to jump aboard the electric bandwagon? I believe not, and here’s why: the recent announcement of a new, standard charging station network, underpinned by a single ultra-fast charging system agreed by BMW, Ford, Mercedes and the Volkswagen Group.

Tesla Model S Scotland

Even Tesla’s  “gold standard of electrics” Model S could soon be outclassed.

Such an extensive collaboration by so many of the worlds manufacturers is unprecedented, and brings a much-needed standardisation to the plethora of charging systems presently available. The promised capacity for ultra-fast charging also sounds fantastic, offering massively reduced charging times claimed to be down to as little as 10 minutes. That would put even the much-praised 30 minute “Gold Standard” charge time of the current Tesla Model S and Model X in the shade.



CCS charging connector

The CCS charging connector – familiar to some electric car drivers and about to become familiar to a whole lot more.

So far, so encouraging. However, although the new common charging network may share the same CCS connector as one of the present charging systems it will be a very different beast to today’s CCS systems, as it will operate at far higher voltage. That means that its ultra-fast charging rate can only be delivered to a car which is kitted out with the appropriate equipment. And that rules out every single electric car built to date, even the much-praised Tesla.

Now, if the new charging system is a success, and that looks an odds-on certainty given that the majority of manufacturers have signed up to it, with more likely to join, what happens to the existing electric car fleet?

Nissan Leaf

photo: Nissan

With such a momentous development in the wings, it looks unlikely that we will see many more charging stations for the likes of today’s Nissan Leafs being built. Indeed, my guess is that the present network of relatively low-capacity charging stations will quietly disappear as the ultra-fast network becomes more widespread, potentially making finding a charging station for one of today’s electric cars even more of a challenge than it can be today.

More importantly, the present electric car fleet will surely rapidly become unwanted and obsolete, given that the newer ultra-fast charge motors will make electric motoring so much wasier. Remember the old VHS versus Betamax issue? How many of us forked out for Betamax players, only to find them obsolete very quickly indeed as technology marched onwards. For those too young to have heard of Betamax, the same thing of course happened with cassette tapes, which were very quickly overtaken by CD’s, themselves made obsolete by MP3 players, in turn overtaken by music streaming.

Having to bin an unexpectedly obsolete video player costing a couple of hundred pounds is one thing, having an equally unexpectedly obsolete electric car for which you forked out upwards of twenty grand would be something else altogether.

So the moral of the story would appear to be: don’t go electric just yet, wait for the crop of ultra-fast charge electric cars to appear. By all accounts, they should be worth waiting for!

Porsche Mission-E

Porsche were the first to leak indications that a next-generation of ultra-fast charging could be coming, with the advance publicity for their sleek Mission-E

Volkswagen I.D.

Volkswagen’s Dr Herbert Diess proudly presents the public launch of their I.D. electric model, planned for 2020 production

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