Today, ‘range anxiety’ remains the most frequent argument mentioned by those with reservations about electric vehicles. But the greater the range of electric vehicles becomes, the less reason there is to be concerned about being stranded with an empty battery. Currently, the most common electric vehicles can travel between 120 km and 600 km on a full charge. The effective range always depends on the driving style, the weather conditions, the outside temperature and the age of the battery. With their respective maximum ranges, models such as the Audi e-tron, the VW ID.4, the ŠKODA ENYAQ iV and the CUPRA Born are suitable for longer trips as well.
For everyday driving, electric vehicles have long since arrived in the present. But those who regularly drive long distances are still better served by a modern diesel or petrol engine, or even a hybrid version – especially when there is nowhere to charge at home or at the office.
Over the past decade, prices of lithium-ion batteries have sunk more than tenfold per kW hour of energy. Together with the larger range of models and production volumes, that has had a direct impact on the end price of electric vehicles. Further significant price drops for BEVs relative to combustion engines also come into play when targets for CO2 emissions for passenger vehicles are tightened and failure to comply incurs an incentive tax.
The industry association auto-schweiz predicts that these taxes for passenger cars and light commercial vehicles will amount to a lower three-digit million figure for 2020. According to calculations by consulting firm Jato Dynamics, the total tax amount could rise significantly throughout Europe in the coming years if measures such as subsidising electric vehicles are not taken. A large share of these taxes will influence the pricing policies for combustion engines and thus indirectly reduce the price of electric vehicles.
Even today, there is little significant price difference between an electric car and a comparable combustion engine vehicle. So comparisons can pay off. Not to mention, the service costs for a BEV are lower than for a conventional vehicle.
The time it takes to charge an electric vehicle depends on three factors: battery capacity, the charging technology and the charging capacity of the power connection. It also makes a difference if the battery is to be fully charged or only up to 80%, as the final few percent take relatively long. Those who charge their electric vehicles at home on a wall box need more time than for a fast charge at a service station or motorway rest stop. But at home, people have more time and don’t have to wait until the battery is fully charged – particularly if the car is connected to the power grid overnight.
The charging output varies between 3.7 kW and 350 kW, which roughly amount to a coffee break of a few minutes or a wait time of a few hours. Generally, the charging time for an electric vehicle can be calculated with this simple formula: battery capacity (kWh)/charging capacity (kW) = charging time (h).
It can never be completely ruled out that a vehicle might catch fire due to an accident or defect – regardless of the drive technology. But there is no evidence that electric vehicles are more susceptible to catching fire than cars with combustion engines. Moreover, all cars approved for road traffic must meet the legal safety requirements. This applies to all vehicles that run on petrol or diesel, natural or liquefied petroleum gas, or electrically with a battery.
With electric vehicles, the electrical components must be ‘intrinsically safe’, meaning that the current flow from the battery is cut off if a defect occurs. In an accident, the battery is instantly and automatically disconnected from the other high-voltage components and cables, so that they are no longer live. If a fire occurs, the fire brigade must maintain a greater safety distance and needs more extinguishing water. However, overall, an electric vehicle is just as safe as any other vehicle.
In Switzerland, the network of charging stations is already well developed and the country does well by international standards. Some 2,500 public charging stations are available across Switzerland and the European Alternative Fuel Observatory lists a total of 7,000 charging connections there. The expansion is due to investment by both the public and private sectors;
electricity companies, retailers, hotels and restaurants in particular have installed charging stations. Moreover, a pilot project in Bern and Schlieren is testing the retrofitting of street lamps in the blue zone as charging stations. A further pilot project with charging infrastructure in the blue zone is also underway in Basel. Even those who lack a charging option at home will increasingly be able to charge up outside the front door. For longer trips abroad, such as holidays, some planning is necessary to ensure a relaxed trip to the destination.
The battery in an electric vehicle tips the scales at between 300 kg and 750 kg, which is certainly a weighty consideration. The heavier a vehicle, the more energy
is required to move it. That worsens the environmental impact. However, the drive unit of an electric car is significantly lighter than a combustion engine and requires neither a conventional transmission nor a clutch. In an ID.4, for example, the drive unit weighs just 90 kg.
In comparison, a combustion engine and a manual or automatic transmission weigh between 150 kg and 300 kg, depending on the size of the engine. All told, an electric vehicle indeed weighs more due to the battery, but not as much as some people think.
If the electric vehicle is charged at home on a wall box, the costs for battery charging are simply included in the next electricity bill. That is certainly the easiest solution. On the go, payment can be made via an app or with a charging card or credit card. This is certainly more varied, but it’s not as complicated as it sounds.
In future, authentication data will be stored in the vehicle. As soon as the car is connected at a charging station, it is recognised and payment takes place automatically. And at some public charging stations, such as those at the car parks of major distributors, the service is free.
The misconception that an electric vehicle is more environmentally harmful than a combustion engine if the CO2 emissions that arise from manufacturing the vehicle and energy generation are taken into account has persisted stubbornly. New research from the universities of Exeter (UK), Cambridge (UK) and Nijmegen (NL) paints a different picture. According to the study, in most cases electric vehicles cause fewer emissions even when fossil fuels are used in production. In 95% of cases, an electric vehicle is more environmentally friendly than a comparable combustion engine vehicle. And the higher the mileage, the more efficient an electric car becomes.
Electromobility is at its most environmentally friendly when as much as possible of the energy used to charge the battery comes from renewable energy sources. If that is the case, as in Switzerland, the total emissions for an electric vehicle over its lifetime can be up to 70% lower than for a combustion engine model.