Wednesday 28th February 2018. Coming up today we’ll talk about making electric cars louder, and Hyundai’s Kona Electric…
DIESEL? NEIN DANKE!
…but first, I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that a decision made in Germany today could be a landmark day in the history of how quickly we electrify our transport.
Not only is Germany the home of diesel sales, where until recently every other car purchased was a diesel, but it’s home to the world’s largest diesel manufacturers and the companies which supply them. Diesel sales in many countries are already falling off a cliff, without electric cars selling enough to make up the difference, causing huge headaches for the investments in factories, tooling and staff to make the millions of diesel engines which buyers no longer want.
But having said that, today’s decision by Germany’s Federal Administrative Court did not directly involve German car makers, it was an environmental group called Environmental Action Germany versus the cities of Stuttgart and Dusseldorf. There was an initial court ruling which recognised that pollution levels in those cities was far too high, and that banning cars was the most effective way to improve air quality. It’s because of this ruling that those two local states appealed.
However that appeal was dismissed, with Presiding Judge Andreas Korbmacher saying: “Bans are generally permissible and can be implemented”.
So it came down to a question about what is more important: car owners or public health.
The European commission reports that 400,000 people die prematurely annually due to air pollution, and the European Union are taking steps to force areas which exceed the agreed limits to take action.
Although this is a battle over the levels of Nitrogen Dioxide, it doesn’t reflect well for either Germany or its main car makers, as both opposed any form of ban.
Germany’s Volkswagen is already recovering from a period of extremely bad publicity from Dieselgate, and a recent story about emissions tests on animals, by investing heavily into electric cars and their supply chains. However any kind of resistance to clean up our air portrays car makers as anti-environment, with evidence of nitrogen dioxide causing respiratory disease and premature death,
So what’s at stake, and what changes? Initially nothing. To be clear, all this does it provides a legal background from which German municipalities can, and must, form policy to tackle pollution levels. And the quickest way to do that is with bans, which they are now allowed to do.
On a practical level, driving into city centres could become more difficult as bans will be enforced on days when pollution is high. Residual values of diesels are already under pressure too. That affects the finance arms of car makers which lease cars, or offer purchase plans, whose businesses are based on predicted residuals.
Potentially, some people are calling for those older diesels to be upgraded or retro fitted, with that expense being borne by the auto makers.
How do you even start to put a plan together which identifies which cars are to be banned? How do you choose the days when they’ll not be allowed to run? How to do you enforce it? Some ideas today included special coloured licence plates or discs which show you have a diesel, but how will you know if you can drive it today?
That brings us back to EV’s. There is an inevitable snowball effect ? and pardon the pun if you’re listening in parts of Europe where we’re fighting off extremely cold weather. This decision could embolden other countries and cities to implement their own bans without fear of negative publicity or backlash.
Anecdotally, the reaction is that diesel is being banned. Watching the comments come in on twitter over the last few hours, there’s a general perception that diesels cars are being completely banned.
Secondly much reaction today could have quite easily said that diesels were being banned so buy a petrol, but people are assuming that means the only answer is to buy an electric car.
Is this has happened 24 months ago, I think the reaction would have been much more negative. However with so many great electric cars on the market, I’ve seen newspaper articles saying diesel will be banned so what’s the alternative? A new Nissan LEAF. Chevvy Bolt. A long range Renault Zoe ZE40. The Model S and X. New Golf eGolf or eUp. Hyundai Ioniq. BMW i3. Kia Soul. None of these are quirky compliance cars they’re usable, mostly affordable, daily drivers. That’s before they start talking about the cars coming soon like the I-PACE, Model 3, e-Tron and so many more.
ALL-NEW KONA ELECTRIC
And that leads me nicely onto talking about another new electric car, the Hyundai electric Kona SUV. Revealed today in a funky Youtube presentation, and I’ve put a link to it in the podcast description and the blog, we got all the details.
There are two batteries and powertrains – a smaller 39.2kWh / 99kW motor combination, or a more powerful 64kWh / 150kW combo. According to the new WLTP standards it’s good for 300km or 470km, with the more upgraded spec getting you a 0-62mph time of 7.6 seconds. That’s rapid enough for any normal driving.
This is what they call a compact SUV, at 2.6 metres long it’s still small enough for European city driving. Oh and the charger port is at the front which makes it, according to a phrase used by electrive which I love, a ‘nose charger’.
Other notable highlights from the Youtube presentation are a lack of gear stick, it’s just small set of buttons for drive, park or reverse. And it looks like the same paddle operated regeneration selection as we’ve seen elsewhere.
IT’S OH SO QUIET
The US Department of Transportation has made it’s mind up on quiet cars, and the deadline is now 2020 for EVs and hybrids to emit a warning sound to pedestrians. The speed limit will be 18.6mph, and anything below this will require some sort of sound to persuade people not to step out in front of you whilst they’re staring at their mobile phones.
So the big question is whether you’ll be given the choice of what sounds to play, or whether a single sound will be agreed upon for all electric cars to have.
Also, will you be able to turn it off, or will your EV always sounds like a truck reversing when you’re moving it around your driveway? Let’s hope it’s optional, and down to drivers to ensure it’s on whist you’ve on public roads.
BMW iX3 SHOWING OFF IN THE SNOW
Finally the BMW iX3 has been seen again, testing in the snow, minus any camouflage. And autoevolution.com are starting to wonder if they’re doing it on purpose now just to get us talking.
Because if so…it’s working! This time the spy shots clearly show a charge port and there are no fake tailpipes added. It’s looking the same as a regular X3 otherwise. In terms of size it’s in the same ball park as the Hyundai Kona we talked about earlier, but it’s in the more premium pricing of the Mercedes-Benz EQC, which is their equivalent. Both BMW and Mercedes look like they’ll be on sale, or at least fully revealed in 2019 as a 2020 model year.
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