11 January 2023
Electric Cars; You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet
This is a guest article written by Harvey Perkins, Director of HRUX.
The petrol car has been evolving since 1885 when Karl Benz introduced the world’s first practical automobile, the Patent-Motorwagen, a two-seater tricycle with just a single-cylinder, developing only 2/3rd of a horsepower. What followed, arguably was a form of capitalist Darwinism, 135 years of rapid evolution from the Patent-Motorwagen to the McLaren Artura (feel free to replace the Artura, which is actually a PHEV, with whatever you think represents the current peak of design).
A typical car built in 1954, fins and all, was halfway through this evolution but looked and drove much more like a modern car than Benz’s tricycle. The Audi “ur” Quattro first appeared late in 1980 – a thoroughly “modern” car in most respects that is now an unbelievable 43 years old. Is it possible we are now reaching a plateau in this phase of the evolution of car design; that we’ve got the maximum out of what can be achieved using an Internal Combustion Engine?
The modern electric car has been available in the UK, in decent numbers, for only a few years. It follows we’ll see HUGE advances in design and capability as this century progresses. The mechanics of the EV, and rapidly evolving battery technology, means OEMs have much greater scope to innovate. After this initial and logically quite conservative phase of design (they don’t want to scare off people used to cars with front grilles), we’ll likely see big changes in the way cars look and their capabilities, with potentially a wide variation in approach.
And within that, I’d wager we will see a shake-up in the pecking order between OEMs. Tesla are already demonstrating that EVs can succeed from companies you’d not even heard of ten years ago.
Maybe we’ll also see a change to the “brand-snobbery” associated with modern cars. I personally waited to try a Mercedes EQE before ordering…. a Nissan Ariya. To my eyes the Nissan looks more futuristic, is a similar size but with the more practical 5-door layout and absolutely matches the EQE for the quality of the interior and, critically, range. There’s no way I’d have looked at a Nissan five years ago as an alternative to a Merc.
In the US, Cadillac have launched an EV called the Lyriq. And that also looks very cool. And we’re going to get it here. A Cadillac, in the UK? They’re tried it before and it bombed, but I think it’ll do well as an EV after the great reset we’re seeing now.
We’re also seeing multiple new entrants to the UK market. Makes like Polestar and Genesis are new brands (to the UK) from existing manufacturers (Volvo and Hyundai/Kia). But Rivian, Nio and Ora are brand new here.
There’s going to be winners and there’s going to be losers. The car landscape in (say) ten years is likely be radically different from what we see today.
So, who will win this battle of the new EVs; Tesla, Nissan, Mercedes, Cadillac?
Or someone completely new like Nio, Ora or Genesis?
Or maybe even a company that we’re not yet heard of?
Time will tell. All I know is that fortune favours the brave…