Hyundai Nexo

Michael Fisher (MrMobile) has an excellent road-trip review of Hyundai’s hydrogen fuel-cell powered Nexo:

I really dig the exterior styling of the Nexo. Hyundai’s ‘Cascading Grille’ family face combines harmoniously with the pseudo-front light-bar design of the headlamps to create a futuristic, sci-fi look whilst also visually widening the stance of the vehicle. Another detail I like is the metallic copper paintwork - copper is a rare colour to be offered on a new car these days, and on the Nexo it works particularly well around the rear three-quarters view, creating a distinctive contrast with the black band that creates a floating C-pillar and flows into the tailgate. With electrical wiring typically made from copper, this colour, unintentionally or not, also provides a subtle hint to the powertrain underneath.

To clarify, hydrogen vehicles are electric vehicles in the sense that they incorporate an onboard fuel-cell that takes hydrogen and converts it to electricity, which is subsequently stored in a small battery that directly powers the vehicle. For the sake of clarity, this article uses the term ‘battery electric vehicle’ (BEV) to refer exclusively to electric vehicles that are directly charged from mains electricity rather than using an onboard fuel cell. For further information please see my articles on how hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles and battery electric vehicles work.

The interior must be the most luxurious offered in a Hyundai branded vehicle in recent memory. It fuses a Mercedes-Benz inspired horizontal dual screen setup with a Lexus-style centre console, and is all the better for it. 

Above left to right: The interior of the new Hyundai Nexo compared to the new Mercedes-Benz GLE and 2011 Lexus CT 200h. Notice the similarities in the horizontally oriented dual-screen setup with the Mercedes, and the design and arrangement of controls in the centre console with the Lexus CT.

Nevertheless, I am sceptical that hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles will ever have widespread private adoption. Despite substantial structural reinforcements and extensive testing, there is no getting around the fact that hydrogen is an extremely flammable fuel, and liable to explode in the event of an extremely severe collision. Although petrol and diesel vehicles today share the same flaw, I can see media coverage and public opinion around hydrogen vehicles becoming extremely cynical following a fatal accident, especially in light of the fact it is a new technology, and irrational cynicism from certain quarters and influential people about electric vehicle technology.

As highlighted in the above video, whilst hydrogen vehicles themselves don’t produce any greenhouse emissions, there are very limited ways to produce hydrogen itself in an environmentally friendly manner. Unlike electricity which can sustainably be produced through solar or hydro-electric power plants, the production of hydrogen involves the release of carbon-dioxide emissions. In this sense, hydrogen vehicles are merely shifting emissions up the hydrogen supply chain, rather than being a holistic, environmentally friendly transport solution.

Right now, a key advantage of hydrogen vehicles over their electric counterparts is the minimal time required to refuel - approximately 5 minutes versus at least 45 min-1 hour for a battery electric vehicle (BEV). However, this is a narrow-minded comparison that fails to take into account the convenience and versatility that battery electric vehicles offer. Fundamentally, hydrogen vehicles follow the same mindset as the typical petrol/diesel car. In order to fill up, you have to go to a dedicated refuelling station, which can be an errand in itself or another stop on a longer journey. In contrast, BEVs offer a huge convenience advantage in that you can charge your car at home. This virtually guarantees that your car is fully charged as soon as you’ve left your driveway, and on shorter day-to-day trips especially, saves the time and worry of having to stop specifically to refuel your car. This is compounded by the versatility of electric vehicle charging infrastructure. Whilst dedicated charging stations/networks such as Ionity and others are available, unlike hydrogen refuelling stations and petrol/diesel pumps, these networks are by no means the only way to recharge your car. The extremely widespread availability of electricity today means that it’s easy to build charging points within multi-level carparks, shopping centres, hotels and other frequently visited locations. In these scenarios, it doesn’t matter that charging an electric vehicle takes longer than a hydrogen or petrol/diesel car, as the driver is off doing another activity whilst the car can charge unattended. As no time is spent solely on refuelling the car, the driver effectively saves time which can be used for other things. Thus, strict comparisons between the refuelling/charging time of hydrogen and BEVs are irrelevant as they don’t take into account the charge-at-home convenience and versatility offered by BEVs.

So, what does this all mean for the Nexo? As a vehicle itself, the Nexo is excellent; however, it’s a victim of Hyundai’s bet on the wrong propulsion technology. What I’d love to see is a battery electric version.

India: Yatri Deluxe electric auto-rickshaw

I’m currently on a trip to India, and was lucky enough to sit in an electric auto-rickshaw for the first time. Suffice to say, the experience was a step up over the typical CNG (natural gas) powered rickshaws, with the most significant benefits being the quietness of the electric motor and the lack of smoke. A range of 70km is sufficient for the urban travel that auto-rickshaws typically undertake, and I’m hoping that these vehicles become more popular in India over the coming year.

Below are some photos I took of the Yatri Deluxe:

Follow-up: VW to seek partnerships rather than use Audi to develop electric and autonomous vehicles

Edward Taylor and Jan Schwartz, reporting for Reuters (from Automotive News Europe):

“Volkswagen…will explore potential alliances with Ford and others to develop autonomous and electric vehicles. If approved by the board, it would signal a major departure from VW's standalone efforts to build them and diminish Audi's importance as an engineering hub.

The strategy could also deepen existing cooperation with Ford. This could include Ford supplying a pickup platform and some engines to VW, one of the sources said. VW could also buy a stake in Ford's autonomous cars program and give Ford access to its MEB electric cars platform, they said.

Audi has been developing autonomous technology for VW, Audi and Porsche. It built the A8, a car with advanced self-driving features, but its efforts for a fully autonomous car have fallen behind rival companies such as Alphabet's Waymo.

"We want to have access to a self-driving system and we are speaking with relevant players. It is very expensive to develop and others are already well advanced," Chief Financial Officer Frank Witter said in a phone call with reporters on Tuesday.

This ultimately isn’t surprising, and affirms my comments regarding yesterday’s article. Today, the automotive industry is fragmented, and consists of a number of key players, ranging from both traditional automotive manufacturers to those entering with a Silicon Valley mindset. As a result, there is little logic in every company going in-house, and at great expense, to develop technology that fundamentally aims to achieve the same end goal - a fully autonomous, electric vehicle. In this regard, recently departed Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne’s comments are prescient:

“Auto companies need to quickly separate the stuff that will be swallowed by commodity from the brand stuff”

In this regard, what matters more is the integration and execution of electric vehicle and autonomous driving technologies, with design and usability into a seamless whole - it is this that will differentiate successful automakers from those that are not. When everyone has access to the same fundamental technologies, it is that final, extra layer of polish that will separate the wheat from the chaff, and an average car from one that is great. Of course, whether that extra polish can be achieved through refinement of available, off-the shelf technologies, or only through an in-house, end-to-end development and ownership of the technology stack within a car, remains to be seen.


Above: The VW brand portfolio. Note that VW Commercial Vehicles is considered to be separate to the ‘main’ VW passenger car brand despite often sharing dealerships and sales channels

Ford and VW reportedly discuss collaborating on autonomous and electric vehicles

Edward Taylor and Ben Klayman, reporting for Reuters:

Volkswagen AG and Ford Motor Co are in “exploratory talks” to jointly develop self-driving and electric vehicles in a far-reaching strategic alliance meant to save the companies billions of dollars, according to a person familiar with the matter.

“Our (memorandum of understanding) with VW covers conversations about potential collaborations across a number of areas. It is premature to share additional details at this time,” Ford spokesman Alan Hall said in an email.

Volkswagen Chief Financial Officer Frank Witter on Tuesday said the carmaker was open to deeper alliances with outside companies, particularly in the area of autonomous driving. 

Witter said sharing the carmaker’s electric cars platform MEB with Ford was theoretically possible, although VW is currently focused on rolling out the electric vehicle technologies among its own brands.

Such a collaboration between the two companies wouldn’t be surprising, and would in all likelihood be beneficial for both parties. From a Volkswagen perspective, the VW brand in particular is weak in North America, especially in light of the damage caused by the ‘Dieselgate’ scandal. Thus, a collaboration could provide access to Ford’s American factories and other resources such as the company’s marketing expertise and dealership network, potentially increasing the presence and sales footprint of the VW brand. From a Ford perspective, the company gains access to VW’s MEB electric vehicle platform and the expertise associated with it; which, in light of the company ceasing sales of passenger vehicles in the U.S. market, could be very beneficial indeed. Indeed, given both companies respective strengths, future Ford electric commercial vehicles built and geared towards the US market, but developed using VW technology, could have strong prospects of success for both companies. Moreover, although Ford recently invested in Argo AI, a self-driving startup, and created a separate division to lead its autonomous vehicle development, neither brand has the same level of expertise in autonomous vehicles that Waymo, Tesla or GM (with its Super Cruise technology) does. As a result, collaborating in this area may help both brands catch-up more quickly to the current industry leaders.

Above: VW’s electric MEB platform, and Ford’s F-150, the best selling vehicle in the U.S. market

Alfa Romeo's new product strategy

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) recently unveiled a new product strategy for its Alfa Romeo brand, as outlined in the slide below:

Screen Shot 2018-06-29 at 8.01.39 pm.png

The slide makes clear that Alfa Romeo plans to launch 3 updated ('MCA', or 'Mid-Cycle Action') versions of existing models (Giulietta, Giulia, and Stelvio) along with 4 completely new models ('C UV', 'E UV', GTV and 8C). If we take the (admittedly unrealistic) assumption that the product lineup of competing brands will remain the same as today, how does Alfa Romeo compare?

This table should be treated as a guide only, rather than a holistic appraisal of market segments in the industry that are set in stone. Certain vehicles, such as the Range Rover Velar, straddle segments and are difficult to classify. Infiniti has not been included as it is popular only regionally (North American market), whilst Genesis is an emerging brand that is still in the process of rolling out a full product range. Ultimately, the focus should be on developing great cars rather than filling market segments just for the sake of having a complete vehicle range.

The table above demonstrates that were Alfa Romeo to produce the vehicles outlined in their 2022 strategy, they would merely be matching the product lineup of competitors today. Alfa Romeo's European competitors, along with Tesla, already have several plug-in hybrid options available. With several of these manufacturers planning to introduce more battery electric vehicles in the near future (such as BMW's iX3 and an electric Volvo XC40), Alfa Romeo should also ideally target producing a battery electric vehicle by 2022.

Electric vehicles and brand DNA

Alfa Romeo describes its brand DNA as follows:

Screen Shot 2018-07-01 at 8.31.50 pm.png

It's important to dispel the notion that battery and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles are incompatible with Alfa Romeo's brand DNA, or that they represent a necessary dilution of the brand to meet ever-tightening emissions regulations. In fact, the opposite is true. Electric motors and plug-in hybrid technology represent the most advanced powertrain technology available today. The 'skateboard' vehicle chassis (commonly used in battery electric vehicles), with a long, flat rectangular battery, sandwiched at the bottom of the vehicle, offers better opportunities for a 50/50 weight distribution than a bulky combustion engine positioned at the front or rear of the car. Likewise, the packaging opportunities offered by such a chassis enable greater stylistic freedom for designers. Although battery electric vehicles such as the Tesla Model S weigh more than their combustion engine counterparts, forthcoming advances in battery technology, such as solid-state batteries, with higher energy densities, promise to reduce this disparity. Thus, plug-in hybrid, and battery electric vehicle technology especially, can act as an enhancement, rather than a dilution, of Alfa Romeo's brand DNA.

Above: The skateboard chassis used by Jaguar's i-Pace. Such a chassis incorporates a flat, long and rectangular battery pack at the bottom of the vehicle to lower the centre of gravity and optimise packaging and interior space.

Above: The skateboard chassis used by Jaguar's i-Pace. Such a chassis incorporates a flat, long and rectangular battery pack at the bottom of the vehicle to lower the centre of gravity and optimise packaging and interior space.

Dyson to produce an electric car by 2020

Jimi Beckwith, reporting for Autocar:

"Dyson has confirmed plans for an all-electric car that will enter production in Britain by 2020 and has received support from the UK Government.

The car will be funded by £2 billion from Dyson and is currently under development at Dyson's Wiltshire headquarters by a team of 400 people. 

Dyson is keeping specific details, such as performance, range and production numbers, secret but it will not be a mass-market car akin to the Renault Zoe and Nissan Leaf; instead, it will be aimed at a more tech-oriented market. This suggests that it might be a rival to the Tesla Model S in terms of market position."

It's great to have more competition in the electric car space, as it pushes everyone to innovate that much more, and so Dyson's announcement is very welcome.

I think that their decision to apparently focus on a more 'tech-oriented' (premium?) market is a good one. Dyson is a brand renowned for its innovative household appliances, and developing a premium vehicle is in line with their current brand positioning.

I can see Dyson innovating in the electric car space in two key ways: technology and design. It wouldn't be surprising to see a Dyson electric vehicle powered by their digital motor technology, currently used for their vacuum cleaners, and using a HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, Air-Conditioning) system incorporating their Air Multiplier bladeless fan technology.

What is more interesting to speculate about is how Dyson's design will translate to a car. Dyson is one of the few companies today with a unique, but consistent, design language across products that have entirely different purposes. The company is a strong proponent of the 'design is how it works' approach, and is notable for its use of bright colour accents to visually highlight key parts of its products. It will be fascinating to see how this approach will apply to the exterior and interior design of its vehicle. Perhaps important controls could be colour coded according to their function? Autocar's subsequent interview with Sir James Dyson is very illuminating in this regard.

Jaguar to only produce electrified vehicles from 2020

From the Jaguar press release:

"From 2020 all new Jaguar Land Rover vehicles will be electrified. The company made the announcement at its inaugural Tech Fest, a series of debates and a free public exhibition about the future of mobility.

Dr Ralf Speth, Jaguar Land Rover Chief Executive Officer, said: “Every new Jaguar Land Rover model line will be electrified from 2020, giving our customers even more choice. We will introduce a portfolio of electrified products across our model range, embracing fully electric, plug-in hybrid and mild hybrid vehicles. Our first fully electric performance SUV, the Jaguar I-PACE, goes on sale next year.”

It's great to see another manufacturer following in Volvo's footsteps and also committing to an entirely electrified vehicle lineup in the near future. Nevertheless, it is important to note the very broad remit that Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) has given itself to satisfy this commitment to an electrified lineup; namely 'fully electric, plug-in hybrid and mild hybrid' vehicles. The term 'mild-hybrid' is quite vague, and could mean simply producing a normal combustion engined car with a capacitor or larger battery to enable automatic engine start-stop and/or regenerative braking, similar to Mazda's i-ELOOP or Peugeot's e-HDI Micro Hybrid technology.

This decision is a step in the right direction. Let's hope, however, that the company decides to focus on fully electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles rather than slightly modified combustion engine vehicles that are branded as mild hybrids.       

Continental's New Wheel Concept

Jonathan M. Gitlin, writing for Ars Technica:

"EVs can't ditch the conventional brake. There needs to be a redundant system for situations when regenerative braking isn't possible, like when the battery is full and can't accept more energy. A consequence of using regenerative braking is that the friction brakes get much less use than in a conventional car, so they tend to last a lot longer. But there is a downside to this: a buildup of rust that can impair their performance when you need to use them, according to Continental.

So there's a wheel rim, to which the tire is mounted, and then an inner component called a carrier star—the bit with spokes that mounts to the axle. Instead of mounting a brake disk to the axle, here it's married to the carrier star, with the caliper attached to the inside. That means that the disc can be much larger than a conventional brake disc, which needs to be small enough so that there's room to fit the caliper without impeding the wheel itself."

This is a very interesting innovation that takes advantage of a key driving characteristic of electric vehicles- regenerative braking- to solve a potential rust problem caused by reduced usage of conventional brakes. I'd love to see how this would work in daily use on a production vehicle.



Thoughts on Audi's new naming system

From the Audi press release:

"The reference value for the new model designations is the power output of the individual model in kilowatts (kW). Audi is thus subclassifying its model range into different performance levels – each identified by a two-numeral combination. For example, the numeral combination “30” will appear on the rear of all models with power output between 81 and 96 kW. And “45” stands for power output between 169 and 185 kW. The top of the Audi model range is the performance class above 400 kW, which is identifiable by the number combination “70”. In each case the numerals appear along with the engine technology – TFSI, TDI, g-tron or e-tron.

The changes will kick off with the new Audi A8 generation in the fall of 2017. First among the two six-cylinder engines to be redesignated will be the 3.0 TDI with 210 kW – as the Audi A8 50 TDI, and the 3.0 TFSI with 250 kW – as the Audi A8 55 TFSI."


Above: Audi's new naming system on the A8

On the face of it, this new numbering system aligns Audi with Mercedes and BMW, who also use a series of numbers to denote the relative power outputs of their model variants.

Historically, the model designations for Mercedes and BMW would be based on engine displacement. The underlying logic behind this was the assumption that the larger the engine, the more power it produced. Thus, 'E300' would would mean an E-Class with a 3.0L engine and '320i' would be equivalent to a 3-Series with a 2.0L engine. Although this is no longer the case (for example, the new E300 uses a higher-powered 2.0L engine) the long-running use of this type of nomenclature by both brands means that customers are still familiar with the underlying logic behind the system. A customer who walks into a Mercedes dealership may not know the size of the engine in the E300, but they will understand that it's a more powerful car than the E200. A decades long history of using the same basic system develops a contextual familiarity for the customer.

Audi's new two digit numbering system is a stark departure from the previous system where the engine displacement was directly labelled. Without the historical precedent that Mercedes and BMW share, the Audi customer cannot be expected to understand what numbers such as '30', '55' and '70' mean. Moreover, with the industry focusing on electric vehicle development, other characteristics such as range (i.e. the distance the car can travel between charges) also become important, which is a metric that is not described by the new numbering system. 

Overall, I feel that this new 2 digit numbering system is too little, too late. The system is too simplistic to cover characteristics that will be important in the future, such as vehicle range. Without historical precedent, it is likewise confusing for future prospective Audi customers.

With cars having a number of important performance characteristics such as power, torque, acceleration and range, it is difficult to concisely and clearly express all of these into a single alpha-numeric combination.

Perhaps a better option would be to scrap this model designation system entirely and instead follow the Ferrari route. Focus on marketing (and badging) the model only, e.g. Audi A4/A6/A8 and tabulate all performance characteristics on a hidden plaque or badge inside the car, together with any customer ordered options and other specification such as paint colour and wheel design. This way, all performance characteristics can be clearly displayed and understood. Additionally, this system would be beneficial come resale time, as all customer ordered options and preferences would be evident (with personalisation being key at the premium end of the market).

Mazda and Toyota to collaborate on electric vehicle development

Hans Greimel, writing for Automotive News:

"Toyota will take a 5 percent stake in Mazda, while Mazda reciprocates with a token 0.25 percent stake in Toyota, the car manufacturers said in a joint statement Friday.

Toyota and Mazda said they will also collaborate in developing electrified vehicles and connected car technologies. They will also step up supplying vehicles to each other.

In electric vehicles, Toyota is being positioned as working on the battery-side of electric vehicles, while Mazda works on the overall architecture. The two companies will jointly develop the hardware and software sides of electric vehicles but produce them separately, Toyota Executive Vice President Shigeki Terashi said at a joint press conference in Tokyo.

In connected cars, Toyota and Mazda will cooperate on vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications, seen as a key toward self-driving and advanced safety systems."

This appears to be a beneficial move for both parties.

For Mazda, it represents a cost-efficient and potentially time saving strategy to jump on the electric and autonomous vehicle bandwagon, by leveraging Toyota's greater resources and battery expertise, whilst retaining control of overall design and vehicle development.

Toyota, in turn, can make use of Mazda's product development and engineering expertise that has been responsible for the famed handling qualities of its SkyActiv architecture. This partnership is sure to also complement Toyota's existing collaboration with BMW on battery development and lightweight materials.  

The New York Times editorial on electric vehicles

The New York Times wrote the following in response to the UK committing to ending sales of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040:

"Much depends, too, on where the electricity comes from. If it comes from coal-fired plants, there could be a net increase in the greenhouse gases that are warming the planet; if from natural gas plants, a modest net decrease; if from carbon-free sources like wind and solar power, a huge net benefit. President Trump’s antagonism to the Paris climate accord and his affinity for fossil fuels demonstrate the difficulty of making this shift; and despite Volvo’s exciting announcement that it will make only electric or hybrid cars as of 2019, many manufacturers may well resist abandoning the engines they have spent the past century perfecting."

This paragraph makes an important point that often doesn't receive enough attention in the current fanfare around electric vehicles. If the electricity used to power cars is from a non-renewable source, then greenhouse gas emissions are simply being shifted up the electricity supply chain rather than being reduced. A holistic overhaul of the world's electricity supply chain, that ensures power is sourced from renewable energy, is needed. Electric vehicles are ultimately only one component of this modernisation.

Faraday Future stops building Nevada factory

Stefan Krause, Faraday Future's CFO, quoted in an article by the Nevada Independent:

“We have decided to put a hold on our factory at the Apex site in North Las Vegas. We remain committed to the Apex site in Las Vegas for long-term vehicle manufacturing.

We at Faraday Future are significantly shifting our business strategy to position the company as the leader in user-ship personal mobility — a vehicle usage model that reimagines the way users access mobility. As a result of this shift in direction, we are in the final stages of confirming a new manufacturing facility that presents a faster path to start-of-production and aligns with future strategic options.”

Krause's statement is full of vague buzzwords such as 'user-ship personal mobility' with no substance behind them, and the firm's commitment to 'long-term vehicle manufacturing' is a nice euphemism for the minuscule chance that it will ever put a vehicle into mass production. The death knell is sounding for this vapourware peddling company. 

Volvo to include electric motor on every vehicle from 2019

From the Volvo press release:

"Volvo Cars will introduce a portfolio of electrified cars across its model range, embracing fully electric cars, plug in hybrid cars and mild hybrid cars.

It will launch five fully electric cars between 2019 and 2021, three of which will be Volvo models and two of which will be high performance electrified cars from Polestar, Volvo Cars’ performance car arm. Full details of these models will be announced at a later date.

These five cars will be supplemented by a range of petrol and diesel plug in hybrid and mild hybrid 48 volt options on all models, representing one of the broadest electrified car offerings of any car maker."

This is another significant development for Volvo, which has lately been having a renaissance under the ownership of Geely in forging its own, differentiated identity. To go from zero fully electric vehicles in 2018, to five by 2021, a space of only three years, will be a big achievement. More importantly, it is a substantive acknowledgment by a 'traditional', mainstream automotive manufacturer that the writing is on the wall for the internal combustion engine. 

It's understandable that a mainstream manufacturer such as Volvo may not desire to leave existing customers (that live in areas with poor electric vehicle charging support) to hang out to dry by immediately ceasing support and development of combustion engined vehicles. But what is more important to understand is that hybrid vehicles that marry an electric motor to a combustion engine are a mere transition point, and not the final solution to achieving sustainable transport.

The only pragmatic option for sustainable transport is a fully electric vehicle powered by electricity from a renewable energy source. The sooner the automotive industry realises this, and follows Tesla's lead in independently building the requisite infrastructure, or forms a partnership with government to do so, the better. At this early stage, however, it's applaudable that Volvo has looked to the future and boldly taken a bet on a powertrain that currently only makes up a minuscule, albeit growing, share of the global automotive market.

Above: From left to right, the Volvo S90, V90, XC60 and XC90 T8 plug-in hybrid range. These vehicles represent Volvo's current range of only partial electric vehicles. 

Tesla Model S P100D

From the Tesla press release:

The Model S P100D with Ludicrous mode is the third fastest accelerating production car ever produced, with a 0-60 mph time of 2.5 seconds. However, both the LaFerrari and the Porsche 918 Spyder were limited run, million dollar vehicles and cannot be bought new. While those cars are small two seaters with very little luggage space, the pure electric, all-wheel drive Model S P100D has four doors, seats up to 5 adults plus 2 children and has exceptional cargo capacity.

The 100 kWh battery also increases range substantially to an estimated 315 miles on the EPA cycle and 613 km on the EU cycle, making it the first to go beyond 300 miles and the longest range production electric vehicle by far.

It is incredible that the fastest accelerating vehicle you can currently purchase is not an exclusive, multimillion dollar sports car, but a practical family sedan with spacious luggage storage and comfortable seating for five. I can't think of a car where the phrase 'you can have your cake and eat it too' is more apt.

It's noteworthy that, with only a decade of development, a small, startup-like company is producing vehicles that have all but overtaken combustion engine powered cars not only in terms of performance, but in practicality and safety as well. This, more than anything, is evidence that the internal combustion engine is on its way out. We're only just getting started with electric vehicle development, and it's already obvious that the fundamental technology is an order of magnitude better than any fossil fuel powered car before it.

Having said that, electric vehicles will not sell on the virtue of being electric cars alone. Why has Tesla succeeded when other electric vehicles, such as the Nissan Leaf, despite being thousands of dollars cheaper, have failed? Because the Tesla is a great car, a product the consumer aspires to own. The Nissan Leaf, on the other hand, is a showcase of the potential of electric vehicles. But is it a great car? No.

Manufacturers must ensure that electric vehicles, first and foremost, are great cars. The design must take full advantage of the electric powertrain, and the company must also go to the effort of providing supporting infrastructure to alleviate any perceived shortcomings such as range anxiety. To this extent, the electric vehicle cannot be sold as a 'trophy' car used to demonstrate a company's or the consumer's ostensible commitment to the environment, but rather must be a vehicle that is sustainable, livable, and is practical enough to be used every day (and of course is envrionmentally friendly). Tesla has done this by going to the effort of developing an extensive network of 'Supercharger' fast charging points, and by using the extra space offered by the electric motor to substantially increase luggage space and safety via a 'front boot' and a much larger crumple zone.

Every electric vehicle will be more environmentally friendly than its combustion engine counterpart. Of course it will, as that is the innate nature of the powertrain itself. But what will distinguish a successful electric vehicle is whether it is a great car. At the moment, only Tesla, and perhaps BMW with its i3 and i8, meet this standard.

An electric car being environmentally friendly will be as much of a selling point in the future as a petrol car having fuel injection is today. Effectively null.