One of the things about driving an EV that I noticed very quickly is that the ideal locations for “refueling” infrastructure are totally different to ICE cars. Gas stations are just not the best places for charging stations, and even with the very high speed chargers that some car manufacturers are talking about, I don’t think they ever will be. Instead, the best places are the places (apart from at home), seem to be public parking lots. These are places where EVs spend enough time to pick up meaningful charge, while their drivers are doing something else.
As the owner of a relatively short range EV, being able to plug in and get a charge from public chargers can either be handy, or in some cases essential. There are places we go where taking the EV would be risky unless we could get a charge while we’re there (and some where we wouldn’t get home without a charge). At least here in the SF Bay Area, EVs and plug in hybrids are now common enough that finding a public charging space empty is rare. When a large shopping mall has only 2-4 EV spaces, the chances of finding one empty when you arrive is essentially nil.
For a number of years now, we have visited the annual San Francisco car show to check out the latest in car tech. It’s not a big show on the circuit, and we’re certainly not expecting any big reveals, but it has been a fun day out for us and the kids (especially the kids, who love climbing into all the cars).
This year I’m sad to say I was a little disappointed. Not with the show’s organizers (although two of the Moscone “security” staff were rude to us before we had even entered the show floor). It was the car companies themselves that disappointed me.
Since all the electric car options I am considering are at least 18 months out, but my lease was up at the end of August, I needed to pick a replacement car that made sense, but also that didn’t commit me to another 3 year lease. As luck would have it, an off lease 2014 electric Mercedes B Class that was in great shape was listed on my dealer’s website. So, that’s what we did; swapping my fun roadster for an electric 5 seat family car. This is my initial reaction to both the B Class and owning an electric car.
While in Hawaii, we rented a Jeep Compass from Hertz. Partly because when traveling with a three year old there are lots of extra things to lug around, and partly because it was priced so competitively. Sadly, the week we had with it only served to convince me I would never buy a Jeep Compass.
It has been a little while now, but I still feel that the new pre-inspection process that Mercedes Benz Financial Services have imposed at the end of their leases is a huge mis-step. Perhaps other people have had different experiences with lease returns, but mine have always been very smooth & trouble free. This new process changes that, and not positively.
My current car’s lease comes to an end later this year (August time frame) and while I totally love it, for a number of reasons I am looking to make a big change this time around. For a start, I have pretty much been told that I cannot get away with a two seater again. Secondly, the replacement for my current car has been made somewhat anemic by downgrading it to a smaller, less powerful engine. Thirdly, I am just not driving it much (I have done just over 4000 miles in the last 28 months, thanks to commuting via ferry or bus and my trusty scooter).
And so I started looking at electric options with an eye to perhaps letting my wife drive it on a daily basis around our little island city, keeping the miles off the car she insisted on buying rather than leasing and saving some fuel costs into the bargain. But what are the options…
Obviously, there are the two Tesla models, but both are well outside what I am willing to pay right now for something I don’t drive more than a few miles per week. So, that leaves a pretty short list; in no particular order:
- Mercedes B-Class
- BMW i3
- Nissan Leaf
- VW eGolf
- Chevrolet Bolt
- Ford Focus
- Fiat 500e
- Smart ForTwo
There are a few others too, but basically that list is the ones I see on the road regularly. Sadly, none of them jump off the screen as being something I really want to drive/own. They all seem somewhat plain and boring.
Given the sad state of that list, I started looking into what might be coming soon from folks other than Tesla (the new Model 3 looks pretty good on the outside, but the site is very light on actual specs for the car). Interestingly, it seems as though 2018 through 2020 is going to herald a lot more options for electric cars. I found strong contenders from Mercedes, Audi and Jaguar, albeit essentially all SUVs. Even now, I cannot find any manufacturer planning an electric convertible, which is disappointing for me since I love open top motoring (I even had convertibles when I was living in the UK, so now I’m in California it just makes even more sense to me to drive with the top down).
My current favourite, although not slated to arrive until 2019 at the earliest, is what is currently being called the Mercedes EQC. Much like the Tesla, there is very little information on what this will actually look like, but if the interior is anything like the current show concept vehicle, I want one. This thing resembles a science fiction space ship:
The videos released for the concept just add to that image of it being a space craft. I seriously hope that as much of this interior as possible makes it into the production car.
Not one, but two different cars bearing this tag are coming in the next 12-24 months. The first looks as though it will be a mid-size SUV (between the Q5 and Q7 in size). No idea of final pricing, but if you live in Norway you can pre-order one right now. The exterior looks pretty similar to the new Q5 and Q7, perhaps taking the more angular design of the latest cars a little further. The interior of the concept they’ve been showing also looks more like an evolution of current technology:
The “virtual cockpit” dashboard in there has already made an appearance in the current generation Q7 and Q5 cars (and, based on experiences with our new Q5 so far, it is a gorgeous experience). Clearly, this one has more screens, and less buttons though. All good in my books, but it doesn’t scream space ship at me like the EQC does.
The second car, coming during 2019, is a “sportback”/coupe version of the SUV. Perhaps a better fit for me than a pure SUV, but realistically it still doesn’t excite me as much as a convertible would.
This one caught my attention last year, and was a bit of a surprise. I was not expecting the Jaguar brand to be where the first electric vehicle appeared from the Jaguar Land Rover family. Compared to the Merc and the Audi, the I-Pace seems like a strong contender however. Good range, amazing 0-60 time and fairly practical as well. Much like the Audi, this isn’t in the space craft realm for interiors, but it does look like a big evolutionary step from their current cars.
When I was choosing my current car, I test drove the convertible F-type from Jaguar. While the driving experience was fantastic, and nobody can deny that the F-type looks gorgeous, I was disappointed with the details that were missing in a car at its price point. Even more so when compared to the Mercedes SLK and Porsche Boxster. It concerns me that the same may well be the case with the I-Pace.
The dilemma I now face is that with my lease ending in August this year, and all these new, more exciting electrics arriving late next year or beyond, what do I do to fill the gap?
Right now, I am leaning towards buying a used electric from the boring list earlier. Perhaps the Mercedes B250e. Not ideal but it would be a good fill in for that year or so, and also could be used around our home city to keep the miles down on the Q5.