Things to consider when buying an electric car (EV)

An EV is all about instant torque, hence there is a big difference in the way you drive them as well, lose your throttle flooring habits as that is not needed to generate the torque here.

BHPian WRXXX recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

I have been doing reading/experimenting/thinking and living EVs for sometime now and I thought I will pen down my understanding that could help others if they are in the market or deciding where to start if in confusion about EVs.

Below are my notes, please point out if something is a miss or totally out of place and I will try and correct it. Here we go.

EV purchase and test drive considerations (Evolving content):

Apart from the usual car test drives one does, EVs would need special attention since there is a whole lot of things that are taken for granted in the Internal Combustion Engine(ICE) vehicles .

Whether EV works for you if you choose today:

  • Majority usage 80-90+% in the city? What is the distance covered per day (to and fro) 100km max? OR this is a second car for runabouts.
  • 10-20% highway usage in the range of 200km one or two way per day? (Popular weekend destinations have fast chargers en-route and most hotels and resorts accommodate charging requests at their premises.
  • Charging possible at work(if used for commuting) or home?

I think if all the above points are applicable and works then mostly 99% you are an EV ready candidate. However, don’t buy a high range EV with extra high battery capacity, especially if you are a personal user unless you really intend to use it. 99% of the cases do not utilize the extra range and capacity of long range EVs. Real world 200-350km ranged EV is usable even today by using the ever expanding fast charging network. Fleet owners who run business on EV can’t afford to wait for their vehicle to be charged during the business hours, hence they either need a 10-15 minute fast charging ones or the long ranged ones good for a day. They also earn money from the consumers/businesses they serve and it works out for them but not for personal users.

Test drives:

First and foremost : Somehow get over this surreal feeling that EVs provide, that quiet and silent drive in the first 10-15 minutes so that you can come down to earth and focus on the real EV aspects that matter in a day to day running. I know what it feels like and it is better than flying, because that’s what it is, they are silent by nature!! It is not like a Merc, Toyota or a Honda where they had to go to great lengths to perfect the noise isolation in the cabin despite the car being a noisy Diesel. Here the manufacturer has to screw up real bad to make an EV produce noise(of course other than the artificially added ones) or put a bad motor or drivetrain.

An EV is all about instant torque, hence there is a big difference in the way you drive them as well, lose your throttle flooring habits as that is not needed to generate the torque here. Instead a smooth and needed amount of throttle will do the job and throttle(ironic name) itself is tightly linked to the driving modes that car has. Majority of the city driving, stop and go requires this kind of driving, so better get used to it. And most of the time an EV is already quicker than most of the ICE vehicles in the city due to the instant torque available at all rpm ranges of the motor. If you really want to see the power, activate sports mode and test for a few hundred meters. This is why we don’t compare the motor power directly with the ICE engine. I feel my 30-40bhp equivalent Verito is 100% enough for City conditions, now add another 20-30 bhp and that’s the max u need for highways for all practical purposes and anything more you are actually bathing in luxury of power and money since battery is drained faster.

Single pedal driving or using the regen to your advantage can only be done once u have enough experience, so don’t bother about it, during test drive.

Before beginning the test drive note down the SoC (State of Charge of the battery in %) and note down the odo.

EVs are as sensitive to load and additional power draw from AC and people in the car as ICE vehicles, But EVs stated range on the dash is in the hands of the AI/software that is predicting how long the battery will last in the current load and driving conditions, so better have some company to test out the real world performance is satisfying for you or not. Have people in the car and AC on.

For the first few kms at least drive regularly and check out how the EV is able to tackle the ramps, speed breakers(The battery sits low, so the ground clearance with load is a factor that you should consider). Take it to some known uphill roads and parking lot ramps and see if it is able to get in and out of the ramps.

Find a free stretch of the road such as some expressway or a private toll road like NICE in Bangalore nearby, so that you can test the high speed performance, according to me with today’s charging Infra if the car can cruise on highways at 90-100 and able to pass other vehicles at 120, you have a powerful and capable EV. Very soon you will also realize that these are not the best range producing speeds, so 90-100 is what your car will mostly travel on highways. Believe me you will do the same in your petrol or diesel car if the next bunk is 100km apart.

You can also experiment with regen here (which is impossible in an ICE vehicle).

Some vehicles activate the regen based on external settings and some as soon as you lift the throttle and some when you brake and some in combination, so it is completely vehicle dependent.

With this combined driving cycle and once you return to the showroom/place of return note down the SoC and Odo again, now using the start and end SoC and Odo difference we will be able to derive an approx range in real world(real measure is expressed in Wh/km). This in the real world once you own an EV can be even better or completely worse depending on the terrain. So, this calculation will only serve you to make a decision on whether or not the range works out for your intended usage.

Mine the details about the EV you have shortlisted.

EVs are filled with electronics, so some details of what to look for from the manufacturer is key.

EVs have two critical components and they are obviously “Motor” and “Battery” and expensive in terms of cost and hence these should be having the longest warranty terms. Like for example, BYD(5L kms/8 year), Tata and MG do (1.6L kms/ 8 years). Now there are other components like Contactor, BMS, Energy Management System, Charging sockets, Charger, Battery Cooling mechanisms, fans etc.

Also, most EVs evolve constantly via OTA updates, this is because even the manufacturers are learning from the R&D and their customer base and updating how their vehicles function and handle in real world conditions. So, it is important to know if the car has the OTA capability and the manufacturer is an active one in keeping the vehicle up-to-date (For example:- Mahindra might not be doing anything after the initial release, whereas Ather(2W), MG and Tata constantly push updates with improvements to throttle and charging software).

Looking at what all can go wrong, the warranty is good to have to cover for unwanted expenditures.

Vehicle warranty:

Look for something that provides at least 5 years and see if the manufacturer allows you to extend it. EVs have far fewer components compared to ICE, but depending on the supply chain and testing the parts mileage could vary. Also, if you are one of those who constantly use fast chargers then it is like driving an ICE vehicle at 150 day in and out, fast chargers put immense current into the charging system and exercise life of charging circuit cables and most importantly battery. Unless it is a BYD I don’t recommend fast charging and if you are on highway travel then fine and that too plan to charge only to 80% or better only to what is needed to reach the next stop or destination where AC slow charging is available and planned (More on this later).

Drivetrain and Powertrain Warranty:

Pick the maximum, today MG and Tata have set the standard and BYD(for fleet) has the max.

Understand the IP(Ingress Protection) rating of your vehicle:

It is important to have IP-67 rating for the battery, motor and power electronics, Indian conditions can change from extremely dry to wet in a matter of months, your EV provider needs to make sure all this testing is done and the vehicle is capable of handling our waterlogged conditions and rains.

Understand your battery chemistry:

  • Might not be super important in the later years as battery evolution continues and stabilizes, we will settle for something that is cheap to manufacture and long lasting and sustainable, but the knowhow is really needed now.
  • NMC and LFP batteries are two popular chemistries and they have their own advantages and disadvantages. LFP usually is of lower energy density than NMC batteries but with BYD cells they are able to provide same/almost same range as NMC ones since they reduced the battery protection casing material by re-architecting the cells and made it a lot safer than the NMC cells currently in use. 20% of the NMC battery pack weight must be going for its protection.
  • Also LFP doesn’t use Cobalt which is not sourced in the most ethical manner today.

Charging options:

This is an EV deal breaker for many. Understand what is the DC charging type for your vehicle, the most popular one worldwide is CCS-2(Combined Charging System) now and in India too this is the popular choice. Many old EVs(my Verito) have DC001 or GB/T connector which is a Chinese standard.

Understand what are the AC charging options (there is a regular 15A charge option(3.3 KW max) and a 7KW 32A single phase special connection and some really high end ones demand a 3 phase 22KW AC charger so that their 70+kwh batteries can juice up overnight), bigger the battery more time is needed to charge unless one can setup a fast AC charger at home. I suggest settling on the 15A charge type if the time available between charges is good enough, as it is safer for the battery life and we as owners will adjust to what is available anywhere and everywhere. We haven’t completely mastered the way to fast charge without affecting or heating up the battery today, hopefully the XFC tech and solid state battery comes and changes this.

Many manufacturers provide both Wall mount (higher capacity AC charger) and portable chargers that function based on a 15A socket. One needs to make sure he/she is aware while purchasing.

Connected vehicle software:

Ultra important, these connected vehicle features are a vanity in ICE but in an EV, it can really transform the experience. Things like knowing the SoC and scheduling the charge, and setting the charge limits, vacation mode to keep the battery healthy on those times when you are away from home.

It is also important in case of NMC batteries not to keep 100% SoC if not using the car, it is better to plan to bring the car to 80% charge and wait and charge it just few hours before the use to bring it to 100%.

Another inevitable but important feature is TPMS(Tire Pressure Monitoring System):

If the vehicle has it then good, otherwise add 4-5K for an external system to be installed.

EV range can drastically reduce if the tire pressure is low and get you stranded in the middle of nowhere.

Insurance addendums:

It is better to protect your vehicle charger under insurance if allowed(Electrical Accessory). Useful especially if the warranty terms don’t cover it. Many chargers tend to be expensive and the Indian grid can cause havoc on electronics at times.

Final consideration:

EVs consume a lot of current(in Amperes) for the charging hence don’t cheap out on sockets and cables if used for outside travel. Let the EV provider come home and assess your electrical situation and install the home charger. If you are preparing an extension cable roll for travels, do so with the highest thickness needed to handle the max current, for example my Verito needs a 4sq mm 3 core cable for lengths up to 25m. In the name of EV fix all those faulty electrical sockets, grounding and false phase and neutral wiring at home please. Don’t buy any Cona products, whereas GM, Havells and Anchor seem to hold the stated currents and have offered better experience by not burning out IMHO. If preparing an extension cable, have an MCB attached next to the charge socket as a switch to prevent vehicle from unintended short circuit and other mishaps.

Check out BHPian comments for more insights and information.

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