For the past few years I have been following the product offering for battery electric cars, just in case. It could come in handy to know what to get should the family car need replacement, if at all, which is likely given the inconsistent bicycle paths and inadequate public transport in Cambridge, UK. In general, however, I think not buying new cars would be my preferred option and I am trying to a) use our current car as long as possible to get a good return on investment as well as decent use of the embodied energy, and b) drive as little as possible, following my own guideline of avoid, walk, cycle where possible. So what are our requirements and what are the options?
As a small family we would like a compact but spacious vehicle that is comfortable to drive. Living in a small city, we do not drive too far and not too often. Our current car is a Renault Scenic mark II, which to me is the perfect car for our needs. There are similar cars, actually a whole range of such compact multi-purpose cars, such as but not limited to the Citroën C4 Picasso, Toyota Verso, Volkswagen Touran, Vauxhaul Meriva, Ford C-Max, etc. You get the idea. They all have in common: lots of internal space, modest, not flashy, practical, family oriented, comfortable. Usually the ones mentioned above exist as slightly bigger version, too, with the main objective being comfort and space for the family and all that goes with it.
If for some reason a replacement of our current family car was needed, I would ideally like to get a battery electric one and not a hybrid. The latter seems to combine the best and the worst of two worlds. For a hybrid, you still need to maintain and service the internal combustion engine, and you will need to maintain the battery as well; it feels like two drive trains in one. In contrast, the electric drive drain is based on mature technology, either permanent magnet or induction motors, inverters and batteries in various guises. Much fewer components, less to go wrong, no expensive cam-belt changes. What are the options then on battery electric family cars?
Well, there are not that many, at least that would appear attractive to me. Most compact cars that are being offered as battery electric are either a) rather small with little space inside.e.g. Handa-E, Nissan Leaf, or Renault Zoe; or b) come in the shape of SUVs, e.g. Citroën E-C4, Peugeot e-2008, Kia e-Niro, Hyundai Kona Electric all of which I am not too fond of; they seem to be an aberration in car development similar to the spaceship inspired American cars of the 1960ies. For some reason the automotive industry does not offer electric versions of the classic family cars mentioned at the beginning. I wonder why there is no Renault Scenic Electric, or Toyota Verso Electric?
Perhaps one could argue that the Volkswagen ID.3 and the underlying Modular electric platform (MEB) would present itself in a modern yet modest shape and goes “the extra mile” into a new vehicle design paradigm. However, the business model of established vehicle manufacturer seems to evolve still around individual car ownership. If there is a car that does stand out with a modern approach to shared mobility, however, then it has to be Sono Motors Sion, “A spacious electric car with a range of up to 255 kilometers that charges itself through the power of the sun”.
Sono Digital’s states: “Our mission is to make every car electric and shared” and the company has more in mind such as bidirectional vehicle-to-vehicle charging, integrated solar charging, and a 3-step maintenance system: Standard replacement parts can be changed by the owner/user, publication of a workshop handbook and extensive network of independent mechanics, and for any repairs involving high-voltage or body parts, Sion cooperate with a well-known European service provider. I hope that they’ll succeed where traditional car manufacturers seem to fail. With their approach, Sion are in good company with the likes of Arrival for buses and delivery vehicles.