Electric vehicles: the prognosis

Electric cars

Electric carsThe global auto business is undergoing profound change on all fronts from the cars being built, through the companies that are building them to the consumers who are buying them.

There is no doubt that things are beginning to look significantly different from how they were just 10 years ago.

However, while expectations for electric vehicles are being scaled back – a process that began back in 2017 – there is one market that is showing signs of roaring ahead: hybrids.

These vehicles that combine a traditional internal combustion engine, along with an electric motor, are in growing demand. Indeed, one recent research report projected the global revenues from hybrid vehicle sales to soar at an exponential compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 20.4% between now and 2026.

With a backdrop that involves increasingly stringent environmental policy worldwide, some analysts are even expecting hybrid or electrified vehicles to be accounting for 35% of global auto sales by 2030.

The fact is that hybrids are bridging the alternative auto power gap while the innovations in battery technology continue to be developed and will eventually make completely electric vehicles much more affordable and convenient.

In the meantime, though, this detour away from electric vehicles (EVs) to hybrids is hardly unexpected. Currently, EVs are considered costly, by no means as easy to use, and much less profitable for the automakers than the more conventional gasoline-powered alternatives they continue to construct.

The engineers accept that the biggest hurdle for EVs is the cost of batteries but innovations have yet to tackle this issue and it is thought that battery deterioration will continue to hold back EV development even after the cost issue is overcome.

As a result, in an era where people are increasingly concerned about climate change and damage to the environment, electrified hybrids are being seen as more practical – and from an investment point of view, more profitable, at least for the next 10 years.

Automotive industry forecasters estimate that it could take that long before the necessary innovations enabling the mass-market construction of lighter, smaller and faster charging solid-state batteries are developed.

It’s noticeable that as a result of these impediments governments around the world have retreated from their previous EV policies in favor of electrified vehicle solutions.

The area where hybrids are expected to be being adopted faster than just about anywhere else is currently in Europe because that continent is ahead on tightening its environmental regulations.  Simultaneously, Japan’s plan is to aim for a gradual shift in the direction of electrification by adopting a balanced range of vehicle types including hybrids, plug-in hybrids and vehicles that are capable of running on fuel cells.

The world’s largest EV market is in China and there the Government’s effort is being channelled into a New Energy Vehicle policy, redirecting subsidies to charging infrastructure. China’s move is aimed at closing a $6 trillion cost barrier that is standing in the way of the widespread adopting of electric cars throughout the world.

TeslaAs an element of its new energy policy, China has rolled back its subsidies and imposed tougher requirements on the performance of electric vehicles. Beijing is switching provincial funding in the direction of charging stations and related infrastructure projects. China is playing a hardball game and local governments have been told in no uncertain terms that if they don’t comply their fiscal subsidies will be cut by the central government.

While complete adoption of electric vehicles globally is forecast to need an investment of almost $6 trillion, setting up the infrastructure is being seen by many as the highest cost barrier to electric cars.

Indeed, chargers are estimated to account for around $2.6 trillion of the investment needed, while the expenditure on grids is budgeted at $2.8 trillion. To implement advancements like these is expected to take a few decades.

Auto manufacturers, in the meantime, are no doubt boosting their development and the production of EVs, but in the US, under the Trump administration, environmental regulations and efficiency standards are being rolled back so the electrification of vehicles has been slowed.

However, there is little doubt that the transition to electric vehicles is going to happen but nobody really knows exactly when and, at present, plug-in, electric cars represent less than 2% of the US market and only 2.2% globally.

Even with exponential growth and a record two million EVs sold throughout the world last year, just one in 250 cars currently on the roads is electric. Only in Norway, where subsidies and perks have been lavished on EVs, has the EV share of new car sales risen to about 30%.

All in all, it is hybrids that are benefitting from the EV setbacks, and where they used to be seen as just a fad on the road to fully electric cars and trucks, they now look set to make a big difference as the manufacturers use them as test beds to develop the technology for future motors and inverters that will prove useful in the EVs that are to come.

Hybrid electrified vehicles now look to be on target to account for 35% of worldwide auto sales within the next 10 to 15 years. They ease the transition from solely gas-powered cars by offering the dual technologies of electric and gas power for drivers. Even though EV ranges are improving rapidly, hybrids have an advantage over them because of the longer driving distances they are able to cover.

First image by Paul Brennan from Pixabay
Second image by Blomst from Pixabay

Value for money load carrier

Automotive conent
Load carrier: still considered a comfortable, main-road distance eater

Peugeot 406 break 115

Back in the mid-1990s, the Peugeot 406 Break was widely welcomed as offering almost executive levels of automotive refinement. It was ahead of many of its competitors at the time, and although it has fallen back in the pack since it still can be considered a comfortable, main road distance eater – especially for the money for which they can be bought and maintained.

It’s not the greatest handler but it still stays calm even when being driven over rough surfaces, and altogether delivers a composed drive. The engines may be considered gutless but they are strong, smooth, and relaxed. Slick is the word aficionados use to describe the gearbox.

Not unexpectedly, the dashboard has that tired look of the 1990s, but its dials are simple and clear to see and the switches and other controls are easy to use. The room for the front passenger is very adequate and comfortable.

The back is not particularly roomy, but there is an ample amount of space in the load bay. And because the seat at the back splits and folds, this break offers even more versatility for anyone who has loads to carry.

The driver’s seat doesn’t appeal to everyone, with some drivers reporting  it doesn’t support them adequately.

It’s a reasonable car as far as costs are concerned. Servicing is comparatively cheap and when repairs are needed unexpectedly, which is unusual, these can be fixed inexpensively.

As with many French cars, it is the electrics that attract the largest volume of criticisms. Particular bugbears are problems with the central locking mechanism that sometimes misses out the boot, and the indicator stalks can be problematic.

The transmissions also attract more than their fair share of complaints. The brakes can be questionable and not always easy or cheap to sort out. If the car has been used for lugging heavy loads – which is often the case thanks to the roomy load bay – it has probably challenged the suspension.

With a full service history the engine tends to be a robust part of this car, but beware if there are any gaps in the service record, especially if there are signs of excessive wear and tear inside the car and too many tell-tale scuffs and chips on the bodywork.

If it is a modern estate/brake car you are hunting for, especially if you want more than  average refinement and to project a distinctively mature image, the Peugeot 406 break 115 would be hard to beat.

Among the strengths that this car has are good standards of comfort, handling, and ride that come encased in an attractive and very spacious bodywork.

All round, and for the money, the Peugeot 406 break 115 is a sound choice.

The flagship that hasn’t stood the test of time

Automotive content
Rare beast:  harmony of form and function?

Alfa Romeo 166 2.4 JTD 10V

The Alfa Romeo 166 2.4 JTD 10V, like other versions of the 166, has always been praised for its alternative, sleek styling, with super dynamics and a large cabin.

The model, which was only ever available in left-hand drive, was only constructed between October 2003 to January 2007 and the 2.4 JTD diesel engine has always been regarded by Alfa enthusiasts as one of the most successful of the car manufacturer’s engines.

It was created by the Alfa Romeo Style Centre with the aim of expressing the harmony of form and function while combining the sports traits of a coupé with the elegance of a great saloon.

If cared for, it is said the engine is capable of running for as many as a million kilometres (620,000 miles) without problems. It generates 100 kW (136 PS) at 4000 rpm,  and the car has a huge pulling power of 304 Nm (224 lb/ft) from 2000 rpm.

When you slide into the comfortable but hardly supportive driver’s seat you will find that any rumours about the ergonomics being compromised are no more than tittle-tattle. This is a car that was built for long journeys and as a result, its levels of comfort do not disappoint.

However, if you are expecting build quality and high-class materials you will feel let down. But Alfa Romeo’s always have a sporting heart – and this model is no different. The 166’s engine note sounds fantastic, and if you are an enthusiastic driver you will want to keep it in gear just for the enjoyment of it.

Unfortunately, however, the 166, like a lot of Alfa Romeos has been exposed by time to be a fragile specimen. Its interiors don’t wear well, so be careful if you really are thinking of buying one of these.

It is a far cry from when this model was launched. Then Alfa’s boasts were many: the car came fitted with an advanced climate control system. There was plenty of sound-proofing. The in-car technology had supposedly been designed to make life feel that bit easier. There was an electronic interface, with Cruise Control, a smart radio which dynamically adjusted the volume in conjunction with surrounding noises, and a satellite navigation system.

Having said that, this Alfa is rare among executive cars in that it puts the pleasure of driving above efficiency and comfort and efficiency. It’s Twin Spark engine gives a lively performance, which is enhanced by a well-balanced chassis and firm ride firm. The steering is noticeably precise and adequately weighted.

The only big gripe is that this is a gas guzzler – even in the calmest driver’s hands.