Tesla killers are coming
Any major auto show I go to these days, electric vehicles (EVs) are taking centre stage. It’s not that customers are rushing out to buy them (EVs still account for less than one per cent of all worldwide car sales) but the realisation that EVs will be the future and the time to enter that race is now.
The battle begins
That’s bad news for Tesla and its owner Elon Musk, the poster boy (or should we say spoilt child?) of the EV world because the global auto giants have shown their intent to go for the jugular. Take a look at the ultra futuristic Mercedes Vision EQ Silver Arrow, which looks like it’s from the year 2100. And that’s even before you look at its Batmobile-like retractable canopy in action. And the cabin? It’s a snug, single seat cockpit with more screens than a gamer’s den. This may be the Mercedes of the distant future but the Mercedes of the not-too-distant future is going to be a very different beast too. If you can call a noiseless and emission-free vehicle a beast, that is. Say hello to Mercedes-EQ, the German carmaker’s new EV brand. It’s ready with its first model, the first of 10 before 2025, and it’s here to take the fight to Tesla, and win.
Leading the charge is the EQC, a five-seat SUV that’s based on the regular GLC platform. But it promises to be nothing like the donor model in the way it drives. There’s no engine and what you get instead is a pair of electric motors that together produce a whopping 407hp. Is that enough to propel a vehicle weighed down by heavy batteries? Despite its 2,425kg weight which is around 500kg more than an equivalent SUV with a regular engine, the EQC is still capable of sprinting from 0-100kph in just 5.1 seconds. Of course, the number of greater interest is range. Mercedes claims a range of 470km which, if not class-leading, is more than sufficient. Charging time? Ten to 80 per cent in 40 minutes from a DC charger, the type that will become commonplace in Europe and the USA in the years to come. Trouble is, the EQC itself won’t become commonplace in India. Mercedes has said it will consider the EQC for India only when the requisite charging infrastructure is in place.
The future is here
Rival Audi sees things differently. It’s convinced there’s a market for luxury EVs in India and is confident its e-tron SUV’s (also Audi’s first dedicated EV) 400km range will be sufficient for typical users for whom the model will be an addition to the garage. So come late 2019, you’ll be able to buy one at your nearby Audi dealership. Before you scoff, “Where would you charge it?” know that Audi will provide charging hardware with the car. Plug it, shut it, forget it. A fast charger can get the lithium-ion battery to 80 per cent in all of 30 minutes. Think about it, 300km range over a cup of coffee.
Like the Mercedes EQC, the e-tron also uses two motors, and combined max power is a similar 408hp. And 0-100kph comes up in a not-too-shabby 5.5 seconds. That’s about as quick as sports cars from a few years ago! In look, the 5 seat e-tron is identifiable as an Audi SUV alright but it does get some unique detailing to set it apart. But the talking point of the model has got to be its Virtual Mirrors. Cameras take the place of the traditional wing mirrors and project the image on screens on the doors. It’s something that we’ve only seen on concept cars for years and it’s cool to finally see the transition to road car.
The next year will see the first crop of high-tech EVs hitting the road. Unfortunately, they won’t be cheap but those who can afford them will be doing their bit for the planet.
Hormazd Sorabjee is one of the most senior and much loved auto journalists in India, and is editor of Autocar India
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From HT Brunch, October 21, 2018
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