What you need to know about electric cars right now

A glimpse at how First World countries do it
by Paul Horrell | Aug 5, 2018

Will my car battery eventually brick itself like a phone battery always does?

Ain’t. Gonna. Happen. Trust us. Nissan has made 300,000 Leafs, and some are now in their eighth year. The number globally that have had battery failure is… three. Degradation too is a vastly overstated problem. A few Leaf taxis in Japan have dropped to sub-80% capacity, after spending years being rapid-charged three times a day (brutal) and doing more than 160,000km. Batteries degrade with the number of discharge cycles, especially deep-discharge.

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Future cars, with longer range, will be less prone, as their charging frequency will inevitably fall. The market is realizing they’re reliable. Two years ago a friend of mine bought a three-year-old Leaf. He paid £9,000 (P621,000). Today, three-year-old Leafs of the same mileage and spec are £12k (P828,000). Also, there’s a growing demand for used car batteries for renewable-energy storage. Those packs don’t need tip-top energy density: It’s okay if they have, say, 70% of their original capacity. So at the end of the car’s life, the battery isn’t a hard-to-recycle liability. It’s an asset.

Never mind the advertised range—how far will I really be able to go?

Quoted EV range has been based on the same unrealistic EU test as gasoline and diesel cars. The advertised range on the new, more honest WLTP test will be less, but you’ll have a better chance of achieving it. Long journeys using fast chargers make it worse. Say you have a “321km” (WLTP) EV. You start at home, with the battery at 100%. Driving on a motorway, at 258km there’s a rapid-charge station. The next one is 50km ahead, and who’d risk that? You stop. This charging is only rapid up to about 80%, and after that the battery tops off more gently. Okay, take it to 80%, or 258km of range. Set off again, and again feel compelled to stop when the indicator says 64km. In that leg you’ve covered only 193km between charges of your “322km” EV.

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How fast can I charge?

Roughly, divide the usable battery capacity by the charger power, plus about 10% for charger inefficiencies. Using a household socket is desperate. It’s 3kW or less, so more than 13 hours for a new Leaf; 30 hours for the (84.7kWh usable, 90kWh gross) Jaguar I-Pace. A home wallbox is about 7kW, and too many public charge points are the same—too slow for big-battery cars. Some AC points do 22kW or even 43kW fast charging, although many cars can’t accept that power and throttle the intake. Check the car’s spec. DC ‘rapid’ charging bypasses the car’s on-board charger rectifier, but after 80% the rate tails off. Expressway outlets are 50kW, giving the new Leaf 80% charge in 40 minutes. From next year, there will be some 150kW DC sites, and 350kW with Porsche’s ‘Turbocharging’, taking a flat Mission E to 80% in 15min. Tesla’s Supercharging is 120kW DC, for 0–80 in about 30mins. 

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NOTE: This article first appeared on TopGear.com. Minor edits have been made.

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PHOTO: Nissan Motor Co. Ltd.
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