the car of the future struggles in its own trap

The French Agency for Energy and Environmental Management (Ecological Transition Agency – ADEME), in an article timed before this week’s Paris Motor Show, draws attention to the fact that the cars of the future are still very heavy, which in some cases calls into question their role in environmental protection. Depending on the category and construction, the weight of electric cars is several hundreds of kilos higher than their counterparts with gasoline or diesel engines, which is clearly due to the lithium-ion battery used to drive them.

The greater weight increases consumption and reduces the number of kilometers that can be driven between charges, and also affects how far they have to be driven in order to compensate for the environmental effects caused by production. Although the environmental footprint of electric cars with lighter and smaller battery capacity is more favorable, the state agency writes in its article, many buyers believe that it is worth choosing the model with the largest possible battery. They still don’t think that above about 100 kilowatt-hours, you can no longer hope for such a range increase as the car will be heavier and more expensive.

The range of electric cars according to the official measurement cycle (WLTP) is nowadays a parameter like the number of pixels often mentioned in connection with the camera system of mobile phones. Both parameters are highlighted in advertisements, it makes the types comparable, and it applies to both of them that they can be misleading. In the case of electric cars, the battery capacity expressed in kilowatt-hours (kWh) and the ready-to-go weight are at least as important, as they all determine how many kilometers we will have to nervously look for a charging station after.

The big technological breakthrough from so-called solid-state batteries (solid-state battery) the automotive industry is waiting for, but in a September interview with the Financial Times, the head of the joint venture between Toyota and Panasonic, Koda Hiroaki, said that the widespread adoption of lighter, cheaper and higher energy density car batteries will have to wait until around 2030, because their production and development are difficult for now.

The weight of the Chinese-Swedish Polestar 3 is more than 2.5 tons, so despite its convincing driving performance, it partially refutes the “bigger is better” principle – Photo: Polestar

According to ADEME’s findings, in the age of current lithium technology, an electric car equipped with a battery of up to 60 kilowatt hours may be the optimal choice, at least considering France’s current energy industry capabilities. The carbon dioxide emissions projected over the entire life cycle of a Nissan Leaf or Renault Zoe or any similar average car corresponding to these parameters of its compact diesel engine models (pl. Volkswagen Golf TDI, Peugeot 308 HDI, etc…) half, a third, so the electric car can offset the environmental pollution associated with its production by traveling up to 15,000 kilometers. The mileage required to reach a steady state can be up to 100,000 kilometers in the case of a larger, heavier, top model with a battery capacity of 100 kilowatt hours, which, on the other hand, has the advantage that even with the current density of the charging network, there is no need to worry that it will run out somewhere along the way, because there are no public chargers in the nearby.

Electric cars with giant batteries are not only offered by Tesla, but the BMW iX or the Mercedes EQE also belong to this field, in fact, the soon-to-be-presented Volvo EX90 or the Polestar 3, which was released just before the Paris exhibition, the design of which was also supported by “the bigger in addition to the “better” principle. Volvo’s subsidiary, Polestar, which is partially owned by the Chinese Geely, is a young player, so it is not surprising that it only produces electric cars, the first model of which has reached Hungary, although it has not yet started its distribution.

The curb weight of the Polestar 3 is 2,584 kilograms, which is half a ton more than that of any conventional car of the same size, but equipped with a diesel or gasoline engine. The driving performance of one of the heaviest new electric cars will not be a problem either, as its two electric motors have a total of 483 horsepower (more than 500 for an extra charge), and its 111 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery, which is built under the body and consists of 204 cells and seventeen modules, can travel up to 610 kilometers between two charges. .

The significant theoretical range can be cut in half if the Polestar 3 driver steps on the gas pedal. In this case, the 4.9-meter-long giant off-road vehicle accelerates from a standstill to a speed of 100 kilometers in less than 5 seconds, and the maximum speed can be 210 km/h. The automotive press specifically mentions that the third Polestar model is just over the limit of reasonableness, meaning that you have to pay a lot for the larger and heavier battery.

The interior of the Polestar 3 combines Scandinavian and Tesla minimalism - Photo: Polestar

The interior of the Polestar 3 combines Scandinavian and Tesla minimalism – Photo: Polestar

It is worth comparing these values ​​with similar data for the Hyundai Ioniq 6. The early mass brand of the South has canceled the dirty bargain of hobby SUV fashion when it presented the most streamlined model in its history. Thanks to the drag coefficient of 0.21 of the traditionally built sedan, it also gets by with an electricity consumption of 14 kWh/100 kilometers, so the optional larger 77.4 kilowatt-hour battery can be enough to reach a range of more than 600 kilometers.

The soap shape Hyundai is obviously not as spacious as the Polestar, but until the new battery technology appears, a body shape similar to it or even Tesla’s non-SUV models will be the solution to range problems. By the way, the Polestar 3’s form factor is 0.29, which is also favorable, but they fought for it when designing the nose part and the roof, as well as with the aerodynamic accessories mounted on the box-shaped body.

The Swedish-Chinese Polestar 3 is exciting not only as a car, but also because of its advanced electronic systems. The large Polestar is equipped with a total of five external radar modules, five external cameras and twelve ultrasonic sensors, which support advanced driving support functions.

It is not only Mercedes that is trying to break out of the paradigm of large, heavy and self-retarding electric SUVs with a streamlined design, but also Hyundai.  The drag coefficient of the Ioniq 6 is 0.21, so it can travel more than 600 kilometers even with a smaller battery - Photo: Hyundai

It is not only Mercedes that is trying to break out of the paradigm of large, heavy and self-retarding electric SUVs with a streamlined design, but also Hyundai. The drag coefficient of the Ioniq 6 is 0.21, so it can travel more than 600 kilometers even with a smaller battery – Photo: Hyundai

Perhaps even more interesting are the cabin scanning radar units that can detect any movement of less than a millimeter, so if a child or animal is left inside, the Polestar 3 will provide ventilation and heating to protect them. The driver is monitored by two cameras while driving, and if his eye movement slows down, and therefore there is a risk of drifting off or falling asleep, it prevents the accident first by sounding an alarm, but in the last case even by stopping the car.

Polestar has high hopes for the 3, as it wants to sell a total of 67,000 units by 2024, around 27,000 in Europe and around the world. If it succeeds, the new Sino-Swedish hobby SUV may become one of the most popular electric cars. The question, of course, is how well the buyers of the better-known brands will accept the Polestar, which has only been around for a few years, and costs 89,000 euros. (converted, HUF 37 million at the average exchange rate) its novelty.

The European market is also growing significantly, as according to Automotive News Europe, 840,000 electric cars were sold in the first eight months of this year, which represents an increase of nearly thirty percent compared to the same period in 2021.

At the same time, the NGO Transport & Environment expressed its concerns in its statement on Monday, because, as they write, despite the expansion of the production capacity of European brands, electric cars still account for only eleven percent of all sales, compared to the thirteen previously forecast for this year. T&E also points out that Chinese manufacturers, including BYD and Great Wall, who are now appearing on the market, can carve out a significant slice for themselves if the EU does not encourage the old players to speed up the green transition. The Chinese electric car can really be a big surprise in the EU in the coming years, but the question is still which brand will be able to launch really cheap mass models to make plug-in cars available to those who cannot afford them yet. , so they would rather stay with petrol and diesel.