I like new technology. That doesn't mean I'm good at operating all the new fangled gadgets of day to day life these days, and I certainly do appreciate simplicity, but I always take a keen interest in new technological developments.
Hence, I was one of the very first buyers (and we were a rare breed as it turned out!) of the Holden Volt when it went on sale here in Australia in 2013. As a result, the Triple Eight Race Engineering factory has had a car charging point in the car park for over ten years. Early adopters!
Even with a $10,000 discount, courtesy of the good guys at Holden, it was still a very expensive car frankly. But I liked the fact that it could cover the 15km between home and work and back each day purely on electric power. The Volt wasn't particularly fast, but it had an excellent ride on the rubbish roads of Brisbane courtesy of the weight of the batteries, which also, due to the low centre of gravity, gave a real sense of security to the handling.
Unfortunately, GM failed to develop the Volt hybrid concept to anything like the same degree as Toyota have done, and continue to do, with their equivalent Prius. The Prius has gone from a truly terrible looking ugly duckling to, what I gather is, in its latest iteration, a very good looking and very capable car. For reasons unknown to me, it's not sold in Australia.
So, when I sold the Volt there wasn't an obvious replacement available in my book. The BMW i3 was undoubtedly a good car, but I couldn't cope with the looks. So, I waited until I could order an electric Mini which used the same running gear as the i3 but in a better package from my point of view.
The Mini made an excellent second car to use around the city and surrounding areas, and it drove extremely well. Fast enough for most people, and great handling albeit you could feel the weight. But that's a trait of all electric cars. It's major limitation was a range of 200km. That was ample for use as a second car, but also meant that it was just too marginal for, for instance, a trip from Brisbane to Surfers.
Therefore, after three years of absolutely trouble free running and minimal expense, I decided that I wanted something a little bigger in size and a much better range. Hence, I've recently taken delivery of a Cupra Born.
Why didn't I buy a Tesla, you may well ask?
Whilst I admire what Tesla has done, and continues to do, especially in terms of simplifying the production process and their drive train development, I don't like the interiors and I question, maybe incorrectly, the quality of the car bodywork, interior and exterior.
There are also simply too many of them on our roads!
I also don't really want to buy yet another Chinese made product – all Teslas sold here are made in Shanghai.
The Cupra, which is a better looking and better appointed Volkswagen, on the other hand, has a beautifully appointed interior for a car in this price range and gives off an immediate feeling of quality and solidity. Furthermore, even using the Performance mode, the practical day to day range that I am achieving is over 550km per charge. That is more than sufficient for me. Anything more, and I'll be on Virgin thank you.
It's worth noting that I live in Southeast Coastal Queensland where, for the most part, it never gets cold. As I've written about previously, once the thermometer is hovering around zero, the negative effect on range is massive, as I've seen personally in the UK last winter. Electric cars work well in Los Angeles, less so in New York for that reason.
But, and this is a big but… let me be clear. My conversion to electrification has nothing to do any ‘Green policy' on my behalf. I drive an electric car because I believe that, for everyday use in a predominantly urban environment, the latest electric cars represent the most practical and useful option for me, as they do increasingly for many other people.
Cars such as the Cupra drive very well, are quick enough for any sane person in everyday use and are extremely economical to run. Most of my charging is done on a 10amp plug at home overnight. That's slow but it keeps the Born topped up for almost no money. The simple pleasure of not going to a servo and handing over more and more dollars each week cannot be overestimated.
But anyone who tells you that the Cupra, and its ilk, are ‘Green' are kidding themselves, at least in this country. We're just moving the point of fuel burn from the car to the power station. And even when, at some point many years down the line, we presumably get to the point where we can safely say that our electricity generation really is ‘Green', the same cannot be said for the production of the batteries for these cars.
At one point I was really questioning whether I should be buying an electric car after reading yet again about the extraction methodology of some of the battery component minerals in central Africa. But then I realised that this would just be hypocrisy given that I use a phone and many other devices in my everyday life that already potentially use such resources.
So, hopefully, over the coming years, we develop truly sustainable sources of clean electricity (why, for instance, are we not harnessing the huge tidal power in the waters around the Northern Territory?) for vehicles and other needs, whilst battery technology also develops to the point where the use of finite resources, along with highly questionable mining practices, greatly diminishes.
There's no question in my mind that, for some, but not all, people living in urban areas, electric cars are a really practical option. However, they're also neither practical nor cheap enough for many others. And that's why I take issue with the wholesale banning of internal combustion vehicles in the years to come in some countries.
I also feel that the internal combustion engine will continue to be developed and will be a part of life for a long time to come.
The evangelical stance that some folks have towards electric cars and the Green cause is not for me. No, my adoption of electric cars in my personal life is based on practical, everyday reasons where the technology works for me and my circumstances.
In Australia we currently have a choice, Let's keep it that way.
And, in the interests of full disclosure, I did not get a discount of any sort on the Cupra. Unfortunately!