Every time a new technology makes its way to the market consumers are obviously ignorant about it and they normally go: ‘For the same price, the bigger and more powerful the better’. Speaking of EVs, common people like me are usually concerned about the range. When an electric vehicle is tested its range is normally exposed in the very first lines of the article if not in the subtitle. It makes sense after all, how far we can go is the key factor, the most critical factor to be considered when it comes to such cars (apart from price of course). This because it triggers our fear to be stranded on the road side miles away from home like sailors lost at sea and it’s perfectly understandable, people who owned a 2 stroke motorcycle with a fuel tank size inversely proportional to its gigantic appetite for gas know what I am talking about, boy you could skip leg day after pushing that thing to the closest station. Most customers want to know how many miles they can run without recharging which is correct but keep in mind that efficiency is important as well: both battery efficiency and powertrain efficiency. Big batteries add pounds, which leads to bigger brakes, frames, suspensions and tires. Big batteries store more energy but part of it is dissipated just because of their weight so the industry tackles the range problem both with more capacity and improving efficiency. Have you noticed that when comparing ICE vehicles we check MPGs while when it comes to EVs we mostly want to know the range? It’s like we are worried about gas price when filling but recharging is free. Let’s put it this way: a Hummer sure has a bigger tank than a Corolla but this doesn’t mean it goes farther or it’s cheaper to run. The same goes for EVs, big batteries-great range doesn’t means miles are free: How many miles per kW the car delivers matters, engineers and insiders know this very well, now it’s time to educate common people like the one writing that range and consumption are both important, before we all end up complaining about electricity bills. Wasting energy comes with a price in terms of pollution too as long as sources are not renewable. But even when it’s renewable energy, why would we waste it anyway? Countless videos on YouTube showed for years Toyota Prius real consumption (it was a sort of challenge) but now that society is facing this huge shift in technology to EVs it seems consumption is not that relevant anymore to the average consumer, we have to avoid the approach ‘Just throw some more Duracells in the trunk cowboy’ because it is not cost effective. Makers say that to extend range and cut costs every little enhancement helps, downsizing and lighter components do their part in the process. I suppose leaving home the 150 pounds of your mother-in-law seems a reasonable price to pay for the sake of economizing.
During the past weeks I’ve read a lot about the new Tesla pickup Cybertruck and I’m not referring to data sheets or articles in magazines, I’m talking about people’s comments on social media. What I found is that we have a peculiar idea of what’s elegant and what’s not, our concept of beauty is twisted to say the least and has different standards to different categories of product. A fair share of gearheads made fun of the poor thing labelling it as childish, arguing that it’s too simplified to resemble a proper vehicle but who said that mainstream car design is the best achievable? Commercially speaking it could be, academically speaking there’s room for improvement.
We got used to certain common aesthetic features in cars, they kept evolving for over a century in a smooth way (with some disruptive exceptions) trying not to shock buyers -cause in the end it’s all about sales- but this doesn’t mean that the ultimate product of this metamorphosis from model T to nowadays SUVs and trucks is the best compromise between style, cost and practicality.
We are accustomed to organic shapes and that’s why we throw anatomy terms into car design, words like shoulders, tail, dog-leg and musclecar itself of course can be heard at a briefing with designers. Vehicles are 21st century armors, we identify as our car while driving it and movies played a big role in giving automobiles human connotations, just think about Herbie and Cars. Think about it: On the road we prefer to be a Jaguar rather than being a Pinto, right? It’s in our nature. The truth is that only few can afford outstanding performance, the rest just make do sitting in over decorated vehicles padded with superfluous air intakes, useless grilles, chrome trims, even fake plastic exhaust pipes (oh God, these are the worst). Now it’s funny how the same standard doesn’t apply to home interior design, quite the opposite indeed: a high percentage of people consider minimalism in furniture a sign of elegance while, for instance, the replica of a baroque cabinet with fake gold details is definitely ‘ew’ (more like Eeew!). Now, the first question is: Why do most people think minimalism is a plus in architecture and not in car design? Furthermore: Is the future of car design doomed with the addition of useless features to give more charisma to products? Of course nobody is forced to like Elon Musk’s latest sharp creation (or the rounded VW New Beetle for that matter) but it is fair to say that the Cybertruck is unattractive as much as other competitors are tacky. Yes, we all want to drive something that makes us accepted by peers without looking like out of place, after all understatement is still a value, but embracing passively the standard of the majority has never been a good sign in society. Like it or not, the Cybertruck brings fresh air to the establishment, hence, the topic of this discussion is not whether I love it or hate it but it’s about recognizing Musk’s effort to make a bald statement sharing with all of us his crazy (but intelligent) dream and I personally thank him for this.