Electric car, does power still matter?

We often talk about the phenomenal power of certain electric cars, but is it still a relevant topic?

Almost 2,000 horsepower for the Rimac Revera, 761 horsepower for the Porsche Taycan Turbo S. But also more than 1,000 horsepower for the Tesla Model S Plaid, almost 300 horsepower for the “basic” Tesla Model 3 (and more than 500 for the Performance version, even close at 580 according to some measures), the latter is three family sedans with a rather quiet appearance… Is it really fair?

We could multiply the examples of electric cars if even entry-level versions are equipped with cavalry that would have thrilled any power enthusiast just a few years ago. Take for example a Kia EV6, a soft and ultra-comfortable crossover that, with 325 horsepower, develops almost the same power as a Porsche 911 Carrera 10 years ago, but a much higher torque (605 Nm against 390 Nm for the German).

So have electric manufacturers gone crazy offering family-oriented machines that grow like high-end sports cars? Not really. In fact, power is inherent in electric propulsion and it is much easier to achieve, even “free”, since torque in particular is one of its natural vectors. It also turns out that, contrary to what we know with thermal power, power is not obtained at the expense of efficiency and thus autonomy. A technical reality illustrated especially by Tesla, whose Model 3, including in its Performance version, is one of the most efficient electric cars in the world.

Today’s cars perform better than yesterday’s sports cars

It is therefore only natural that the original electric cars are often well equipped with horsepower and that it is not uncommon to count them in the hundreds, a privilege once reserved for exceptional cars. Data that has therefore become almost commonplace in recent years.

But is it still relevant to count horses? Not sure. Our recent article on the true power of Tesla, and especially the subsequent discussions, show that the views are very different on the subject, which is indeed becoming divisive for many reasons.

Let’s try to see it a little more clearly.

First of all, from a purely technical point of view, for several years the power of cars has no longer been expressed in horsepower, but in kW. But since habits die hard and most motorists still reason in “horsepower” (!), this measurement remains the current universal measurement. For the sake of completeness, let’s remember the correspondence: to convert 1 kW to horsepower, multiply by 1.36. A car with an output of 200 kW will therefore develop 272 horsepower. However, the power expressed in kW seems all the more relevant and adapted to the electric car, since the horses initially take the engine speed into account, which no longer really makes sense for an electric motor.

On the other hand, the power figures, as they are indicated today, no longer correspond properly to the reality of an electric powertrain, since the latter depends, among other things, on a decisive element, which is the charge level of the battery. A fortiori when we know that the management of the latter is different according to the manufacturers, and even according to the models from the same manufacturer… even their release date. While a thermomobile gives the same effect with a full or empty tank, the performance of an electric car is not 100% constant depending on the state of charge. According to this test by the famous Youtuber Teslabjørn, the management software of the 2021 versions of the Tesla Model 3 Performance would drastically limit the current when the charge level drops below 20%, to the point where the time is multiplied by 3 times from 0 to 100 (almost 10 seconds mod 3.3), which doesn’t seem to be the case with earlier versions.

In short, the measurement and indication of the effect of an electric depends on several parameters, which perhaps should be taken into account to get a broader overview, and closer to reality. One could imagine this being indicated by one or more battery levels, for example 100%, 50% and 20%. It would certainly complicate the technical sheets somewhat, but it would also make it possible to see how each manufacturer controls the current according to the performance of the batteries.

“Sufficient” power

But the technical aspect may not be the most important. If one starts from the observation that the power of electric cars is often high and “sufficient”, is this still a criterion that influences the choice at the time of purchase? Not sure. Apart from a few performance enthusiasts and other thrill seekers, consumers today clearly prefer comfort, efficiency, autonomy, recharge time, practicality and line over horse racing. When any electric today shoots 0 to 100 in less time than a sports car from the 80s/90s, the main issue is probably somewhere else.

On the other hand, the high power of cars, which are finally economically accessible to the greatest number, can also pose a safety problem, since a young driver who has just obtained his driving license may find himself without special training behind the wheel of a car of 300 horsepower or more – but above all with monstrous torque that literally works like a catapult between two red lights – for the price of a 3008 diesel. Perhaps the manufacturers should introduce a clamp that will be gradually released over the use of the car?

Finally, the question of sobriety – so much debated lately – and ecology arises. Because if we know that power and efficiency are not incompatible in terms of electromobility, “pulling” the battery to make your tires smoke will necessarily generate more energy consumption, and therefore wear on the latter, not to mention the other mechanical parts.

What remains is the question – difficult to measure – of driving pleasure. If power is not the only criterion in the matter, it nevertheless participates strongly. But that’s another, much broader debate: are pleasure and sobriety compatible?

You have two hours.

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