A Rush Towards EVs Could Be A Parts-Sharing Charisma Whitewash

Car makers are coming up with a wild variety of body styles and designs for future electric cars, but the dynamic choice could be as thin as 1940s prison soup
A Rush Towards EVs Could Be A Parts-Sharing Charisma Whitewash

Even now, where parts-sharing is commonplace, the dynamic differences between related cars are small. Take the Volkswagen Golf and the Seat Leon, for example, or the Mercedes X-Class and Nissan Navara.

When two cars of similar – or identical – size and mass are fitted with the same engine and a near-facsimile of each other’s suspension, chassis and transmission mechanicals, the differences from the driving seat are minimal. A little more sound-deadening in the more expensive car, maybe, or just a fancier infotainment system to distract yourself with.

We'll plug in, but will we be plugged into the drive?
We'll plug in, but will we be plugged into the drive?

I can’t be the only car guy in the universe who thinks this is a bad thing. I want cars to be different; to have character in their drive rather than being photocopies with branded vajazzle. I want cars to drive differently to one another so that I can pick the one that really lights my candle, not just to be faced with four options that drive just the same as one another and for the decision to be down to the badge, or the price, or the standard equipment quota. That’s a soporific nightmare scenario.

When we move to electric power this is going to get much worse. It’s happening in a hurry as we were reminded earlier this week, when Volkswagen confirmed that its last petrol-based platform will be released as soon as 2026. After that, every new car it releases will be electric. When those last petrol cars die out in the early 2030s, that’s going to be it for VW internal combustion.

A Rush Towards EVs Could Be A Parts-Sharing Charisma Whitewash

As car makers try to make all this financially viable, parts-sharing is going to get extreme. The same modular chassis will underpin the vast majority of a mainstream brand’s models. The same battery and motor setup will be slotted in. It’s likely that only states of tune and battery sizes will differ.

Anyone who’s ever driven more than one mainstream electric car will confirm that they all drive pretty much the same. If you were blindfolded you’d struggle to tell the difference between an e-Golf and a new Leaf. Both are pleasantly torquey, responsive and quiet (obviously). Both steer well, stop with that curious regenerative-then-mechanical braking sensation and can slow fairly smartly just with a lift of the throttle pedal. The real differences lie in the tech interfaces, driving positions and suspension tunes. Dynamically, there’s little to choose between them. And, in the future, what’s the point of a funky VW ‘beach buggy’ if it drives just like your neighbour’s Golf?

Looks different, but drives... like an EV
Looks different, but drives... like an EV

Are we okay with buying our future cars based on which screen graphics we like best, or which nose styling we find the least odd? Is it wrong to want more substance or something intangible in the experience that separates our car from the one next to it? Future PSA and VW Group compact SUVs (and there will be many) could be separated from the driver’s seat only by tiny differences in comfort, styling or boot size. Are we doomed to a car market where dynamic differences have to be faked with in-cabin noises or range-toasting overboost modes?

It would be a massive shame if that’s where we end up. We can only hope our favourite brands find convincing ways around what will otherwise be an electric charisma whitewash.



Cars like the mission E might handle much better than a leaf, they cant be very similar to each other

12/09/2018 - 11:26 |
6 | 0

But then again you look at the new audi etron GT and it is basically a mission E. And again you only have to choose if you would like to have a audi or a porsche.

12/11/2018 - 10:10 |
0 | 0
icke dude

Oofer doofer i guess it won’t come with a sub woofer

12/09/2018 - 11:27 |
0 | 0

I’m not really convinced by this article. The VW Golf, Audi TT and Skoda Karoq sit on identical platforms, but they sure as hell don’t drive the same. Most “ordinary” cars have very similar engines these days yet manufacturers find ways to make theirs stand out.

12/09/2018 - 12:19 |
21 | 0

I think you’re talking about very far extremes.

Of course an Audi Sports car is going to be different from an SUV from Skoda.

They’re mostly talking about cars of the similar type like the seat Ibiza and the VW polo. Although to be fair, the Ibiza is more sporty, and fun to drive. Just like the seat Leon and the VW golf

12/09/2018 - 13:03 |
10 | 1

I guess with EVs they should also be able to program them differently, so a Seat Leon could have a different acceleration or top speed than a Golf without further development.
What just came to worry me is that VW owns Audi and Lamborghini, so their 2026 full EV conversion might impact a lot on the ‘car guy brands’…

12/10/2018 - 02:29 |
0 | 0
Ali Mahfooz

Wasn’t this very obvious from the very beginning? There’s hardly any variety with EVs. It’s the same with smart phones these days - all are rectangular shaped with a few cameras, some buttons, one of the two OS and a display.

Variety is definitely good but unless of there’s this current push for EV and EV only politically, pretty soon there won’t be much to learn to build a car either. Sure the technology evolves, but the margins for exploiting would reduce with such rules and restrictions.

12/09/2018 - 13:04 |
4 | 0

I disagree. LTT and Unbox therapy still fanboy about wars between the Mate20Pro, Note 9 and the Xs Max. Just because the avrage person, or hell even an above average person (in terms of knowledge of electronics) doesn’t see the difference that doesn’t mean that there won’t be crucial differences for hardcore enthusiasts.

EVGA, MSI, Gigabyte and Zotac literally make the same card, yet people find diffrences and form communities between those cards and start wars over which one is better.

12/09/2018 - 13:10 |
6 | 0
Tomislav Celić

In physics, for a hatchback, for an engine, for anything really there is one specific thing which is best at doing it’s job. So in reality there is only one perfect SUV, only one perfect hatchback…

So yes, I’m fine with buying cars based on the smallest details, because the important stuff will be mastered (therefore, same) by every brand.

12/09/2018 - 13:13 |
0 | 0

Maybe, but some people like cars for their imperfections. Also the idea of a “perfect” car depends on what people want from a car. For some, more power is always better, but a car with not much power can sometimes be more fun.

12/09/2018 - 14:06 |
2 | 0
Tomislav Celić

You see, this is a missed point. If Rimac C_Two is faster than anything else, but when driven normally feels exactly the same as a Leaf, that would be a good thing, no?

12/09/2018 - 13:15 |
4 | 0

Maybe for some, but if I were spending that much on a car, I would want it to feel special at all times. That doesn’t really come from the engine/motors though - that’s more of a chassis and steering feel thing.

12/09/2018 - 14:03 |
1 | 0

That’s because EVs aren’t about driving. Look around you, nobody is interested about driving. If part sharing reduces vehicles prices, you’d be sure that people will support that. EVs are only a step further into self driving cars. People only have cars for a reason, and it’s rarely for their enjoyment.

12/09/2018 - 13:48 |
1 | 1

Too fast? Ease off that throttle son most of those dates are ten years away. That is not too fast.

12/09/2018 - 14:34 |
1 | 0

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

absolutely agree… ICE have 100 years history of polluting with ECE coeff. - 20 to 40%
truth is electric cars must have been here 20 years ago but i guess petrol companies have something about it ;)

12/09/2018 - 20:35 |
0 | 0

I disagree. A base model Focus and a Focus RS don’t drive nearly the same, even though they are the same platform, the same car even. I don’t mind it when cars share parts or are based on the same platform. The Mk3 Ford Mondeo, the Mazda 6 and the dreaded Jaguar X-Type share parts with each other, and they definitely don’t drive the same.

Almost the entire lineup of the VAG is based on just two platforms - the MQB for transverse engines and the MLB for longitudinal engines. I don’t believe that this is necessarily a bad thing. Mass-produced standardised tech is usually much more reliable than when everybody tries to do their own thing; and it’s what caused cheap cars to be as good as they are today. The Skodas before they all were VW Golfs underneath were garbage, with a bad suspension and sloppy build quality, nowadays they drive nicely and have good interiors. Sure, the old Skodas were quirky, but not in a ways that you would want in a car you are driving every day.

12/09/2018 - 15:25 |
7 | 0

I think you are looking at the future to thinly. There will still be a huge dynamic variety to choose from. You will have you slow EVs and your fast EVs just the same as you would an ICE. I.e. a Nissan Leaf vs a Rimac. This is a very Hallow complaint.

12/09/2018 - 16:32 |
1 | 0


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