Car Question #19: why do electric vehicles have to look so silly?
October 12 2017  DAVID LINKLATER

You know Nissan Leaf is an EV because it looks silly. But it's less
aerodynamic than a Mazda3 or Toyota Corolla
Expect future pure-EVs to look no different to conventional cars. VW is
doing it already with the e-Golf

[image]  Toyota Prius popularised the Kamm-tail body shape for eco-cars:
smooth lines, chopped-off tail.

OPINION: If you're ambivalent about electric vehicles (EVs), odds-on it's
down to one of two things: range anxiety or the fact they always seem to
look a bit silly. Or perhaps both.

To many, electric vehicles are a turn-off because they lack a certain visual
dignity. But are there good reasons for EVs to look like transportation pods
from the planet Smorth?

Yes, of course. But not all are entirely scientific.

The most obvious one is aerodynamic efficiency. EVs are all about extracting
the maximum distance from the limited battery power available, so it makes
complete sense to have a slippery body shape.

Aerodynamics really ony became a thing for cars in the 1930s, and the work
of German brainbox Wunibald Kamm from that era is still very influential

The so-called "Kamm tail" combines long, smooth body contours with an
abruptly cut-off tail. The best-known Kamm-tail car is also one of the most
recognisable production-car shapes of modern times: the Toyota Prius. Which
did not start out as an EV, but its electrified hybrid technology did help
send the automotive industry down that path two decades ago.

That's why so many eco-friendly cars have looked so much like the Prius over
the years. It's a very clean profile.

Automotive aerodynamics are generally measured by something called drag
coefficient, represented by a "Cd" number. As a point of reference, a modern
family car might be in the 0.30-0.35 range. Something quite brick-like, such
as a Ford Territory SUV, is more like 0.38.

The latest Prius is considered extremely smooth for a series-production car,
with a figure of 0.24. Even the previous (taxi, anybody?) model was 0.25.
The new Hyundai Ioniq EV, which looks very Prius-like, is also 0.24. These
are very impressive numbers.

Simple, really. A silly shape equals smooth windflow. End of story? Not

The thing about the Prius and its ilk looking so idiosyncratic is that silly
body shapes have become synonymous with cutting-edge eco-automobiles, which
has in turn made them handy marketing tools for makers of EVs. While weird
styling might turn off the EV-undecided, it'll certainly attract the early
adopters who want to make a statement.

So while many plug-in hybrid EVs are simply standard cars with extra
batteries and a socket (think Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV), the trend for
pure-EVs that run solely on battery power has been standalone/super-weird

The Nissan Leaf is perhaps the prime example. It looks extremely silly but
it's only moderately slippery by modern standards, with a Cd of 0.28. That's
still really good, but also inferior to a Mazda3 hatchback (0.26),
Mercedes-Benz C-class (which actually equals the eco-champs with a figure of
0.24) or Audi A4, which achieves a remarkable 0.23.

Or consider the BMW i3 EV, which is super-strange looking but only manages a
Cd of 0.29.

Indeed, modern aerodynamic design allows carmakers to produce very slippery
shapes that are still quite classic and elegant. Tesla's Model S sedan is
0.24 and the forthcoming Model 3 is claimed to achieve 0.23 (the original
goal was 0.21, which would have been astonishing). Even the next-generation
Leaf looks a lot more sporty and conventional than the current model.

As EV technology becomes more mainstream and carmakers start to design new
generations of cars to suit a variety of powertrain options, expect
pure-electric cars to become less silly looking. Or at least a lot less

The humble Volkswagen Golf has a Cd of just 0.27 even in standard form.
Little wonder that the just-launched e-Golf, which is a pure-electric model,
uses exactly the same body shape.
[© 2017 Fairfax New Zealand]
A weird new EV platform ‘turns humans into self-driving cars’
2017/10/11  I’m aware that the headline is pretty much an oxymoron and it
looks like the stupidest thing from the picture above, but please bear with
me for a second …

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