Report: electric cars converted from petrol/diesel ‘compromised’

Cars like the Ford Focus Electric less good than purpose-built EVs, says Consumer Reports

By Gavin Conway on May 14, 2012 4:00 PM

Consumer Reports, the hugely respected American consumer review organisation, has said that electric vehicles based on existing fossil fuelled cars are ‘full of compromises’.

As an example, it points to the Ford Focus Electric, which sacrifices boot space in order to accommodate the battery pack. It also says that the Chevrolet Volt, which uses GM’s Chevrolet Cruze/Vauxhall Astra platform, is hamstrung by its inverted T-shaped battery pack that runs through the car’s centre console from front to rear – that’s why the Volt will only ever accommodate four people.

By contrast, the purpose-built Nissan LEAF and Tesla Model S sandwich their batteries under the floor of the vehicle. This isn’t just space efficient, it also improves the car’s dynamics by centring the batteries considerable weight as low in the chassis as possible.

And designers are freed up to do more creative things with the car’s interior, as they aren’t constrained by an architecture that has to accommodate a conventional powertrain.

There are plenty of arguments in favour of using an existing platform and then converting it to a pure-electric drivetrain – that’s a much, much cheaper and quicker route to getting a production vehicle on the road.

There is a suspicion, though, that a manufacturer that takes such a route isn’t really committed to the technology and that such models are ‘compliance’ cars, built only to satisfy regulatory requirements in regions that require zero emission vehicles.

But another argument in favour of cars like the Ford Focus Electric is that they could help ‘normalise’ electric vehicles for the general public – it’s just a Focus that happens to be powered by electricity. No biggie.