Most of the current crop of electric vehicles (EVs) scheduled to hit the market soon are not optimized to apply the full benefits of the electric powertrain. Why's that? Well, many of the existing and upcoming EVs, like the Tesla Roadster, Ford Focus BEV and Coda Sedan, are simply electric retrofits of existing gasoline-powered vehicles. This approach allows automakers to bring battery-powered vehicles to market in a flash, but it overlooks design aspects that could make EVs far better. This line of thinking is not new. In fact, most dedicated hybrids perform significantly better than models that are commonly referred to as retrofits, but what exactly makes ground-up EVs superior to the range of upcoming retrofit models?
Tesla Motors chief executive officer, Elon Musk, spoke with Automotive News and described the issue with retrofit EVs like this:
Musk went on to state that virtually any EV that carries its battery pack above the floorpan is flawed design. Instead, he suggests that the Model S is an example of design done right, stating:I don't think any manufacturer, Tesla included, has really designed a car to optimize the electric powertrain. It's a bit like the early days of automobiles where you had horseless carriages. It works, of course. You can take a carriage and put an engine on it and you can drive around, but it's not the best way to use an internal combustion engine.
Furthermore, designing an electric vehicle from the ground up allows automakers to rethink the entire process. In some situations, interior space can be increased by swiping room that was previously afforded for items like the vehicle's exhaust and firewall. Of course, anything purpose-built is bound to improve upon a retrofit models, but exactly how much improvement should we really expect?That's why, for example, we've got the battery pack in the floorpan as an integrated part of the chassis. This is an important point. You don't want to carry the battery pack like a sack of potatoes.