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As the shift to EVs intensifies, everyone - from luxury carmakers, to more budget-oriented marques - is racing to win the hearts and minds of drivers.

22 Feb 2022

Singapore's relationship with electric vehicles was considerably warmer in 2021 than it had previously ever been.  

We are, however, simply part of the global auto industry's electrification. 6.5 million electric cars were sold last year, a 109% year-on-year increase, despite sales of new cars on the whole growing by only 4%.  

The Model 3, offered here either with a 50kWh or 78kWh battery pack, was Singapore's best-selling EV of 2021 
You would have certainly heard by now that Tesla was a pivotal part of this growth. In many markets, its Model Y compact-SUV and Model 3 sedan emerged as the best-selling EVs, with the latter, in fact, becoming Singapore's best-selling EV model for the year.  

Nonetheless, with all the attention the Silicon Valley-based maker has garnered, we do sometimes overlook the efforts by other carmakers to bring their A-games into the world of electrification. In some places, they've come close, but haven't quite made the same strides. In other places, however, they've actually triumphed.  

Volkswagen ID.3 & ID.4  No. 3 & 4, Europe / ID.3: 69,090 units sold, ID.4: 54,476 units sold

The ID.3 (left) and ID.4 (right) are now leading Volkswagen's new-generation of people's cars
Battery size: 45kWh to 77kWh (ID.3), 52kWh or 77kWh (ID.4)
Range (WLTP-rated): 330km - 550km (ID.3), 346km - 522km (ID.4)
Price: From 36,960 € - 44,915 € (~S$56,000 - S$69,000)

The ID.3 wasn't Volkswagen's first foray into the world of mass electrification; you'll have to look to the VW Golf GTE for that.

But when the Golf-reminiscent hatch debuted at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2019, it was a clear sign that things were changing at VW Group - and that Toyota Motor Group's only true rival for global dominion was getting dead serious about its next generation of cars.

The interior of the ID.3 also marked a new aesthetic era for Volkswagen
As to be expected from VW, mass-market appeal is the ID.3's key concern, as well as its key appeal. The entry-level Pure Performance already does 148hp and 310Nm of peak torque, while covering a WLTP-rated 330km on a 45kWh battery.  

But the most striking thing about the ID.3 isn't that it's fully-electric, or looks and sounds properly futuristic. It's that it marked Volkswagen Group's first-ever vehicle to sit on its proprietary platform for electric cars, called MEB (modular electric drive matrix, in English).

The MEB platform is fully capable of serving larger vehicles like the ID. Buzz
Scalable and versatile, the MEB platform functions well for compact cars like the ID.3, but can be stretched for longer-wheelbase ones, like the ID.4 (which trails right behind on the sales chart). Even the imminent successor to the iconic 'Kombi' Microbus - the ID. Buzz - will sit on the MEB platform.  

Is it uncanny that VW's ID.3 and ID.4 landed at numbers 3 and 4 respectively on the European charts for newly registered electric vehicles in 2021? Perhaps so. 

But Volkswagen certainly has greater plans for where its electrified cars should head next (a hint - further up). There is inevitable chatter that the ID.3 will replace the Golf, and if it's headed down that path, it has a lot of work cut out for itself.  

Ford Mustang Mach-E – No. 3, United States / 27,140 units sold  

Styling: Heavily inspired by the pony cars. Driving: Arguably less heavily inspired
Battery size: 68kWh or 88kWh
Range (WLTP-rated): 400km - 610km  
Price: From USD$43,000 to USD$63,095 (~S$58,000 - S$85,000)

Like the VW ID.3, the Mustang Mach-E is a groundbreaking model for Ford because it sits on a new platform - called the GE1 (Global Electrified 1) - built specially to underpin battery-electric vehicles.  

Ignore the 'Mustang' nameplate and inspired styling, the purists may say - the car is a modern SUV through and through, and any attempts to draw cogent links between this Mach-E and any of Ford's other pony cars will leave you looking like a fool.

But that doesn't make the Mustang Mach-E any less of a compelling electric car. Its driving dynamics are apparently top-notch, it offers great amounts of space and practicality, and it recently dislodged the Model 3 to become the top EV pick according to the American Consumer Reports survey. 

The Mustang Mach-E's interior is suitably techy, ditching analogue dials and buttons for screens
It's also one of the better-performing marathoners among the first batch of EVs we're seeing. In its two-wheel drive variant with the 88kWh battery pack, the car has a rated range of up to 610km - more than most rivals. It then offers something for the thrill-seekers too, with the range-topping GT Performance Edition pulling out serious performance figures - 3.5 seconds from 0 to 100km/h, for instance - to keep the adrenaline junkies satisfied. 

Like the VW ID.3, however, the Mach-E also finds itself in the same runner-up's pickle; it placed behind its direct competitor, the Model Y, in the U.S.A for 2021. Ford, as one of America's O.G. auto giants, is naturally hoping to change that by spending huge amounts on getting its electric line-up up to speed.

Nonetheless, the real test will arrive when the F150 Lightning - an electrified version of its best-selling pickup - goes head to head with Tesla's Cybertruck as well as another very threatening new kid around the block. Jury's still out on this one.

Porsche Taycan – No. 1, Russia / 581 units sold

If the Taycan is anything to go by, Porsche's electric transition is to be anticipated with excitement
Battery size: 79kWh to 93.4kWh
Range (WLTP-rated): 408km - 484km
Price: From RUB 8,380,000 (~S$150,000)

We finally come to something not so unfamiliar to all of us here in Singapore - a car you've probably seen hanging around Jewel Changi Airport in gorgeous Frozenblue Metallic (and if you haven't, where have you been?).  

But what's less familiar is the position that the Taycan, Porsche's first fully-electric car, occupies: At the top of the sales chart - in Russia, at least. Isn't this a luxury car that runs easily into six-figure territory? A high-performance EV that already does 0-100km/h in just 5.4s in its base model, and 2.8s in peak form?  

Take Russia as an example, then, of how slowly some markets are warming to EVs. In a market where 1.67 million new cars were sold last year, it didn't even take 600 units sold for the Taycan to vault to the top (among a total of 2254 electric cars sold).

Four doors, four seats (as standard), and a usable trunk actually make the Taycan a great family car - only for the few who can afford it, of course
Another issue emerges when we look at the rest of the Top 5. With the Audi e-tron GT, Tesla Model 3 and Model Y, and the Nissan Leaf (arguably the only 'mass-market' entrant) falling into line behind the Taycan, it's clear that only people with deeper pockets appear to be buying electric cars, reflecting general criticism that they haven't been made accessible to average Joes yet.

All this doesn't change the fact that Taycan is emerging victorious, of course - and globally too. In a weird twist of fate, sales for the electric grand tourer eclipsed that of the 911 last year.

Is it its drop-dead gorgeous design? Is it the fact that it's a performance car whose proper rear seats and decent trunk provide great practicality that towkays - or oligarchs, in Russia - are inclined to? Or is it because it's so satisfying to see Porsche maintaining its laser-focus while stepping into the world of EVs? Probably all of the above.

Tata Nexon EV – No. 1, India / 9,111 units sold

The Nexon EV is based on same architecture as the Nexon, Tata Motors' best-selling compact SUV
Battery size: 30.2kWh
Range (ARAI-rated): 312km
Price: Rs.14.29 - 16.90 Lakh (~S$25,000 – S$30,000)

Culminating in the Porsche Taycan, the cars covered thus far have fallen under the more premium half of the market. In India, however, domestic auto giant Tata is spearheading growth of the EV scene through a more budget-oriented offering.  

The Nexon EV is a compact SUV based on its petrol-powered twin, but replaces the combustion engine with a floor-mounted battery pack. Range is rated at 312km, and it supports fast charging while managing a power output of 127bhp and 245Nm of torque.  

DC charging at 30kW - good for 0 to 80% in an hour - is supported with the Nexon EV's CCS 2 charging
Key competitors like the MG ZS EV and Hyundai Kona Electric do indeed offer more range and power. But by undercutting them in terms of price (Tata admittedly gets incentives as a domestic brand), the Nexon EV has managed to leave both in the dust. In just two years, the SUV has sold in excess of 13,000 units - most of them from last year - to become the country's top-selling EV.  

It must be noted, though, that even with its less upmarket disposition, the Nexon EV still commands a premium over petrol-powered cars in India. (The petrol-powered Nexon, for instance, retails at half the price of the EV.) As in Russia, electric car sales consequently are still very minute when compared against the over 3 million new cars registered in India for 2021.

Still, growth of the domestic EV market in India is well afoot - it's just slanted more heavily towards another type of vehicle with only two wheels.

Wuling Hongguang MINI EV – No. 1, China / 395,451 units sold  

The Wuling Hongguang MINI EV in its natural habitat: Urban, hip Chinese neighbourhoods
Battery size: 9.2kWh or 13.8kWh  
Range (NEDC-rated): 120km - 170km
Retail price: RMB 28,800 to RMB 38,800 (~S$6,100 - S$8,200)

Taking what the Nexon EV arguably does to even greater lengths, Wuling's hyper-budget best-seller, the Hongguang MINI EV, shows that even the common man will be inclined to an electric vehicle if it's priced competitively enough.

Co-engineered by American auto conglomerate, General Motors, even the higher-end 'Macaron' variant of the MINI EV retails for not more than S$9,000. That's on par with the annual depreciation for a Corolla Altis bought here during a good COE climate. 

SAIC-GM-Wuling announced recently that a long-range version of the car with a 26.3kWh battery would arrive by 2022
Sure - the car is as 'supermini' as it gets, measuring just 2.9m in length and 1.5m across. But it manages to do this with more dignity than the dime-a-dozen nameless microcars plying China's streets. There are four seats (it's less 2+2 than you imagine), and A/C and reverse sensors come as standard - although its safety credentials have been repeatedly called into question

Fast-charging isn't offered too, and nought to 100 is… undeclared (the car's top speed is 100km/h). But that's beside the point. While something like this would never fly in Singapore, the MINI EV succeeds where it has to in most other metropolises - by embodying the economy, efficiency and accessibility that residents need in a city car.  

Above all else, it's also a reminder of the might of China's market, and evinces why carmakers are so eager to cover their bases there first. With about 400,000 units sold in 2021 - purely on homeground - only the MINI EV came close to threatening the Model 3's crown worldwide. Win the Chinese market and you win - full stop.

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