You might remember me recalling some time back how a friend used to describe a mutual acquaintance as a person with a wonderful grasp of the obvious. It was meant as a put-down, for sure, but lately I've come to think it isn't the worst thing you could say about someone. I'm emboldened to say so in an era of flitting opinions where facts are casualties and real perspectives are lost. At least "the obvious" corrals salient facts; it anchors them in some manner of sequential logic.
So let me attempt to display a moderate grasp of the simple facts about, and implications of, this week's review car, the Peugeot e-208 electric hatchback.
There are petrol and diesel 208s too as the brand wants people to have a choice. It's a realistic approach because we are not going to get the EV revolution all of a sudden.
Regardless of power source, this is the best-looking car in its class. And it's not far off that accolade for the cabin either. Given I have previously reviewed petrol and diesel versions, I was less interested in visual aspects and more focused on how it worked as an everyday EV.
A simple question often shapes short-lived chats on electric cars with people I meet down the country. "How far will it go on a charge?" A shrug of the shoulder normally greets my answer, which I usually give to be anywhere from 250km to 450km depending on model. "No good to me. All right for ye in Dublin."
This sentiment is echoed widely yet I feel we risk ignoring the tone, tenor and implications of such anecdotal verdicts. I think we have to differentiate between real-world needs for many and what government policy aspires to achieve. There is a danger of transport requirements being ignored or overlooked in the rush to electric. We must not make 'one-size-fits-all' mistakes in a new green era.
I believe sometimes that urban dwellers overlook middle Ireland. I'm not saying the likes of myself forget our roots. Never. But so much happens in, and for, Dublin and other major population areas that it is easy to be overly influenced by the case for EVs.
We need a reference point for the unfounded belief that we will, somehow, make the electric shoe fit and disregard the impact on the many who cannot reasonably be expected to suddenly shift from their 1,000km-a-tank diesel car to charging their 280km/300km battery at imposed intervals.
Against that backdrop, I took the e-208 to see how it fared over a variety of driving conditions.
I didn't have long to wait to demonstrate why so many people fear electric. My on-screen monitor showed battery charge fading fast over the first 30km of 90kmh/95kmh motorway driving. I was down from 280km to 230km in no time. Oh dear.
Over subsequent days, I drove to get some badly needed shopping and drove here and there on typically urban runs.
After dipping so dramatically on the M50, the battery held to 220km for a long time before slowly falling lower. I put that down to the fact I was driving in EV mode (in my head and physically), using the battery-boost function every chance I had to slow down, and driving smoothly and slowly under urban speed limits.
It made a realistic case for that sort of driving; 90 minutes on an on-street charger replenished the battery. You can charge many ways. I was lucky there was nobody around on a Sunday afternoon, but I wouldn't care to queue on a wet Monday evening to get one of the two slots available. Many more are needed.
Now my e-208 experience may be simplistic and obvious of outcome but I would argue it is a properly adjusted starting point for anyone thinking of switching. Above all, it showed me how you need to be able to 'manage' an EV, whereas you just unthinkingly fill up and simply drive with diesel or petrol. To win people over, we need longer-range batteries and a better charging system. That's plain to see. A long journey awaits.
On other practical matters: interior and boot-space are identical to the petrol/diesel versions as the batteries lie under the floor pan. But the battery pack is a burden. At 1,455kg, the EV is 290kg ahead of the heaviest petrol/diesel version. Its weight and location did affect handling and ride and must yield to its fossil-fuelled sisters. A pity. Other than that it was impressive.
Its overall performance on test underlined the obvious: EVs are for those who can fit them into their lives without much disruption. That leaves a lot of people still out in the EV cold.
Facts & Figures
Peugeot e-208 electric hatch: From €27,334; €120 tax, 136bhp, 50kWh battery; claimed range 340km (WLTP). Test car in GT trim. Three drive modes (Eco, Normal, Sport). Variety of charge options.
Battery guaranteed for eight years or 160,000km. Latest i-Cockpit interface (including tiny 'flattened' steering wheel so you can see dials), good spread of safety and comfort elements.