Is it realistic for «electric trains» to live in Russia: test drive of the electric car JAC iEV7S in the provinces

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How electric cars are made from cars with internal combustion engines, what is the difference between driving an electric car and a regular car, what a party of electric wires is and how things are with charging in the regions of Russia.

The electrification of personal transport is very uneven around the world. And it seems that the Russian car enthusiast does not perceive electric vehicles as a smart purchase when choosing a new car. Debunking myths and testing the harsh reality of provincial exploitation of the JAC iEV7S.

The first part is about the test machine, the second is about the infrastructure and the powerful community.

There are two ways to make an electric car. The first and most “correct” one is to develop it from scratch, from the body and chassis to electronics and transmission. The second and most suitable for the «test of the pen» is to take a car with an internal combustion engine, throw out everything that runs on hydrocarbon fuel, and replace it with electrical components. And the simpler the car, the easier it turns into a «train».

This is exactly what JAC engineers did five to seven years ago: yes, this Chinese company, which is known in our country for ordinary budget crossovers, has been producing electric cars for a long time. Its range includes inexpensive electric parcels, almost premium electric SUVs, and even a battery-powered pickup truck.

In the case of the iEV7S, the incredibly cheap compact crossover S2 has removed the engine, transmission, and fuel and exhaust giblets. The vacuum pump of the brake system was replaced with an electric one, the dashboard was replaced with a digital one, and the steering rack was already equipped with an electric booster. All the on-board twelve-volt wiring was left in place — the radio tape recorder, fuses, and the acid battery remained exactly the same as on the gasoline crossover.

And under the hood fit an electric motor with a capacity of 85 kilowatts (equivalent to 115 horsepower), a single-stage gearbox and two volumetric high-voltage controllers — a motor and a charge. The battery took up space under the bottom (hiding three centimeters of ground clearance) and the rear seat, and a charging port was located in place of the radiator grill.

It turned out to be a very good budget electric car — yes, we will forget about the cost for now. In terms of basic values, the iEV7S performs well. It has an indestructible suspension, a moderately spacious and comfortable interior (two tall adults with a child fit perfectly in the back), as well as an impressive set of pleasant little things.

Judge for yourself:

The interior is covered with some kind of leather with red stitching, there are silver decorative inserts on the doors and steering wheel (unfortunately, made of terrible plastic), stove deflectors are emphasized with silver edging. Traditionally, for JAC, even the cheapest models are stuffed with basic active and passive safety systems: there are ABS, EBD, ESP, airbags for the driver and front passenger.

The sound from the speakers, of course, is far from studio, and the radio has few functions, but the main ones are — it plays music from the phone via Bluetooth, the radio turns on, and gives information about the high-voltage transmission. You can even watch a video from a flash drive (and disable the prohibition on playback in motion), but you should not do this.

And for which a separate bow to the Chinese engineers is for a well-thought-out central locking. Those who regularly bring home purchases for their families will understand me: iEV7S allows you to get out of the car, open the trunk or back door, close the car with a key fob, pick up bags from the passenger compartment and slam the remaining open doors with an elbow or knee — the lock will click, locking it again, and in You do not need to climb a pocket for a key fob. An indispensable convenience when you have to walk from the car to the house with your hands busy, it is not clear only why everyone does not do this.

There are, of course, a few annoying little things. For example, the trunk opening is implemented extremely poorly — it is a handle in the form of a slot at the bottom of the door and a button for the thumb above it. In bad weather, a lot of dirt will accumulate there.

And the charging port is located at the front, and this is inconvenient for two reasons at once.

Firstly, again, there is dirt — it gets well there even in dry weather, and what will happen in winter is not difficult to imagine (in fairness — the connectors themselves are reliably hidden with plugs and moisture or dirt does not get on the contacts). Secondly, any, even the weakest, frontal accident will almost certainly lead to damage to the unit and the inability to charge the car afterwards. Moreover, for safety reasons, the slightest violation of the integrity of the high-voltage subsystem (to which the port belongs) prohibits further movement of the electric vehicle.

But there are no global claims to the iEV7S as a budget crossover. That’s absolutely — the car and the car, it drives, even drives, it is comfortable inside, the ergonomics are excellent, for two weeks and almost two thousand kilometers of run, I never once had the thought that something was missing in it for a normal automotive life.

The transformation of the petrol S2 into an electric iEV7S made it not only environmentally friendly, but even a little «driver». The considerably increased mass and the center of gravity literally dropped below the thresholds resulted in smoother suspension operation, greater stability on the track and some kind of taxiing. And the impressive 270 Newton-meters of torque gave the car a truly royal acceleration experience. Moreover, the dynamics are clearly stifled by software: an electric car with such characteristics should rush forward even faster (passport acceleration to “hundreds” is 11 seconds, but the first 50 the car flies in just a couple of seconds).

There are two modes of control of the power plant: one imitates a conventional car, the second — the classic style of «smart pedal» for electric vehicles. That is, in the first case, the iEV7S will not brake with the engine until the driver presses the brake pedal, and in the second, on the contrary, as soon as you release the accelerator pedal, the crossover starts to slow down and replenish the battery (regenerative braking). The last option is much more convenient, and you get used to it almost immediately. And the transmission is controlled by a lurid stick — to go back, you need to swing it away from yourself with the side button clamped, to «neutral» it is reset by one swing towards itself, to «drive» — ​​the next.

While driving, an animated indication of «energy flows» in the high-voltage subsystem of the electric vehicle is activated. Very similar to the display on the first «Prius», to be honest. But for the entertainment of children in the cabin, it is suitable: you accelerate — the blue arrows run to the front axle from the battery, you release the pedal — the green ones move back. And for your own interest, you can go to the energy consumption tab, where the appetites of the electric motor and air conditioner or stove are displayed in real time. The application contains a couple of more functions, but their performance and usability is a big question.

But all are somewhat overshadowed by the age of development and the compromises chosen during the creation of the iEV7S. The engine is connected to the wheels through a gearbox, which is not the most efficient in itself, and is sharpened strictly for urban driving. That is, speeds above 100 kilometers per hour are not optimal for him. In this mode, the motor starts to work ineffectively and consumes a frightening 35-60 kilowatts of power constantly.

The second problem is aerodynamics. Its S2, apparently, borrowed from a brick, and it is the second factor limiting the speed of movement, this time at 80-90 kilometers per hour. You go faster — the car no longer tries to brake with the engine, it stops the incoming air flow even on a steep slope.

In general, when driving on the highway, you can safely forget about the declared 300 kilometers of mileage, hardly 150 will be typed from charging to charging.

For an electric car made in 2016, these are not too critical disadvantages, well outweighed by its merits. With a low price (about 1.1 million rubles at home) in China, this model has come to the place and is popular among city dwellers.

But here we come to the main problem of the iEV7S — the cost in Russia. For him, JAC asks for a little over 2.5 million rubles. A curtain.

A brief history of the test in numbers:

Notes:

The very idea of taking iEV7S for a test was not born with the aim of evaluating the car, but to get acquainted with the subculture of «electric wires» — owners of electric vehicles — in Russia. Because no one was going to seriously consider the compromise model created in 2016 in 2021, given the progress that has been made in the industry since then. So, once again we abstract from the price and see what happens.

So, given: an electric car with a fair range of 240 kilometers on a single charge (confirmed by a two-week test), compact, urban. What can you do with it not in the center of a civilization like Moscow and St. Petersburg, but in the middle — for example, in Tver? And the very first day of acquaintance with iEV7S immediately debunked two myths about «electric trains».

First, it turned out that there are electric vehicles in Russia, and there are indeed a lot of them. I got the car at the charging station in MEGA Belaya Dacha (Moscow): while I was getting ready and getting acquainted with the crossover, five “electric trains” arrived at the post with the wire. Someone stood on the second port, and who needed my connector — they asked how long I should stand.

They immediately explained the error to me: I did not install the PlugShare social network application and did not mark there that I was charging. People drove to the outlet, confident that it was free. But there was no negativity (although the comments in this community are aggressive, they obviously do not flow into reality), after 15 minutes I released the wire, and it was immediately occupied by the Nissan Leaf.

And secondly, in Russia there is just a huge number of charges — both paid and free. To be convinced of this, it is enough to download the above application (not advertising, just for electric wires this is the most convenient resource now) and see your region. For example, two of those who approached me in «MEGA» did not wait and moved to another gym one kilometer away from the busy one. Well, after reading the social network, I found that on the route home I could replenish the battery quickly three times, and there were about fifteen slow charges on the road and in Tver itself (in the city — four).

A separate conversation is private sockets. In case there are no public chargers nearby, you can always turn on the “houses” in the PlugShare filter and find many private houses where the owners have noted the ability to connect (and, of course, the type of outlet). In most cases, the description of such a home outlet contains phrases like «free» or «pay according to the meter», and sometimes even «I will tow it when discharged.» The main thing is to call the owner in advance and warn that you are going.

For two weeks of operation in a small provincial town, many other interesting details have emerged. So, the subculture of electric wires turned out to be a real get-together. The locals immediately found out that a new electric car had appeared in Tver, and the owners of the “Leafs” met me twice at the average charging speed closest to my house. By the way, this is the most popular electric car in Russia, but more on that later. Such special or casual meetings are always friendly, electric wires often share news about charging, experience of owning their cars, suggest various life hacks, and in general, a very positive movement is obtained.

In city mode, the iEV7S proved to be excellent. Daily transfers from work to home in 14-20 kilometers are given to him perfectly, such operation makes it charged once a week. And if you have a private house or a garage, even with an ordinary 220-volt socket, you can “hang up the car on the wire” every evening, and it will replenish the battery overnight.

The cost of owning an electric car (excluding purchase) is laughable. One kilowatt-hour in a village costs 4-5 rubles, which means that less than 200 rubles is spent on 240 kilometers. Charging in a paid parking lot cost me the same amount. Don’t forget about free charging in the capital.

For maintenance, the iEV7S requires replacement of brake pads (moreover, due to old age rather than wear, the main braking force is provided by recuperation), consumables in the suspension and renewal of antifreeze when it becomes obsolete (but it needs a lot — 12 liters per battery and engine circuits in total) … The oil in the gearbox is used for the entire service life, the battery with temperature control does not lose its capacity, the warranty is 8 years. Looks impressive overall.

And these considerations are confirmed by the owners of Nissan Leaf, who met a lot during the two weeks of the test. Recall that their cars are almost always bought second-hand and with a residual battery capacity of 120-150 kilometers (because they have no thermal regulation). Only in Tver there are seven of them, and they are used every day to move the whole family. And in Russia there are seven or eight thousand.

In other words, the conversation is no longer about the future of electric vehicles on domestic roads, but about the present, which has come a long time ago. For ten years in a row, Russian motorists have been happily operating budget electric vehicles with characteristics much worse than those of the iEV7S.

As my practice has shown, the iEV7S feels great in the city and suffers only on the highway, where it is constrained by design constraints. An attempt to get from Moscow to St. Petersburg in 10-12 hours turned into a failure. We got there 17 hours: at first not a single charge gave out a large current, and then we just got tired and slept in the parking lots, because it was dangerous to continue driving in this state.

In Russia, there is a demand for electric vehicles, even with such modest characteristics. And if you look at what and for what money they bring from abroad, like a Chevrolet Bolt or fresh right-hand drive «Japanese», it becomes clear that there are models in the budget of up to one and a half million rubles and much steeper than 240 kilometers on a single charge ( and their speed is higher on the track).

The most difficult question to understand, which was constantly spinning in my head while I was driving the iEV7S. On the one hand, it is obvious that even such an outdated electric car will have tremendous success if it is sold for 1.1-1.3 million rubles. Many owners of Nissan Leaf and similar cars will happily upgrade to a newer model, and even with an official 8-year warranty.

On the other hand, everyone who brings electric cars to Russia for some reason position them as a luxury item. And if for Tesla, Porsche and Audi this approach is still understandable, then why budget models in their homeland cost twice or three times more than we cannot explain.

Electric cars are not a luxury, but a means of transportation. And electric wires understand this like no other. They are willing to put up with some inconvenience (frequent charging, for example), but save on the total cost of ownership and feel involved in reducing their carbon footprint. Plus affordable exotic, of course. Often, buying a budget electric car is a pragmatic and well-calculated act. But the Russian representations of world car manufacturers do not seem to notice this and do not see that the market has existed for a long time. They continue to offer «a little better than Leaf», but not for 700 thousand and not for a million, but for two and a half.

The infrastructure is there, and it must withstand another twofold increase in the fleet of electric vehicles. There is a consumer demand. However, until local dealers descend from heaven to earth, enthusiasts will continue to look for used «electric trains» without a guarantee abroad. And the mass car enthusiast considers electric cars as incomprehensible toys.

Photos are taken from open sources.

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