These Are The Issues I Faced And Overcame To Become An Electric Car Owner

Apart from defining which EV would fit my needs, misinformation made things even harder.

Besides loving cars, I was always fond of technology. It was with that spirit that I first tested a REVAi in Brazil back in 2009. The tiny Indian EV was the first electrification glimpse there – 11 years early, to be precise. Although having an electric car fascinated me even before that, it was only feasible after moving to Portugal and starting to work at InsideEVs. Unfortunately, it was not a trouble-free process, as you will see in this text.

As soon as I arrived in my second country, about two years ago, I noticed electric cars were part of the Portuguese scenery. There are public chargers close to touristic attractions and a few in shopping centers. At that point, I felt having an EV would not be that hard.

It was only after I joined InsideEVs – a little more than a year ago – that I could get a better picture of car ownership in Portugal. It took me some car evaluations to realize the chargers currently available are not enough. An electric car would have to be an urban option.

Since my wife drove our Renault Captur, I started looking for an affordable EV for me to drive. There are Peugeot iON and Citroën C-Zero for sale here at about 7,000€ or even less. I also considered the Nissan Leaf until I learned how much the Japanese company was charging for battery replacements here and elsewhere.

What would fit our needs (and my wishes)

Talking to my wife about my will to have an electric car, we came to the conclusion that she was the one who needed a more frugal urban vehicle than the Captur. She drives way more than I do, going back and forth to the hospital in which she works.

I work mostly from home unless there is a new vehicle presentation, a test drive, or any other event that is worth attending. When I use the car, it is for picking up my kids from school, buying groceries, or traveling.

Despite what my wife needed, an electric car would not be a practical choice for her at this point. There would be nowhere to charge it, neither at home nor at work. Anyway, and since she drives mostly in the city, a hybrid made perfect sense. We ended up buying a Suzuki Ignis for her. From that day on, the Captur was with me until I managed to replace it. 

Simply put, the larger family ride was in my hands. Anything able to replace the Captur would have to live up to what it offers: high safety standards and a reasonable trunk. The plus would be the ability to plug it in.

That eliminated the option for the Mitsubishi i-MiEV European clones, which also had a case of high battery pack prices. They were also cut from my list after I spoke to Obrist and reinforced my decision of never buying an electric car with air-cooled battery packs – nor recommending them to anyone that asked me for advice. Only solid-state batteries may dismiss the need for liquid-cooling.

The fact that I was in charge of driving the bigger car also made me realize I would not be able to have a pure EV right now. That’s due to Portugal’s infrastructure. Where would I charge it if I decided to travel further than 300 km (186 mi)? A plug-in hybrid would save my family and me from being stranded anywhere we decided to go.

If I did not accept anything but an electric car, I would necessarily have to buy a Tesla. It is the only company in Portugal to offer what it takes for long trips with its Supercharging network. All other carmakers depend on third-party charging networks that are not still here, such as Ionity. The VW ID.3 sales in Portugal may fix the issue.

Straight from the shoulder, buying a Tesla is not something I am willing to do at this point for two main reasons: trust and price.

Before writing about the company, I would have taken any chance to own a Tesla as fulfilling a dream. Now, I would not have one even if I did not have to pay a dime on it. The issues it presents in terms of build quality and service are just too big for me to ignore. 

The fact that Tesla also changes warranty terms, supercharging rights, supercharging speed, referral program conditions, and even car features whenever it decides to do so is not something I would accept. I want predictability and the certainty that the car belongs to me, not to the company that supposedly sold it.

Many members of the InsideEVs team have Tesla vehicles and are pretty happy with them. I am grateful for the way the company promoted electric mobility, but it is just not for me. Not as things currently stand, at least. I hope they change.

If I were to get an EV with a decent range, I would aim for the Kia e-Niro or the Hyundai Kauai Electric – it’s the Kona, but the meaning of that name here made Hyundai choose another island in Hawaii. I even drove one a Kauai and felt very tempted to buy it, but managed to be rational. When the time comes, I will be able to choose from more options, such as the Nissan Ariya or the VW ID.4.

Choosing by elimination

Apart from the lack of charging stations in Portugal, an EV requires me to plug it in at home, which is something I am still trying to solve. That narrowed my choices to PHEVs or, preferably, to an EV with a range extender. Although people call both of them series hybrids, I prefer to make a distinction between vehicles that only use a combustion engine as a generator or also to move the wheels. 

With that in mind, I turned my attention to PHEVs that could accommodate a family and their luggage for traveling long distances safely. Although this is a small country, Portugal has one of the highest levels of road fatality per 100,000 vehicles (11.7) in Europe, mostly due to reckless drivers who tailgate and speed as if there was no tomorrow. Defensive driving is not very popular here.

The InsideEVs team often commented about the good deals Hyundai offered for the Ioniq in the US, which made me try to find something similar in Portugal. Kia also has the attractive Ceed SW PHEV, which is slightly more expensive than the Ioniq.

I was only checking new cars because I have the intention to keep my new ride for a long time. Had I the idea of trading it in two or three years, I would only consider used vehicles as options. New cars lose value as soon as they leave the dealership lot, so you’d better spend a decent amount of time with it to make that compensate.

The Chevrolet Volt and its European variant – the Opel Ampera – were always cars that I wanted to have. If I had a large garage and a lot of money to spend, I would buy one just because of its potential to become a classic. Unfortunately, I don’t, so they ended up not being an option due to a series of aspects.

There were only two Volts for sale in Portugal when I started searching for electrified options. One of them had an expired battery pack warranty. Although I know how reliable the Volt is, I did not want to take any chances in my first dip into the electric car world. Simply put, the battery pack would still have to be under warranty. The fact that Chevrolet is no longer in Europe killed any possibility for me to buy one.

I almost bought an Ampera before getting my wife’s Ignis, but the deal did not go forward. Sometime later, I discovered the luggage compartment was much smaller than the Captur’s, and that was a dealbreaker.

Another problem I found out about it was how difficult it is to sell a Volt or an Ampera in the Portuguese market. The only people that consider buying them are the ones that love the car or the technology, and they are not too many, which makes some of these cars sit for months in showrooms waiting for customers. I wanted my next car to be easier to resell in case I needed to do it.

The small trunk also killed any chance for the BMW i3 to be my next vehicle. Apart from being a car my wife loves, I consider it one of the most advanced vehicles around. It would have been my first carbon fiber car besides being an EV, for example. Perhaps it will be an option when we need to wave the Ignis goodbye.

Regarding the cars that I considered buying brand new, there is no used Ceed SW PHEV. The few second-hand Ioniq PHEV that are available sell for almost the same price as a new one, which is a good sign it does not depreciate a lot. Among used PHEVs, the only one that fitted my needs and budget was the BMW 225xe.

Half of the double: misleading campaigns

With my targets defined, I waited for the best deals to appear. Hyundai seemed to have listened to my prayers and started a €4,000 bonus for used cars in Ioniq trade-ins. On Hyundai’s website, the car price was €35,430. 

When I reached a dealer to ask about the bonus, the salesman was pretty candid: “That’s a discount we offer on the new car.” In other words, they would pay me nothing more for my used Captur, but the new Ioniq PHEV would cost me less.

So I waited for an offer from that salesman: the PHEV would cost €35,500, more expensive than without the bonus. I discarded it and searched for a second opinion: another dealership, even if from the same dealer group. The offer was now €36,250. That was when I asked why.

The salesman told me the bonus was based on a retail price of €40,250. But how could it be that way if the price on the website is €35,430? The salesman, a fan of Carwow’s Mat Watson, told me the campaign bonus was already included in the price on the website. That was not true: the price was the same way before the €4,000 bonus was proposed. I know that because I had previous offers for the Ioniq PHEV.

I then tried to check the price one last time with another Hyundai dealership – from another group. They offered me a €32,500 deal, but there was a catch: they paid me €2,000 less for my car. And the retail price was the same €40,250 of the other two dealers.

To clarify that, I filed a complaint against Hyundai at the Portal da Queixa as a regular customer. The company’s reply was a massive deception: it said the website price was just a suggestion. I argued that this made the bonus campaign look like a bait to attract customers, to put that in polite terms. The deal would never be as good as they suggested. Why didn’t Hyundai inform the same price all dealerships use? I did not hear from the company again.

If you are asking about Kia, I have not ever heard from it. And I swear I tried to contact the company about the Ceed SW PHEV multiple times, but no dealer got in touch. At Kia’s website, no deal apart from one more year of warranty emerged. A friend willing to buy an e-Niro also told me Kia is not managing to deliver it.

All these circumstances led me to the deal I ended up doing. I’ll talk more about it in my next “What Do I Drive?” article. In the meantime, pay attention to these fantastic deals that promise you “half of the double” and end up being just a tenfold disappointment – if you can realize that before signing the papers.

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