Why Are So Many Electric Cars Ugly?
Electric cars are getting increasingly popular and promise a greener future for the next generations. They’re now more efficient, faster, and less expensive than ever, tempting more people to use them. However, one of the things that prevent people from buying EVs is their unusual appearance. Why are they so ugly, by the way?
Electric cars are ugly because most carmakers want them to look more futuristic and stand out. While their design and build are different from traditional cars, they have fewer interior or exterior design limitations because EVs’ batteries are stored in the car’s floor and have smaller motors.
If you’re also curious about the reasons behind the ugly appearance of electric cars, keep reading the rest of this article to gain more information. We’ll talk more in detail about why electric vehicles look this way and whether they can get more beautiful or not.
Table of Contents
- The Reasons Why Electric Cars Are So Ugly
- Aerodynamics of Electric Vehicles
The Reasons Why Electric Cars Are So Ugly
We’re so accustomed to the traditional combustion engines and transmission that the new look of electric cars seems strange and even ugly to us. While more people are adopting EVs every day, many are still in doubt about them. It can be due to the range anxiety or, more importantly, their silly look that repels people.
Most electric cars are like they’ve come out of sci-fi movies, which may be attractive to some, but most people prefer to have an earthlier car. However, this isn’t the only reason, and some of them may be rightfully ugly. Let’s see what reasons are behind it.
The Early Attempts of Creating EVs
Most of the early electric car makers tried to use the existing platforms for arranging their electric engines (where the regular gas engines and transmissions existed). Even Tesla used the Lotus Elise platform without its 1.8-liter engine at its first attempt to produce an electric car.
So, there was no dedicated platform for electric cars, which limited the options for designers. They usually stacked the batteries under the back seats, leading to less legroom or cargo space than regular cars. Even the motor was also under the hood, just like the regular cars’ engine. Moreover, the early EVs had large grille shells and vents.
However, new electric cars have much simpler systems than their traditional counterparts. They don’t require complex cooling systems, exhausts with emission reduction mechanisms, or a propeller shaft, because you can place the motor directly next to the EV’s wheel. But stacking those hefty battery packs and the motor on a traditional platform wasn’t easy and led to the unusual car looks.
Finally, in 2017, McKinsey & Company, a consulting firm, stated that using such traditional car platforms wasn’t efficient for designing EVs. As a result, electric carmakers started to create dedicated, innovative platforms to mount their motors and batteries on them.
Innovations in Interior and Exterior Design
Once the carmakers found out they should be more innovative in their EV designs, electric cars faced a surge of new concepts and ideas. Designers had an excellent opportunity to rethink a car’s appearance and, of course, had to overcome some challenges.
For example, in traditional cars, there are humps on the floor that designers have to hide with a console in the front. But in EVs, these humps have been smoothed out, creating more opportunities to get creative with the design.
With hiding the battery pack in the floor – flat ground battery – designers had more space to play with and create bigger interiors for EVs. For example, they could create smooth panels and a floating console, with no ups and downs between the seats.
Mercedes Benz has used this extra space in its high-end electric vehicle, EQS, to install a multilevel console that can hold a large bag.
But that’s not the end of the story. Such freedom in design has led many carmakers to give a futuristic and out-of-earth look to their electric cars so that they’ll be more appealing to the younger generations – who are more likely to trust and buy EVs.
They even use an array of large screens and touch, smartphone-like controls inside their electric cars to attract the millennials. It’s pretty reasonable since it’s unlikely that baby boomers give up on roaring engines of gas cars and adopt electric vehicles.
The exterior of most cars looks somehow different, and that’s not always unavoidable or required by law. Many carmakers intentionally produce EVs with strange looks to stand out and give them a more futuristic look. It’s more of a marketing choice.
For example, consider the Tesla Cybertruck. It seems like a giant robotic car coming from Mars.
Meanwhile, you can see that most electric cars in the early 2010s still have large grilles, as if they don’t know what to do with them. Yeah, electric motors also need cooling, but their demands are different from regular cars, and there’s no need for large vents and grille shells on the front.
The Tesla Model 3 was the first EV that dared to remove the front grille and left only the smooth profile. At first, it was striking because we all were used to seeing a face on the cars. However, the newer electric car designs try to be innovative with this empty space and use it purely for aesthetic aims.
For instance, some of the Ford Mustang Mach-E models have a mustache, and the Mercedes EQS has a glossy grille featuring 188 LED lights arranged across a matrix pattern, which is extremely gorgeous.
Aerodynamics of Electric Vehicles
An important factor affecting the appearance of electric cars is their aerodynamics. EVs don’t run on fossil fuels and use electricity as their power source. So, there’s always a concern about how far they go on one charge since the battery power is limited. Aerodynamics directly affect their range and efficiency.
Approximately 50% of a car’s energy at highway speed is spent on overcoming air resistance. So, getting the right aerodynamics is crucial for increasing the range, and reducing the battery’s weight and costs.
As we mentioned before, electric cars have fewer limitations in their designs because their big batteries can be stacked in the floor, and their motors are also much smaller. Innovative EV car makers who are trying to steal the hearts of millennials usually give sharp edges and bright colors to their products to make them more attractive. They even try to use eco-friendly materials in their interiors to attract green-minded millennials.
Practically, designers can come up with numerous ideas for the layout of the EVs and design shapes with much better aerodynamics.
One of these shapes has been a drop-like car with a drooping nose which is amazingly efficient in reducing drag. Some even go further and combine it with autonomous driving, allowing the design of passenger seats that face backward.
Removing the traditional grilles, which were meant to cool down the radiator in regular cars, is another beneficial aspect. It can improve the aerodynamics of electric vehicles because grilles themselves are a source of aerodynamic drag.
That said, some leading automakers like Mercedes, Audi, or BMW are now pioneering a new generation of electric cars and hybrids that are as elegant as their traditional counterparts. Steffen Köhl, director of advanced exterior design in Mercedes Benz, states that the smooth blob design, which has caused a lot of designers to panic, has never been a requirement; it was more a marketing option.
According to Köhl, one of the reasons for the ugly or unusual look of the early electric cars was their extreme attempt to show the world they’re different. He also claims that you can design electric cars without giving them a completely different or ugly look.
And he must be right! The EQS is as sleek and beautiful as its gas-powered counterparts and doesn’t shout that it’s an electric car. What’s more, despite its similar look to other traditional Mercedes Benz cars, its aerodynamics are also great, which has led to a decent range – its coefficient of drag is 0.20, which is perfect.
Porsche Taycan is another successful example of Electric cars that look just like their conventional counterparts. Except for its lights, you can’t tell the difference between this model and a Panamera.
The strategy of these brands is a bit different than others, such as Tesla, as they target a different audience. They’re trying to be more appealing to the eyes of the older folks and show them that electric cars aren’t ugly or strange. They want to show electric cars are just like other regular cars but much better.
Considering all the reasons mentioned, it seems like the ugly or strange appearance of electric cars is more a marketing choice than a technical design. Designers of early EVs had challenges to overcome regarding their batteries, motor, and aerodynamic requirements. But now, electric cars can come in almost every aerodynamic shape without sacrificing the range or efficiency; yet, most EV makers prefer them to be outstanding and futuristic.
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