Should Electric Vehicles Look Different From Conventional Cars?
MG recently launched their micro sized Comet electric car in India and I must say I like it quite a lot. I am saying this despite the fact that it's got very mixed reviews, with some being rather critical of it. But I have a different viewpoint. And this is mainly because of the design and styling of the MG Comet, and also its purpose.
The MG Comet looks completely different from all the other vehicles on our roads.
As we all know, electric vehicles don't have engines or gearboxes. They don't even need radiators or fuel tanks and of course as there is no fuel being burnt like in an internal combustion engine powered car, there is no need for an exhaust system. So the electric car in many ways is quite revolutionary. But what about the design?
Its design tells you that right from the time it was born on the drawing board, it was meant to be an EV.
Look around and you will find that almost all EVs look like regular cars. Yes, some have panels in place of front grilles, and the wheels appear somewhat different as they have fewer cavities, to optimize aerodynamics. There is also a flap for the charging socket. Apart from these few design elements, almost every electric four wheeler sold in our country, looks just like a conventional fossil fuel powered car.
No engine, no gearbox, no fuel tank, no exhaust, and so on, means that a EVs shape can completely differ from that of a conventional car.
But the Comet is different. View its dimensions and shape and body profile closely, and you can discern that right from the time it was born on the drawing board, it was meant to be driven purely by electric power. And therefore the design is radical. I am not a fan of designs that are revolutionary just for the sake of being eye catching. But when there is a chance to experiment and do something distinctive, and you don't do it, then I certainly think it's a missed opportunity.
Both these EVs look just like regular fossil fueled cars.
Being a keen student of design and the evolution of the automobile, I find it disappointing that most car companies making electric cars are still clinging to conventional shapes and styling. They have completely changed the power plant, and the way an EV drives and its source of energy. But for some reason, most are still sticking with the regular looks. Yes, there is a lot of effort to make electric cars more aerodynamic and rounded and slippery, but despite this, the basic body shape remains almost the same.
Even the Mercedes-Benz EQB looks just like its other SUV siblings. Apart from the blocked off grille that is.
So as far as the looks or styling are concerned, or even the interior design and treatment, MG with its Comet has taken a completely divergent approach and presently, there is nothing like it on our roads. But several reviewers have said the Comet looks odd, weird, unconventional, and what not. Likes and dislikes about the looks, depends a lot on an individual's personal preferences and taste. And I have no hesitation in saying that the MG Comet's design appeals to my sense of aesthetics. What I like even more is the fact that the designers have decided to experiment and explore. Yes, MG has tried to be innovative and inventive with the Comet, which in my opinion is praiseworthy.
Again other than the panel running across the area of the grille, there is little in the looks that distinguish this as an EV.
I also like its aim or purpose. MG has been very vocal in saying it's meant for urban commutes and not long drives. And that is one of the reasons it's small, really small. Small enough to squeeze into the tightest parking spots and small enough to maneuver through tiny gaps. The turning circle is also so short, that you will do more U turns and fewer 3 point turns, and therefore you will also reverse less than in most other cars. Given all this, it's almost ideal to drive in our crowded cities. In fact when I briefly drove it around New Delhi, I found the Comet was not only easy to drive, but I could easily carve through the traffic and even run circles around other vehicles if I wanted. Actually, I cannot recollect when I last drove such a maneuverable car.
The badge actually informs onlookers that it's an electric vehicle.
Does this mean the MG Comet is perfect? Of course not. The rear seat is not really comfortable for adults and with it up there is almost no boot space. The range is also quite limited and as some have commented, it may not be suitable for certain users. Then there is the purchase cost, value for money aspect, etc, all practical and valid issues I am sure. But like I have said earlier, to me the MG Comet is actually a symbol of out of the box thinking, and it's a matter of satisfaction to me that its designers have explored ideas and done things that are not limited or controlled by rules or traditions of making conventional cars.
And its only when you see this duo at a charging station that you know they are EVs.
While I personally may be appreciative of the MG Comet, it really means little, because what remains to be seen is how it's received by Indian consumers. Will they be open minded and accept its design and small size? Will they recognize its purpose and approve of it?
But the MG Comet screams and shouts it's an EV.
The MG Comet could actually become a case study about the Indian automotive buyer's mindset. And its success could pave the path for other car companies and designers to experiment and move away from the proven path. When it comes to things like smart phones and watches, and artificial intelligent (AI) devices like Alexa or even web conferencing, online meetings, and so on, we Indians have shown that we can very quickly adapt and accept new ideas and technology. Will that also happen with the MG Comet? I am all eyes and ears.
The fact that the Comet's designers have tried to be inventive, is praiseworthy.