I mentioned AvtoVAZ’s Electric Lada previously. Didn’t do it justice: what’s the deeper significance?
Russia is hardly a beckoning market for electric vehicles. First, cold weather is unkind to battery chemistries. What’s colder than Russia? On a more personal level, the competition for the Russian consumer is much cheaper than we have in the West. Producing a vehicle with high upfront costs is risky, even if it lowers recurring costs.
Second, are those recurring costs lower? Russia is an oil-rich area- certainly a major exporter, if not the largest source outside of OPEC. Then, let’s look at the bigger picture: Russia is a gas-rich area, arguably the supplier for much of Europe.
With all this talk of abundant natural gas, there’s talk of putting it in cars. I’ve seen NG cars and trucks from multiple manufacturer; I’ve ridden in NG cars and heavy vehicles. Note, however, I separate cars from heavier road vehicles- they are separate. Heavy commercial vehicles, particularly in fleets, work well on natural gas. There are large spaces with room for bulky, high-pressure gas cylinders. The fleet operator can also justify a centralized, high-pressure natural-gas station, which is more expensive than a gasoline or diesel pump, itself more than some electrical hookups.
Cars and other compact vehicles, on the other hand, have customized tanks, to store liquid fuel in nooks and crannies. As a chemical, natural gas gives less range than liquids. Going to cylindrical shapes needed to contain high pressures cuts ranges even further. And this is all with the same thermal inefficiencies and drivetrain losses that don’t exist with electrics. These losses won’t go away without natural-gas fuel cells, which aren’t ready for the road, and will still create electric-battery and motor demand.
The existence proof of Russian EVs is a clear admission: electrification of drivetrains in some form is too compelling. Even those Russians are doing it.