Exclusive Q&A: Why are petrolheads switching to electric vehicles?
We got the lowdown from Polestar Drivers Club UK about the real reasons they chose to swap pistons for plugs. But are they satisfied with their choice? Here’s what they told us.
A war currently rages in the performance car community. On the one side, staunch supporters of roaring fossil-fuel powered machines argue the merits of the old ways, vying never to make the switch to EVs. On the other, the early adopters, forward-thinkers, and those who see the inherent value in a more environmentally-conscious approach to fast cars.
So, what happens when a petrolhead crosses no-man's-land into electric territory? Well, we spoke to three former ICE enthusiasts who did just that. Andreas Tatt, Polestar 2 (Model Year 21), Rik Harris, Polestar 2 (Model Year 23), and Jeff Shambrook, Polestar 2 (Model Year 21) explain the highs and lows of their Polestar ownership experience, and crucially, if they would ever make the move back to camp petrol power. From fake EV engine sounds to range anxiety, read on for a no-holds-barred insight into electric car ownership.
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Q1. Is this your first EV? If so, what was it about Polestar cars that lured you in over other EV brands?
Rik: “I'm a petrolhead: always have been and I’ve always driven quick cars — Golf Rs, Audi S3s, Civic Type Rs, Astra VXRs etc. But, in 2017 I bought a BMW i3 with my partner because we'd seen electric cars about and we wanted to jump on it.
When it came to changing my car, I was admittedly more reluctant. At the time I was leasing a petrol BMW M135i, and found myself questioning, ‘instead of spending £950 a month on a car and petrol, why don't we spend £600 a month altogether on a nice car?’ So, I bought the Polestar.
I chose the Polestar in particular because I like it being a bit off the wall. I really enjoy when people ask, ‘What are you driving? That looks nice.’ But also, behind that, all the figures just made sense.
The performance is incredible too. It’s got this Jekyll and Hyde personality where you can just cruise around minding your own business, and then, bang, as soon as you want that power it’s there. My Polestar has the performance update with 475 horsepower, so it’s especially quick.”
“It’s got this Jekyll and Hyde personality where you can just cruise around minding your own business, and then, bang, as soon as you want that power it’s there.”
Andreas: “This is my first EV, and like Rik, I’m a bit of a petrolhead. My previous car was a brand-new 2014 Ford Focus ST, which I modified heavily. Then, I had the opportunity to get a company car, although the one caveat was it had to be electric.
The thing that really hooked me was the styling; in my opinion it’s beautiful from any angle, and I think it’s a future classic in the making. Overall, though, I wanted something that was modern, that was today, that was non-polluting, went like stink, and looked good. And frankly, there aren't that many cars even now that can match the Polestar on all those points.”
Jeff: “I’ve had a succession of quite nice combustion cars, but the Polestar was my first EV. I first came across the brand on YouTube, and everything about them just clicked for me. The alleged performance, and the style. It appealed so much that I went ahead and placed an order back in 2021, without having even driven one.
I’ve never looked back — it just suits me down to the ground. It's the right size. It's the right performance when you want it. The quality is there. It just feels special. Every time I get into it, even if it's just down to the shops for a bag of potatoes, it makes me smile.”
Q2. Why did you make the switch to electric motoring?
Jeff: “I wanted to get in at the beginning and not just follow the crowd. The government have said they are banning new petrol cars in 2035, so instead of jumping on the bandwagon in a few years, I made the move before I was forced to. I don't want somebody to tell me what I can't do, I want to decide what I can do and then do it. And I just quite like having something that is unique.”
Andreas: “For me, it was a matter of the benefit in kind tax and running costs. I have quite a large solar array — half an acre out the back — so I have literally zero fuel costs. The performance EVs offer comes in a close second, though.”
Q3. Do you think Polestar (and electric cars in general) are as engaging as combustion cars? Are there any elements from ICE vehicles that you miss, such as changing gears?
Rik: “Yes, absolutely: the noise. Although I’m not a fan of fake engine noise — there’s just no point in it. I mean, even my old Golf R had a sound generator to enhance cabin noise, and I disabled it. Either give me real exhaust noise or don’t bother. I don’t miss changing gears though. Sure, for the 3% of time you’re driving for pleasure it’s great, but for the 97% of time that you’re sat in traffic, the auto just sorts itself out.”
Andreas: “I know this might sound strange, but weirdly I do miss things like changing gear and turbo lag. EVs have that instant torque on tap, but you do miss that build up and having to work the car to get the most out of it. You can still have a really spirited drive in an EV, but working an ICE car is more involving.”
Q4. What is your experience with the infamous range anxiety?
Jeff: “In my opinion, the whole range anxiety thing is a load of cobblers. At the end of the day, you only need enough power to get where you are going, and sure you might get 600 miles out of your old diesel, but you couldn’t do that without stopping a few times for the toilet, could you?
And, on the rare occasion where I need to charge the car in public, the Polestar sorts it out for me. It tells me where the charging stations are and whether they are vacant. It’s just so simple.”
Rik: “It’s clickbait. It’s just a phrase made up by people who have never driven an EV. As Jeff says, most EVs can do at least 200 miles and you shouldn’t be driving for longer than that without taking a 15-minute break. So, you grab a quick coffee and you’re back up to 80% again.
“Most EVs can do at least 200 miles and you shouldn’t be driving for longer than that without taking a 15-minute break.”
And as far as cold weather goes, the impact completely depends on the specific EV. Interestingly, the i3 we had was really hit hard by it, but that’s because it had a small battery and no heat pump. Plus, if you wanted the heater on it would lose about 30 miles of range straight away. But they aren’t all like that, and it’s easy enough to allow for any decrease.”
Q5. What will be your biggest consideration when buying tyres for your Polestar EVs?
Rik: “Range doesn’t really come into it for me; my i3 had horrible skinny tyres for economy and I wasn’t a fan. Grip will always be my biggest consideration, that’s why I will be going for a Michelin Pilot Sport 4 or 4S.”
Andreas: “I’m looking for a combination of grip, cost, and (if possible) less road noise. It's a bit like buying a suit, isn't it? You input your chest size, inside leg — or tyre size, width and usage requirements — and that way you make sure you get something which is a good fit. Given my needs, I’ve heard something like Pilot Sport EV could be perfect, as it’s been designed to reduce noise in the cabin."
Q6. Would you ever go back to an ICE car, or alternatively, transition to biofuels or hydrogen if they became viable?
Jeff: “If it ticked all the boxes and more boxes than my current car does, yes. I'm not precious with electricity as a form of propulsion, it's the whole package I’m interested in. If something else came along, like synthetic fuel that had zero emissions, or the car was faster and better built, then yeah. You've got to look at changes and evaluate them continuously. Otherwise, well, I'd still be driving a petrol car.
"I'm not precious with electricity as a form of propulsion, it's the whole package I’m interested in.”
Although, I will say that the Polestar is so good, I suspect it would be very difficult to pull myself away from it for something else, irrespective of how strong that other car is.”
Rik: “Possibly, but the next thing would have to be significantly better than what I've got now. And I regard my Polestar as being significantly better than most, so it would have to be something pretty special.”
It’s clear then, these Polestar owners certainly don’t regret their move to electric motoring. Like most things in life, they all attest to the fact that EVs aren’t perfect. However, with so much going in their favour, these ex-petrolheads are living proof that the future isn’t bleak for fast car enthusiasts.
Have these testimonies made you look at performance EVs differently, or will you be hanging on to your petrol car for as long as the law allows?
Hero image credit: Polestar