According to statistics, the Peugeot e-208 is the second most registered electric vehicle in the period from January to May 2020. We then had the opportunity to talk to Sylvain Chéreau, PSA’s electric vehicle product manager, about their electric vehicle strategy. Here is this exclusive information:
Tesla Mag: I need to understand the direction Peugeot is taking in electric. Through this model (the Peugeot e-208) will it open the way to other models that will be based on the same principle? Is it a shift, a new ambition or a showcase model like Renault did with the Zoé to say that you have a 100% electric model?
Sylvain Chereau: We are in a logic of energy transition, so it is not a showcase. We believe in it. We really focused on the potential buyers of this vehicle. The e-208 belongs to segment B, a very varied segment, which corresponds to multiple uses. There are customers who are going to do very few kilometres, less than 5,000 per year, and very short trips, and some who are going to use it as a company vehicle by using the highways and driving 20 to 30,000 kilometres per year. We did not want to cover all of these uses. We have set ourselves the ambition of covering about 20 percent of the customers. It is not economically viable for those customers who do the least amount of kilometres as well as those who drive on the motorway and drive 500 km every week. That’s how we have imagined the main quantities, especially on autonomy. We had to have a range that would allow us to respond to daily use in a very serene manner, but not a too big range to limit the price and weight of the vehicle. We did, however, attach a lot of importance to exceptional use. Indeed, when the customer wants to drive 100 km per day, the vehicle is adapted but we also want it not to prevent him from going on holiday. Therefore, in addition to the habitability that allows it, like the 208 thermal, we have paid a lot of attention to fast recharging. In fact, the vehicle is compatible with 100 kW charging stations and repeatedly, thanks to the water-cooled battery. To ensure this, we have carried out tests in which the phases of rapid charging and driving at maximum speed are interlinked. We do this to meet the exceptional needs that will become more frequent in the future. We have projected ourselves into this use and into a mode where fast chargers of more than 100 kW will become the norm, which was not the case at the beginning of our thinking 3 years ago.
Your leitmotiv is not to make a vehicle with a range of 500km that would meet the needs of a person doing a lot of driving every day, does that mean that Peugeot thinks that the electric vehicle is not made for that?
By being positioned in the B-segment, the e-208 does not need the 500 km because the majority of those in this segment do not drive a lot every day. But for other vehicles in higher segments, these are indeed target values. For example, for the 3008, it’s a vehicle that has to make longer journeys, so a range of 500 km makes sense.
Concerning the recharging point, should the manufacturer invest in recharging or should he let the public authorities and external actors work on this subject?
The position is very clear for Peugeot and the other brands of the group. We believe that it is not up to the manufacturer to invest in the charging network, as Tesla did. We have never invested in petrol stations, so the same applies to charging stations. Our mission is to work to ensure that our vehicles are compatible with all chargers. It is not an easy job, because even if there are norms and standards, given the number of terminals and actors, there are some small details that make it not easy to be compatible with all of them. We have travelled all over Europe to cover all the bollards exhaustively to make sure that the customer can load his vehicle anywhere. Regarding badges, with our mobility brand Free2Move, we offer our customers a recharging service and an application that allows our customers to take advantage of 170,000 charging points out of the 200,000 existing in Europe. And on fast charging points, coverage exceeds 95%. We do not invest in charging systems because it requires a lot of money and it is a fast moving market. We prefer to let those who really have the money invest in these charging systems and focus on investments that are profitable for us and that really benefit our customers.
However, we are dependent on suppliers and we are in discussions with stakeholders and governments to solve the problems, in order to reach the level of the Netherlands or Norway.
We believe that it is up to the states to take the matter in hand because there are technical complexities regarding the power used to install the charging stations. You have to be close to the high-voltage networks, which are a state responsibility. The system needs to be centralised and steered and the state must support the private players who invest. For example, since the beginning of the year, the electricity market has been accelerating, thanks in particular to state subsidies.
Concerning the e-208, are you targeting the international, European market?
We are, of course, targeting Europe, but we are also targeting international markets, notably Japan and Korea, where launches are underway. In China, the 2008 is produced there, so it will also be marketed there. We are looking at our local relays and opportunities because we are compatible with charging stations all over the world. The e-208 is already marketed throughout Europe.
The distribution system is changing, online sales are developing. Has electricity been a way for you to push towards this change in distribution system?
It’s not necessarily the trigger but it makes sense because the electrical industry also targets technophile customers, so not offering a 100% digital path can be a hindrance. That’s why we are working on it. In addition, by selling an electric vehicle we also sell the means of recharging. The recharging means adapted to the customer’s needs can also be proposed in a 100% digital way. It is important to us that the customer can switch from digital to physical without any problems. They can, for example, discover the offer on the Internet, and start configuring it to finalise it in physical form.
Finally, we also had a work of training the network to the electric world, vehicles and services offered because a large part of the population is not comfortable with the system of batteries, recharging, kiloWatt … Our goal is that our customers get the most out of their electric vehicle without fear. That’s why there is a button that calls directly to the assistance and that our assistance is trained to answer it.
When we talk about electric vehicles, the question of autonomy often comes up, what do you think?
The electric vehicle must not be reduced to its range and consumption, even though these are important elements. We must be able to explain to the customer that range is not a problem. In fact, we analyze the journeys of all our cars and we see that, on average, users drive 50 km per day and those who drive more than 300 km are very few. An electric vehicle, even without a very long range, can therefore suit them. Customers can also focus on their exceptional holiday journeys when this represents only a very small part of their usage. With our on-site simulator, for example, we want to show them that range is not a problem and that it can meet their needs.
Thank you for your time and your explanations on Peugeot’s strategy for the electrification of vehicles.