In March last year, VinFast announced that it would start taking orders for its first-ever electric vehicle — VF e34. After one year of waiting, my family finally received our much-awaited EV.
The VF e34 is an SUV model in the C segment. VF e34 electric motor comes with a maximum capacity of 110 kW and maximum torque of 242 Nm. The car uses a 42kWh battery pack. After each full charge, the EV can run up to 285km. That’s a roundtrip ride from Hanoi to Thanh Hoa (~3-hour drive) or a one-way trip from the capital to Vinh, the biggest city and economic and cultural center of north-central Vietnam (~6-hour drive). It can also be optimized to reach nearly 300km. In fast charging mode, say 18 minutes plugged, the VF e34 can go on about 180 km.
So how do these tech specs and statistics translate into real life? We are fortunate enough to receive the car right when gasoline prices are at their highest. I had just received my driving license, and my father couldn’t wait to see me take the wheel. The whole family took every opportunity possible for me to drive our brand new EV, both in the inner city and countryside, even to other provinces.
After a month of intensive driving lessons and absorbing all of my father’s advice, I have compiled a list of pros and cons of the VF e34 — a proudly Vietnam-made EV. If you are considering buying an EV car in Vietnam, this article might come in handy when making your final verdict.
As a consumer, you always want something good but reasonably priced. For VinFast cars, they are a real bargain compared to other foreign brands at the moment. Before producing electric vehicles, it released multiple gasoline car models, so VinFast has already proven they’re a leader in the sector.
Currently, a VF e34 is priced at VND690 million (~US$ 29,500). With the same amount of money, your best option is to buy used cars, such as Mazda 3, Hyundai Elantra, Toyota Corolla Altis, and Honda Civic. However, for people who pre-order VF e34, the price can go as low as around VND500 million.
The price you pay to get it running is the electric car's most significant advantage. Besides charging your vehicle, you also have to pay an extra VND657,500/month for renting batteries if you travel less than 500km/month (you can also buy the battery for good, but it is recommended to rent). According to calculations, electric cars can save up to approximately VND5 million for a distance of 16,800 km.
If you can park your car at home, it’s a big plus. An overnight charge is enough to prepare your battery for the next day’s action. However, the majority of properties in Vietnam do not have parking spaces. But you can charge your car with chargers in public areas; VinFast has installed several charging stations (see map). This sets your vehicle faster than regular electricity.
The advantage of electric cars is that there are not many complicated details like regular cars, so there is no cost for oil changes or abrasive details over time. VinFast's warranty period is ten years, which is quite long and suitable for the nature of electric vehicles. On average, the maintenance costs of an electric car are only one-third of a regular car.
Electric cars have many advanced technologies to assist new drivers like me. Like many cars nowadays, VF e34 offers a 360-degree camera that can be turned automatically when you take a turn or go at a slow speed. There are also warnings for blind spots and nearby vehicles. In a country like Vietnam, where traffic jams are common, the “beep beep" sound of the alert might be a thing to get used to.
Most noticeable is the voice control in the car. Forget “Hey Siri!” now it's time for “Hey VinFast." The system can respond to basic commands such as changing temperatures. It can also take complex requests like tuning in a radio channel or giving directions.
Additionally, you can install VinFast mobile app to update about vehicle status and information management, call for rescue/ambulance in case of an emergency, self-diagnosis, booking and service reminders, manage battery and track charging progress, and update your car's software remotely.
Free parking at VinGroup properties
VinFast belongs to the VinGroup ecosystem, including many other facilities such as Vincom, VinMart, Vinhomes, VinSchool, Vinmec, VinUni, etc. When purchasing VinFast cars or motorbikes, you can park them for free at Vincom and Vinhomes parking lots for up to six hours. VinFast also provides assistance services. For Vinhomes residents, you are provided with free monthly parking for two VinFast bikes and one VinFast car.
Technology makes things faster and more cost-effective, but it's not perfect. It requires you to be as flexible as you can be. In our case, this was the central issue in the first few weeks after the car arrived. Some systematic faults prevent you from starting your vehicle, which other regular car owners don’t experience. On many occasions, my dad had to call for rescue in the middle of the road. However, VinFast provided quality customer service, bringing new cars so drivers could continue their journeys immediately. On the first few weekends, he got the car multiple times to VinFast stores to check the accessories and update the software.
At the moment, there are not too many problematic faults anymore. There are still one or two times that our car didn’t go right away as the systematic flaws prevent the vehicle from starting the engine. When that happens, we have to turn it off for a while and then restart to drive. This incident often occurred after we charged our car at home. It is a huge turnoff, but I hope VinFast will fix the problem in the upcoming updates.
Long charging time
For VF e34, it can take up to 8-10 hours to fully charge your car for a distance of nearly 300km. It might be inconvenient for people who cannot charge their vehicles at home as they only have to set their cars outside. Unlike regular cars, where you can get petrol within 2-3 minutes, with an EV, you will have to wait hours to charge your vehicle fully. In the meantime, doing other activities to kill time is recommended, like maybe shopping in Vincom malls?
With VF e34’s capacity, you will not worry about driving in the inner city. However, Vietnamese families usually use their cars for long road trips to return to their hometowns. It might not be reasonable as the journey can last for hours, and the availability of charging stations in rural areas is not as much as in the central cities. With the long hours sitting in the car, we do not want to spend more time on the road just to charge it. The excellent news is that VinFast is collaborating with Petrolimex to open more electric vehicle charging stations at petrol stations across the country.
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