As it turns out, not all electric cars are created equal

Electric cars are not absolute newcomers to the car industry anymore. Over the past five years or so, most carmakers have churned out at least one electric car with plans to release a handful of others over the coming decade or so. The charging infrastructure has grown, too.

While this is obviously good news, it also leaves us (and the customer) with quite a big pond of EVs to choose from. To add more to the confusion and indecision, electric cars come in all shapes and sizes, set in motion by just one electric motor, two, or even three, and, obviously, very different price tags. Long story short, picking your next electric car might leave you scratching the top of your head. We get it.

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Fret not, though. We’ve been kindly invited by Romania’s leading car outlet, Automarket, to an eight-day, eight-car real-life experiment that set out to discover just how good (or bad) the latest electric cars are in actual traffic both in and outside the city. What followed was to be known as Electric Romania 2020, basically a workshop on wheels powered by Vitesco Technologies, joined by other partners such as Michelin. The experience helped us better digest and understand both the strengths and shortcomings of today’s electric car: range-wise but also in terms of comfort, dynamics, user friendliness, tech-savviness, and overall liveability.

The framework

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This is where I started feeling like doing my dissertation paper all over again. Firstly, Electric Romania was thought out and designed as a tour of Romania done with EVs.

At the end of day eight, as we circled back to Bucharest, our start and finish point, we would have amassed more than 2000 kilometers (over 1200 miles) under our belts.

In case you’re asking why eight days, well, the backbone of the tour consisted of eight cars - all launched in 2020 on the Romanian market - and 14 journalists and content creators that would sample the said cars.

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Basically, you got to drive another car each day, and the end of which you had to fill in a form with various bits of information: distance travelled, total time of travel, charging times, how much battery you had left at the destination, how much electricity went into the battery during charging, average speed, and so on.

So, each electric car was put through its paces over eight days, but every time by a different driver with a completely different set of driving habits than the one before him and on a different route. This included highways, winding A- and B-roads through the mountainside and hillside, as well as flat, plain-splitting roads where the elevation didn’t change much.

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As for the car lineup itself, this is it, in the exact order we drove them:

From here on, each car’s battery pack, electric motor (or motors), range, other specs as well as driving impressions will be presented as it follows.

Day 1 - Porsche Taycan Turbo

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Porsche Taycan Turbo - The Specs
Electric motors 2
Battery type Li-ion
Battery capacity (net) 83.7 kWh
Average consumption (according to carmaker) 26 kWh/100 km (62 miles)
Max range (according to carmaker) 450 km/280 miles
AC charging 11 kW
DC charging 270 kW
Weight 2380 kg/5247 lb
0-62 mph (0-100 kph) 3.2 s
Top speed 260 kph/162 mph
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Porsche had to get its first electric car right. And good God, it did. The Taycan Turbo is not just a flurry of performance, but a smile magnet. Sitting behind the wheel in the handful of traffic jams that slowed us down is the best way to enjoy the most honest smiles I’ve been treated with in a luxury car. Some people see you in Mercedes-AMG S63 or in a Panamera Turbo and you can just read either envy or loathing on their faces. With the Taycan, it’s the complete opposite: candid, genuine smiles from folks of all ages, walking on the street or driving in the next lane.

When you’re not sitting in a traffic jam, the Taycan Turbo’s personality can flip from tame to psycho as quick as it can go from naught to 60 mph: three seconds flat with Launch Control, on its way to a top speed of 260 kph (162 mph). The acceleration is brutal. You can easily squeeze a lot of squeal out of the wider-than-life rear tires from a standstill and with a drop of bad luck, you can even fracture a vertebra before the electronic nannies kick in or you decide to lift off. Even at highway speeds, smashing the accelerator will make the Taycan squat then shoot straight up ahead. The back of your head never leaves the headrest. Even if it wants, it can’t. At this point, I’m scared just thinking of what the Turbo S can do.

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For a car this wide and long, city cruising is surprisingly swift and easy, but it’s the outer roads that make your spine tingle inside the Taycan. When on, the Launch Control feature triggers the Overboost function that unlocks the Turbo’s 500 kilowatts (670 hp, 680 PS) and 850 Newton-meters (627 pound-feet) coming from two electric motors fed by the 83.7-kWh battery pack (that’s the net, usable capacity - gross capacity according to Porsche literature is 93.4 kWh).

Porsche Taycan Turbo - How It Performed During Electric Romania
Total distance covered 2197 km/1365 miles
Total driving time 44 hours, 8 minutes
Time spent charging 14 hours, 9 minutes
Energy used 512.8 kWh
Average speed 51.1 kph/31.7 mph
Average consumption under moderate driving 23.2 kWh/100 km (62 miles)
Average REAL-LIFE range 365 km/165 miles

Read our full review on the Porsche Taycan

Day 2 - Renault Zoe

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Renault Zoe - The Specs
Electric motors 1
Battery type Li-ion
Battery capacity (net) 52 kWh
Average consumption (according to carmaker) 17.5 kWh/100 km (62 miles)
Max range (according to carmaker) 395 km/245
AC charging 22 kW
DC charging 50 kW
Weight 1502 kg/3311 lb
0-62 mph (0-100 kph) 9.5 s
Top speed 140 kph/87 mph
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Zoe is not a new name for Renault as it’s not a new name for most European customers. Europe’s best-selling EV until 2020, when the Model 3 took its crown, the Zoe would serve as the wake-up call after the Taycan Turbo experience. Falling from the stratosphere of the (electric) auto industry wasn’t so painful, because the Renault Zoe does a lot of things right.

By the way, this is the second-gen Zoe, so it packs a larger battery, a more powerful electric motor, and 50 kW fast-charging. Oh, and when plugged into an AC outlet, Zoe can charge with 22 kW, unlike some of its peers that only manage 7.4 kW or 11 kW.

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So, the version we drove was the Z.E. 50, which stands for a 52-kWh battery pack and one electric motor good for 135 PS (133 horsepower) and 245 Newton-meters of torque (roughly 180 pound-feet). You might be inclined to believe that the Zoe is a city-focused car and you’d be right. Except that it can pull more than its own weight outside the city, thanks to a smart and very effective energy regeneration setup which will keep you on the move more.

There’s still some things Renault has to tweak with the Zoe, though. The driving position is too high for such a car - it actually feels downright SUV-ish - because they placed the battery underneath the floor, saving space in the trunk. Even so, you won’t be able to carry all your family’s luggage not even if you plan just a weekend away. Then again, the city is where the Zoe thrives and save for a couple of rough plastic areas in the cabin, you’ll be getting a well-rounded package from the tour’s most affordable electric car. A fair deal, in our opinion.

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Renault Zoe - How It Performed During Electric Romania
Total distance covered 2098 km/1304 miles
Total driving time 42 hours, 14 minutes
Time spent charging 12 hours, 52 minutes
Energy used 301.5 kWh
Average speed 50.5 kph/31.3 mph
Average consumption under moderate driving 13.7 kWh/100 km (62 miles)
Average REAL-LIFE range 383 km/238 miles

Read our full review on the Renault Zoe

Day 3 - Volkswagen ID.3

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Volkswagen ID.3 - The Specs
Electric motors 1
Battery type Li-ion
Battery capacity (net) 58 kWh
Average consumption (according to carmaker) 15.5 kWh/100 km (62 miles)
Max range (according to carmaker) 420 km/261 miles
AC charging 11 kW
DC charging 100 kW
Weight 1794 kg/3955 lb
0-62 mph (0-100 kph) 7.3 s
Top speed 160 kph/99 mph

The Golf of EVs is… just that. It might sound like a cliche but all that PR talk from Volkswagen about the ID.3 being an electric reincarnation of the giant Golf is backed up by the car’s outing in real-life traffic.

It all starts with the chassis. If you thought Volkswagen worked wonders on the MQB platform, then you’ll be back to familiar feelings in the ID.3. The chassis works so well underneath you, soaking up bump and twists caused by uneven roads that it’s hard not to bring the Golf into focus. The suspension doubles down on driving pleasure - you won’t hear a sound from it, not even when the road surface gets nasty.

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You also get loads of grip, the steering is fairly precise, and there’s plenty of zest and zippiness in the way the ID.3 moves from corner to corner. I never though myself capable of saying this, but I actually had fun on a twisty road inside an actual Volkswagen that’s not a GTI or an R (also not a Porsche, Audi, or Lamborghini, for that matter). It helped that the driving modes are well-differentiated, meaning that Sport completely transforms the car’s dynamic behavior.

In all fairness, we drove the fancy-spec ID.3 1st Edition Plus, which mixes a 58-kWh battery pack and an electric motor that sends 204 PS (201 horsepower) and 310 Newton-meters (229 pound-feet) of twist to the rear axle. The ID.3 can charge with 11 kW at an AC outlet and with up to 100 kW at a DC charger.

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Volkswagen ID.3 - How It Performed During Electric Romania
Total distance covered 2170 km/1348 miles
Total driving time 44 hours, 10 minutes
Time spent charging 10 hours, 50 minutes
Energy used 350.5 kWh
Average speed 50.6 kph/31.4 mph
Average consumption under moderate driving 16.1 kWh/100 km (62 miles)
Average REAL-LIFE range 362 km/225 miles

Read our full review on the Volkswagen ID.3

Day 4 - Audi e-tron Sportback

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Audi E-Tron Sportback - The Specs
Electric motors 2
Battery type Li-ion
Battery capacity (net) 86.5 kWh
Average consumption (according to carmaker) 21.4 kWh/100 km (62 miles)
Max range (according to carmaker) 446 km/277 miles
AC charging 11 kW
DC charging 155 kW
Weight 2555 kg/5633 lb
0-62 mph (0-100 kph) 5.7 s
Top speed 200 kph/124 mph

Audi’s first foray into the electric car market was also the luxo-barge of the tour. Allow me to explain. The e-tron Sportback (or the regular one, for that matter) is one heavy car. Tipping the scales at a whisker over 2.5 tons, it is betrayed by the amount of mass it has to carry around, even though on paper, the powertrain Audi dropped underneath the metal sheets might suggest otherwise.

The car we drove was the 55 Quattro S-Line. In other words, the range-topping Audi e-tron packs the 64.7-kWh (net) battery pack and two e-motors. In the 55 Quattro, they produce 408 PS (402 horsepower) and 664 Newton-meters (490 pound-feet) of torque, enough to cater for 0-100 kph (0-60 mph) sprints of 5.7 seconds and a top speed of 200 kph (124 mph).

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Acceleration in the e-tron is on the other end of the rope from the Taycan’s. Although the powertrain possesses a lot of pulling power, building speed is done slowly but steadily, rather than in an effervescent manner. This, of course, aids the e-tron’s luxury claims, as power delivery is so smooth yet effective that you’ll feel like commanding a spaceship of sorts.

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On the inside, the e-tron greets you with the best Audi can pull off in terms of material quality and ergonomics. Two complains here, though: the amount of piano black isn’t exactly on par with our perception of luxury (although the other materials are a pleasure to touch and look at) and if possible, avoid the (optional) cameras acting as side mirrors. They’re cool and they look cool, we’ll give them that, but adjusting to the setup takes some time and even after you’ve chugged in a couple hundred kilometers, you’ll still look at the cameras first - that’s where the regular mirrors would normally sit. Only after that you’ll correct the newly acquired habit by looking at the screens mounted below the windows - something that’s easier said than done, especially in heavy traffic or in those situations when you’re forced to switch lanes repeatedly.

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Audi E-Tron Sportback - How It Performed During Electric Romania
Total distance covered 2106 km/1308 miles
Total driving time 42 hours, 7 minutes
Time spent charging 10 hours, 22 minutes
Energy used 525.5 kWh
Average speed 50.1 kph/31.3 mph
Average consumption under moderate driving 24.9 kWh/100 km (62 miles)
Average REAL-LIFE range 351 km/218 miles

Read our full review on the Audi e-tron Sportback

Day 5 - Hyundai Kona Electric

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Hyundai Kona Electric - The Specs
Electric motors 1
Battery type Li-ion
Battery capacity (net) 64 kWh
Average consumption (according to carmaker) 17.5 kWh/100 km (62 miles)
Max range (according to carmaker) 449 km/279 miles
AC charging 11 kW
DC charging 50 kW
Weight 1760 kg/3380 lb
0-62 mph (0-100 kph) 7.6 s
Top speed 167 kph/107 mph
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The time has come to talk about the tour’s champion. The Kona Electric proved that it’s all fun and games until the Koreans arrive at the table. By far the most energy-efficient car we drove during Electric Romania, the Kona Electric should be in the top three choices for whoever wants an electric car that can serve both inside and outside the city. On two consecutive days the Kona Electric returned a real-life calculated range of 551 kilometers (342 miles) and 547 kilometers (340 miles), respectively, outranking every other car by a landslide.

Of course, aspects such as sportiness and a fancy interior aren’t exactly the main selling points of the Kona Electric. Come to think of it, though, is this really want you want in an electric car right now, especially when you budget isn’t cut out for the Audi e-tron or the Porsche Taycan? Sure, there are some rougher plastics adorning the cabin but one could point out the durability brought in by this solution. And it doesn’t have the fancy materials of an e-tron, but at the same time it’s three times cheaper and offers way more range than Audi’s EV.

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You can also fit a decent amount of luggage inside the trunk and perhaps the most enticing advantage is that on longer trips, you’ll stop less to recharge and these breaks themselves are bound to be shorter. Even with the battery charged to 80-percent, the Kona Electric will still effortlessly make a sad memory out of range anxiety.

Hyundai Kona Electric - How It Performed During Electric Romania
Total distance covered 2134 km/1326 miles
Total driving time 44 hours, 43 minutes
Time spent charging 10 hours, 42 minutes
Energy used 296.6 kWh
Average speed 50.3 kph/31.2 mph
Average consumption under moderate driving 13.9 kWh/100 km (62 miles)
Average REAL-LIFE range 466 km/290 miles

Read our full review on the Hyundai Kona Electric

Day 6 - Kia e-Niro

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Kia E-Niro - The Specs
Electric motors 1
Battery type Li-ion
Battery capacity (net) 64 kWh
Average consumption (according to carmaker) 14.9 kWh/100 km (62 miles)
Max range (according to carmaker) 455 km/283 miles
AC charging 11 kW
DC charging 77 kW
Weight 1791 kg/3948 lb
0-62 mph (0-100 kph) 7.8 s
Top speed 167 kph/107 mph
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When we say Kia e-Niro, we’re basically talking about the same battery pack and electric motor used by the Hyundai Kona Electric. The e-Niro, however, gets a more airy, roomier, and better dressed interior than its cousin, upgrades that are reflected in the price difference - the e-Niro is a tad more expensive than the Kona Electric, enough to justify the spiced up cabin.

Dynamically-speaking, the two cars behave in an identical manner, which means that the e-Niro is, too, configured for comfort first and foremost. However, when it comes to range, our experiment revealed that it falls slightly behind the Kona Electric, but not by too much. Essentially, you’ll be getting the same go-almost-anywhere character of the Kona - albeit slightly toned down - but with a fancier twist inside. Blame this on Kia’s efforts to position itself above Hyundai, but in the end, it’s just down to whether you’re willing (or not) to spend some extra cash for a nicer cabin while sacrificing electric range to a small extent.

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Kia E-Niro - How It Performed During Electric Romania
Total distance covered 2094 km/1301 miles
Total driving time 43 hours, 18 minutes
Time spent charging 8 hours, 42 minutes
Energy used 312.4 kWh
Average speed 52.1 kph/32.3 mph
Average consumption under moderate driving 14.9 kWh/100 km (62 miles)
Average REAL-LIFE range 433 km/269 miles

Read our full review on the Kia e-Niro

Day 7 - Mini Cooper SE

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Mini Cooper SE - The Specs
Electric motors 1
Battery type Li-ion
Battery capacity (net) 28.9 kWh
Average consumption (according to carmaker) 14.8 kWh/100 km (62 miles)
Max range (according to carmaker) 234 km/145 miles
AC charging 11 kW
DC charging 49 kW
Weight 1365 kg/3009 lb
0-62 mph (0-100 kph) 7.3 s
Top speed 150 kph/93 mph
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It looks funky inside and out, it’s a hoot to drive, it’s got perfect 50:50 weight distribution on the two axles and the “handles like a kart” claim is under no circumstance marketing blabber. That’s where the fun ends with the Mini Cooper SE, though, because the small battery pack and the e-motor’s tenacity at sucking energy makes it a city-only EV. Which means the Mini Cooper SE works best as a secondary car and this in turn will have customers working with tight budgets look elsewhere.

To be fair, the Cooper SE shouldn’t be judged too hard. Yes, it can’t cover the same distance as the other EVs on the market - his only rival in this department is the cute Honda e - and it packs the same cramped interior, stiff suspension, and small trunk. However, this is Mini’s experiment, a first dipping of its toes in the EV ocean, to see if such a model makes sense for the urban customer.

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We reckon it wasn’t an expensive one, as the Cooper SE borrows the 135-kW electric motor from the BMW i3s, but it’s fed by a puny 28.9-kWh net-capacity battery pack that can’t sustain the fun for prolonged periods. So while the electric Mini is all about smiles per kilowatt-hour, it might not be the first choice for someone looking to get more range and space from an EV, and perhaps better comfort, too.

Mini Cooper SE - How It Performed During Electric Romania
Total distance covered 2127 km/1322 miles
Total driving time 42 hours, 2 minutes
Time spent charging 19 hours, 50 minutes
Energy used 299 kWh
Average speed 52.6 kph/ 32.6 mph
Average consumption under moderate driving 14.1 kWh/100 km (62 miles)
Average REAL-LIFE range 208 km/129 miles

Read our full review on the Mini Cooper SE

Day 8 - Peugeot e-2008

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Peugeot E-2008 - The Specs
Electric motors 1
Battery type Li-ion
Battery capacity (net) 45 kWh
Average consumption (according to carmaker) 14.5 kWh/100 km (62 miles)
Max range (according to carmaker) 320 km/199 miles
AC charging 7.4 kW
DC charging 100 kW
Weight 1548 kg/3413 lb
0-62 mph (0-100 kph) 8.3 s
Top speed 150 kph/93 mph
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Peugeot’s first electric SUV, the e-2008, manages to look good both inside and out. That’s something few EVs can put on their resume. Of course, i-Cockpit configuration is not for everyone - some have complained about the steering wheel being positioned too low, basically in the driver’s lap - but we found it nice and easy to get accustomed to. That said, forget about any wishes of sportiness inside the e-2008: the French have tweaked it to deliver loads of comfort and it does just that. Push it over those boundaries and you’ll get a lot of body roll. Plus, the steering is heavily assisted, so there’s little to no feedback, which is something you don’t want during spirited driving sessions. On the flipside, navigating through tight spaces and crammed parking lots is almost enjoyable in the e-2008 thanks to the relaxed steering feel.

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The seats are kind to your back although they won’t hug you in corners and the suspension is a professional road imperfection soaker to say the least. The e-2008 size makes it a good urban stroller but at the same time, it’s pretty capable outside the city. You just need to sync and adapt to the car’s ethos and learn how to dose your right foot on the acceleration. Once you master that, the 45-kWh battery pack will keep you on the move for at least 300 kilometers, which is pretty close to the 320-kilometer range estimated by the carmaker.

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Peugeot E-2008 - How It Performed During Electric Romania
otal distance covered 2143 km/1331 miles
Total driving time 42 hours, 17 minutes
Time spent charging 24 hours, 10 minutes
Energy used 330.7 kWh
Average speed 51.8 kph/32.1 mph
Average consumption under moderate driving 15.5 kWh/100 km (62 miles)
Average REAL-LIFE range 301 km/187 miles

Read our full review on the Peugeot e-2008

Final Word

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As far as the European market is concerned, EVs are now coming in all shapes and (battery) sizes. At the time of writing, there’s an EV out there that can serve almost every type of customers. Sure, we’re yet to have an all-electric pickup truck on the market (that’s the Cybertruck’s job), but otherwise, you can have an urban-centric EV like the Mini Cooper SE or you can have a no-nonsense, dependable EV like the Hyundai Kona Electric. Or, if you social status and budget allows it, you can get the Taycan, arguably the hottest EV on the market - performance-wise, looks-wise, and legacy-wise.

In between these electric cars you’ll find the well-balanced, well-rounded Volkswagen ID.3 or, if perhaps you want luxury over head-snapping performance, the Audi e-tron Sportback might wink at you enough to consider buying one.

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As far as real-life energy consumption and range are concerned, our experiment showed that some electric cars still have some work to do to rise up to carmaker estimates, while a small number of them can outdo their theoretical range by quite a hefty difference.

Equally important is the charging network. Essentially, having more charging options on a given radius - let’s say a country’s territory, for example - will shorted charging brakes mostly because you’ll be able to make quick stops to replenish the battery to 80-percent and then continue to travel to the next charting station or to your final destination. More chargers in a given radius also means less chances of finding a station occupied, so you’ll not only wait less to charge, but you’ll also wait less for others to finish charging.

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Overall, you can look at the whole EV movement and its every limb - the car itself, the charging element, the battery technology - as a living organism that’s changing so fast that in 12 months from now, we’ll probably look at a very different landscape than this year’s or last year’s. And with a bit of luck, battery efficiency and range will also change - for the better, that is.

Tudor Rus
Assistant Content Manager - Automotive Expert - tudor@topspeed.com
Tudor’s first encounter with cars took place when he was only a child. Back then, his father brought home a Trabant 601 Kombi and a few years later, a Wartburg 353. At that time, he was too young to know how they worked and way too young to drive them, but he could see one thing – each of them had a different ethos and their own unique personality. As time went on, he started seeing that in other cars as well, and his love for the automobile was born.  Read More
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