Guest blog: Will you buy an electric car this year?

By Alan Miller

Somewhat sleeker and safer than previous attempts , a new electric car might seem very appealing. With cheaper running costs, less maintenance, no emissions, and very quiet – perhaps too quiet – it seems like an easy choice for any driver, not just those who want to be as environmentally sensitive as possible.
But perhaps not, if you’re following the media narrative. The big story there is that, despite generous subsidy, electric vehicles just aren’t appealing to the public. “Sales of electric cars have slumped so badly that there are now more charging points than vehicles on the road,” says the Daily Mail, pointing out that only 2,146 cars have been sold since 2006.
The Guardian, usually more likely to be positive about renewable energy, is also sceptical, pointing to a lack of charging points and ‘range anxiety’ – ie, the worry that you can’t go very far on a full battery – as reasons why most of us won’t be buying an electric car anytime soon. Reuters is even more downbeat: Electric cars head toward another dead end, it says. And, of course, there’s the recent negative review from the New York Times over a test drive of the Model S – though the paper seems to have backed away from their total support of the review in recent days.
From these reports it seems that the electric car is either doomed or a technology we’re going to have to wait to get better before investing in. Yet while you may not be buying a new electric vehicle yourself this year, chances are you’ll either take a ride in one or have something delivered by one, or in some way have an electric vehicle intersect with your life.
If you own a car and perhaps commute to work, then fuel is probably a substantial part of your outgoings. But while volatile fuel prices are annoying, it’s not likely to bankrupt you – it probably means less discretionary spending. With a business built on vehicles, it’s different. Fuel prices can mean the difference between staying profitable or not. So commercial vehicles are a different story.
A recent study showed that businesses that switch to electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles could reduce their fleet fuel costs by 75 per cent. British Gas is switching its fleet to electric. Fedex is looking to switch. Companies such as Gnewt Cargo do the all-important ‘last mile’ of a delivery, and do it with electric vehicles. Milton Keynes now boasts a bus route that’s not only electric, but wirelessly charged. Local councils around the country are switching their fleets. Green Tomato Cars will soon put fifty electric taxis on the streets of London.
Look beyond the headlines and electric vehicles are taking off, but the positive news is – like the vehicles – far too quiet. Electric vehicles need to announce their presence with a lot more volume, making the most of positive news and communicating the story of its growth in the commercial sector. And unless the industry shouts about its milestones such as the first driving test passed in an electric car, the media will continue to assume it has stalled, rather than moving up a gear.
Alan Miller is PR Coordinator CCgroup.

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