Will electric cars ever be the future?
As I walked up to the entrance of the Low Carbon Vehicle Show yesterday, I was passed by an electric Smart car. It made me smile. It was cute. And novel.
'While they may have a place in niche applications, they are often just as much as about branding and image as they are about reducing carbon emissions.'
The high-pitch whining of the electric motors took me back to the milk floats that use to frequent my estate every morning.
However, at no point did I think, 'Wow!'. Or 'Coooool!!'. And that's the trouble with most electric vehicles. While they may have a place in niche applications, they are often just as much about branding and image as they are about reducing carbon emissions. Funky little green machines that add a quirky air to a company's appearance, that it hopes will put out a youthful, green and caring persona. But, how many electric vehicles have you seen that are not littered with company logos or marketing graffiti? How many people actually use them as real day-to-day alternatives to petrol or diesel cars?
Haven't we always been here? Haven't electric vehicles always been able to find a little niche somewhere – the milk float being a prime example – which they have always struggled to move beyond?
The trouble is, electric vehicles have always been talked about as the future, but have never quite been able to deliver the practical and economical benefits that are going to take them from being produced in the hundreds, or even thousands, to being produced in hundreds of thousands.
An engineer at Ford told me it predicts that by 2025 the electric car market will be between 3 to 10% of cars on the road. Whilst some may see this as slightly pessimistic, until the two major factors of practicality and economics are truly addressed, electric vehicles may always be up and coming, but unfortunately will never arrive.
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