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Nine and a half weeks to happiness

Date
13 March 2012
Nine and a half weeks to happiness

By Robin Haycock, Head of Transport, The Climate Group.

March 13, 2012.

When you talk to a car manufacturer about selling electric vehicles (EVs) they generally go a bit quiet, which is easy to understand: at the moment it takes a salesman about 9½ times as long to sell an EV in the showroom as it does to make commission on the equivalent gasoline or diesel product.

So I ask you, dear reader, if you were a car salesman who cared more about paying the mortgage than what exactly you sold, what would you do?

I suppose my point is that we need to change things around a bit, and this is where the 9 ½ weeks comes in. This time frame represents how long it takes for a difficult sell to become an easy sell. But the market needs a new way of thinking and a new process introduced - I'm talking about social change.

If a potential buyer was given 9 ½ weeks to trial an EV, the agenda would go something like this:

  • Potential buyer is asked by the salesman whether he would buy an EV. The answer is multifaceted, but the general consensus is fairly negative and the list of reasons is long
  • They take it for a test drive anyway and they like the feel, the ease of driving, the lack of noise, the acceleration… so they snap up the chance of a longer trial
  • After a couple of weeks of owning an EV they are not so worried about plugging it in at every opportunity, and start to use the acceleration more. They enjoy the fact they don't have to fill it up at gas stations anymore and they even enjoy seeing traditional fuel prices at the pumps going up (I refer to my freedom blog a few months back…)
  • After 6 weeks they are displacing fossil fuel from (typically at the moment) their other car, and doing the majority of journeys by the EV
  • After 8 weeks they are thinking about alternative energy, driving differently and charging every few days, but crucially they have got over the majority of their issues and love the car
  • At 9 ½ weeks, the salesman’s job is done. Commission is made, and trying to get the keys back from the punter for the car they originally wouldn't have given you the time of day for, actually turns out to be quite hard!

So what do we need to do? We must find a way of getting people through this process. Maybe loan cars, fleet vehicles, a new sales process, or perhaps a marketing campaign to raise awareness of the issues would help drive up-take.

But the bottom line is, we need to get people in the cars somehow for a longer period of time.

My money is on getting vehicles working in fleets, and this is why Transport for London and Department for Transport have now funded work in this area with EST and EDF Energy, via our new Plugged-in Fleets report.  

With this kind of extended test drive, hopefully car manufacturers won't be going so quiet when asked about selling EVs - unless of course silence is a sign of modesty to cover their accelerating profits.

Read the report: Plugged-in Fleets - A Guide to Deploying Electric Vehicles in Fleets 

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