Friday 14 December 2012

Electric vehicles are the new black

The electric vehicle market is changing rapidly. Previously, they have tended to conjure images of boxy, plastic-looking automobiles reserved for eco-friendly motorists. But the electric vehicle industry is revamping its image and is now a fast-growing market of attractive cars, which the top automotive manufacturing names are tapping into.

Electric vehicles are not purely about saving money on fuel. Climate change is also a critical issue for many drivers, with July 2012 being the hottest month in US history, and hurricane Sandy another extreme weather condition. Electric vehicles are also essential for the UK consumer market, since 25% of the UK’s generating capacity of non-renewable energy sources will come to an end over the next 10 years.


Lord Paul Drayson, an entrepreneur and former Minister of Science, who spoke at this week’s EV Investor Club’s breakfast conference on cleantech technology, was emphatic that if electric vehicles are to have a future, they must be more glamorous and exciting to all motorists but crucially, the younger generation. This is why he has come up with the FIA Formula-E Championship. In May 2014, 100% electric cars will race on city circuits across the globe in “a street racing festival that leaves no trace.” The event is targeted at a younger market. The races, short but intense, will be streamed live on social media sites and involve what Lord Drayson described as ‘tag-racing’, where in each race the driver takes a pit stop, running 100m to the next car, so the first one can be recharged. In the final race there will be a ‘tweet to boost’ competition running alongside it, where each car will get a power boost in accordance to the size of its twitter support. These electric car races will be going to cities across the globe. First stop will be Rome where the cars will be showcased on a circuit around the Colosseum. With pictures of racing cars to rival McLaren’s, electric cars look set to become a powerful force in the market.

What about the price tag?

Electric supercar Lightning CarsFurther illustrations of the evolving electric vehicle market came from Iain Saunderson of Lightning Cars, cars which he described as ‘reassuringly expensive’ due to the high-tech technology involved. Although each car comes with an eye-watering €350,000 price tag, they were obviously attractive enough for an audience member to ask Saunderson whether there was an order book, after the presentation. Michael Boxwell’s Bluebird supercar was equally popular with the audience, and is even a contender for the 2013 UK land speed record, a further testimony to just how far technology for electric cars has come.

Beyond the UK market, thriving Australian based electronic scooters business VMoto is now dual listed on the AIM market in London and the ASX market in Australia, and now the number one selling brand in Europe. VMoto’s Michel Fulton explained how prices have come down so they are almost on a par with petrol scooters, with the added benefit that they run at one tenth of the cost.

Chargemaster Charging Points

But what will enable the electric vehicle industry to really take off is accessible charging for consumers. David Martell of Chargemaster described how his charging-point business has grown to be the biggest provider in Europe. Having recently sealed a transaction with Electromotive, Chargemaster now has a 48% share of the European market. Its charging-points are being installed in car parks, shopping centres, hotels, train stations and supermarkets such as Asda and Waitrose, ready for a market which Martell estimates is growing at a rate of 40% per annum.

With the cost of electric vehicles reducing (Renault now offering an electric car priced comparably to their popular Clio model), new marketing initiatives are ensuring that they will become increasingly desirable to a younger target market. As the market grows, electric vehicles will make a real difference to our environment, save consumers money on running costs, and offer another exciting global sporting competition.

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