Question: Does the fact that I have not yet bought an electric car with my own money prove that everything I say about them is invalid and not to be trusted?
It’s a popular accusation I’ve been receiving from some men, they are suspicious, they think I’m an over privileged telly poser who’s jumped on the electric bandwagon, I’m going around trying to make everyone who doesn’t own and drive an electric car feel guilty and inadequate. At least I think that’s what they’re saying.
When we watch an automotive TV show and the presenter skids sideways in a car that costs £250,000 and says it’s fantastic, do these same men say ‘Well, until he buys one with his own money I can’t respect what he says?’
No, they don’t.
So, to answer this rather tiresome and accusatory question, I will try and explain the reasons I think I have been loaned the Nissan Leaf this year and the Mitsubishi iMiev last year.
Firstly, motor manufacturers are going out on a limb to produce these innovative and slightly disruptive vehicles and they know they have a very steep mountain to climb. The established automotive media, magazines, newspaper, TV and radio are only just starting to even consider electric cars with anything other than downright hostility.
Secondly there’s the oil lobby, six or so multi-national oil corporations who’s combined annual PR budget runs to the billions. This torrent of money filters down through press releases, advertising budgets, sponsorship, direct payments to bloggers and indirect support for commentators to create a very powerful voice dedicated to turning public opinion against the adoption of a technology which does not require their products. Nothing illegal or covert, they should be doing this, it’s their job and I fully support them in doing it. However I suggest that we take that knowledge into consideration when we read endless PR stories of flat batteries and range anxiety, or how burning coal to produce electricity makes electric cars dirtier than diesel etc. etc.
(Worth reading ‘Flat Earth News’ by Nick Davies to understand how this system of PR cut and paste ‘journalism’ works)
Thirdly the electric car manufacturers are up against quite understandable public doubt and anxiety about the technology. People are rightly sceptical about something so potentially disruptive and different from one of the most complex machines we commonly use. Namely the car.
So if there is someone on the periphery of the public eye who isn’t downright hostile to this new technology then these few manufacturers are keen to support him or her.
That is where I have accidentally ended up. I have no master plan, all I know is I’ve driven a few electric cars and they seem to be a rather good idea. I’ve stuck my head above the parapet and said, ‘maybe this is a technology worth considering seriously.’
I’m not saying to anyone ‘go out and buy a really expensive electric car now, or you are scum.’
Without going into the complexities of my current financial situation, like many other people I’m not currently in the position to buy a car, electric or otherwise. When I am, it will be electric, I have no hesitation in saying that. It’s not like I’m secretly buying a Jag and then pontificating about electric cars to make myself look ‘green.’
As Brett Masterson rightly said in the comments to my last piece, it’s really not about the current cost. Yes, electric cars cost more, if you can’t afford one like me, don’t buy one. The fact that I can’t afford one right now proves nothing about the technology.
The fact that I drive one, talk about it, write for magazines (iCar, coming out in May) or blogs (www.thechargingpoint.com new post every week) or Fully Charged www.fullycharged.tv means that there is somewhere in the media maelstrom a voice that is countering the ever increasing torrent of negativity as the Oil Lobby get into gear.
Electric cars will only get cheaper, imported fossil fuel that we burn, and when I say we I mean me too, we burn by the billions of barrels per year are only going to get more expensive.
The examples are endless and obvious. The Model T Ford cost over 3 years average wage when it came out. It was a really expensive and unreliable machine that was initially a rich mans plaything. But it got cheaper very quickly.
The mobile phone was a joke when it first came out. The ultimately sneer worthy prick brick only used by banking twats. Now we’ve all got them.
The electric car is currently receiving the same sneering, head in the sand reaction from a small but very vocal and aggressive minority. The majority of people are going, ‘Oh, that’s interesting, maybe when I get a new car in a few years, I’ll seriously consider it.’
However the manufacturers making the cars know that the bully boys of the right wing media, the macho men of the motoring press and the snide bloggers are going to do everything they possibly can to undermine and denigrate that interest.
I believe this is why Nissan loaned me the car.