Mike Waters' Blog: 7 April 2010 - Missing the point
07 April 2010
Mike Waters is senior insight & consultancy manager at Arval, the leading vehicle leasing and fleet management company.
To meet the challenging European targets set for vehicle emissions it is essential that drivers move to cleaner and more efficient vehicles. As part of this move, fully electric models look set to have an important role to play, but I do worry that in the rush to overcome issues surrounding battery life and range, we are missing the point.
Citroen has announced that it is considering bringing a 'total mobility' package to the UK as part of an electric vehicle proposition for both private and business customers. This approach is designed to get around the issue of the limited range attached to its new C-Zero electric car making it more practical and attractive for drivers.
This particular model will only be able to travel around 80 miles before needing to be recharged (fairly standard performance for the current wave of electric models). While this isn't always a problem for local journeys, Citroen acknowledges that on long journeys it just isn't an appropriate car to use.
In France, the 'total mobility' proposition will offer customers access to an alternative, conventionally fuelled vehicle, providing total mobility. Drivers will go online to select a model which better suits the needs of that trip and the car will be delivered to their home. The company is currently working out how this approach could be tailored to the UK.
While this does provide a solution of sorts, my concern is that it is an inconsistent approach to reducing our environmental impact. Electric vehicles are being introduced to reduce the carbon emissions that driving currently creates but any good work will be undone if it ends up increasing the number of vehicles on the road. With efficient models such as the Prius and Insight providing impressive CO2, MPG and range figures, the manufacturers of electric vehicles must do something to make fully electric models a viable option.
Despite issues with range, the manufacturers are not slowing their development of electric vehicles. Nissan has just announced that it is spending over £400m on new production lines at its plant in Sunderland. Production of the Nissan Leaf will begin there in 2013 when around 50,000 vehicles a year will start rolling off the production line.
While I commend the manufacturers for coming up with solutions, it does feel as if they are sometimes losing site of the primary aim in a blinkered approach to encourage adoption of their cars. We talk about MPG performance and CO2 emissions but it is not just running the vehicle that has an environmetal impact. What we must also consider is that the production of a vehicle is polluting so if putting an electric vehicle on the roads means we are having to produce alternatives to make up for their shortcomings, any benefit could be wiped out.