2020 was set to be the year that electrified vehicles really took off. The global percentage of electric cars was still fairly low at the end of 2019, with about 1 in 40 of every new vehicle sold having some form of electric battery. With major mass car manufacturers such as Ford, VW and Audi all coming out with a full range of electric or hybrid versions of well-loved cars, it really started to feel like we were at a tipping point. And it wasn’t just cars; electric bikes and scooters were starting to pop up everywhere in cities all over the world. The ‘Greta Thunberg effect’ was also gaining momentum, with governments bringing forward the ban on petrol and diesel cars. There was the perfect blend of consumer appetite, government legislation and vehicle choice to really propel the automotive industry forward into a new era.
Then Covid-19 changed life as we knew it. Car production had to stop entirely for a number of weeks and pre-orders were cancelled with people significantly financially worse off. The automotive sector, as with so many other industries, is now in the process of getting back up and running in this very different world. However, this is not the time to go backwards. People have never been more physically aware of the impact of their personal travel choices. No flights, only essential car journeys and significantly reduced public transport are all having a positive environmental impact. Of course, people want to travel for pleasure again, visit loved ones and even commute back to offices and shops to interact with work colleagues and customers but they don’t want this at the detriment to their health or the environment. In a recent global study by IPSOS Mori, 65% globally believe climate change should be prioritised in the economic recovery after the Coronavirus. On the other hand, with social distancing a challenge on public transport, other individual ways of getting around be it bikes, e-scooters or cars are far more appealing.
Now more than ever it’s time to think about electric vehicles.
However, there are still 3 main challenges that car manufacturers cannot fix alone:
Despite huge amounts of myth-busting content out there, people still have range anxiety and they don’t understand the difference between all the different forms of electric options available to them. Before there was petrol or diesel, where the pros and cons were quite clear, now there is mild hybrid, plug-in hybrid, BEV etc…the acronyms alone are off-putting. People struggle to know what the right solution is for the miles they travel.
Many counties that have seen successful adoption of electric cars, such as Norway, Sweden and even China, have had government subsidies, encouraging people to choose cleaner vehicles. People will have less money but will still need to drive. There has to be some government consideration for bringing back scrappage schemes or stimulus packages to encourage more people to upgrade to an electrified vehicle.
This is not a new problem. Many towns and cities are struggling to cope with the volume of people using ageing infrastructure, be it roads, rail or even pavements. As city planners look to reimagine how people move around post-Covid-19 they need to account for an increased demand for charging points and an increasingly diverse mix of vehicles on the road. It’s not just cars that need to charge, where people store and charge their electric scooters or bike also needs to be considered and their safety on the roads needs to be factored in.
We don’t yet know what our roads or cities will look like after the Covid-19 pandemic but it’s a safe bet that electric vehicles of all shapes and sizes will play a significant role in how we get around.