Why Are People Buying Electric Cars?

electric car charging

Fast Changing Consumer Values and Social Attitudes Are Dramatically Redefining The Automotive Industry Landscape


It is 9.30 pm and I finally rotate the pedal on the cross trainer.

I had earlier downloaded an episode of Top Gear to distract myself from the agony of exercising.  To my pleasant surprise, I had downloaded an ‘electric car special’ episode. The three presenters, each with an accent as unique as mine, quickly transported me far from the mundane reality of losing weight.  

Halfway through the episode, the torture of listening to their assessment of electric cars, was frankly, far more painful than the resistance from the cross trainer.  By now my heart muscles were working hard, pushing volumes of blood with every beat and my mind racing! 

National Highway UK

It strikes me as rather ‘primitive’ that motor shows use descriptive words like ‘good-looking’ , ‘boring’and ‘speed’ as primary values to  convey key characteristic of passenger cars in the 21stcentury.  

Do not get me wrong. I appreciate good design and speed. But it is rather passé to use testosterone filled vocabulary to describe the salient features of cars.  

Consumers tastes have ‘evolved’ significantly in relation to cars.  Yes consumers do value good-looking cars, but in the order of importance, it is not the most important.  Automotive giants are finally waking up to the significant shift in consumer attitudes in regards to road transportation.  

The rapid rise of the electric vehicle industry globally, is partly, a result of a paradigm shift in consumer values and expectations. Consumers do not want performance at the cost of pollution.  Consumers want to make sustainable choices in everyday consumption and buying or owning a car is no different.   


What Matters Most To Automotive Consumers?


Lower to zero emissions

Consumers want vehicles that pollute less.  That is the bottom-line.  Yes, they have finally understood the strong and detrimental correlation between pollution and health risks.  

The scale of the adverse impact from polluting diesel and petrol cars is significant. Zero emission electric road transportation is the most robust panacea to this grave issue.  There is no point in beating around the bush on this point.  The more we pollute the more we suffer!   

Consumers want low emission transportation and this is now fast becoming the most relevant parameter for consumers when evaluating buying options.  EVs like Nissan Leaf, Renault Zoe and the Jaguar I-PACE are examples of zero emission transportation.  

Nissan Leaf Hatch Electric
Nissan Leaf Electric Car

Many factors have influenced the emergence of emission free transportation i.e. electric vehicles.  But consumer change in attitudes and expectations remains a strong driving force for this transition.  


Cost efficiency

Yes, consumers have become more prudent about spending their hard earned money. They want transportation solutions that are cost efficient to own and run.  

Recharging an electric car costs significantly less than filling a fuel of tank. Depending on your cost of charging, battery size etc., the cost of recharging is usually between £5 to £8.  Filling a full tank of fuel will set you back between £50 to £100.  You do not need a PhD in math’s to assess which is the better option! 


Reliability 

How many valuable weekends have you wasted because your internal combustion engine (ICE) polluting car has decided not to cooperate.  Yes, untold weekends!

The good news is that battery electric vehicles (BEVs) can make that a thing of the past.  BEVs have far fewer moving parts compared to petrol and diesel cars. Therefore less can go wrong.  Don’t get me wrong.  BEVs will not eliminate breakdowns, but will certainly reduce the frequency of breakdowns i.e. increase reliability. 

Fewer breakdowns translates to lower maintenance costs i.e. more money to spend on well deserved weekend getaways


‘Macho’ Is Out.  Sustainability Is the New Macho! 

Wind turbines in a class room discussing sustainability

In the ‘what matters most’ list above, ‘macho’ social values and attitudes have little relevance.  It does irritate me that the automotive sector is so ‘male obsessed’.  I certainly do not feel ‘less of a man’ by aspiring for better values in my decision making to purchase a car i.e. choosing cost efficiency instead of insane performance, choosing lower emission over pollution, choosing reliability above looks!  

EV Women Drivers

While I am on the topic of the rather perverse attitudes of the automotive sector, let me also add, women matter.  I have written about this in the past and will continue to write about this.  Women will be the major ‘drivers’ of the transition to electric road transportation

Interestingly, in the Top Gear show, when one of the presenters asked the audience who drove in an electric car to the event, the person who responded was a woman! 

Next time you see an EV, like the BMWi3,look who is behind the steering wheel.  In all probability, it will be a woman! 

And in regards to any unkind words on EV design, I would urge every one to look at the sleek design of the Audi e-tron.  It is an all-electric SUV.  If that does not convince you on ‘good-looks’ then check out any electric vehicle from Tesla.  Electric cars are good-looking but that is not their most important value proposition! 

As for speed, I have never really fully understood the fixation for speed.  Automotive shows invariably have a group of cars screeching down some abandoned world war two airfield.  But what is the point?

We have a National Highway Code which restricts the speed on all types of roads.  So how does watching cars belting down at incredible speeds down a runway translate to any consumer reality.  No, it does NOT! 

And this is the point. Most consumers are not buying cars to fly.  For that they could buy an aircraft.  Most consumers seek cars that are economical and dare I say it again, good for the environment.  


The ‘values’ of yesterday are not relevant today.  Speed and looks are now being firmly displaced by values of today i.e. ‘economical and environmentally friendly’.  

Electric cars are here to stay.  Automotive shows need to evolve to stay relevant.  Otherwise, like petrol and diesel cars, their extinction is inevitable! 



Author

Ashvin Suri

Ashvin has been involved with the renewables, energy efficiency and infrastructure sectors since 2006. He is passionate about the transition to a low-carbon economy and electric transportation. Ashvin commenced his career in 1994, working with US investment banks in New York. Post his MBA from the London Business School (1996-1998), he continued to work in investment banking at Flemings (London) and JPMorgan (London). His roles included corporate finance advisory, M&A and capital raising. He has been involved across diverse industry sectors, to include engineering, aerospace, oil & gas, airports and automotive across Asia and Europe. In 2010, he co-founded a solar development platform, for large scale ground and roof solar projects to include the UK, Italy, Germany and France. He has also advised on various renewable energy (wind and solar) utility scale projects working with global institutional investors and independent power producers (IPP’s) in the renewable energy sector. He has also advised in key international markets like India, to include advising the TVS Group, a multi-billion dollar industrial and automotive group in India. Ashvin has also advised Indian Energy, an IPP backed by Guggenheim (a US$ 165 billion fund). He has also advised AMIH, a US$ 2 billion, Singapore based group. Ashvin has also worked in the real estate and infrastructure sector, to including working with the Matrix Group (a US$ 4 billion property group in the UK) to launch one of the first few institutional real estate funds for the Indian real estate market. The fund was successfully launched with significant institutional support from the UK/ European markets. He has also advised on water infrastructure, to include advising a Swedish clean technology company in the water sector. He is also a member of the Forbury Investment Network advisory committee. He has also been involved with a number of early stage ventures.

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