Thursday, December 1, 2011

If LEVs are to be Successful, They’ll Need to be Eye Catching

Modern day cars come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, often aimed at better suiting the desired purpose of the vehicles and other times simply to be attractive in appearance. A People Carrier tends to have a somewhat blockish exterior so that interior space can be maximised whilst a sports car is often low to the ground and streamlined to enhance performance through better aerodynamics and tyre grip. I’ve often heard some muscle cars been referred to as “aggressive” in styling, in a sense they are made to reflect their owner’s desire to command the road and, for lack of a more subtle phrase, augment his machismo.

These lessons shouldn’t be avoided by the manufacturers wishing to introduce LEVs into the automotive market. Toyota has already leaped forward with the latest version of their Prius being distinctly styled and eye catching. Toyota have realised that the customers that generally buy a hybrid car want to be seen driving a hybrid and enjoy the social symbolism that goes along with it. By ensuring that their Prius would be easily recognisable, they have created an environment where the driver of the Prius can indirectly communicate their values of environmental consideration and fuel efficiency to the rest of society.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The UK’s Plug-in Car Grant: 6 months on

Back in 2009 the then UK Government put into place an ambitious and well funded initiative to accelerate the adoption of plug-in vehicles. Over £400million was earmarked to advance the market from both the supply and demand side. Of this mammoth figure, £230 million alone was allocated for a consumer incentive grant that would knock off between 2 and 5 thousand pounds of the sticker price of a new plug-in vehicle. The current incumbent Government decided to support this initiative and the consumer incentive was introduced to the market at the start of this year. The timing was chosen to coincide with the introduction of EVs into the mass market so that all potential early adopters would benefit.

6 months on and we can look back and review the “success” of the grant measured by its level of uptake. As of last week the incentive grant has been allocated a total of 680 times meaning (assuming the full £5000 was allocated on each occasion) £3.4million has thus far been distributed. To me this doesn’t seem like a huge figure and (again if we assume that the sales have been evenly distributed) it only equates to an average of 113 plug-in vehicles being sold per month. Clearly this is better than nothing, but when you compare the first 6 months figures with the total budget allocated for this initiative you begin to think the UK Government was rather ambitious in their expectations for market uptake.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Plug-in Vehicles and Driveways

Recently I read an article in the Economist which discussed the differences between how car service stations were considered in America and Europe. According to the article, Americans tend to have a positive attitude towards them, choosing to locate them in prime central urban areas. In contrast, Europeans have a more negative opinion of service stations relegating them to out of town areas such as ring roads and shopping centres. This observation has been backed up by the downward trend in service station numbers in Europe with tens of thousands going out of business in the last decade. Supermarkets have taken up the slack to a certain degree and the combination of doing your shopping and filling up your car seems popular. It isn’t too much of a leap to envisage that Europeans would tend to value the ability to avoid service stations in the future altogether by purchasing a Plug-in vehicle more so than Americans as a result of this embedded attitude.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Selection of my Favourite Car Commercials – Citroen: Alive with technology

The next instalment of my favourite car commercials is another golden oldie from the mid 2000s. To help generate interest in the new Transformer movie being released, Citroen teamed up with their production team to come up with a joint project. The output of this project was a distinctly attention grabbing short commercial where a conventional Citroen C4 transforms into a giant robot we all remember fondly from our youths. The transformer then proceeds to break dance to some catchy music displaying the (at the time) amazing visual effects people could look forward to in the movie. The main draw of this commercial is the graphic analogy of the technology embedded within a Citroen displaying it as being truly advanced whilst also generating interest for the forthcoming movie. I thought it was a truly unique collaboration and a mighty successful piece of advertising, I hope you enjoy it. 

Monday, August 8, 2011

Are we Trying to Force Electric Vehicles to be something they Aren’t?

Conventional vehicles have been with us for over 100 years and have become a cornerstone of our societies. They have been incrementally improved throughout their history and now represent one of the pinnacles of human engineering achievement. Indeed, some commentators have dubbed the car as one of mankind’s greatest accomplishments and they have without doubt assisted in the expansion of human prosperity.

Conventional vehicles are not however without their drawbacks and their benefits are reduced by their associated externalities. Electric Vehicles aim to address a number of these externalities and have regularly been referred to as a Disruptive Technological Innovation. What is a Disruptive Technology? Well, you can envisage the introduction of fuel injection into car engines as being a sustaining technological innovation that improves the performance of a technology without changing its fundamental structure. A Disruptive Technology is the opposite of this and breaks rather than alters the pre-existing mould. Disruptive Technologies push the frontier in nonconventional aspects of the product’s design such as significantly altering its architecture rather than providing incremental improvements on a primary attribute.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Should Plug-in Vehicles be bundled with Other Products and Services?

Some of the recent research emerging in the plug-in vehicle field shows that consumers tend to be the most open to consider a plug-in vehicle during times of instability in their lives. Moving house, changing job, having the first child are transition points when people tend to revaluate how they live their lives and if any fundamental changes are needed. Conversely, when people are “stuck in a grove” and are happy to have everything stay as it is then they’d be much less likely to think about altering their personal travel behaviour. These transition points do not happen very often and so its important to make them count.

Trying to get the most behavioural change for a single intervention would help to maximise the benefit of these transition points. This concept leads us nicely into considering if plug-in vehicles can be combined with other goods and services that may prove complementary. We’ve already alluded to early in this blog how plug-in vehicles can be sold in combination with an electricity tariff that may source its electricity from renewable/green generation or provide much cheaper rates during the night when the EV can be scheduled to recharge. Are there any other goods or services that can be combined with plug-in vehicles that share similar themes? I can think of a whole spectrum including combination boilers, cavity wall insulation and home compositing but there is one that, to me, stands out from the crowd.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Selection of my Favourite Car Commercials – Golf GTi

Following on from the previous post, the next commercial from my favourites list stars the Volkswagen Golf GTi. This commercial combines the iconic scene from Singing in the Rain where Gene Kelly wanders happy down a street with the introduction of the Golf. The Golf GTi, which is iconic in its own right, was first introduced in the late 1970s and, on the surface, hasn’t changed a great deal. Indeed, there wasn’t too much that needed changing in the original car with the alterations simply bringing mild improvements on an already successful theme.  The commercial illustrates this vividly by demonstrating that small changes are all that is required to bring a time honoured car into the present day. Without further ado, I hope you enjoy the commercial.