How to stop drivers being left behind in the rush to switch to EVs
On the face of it, electric vehicles are an easy sell. Remind an employee of the 1% BiK banding for 2021/22, and you would think that if an EV is available, they’d jump at the chance. However, there’s evidence that some drivers are still reluctant to choose an EV.
A survey of more than 2000 adults carried out for professional services firm KPMG found that range-anxiety was the top concern for 75% of over 55s, dropping to 40% for those aged 18-34. Research by Deloitte found a similar pattern, with drivers aged 51 and over proving the least likely to consider an EV.
So, younger drivers are pro EV and older drivers are anti? In reality, the picture is more nuanced, believes Tim Dickson, founder of the Ecomore training and consultancy company.
“There’s a happy band of older early adopters,” he says. “I don’t think you can say as a rule that age is a barrier.”
In some respects, an EV can be an easier choice for older drivers, believes James McKemey, head of insights at Pod Point.
He says: “We have certainly installed plenty of home chargers for more mature customers, including plenty of retirees, so there is no doubt BEVs work just great for drivers of all ages. Indeed, drivers are more likely to live in homes with off-street parking as they get older, making a move to electric vehicles more manageable.”
AGE VERSUS ENTHUSIASM
So if it’s too simplistic to think of older drivers as EV sceptics, which groups do need convincing?
“You’re just as likely to find that die-hard motoring enthusiasts of any age are anti-electric vehicle,” says Dickson, who worked in motoring journalism before starting Ecomore.
How do you convince a petrolhead that electric vehicles aren’t the death knell for enjoyable driving? Dickson says: “Getting people into the cars is key. The eye-opening acceleration really grabs you. It’s important for non-enthusiast drivers, too, who will discover that an EV is really easy to drive – even easier than a conventional automatic.”
If drivers don’t have a chance to drive an EV, the experiences of colleagues can be the next best thing.
“Often those who have made the switch are passionate about it, and happy to share their EV experience,” says Simon Down, tax associate director at Deloitte. “Peer experiences can be very powerful in the move to EVs. Speaking to friends and colleagues who already drive an EV can be a great way of finding out useful information. It can also help dispel myths or concerns, and share unfiltered feedback on their experiences.”
The rapidly expanding number of manufacturers offering EVs will also be a factor in winning over sceptics. “The growing choice of brands offering EV products can only aid take-up,” says Jamie Hamilton, Deloitte’s head of electric vehicles. He adds: “Broadening the choice of brands available, alongside a wider choice of body style, price range, and performance, moves the buying decision away from EV-specific issues like battery range, to a more traditional buying process, such as brand loyalty and image.”
A test drive and some EV evangelism will only go so far if someone has well founded reasons to think an EV or a plug-in hybrid isn’t for them, such as nowhere to charge overnight.
However, while it might seem counter-intuitive, Dickson believes having a home charger is more important to getting the most from plug-in hybrid (PHEV) rather than a battery electric vehicle (BEV). “Given the increasing range of BEVs, if you have workplace charging or live near to a reliable public charging point, then you can get along without a home charger. But a plug-in hybrid won’t be an efficient mode of transport if you can’t start every journey with a full battery charge. If you can’t charge at home, then you simply shouldn’t have one. Otherwise you’re carting around heavy electric technology that will go to waste.”
Pod Point’s McKemey agrees. “Too often PHEVs have been purchased for tax advantages, but scarcely charged, making them effectively quite inefficient internal combustion-engine vehicles.”
However, allowing drivers to choose a PHEV can help them make the transition to driving a BEV, so long as the plug-in technology is used as intended.
“A PHEV that is regularly charged and covers much of its miles within electric range, using the petrol drivetrain as a back-up for the occasional longer drive, is a really efficient stepping stone that prepares the driver to go fully electric,” argues McKemey.
MAKE IT EASY
To help drivers choose appropriate company cars – and to use them appropriately – businesses need to educate their employees, says Down. “A good starting point is simply providing information to potential drivers to bridge the knowledge gap between perception and reality.”
Advice and guidance from employers should acknowledge that not all usage patterns and journey types are equally well suited to an EV, Dickson believes. “Companies need to be honest. There’s a lot of evangelical hard-selling of EVs, and being dismissive of ‘normal’ cars when an EV might not be right for someone.”
The reliability of the charging network is one aspect of running an electric car about which EV-sceptics may have a point, believes Dickson. “The functionality of the network needs to be addressed; there’s too much complexity and rivalry at the moment,” he believes.
While the shortcomings and complexities of the UK charging network may be outside of a fleet manager’s remit, confusion around how and where to charge when driving on business is something businesses can address. “Fleet managers need to make it clear and simple which charging networks should be used on business, while also letting drivers understand they can use other chargers at their own convenience,” says Dickson.
The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way we live in so many ways, not least how we work. With more of us clocking on at home, and travelling long distances less often, an EV will make a better fit with a greater number of drivers, believes Jamie Hamilton, Deloitte’s head of electric vehicles. “Lockdown measures and the mass shift to remote working have resulted in many people driving less and making shorter, more local journeys.
“This is reducing range anxieties. With those not expecting to return to pre-Covid work or travel patterns, their reduced travel profile should stay.”
If tax incentives and low costs aren’t enough to convince drivers about EVs, perhaps this shift in the way we work will.