Putting out the rubbish used to be easy. One bin for everything; no thought required. But in recent years we have all bought in to a more sustainable way of dealing with our waste.
It’s less convenient than before – it takes a bit more time, we have to think a little more – but it’s now the normal thing to do. We’re also thinking more carefully about the environmental impact when we shop for our food, our clothes and even, during more normal times, our holidays.
The same is happening with our driving. The raised awareness of climate change and local pollution means the car is in danger of being demonised. So, to protect the freedom that motoring affords, we are being encouraged – some might say forced – to take a more considered approach to what we drive and how we drive it.
The industry is helping us to do just that, with massive strides taken towards more sustainable ways of driving. Hybrids, plug-in hybrids and EVs are gaining acceptance, and nowhere more so than across the fleet sector, bolstered by the financial incentives of reduced BiK tax along with the associated cost savings for businesses. But many drivers are still wary of making the change. They remain confused by the growing range of efficient new powertrain technologies, and they don’t always know which to choose or how to get the best out of it.
A hybrid, a plug-in hybrid, an EV with switchable brake regeneration settings or even a conventional petrol or diesel car with selectable driving modes or a gearbox coasting function (did you even know it was in there?) won’t be at its most efficient without some driver interaction. There are too many variables for the car’s systems to make the best of every situation. Left to its own devices a plug-in hybrid will manage just fine, but if the driver carries on regardless – and if they don’t recharge at every available opportunity – they’re as likely as not to feel somewhat shortchanged by any official claim of efficiency or electric range.
The technology is in there, but sometimes the driver needs to work with it to maximise efficiency and range, so we need to take a bit more responsibility when we get behind the wheel. A change in mindset is required.
More and more people are taking the bold step of switching to a fully electric car. Enthusiastic early adopters have bought into the technology and made the necessary adjustments to their mindset and driving style in order to live with the idiosyncrasies of an EV.
THE NEW BREED
However,that initial pool of keen, environmentally savvy buyers is now being diluted by drivers who are being incentivised into an EV, perhaps for different reasons.
As take-up grows, more of these consumers – many of them company car drivers, encouraged by the attractive financial incentives – will simply be hoping for a like-for-like replacement for their conventional petrol or diesel model. It’s disingenuous to suggest that an EV is absolutely right for everyone – among other factors, vehicle choice may be limited and at-home charging might not be an option – so without an adjustment to their mindset and the way they drive, they could end up thoroughly dissatisfied with the experience.
Low- and zero-emission cars bring compromises, inconveniences and challenges, but only when compared with the ease of use of a conventional petrol or diesel car – a convenience we have all come to take for granted. But by better understanding these new technologies and adjusting our approach to driving, we should be able to continue to enjoy the freedom of the car – and some of the financial incentives they bring – for some time to come.
Tim Dickson, Director, Ecomore Training & Consultancy