Initial sales of electric cars in the UK were nowhere near what advocates were hoping for. But it will be interesting to see whether the recent manufactured fuel crisis and panic buying do anything to turn people on to the alternatives to oil.
We've already seen sales of the Volt and Prius rise in the US on the back of higher gas prices, so it would be reasonable to assume that each new disruption—especially one that was as severe (and unnecessary) as the recent British debacle—will serve to build enthusiasm for, and interest in, electric vehicles, hybrids and other transportation alternatives.
That's exactly what Dale Vince, founder of British green energy company Ecotricity; creator of the Nemesis electric sports car; and funder of a UK-wide electric car charging network, claims is happening.
Despite his high-profile advocacy of electric vehicles, Vince says he's been living mostly without a car for the last year (he does own a motorbike), but as he explains over at Zero Carbonista, he recently bought a Nissan Leaf and fell instantly in love. His partner, however, was less impressed until, that is, the fuel crisis hit and she started boasting about their car on Facebook:
There’s a serious point here though. Things like this ‘Fuel Crisis’ make the case for electric vehicles, even to the ‘Clarksons’ of this world. It was a revelation to us – having an electric car made the ‘Fuel Crisis’ rather irrelevant; it was a bit of a sideshow to be honest, light entertainment. To be so insulated from this fairly major national trauma, was an eye opener.
I dusted off my motorbike after about two weeks using the Leaf everyday (because Kate needed the Leaf.. :) ) – and as I rode out the gate I looked down for the fuel light (habit) and it crossed my mind that I might have to go to a garage, to fill up. And it was such an alien concept. It tickled me that after just two weeks of full on EV driving – the thought of going to a garage had become so odd. I’d forgotten all about garages…
It's a point that reaches well beyond electric vehicles. With each rise in oil prices, shed workers, telecommuters and bicyclists too find their lifestyles becoming ever more normal and desirable. As someone who can easily go a good few days without leaving the house or stepping in a car, I do find myself isolated from the worst of the pain at the gas pump that is a real pressure on many other families. And having worked from home for the last five years, it would take an awful lot for me to return to a daily car-based commute.
It will be interesting to see just how many crises and incremental prices increases it takes for the alternatives to become the new norm. My suspicion is that it will be less than we might think. true, electric cars are still considerably more expensive than their fossil fueled counterparts—but as ranges improve, prices come down and more people get used to not having to fill up, the pros will gradually start to outweigh the negatives. The bungled handling of this latest fuel crisis may just have helped speed that process along. Or, at least, it will give one more reason for people to explore working from home.