BRAND SNOBS ARE a blight on this earth, but when it comes to electric cars, they might just help save the world.
We’ve all done it; whether you’ve bought a Sony TV rather than a Finlux, Ray Bans rather than unbranded aviators or simply Heinz ketchup rather than Sainsbury’s own brand, there’s a bit of brand snobbery in all of us. It’s not a trait that’s looked upon favourably, but it might just help save earth. And it’s all because of the electric car.
Our story begins in the late 1990s with the Audi A2 (above). Not an electric car, but a lightweight, technologically advanced and extremely frugal compact luxury car. Exactly the kind of car UK motorists are clamouring to buy today; but when the A2 was launched, it flopped and it flopped hard. Petrol and diesel were cheap, people had plenty of disposable income and the only people who cared about the environment were Greenpeace.
Fast forward ten years and the world is a very different place. Consumers still want premium cars, but they haven’t got the same funds they once had, meaning smaller cars, better economy and a green conscience are at the top of the agenda. More important than the need to be green though, is the need to be seen to be green.
Evidence of this can be seen if we compare the Toyota Prius, a standalone hybrid model, and the Honda Civic Hybrid (above), a hybrid version of an otherwise normal hatch. How many Prius’ do you see every day? Loads. And when was the last time you saw a Civic Hybrid? Last week? Last month? Never? The Prius requires no explanation, it is the iPod of hybrids whereas the Civic is the Sandisk Sansa.
Fast forward a further five years to the present and the green buzz is now all about fully electric cars. We’ve had the G-Wiz for many years, but it was uncool and unheard of. Mitsubishi failed too with their i-MiEV, despite being a mainstream manufacturer. Nissan have made a moderate success of it with the Leaf and Renault too with the Twizy and Zoe (below), with sales figures for ‘alternative fuel’ cars already up over 50% on this time last year, but those numbers are about to be blown into the water thanks to BMW.
The BMW i3 (top and below) is Munich’s first mainstream all-electric model and is now on sale in the UK. I counted how many electric cars I saw on the roads this week; there were three Leafs (Leaves? How many do you need for a whole tree?), two Zoes and even a Twizy, but there were also six i3s. Six! Despite having only just gone on sale! Like with any new technology, electric cars have been around for a while now, but haven’t really taken off until one stand-out product came along and blew the market wide open. The i3 is “The Electric Car’s” iPhone, its PlayStation, its YouTube. But why?
Like all electric cars to-date the i3 looks different and futuristic, but it also looks good. When you see an i3 on the road (and if you haven’t yet, you will soon) you will look twice. But the biggest differentiator is that it looks expensive and premium. Of course, the blue and white roundel on the bonnet helps too and this is the point. A Nissan or Renault is not an aspirational product, whereas a BMW is. Add in the ‘seen to be green’ factor and the i3 is shaping up to be a sales phenomenon, and if that’s what it takes to kick start the electric car revolution, so be it. So go on brand snobs, there is now an electric car you can proudly park on your drive safe in the knowledge that your neighbours will be all-to-aware that you have money, style and an eco-conscience. The rest of us will reap the benefits later down the line in the shape of more charging stations, better battery technology and cheaper electric cars from more manufacturers.