Tag Archive: electric car


In my last post, I talked about the need for electric cars that symbolise innovation, the cutting edge, etc. etc. Electric cars that car fanciers can relate to.  At the other end of the spectrum, of course, is the need for cars that are practical for families without boy racers (or indeed girl racers in). As a strikingly normal, practical car for the everyman the Ford Focus Electric has a chance of being that car, the spiritual successor to the Model T.

The Ford Focus Electric

The Ford Focus Electric seems to be somewhere in between: it’s still a presentable car but it’s takes a big step towards that market of electric cars for ordinary people. Ford has always been the make favoured by the practical driver rather than the flashy: my Dad, for instance, drives serious Ford estate cars with lots of boot space for family holidays. Ford’s place in history was secured, of course, by its provision of a car for the masses, the Model T, in 1908.

It’s difficult to see what the uptake will be at this stage: there’s the classic chicken-and-egg problem with electric cars that the infrastructure will only be built if there is demand for it (or expected demand), while the demand for the cars will only survive if there are places to charge them. The European Commission have recently outlined plans to get petrol cars out of city streets by 2050, in part with governments taking the lead in providing infrastructure . For the market to rise to this challenge, however, it needs big symbols that electric cars are on the way. Ford’s decision to step into that market may send a clear signal that the big guns of car manufacturing are taking the electric car seriously. As I’ve argued previously, rising oil prices from middle-east conflict and unrest may also prove a boost to such technologies.

The Chrysler GEM Peapod. Plays on its uniqueness rather than its normality

I am also pleased to see they’ve stuck with the design of their existing ordinary, nice-looking cars. With the greatest respect to some of the other pioneers in this field, lots of electric cars are frankly wierd-looking in a way that it’s difficult to get over. A blog on treehugger.com Ford’s move to normality this as a bold strategy, moving away from the model of selling eco-friendly cars that make a statement about their own uniqueness. Meanwhile a CNN blog has criticised Ford for “coming to the eco-party late”, near a year behind its rivals, but perhaps this reflects a more mature product: according to their PR, the Ford Focus Electric is also “designed to offer sufficient range to cover the majority of daily driving habits”, in this case about 100 miles. It is also good to see they’re aware of and seeking to tackle the problem.

Ford have already dabbled in hybrid cars, such as the upcoming C-MAX Energi. (I hope am not the only person who finds the use of an “i” in the brand name “Energi” slightly tiresome.) I find hybrid cars an interesting and slightly odd market because it is so dominated by the Toyota Prius, which somehow managed to tie itself entirely to the concept of hybrid cars in the public mindset much as “hoover” became synonymous with vacuum cleaner. (The example I always think of with this is the episode of The West Wing where Josh Lyman, the White House’s Deputy Chief of Staff, is photographed crashing an SUV into a Prius, a fantastic symbol of arrogant anti-environmentalism that they then have to manage the fallout from.)

As far as I know there isn’t a fully electric car that has that kind of dominance yet. Or maybe there is among car fanciers and it just hasn’t filtered down to sane people grownups me yet. Will Ford be able to roll out the definitive, yet reassuringly normal electric car, the model T for our generation? Time will tell. Good luck to them, say I.

I have a come up with a brilliant way for the James Bond franchise to play its part in the low-carbon revolution, keep Bond at the cutting edge of technology and stir up some public interest in the next film along the way.

Pierce Brosnan as Bond, with Aston Martin

The electric car is many things, but cool is not one of them. The technology may be improving, the ethical case strengthening and the marketing picking up, but petrolheads, the Jeremy Clarkson brigade, can’t quite bring themselves to take an interest. Now Electric Cars like the Tesla Roadster (my personal favourite, though at £88,000 a little outside my current budget) even look fantastic. Fundamentally, however, no matter how good the electric car becomes, a certain segment of the population won’t be able to take it seriously.

The reason? The car, in its petrol-driven form is deeply embedded in US-UK culture. The Beach Boys did not sing “Little Electric Deuce Coope”. There were no electric cars in The Fast and the Furious (and The Fast and The Furious 4: She’s Electric seems unlikely somehow). In Thunder Road Bruce Springsteen sings of getting out of small-town America and the likely fate of young men left behind: “They haunt this dusty beach road in the skeleton frames of burned out Chevrolets”. If he sang that now about those little nippy smart cars he would sound ridiculous. While Chevrolet have now expanded into electric cars, the image also doesn’t quite sit with the Chevrolet Volt – the industrial heartland of America is still characterised by petrol. And James Bond does not drive an electric car. I think we all suspect, deep down, that if he did he would find it much less easy to attract women with the speed and reliability he does. Besides which, Aston Martin, Bond’s car of choice, has dismissed the possibility of going electric.

But James Bond is the perfect vehicle (pun not intended) for showcasing the electric car. Bond always has the latest technology: that’s a big part of what the franchise is all about. Electric cars can be sold to the Bond audience as the latest, best, most high-tech thing. Best of all, it doesn’t have to be based on reality: I could be wrong here but I very much suspect that no-one has yet invented a car that can be steered by a mobile phone (and if they did it was after watching Tomorrow Never Dies not before) but Bond can have one because the audience understands that MI6 are ahead of the curve on this one. So Bond’s electric car can have limited range. He can hack into power lines on the road to charge it. It’s all fair game. And Daniel Craig’s masculinity will go a long way to making the electric car a thing of desire.

Daniel Craig as Bond, also with an Aston Martin

So how will this benefit the Bond franchise? Because putting Bond in an electric car will be highly controversial. There will be headlines and endless online comment pieces and blogs. The diehard petrolheads may all complain down the pub, but they’ll go and see it and all their friends will pick up on the buzz and want to know what’s going on and will go and see it too.

It’s a long road (again, pun not intended) to building up the electric car in the public eye, a task that falls partly to improving technology and partly to cultural change. An electric bond car would, however, leave the market shaken, if not stirred.