A conservative auto mindset

According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) in the UK, the electric car sales jumped by 350% in the first semester of 2015 compared with 2014. All in all, it now represents roughly 3% of all new car sales in Great Britain. However, looking closer, we found out that most « electric cars » are not 100% electric ones but hybrids. And the top sales winner isn’t really somethinh like a Volkswagen or Renault urban light model, but the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. This big and heavy-weighted 4WD car has also become the best-selling electric car in Europe. Purely electric grew by 83% whereas hybrids jumped 530%. In other words, the electric car market was just dead until 2014!

Mitsubishi-Outlander-PHEV-Concept-S-7

So what? First, the UK seems to be catching up, showing a typical conservative behavior regarding this new breed of automobiles. Most UK drivers have been primarily rather skeptical and unwilling to change. Until for some reasons the media started to spread the news that, hey, alternative cars exist and even may work. Provided the change isn’t too brutal, hence a very clear preference for hybrids rather than solely electrics. And honestly, British car owners have too much passion for automobiles to massively consider downsizing and shifting towards little ugly electric vehicles. It’s like asking a fan of hamburgers (or fish and chips!) to totally change his diet and turn vegan the next day! Stereotypes are hard to remove, sorry for Tesla and other stylish electrics…

Conservatism is a frequently used adjective when it comes to the United Kingdom. It’s almost part of the british touch and charm. But after all, isn’t conservatism an intimate part of us all – wherever we are? Isn’t it normal to resist to a new fashion? Especially when it wasn’t massively expected, and comes out by surprise. Isn’t it wise not to act like a sheep and to refuse unique solutions, quick fixes that may eventually turn out to be counter-productive? Regarding electric cars, we seldom hear about lithium mines nor about recycling, so that we may wonder whether we’re really moving towards a circular automotive economy.

Generally speaking, when it comes to change, most people are always ready to find or invent excuses for not making the big leap. And recent VW scandal should make us more aware of the differences of mindsets between, say, traditional combustion engine makers and alternative (i.e. electric) ones such as Tesla or, sooner or later, Apple and Google. These Californian entrepreneurs simply don’t care for 20th century technology! In the middle of the road, politicians and observers don’t really know who’s right and who’s wrong. Who’s gonna lead us to a better world, who’s delaying us?

Laurent

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