Monday, 25 February 2013

I call ‘Bullshit’ on Electric “fear”

Recently, the ex-CEO of Volvo, Stefan Jacoby, announced that electric cars had no future down to the overall “fear” of the car buying public.

Citing our needs to want a reliable, rechargeable car, he stated that our behaviour with mobile phones was a clear indication of this apparent fear.

Granted, we want to know our car will get from A to B, even if there is a bit more traffic than expected, but do we ‘fear’ not making it? No, in the same way we don’t ‘fear’ running out of petrol. We will be peeved. We will find it hugely inconvenient and we MIGHT even use a few more offensive swear words. In the same way we did all these things when Nokia’s charge pin shrunk and Apple’s Lightning charger cable replaced a perfectly usable one.  (Oh, hell was I peeved!)

But, like normal human beings, when we spot that we are running low, we will go to a station and fill up, or recharge in this case.

I’m not saying this is easy. In fact, I’ve just spent the last week, running around on the electric experience “from hell”…if I really wanted to sensationalise things. Was it really hell though? No. Sanity check: Palestine/Terminal Illness/Three-day hangover. No, it was definitely not hell.

A few things didn’t go my way. Living in an apartment with no exterior power point was my first mistake, but half of the reason for loaning the car, was actually to test this theory.

The electric car itself, a Smart Fortwo Electric Drive CoupĂ©, was loads of fun to drive. Hot off the lights, it whizzed around all my little localities, to-ing and fro-ing to friends’ houses, and less enjoyably to charging points. It was cool though.

My experience was hindered by a couple of things, namely my lack of due diligence and Mercedes’ failure to equip me with a charge card. This latter issue, however, was quickly resolved by the lovely people at Pod Point (Thanks, Hannah!).

Cruising around the streets of Soho looking for a point could have been avoided, if I’d pre-scoped the area. But I chose to wing it. Two visits to Peckham and an unsuccessful visit to E14 later, I simply giggled when I saw that the forecourt of Ancaster Nissan was closed on Sunday (bollards up), with a LEAF parked directly in my way anyhoo.

This experience wasn’t an infrastructure problem. Nor was it an electric car problem. It was just pure bad luck. Was I fearful?! NO! I did not fear that the big bad hairy battery juice guzzler was going to come and steal the remaining supply of my charge.

I did what any normal human being would do and returned the six-miles to the point I knew DID work and I left it there overnight.

In fact, it gave me the opportunity to do a bit of training that I’d missed out on all week.  That said, I appreciate 3.8 miles back home isn’t ideal, so I’m pleased to hear the government has announced measures to dole out £13.5m to customers buying electric, on top of their £5,000 tax relief, to help with the cost of fitting a charging station to their home, or in their street.

If having an electric car does nothing else, it certainly widens your social circle. And if you hear manufacturers talking “range anxiety”, don’t believe the hype.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Danica Proves Worthy In The Face Of Negativity

Danica Patrick has clinched the first female pole, after setting the fastest time at the Daytona International Speedway in Florida, ahead of this season’s inaugural NASCAR race.

After the revelation that she is dating track rival Ricky Stenhouse Jnr., she finished strongly in practice, almost a full second faster than the rest of the field. Topping speeds of 196mph, she clocked a lap time of 45.8 seconds to secure the historic pole.

The ex-Indycar500 driver will undoubtedly welcome the focus back to a more professional topic. While it shouldn’t really matter who she is dating, media scrutiny has led to questions on both her relationship and her perceived image as a female driver.

TheSlate’s Laura Helmuth scathingly described her ‘GoDaddy girl’ image as‘spectacularly offensive’ and suggested it was setting the women’s movement back, following the advert for the website-hosting company on Superbowl Sunday. Citing Janet Guthrie’s scientific background and subsequent commercial appearance in an engine oil advert, Helmuth’s unveiled disappointment was palpable.

Patrick’s involvement with the advert is fairly disappointing. As a motorsport-spectating female myself, it would be great to see more females out on track across any of the championships and using their profiles wisely, to encourage more girls into the industry.

However, in the same week that FOTA chairman Martin Whitmarsh commented on the financial instability of many F1 teams, it is clear that sponsorship matters. Bottom line: money talks.

With the benefit of doubt, Patrick probably wasn’t aware of the graphic nature of the final edit. Had the advert lacked the hideous stereotypes, gratuitious ‘kiss’ scene or had even an ounce of humour, Patrick’s ‘GoDaddy Girl’ status would have been untarnished. Though the execution of the advert may have failed, her performance on the track hasn’t. And that is far more important.