I recently found a whole report titled ‘Automotive Digital Futures‘, but I felt there was still room to explore some of the themes the report surfaced. Particularly; how can digital help consumers understand and trust electric vehicles?
Firstly, I think we need to stop thinking about 2015 digital, and think about its direction of travel. Things are becoming more connected to each other, and people are starting to understand these connections. They expect their data to be available regardless of the hardware they choose to access it from. My peers are ever present, my city is hackable.
So here’s a few ideas for ‘using digital to forge consumer faith in electric vehicles’
1. Help people get where they want to be in a better way.
For those who have citymapper in their cities, the benefits of mixed-mode travel, based on real time data, are clear to see. Drivers the world over will understand the feeling of watching the train, bus or bike zoom by as they sit in a traffic jam. What if our cars could actually help us choose a different mode of travel? And what if they could predict and avoid traffic, because they each know where other cars are heading?
2. Create an awesome in-car experience.
Tesla have gone too far with the huge screen, but it shows how we no longer need to think about rows of buttons and dials in order to control our environments. For me, it’s not about huge screens, but the work of Project Soli is inspiring me to think about a place on a dashboard that recognises different gestures for temperature, volume, and so on. Perhaps it can link to my Nest, and maintain my comfortable temperature. With less dashboard, I have more room to stretch out, or perhaps a bigger field of vision. With digital glass, perhaps we can start to see head-up displays that actually work, highlighting correct lanes, potential hazards and local landmarks.
3. Help people really understand the cost of a car.
In the showroom, mapping, traffic and petrol prices can be combined to accurately portray a potential buyer’s usage habits. I give you my work address, my home address, my relative’s address, and I tell you how often I go to those places in a month. You tell me how long each journey takes, how much fuel I use, and how much that costs. You could even suggest better routes in future that take in strategic charging locations, with good spots for coffee nearby. You can even help me see that I don’t need to own a diesel monolith to make a once-a-year 200 mile journey.
4. Help people really understand the cost of their lives.
We’re all conscious of the environmental impacts of our day to day lives now. My ecotricity energy bill now tells me exactly how many pence I’m spending per KwH, and how that compares to last year. If they were to develop a way of seeing this data in real time, the possibilities are huge. If I’m plugging my car in every night, I should be able to see exactly how much my milage is costing, in real time. I should see it in relation to my phone, my television, the fridge, and so on. Suddenly I’m able to make educated economic and environmental decisions about nearly all my life. And if my peers are involved, there’s more obligation to perform better and better over time. Electric Vehicles suddenly become a key part of that mix.
5. Help people make the right choice.
No car website has effectively solved what digital can do, for any type of car. I wrote a long-winded thing about this before. But with fewer engine choices for each model, it should be easier to paint an accurate picture of the whole purchase process. We could talk about availability and leasing options right from the outset, and take customers right through to fulfilment. We could use social and peer reviews to disprove most of the myths that cause range anxiety, and promote the awesome performance, smartness and sleekness of electric vehicles.
6. Make driving safer.
When our cars are aware of each other, there should be no more slamming on brakes on motorways, no tailgating, and no more stress overtaking or changing lanes. This is already starting to happen, and I imagine the feeling of sitting in a vehicle with this capability (once you’ve got over the magic) must be incredibly reassuring.
7. Get the environment on the front pages of people’s minds
There’s a final paragraph in one of the papers in the report I linked to above, which essentially says ‘make electric cars like petrol cars and then green issues will be important again’. I think this kind of thinking is incredibly dangerous. Electric cars are different. In fact, they’re better on every level, and they should be celebrated for that. Even on petrol-head terms; they accelerate quicker, they’re more responsive, they’re more fuel efficient, they have more storage, more legroom, and they’re often better equipped as standard. They don’t need to cheat at emissions tests that were already way too lenient. And once we all wake up to our impending climate doom, there’ll be no choice but to embrace EVs. Our streets will be cleaner and quieter, improving quality of life for everyone.
Digital platforms can be used to help make these arguments and galvanise a movement.
If the original report was a play for new car brand clients, then I hope that one can be convinced to champion this movement. It’s not enough to have one electric model apologetically sitting on a website drop-down menu anymore: It needs to be the front and centre of a brand. Established manufacturers need to adapt more quickly than they seem to admit right now. If Apple enter the mix, Google release their thing, Tesla’s model 3 captures the mid-range, and Faraday Future launch whatever they’ve got, and I already have all that on my phone, laptop and TV, why on earth would I buy a Volkswagen with a shitty Garmin on the dashboard?