A couple of days ago, I saw an article about electric cars, specifically about retrofitting older classics with electric motors and batteries. There are a number of companies doing that now (Jaguar even converted an E-type) and I watched a video of two guys in a converted Porsche 911. They were flying down a country road; the performance and handling were fantastic and it looked like a hoot to drive. Before the conversion, the shop had restored the body and interior, too, so you had a beautiful classic that was quiet and quick. The same shop had done a VW Beetle (Voltswagen?), a Range Rover and many other models and all have the same smile inducing good looks with quiet performance. The Land Rover had a range of 200 miles, the Porsche about the same and I thought they would be one helluva lot of fun, I wouldn’t mind driving one myself.
One important point never mentioned in the Porsche video was price. Fully restoring and then converting it to electric power is definitely not going to be a cheap date. The range, though not bad was certainly less than a gas model and once you’re discharged, you have a long wait before you’re on the road again, even if you happen to have a DC Fast Charge station conveniently available. You end up with a very expensive car that is far less practical than the original, but are 911s the standard choice for running to the grocery store in the first place? The Range Rover was not going to be roving very far into the wilds because electricity gets a bit sparse in the desert or forests, but those tend to be driven by moms carting their kids around anyway. And then it struck me, I finally understood where electric vehicles fit into the automotive world.
Electric enthusiasts are the target, not motorcycle riders
Electric cars, trucks, motorcycles or anything else, are vehicles for the electric power enthusiast. You don’t go looking for a new vehicle and narrow it down to a couple of models, one being electric and the other internal combustion, people who buy electrics want an electric to begin with. They know all about the compromise, the shorter range, the long recharge time, the lack of chargers, the higher price, it doesn’t matter, they want an electric. Pointing out those shortcomings has no effect because they don’t care, they proudly put up with the difficulties as a badge of honor that gets them into the club. They compare the range of their car with other electrics, not with a gas-powered car and if they go farther than their friend’s electric car, they’re happy. They’ll tell you stories about the time they were 80 miles from town with the battery at 10 percent and how they managed to get home and other electric owners will give them a knowing smile and have stories of their own. They’re not buying an electric car or motorcycle, they’re joining a small and dedicated group where their purchase makes them a member.
Stop talking about urban mobility or urban anything – talk electric
Vehicle manufacturers make a big mistake when they talk about “urban mobility,” because it sounds very trendy, very hipster and even divisive, what’s a person living outside the city to think? I know the term brings a frown to my face and makes me think less of them as a result. Their response might be that it’s aimed at millennials and baby boomers wouldn’t understand and I would respond by saying boomers are more likely to be able to afford a $30,000 LiveWire, as one example, compared to a young guy paying off his student debt.
Electrics should be marketed as electrics, first and foremost. Everyone knows what they’re not, what their limitations are, don’t talk about urban anything, sell them to enthusiasts, people that are looking for an electric. Focus on those people, they’ll buy them and tolerate everything a person dedicated to internal combustion would ridicule. Over time, you might sell enough of them to make a decent profit.
An enthusiast will pay a lot for things someone else would never buy at any price, like, maybe motorcycles? It’s the same for electric cars or motorcycles, it’s the electric power they want. They’re the same ones with solar panels on their roof and maybe a homemade electric minibike in their garage. They’ll tell you about the advantages of one battery or motor over another and the rumors of what’s coming next year. Those guys. That’s the customer, or maybe it might be the rider who just wants to give it a try, just because. Again, he’ll go to a dealer knowing what he wants to begin with. He isn’t comparison shopping, at that point he wants an electric. Remove all references to urban this or that, say electric and be proud of it. When electrics get better more will choose them on their own. If they don’t improve, they won’t, and in the meantime, riders that love internal combustion and those that want electric over everything else can get along just fine.