This isn’t the first time this has been said, but we need to open with these words: electric cars are ugly. Almost no one has worked out that people might be more open to the idea of EVs if they actually looked like something you’d want on your drive… until now, maybe.
The Nissan Leaf is a massive seller, mainly thanks to insane incentives and punitive taxes on internal combustion in various countries around the world. Until the new one arrived, with the best will in the world you wouldn’t have called it a handsome chap.
There’s the bulbous, narrow-eyed Renault Zoe, the overly busy BMW i3 and let’s not even talk about the Mitsubishi i-MiEV. The exception to the rule has been the Volkswagen e-Golf, which just looks like a Golf. Even Tesla’s grilleless front end takes some getting used to.
But finally, finally, after years of disappointing sales unless there were big financial incentives on the table, manufacturers might be getting the message. The Leaf, after all, is the world’s biggest-selling EV, and Nissan has seen fit to change it massively.
Then there’s Honda, with its absolutely awesome Urban EV Concept and Sports EV Concept. Both look stunning; we’d have either of them outside our houses in a heartbeat. It’s no coincidence that the media comments – and most of the public feedback – has been the stuff of Honda’s dreams. When you make cars that looks like those two, you’re onto a winner.
Today’s world is pretty image-focused. That’s half the reason SUVs are so ridiculously popular, for one thing. Social media would have died a death by now if image wasn’t such a vital concern for millennials. Millennials – that’s you lot – are the next generation of car buyers. Image matters to you, whether you need to be seen in something American, something rare or something with M Division pedigree.
On that basis, the maths is simple: either manufacturers build cars that you guys genuinely want to own, or soon enough their sales take a nosedive. The right look, brilliant style, is essential. The Urban EV Concept and Sports EV Concept are the template. That’s how to do it, right?
Time will tell how quickly other manufacturers catch on, as they begin to release more and more of their own electric vehicles. Will they go down the cliched route of electric cars gone by, or have they cottoned on to the fact that we simply don’t want that?
What we want are cars that look great and stand out. We know there’s always going to be someone else with the same model, but that’s not the point. As long as we like our cars, that’s all that matters. Here’s the rub: take an average electric car and we won’t buy it. Put the Honda Urban EV shell on, and opinion basically does a 180-degree spin – particularly in countries like ours, where we know internal combustion’s days are numbered.
We will buy awesome-looking electric cars while the manufacturers sort the technology out to offer greater range, lighter batteries and faster recharge times, but only if they really do look as good as the two Hondas. If manufacturers want us to switch, they’d better step-up their design game. Fast.