In a move which has baffled many in the motoring industry, Fiat and BMW have offered free rental car access to EV customers as a means of reducing their concerns about journey capacity. This matter has been highly publicised today with the launch of the Fiat 500e, which is scheduled for release in California in the summer of 2013. Why are car companies offering access to rival vehicles?
Finding the middle ground
The fact is that while the new Nissan Leaf 2013 has a journey capacity of around 140 miles, even the best brains of BMW could not squeeze more than 100 miles per full charge out of the BMW i3 electric car. The reality is that while the vast majority of motorists will travel no more than 80 miles in an average day, there is a trust and a safety factor in the minds of many. What if they were left stranded in a vehicle which could do no more than 100 miles per full charge? What if there were no charging points available on a longer journey where perhaps they had children on board?
The idea of offering 12 days of free car rental via Enterprise Rental, which is the deal for the Fiat 500e, will certainly catch the attention of those who are perhaps interested in electric vehicles but still concerned. The 12 day pass may allow them to travel longer journeys than normal to visit family, friends and acquaintances or indeed they may use these days for holiday time.
Has technology stalled?
There are many people in the motoring media who seem to have something against the electric vehicle market and will talk it down at every opportunity. The reality is that the likes of Fiat, BMW, Nissan, etc would not be investing hundreds of millions of dollars in ventures which had a limited lifespan. The technology associated with journey capacity continues to improve, demonstrated by the 140 miles capacity of the Nissan Leaf 2013, but development is a little slow for some people.
It will be interesting to see whether these 12 free car rental days have an impact upon the sales of the Fiat 500e or whether indeed it is seen as a marketing gimmick by the general public. When the likes of BMW also offer a similar deal then perhaps we might expect more to follow in due course?
A slow drip feed of electric car technology
The reality is that it seems as though the leap from traditional gasoline powered vehicles to electric cars is too much for many people. There are high hopes that hybrids may well offer some form of "middle ground" and indeed the offer of free car rental days from the likes of Fiat and BMW may also attract the attention of some motorists.
In the longer term we will need to see significant improvements in technology, both electric car technology and battery technology, before the wider public are at ease with electric vehicles. Indeed a recent survey in the U.S. suggested that the vast majority of U.S. motorists will not even contemplate an electric vehicle until journey capacity on a full charge is in excess of 300 miles.
The idea of offering "free car rental deals" with the acquisition of certain Fiat and BMW electric cars is certainly a very different marketing angle to what we have seen before. Will it catch the attention of electric car enthusiasts? Will it be seen as nothing but a marketing gimmick?
The reality is that any offer or any deal which puts the electric vehicle market on the centre stage is well worth the risk. The more questions people ask about electric cars, the more clarification the industry can give, and the more popular they become, the more money can be invested in developing technology and reducing the unit cost of electric vehicles in the future.