I attended EcoVelocity last week a the Battersea Power Station site. Billed as a low-carbon vehicle show with a variety of exhibitors from the motoring world and a number of activities suitable for families I was persuaded to attend by my young sons who were keen to see it. They particularly wanted to take the opportunity to take a spin behind the wheel of a car in the company of a driving instructor which was one of the activities on offer. They got to do it, and enjoyed it a lot, so that part of the promise was certainly fulfilled.
There were a number of car brands there showing off their models and touting their particular vision of the future of green motoring. It was nice that there were a few bicycle manufacturers there also, including E-bikes Direct, showing off their electric models, and Segway were there and I got to try out their particular form of personal transport. It reminded me strongly of the floating couches in Wall-E and what the consequences are of making personal transport too easy for people. (in case you haven’t seen it, it means that we all become boneless jellyfish at some point in the future, not an attractive proposition).
I enjoyed the Michelin display of an electric motor designed to fit in the wheel. This offers an easy way of existing cars to be converted to electric vehicles by changing their wheels to these versions and finding space for the batteries. This looked to me like an interesting intermediate technology.
There were a number of UK manufactured prototypes there all supported by the Technology Strategy Board, and all aimed at the boy racer market. This is disappointing, and a bit annoying. This is taxpayers money going to develop prototypical cars of the future to ensure that the UK plays a part in their development, but all the vehicles on display are aimed at the same market, competing with Tesla? How does that make sense? What about family cars? I understand that electric cars need to be shown to be desirable and attractive to punters and not slightly ridiculous (like the Sinclair C5). but at some point they also need to be sensible and practical too to make sure that there is a wide market. So putting all out development funding into the same market doesn’t seem wise to me.
I got a chance to test drive a purely electric vehicle for the first time and drive it around the 500 metre test track. I chose the Mia. This is a futuristic, if a bit boxy, urban vehicle developed in France, and it appears to be aimed mainly at the taxi and fleet market. Driving it was ridiculously easy and demonstrates that future car drivers are going to have an easier time learning to drive than we had. Simpler controls, no gears, and smaller dashboards made the car a lot more straightforward, handling was good, although I didn’t get a chance to try out the famous electric vehicle torque.
Overall the event was a success, particularly for my young sons, but I would have liked to see more displays on the technology itself, how it works and what the options are. Many manufacturers were touting their own vision of engines of the future, and it would be nice if there was an independent display covering the pro’s and con’s of the individual technologies. Perhaps next year the event will be bigger and better.