Imagine dropping off your battery electric vehicle (BEV) at a local dealer or vehicle-exchange and collecting an alternate vehicle with old-fuel for that occasional long-distance trip with the family from Melbourne to Sydney.
Imagine if you could drop off the vehicle in Sydney and replace it with a proper car (a BEV) suitable for short day-trips (up to 400km), while you are in and around Sydney on holiday.
Imagine if, when it’s time to go home, you could hand in the BEV and collect another old-fuel vehicle at a hub in Sydney and drive back to Melbourne, before collecting your own BEV (cleaned and serviced).
Why would any manufacturer want to provide such a service? At cost? Advance booking online, of course, to provide certainty for the driver.
When government targets penalise manufacturers for selling too many petrol/diesel vehicles and not enough BEV/PHEVs, and when manufacturers need to get their BEV/PHEV sales-numbers up, this sort of service could enable them to provide the BEV owner with assurance that they could still drive inter-city or into the bush, if they wish.
It would provide a Plan B option if the driver felt that their BEV was unsuitable for a particular trip.
The long-distance trip is one of the key barriers that people mention when they first consider the option of buying a BEV. Typically, these inter-urban trips are rare in the case of families.
The weekend trip to the bush may be more frequent and may require a different solution – but only if the vehicle is going to be separated from a major road (which will have fast-charging infrastructure), or the electricity grid overnight – and that would be pretty rare.
For commercial use, such long trips can occasionally be common (i.e. driving continuously for more than 400km a day, which is the comfortable real-world range of the new generation of BEVs); for these drivers, a PHEV may be a more pragmatic choice than a BEV.
Such a service could making owning a BEV in the city easier. One might drive a smaller BEV in the city and “trade-up” to a bigger, possibly heavier vehicle for the long trip.
Providing alternate vehicle shapes and sizes could be a useful benefit for a manufacturer to give a driver exposure to other models, which might be their next purchase – presumably in BEV format – when the time comes to replace their existing BEV.
The service would also provide the supplier the opportunity to service the client’s vehicle, if the service was due, or to complete any minor repairs like fix a dent, replace the tyres, and so on. It would reinforce the relationship, expose the client to new vehicle options and enable people who to get that BEV.
Why have no manufacturers thought providing a Plan B?
Bede Doherty is an independent consultant in climate change mitigation, specialising in transport including fuels/powertrains, fuelling infrastructure and emissions.