An electric car being chargedAn electric car being charged

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Opinion: Are electric cars now just cars or still worlds apart from petrol and diesel?

Car Dealer associate editor James Batchelor ponders just how long it’ll take before electric cars are no longer regarded as anything different

Time 7:03 am, March 31, 2024

There always comes a time when new technology is no longer so jaw-droppingly different and becomes the norm.

Think of the iPod or Netflix and you’ll know what I mean. But is the same true with electric cars? One manufacturer boss certainly believes so.

Sitting next to him at dinner during the press launch of his firm’s newest electric SUV recently, he told me how we should no longer think of electric cars as different to petrol and diesel cars.


The car in question ‘is just a family car,’ he said. ‘The fact that it’s powered by electricity should make no difference.’

Now, sure, you might be thinking he’s bound to say that. He is in the business of selling cars after all, and – more importantly – he’s used to putting a good spin on things when surrounded by a table of moderately drunk journalists.

That’s true, but I can promise you he was firmly of the belief that we’re now at that tipping point where new technology becomes just the way things are done from now onwards.


Interested in this, I probed further.

He wants his dealers to be in the position where they can have a conversation with a customer just like they used to in the old days of just petrol and diesel cars.

By that, I mean the customer says they need a car that has space for the kids and the dog and are told: ‘Ah yes, here you are. How about our top-selling SUV?’

It shouldn’t matter if the car is refilled with diesel or electricity; the car is sold based on its attributes such as whether the boot is big enough, its affordability and so on.

I’m not convinced, though.

In this job, plenty of people ask you what car they should buy next, and while electric cars are mentioned on their consideration lists, they’re included because it’s seen as ‘the right thing to do’ and not because EVs are on level terms with petrol and diesel cars.

The one (and very large) exception are company car drivers.

You only need to look at the monthly registrations data to see that the entire growth of pure-electric cars (or ‘BEVs’ in industry speak) over the past few months has come entirely from business people and fleets.

And why wouldn’t you choose a Tesla Model 3 over a BMW 320d when the sums add up?


Even if perhaps you do occasionally find it difficult to charge up, the fact that the Tesla is costing less to run every month is a triple-sized, booze-filled cherry on the cake, surely?

But in the private sector? No chance. There’s still too much scepticism over electric cars for people to see them as the equal of traditional combustion-engined cars.

Their questionings may be dismissed by EV-angelists but the numbers currently back it up.

Whether it’s because electric cars are currently too expensive, or there are doubts that the charging network isn’t reliable enough, electric cars are still seen as electric cars and will be for some time yet.

From a manufacturer’s point of view (a carmaker that sells petrol, diesels, hybrids and EVs, you understand), they want customers to walk into a showroom, ask for a family car and think little of the fact that it may well be powered by electricity – that would be the dream ticket.

With the government’s strict ZEV mandate already causing a few headaches and with the requirements set to get even harder next year, carmakers need customers to confidently choose electric cars.

Undoubtedly, there is a growing acceptance of electric cars, but is it happening quickly enough?

This column appears in the current edition of Car Dealer – issue 193 – along with news, reviews, features and much more, including coverage of Car Dealer Live 2024. Read and download it for FREE here!

James Batchelor's avatar

James – or Batch as he’s known – started at Car Dealer in 2010, first as the work experience boy, eventually becoming editor in 2013. He worked for Auto Express as editor-at-large and was the face of Carbuyer’s YouTube reviews. In 2020, he went freelance and now writes for a number of national titles and contributes regularly to Car Dealer. In October 2021 he became Car Dealer's associate editor.



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