With the number of EVs, hybrids and PHEVs available in the UK increasing so quickly, the choice for buyers can seem bewildering. We do our best to spell out the details, pros and cons, but start perusing the dealerships and all of a sudden that research can be forgotten under the gaze of an enthusiastic salesperson with pound signs in their eyes.
Ideally you'd get as many zero emissions-capable cars in one place as possible where you get to look at, drive and explore them in detail without anybody trying to flog you something you might not want.
Luckily, such a place does exist. The Electric Vehicle Experience Centre (EVEC) is part of Go Ultra Low – a joint venture between government and industry to promote all things green in transport. EVEC is based in Milton Keynes, one of four Go Ultra Low cities in the UK alongside Nottingham, Bristol and London. And whilst EVEC doesn't promote any particular brand, it has taken on MINI as its official partner.
Two MINI Countryman Plug-in Hybrid1 vehicles have joined the fleet and will be available for both static exploration, and to book for a test drive. The ulterior motive for MINI's partnership isn't hard to understand; the Oxfordshire brand's new, all-electric MINI will be hitting the road in March next year and with EVEC having such a large customer reach, it makes sense to have a foot in the door. To that end, the Mini Electric2 will join the EVEC fleet as soon as it becomes available.
David George, Director, MINI UK said “MINI fully supports what the Electric Vehicle Experience Centre stands for, to inform and transform public opinion about flexibility, whether it’s for the daily commute or a big weekend adventure, so it’s a perfect addition to the EVEC fleet.”
As well as the Mini Countryman PHEV and forthcoming Electric1, EVEC has some of the most popular EVs in the UK available to test drive including the ZOE and Volkswagen e-Golf – both cars that we have reviewed over the past year. Potential buyers can book a short 20 minute test drive or even take one of the test drive fleet home for between four to seven days to gain a real understanding of what life with an EV is like.
Alongside experiencing the cars themselves, EVEC aims to dish out advice in a brand-agnostic, easy-to-understand way. This includes everything to do with charging at home, the infrastructure required, and public charging. Being based in Milton Keynes means that anyone taking a test drive locally will be hard-pushed to not come across public charging points; there are around 4000 across the town.
We reckon that what EVEC is doing is very important work which would be extremely useful not only to car brands in terms of pushing sales, but in educating people and pushing the government's agenda of electrifying the way we drive. Even without brand affiliation, like you get in a dealership, there is a great opportunity for car makers to get their products in front of more people, and you'd think there's a business case for regional, EVEC-style centres.
Idealistic musings aside, MINI's partnership with EVEC will hopefully be the catalyst for more brands to sign up and get involved in promoting not only their cars, but an electric future.