Perhaps the biggest headline attached to the MeV (which stands for Manchester Electric Vehicles) Bee Anywhere is that ambitious price tag. The company reckons that if the demand is there, it can sell the two-seat Smart-a-like EV for somewhere in the region of £8000 to £10,000 – comparable to a middle-aged Volkswagen Golf.
You can't fault the company's logic, as we know from the numerous consumer surveys which seem to come out every other week that cost is – without fail – one of the top three reasons why people aren't making the switch to electric vehicles. Even big-name manufacturers know full well that price parity with conventional cars is going to be the point when EVs really start making inroads into market shares across the globe.
The rationale of making something as compromised as the Bee Anywhere, is that as a means of getting urbanites into zero-emissions vehicles, low cost is the way to do it. This has further positive knock-on effects by improving local air quality, and allowing people a way in to EV ownership.
Founded last year, Manchester Electric Vehicles is the brainchild of Dr Tony Keating of Keating Supercars fame, and Tim Harper who is a former European Space Agency engineer. At the founding of the company, they started with one fundamental question: “Why are EVs so expensive?”
Since then, Keating and Harper have engaged with the Universities of Manchester and Bolton to draw on their expertise and come up with, as well as build pre-production examples of, the Bee Anywhere. From Bolton, the company is engaged with the National Centre for Motorsport Engineering, whilst from Manchester, the university's Graphene Engineering and Innovation Centre is using its materials expertise on the project.
Together, they're designing the Bee Anywhere to be lightweight, almost totally recyclable, used with the bare minimum of maintenance and extremely low build costs.
Like any start-up in its first full year of operation, whether MeV manages to achieve any market traction is almost in the lap of the gods at the moment. However, the idea that it is pursuing is another demonstration of a rapidly growing trend in the EV market – that of small, zero-emissions urban transport for as little cost as possible.
In the last few days alone we reported on the Citroen Ami One which potentially undercuts the Bee Anywhere on purchase price thanks to a target figure of less than £6000. Whilst the Ami One is aiming for a slightly more nuanced part of the market by catering for those with a moped licence, it's broadly walking the same path as MeV's aspirations.
Since hooking up with Geely and going EV-only, Mercedes-owned SMART has been offering its EQ fortwo and forfour to a similar market. We've tested the forfour and found it to be a fun, if compromised little EV, and also one that suffered from the perennial issue afflicting electric cars – cost. At over £20k, it's just too pricey, and even the tiddly EQ fortwo costs a smidge under £17k. But again, there is clearly a market for urban EVs.
The most recent low-cost EV to hit the headlines is Dacia's entry to the electric market. The Spring Electric would've made its début at the Geneva Motor Show, had it gone ahead, but was revealed online in lieu of a physical location (read our review of the not-the-Geneva-Motor-Show). Based on the China-only Renault K-ZE, the Spring Electric could well hit the roads for less than £13,000 when it goes on sale in 2021. Be in no doubt that it will sell very well indeed.
Aside from manufacturers continuing to do what they are already doing by investing heavily in EV technology, supply chain and production facilities – and hoping that people continue to want to buy them – not a lot. Governments will continue to play a central role in subsidising clean personal transport for some time, with plug-in car grants being a big factor in bringing down the cost of EVs.
February has seen demand for EVs continue its rapid upward trend, with an increase of 243.1 per cent over the same month last year, but they still only made up 3.2 per cent of overall sales. To help entice more people into them, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has called on the chancellor to scrap VAT on all new battery electric and PHEV cars – a move which would almost certainly have a huge positive impact on sales.
It's unlikely that the government will make such a bold move, so with that being the case brands like MeV, which have made it their mission to address price, are very much needed.