EcoVelocity 2012 wrap: the good and the bad

Reader laments oversubscribed LEAF test drives and absence of Renault

By Will Dron on May 23, 2012 4:08 PM

EcoVelocity 2012, the second outing of the annual green motorshow, was generally considered a big success, especially given that the first show took place in a different venue just eight months prior. 

EcoVelocity this year was brought forward from its September date to May to avoid the frenzied circus of the London Olympic Games. It resulted in a smaller event, but convincing any car manufacturers to turn up was a pretty impressive achievement in itself.

And there were other reasons to be cheerful. Visit numbers were up considerably – show organiser Giles Brown told us more people attended on the first Sunday than came to the entire show in 2011, largely due to the tie-up with the wildly popular Grand Designs Live – if you had a ticket to that, you could get into EcoVelocity for free.

And, as we reported during the event, test drives of new low carbon vehicles such as the plug-in Vauxhall Ampera (pictured) were even more popular this year than in the inaugural EcoVelocity, and the new ExCeL London location brought a longer test drive route on public roads and a more polished, professional feel to the stands. Much to the delight of those of us working there, we weren’t battered by wind and rain this year, either.

However, not everything was rosy, as one reader pointed out to us by email. Arriving on the Thursday of the event, he expected it would be quiet enough that he’d be able to wander over to the Nissan stand and get a drive in the pure-electric Nissan LEAF; it wasn’t to be.

“[I] managed to get a drive of most of what I'd wanted to, but missed out on the Nissan,” he told us. “Was it just vastly more popular in terms of demand for drives, or were there just not enough cars/drivers to cope? I had been luckier last year at Battersea and had been quite impressed with the Nissan, but wasn't able to drive the Ampera to compare. This year, it was the reverse situation!”

In fact, Nissan brought three drivable LEAFs along to EcoVelocity, but demand was indeed high – the company told me that a fourth car had to be delivered to help more people get behind the wheel. Even so, it seems not everyone got a chance to try it out. Although visitors could pre-register interest for a particular morning or afternoon via the EcoVelocity website, drives were allocated on a first-come-first-served basis meaning you needed to get there early to avoid disappointment.

Still, our reader has now managed to try both the extended-range electric Ampera and the pure-electric LEAF. So what did he think? “If I had been able to experience both in the same session, although the Ampera is about £7,000 more expensive, I think I'd have found it the better package,” he said. “Shame about having less rear legroom and shallow side windows!”

A side-by-side comparison of the Nissan and the Vauxhall is understandable, given they’re the two posterboy plug-in cars of the moment, but we’d warn against it because it’s like comparing apples with oranges. Both cars have their merits, and will suit different people in different circumstances.

One of the obvious problems with EcoVelocity 2012 was that one of the biggest electric vehicle makers didn’t come to the party at all. By the end of this year, Renault will have four plug-in vehicles in mass production in Europe, making it arguably the most important player in the EV industry.

The company hasn’t made any official statement about why it didn’t attend, although we believe it to have been a financial decision more than anything else. But given there’s a huge amount of interest in Renault’s Z.E. electric vehicle range, mainly due to lower sticker prices (although this is offset by battery leasing costs of between £45 and £76 per month), you’d have thought they’d want to get people in the driving seat. We did manage to coax Renault's Andy Heiron to ExCeL for an interview, however – look out for the video soon.

The true success of EcoVelocity will be down to future manufacturer involvement, and you can bet that the events teams at Chevrolet, Vauxhall, Honda, Citroen, Nissan and the like are currently crunching numbers and pursuing leads to assess the ROI (‘return on investment’ to you and me) from their participation. The organisers will be hoping the result will be a bigger and better EcoVelocity in 2013. Then again, maybe Giles Brown is trying to gain support for a second EcoVelocity this year at Grand Designs Live Birmingham in October. If that happens I'll eat my hat*.

*This is a joke; actual hat eating will not take place.