Dorian Hindmarsh: Attitudes to electric and hybrid vehicles need to change

This week has seen the Reuters Global Autos Summit in Paris, where leaders of the world's car manufacturers stood and compared the size of their, er...commitment to electric and hybrid vehicle (EV) production.

Just 12 months ago there were one or two glitzy concept shells wheeled by hand on to auto show platforms and stages around the world, but we've now got predictions from the major automotive brands of the true extent of proposed EV and hybrid production over the coming decade.

This is an important step. The technology is just about there when it comes to new energy dense batteries, range extenders, re-generative braking etc, but what about the infrastructure to support this new market?

Well the government's �250m consumer incentive program for EV's and hybrids, Plugged in Places, is a good start and I fully endorse the first steps they are making towards putting a charging post near you.

But it's not as simple as, 'whack in some sockets, and we'll be able to shift some EV Motors!'. Attitudes need to change. The potential purchasers of these vehicles will have to change how they use cars. And this will be one of the biggest gambles in the automotive sector's history.

To drive an EV, you're going to need to charge it, and your local 24hr petrol station won't want you sitting around for 30 minutes on the 'fast charge', looking at sacks of damp BBQ charcoal, while a queue of hydrocarbon consuming gas-guzzlers sit with their engines running behind you on the forecourt.

The change will come with you charging your pride and joy at home (if you can), at work, or at the supermarket; that's right, the supermarket.

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Not only will there be the necessary disabled bays (some of which will be for EV's of course), parent and child bays, wide car bays, small car bays, and so on. There will be another priority bay: the EV charging bay.

When you get your new EV the chances are you will never go to your local 24hr petrol station ever again. No more smelly hands, splashes on your best clothes when the kids rock the car, no more attendant shouting over the PA at you to 'stop using your mobile'. This is surely progress.

At last week's PROSESC conference, which we held at the Hethel Engineering Centre, automotive companies from across Europe came to discuss technology, innovation and partnering. This region - our region - is giving so much to the globe in hybrid and EV technology, so much so that global names like Porsche and GM were here. Simon Prior from GM presented the new Astra-size car the Ampera. It's Hybrid, so not completely dependent upon batteries for those of you that need to drive to Edinburgh from London. This is a step forward, and others are doing the same.

As for attitude, I'll leave you with these facts: the generation that will pass their driving tests within the next 10 years are already plugging-in without 'range anxiety'. It's just not a car at the moment, it's their I-phone, laptop, I-pod, PSP, cameras etc.

Dorian Hindmarsh is business development manager at the Hethel Engineering Centre near Norwich.