The art of advertising

BMW and Chevrolet have posted advertisements about the i3 and Volt. BMW’s ad will be shown during the Super Bowl. Chevrolet’s ad is on YouTube. What are your thoughts on these two approaches? Comments please. In addition, I’ve added some other plug-in vehicle commercials, including the controversial ELR commercial, shown during last year’s Super Bowl. The older Volt commercials showed that Chevy was trying to explaining their previous ad efforts.

Chevy Volt:

BMW i3:

2012 Chevy Volt commercial

Cadillac ELR (1st commercial)

Kia Soul EV

Nissan Leaf

Volkswagen e-Golf (even though it’s in German, you’ll get it)

BMW i8 (odd they would focus on exhaust noise…)

Another 2012 Chevy Volt commercial

BMW even posted some outtakes from the i3 shoot!

Charger proliferation

Walgreens ChargerIn the Facebook group, “Chevy Volt Owners,” a member named Andrew Goodwin posed this question: “Any ideas on how to encourage businesses to install charging stations?” As my reply grew into several paragraphs, I realized it was time for, (you guessed it) a blog post!

Recently, I was asked for suggestions by a group of app developers competing to win a $10K contest. They were working on a charger locator app. Of course, I explained there were already lots of app that did this. We brainstormed and came up with some ideas to make their app more useful. They ended up winning the $10K and a follow-on investment of $10K. They are continuing to add functionality. One item I suggested is the ability to, while at a location that doesn’t have a charger, click a button like “charger needed here.” The app would find the businesses in the immediate area and send them a letter/email/etc, letting the business owner/manager know that EV drivers who want to do business with them would appreciate a charger at their location. The app is named Juxt. The developers are considering adding this function.

What’s even more important however, is that when you visit a business that already has a charger, that you ask for the manager and express how much you appreciate it being there, and how the charger’s presence is a major factor in why you go to that business, rather than one that may be more conveniently located.

Also promote the fact that there’s a charger there by letting everyone you know that has an EV, via social media like Facebook & Twitter. Make sure you get the business’ Twitter handle and use it in your tweet, so the business sees the free publicity. Ask those EV drivers to also contact the manager, if they use the charger, to express their gratitude.

Nothing succeeds like success. Why do these businesses install chargers? Some do it purely for the environmental impact, but rest assured, part of the reason they do, is to attract more business and increase customer loyalty. The problem for EV owners (and the business owner) is these businesses have no way to evaluate the success or failure of the endeavor. Make sure they know it matters to you. When they realize their charger IS attracting customers, perhaps they’ll add more prominent signage, ask those that don’t drive electric (or are not charging) to avoid parking in that spot, add additional chargers, heck, they may even put the fact they have a charger in their advertising! Back in the 60’s, many motels advertised “Air Conditioned!” Or “Color TV!” because it affected their income. Back then, there must have been other motels that didn’t offer those amenities, whose owner thought, “There aren’t that many shows that are in color. Any revenue generated by having those expensive color TVs won’t justify the cost!” Just like many are probably thinking today, “There aren’t that many electric vehicles. Any revenue generated by having those expensive chargers won’t justify the cost!”

It is especially important that we do this with businesses at which our EVs will be parked for longer periods of time. In my area, many Walgreens drug stores have chargers, but who wants to shop at a drugstore for an hour or more??? (sorry Walgreens) I used a charger at a Walgreens, but the reason was a) I desperately needed the EV charged, because I was taking it to a public demonstration and b) the was a dining establishment next door, where I could grab a quick dinner, while the EV charged. A much more strategic placement of chargers would be at hotels, restaurants, shopping malls, sport venues/stadiums, airports, nightclubs, public parks or any other place patrons could be reasonably expected to visit for prolonged periods. The next time you go on a road trip and book a reservation, ask if the hotel has a charger. If they say they don’t, just say, “Oh. I drive an EV and need a hotel with a charger. Thanks anyway.” If they say they have a charger, say, “Great! That’s exactly what I’m looking for. I’ll book a reservation with you.” If this happens enough, it’ll get things going in the direction we all want.

Finally, don’t complain if the charger does not provide a free charge! It’s enough that we want the business to install a charger, which can be very expensive. As EVers, we’re not looking for a handout. We all can afford to pay for the electricity (unless it’s offered at a ridiculous price (I’m looking at you, Blink!).

Statistics show that the vast majority of us charge at work or home. One reason for this, is that many of us drive plug-in hybrids and not having access to a charger away from those two locations won’t prevent us from reaching our destination. However, more and more purely electric vehicles are coming to market (like the recently announced Chevy Bolt) and we will eventually have a major chicken-and-egg situation. EVs need chargers and chargers need EVs. Let those of us who know where best to locate them, guide those that don’t.

Vote with your pocketbook. It’s the only vote that matters to businesses.

An open letter to General Motors and CEO Mary Barra

Dear G.M. and Ms. Barra,

There is a perception issue that is hindering the adoption of plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles. Fortunately, it’s something GM can easily address. Here’s the problem:

Many males consider these great vehicles to be less than masculine (and that’s putting it lightly).

Those of us, secure in our masculinity, absolutely love the Volt and Bolt (well, maybe not the Bolt name…). We want a much more aggressive color palate available for these fabulous cars. We want rock star EVs. We want to make a bold statement. While we salute the fact that GM didn’t give the Volt or Bolt a frou-frou appearance, as many makers of alternative fuel vehicles have done, we just want you to take it up another notch and bury the competition. There is absolutely no reason the Nissan Leaf (other than price) should be considered in the same league with the Volt.


Here are some suggestions:

  • Synergy Green (like the 2010 Camaro) BTW: WHY is such a green Chevy not available in green?
  • Orange Rock Metallic (like the Bolt currently offers)
  • Red Hot (from the Camaro palette)
  • Keep the new metallic blue. We love it!
  • Perhaps an option of black wheels and mirrors (maybe even a black racing stripe…)
  • Make sure you check the comments on this posting for suggestions from other Volt fans.

    Mean Green Machine

    Click on image to see a larger version. Got another color suggestion? Comment on this post! Please retweet with the tag #MaryBarra #MEVJ #2016Volt @ChevyVolt @MyEVJourney

Visual comparison: Chevy Bolt Concept vs. BMW i3

A lot of people have started comparing the Chevy Bolt (the concept vehicle unveils alongside the 2016 Volt) and the BMW i3. It seems this is primarily because they have a similar form factor and the fact that both are available with a purely electric drive, although the i3 does have an optional range extender (or REX). It’s important to remember that the Bolt, (which won’t be available for at least two to two-and-a-half years) is a concept vehicle and consequently may look a lot different, when it becomes a production vehicle. Because the Bolt is slated so far into the future, it’s easy to say it will have an electric range of 200 miles, while the final mileage may vary (along with everything else).

Therefore, comparing these two vehicles too closely isn’t really fair, but it is something people are won’t to do, so here are some images to compare them. Most of the images, I shot at NAIAS, but the i3 was in a cramped area that prevented me from getting the exact same views. In two cases, I have to find images rather than shoot them myself. In the case of the passenger side view of the i3, I had to utilize a wide-angle lens and the distortion is apparent.

Note: To see a larger image, just click on the picture.Front ViewPassenger Front/Side ViewPassenger Side ViewPassenger Rear/Side ViewRear ViewDriver Rear/Side ViewDriver Side ViewDriver Front/Side View