There are many large businesses taking advantage of 2 cents per mile with the use of electric vehicles, that is not a typo, one of the electric vehicle industries greatest bonuses is price per mile. The new electric vehicle industry will endevour to help bands of the future, but why are they not ready for us independents just yet? Simply put, due to the huge upfront costs of an electric van, you actually can not afford 2 cents per mile.
You may or may not as a musician have thought about these new propulsion methods. I am talking about electric vehicles, which are actually not so ‘new’. In the early 1900’s there were more electric cars registered on the roads of America then there were petrol cars. What does this mean today? Well with technology being trickled out to the possible consumers as slowly as possible it could mean a resurgence of the electric vehicle 100 years after they where first driven on the roads of America and beyond. What does this have to do with you your probably thinking. Electric vans are a part of this not so new technology which your band could utilize.
Right now there are electric vans in production which would be adequate for local gig transport. So if you are not using them, then why are the big labels not thinking about this money saving idea for their own bands? If the large delivery service DHL can use them for sending hundreds of items(equal to the size of gear for a gig) then this article is definitely on the brink of something important to factor in as a touring musician. If DHL can afford the initial large investment and have realised there is a saving to make on these vehicles in the long run then there is no reason at all for the big labels not to be considering this new wave of transportation. Real life examples and testing has been underway for the past few years, here are a few more industries thinking about green propulsion are London’s very own black cab. Being added to the fleet, a few hundred will take people around London’s City for 130 miles and just be like any other cab journey and Governments around the UK have had free electric bus services running around their towns for years. With the continuation of news and government releases say “an average UK journey is under 8 miles” when will the consumers take notice to push this new technology for better mileage, charging times and more choice and thus help hundreds of other industries which are already affected by travelling.
Lets go through some of the benefits. The two major positives of owning an electric van are : Zero emissions, none of that CO2 is produced while you are driving the vehicle and secondly, there is absolutely no reason to use a petrol station again. Other than paying a couple of pennies per mile there is no tax to pay on British roads, these are huge benefits compared to combustion engine vehicles. You also may not be aware of the quick charge points situated in and around some of UK’s largest city car parks where you can charge your vehicle in a matter of 2 hours and get your vehicles batteries at least 80% charged. In America I understand there are plenty of opportunities to save even more money on electric vehicles with grants and funding from government bodies and probably more incentives to purchase electric vehicles around the world, do you know of any?
Other benefits of the electric vehicle industry is some of the current cars available can do a mile for the price of 1 penny and motorbikes have taken that one step further, with conversions and a couple of manufacturers getting prices as low as 0.1 pence per mile. So this is nothing but good news for the future consumer and especially you if you are now thinking about electric vans. The positives mean nothing if you are not able to afford a new electric van yet, here are the other negatives.
If this technology has been known about for more than 100 years then why are we already not driving around in them? This has nothing to do with the big four labels, which you could have guessed. Instead larger business models have been doing a very good job at squeezing out any innovation and marketing opportunities for electric powered vehicles http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Who_Killed_the_Electric_Car%3F.
What questions need answering when touring? Space for gear, seats for musicians, distance to be traveled, price of petrol, maintenance and many more. Let me put this in to a scenario:
Imagine for a minute you own an electric van and it has a 100 mile range, if driven between 40 and 50mph your going to get to your destination slower than usual. If you manage to get all your gear in to the van space and seat a couple of band members in the front you are limited to playing a gig no more than 40 miles away, this is unless you can acquire an electric hook up at the gig and your other band members are in a different vehicle. If you thought about playing further a field, you would have to set off days in advance due to the range and charge time. You should expect a charge time from 4 to 8 hours dependent on the batteries current charge and your electric hook up. Adding extra seats within the van space is doable but will cost extra. As you can see there are some pitfalls at the moment to running an electric vehicle. Placing a marker on a map of your bands location, there is very little distance you can cover if you where to draw a radius of electric vans current top distance. Another negative which I would like to highlight is your driving style. As you may be aware, with a heavy foot on the accelerator of your current vehicle you will be decreasing the car or vans efficiency, this goes hand in hand with electric vehicles too.
In Production Electric Vans
Of all the benefits there are only a few small companies (Micro Vett, Smiths, which are highlighted further on) who have been producing electric vehicles and only a handful are producing vans for commercial use. The vans currently available to buy, charge and drive, half of them are no bigger than glorified golf carts. Leaving these out of the available options there are only a few companies left which make medium to large size electric vans which could incorporate in a bands touring plan. The other variables needed with a van for touring is 2 to 7 seats and with a luggage space of at least 3m cubed. Mercedes and a few other of the big car manufacturers will be releasing their own vehicles from the end of 2010 with the amount of seats and gear space needed, expect some hefty introductory prices. Other than purchasing, if you already have a van, in the UK a company called Dragon Electric Vehicles convert your current van to electric. There is very few choices for you and your band and even less when you take purchase price in to the equation.
Here are the current 2010 electric van availability, specs and the important performance information(Speed and Range).
Micro Vett http://www.micro-vett.it/ who have been partnered with Iveco, Fiat and Piaggio are one of Europe’s leading electric vehicle manufacturers and have a few vans ready for the road and currently in production.
Micro Vett have in production three vans which could fit your needs. Fiorino, Combi and Panaramo. They are medium to large size vans and people carriers. Each has a range of 47 – 100 miles depending on vehicle and roughly a top speed of 56 – 80mph.
Smiths http://www.smithelectricvehicles.com/index.asp is the longest running electric vehicle manufacturer in UK and has been running since 1920. They have some large corporations behind them who they have provided vehicles for. Two of their main vans are the same size and just larger than Ford Transits. This means they only have a maximum of 3 seats but they do offer more luggage space for your gear. Same average speed as the other van’s available, 50-60mph but they offer the second best range for your money at 130-150 miles.
Dragons http://www.electricvanandcar.co.uk/cityvan.html are a converting business, who will turn your small van or Ford Transit in to an electric vehicle, as it’s electric, at a price. They do offer some of the cheapest prices I have seen on the net but this does not include the van. They start at $31,000 for smaller vans with a range of 60 miles and about 60mph top speed. If you where to take them up on their offer of more lithium-ion batteries then you could extend that range to an enormous 200 miles per charge and a top speed of 70mph.
Is all of this worth the $61,000-$77,000 you will have to pay for a Micro Vett or Smith Electric Van, for an independent band, not at all! Even small business’s are not going to be able to take that financial burden.
The future of this industry will offer better mileage, competitive prices compared to combustion vehicles and much more, how long will it take for those who are capable, such as record industry labels to make the technology worth while, I just don’t know yet.
I have some questions you could think about:
Is this something bands who are signed to major label’s could be currently pursuing?
What about the possibilities for crowd sourcing the finances to purchase an electric van for your band? And is this something bands should be asking for in the first place?
Would you use it as a marketing angle?
From another angle:
How far does your band travel for gigs locally?
Are you happy with the current petrol prices?
Here is a recent website I stumbled upon which somehow rates the carbon footprint of touring bands, take from it what you will. http://labs.echonest.com/EarthDestroyers/index
It’s now just a waiting game and hopefully bands can utilize this in their overall business strategy sooner rather than later. Or is it another industry the big guns will undoubtedly miss out on again.
Martin Toole is a believer in DIY musician projects and currently an undergraduate in Leeds, England. Studying web design/development, HCI and internet marketing. Creator and contributor to Autonomous Industry Music Marketing Guide which helps bands and and musicians alike create their own web site, understand internet terminology, marketing strategies through services and tools and much more relating to band promotion.