Rory Sutherland Rory Sutherland

Taking charge: it’s time to buy an electric car


As a wise colleague once said: ‘Yesterday is a great time to buy a computer, because you have already enjoyed it for a day. Alternatively, buy a computer tomorrow. The computer you buy tomorrow will be both faster and cheaper than the computers available now.
On no account, however, should you ever buy a computer today.’

One factor delaying our adoption of electric cars is that experience has taught us it pays to wait when buying anything with a plug. There is a huge impetus to buy property because, over time, your options get fewer and dearer. But when contemplating the purchase of an electric car we assume every year will bring a fall in price, an increase in range and a further boost in performance. And new models are being introduced all the time.

Anxiety about having ‘only 257 miles of range’ is silly when, 95 per cent of the time, if you drove 150 miles in a straight line you’d end up in the sea

The decision is made more difficult for other reasons. In the past, when I chose a car, I was buying a standalone, discrete object. I didn’t have to worry about whether my new car was compatible with BP petrol or anything like that. Now you find yourself committing to a whole ecosystem, rather like choosing between iOS or Android. This means you must consider the dread hand of network effects. Should I buy a Tesla simply because there are a lot of them around — meaning that charging infrastructure and software upgrades might progress at a faster pace? Or should I fight the tyranny of the Pareto distribution and buy something else?

Anyhow, having done a little research, I’ve decided to take the plunge.

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