Electric shock

Listen to this article

The first ever EcoVelocity took place at Battersea Power Station. Stand Out met Giles Brown, event director, and talked reality not fantasy…

Once a billowing coal-fired, electrical power station, Battersea Power Station was an industrious beacon of the 1930s. In its day, it was a cutting edge symbol of design, yet others considered it an eyesore. Today, it stands as an icon of British architecture – its two chimneys a landmark and its walls a backdrop for many a film and television production.

This weekend, however, it’s playing host to EcoVelocity – the UK’s first eco- friendly, low carbon car show from IMIE, the team that brought you the British Motor Show. On display are the UK’s first electric hearse, the iRacer – an electric race car – and the Sinclair C5, which was once ridiculed when first unveiled in 1985. Now, it seems that its manufacturers were ahead of their time, as a raft of car giants with low carbon vehicles have lent their support to the four-day motor event.

Explains Giles Brown, the show’s event director: “This show has been a long time coming. We’ve had a quiet period and industry is tired of twiddling its thumbs. This whole event took off in January when the market decided to do something on a collective basis; something that cuts costs and drives efficiency.

“I pitched EcoVelocity to people last year. There was interest but not enough to push it over the line. It’s not like a Christmas gift event where you have lots of potential exhibitors. We have a pool of 25 manufacturers, and that’s it. But the tipping point came in February.

Consumers were being spanked by the Government in the way of taxes.”

Brown says that the iconic venue has played into the organiser’s hands. It’s unusual and the vast space gives visitors the opportunity to test drive low carbon cars in a private environment. In Central London.

A 750-metre test track has been created to allow potential buyers to put vehicles through their paces, and within that track sit 18 manufacturers and a range of other exhibitors.

Segways, teenage driving experiences, racing games and general eco motoring advice are on offer.

Brown continues: “There’s been considerable industry and consumer interest, especially for a real car show and not a fantasy show. People can decide whether they want to test drive a Citroen or a Mitsubishi. They are not taking pictures of a Ferrari. This event has broader appeal.

“It’s not for petrol heads, and there’s no need for another event for petrol heads. This event appeals to those who wouldn’t normally go to a car show – a family audience. There’s not a random craft stall or fairground in sight. It’s a real day out.”

Fully charged

EcoVelocity is 50 per cent owned by Metro, so not surprisingly it is a significant media partner. Edf Energy is also playing an instrumental role – main sponsor. So too is What Car? which is producing a car-nival parade complete with dancers and stiltwalkers as well as lending support in the form of media partnership. A multi-million pound advertising campaign including the use of cover wraps, banner advertisements and joint promotions has been utilised, and the Daily Mail, ES and Smooth FM have all provided a marketing channel for the eco-brand. Old British Motor Show assets have been valuable too.

Electric avenue

According to Brown, the event provides a practical opportunity to buy where people can compare and contrast a variety of brands that are not available in abundance on forecourts. He believes that some people will visit the event purely to come and have a closer look at the power station. And unlike most exhibitions, EcoVelocity provides a level playing field. The organisers stipulated to all car manufacturers a capped stand size of 300 square metres so that no one manufacturer has to stand in the shadows of its competitors. A variety of temporary structures, inflatable buildings, domes and trailers are displaying eco wares and car brands some exhibiting more successfully than others – but all stand on the periphery so that visitors can flow freely. A footbridge allows visitors to cross safely over the test track and into the main show, and once inside there’s a central demonstration area for children’s car activities, which is proving extremely popular with the family audience.

Tickets are priced at £10 with a family ticket costing £25. Brown is hoping to attract 30,000 visitors and has a significant reach to market.

“I don’t want the show to be so busy that it’s too busy on-site and not too busy that people can’t get a test drive. The thing with launch shows though is that it’s like sticking a finger in the air. This event is not a one-size fits all show. I think it will grow in 2012 and we can look at rolling it out across the UK regionally next year. Firstly, we’re looking at dates for next year and considering the Paralympic Games.”