So you’re ready for a test drive?

Then head to the elec­tric car show­room with ri­val brands un­der one roof

Daily Express - - TOTAL EV -

Tra­di­tion­ally, look­ing for a new car meant a trip to a ve­hi­cle re­tail park and walk­ing around deal­er­ships. It in­volved ne­go­ti­at­ing with shiny-suited sales­men, drink­ing ter­ri­ble cof­fee and wast­ing a lot of time.

But in the fu­ture, the ex­pe­ri­ence could be very dif­fer­ent. Charge­mas­ter has re­cently opened the EV Ex­pe­ri­ence Cen­tre (EVEC), a deal­er­ship with a whole new take on sell­ing cars.

Based in­side The Cen­tre: MK shop­ping mall in Mil­ton Keynes, it al­lows you to com­bine brows­ing for your next car with pick­ing up a new shirt or shoes.

Deal­er­ships in shop­ping cen­tres are noth­ing new – elec­tric ve­hi­cle man­u­fac­turer Tesla pi­o­neered bring­ing car-buy­ing to the masses in this way – but EVEC is the first to bring sev­eral car brands to­gether un­der one roof. It has a va­ri­ety of EVs from Renault, BMW, Kia, Volk­swa­gen, Mit­subishi and Nis­san.

Dur­ing our visit, a Kia Soul, BMW i3, Nis­san LEAF and Renault ZOE were all on dis­play but the show­room floor stock ro­tates reg­u­larly.

Walk into the shop, nes­tled be­tween a chemist and a jewellers, and you’ll find no pushy sales staff or eye­sore brand­ing. In­stead, you’re met by a tran­quil, open space that sim­ply con­tains a desk, a few pot plants and the elec­tric cars.

“We’re look­ing to bring in more part­ners,” ex­plains EVEC man­ager Ted Fos­ter. “We may even­tu­ally have Jaguar, and we’re talk­ing to Hyundai too about its im­pres­sive IONIQ.”

So how did the idea of one deal­er­ship sell­ing so many brands come about? “It is here to ed­u­cate peo­ple and make them more aware of elec­tric ve­hi­cles in gen­eral,” he says.

Giulia Car­raro, an EV guru – the cen­tre’s name for its sales staff – is keen to em­pha­sise the point. She says EVEC op­er­ates pri­mar­ily as a place for in­for­ma­tion about elec­tric ve­hi­cles, which hap­pens to sell them, too.

Any­one can walk in and chat to the gu­rus, even if they have no in­ten­tion of buy­ing a ve­hi­cle. They’re happy to chat about EVs, whether it’s to clar­ify a ques­tion on range, dis­cuss the dif­fer­ence be­tween a Type 1 or Type 2 con­nec­tor or de­bunk myths, such as ‘elec­tric cars are way more dan­ger­ous than nor­mal ones’. “That one’s pretty com­mon,” says Car­raro.

Should you de­cide an elec­tric ve­hi­cle is for you, the real ad­van­tage of a brand-neu­tral cen­tre will be­come ap­par­ent. Gu­rus will com­pare the cars avail­able to see what best suits your needs and can of­fer a free 15-minute test-drive or a

“We’re here to ed­u­cate peo­ple and make them more aware of elec­tric ve­hi­cles”

seven-day own­er­ship ex­pe­ri­ence for £75.

We took a BMW i3 out for a strate­gi­cally planned test en­com­pass­ing city streets, A-roads and a few coun­try lanes. “It’s here that a lot of peo­ple re­alise elec­tric cars are ac­tu­ally just like nor­mal cars — but with less noise,” says Car­raro. “A lot of pre-con­ceived ideas dis­ap­pear once they have been be­hind the wheel.”

Once you’ve picked the model you want, EVEC fa­cil­i­tate your pur­chase through one of the man­u­fac­turer’s tra­di­tional deal­er­ships.

But if you’ve got more ques­tions af­ter get­ting it home, EVEC can as­sist.

Fos­ter said: “We’re here for peo­ple to come back once they’ve got an elec­tric ve­hi­cle. It’s about ed­u­ca­tion.”

It’s clear that sim­i­lar cen­tres could work else­where. Fos­ter says: “We’re the first in Europe, so there are a lot of peo­ple watch­ing closely to see the im­pact this has.”

Bring­ing elec­tric ve­hi­cles to where po­ten­tial buy­ers might be makes sense, and by teach­ing them the ben­e­fits with­out the hard sell, per­haps more will be tempted to make the switch.

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