What the media gets wrong about electrification
This article could just as well have had the title: What the media gets wrong about everything. But I’m not an expert on “everything”. I do know a thing or two about automotive, however, and I’m more than a little frustrated by what the media gets wrong about electrification – the most important change in the automotive industry since, well, ever.
And if my frustration sometimes tips over into anger, it’s because a lot of the “wrongness” is not accidental, but intentional. So I get frustrated with the lack of knowledge and depth in articles and tv news items about the electrification of mobility. But I get angry when I read articles or watch items with eye-catching headlines that make controversial statements, which are in blatant contradiction with straight news and objective facts.
You want examples? Here are a few, from just these past few weeks.
Hydrogen not so “green” after all?
This headline stirs up worry and doubt for the future of this important alternative to fossil fuels, but the article itself explains both the problem and the solution. A classic example of fearmongering.
Diesel has an “unexpected revival”
Going on the title alone, you could conclude that diesel still has a long, bright future, and perhaps also that EVs are not a forward-looking solution after all. But read on, and it becomes apparent that the chip shortage is temporarily delaying volume delivery of EVs. A classic example of misdirection.
EVs “not cheaper” in terms of repairs
The article actually mentions that EVs are cheaper to repair than ICE vehicles – at least in “some” cases. The point it is making, is limited to specific types of breakdowns. But that will not be the general experience of EV drivers. A classic example of being economical with the truth.
It's almost as if journalists want to get it wrong. Experts in other fields might recognize this journalistic “principle”, and can probably sympathize with my frustration and anger. But I would humbly submit that this problem, in its application to electrification, is more consequential than in most other cases.
We can get so caught up in the minutiae of fleet management, and the arguments pro and contra ICEs and EVs, that we forget the big picture. Electrification is an essential part of the solution for an urgent and serious problem – climate change.
To the surprise of many critics and cynics, corporates in the past few years have all signed up for this difficult, yet important exercise. They are completely on board, and have embraced carbon neutrality as a key part of their overall strategy, and the electrification of their fleets as the central part of that drive.
It's not an easy process. It’s complex. It’s costly. There is a lot of pushback: by nature, both hierarchies and mentalities are resistant to change. But this change is about making sure our planet has a future. That’s about as important as targets can be. And corporate fleets are doing more than their bit – in virtually all countries, they’re well ahead of the general market when it comes to electrification.
Being a pioneer is honourable. But it’s difficult. So it would be great if we had the media on our side. After all, newspapers, tv stations, websites and other mass communication outlets help shape public opinion, and drive public policy. Ideally, they would provide clear and concise information on the benefits of electrification, as well as helping to spread awareness about the various incentives available to make the change.
Because, as mentioned, electrification is complex. And the media could help us explain the complicated parts of this process in easy terms. Instead, the ground rule seems to be: if it’s complex, it’s suspicious. If it’s difficult, it may not be worth the effort. And if experts say it’s for the best, then it’s probably going to be worse than what we already have.
Quite often, these are the sentiments driving the headlines when it comes to news about EVs and electrification – even if the articles and items themselves are sometimes more nuanced. I get that news has to be eye-catching and attention-grabbing. But do the media have to play on the worst instincts?
Not everybody reads beyond the headlines. Sensationalist, negative publicity around electrification can only serve to slow down this all-important megatrend. Of course, I believe in the freedom of the press. But I also believe the press has a responsibility to produce information that is relevant, accurate and productive.
After all, we all want and need a better future. Don’t we?
By Johan Verbois, Remarkerting Expert, Fleet Europe