Given the choice, should kids learn how to drive in an electric car?

Peugeot’s research found that 40% of parents approve of this
by Ollie Marriage | Jan 23, 2022
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Here’s an interesting line of logic: Young people care about climate change. They want their family to do its bit. Electric cars are a glaringly obvious step. Child persuades parent to go electric. Ergo, kids are calling the shots in new car purchasing.

Following this ‘revelation,’ Peugeot did some research, which then showed that 25% of adults say their kids pester them about switching to electric. Now it’s tempting to assume that 75% of kids are therefore ordering their folks to hold on to combustion engines for dear life. Doubtful, unfortunately. I’m a parent to teenagers. The 75% aren’t talking at all.

Peugeot’s conclusion is that it’s therefore worth developing a strategy that gently targets the younger generation. Expect to see more of this in due course—and from other car brands, too. If nothing else, it’s useful because it helps unstitch some myths.

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Such as: Peugeot’s research also showed that 28% of adults believe EVs will be more difficult to learn to drive in. To prove this wrong (and presumably align with the other 72% of respondents), I took Luke, my 16-year-old (previous driving experience: birthday go-kart parties and that one time I let him loose in the long-term Ariel Nomad on a mate’s farm) to Bedford Autodrome and set him off in a Peugeot e-208.

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By the end of lap three, he was doing 110kph down the main straight and learning about racing lines. Here’s Luke: “It was really easy to drive. I was warned about how quick it would be off the line, but it was really smooth. It was just strange being told I had to brake with my right foot, when in go-karts you brake with your left.”

So a novice driver finds electric easy. Hardly earth-shattering. But important because less worry about engine and gears means more bandwidth available to focus on the hard bit of driving—what every other bloody road user is doing.

So EVs make sense to learn in—and the next stat from Peugeot is that 40% of parents want their kids to learn in EVs. Stands to reason given the simplicity. However, here I’m with the presumed 60%.

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More personal experience: My daughter, a year older than her brother, would far rather learn with electric. But I’ve insisted she learns in a manual, because the first car she buys will not be electric. That’ll be cost-prohibitive. For the next 10 to 15 years, we’re in transition, and financially speaking electric cars, will be out of the reach of young drivers. She could drive an auto, of course, but you never know when the ability to drive a manual might come in handy.

And imagine learning and passing in an electric car, then having to switch to a tatty old gasoline-fed auto. That’s a high-risk strategy if ever there was one. Every time you come to a roundabout and discover your beater has none of the insta-torque and response of your instructor’s EV.

Peugeot’s quest to persuade young drivers to the benefits of electric is commendable, but it doesn’t have a huge point—they’re already on board. As a car audience, you’re aware of the environmental drawbacks of EVs (heavy weight, tire wear, rare earth minerals, and so on), but the wider world is already convinced these things are the answer to every problem. In another survey, Peugeot found that “67.8% of all children believed electric and plug-in vehicles are good for the planet.” Hmm. Maybe that’s where the education should be focused.

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NOTE: This article first appeared on TopGear.com. Minor edits have been made.

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