Electic Vehicle - To Comply, or not to Comply?


A compliance car is not a name that sounds much of a compliment, but what does itmean? They often are only build to meet certain legal standards on emissions, not because the OEM is the true believer of its product (yet). Recently I also discovered there are other reasons for an electric vehicle to be called a compliance car; in the case of European Procurement Policies that is. Compliance cars, are they good, or is it a lack of authenticity that damages more? ;

CAFE regulations aimed at reducing fuel consumption of vehicles - Link


CAFE standard history

The most well known legislation with regards to emission standards are the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (or CAFE ) regulations. First installed in 1975 in the wake of the 1973 Arab Oil Embargo, these regulations describe that the average fuel economy of a manufacturers fleet shall meet certain fuel economy figures. The rationale is that by using these regulations to ensure an increasing fuel economy over the years, pollution from vehicle emissions will go down.

The CAFE regulatons have led to vehicles with improved fuel economy over the past years. Some manufacturers have taken this to great extent, by getting fuel efficient cars to the masses, where others have created some fuel efficient cars, but only in the amount that is set by the regulations. In this fashion, electric cars are part of a manufacturers fleet only because they help lower the average fuel consumption of the fleet, not because the manufacturer is a firm believer of the technology (as can be seen in some quotes from high level executives as well)

Criteria of Compliance

I really liked an article from John Voelcker on this topic and his definition for a comliance car is a bit US centered, the idea can be translated to a EU version as well.

A car is not a compliance car if:

  • It is sold outright to consumers, not only leased
  • It will sell at least 5,000 or more a year in the U.S. or reach total global sales of 20,000
  • It's offered outside the "California emission" states, or will be within 18 months


Based on these criteria, the "Real" cars (non-compliance) are:

  • 2012 Nissan Leaf
  • 2012 Mitsubishi I
  • 2012 Coda Sedan
  • 2012 Tesla Model S

And the compliance cars are:

  • Cevrolet Spark
  • Fiat 500 Elettrica
  • Ford Focus Electric
  • Honda Fit Ev
  • Toyota RAV4 EV
The Peugeot iOn - Link

The other compliance car

A recent news item caught my eye where a Dutch construction company Volker Wessels announced their purchase of 50 Peugeot iOn Electric Vehicles. The reason to do this was to get a better rating during European Procurement Procedures. In an effort to reward construction companies (and many other industries too) to become more sustainable, they often get benefits during Procurement procedures when they are more sustainable and with that increase their chance of winning a big contract.

Wether you make an electric vehicle because it helps you avoid penalties from the CAFE regulations, or if you buy one to increase the chance of winning a government contract. I'm sure those are not the right motives to be in sustainable business. The message just lacks authenticity which is, as many marketing and brand managers can confirm, can do more damage than the short term benefit. To quote a good friend of mine, Martijn Arets, the driving force behind Brand Expedition:

" Authenticity and consistency are two of the most important factors for a succesful brand. It is also important that the brand matches internally and externally. In other words: Be who you say you are. And that sounds easier than it actually is. "

- Martijn Arets, Brand Expedition

What do you think, is it wise to just comply, or should you also be authentic about it?