Adwatch: Is your range too small? Chevy’s Volt could ease your anxiety..

If you inadvertently search the term ‘size anxiety’ on Google, you’ll find a host of topics offering support for those people concerned by whether they measure up against expectations. So perhaps it’s not surprising to see such concerns extend beyond size, to how long it will last.

We’re talking about ‘Range anxiety’ – The fear that a vehicle has insufficient range to reach its destination and would thus strand the vehicle’s occupants.’

Well, what did you think we were talking about..? (stop sniggering at the back)

It’s a genuine problem which has limited the take-up of electric cars as a viable alternative to our trusty fuel-burners. Battery capacity can vary depending on the ambient temperature, how the battery has been cared for in its lifespan and of course how the car has been driven.

That’s why several alternatives to the battery electric vehicle have developed – Hybrids and Extended Range Electric Vehicle (or E-REV), such as the Chevy Volt/Vauxhall Ampera.

Unlike Hybrids, which run on either a battery powered electric motor, combustion engine or both, range extended vehicles are electrically driven at all times. In the case of Chevy’s Volt once its lithium-ion battery is depleted (after 25-50 miles), power is seamlessly inverted to the electric drive unit from its on-board petrol powered generator for a further 250 miles.

But if your daily journey is short and you’re able to plug your Volt into a socket every night to recharge it, you could conceivably never use a drop of fuel ever again.

A 1.4-litre, 85 bhp petrol engine is used to power the generator and this is fully integrated with the Volt’s 148 bhp electric drive unit consisting of two electric motors, three clutches and a planetary gearset.

The Volt’s electric drive unit delivers 370Nm (279lb-ft) of instant torque, which goes someway to disguise the Volt’s otherwise languid performance – 0 to 60mph is yours in just 9.0 seconds, but you’ll never reach 100mph (and I mean NEVER) – so stay away from the autobahns.

But that’s not what the Volt is all about. Rather than comparing it head-to-head with other £30,000 saloons, Chevy are promoting the peace of mind gained by owners who want an electric vehicle, but also want to cover combustion-engine mileages. In fact a sample of early Volt customers in the US, shows that many drive up to 1,000 miles before re-filling the fuel tank.

Some other benefits include qualifying for the government’s Plug-In Car Grant worth up to £5,000, while the Volt is also exempt from the London’s daily congestion charge, saving owners up to a further £2,000 per year. That still leaves you with its £29,995 purchase price, which although expensive is not unaffordably so.

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Sponsored video: Chevy Volt – Range Anxiety

The Volt officially went on sale here in the UK on May 1st, with first customers receiving their cars shortly thereafter. So the real question now is, how will Chevrolet market the Volt to motorists weaned on the convenience of petrol and diesel engines?

Well, to start with Chevrolet has gone 100% digital with their new advertising campaign, using a multi-ad video format developed together with Unruly Media.

The ‘Range Anxiety’ ads were created as part of the MoFilm Barcelona film competition, with the top four entries being run in the player below.

The first film, ‘Zombie Ride’, seeks to highlight the benefit of the Volt’s extended 300 mile range, demonstrating its eminent suitability as a getaway car… from zombies.  Two ‘dudes’ break down in their (petrol engine) car in the middle of nowhere, whereupon they are pursued on foot by a gang of animated ‘flesh eating’ corpses.

Luckily for them a hot girl drives up in a Chevy Volt (this never happens to me), just in time, thereby saving the day (and their skin).

‘Free Range’ is a film that, at first glance, has nothing to do with the Chevy Volt, but builds its story around the zoology of the human species – “For centuries, the human condition has been adversely affected by attempts of domestication. A condition known to the experts as range anxiety. While he longs to be with his wife, he’s paralysed by the fear he may become stranded and not make it home to his shelter by nightfall..”.

In the story, the one ‘evolved’ member of the group breaks out of the holding pen, confronting his range anxiety and taking his rightful place in the wild.

‘My Kingdom for a Volt’ is set in Avignon, 1191 D.C. featuring a character introduced to us as ‘The Hero of our Video Games’ who fears nothing.. except for the discharging battery on the player’s console. He spends the next 40 seconds complaining that he and other characters within the game, live in fear (sic) of the console switching off at any moment leaving them stranded between levels.

The final film is called ‘Range Anxiety Anonymous’ which parodies a self-help group, opening up about their bad electric vehicle experiences. After one particularly distraught mother-of-two, Sheryl, explains how buying an electric car has given her range anxiety – she’s been stranded 17 times, whilst the kids haven’t seen their grandmother in 8 months – the group then turns to ‘Steve’ for his story.

It’s at this point the group leader realises Steve is missing, only to discover that he’s bought a Chevy Volt.

How is the campaign performing?

‘Alternative comedy’ is a term that originated in the 1980s and which I always took to mean ‘comedy which isn’t funny’. Well, the winning film, ‘Zombie Ride’, is almost funny, but I had to watch the other films several times in order to ‘get’ what they were about.

That’s normally a disadvantage for social videos, where audiences have short attention spans and the first 30 seconds are crucial in retaining their interest.

Likewise, when we reflect on the psychology of ad effectiveness, there is neither a persuasive style of engagement (reasoning why the Volt is better than other electric vehicles) nor an association with positive ideals, apart from when the dudes in ‘Zombie Ride’ get saved by the hot girl (did I mention that never happens to me?).

It’s perhaps not surprising therefore that the films have yet to challenge the Viral Video chart Top 100. They’ve only been out a week, so there’s still time for them to catch on, but I suspect the audience Chevy are really aiming for are those people who have already owned an electric vehicle and can identify with the anxiety of being stranded.

Has Chevy assuaged these fears, or merely made more people aware that such a problem exists? We’ll let you be the judge of that.

Episode Views Social Shares
Competition winner: Zombie Ride 1,041
Film: Free Ride 61
Film: My Kingdom for a Volt 70
Film: Range Anxiety Anonymous 62

Credits: all data provided by Unruly Media’s Viral Video Chart.

Disclosure: This article is sponsored in part by Chevrolet, however all views expressed within are entirely our own. Sponsored articles are accepted at our own discretion and only where we believe such focus or analysis will benefit our readers. If you have any questions or would like to discuss this article further, then please get in touch via email or using the contact tab on this page.