A Mercedes-Benz-backed pilot scheme launching in Stuttgart, Germany this month aims to see if electric mobility is something that drivers can learn.
At five driving schools, electric vehicles are about to become an integral element of training for a driver's license. From April, learner drivers will not only be able to get behind the wheel of battery-powered cars, they will also get exposure to the theoretical elements of electric drivetrains and the wider issues surrounding the move to more responsible forms of personal mobility.
Students will still learn how to drive a more traditional, gas-powered, manual transmission vehicle, but using electric cars could also make the experience of learning how to drive much easier.
Cars with an electric motor are direct drive -- no gears or clutch, simply and accelerator and a brake pedal. This simplicity means that novices can get out on to the road immediately and start learning about what it's like to take to the road and how to behave around other traffic -- arguably the most important element of driving.
Mercedes-Benz is providing two electric cars -- a Smart ForTwo and a Mercedes-Benz B Class Electric Drive -- at each of the participating driving academies. The company is also giving everyone over the age of 18 who passes their test and completes the electric driving element of the training, 100 free minutes' access to its car2go car-sharing service (which runs a fleet of electric as well as petrol cars) as an extra incentive.
The scheme could help demystify the technology behind electric cars and to address the negative aspects of plug-in cars, such as range anxiety. As such, the five driving academies will be letting anyone who already holds a valid driving license to take the ‘eDriverLicense' too and get hands-on experience of driving an electric car and the same 100 minutes of free car2go use.
Each of the five driver schools in the greater Stuttgart area selected for the project are Academy schools, a franchise of centers set up by Mercedes-Benz which were inspired by an initial pilot project launched in London in 2009 aimed at getting people ready to drive on the roads rather than teaching them how to pass a driving test. Academy is the largest group of independent driving schools in Germany.