Opinion: Jos Sluijsmans on the ICBF's partnership with Fully Charged LIVE
This is an excerpt from Carrier Magazine Issue 01 – out 24th November in print at the International Cargo Bike Festival and online.
23 NOV 2023
2 MINUTE READ
BY JOS SLUIJSMANS, DIRECTOR OF THE INTERNATIONAL CARGO BIKE FESTIVAL
ILLUSTRATION BY KARIN VEENENDAAL – WITH THANKS TO LUCA AGNELLI
“Why are you working with a car show?” It’s a loaded question – one we have been asked a lot by our friends in the cargo bike world since we announced our partnership to ‘co-locate’ the International Cargo Bike Festival alongside Fully Charged LIVE Europe. So, why?
Fully Charged contacted us to work together on the 2023 show, and the intention on both sides is to carry on and strengthen the partnership in the coming years. The organisation began life in 2010 as a ‘vlog’ about electric cars set up by founder Robert Llewellyn; better known to a generation of British TV viewers as the robot-servant Kryten from the sci-fi sitcom Red Dwarf, as well as the presenter of Scrapheap Challenge. The vlog became a YouTube channel and grew from strength to strength.
Fast forward to now and the channel has over 1 million subscribers and is the centre of a business that also holds seven annual Fully Charged LIVE events across the world (in 2024 the events will rebrand to the more inclusive Everything Electric LIVE). Look at the main Fully Charged channel on YouTube and it is wall-to-wall electric cars. But they have another YouTube channel called Everything Electric for everything else: home energy, solar power, cooking and micromobility.
Partners & Supporters of the ICBF
Let's go mainstream
At the heart of the question is a judgement – that working with any part of the auto industry is immoral. We disagree with this assessment, while sharing the legitimate concerns of many about the space taken up by increasingly large car models in our cities, about pollution relating to particulate matter and about the sourcing of rare earth raw materials to make batteries (on a side note, the cargo bike industry itself must answer many of the same questions – albeit on a much smaller scale). But hear me out – this is nuanced.
The fact remains that the cargo bike market is in the middle of an unprecedented expansion. So much so that the industry behind it is changing out of all recognition – just to keep up. And that’s necessary too; the cargo bike industry needs to professionalise.
I started the International Cargo Bike Festival in 2012. Back then the cargo bike industry was a niche within a niche. Most people had no clue what a cargo bike was. Within the cargo bike industry, everybody knew each other. It was an exciting time of friendly cooperation, knowledge-sharing and, frankly, bike freaks coming together and having a great time.
In 2012 in the Netherlands, cargo bikes were mainly used for the transport of children and I wanted to show people that they could be used for business too. Conversely, outside of the Netherlands and Denmark, the use of cargo bikes mainly started with businesses. As cycling infrastructure is built and riding cargo bikes becomes a safe option in their city or country, people will start to use them more and more for personal mobility.
Flick through the pages of this magazine and you will realise – if you haven’t already – that the potential impact of the cargo bike is gigantic. Everything we do is about reaching that potential. But to do that we need to break out of the bubble we have created. The cargo bike needs to go mainstream.
And that’s where Fully Charged LIVE comes in. We’re bringing those two user groups – businesses and families – together again. Those who say it is just an electric car show are mistaken. Yes, there are a lot of electric cars. That’s how it started. But there’s much more to Fully Charged LIVE than that. The 2024 name change of the events to Everything Electric gives it away; they are a festival of electrification. Alongside the topic of electric mobility, they also cover home energy, zero-carbon kitchens and everything the consumer needs in order to #StopBurningStuff – to pinch their favourite hashtag.
Let's steal some customers
So where do we as the International Cargo Bike Festival fit in? This brings me to our central argument: wherever you can test-drive an electric car, you should also be able to test-ride a cargo bike. The people who come to Fully Charged LIVE and Everything Electric LIVE are informed, ready and open to make changes to their lifestyle.
So, are we there to help the cargo bike industry steal customers from the electric car companies? Absolutely. And do our colleagues at Fully Charged mind that? They absolutely do not. Anything that helps people #StopBurningStuff is alright with them. We help Fully Charged to fill a gap by showing the ‘masses’ that there is a credible alternative to the electric car: the cargo bike. It’s about making cargo bikes more visible, while giving people a choice many of them didn’t know they had.
All it takes is to get people in the saddle.
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