How green is your electric vehicle?

Country/area: United Kingdom

Organisation: Financial Times

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 05/10/2021

Credit: Project team: Cale Tilford, Ian Bott, Caroline Nevitt, Sam Joiner, Alexandra Heal, Peter Campbell


This project is the result of the FT’s new collborative Visual Storytelling team, an interdisciplinary group of journalists combining data, design, coding and reporting skills.


The team focus on projects where visual elements play an essential role in communicating the story, working on everything from investigations to explainers across the spectrum of news and features.


The modus operandi of the Visual Storytelling team is to collaborate with domain specialist reporters – in this case, the FT’s global motor industry correspondent Peter Campbell

Project description:

A visually-led explainer on the green credentials of electric vehicles. The centrepiece of the story is a fully bespoke 3d model of an electric vehicle (dubbed the ‘FT EV Mark 1’). As the readers scrolls, they are taken on a journey through the car, both inside and outside. Maps and charts illustrate key data relating to the impact of EV production and use – myths are busted using surprising facts about the environmental impact of electric vehicles.

Impact reached:

A massive first hit for the FT’s new Visual Storytelling team, as reflected by FT reader feedback:

“Stunning.Thought provoking. Ultimately the only really clean vehicle is the one that is never produced, never used.”

“This type of article is why I read the FT. Neutral information brought in a visual and understandable format and including the source material.”

“I am highly offended I didn’t eat some shrooms before reading this article as the graphics are impressive!”

The project was made free to read and generated significant reader engagement. Average time on page was over four minutes.


Techniques/technologies used:

This ambitious and visually stunning project used a range of technologies in an innovative way.

Firstly, the electric car model was created by technical illustrator Ian Bott on an Apple iPad with an Apple Pencil and the Shapr3d app. This model was refined and optimised in Blender, before being loaded into a bespoke 3d browser-based visualisation environment created by Cale Tilford. Dubbed ‘the showroom’, this allowed project team members to position the car and adjust layers so that frames could be extracted for storyboarding – for which Figma was used. Caroline Nevitt directed user experience design, a distinct challenge for both desktop and mobile.

The overall story structure and delivery used our own custom page environment (starter kit), which uses React and other javascript frameworks to deliver a scrollytelling experience.

What was the hardest part of this project?

The innovative starting point of this project – a completely bespoke 3d model of the internal and external elements of an electric car represented a completely new method of working. In many ways, this was the hardest part – using new tools and technologies on a live project. The team learnt as they went, understanding how to leverage 3d content in new ways and overcoming technical hurdles as they encountered them. This included small challenges – like how to simplify the 3d model yield good performance/interaction in a web browser, through to designing a rich experience for such a visually-led piece on mobile phones.

What can others learn from this project?

1) The best visuals are well written! The relationship between graphics and text on this story was different to many traditional copy editing environments. In fact, the copy ended up working best when treated more like a script, as opposed to a traditional written piece

2) Inter-disciplinary collaboration is they key to innovative journalism. Truly greater than the sum of its parts, no one member of this project team could have delivered this project on their own, but instead worked together to exploit the very best of their collective talents.

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