A new survey of US car buyers shows that only 10 percent are willing to purchase a plug-in hybrid or electric vehicle (EV) as their next vehicle. Though the percentage seems small, most manufacturers won’t be producing plug-in hybrids or electric vehicles in large numbers anytime soon. Ten percent should provide the right number of buyers for the small number of cars produced.
Ernst and Young conducted the survey, ”Measuring the understanding of and interest in plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles in the US” for the automotive industry. One thousand US drivers 18 years old and up, were surveyed. Twelve questions were asked concerning knowledge of, interest in, and factors affecting consumers perceptions of EVs and plug-in hybrids.
The findings were actually not all that surprising. Most consumers are reluctant to purchase cars with new technologies. However, it was surprising to note some of the contradictions in consumer expectations. For instance, although only 10 percent are interested in purchasing EVs or plug-in hybrids, 34 percent are willing to pay for community EV charging stations.
Another contradiction is the driving distance requirement for most consumers. Ninety-one percent of drivers travel less than 50 miles per day. Seven percent travel 50 to 100 miles per day and only two percent travel more than 100 miles per day.
Logically, you would think that 91 percent of the driving population would be happy with a vehicle that could travel less than 50 miles per battery charge. Wrong. Instead, 87 percent of drivers want a car that will travel 50-200 miles per charge. Thirty four percent want driving distances over 200 miles per charge.
In Europe, where long distance transportation is relatively cheap and plentiful compared to America, the need to drive long distances is minimized. Instead, it is easy to hop a train to your destination and either rent a car or bike from there.
Not surprisingly, the three biggest factors that US consumers say would influence them to purchase an EV or plug-in hybrid, are easy access to charging stations, a high cost of fuel (above $3) and low prices. Consumer understanding of EV and plug-in hybrid technologies is limited which also limits interest.
As battery technology and distances per battery charge increase, consumers interest will grow. Until EV and plug-in manufacturers are able to meet consumer expectations demand will remain low. In other words, don’t focus on driver’s reality but on their dreams.