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Pike survey finds unproven technology and reliability concerns may hinder US consumer demand for plug-in electric vehicle, although about 44% of respondents are interested in purchasing one

Consumer interest in electric vehicles. Source: Pike Research. Click to enlarge.

According to a new survey from Pike Research, the benefits of reducing gasoline expenses and greenhouse gas emissions that come from plug-in electric vehicles (PEV) may not be enough to overcome key objections among some skeptical US consumers—namely, the concerns that PEV technology has not yet been proven, and that PEVs may not be reliable as traditional gasoline vehicles.

However, the flip side of the survey was that about 44% of respondents stated that they would be “extremely” or “very” interested in purchasing a PEV with a driving range of 40 to 100 miles and an electricity cost equivalent of $0.75 per gallon. 

The electric vehicle industry has been very focused on addressing so-called driving ‘range anxiety’, the term used to describe consumers’ qualms about the effective range of a PEV on a single charge. But the fact is that a ‘wait-and-see’ approach about the technology itself was a greater issue for consumers in our survey.  It could easily take several years for mainstream car shoppers to get comfortable with the idea of electric vehicles.

—senior analyst John Gartner

Despite the skepticism of many consumers, the early adopter market should easily meet the industry’s expectations for the first few years of electric vehicle sales, according to senior analyst Dave Hurst.

Other findings of the survey are:

  • 83% of respondents drive 40 miles or less per day, and therefore would be well served by a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) with a 40-mile range. Survey participants stated that they drive an average of 26.6 miles per day. Nearly all plug-in vehicles have been developed to exceed consumers’ daily driving distance by providing a minimum of 30 miles of all-electric range under optimal conditions. The exception is the Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid Vehicle (PHV), which has an electric range of 13 miles.

  • 81% of respondents stated that improved fuel efficiency would be an important factor when purchasing their next vehicle. This preference should serve as a good foundation for consumer EV demand and should partially offset demand inhibitors such as price sensitivity.

  • Consumers may have a difficult time achieving positive return on investment (ROI), given the premium price of PEVs and relatively low gasoline expenses. Pike Research’s survey respondents reported an average monthly gasoline expenditure of $105.70, with 90% of panelists saying that they spend $200 or less per month on gasoline. National statistics on gasoline spending suggest that survey respondents were probably underestimating their gas bills. Nevertheless, Pike Research anticipates that the payback period for most consumers’ PEVs will be very long—if payback ever comes to fruition.

  • In Pike Research’s survey, levels of interest in PEVs were not dramatically different between demographic segments such as age, gender, income, and level of education, suggesting that these vehicles should have solid mass-market appeal in the long term.

  • Price sensitivity analysis indicates that automakers will face challenges when marketing PEVs.  Pike Research’s survey finds that the optimal price point (OPP) for PEVs is 18.75% above the base price of a comparable gasoline vehicle, but this is still significantly lower than automakers’ intended prices.

  • The survey also demonstrates that one size does not fit all when it comes to consumer PEV preferences.  When asked to choose between five different plug-in hybrid and all-electric range/price options, respondents did not state a clear preference for any single configuration.  For example, interest levels were very similar for less expensive plug-in hybrids with a 10-mile range and more expensive all-electric vehicles with a 100-mile range.

  • When asked which vehicle brands they would consider for an electric vehicle, panelists were most likely to choose Ford (51%) and Honda (50%), two automakers who do not currently have PEVs on the market.  Chevrolet (45%) and Nissan (33%), the two major manufacturers launching models in 2010, ranked third and fifth, respectively.

  • 63% of survey respondents indicated that they would be extremely or very interested in upgrading to a residential fast charging outlet.

  • However, Pike Research survey results indicate that pricing will once again be an issue with fast charging outlets. Although Pike’s analysis suggests that the first generation of residential fast charging outlets will cost between $500 and $800, only 20% of panelists stated that they would be willing to pay $500 or more for this capability.

  • PEV intenders in the survey expressed strong interest in workplace, private, and public charging stations. Workplace and private charging stations were each important for 72% of respondents, and public charge points ranked as the third priority.

Pike Research’s report, “Electric Vehicle Consumer Survey”, analyzes results from a web-based survey of 1,042 consumers based on a nationally representative and demographically balanced sample of adults in the United States.   The report examines the dynamics of consumer demand for PEVs, fast residential charging outlets, and workplace, public, and private charge points.  It includes a detailed analysis of price sensitivity and optimal price points for PEVs, as well as data related to typical consumer driving patterns that will affect demand for such vehicles.  The report also includes comparison of demand among different demographic segments.



"81% of respondents stated that improved fuel efficiency would be an important factor when purchasing their next vehicle."

And 60% of the respondents said "the fact is that a ‘wait-and-see’ approach about the technology itself makes these surveys a waste of time".


PHEVs or PEVs are transition complex electro-mechanical hybrid vehicles that will be produced only as long as extended range/affordable BEVS as not available and for selective heavier cargo vehicles.

By 2020 or shortly thereafter, production of PHEV/PEV cars will be progressively phased out in favor of lower cost extended range BEVs, produced in China, India, Korea and a few other countries. Japan and USA may not be able to compete unless the labor content is greatly reduced and/or salaries and benefits are adjusted. Other tools such as currency devaluation, new hidden import duties etc may be tried but the trend is going to be difficult to reverse.

One thing is certain, much lower cost, lighter, common sense BEVs will be the hottest selling item 10 years down the road.


Brief list of drive train subsystems:

ICE - motor(starter), battery, alternator, engine, transmission, fuel tank/lines, exhaust system.. Total moving parts: 1000's

EV - motor(traction), battery.. Total moving parts: under 5

It's amazing how expensive and unreliable ICE auto firms forecast EV's will be.


Here is another data point for the Pike Survey.

Unless the cost of batteries comes down and the range is extended I wouldn't touch an EV with a 10 foot pole.


Follow Gregory House's philosophy, "all people lie". What people say and what they end up doing are two entirely different things and that goes double for EV surveys.


"83% of respondents drive 40 miles or less per day, and therefore would be well served by a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) with a 40-mile range. Survey participants stated that they drive an average of 26.6 miles per day...The exception is the Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid Vehicle (PHV), which has an electric range of 13 miles."

This is likely the kiss of death for the Prius PHEV.

Will S

This is an interesting survey, but as TT and SJC said, such surveys don't often reflect what people will do when it comes time to lay down their cards.

I can understand range anxiety concerns, though I personally wouldn't have an issue if I knew where charging stations would be. One killer smartphone app could be created that sent information about one's location and destination, returning the charging stations along the way. Another would simply be having a map in the car with charging stations noted. As new ones were added, just add little stickers.


I can remember in 1980 people that drove Rabbit diesels had to have a map in the car showing diesel stations. Over time more stations offered diesel for sale, even though they are not popular in southern California.

It would be good to have a map IF you actually HAD some charging stations to begin with. There is so little money to be made on these that I doubt the will grow beyond the feel good publicly funded ones. It is chicken and the egg and I see nothing market driven to break that dead lock.


Last year ALL the daily milage I had to do could have been covered with a 20 mile range BEV while all joyriding I did could have been covered with a 100 mile range BEV.


This is just another example of the negative spin the oil and coal industries have been spouting for the last year and how it gets sucked into mainstream conversation.
Look at the conflicting statistics - 44% of people have interest in buying an EV. 81% polled say fuel efficient is a driving factor when considering a purchase. 83% polled would be postively affected by the purchase of an EV.
At the same time, you have this "skepticism" about EV tech being unproven, vehicle reliability, and, of course, the boogie-man of range anxiety. Where is all this negativity being generated? From whence is this source?
(Sorry about "whence", but I'm on a roll...)
Any half-assed inquiries on the 'Net will show that range anxiety is being addressed on almost a daily basis. New charger installs are going on around the country, battery tech is constantly being improved, and new composites and designs are increasing general EV range.
An unproven technology? Good Lord, go to any golf course in this country and tell me what the hell you see driving on the back nine!
And vehicle "reliability". I don't even know that the hell that is! What, is the car supposed to tuck you in at night and scare away all the monsters?
The Uncertainty the general public feels is the end product of a very extensive, and, I have to admit, a very successful spin campaign propagated by oil and coal.


The bit of sampling I have done on news blogs shows that at least half of the people are skeptical about EVs. Many post scenarios of being stuck in traffic and having to have the air conditioning on to being stuck in a winter blizzard. They will go the most extreme example and if they do not feel it can do it, forget it.

This has to do with the utility that I have mentioned. They want a car that can do everything their present car does all the time without exceptions. They do not want to be limited by the EV purchase, it better do everything that their present car does or they will not even consider it. Especially when the EV costs MORE than their present car cost new.


If Prius actually tries to market a 13AER vehicle - they will further damage their fractured reputation. they had best visit the engineers at Tesla and negotiate a real battery for the Prius.

"They will go the most extreme example and if they do not feel it can do it, forget it."

Hence the backward thinking involved in exaggerated disaster scenarios.


It seems to be more than range anxiety, it is stranded anxiety. They know what it is to run out of gas, get a flat or the car won't start. They want NONE of that.

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