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.