Electric Vehicle Interest Remains Low Study Reveals
Electric vehicle receptivity among consumers is generally very low although pockets of higher interest can be found in the Silicon Valley, Chicago and in Boston. That is one of the conclusions researchers from the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs came to when gauging more than 2,300 adult U.S. drivers in 21 American cities in the Fall of 2011.
The researchers also concluded that President Obama’s quest to have one million plug-in electric vehicles on the road by 2015 will fall short. Perceived drawbacks, including cost and limited vehicle range, loom larger for consumers than EV benefits. Those benefits include bypassing gas stations and cleaner air for all.
The transportation study confirmed that there are divergent opinions on where electric vehicle adoption is headed. While environmentalists, engineers and politicians are eager to see consumers adopt the technology, consumers “have little interest in purchasing plug-in vehicles” noted John D. Graham, dean of the School of Public Environmental Affairs at IU and one of four study co-authors. Two of the co-authors are with the University of Texas at El Paso.
Consumers recognize that the fuel savings with PEVs are tremendous. Indeed, the new Honda Fit EV is rated at 118 MPGe. However, its 82-mile range casts a pall over longer range driving.
The study revealed that many consumers keep their new cars for three to five years or not long enough to recoup the cost of much higher priced EVs. Early adopters are typically higher wealth individuals, people desiring to see America’s dependence on foreign sources of oil reduced and the environment improved. These buyers, however, are not the mainstream and it is the typical car buyer that will enable this segment to thrive, but only if automakers can persuade them to do so. That isn’t easy to do as the cost of battery electric systems must be passed to consumers.
The good news for new vehicle manufacturers is that the study revealed that consumers are more receptive to buying hybrid electric vehicles. Cars such as the Chevrolet Volt and the plug-in Toyota Prius eliminate range anxiety by providing a supplementary gasoline engine to extend the driving range.
“Policy makers also need to develop more realistic expectations about the pace of market acceptance of plug-in technology,” Graham said, “and they may need to retain policy incentives for plug-in vehicle purchases longer than they originally anticipated would be necessary.” For example, President Barack Obama has proposed increasing the federal income tax credit for buying a plug-in vehicle and making it effective at the time of purchase rather than the end of the tax year.
The study also found that the intent to purchase an EV was highest in San Jose and San Francisco and lowest in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Researchers gauged interest on a 10-point scale with 2.67 the average score.
See Also — Career Choice: Electric Vehicle Engineer