EV education remains key to adoption

by Ernie Hernandez on December 16, 2013

Electric Smiley

Over 25 percent of drivers could use an EV today

According to a survey by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and Consumers Union (CU), 42 percent of households with vehicles could use plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) today, and 25 percent of those same households could use a battery electric vehicle (BEV) today without changing anything about the way they currently drive. The single biggest factor relating to any electric vehicle (EV) adoption is knowledge – more than 70 percent of respondents who reported that they are knowledgeable about EVs would consider purchasing one. One could argue that there is still a space between considering and buying, but the second certainly cannot happen without the first. Clearly, with more than two out of three respondents citing this criterion, getting correct plugin electric vehicle (PEV) information into the public consciousness is key to selling more EVs. So let’s set out to provide some of that knowledge.

UCS and CU teamed up to survey over 1,000 households to see if any type of PEV would work for them based on their current driving needs. A bit later on we will dig into the details of the survey, but what we were most pleased to read is that 60 percent of respondents said they would consider purchasing an EV. This is in stark contrast to earlier studies that claimed much smaller percentages of consumers are willing to consider an EV. This would seem to correlate with the knowledge criterion. More consumers know about EVs today than ever before as more manufacturers bring them to market. Another important consideration for many – 65 percent recognized the impact of EVs in reducing oil use and global warming pollution. Key point to keep in mind – this is a survey of potential suitability as opposed to desire – although EV purchase consideration was also a part of the survey.

The survey had three criteria for respondents to be suitable for PHEV ownership:

  • Have off-street parking with access to an electrical outlet or plug-in electric vehicle charge station at home and/or at work
  • Have no need to tow or haul with this vehicle
  • Carry no more than five occupants on a regular basis

The survey had two additional criteria to be suitable for BEV ownership:

  • Drive less than 60 miles per weekday including commuting and errands
  • Drive 60 miles or more on weekends no more than five times per year
  • In addition, they must have off-street parking with access to an electrical outlet or plug-in electric vehicle charge station at home

So let’s take a look at some of the numbers from the survey itself, starting with some of the most significant revelations.

  • 94% carry five or less occupants total in a typical week
  • 87% carry four or less occupants total in a typical week
  • 84% have off-street parking at home
    • 52% have an electric outlet available
    • 27% without an electric outlet available
    • 5% don’t know if they have an electric outlet available
  • 82% have no access to recharge a PEV at work or school
  • 80% travel 60 miles or more on weekend days
    • 45% of those do this five times per year or fewer, suggesting that a rental might be suitable for those occasions (or recharge while travelling)
    • 35% of those do this more than five times per year
  • 78% don’t tow or haul
  • 76% average 60 miles per weekday or less
  • 69% travel 60 miles per weekday or less (including those with varying daily commutes)
  • 65% of apartment dwellers would consider PEV purchase if workplace charging were available
  • 64% own multiple vehicles
  • 60% would consider buying an EV (Subsets total more than 60% because respondents could choose all that apply)
    • 56% would consider buying a PHEV (such as Chevrolet Volt)
    • 32% would consider buying a BEV (such as Nissan LEAF)
    • 3% already own a BEV
    • 2% already own a PHEV
  • 55% currently drive 30 miles per day or less
  • 51% say that their daily commute does not vary
  • 48% would not pay more even if they could recover the additional cost through lower fuel costs within five years
  • 46% think a PEV could fit their household’s transportation needs
  • 45% claim to be knowledgeable about PEVs
  • 42% of respondents met all three PHEV criteria and could drive a PHEV today
  • 40% would pay more if they could recover the additional cost through lower fuel costs within five years
  • 38% would not consider buying a PEV
  • 33% met all requirements but charging access (in other words, access to an electric outlet for these respondents would increase PHEV eligible respondents from 42% to 75%)
  • 25% of U.S. households meet the basic requirements for using a BEV
  • 14% have access to recharge a PEV at work or school

If you know of anyone considering an EV – PHEV or BEV – you may consider printing out the above list to see how many criteria are met.

The two primary concerns of potential EV adoption are repair cost (55%) and range (54%). The first is easily addressed – EVs have electric motors with one moving part plus bearings compared to complex gasoline engines. The transmission is a one-speed reduction gear, compared to a complicated automatic transmission. Both of these major components require little maintenance. The rest of the car is similar to a gasoline powered car mechanically. Next! If you drive more than 60 miles each weekday on a regular basis, consider a PHEV rather than a BEV. Or consider BMW’s new i3 EV with Range Extender (found here). We still think that this BMW model offers significant potential for a large segment of the population and hope to see more manufacturers develop true EVs with range extenders.

A couple of other observations before we wrap up. Employers providing an electric outlet would encourage EV adoption. This could be a simple 120-volt outdoor outlet. With over half of respondents driving 30 miles per day or less, charging for eight hours or less on 120-volt power would be more than enough for these drivers. This would equate to a benefit of about $0.75 per day. And if you fall into the 48% that would not buy an EV even if you could recover the additional cost through lower fuel costs there is a simple answer – lease it. Nissan is still offering the LEAF S at $199 per month, and the top line LEAF SL at $296 per month, both 36 month terms. Calculate your gas cost over the next three years. Your electric bill for the EV will typically be one third to one fourth of your gasoline bill. You can figure out if the savings are worth it.

To read the survey methodology, assumptions, and results, we have provided a direct link to the survey (found here). Below is the infographic provided by UCS:

EV-Survey-Infographic

 

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