Who Killed The Electric Car? So Far, It Looks Like The Consumer

EV market researchMarketing and selling electric cars seems to be a rather frustrating exercise. According to a recent survey conducted by infas, a social research and market institute in Bonn (Germany), drivers’ expectations and their actual behavior are wildly different. This leads them to avoid electric cars because of perceived shortcomings which actually have no effect on most drivers’ daily habits.

The study, titled the “Continental Mobility Study 2011” was published last month. It involved young drivers (aged 35 or less) in four countries (Germany, France, China, and the United States) and ten cities (Berlin, Hamburg, Paris, Los Angeles, Sao Paulo, Moscow, Beijing, Bangkok, Delhi, and Singapore).

Did You Say Frustrating?

One of the most mind-boggling results from the survey was that while 90% of respondents in all countries drove less than 60 miles a day, a high number (75% in Germany and 50% in the U.S.) would be “very unhappy” if they had to refill/recharge their vehicles every 90 miles (I know people like that). Most of these respondents also had designated parking places, and about half in total had electrical outlets available at said parking spaces. Furthermore, quite a few respondents left their cars parked for several hours at a time at home (prime charging time!).

To be a little more specific, 35% of American respondents reported that their car spent at least 2.5 hours at a time parked at home during the day. 10% said they left their cars parked at least 6.5 hours without moving it during the work day. And 40% of respondents said they hadn’t used their cars at all on the day they answered the survey.

And yet, they still don’t want to have to refuel every 90 miles, even when the car is parked at home anyway, where a plug is probably available.

Consumers Claim High Interest

The respondents themselves said they were interested in the technology; to quote Continental Executive Board Chairman Dr. Elmar Degenhart as reported by oekonews:

“The part of the market researched showed pretty significant interest in buying an electric car. The consumers are just waiting for an affordable every-day middle-class vehicle with mature technology that is also comfortable. However, they will start actually buying it first when the price is significantly reduced.”

Don’t want much, do you.

So Who’s Actually Going To Buy An Electric Car?

The study took the potential demand and applied a suitable use pattern (70% of trips being short drives, no more than 90 miles per day, and no more than 4 trips of longer than 60 miles per month), concrete buyer intention, and the expectation of a high sticker price for an EV. The results aren’t exactly heartening – China has the highest number of potential buyers at 14%, followed by Germany, the U.S., and finally France with 1%. Ouch.

Most drivers across the board named price as the most important factor in their decision to buy (or not to buy) an electric car, followed by the availability of public charging stations (again, despite parking at home near an electrical outlet!), tax breaks, and other subsidies. In other words, make it cheaper than a gasoline-powered car, and they’ll buy it.

Jose A. Avila, Continental Executive Board Member, spoke about the necessity of standardizing components across the industry, and informing consumers about the actual advantages and disadvantages of electric cars; misconceptions abound. According to oekonews, he said:

“We have to have the information cleared up. The study shows overwhelmingly that drivers who drive less than 20 miles a day are deeply afraid that they won’t have enough range in an electric car. And that is a completely unfounded fear.”

The Numbers

Other factors evaluated by the survey included how nice the car was (or looked) and how much the environment matters to the driver. For those of you interested in some of the numerical results from the survey, look no farther than below:

Across the Board

  • 80% of all respondents wanted to own their own car, regardless of where they lived.
  • 90% of all respondents do not drive more than 60 miles per day.

By Country

United States
  • 62% claim to try to use fewer resources when driving.
  • 41% named price as the most important issue when considering an electric car.
  • 27% want the neighbors to envy their car.
  • 2% will likely purchase an electric car.
  • 40% think EVs will become normal by 2021 (and yet they’re not buying them).
Germany
  • 74% claim to try to use fewer resources when driving.
  • 43% named price as the most important issue when considering an electric car.
  • 14% want the neighbors to envy their car (a likely story).
  • 4% will likely purchase an electric car.
  • 50% think EVs will become normal by 2021 (yet again, they’re not buying them).
China
  • 70% claim to try to use fewer resources when driving.
  • 49% named price as the most important issue when considering an electric car.
  • 59% want the neighbors to envy their car.
  • 14% will likely purchase an electric car.
  • 60% think EVs will become normal by 2021.
France
  • 68% claim to try to use fewer resources when driving.
  • 49% named price as the most important issue when considering an electric car.
  • 36% want the neighbors to envy their car.
  • 1% will likely purchase an electric car.
  • 12% think EVs will become normal by 2021 (still not buying them, though).

All the data can be found in the survey report here (in PDF format).

Source: infas, via oekonews.at | Image: Wikimedia Commons.

 

Charis Michelsen

spent 7 years living in Germany and Japan, studying both languages extensively, doing translation and education with companies like Bosch, Nissan, Fuji Heavy, and others. Charis has a Bachelor of Science degree in biology and currently lives in Chicago, Illinois. She also believes that Janeway was the best Star Trek Captain.