Electric Car Range: What Buyers Demand, & Range–Price Tradeoff Preferences

In my last article, I started discussing battery preferences of electric car drivers and likely buyers. In our 8th article pulled from Electric Cars: What Early Adopters & First Followers Want — a new report from CleanTechnica, EV Obsession, and GAS2 — we’re diving a lot deeper into the topic of batteries, specifically getting into required range and some hypothetical range–price tradeoffs people would make.

smart electric drive AmsterdamRange on a single charge is clearly one of the key issues with electric cars today. They have much less range than a typical gasoline car. However, approximately 99% of trips are under 50 miles in the US, which is much less than the range of all the electric cars on the market. If you look at total miles driven in a day, on average, Americans drive 70 or fewer miles on approximately 90% of days. That is still under the range of most fully electric cars on the market, and a good 35% lower than the range of the 107-mile 2016 Nissan LEAF.

Nonetheless, range is one place where fully electric cars are disadvantaged compared to gasoline cars, and there is still a lot of consumer concern about the matter.

Trying to better understand how much range is actually required or desired by consumers, we asked a handful of range-related questions in our surveys. Importantly, it’s worth noting that there is a big gap in driving range between the 107-mile Nissan LEAF (which actually only had 84 miles of range at the time the surveys were primarily conducted) and the 230-mile Tesla Model S 70. Keep that gap in mind when looking at the responses below.

We asked respondents about their minimum required range in a fully electric car. Among non-owners, 45% responded that they needed 220 or more miles of range on a single charge. Today, that means that Tesla’s Model S and Model X are the only pure EVs they’d consider. Another 15% are fine with a pure EV with 100 miles of range or less. That leaves a gap where 40% of respondents need less range than a Tesla offers but more than all of the other pure EVs on the market.

range non drivers


 

How did that change when asking current EV drivers the same question? The results were similar. 50% responded that they needed 220 miles of range or more, while 19% stated that they needed 100 miles or less. That leaves 31% who think they need more range than a Nissan LEAF but not as much as a Tesla Model S or X.

range EV drivers

Another important point, though, is that extra range doesn’t come free. It comes with quite a hefty increase in price. Just for the purpose of getting a better sense of people’s range desires relative to price sensitivity, we asked where the “sweet spot” was for respondents between extra range and extra price. The results showed a similar acceptance for lower-range EVs at “the right price.”

Among non-owners, 7% indicated 70 miles for $25,000 (similar to a base-level Nissan LEAF) and 16% indicated 100 miles for $30,000 (similar to the new 107-mile Nissan LEAF). 24% weren’t happy with any of the options and 15% stuck to 220 miles or over (for $50,000 and up). That left a large percentage of respondents who were interested in a range–price tradeoff that is absolutely not present on the market. A strong 16% would like a 130-mile EV for $35,000, 12% would choose a 160-mile EV for $40,000, and 8% would choose a 190-mile EV for $45,000.

range price 1

Among current EV drivers, the responses followed the same pattern. However, we didn’t provide the option to choose “none,” so it is hard to compare precisely. We still see very similar results, though. 7% again indicated 70 miles for $25,000, and 15% indicated 100 miles for $30,000. 29% indicated 220 miles or more. That left 49% interested in a range–price tradeoff that is not present on the market. 21% selected a 130-mile EV for $35,000, 19% selected a 160-mile EV for $40,000, and 10% selected a 190-mile EV for $45,000.

range price 2

Coming back to the non-owner/lessees who weren’t satisfied with any of the options, 23% indicated they’d choose a conventional gasoline or hybrid car instead, 15% said they’d avoid cars altogether, 18% preferred getting a plug-in hybrid, 32% an extended-range electric car (the Chevy Volt is the only such vehicle on the market), and 12% an electric car with a range extender (the BMW i3 REx is the only such vehicle on the market).

alternatives

I also asked respondents about the minimum range they’d accept in a plug-in hybrid or extended-range electric car. 36% of existing EV drivers chose 60 miles (the highest possible choice), 26% chose 50 miles, and 14% chose 40 miles.

Perhaps more interesting, this question hinted at the irrationality of many of our consumer preferences. The most popular choices were 60 miles, 50 miles, 40 miles, and 30 miles, with large drops halfway between each those options at 55 miles, 45 miles, and 35 miles. Clearly, people just favor multiples of 10.

Of the 1,072 respondents, 9% skipped this question, indicating that they would not consider purchasing a PHEV or EREV.

PHEV range

The results from non-EV drivers were a little bit different. 37% answered that they wouldn’t consider a PHEV/EREV. After that, responses were fairly similar, but the top choices were 50 miles, 60 miles, 30 miles, and 40 miles, respectively.

PHEV non-owners

You can download the full “Electric Cars: What Early Adopters & First Followers Want” report here.

Report sponsors include Cost of SolarPlugless, the Low Voltage Vehicle Electrification Event, and Pono Home.

 

Zachary Shahan

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy since 2009. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he's the founder and director of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.