Trucks at Work
Will EVs sell?

Will EVs sell?

It seems the car-shopping public still has a long way to go concerning electric vehicle consideration and understanding the realities of electric vehicle technology.” –James Bell, executive market analyst for Kelley Blue Book's kbb.com

A new survey conducted by Kelley Blue Book discerns a troubling outlook in terms of consumer attitudes about electric vehicles (EVs): only 7% of car shoppers say they are likely to consider an EV for their next new-vehicle purchase or lease.

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This has big implications for commercial fleets using pure EVs and/or hybrid models (be they of the gasoline- or diesel-electric variety). The reason is simple: without economies of scale, we can’t lower the cost of the most expensive parts of an EV or hybrid – the batteries.

Consumers need to buy significant numbers of EVs and/or hybrids in order to drive the price for battery development and production down for everyone – commercial fleets and everyday motorists alike.

So when only 7% of consumers indicate they are likely to even just consider buying or leasing an EV, much less actually buy one, despite all the media hoopla about how these vehicles reduce petroleum dependency and tailpipe emissions, that’s a big problem.

[Here’s an overview of the new Nissan LEAF EV, filmed by Green Energy News filmed, with Mark Perry, director of product planning for Nissan North America highlighting the vehicles details.]

Now, to be fair, KBB’s survey may not accurately reflect the complete car-buying picture as its representative sample is quite small, polling just 219 in-market car shoppers on the company’s web site from October 10-25 this year. That being said, though, KBB’s survey does offer EV and hybrid vehicle makers a view of the challenges they face in terms of consumer issues with their products.

For the majority of KBB’s survey respondents, the primary concerns about EVs include the drivable range on a single charge (87%) and availability of charging stations (84%). In addition, on average, respondents said they would expect an electric vehicle to get 340 miles per charge in order for it to meet their needs – even though most of the car shoppers polled (78%) said that if they were to purchase an EV, it would primarily be used as an everyday or commuter vehicle.

Concerning value, nearly all car shoppers (91%) feel that electric vehicles are expensive, with 43% percent expect that electric vehicles will not retain their value as well as conventional gas cars, according to KBB’s poll.

[KBB also put together a nice overview of the Chevrolet Volt that’s worth a look.]

More worrisome, less than half of respondents (45%) said they are interested in electric vehicle technology. For those interested in electric vehicle technology, the primary reason cited was reduction in reliance on foreign oil (85%), reduction in pollution (83%) and reduction in vehicle emissions (83%).

Only 37% said they were interested in electric vehicle technology due to potential tax credits, while just a mere 8% said they were interested because of potential access to carpool lane stickers.

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Of those interested in electric vehicle technology, the majority (65% said they were open to purchasing an electric vehicle from a company that has not previously sold vehicles in the U.S., KBB found in its survey.

In gauging awareness of particular electric vehicle models, KBB said shoppers in its survey said they were most aware of the Chevrolet Volt at 71%, followed by the Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid at 68%.

The Ford Escape plug-in hybrid came in third for awareness at 46%, while the Nissan LEAF came in fourth at 45%. The Tesla Roadster came in fifth, with 39% awareness among the consumers polled by KBB.

“Time will tell whether this [EV] technology will be readily adopted by a large number of mainstream car buyers, or if this will just be another flash in the pan of vehicle history,” noted James Bell, executive market analyst for KBB.

He’s got that right. The question is, how much time can manufacturers and suppliers afford to give in order for the consumer to make up their mind on the subject?