Electric vehicles: A steep hill to climb to gain acceptance – survey

Electric vehicles have a long way to go before they are acceptable to most American new-car buyers – at least 100 miles more.

And then there are the other issues with electrics …

With several planned models expected to top 200 miles on a single charge, including the Tesla Model 3 and the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt, a recent survey found that more than half of prospective new-car buyers (56 percent) won’t consider a plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) unless it goes at least 300 miles.


The survey also found that nearly eight of 10 respondents (79 percent) were unaware of any electric vehicle charging stations along the routes they drive during a typical day.

“Differences in PEVs and conventional gasoline vehicles might prove to be barriers to broad PEV acceptance,” according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which recently conducted a survey of more than 1,000 households. “The distance a PEV can travel on a single electric charge and the availability of charging stations may be two such PEV-specific barriers.”

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The energy lab also stated that “any new advanced vehicle technology may carry a significant incremental up front cost that may deter purchasers.”

While a gasoline vehicle is limited to the distance it can travel on a single tank of fuel, “gasoline stations are relatively prevalent and gasoline vehicles are relatively quick to refuel.” PEVs are limited by battery size or capacity, availability of charging equipment and the time required to recharge the battery.

Current vehicle ownership shows just how steep the road electrics have to travel to gain acceptance.

An “overwhelming majority” of households (86 percent) own traditional gasoline vehicles at the time of the survey, followed by ethanol-capable and diesel vehicles at 10 percent and 8 percent, respectively.

Only 2 percent of households had a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle or pure electric vehicle.

“A broad set of factors [affects] consumers’ willingness to purchase vehicles,” said the energy lab. “Even when considering established technologies, consumers’ interest and purchase behavior varies to meet their transportation needs. For a new vehicle technology to succeed, consumers will need to become aware of the technology and accept how the new technology can meet their needs.”

Some other survey findings included the following:

  • 58 percent of respondents said they will not purchase or lease a plug-in electric for their next vehicle and 51 percent will not purchase or lease a hybrid. Another 24 percent said they doubt they will even consider a hybrid and 22 percent won’t consider a pure electric vehicle.
  • 52 percent stated that plug-in hybrid vehicles are just as good as or better than gasoline vehicles, while 45 percent stated that pure EVs are just as good or better.
  • 49 percent reported having at least seen a plug-in electric vehicle in a parking lot, but 43 percent of respondents say they have “never been in or near a PEV.”
  • 48 percent were able to name a specific plug-in electric vehicle make and model, while 42 percent could name one of the top nine best-selling makes and models. The models named most often were the Chevrolet Volt, Toyota Prius, Tesla Model S and Nissan Leaf.

For more details, see Consumer Views on Plug-in Electric Vehicles – National Benchmark Report online.

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