The Chevrolet Volt is a data driven design in many ways. The shape is driven by aerodynamic data. Its conception was in part driven by public perception data. Its powertrain architecture was driven by empirical data about how drivers actually use their cars. For example, roughly three quarters of all drivers in the U.S. use their vehicles less than 40 miles per day and the Volt will be able to drive on the battery alone for that distance.
Thus, the results of a new survey from Pike Research should not be a surprise to anyone. Among 1,041 respondents, 48 percent indicated they were "extremely" or "very" interested in buying a plug-in hybrid with a 40-mile electric range. They also said they would like to have public charging stations at work, school and shopping locations.
There is just one small fly in the ointment. A willingness, or rather, an unwillingness, to pay the cost. All indications are that cars like the Volt or even a plug-in Toyota Prius are likely to cost somewhere around $40,000 before incentives. A similar conventional car rarely costs more than about $20-25,000. According to the survey, customers are only willing to pay about a 12% premium for such a car. Even starting from $25K, that only gets you to $28,000, leaving a hefty gap to overcome. This is likely to be a serious problem for carmakers over the next five-to-10 years as the government and environmental groups push for plug-in vehicles.