EV drivers may or may not be proud, but those looking to drive one of today's electric vehicles certainly do appear to be few. At least, that's the result of a new survey by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited . In a survey of more than 13,000 drivers in 17 countries, only 2 to 4 percent (!) would have their expectations met by the current generation of electric vehicles.
The good news is that the EV market is not as gloomy as those numbers may suggest. In the United States, 12 percent of drivers were willing to be early adopters of EVs and another 42 percent said they were open to the idea of going electric. What makes Deloitte's bottom line EV approval number look so puny is the way they went about their evaluation. They took the starting number and chopped out those who considered range limitations to be important, then reduced it by those who didn't like long battery charge times, then trimmed again by those who didn't want to pay a price premium, and so on. The result is the 2-4 percent of people who are dead set on getting an EV, which is actually somewhat impressive, no? By the time the 2-4 percenters get their vehicles, we assume we'll be well into the next generation of EVs, which will appeal to a broader portion of the population. And so on.
DETROIT, Oct. 4, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Consumers worldwide expect electric vehicles to travel farther, require less charge time and retail for a lower price than automakers are offering, according to a new survey from Deloitte.
In fact, consumers' expectations around performance and purchase price are so divergent from the actual offerings available today, that no more than 2 to 4 percent of consumers worldwide would have their expectations met, according to the survey.
The survey, "Unplugged: Electric vehicle realities versus consumer expectations," canvassed more than 13,000 consumers in 17 countries across the Americas, Asia and Europe - revealing a general desire among consumers to buy electric vehicles, but a strong unwillingness to compromise on key performance criteria and especially price.
In the United States, 12 percent of respondents indicate they would be a potential "first mover" when it comes to adopting an electric vehicle - with an additional 42 percent saying they "might be willing to consider" purchasing or leasing an electric vehicle. However, most global consumers, including those in the United States, would base their final decision on the greatest challenges associated with electric vehicles in the market today. These include range, convenience to charge and purchase price of the vehicle - all of which a vast majority (more than 85 percent) of survey respondents ranked as "extremely important" or "very important" considerations for buying or leasing an electric vehicle.
"Vehicle range is clearly an issue among consumers," says Craig Giffi, vice chairman and automotive practice leader, Deloitte LLP. "American consumers have the highest range expectations with only 63 percent satisfied with a range of 300 miles - despite the fact that 77 percent of American respondents said they drive only 50 miles or less per weekday.
"The paradox here," Giffi adds, "is that current technology targeted at the mass market can usually accomplish a range of 100 miles between charges, which is twice as far as the typical American drives each work day. Yet, for some reason, the 100-miles-a-day capability is still unacceptable to most consumers; they want at least 300 miles between charges."
The survey also shows consumers want faster battery charge times. The majority of American consumers surveyed (58 percent) expect an electric vehicle to recharge its battery in two hours or less, and nearly one in four Americans (23 percent) expect a 30-minute charge time. Overall, in all countries, only a minority viewed up to eight hours (the normal time it takes to recharge the typical battery in today's vehicles) as acceptable.
The more significant issue confronting automotive industry executives and policymakers around the world is unwillingness of consumers to pay much, if any, price premium for an electric vehicle. Specifically, consumers will not pay more for an electric vehicle than they currently pay for a comparable vehicle with a gasoline or diesel engine.
More than 50 percent of all consumers globally indicate they are unwilling to pay any kind of a price premium for an electric vehicle, which includes 65 percent of American respondents. Interestingly, Chinese consumers are most willing to pay a price premium, but even still, 44 percent indicate they will not pay anything extra. Consumers in the United Kingdom and Belgium are the most sensitive to paying a price premium with 71 percent opposing.
Complicating the price premium issue further is the low overall price expectations consumers have for an electric vehicle. In 11 of the 17 countries where the survey was conducted, 50 percent or more of consumers said they expect a price of $20,000 or less for an electric vehicle, far below actual costs. Consumers in the United States exhibit a good understanding of what electric vehicles will likely cost at the dealer with only 34 percent looking to purchase an electric vehicle for $20,000 or less. Nonetheless, 78 percent of American respondents expect to pay no more than $30,000 for an electric vehicle.
"Automotive executives and policymakers trying to encourage the adoption of 'green' personal mobility solutions face a dilemma: While current electric vehicle technology can satisfy a meaningful niche of consumers when it comes to range and charge time expectations, these consumers are unwilling to pay a price premium for this new and expensive electric vehicle technology," says Giffi.
X-factors: Fuel cost, conventional-vehicle efficiency
The survey also shows consumers in the United States continue to see high fuel prices as a motivating factor for purchasing an electric vehicle. In fact, this summer's national gasoline prices averaged around $4 per gallon, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Agency; this price point was consistent with what survey respondents would consider their tipping point on buying an electric vehicle. More than half (53 percent) of American survey respondents said a price point of $4 per gallon (an increase of approximately 10 percent over today's gasoline prices) improves their likelihood of buying or leasing an electric vehicle. Around the world, on average, it would take nearly a 28 percent increase in local gasoline prices at the pump to result in a majority of consumers being more willing to purchase or lease an electric vehicle.
Conversely, the survey reveals that improvements in fuel efficiency for gasoline and diesel vehicles reduce the appetite for electric vehicles. Though the tipping points may vary slightly from country to country, the study found that more than half of consumers across the globe - 57 percent in China and 68 percent in the United States - will be much less likely to consider purchasing an electric vehicle if fuel efficiency standards approached the 50 miles-per-gallon benchmark.
"At 50 miles-per-gallon, the majority of consumers around the world lose interest in electric vehicles - and if today's gasoline or diesel vehicles consistently hit 75 miles-per-gallon, interest in pure battery electric vehicles falls off the cliff," says Joe Vitale, automotive sector leader for Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited.
"The irony in the Unites States," says Giffi, "is the higher Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards become, and the closer auto manufacturers come to meeting them by using a combination of more fuel efficient gasoline engines and electrified technology, the less interested consumers become in pure battery electric vehicles that use no gasoline."
The study also suggested that as consumers become more experienced with electric vehicles, new considerations for adoption - beyond factors such as range, convenience to charge, and cost to charge - will likely emerge, especially operating costs to maintain and repair the vehicle and total cost of ownership including considerations on residual value of the vehicle.
"There is a clear disconnect between consumers' expectations for electric vehicles and the actual capabilities and costs of technologies available in the market today," says Giffi. "As consumers become more educated and as technology evolves, we certainly expect that gap to shrink, but neither will happen overnight.
"For the time being, the mass adoption of electric vehicles is more likely to occur in countries that are willing and able to take an aggressive policy approach that encourages and subsidizes the market. And in today's world, with so many sovereign debt challenges, that is very likely to be a road less traveled."
For a copy of the report, "Unplugged: Electric vehicle realities versus consumer expectations," please visit www.deloitte.com/us/electricvehicles.
Global Electric Vehicle Research
Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited's (DTTL) Global Manufacturing Industry group conducted a global survey to explore consumer adoption of electric vehicles. The online survey conducted between November 2010 and May 2011 captures the views of more than 13,000 consumers across the Americas, Asia and Europe in 17 countries – Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Korea, Spain, Taiwan, Turkey, United Kingdom, and the United States. To qualify for the survey, potential respondents had to be 18 years of age or older and to have a driver's license. The survey asked respondents, among other things, how likely they would be to consider buying or leasing an electric vehicle when they buy or lease their next vehicle (assuming that electric vehicles were readily available) and how likely they were to actually buy or lease an electric vehicle. The research analyzed the characteristics and opinions of three groups based on their purchase interest: Potential first movers are consumers who are most likely to buy or lease an electric vehicle; Might-be-willing to consider are consumers who are interested, but less likely to consider an electric vehicle; and Not likely to consider consumer who would not be interested in buying or leasing an electric vehicle. The margin of error for survey results about the total sample was 1.0 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. The margin of error was higher for survey results about sub-groups within the sample.
Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited Global Manufacturing Industry group
The Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited (DTTL) Global Manufacturing Industry group is comprised of more than 750 member firm partners and 12,000 industry professionals in over 45 countries. The group's deep industry knowledge, service line experience, and thought leadership allows them to solve complex business issues with member firm clients in every corner of the globe. DTTL member firms attract, develop, and retain the very best professionals and instill a set of shared values centered on
integrity, value to clients, and commitment to each other and strength from diversity. DTTL member firms provide professional services to 84 percent of the manufacturing industry companies on the Fortune Global 500®. For more information about the Global Manufacturing Industry group, please visit www.deloitte.com/manufacturing.
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