More evidence of consumer electric vehicle angst

More evidence of consumer electric vehicle angst

Summary: Whether it is range anxiety or safety fears, 87 percent of U.S. adults have some sort of nagging concern about EV technology.

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Apparently close to 90 percent of us have some sort of anxiety or concern about electric vehicles, which is probably a big factor in slower than expected electric vehicle sales over the past 12 months.

The data is part of the Consumer Reports 2012 Car Brand Perception Survey, which covers much broader issues than just the electric vehicle movement. Data was collected from 1,702 adults who lived in households with at least one home; the survey period was early December 2011.

What exactly are people worried about?

A majority of them (77 percent) fret over range concerns for electric and plug-in hybrids, even though most cars currently available have a much larger range that the average American drives during the course of a day.

Fewer of the Consumer Reports survey respondents were worried about safety: slightly less than one-third (28 percent) point up safety worries as a reason to stay out of the driver's seat of an electric vehicle. Actually, far more of the respondents said they believed electric and plug-in hybrids were at least as safe as gasoline-powered alternatives.

Two other things that apparently worry people: the silence of electric vehicles, which some believe could result in more pedestrian mishaps and accidents, and the potential for fires started by home electric vehicle charging equipment.

Whether or not any of these fires are founded -- there really hasn't been much evidence that any of these things is a big issue -- the electric vehicle industry still has a lot of marketing and education to do in order to reverse these perceptions.

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35 comments
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  • Ummm, how about no heat or air conditioning?

    I'm sure somebody will find some example of an EV with both, but typically, there's no heat or AC in them, and when it's below zero, or pushing 100, those things are pretty darn nice.
    Takalok
    • RE: More evidence of consumer electric vehicle angst

      @Takalok

      I don't know where you get your information from, but certainly both the Nissan Leaf and the Chevy Volt have both heat and A/C.
      msalzberg
      • RE: More evidence of consumer electric vehicle angst

        @msalzberg

        That means instead of 40 miles between charges you get 20 miles between charges. [i]Awesome[/i].
        ScorpioBlack
    • ...in the car OR in the house!

      Consider also the extra stress added to the electric power supply grid. We already have rolling blackouts today resulting from increased use of computers and electrical gadgets, the power demands of which are dwarfed by those of electric vehicles. When my household power goes out because my neighbors are "filling up", I won't be a happy camper.
      DittoHeadStL
  • Range is a legitimate issue

    While my daily commute is within the range of current EVs, that is not the total equation. I also do trips for a variety of reasons: Visiting family, doctors, vacations, shopping, etc. Why would I want to have two vehicles to cover what one can do? I can drive cross country in my car, refueling as needed. No EV offers me that convienence and flexibility.

    The solution is hydrogen fuel cell powered EVs, but Obama killed the program started by Bush to move us in that direction.
    itpro_z
    • RE: More evidence of consumer electric vehicle angst

      @itpro_z

      For most people (including myself), an EV would make sense. I rarely drive more than 10 - 15 miles in a day, and if I do, my wife rarely drives more than 10 a day. We could get by with one EV and a gas powered car. But we would need both for those days we each have places too far for a pure EV. The Volt would work for us.

      I agree on hydrogen fuel cells: They are the future. Unfortunately, extracting the hydrogen isn't cheap, and setting up an infrastructure of filling stations would be a massive project.

      By the way, Obama didn't kill the program, although he did cut it back. Try getting the funding past the Oil-industry Lobby known as Congress.
      msalzberg
      • Hydrogen

        @msalzberg, to some extent we already have most of the infrastructure in place to transport hydrogen in the form of existing natural gas pipelines. Getting it to the fuel stations would not be a great task.

        Regarding your statement about Congress, it was not Congress that killed the initiative started by Bush, but Obama. Under Bush's plan, nuclear reactors along the coast would convert sea water into hydrogen to be piped to the consumer. A big part of Obama's base is totally against nuclear power, so the program was killed. As for the oil companies being against hydrogen power, they are precisely the ones with the expertise to produce, transport, and market hydrogen. Do you think Exxon, etc, are not aware of the finite resource upon which they now depend? Give them tax incentives to develop the technology and watch how fast they can move.
        itpro_z
      • @itpro_z

        natural gas lines cannot transport hydrogen. Hydrogen has a nasty habit of oozing right through solid metal, so you'll basically be leaking hydrogen all along your pipeline.

        The best way to transport hydrogen is in gasoline. You get lots of energy when you crack those hydrogen-carbon bonds.
        baggins_z
      • RE: More evidence of consumer electric vehicle angst

        @msalzberg

        Why should the Government (ie: you and me) pay to subsidize the cost of a consumer product?
        gribittmep
  • RE: More evidence of consumer electric vehicle angst

    Gets over a 100F here.
    Need ac and I like having a decent powered stereo.
    I drive 22 miles round trip for work, I hop into my work truck there.
    Not far at all.
    The expense is too expensive. A cheaper Toyota or Honda that gets major MPG and has all the amenities is way better.
    However I drive a Ford Supercrew pick up. I gas up once every two weeks and use the Winn Dixie gas discount. I got 50 cents off a gallon last time I gassed up.
    MoeFugger
  • RE: More evidence of consumer electric vehicle angst

    My V4 Honda Accord 4-door 5-speed gets 36-38 mpg on the highway. That's better than some hybrids.

    EV need to step it up.
    wendellgee2
  • RE: More evidence of consumer electric vehicle angst

    Range and price says it all - These things are WAY to expensive for what you get. The auto industry needs to concentrate on these two things before the public will ever bite and stop trying to peddle half baked solutions that no one wants. GM has already cut back on the Volt production. They need to be sensible & quit rushing these cars to production until the range & price fits what Americans will buy.
    bump911
  • What other surprises?

    There's also resale value. Deserved or not, 35% of those polled worry about fires. When a third of the market is scared of the product, the resale value gets clobbered. Plus there's just the fact that these things are new. What other surprises might lurk in them that would hurt resale?

    Ultimately time and familiarity will make most of these go away. But not for a good ten years.
    Robert Hahn
    • What other surprises?

      Never mind the range & price.

      How about finding a convenient electrical outlet to plug it into?

      Or if it's raining outside, do you get electrocuted when you do plug it in?

      Or the added coal and nuclear powerplants we'd have to add to the nation's electrical grid to meet demand?

      Gee, nobody wants to think about any of that. Doh.
      ScorpioBlack
      • I actually calculated how many power plants you'd need to build

        if all passenger cars in the United States were electrical. I used gallons of gas burned as provided by the DOT, the energy in a gallon of gasoline, the efficiency of gasoline vs. electric, and assumed one coal-fired power plant would produce 500 megawatts. The number was 50 new power plants. Good luck with getting those built.
        baggins_z
      • Oh, and don't forget spiking prices due to lithium shortages

        as we make a hundred million battery packs. You think oil is rare? Try lithium.
        baggins_z
    • More surprises

      Has anyone come up with battery replacement costs, what about green fees to dispose of the old batteries? Forget the claimed 10 year life span, the batteries will fail short time or long, youll need a lawyer to figure out the warranty exclusions. Has any of the manufacturers mentioned that the battery life gets shorter as the pack ages, ask your professional contractor who uses portable tools about life expectancy as batteries get used.<br><br>baggins_z mentions lithium shortages!! and the need for additional power plants, who has calculated this cost. What about the cost of hydro, here in Canada it's increasing considerably faster than inflation, what'll happen with millions of electric vehicles on the road?<br><br>ScorpioBlack mentions heat and A/C, electric heat is the most efficient available, 1500 watts (1.5KW) is 1500 watts of heat (5118 BTUs) but we will pull this straight out of the battery pack, for heat in the northern US and Canada we would need a minimum of 5 to 10kw for alone, wow what a drain on the battery! Hey, maybe take a page from the old VW Beetle, put a gasoline heater in the EV, that would save the batteries. While we're at it let's heat the battery pack with the same gasoline heater during the winter to try to maintain your driving range, I may be wrong but lithium batteries could lose 50% of their energy at 0c (32F) just like lead acid cells do. Lets forgo the heat and wear heavy fur clothing and wrap a fur blanky around the battery pack, damn thats no good PETA will get all upset!<br><br>ScorpioBlack mentions electrocution, there would be (or should be) safety interlocks and GFIs (ground fault interrupts) as well as insulated disconnect switches for connecting the battery chargers.<br><br>Speaking of charging, the faster you charge a battery the shorter its lifespan, so dont fast charge the pack.<br><br>OK, Ill stop my rant before I say too much and get put on a hit list.<br><br>PS<br>MoeFugger, I drive a Ford Supercrew as well, lets see an EV replace this for my 60km daily commute with my electricians tools in it!
      panelshop
  • RE: More evidence of consumer electric vehicle angst

    "...even though most cars currently available have a much larger range that the average American drives during the course of a day."

    You are implying that range shouldn't be an issue, then?

    Listen, "averages" don't mean much here. I don't buy a vehicle based on what I might need in an average day; I buy a vehicle to cover as much of my transportation needs as possible. Having a vehicle that gets me to-and-from work everyday, but is useless if I want to go out of town over the weekend or even for a jaunt to the far side of the Metro area, well...that's just a total waste to me. It's not an attractive option at all.

    That proponents of these short-range vehicles try to gloss over this glaring deficiency just baffles me! They're baffled at the lack of mass adoption by the general populace and I'm baffled at their bafflement! :)

    I was very interested in the Chevy Volt concept when I first heard about it, but its actual implementation in the end strayed toward the hybrid concept as I understand it, rather than a truly electric vehicle with a gas-powered generator for extended range. My interest waned a bit. Then I heard that there were still concerns about battery fires/explosions/meltdowns in a crash. As a consumer, this dampened my enthusiasm further (and I fully admit that I don't know how much of a concern it should be, but I have a memory of an early electric car in our town that caught fire one day--I was just across the street and saw it happen--and within minutes was a total loss. Luckily the driver was able to quickly bale). So, the industry still has their job cut out for them: They need to create a compelling product that satisfies the vast majority of my transportation needs while quelling my safety concerns and to-date they have not. It's not my responsibility to feel like I need to make sacrifices and buy their lacking products because that's the "best they're able to do" and/or because someone else thinks I need to help the environment (which in this case is of questionable value to that end, anyway). I'll venture to bet that such practical considerations are the root of many people's thoughts.
    tr7oy
    • RE: More evidence of consumer electric vehicle angst

      @tr7oy

      "Listen, 'averages' don't mean much here. I don't buy a vehicle based on what I might need in an average day; I buy a vehicle to cover as much of my transportation needs as possible"

      Agreed. Totally agreed.

      Let's be honest: Most people can't afford an extra vehicle only for work. They just can't. Cars are an expensive, long-term investment. Most families will have one or two. Not everybody can be Jay Leno.

      Thus, the vast majority of people need a vehicle that doesn't just handle every day trips, but also handles trips they take less frequently.

      I think this is a real problem for electric vehicles.

      And I think glossing over it like Heather does is not doing the industry any real favors. She needs to recognize that this is a real issue, and one that simply cannot be glossed over with statistics. The EV industry really does need to address this shortcoming in a real way, and in a way that doesn't increase the cost of the vehicle itself.
      CobraA1
  • I love how now matter what range a coal powered car has it's always

    right around what a typical American drives in a day. As if your average driver does all their driving by 10 PM so they can plug the car in for an overnight charge. EVERY NIGHT.
    baggins_z