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Reliability, price remain hurdles for EV adoption, survey says

Concerns about price and reliability may stop consumers from buying electric vehicles long before they set foot on the showroom floor, according to a new report.
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Written by Andrew Nusca on

Concerns about price and reliability may stop consumers from buying electric vehicles long before they set foot on the showroom floor, according to a new report.

Plug-in electric vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt will come to market at the end of 2010 with lots of hype, but a new survey from Pike Research indicates that consumers are already skeptical.

Their key concerns:

  • EV technology has not yet been proven.
  • EVs may not be as reliable as traditional gasoline vehicles.

Interestingly, it's not "range anxiety" -- that is, fear that you'll run out of charge before you're home -- that's got consumers so worried, according to the survey.

Despite this, Pike says the early adopter market should help the industry "easily meet" expectations for the first few years. The question is whether the early adopter experience can assist the broader market in getting comfortable about EVs.

Some stats:

  • 44 percent of respondents said they would be “extremely” or “very” interested in purchasing a plug-in EV with a driving range of 40 to 100 miles.
  • 83 percent of survey respondents drive 40 miles or less in a typical day, "making 'range anxiety' a non-issue for the majority of prospective PEV drivers." (Note: one could argue that anxiety may prove to be a hurdle despite this reality.)
  • Broad appeal: levels of interest in plug-in EVs were "not dramatically different" between demographic segments such as age, gender, income and level of education.
  • The optimal price point for EVs is 18.75 percent above the base price of a comparable gasoline vehicle. The rub: automakers' intended prices for them are much higher.

The survey also demonstrated that people just want their problems to be solved, and care little about what type of EV it takes to fill the bill.

When asked to choose between five different plug-in hybrid and all-electric range and price options, respondents reported similar interest levels for less expensive plug-in hybrids with a 10-mile range and more expensive all-electric vehicles with a 100-mile range.

Interestingly, respondents reported trust in the following marques for an EV:

  • Ford (51 percent)
  • Honda (50 percent)
  • Chevrolet (45 percent)
  • Nissan (33 percent)

The first two haven't yet announced plug-in EVs on the market, revealing that brand loyalty may actually be a stronger driver than interest in new technology. (Or, succinctly: "If it doesn't have a blue oval on the grille, I'm not buying it." And vice-versa.)

Finally, 63 percent of respondents indicated that they would be “extremely” or “very” interested in upgrading to a residential “fast charging” outlet, which would slash charging times from five hours to one hour.

On the other hand, only 20 percent of respondents said they would be willing to pay $500 or more for that convenience. fast charging. (Currently, residential fast charging outlets retail for $500 to $800.)

And as for reliability? Thirty-three percent of respondents said they "don't feel it would be as reliable as a regular gasoline vehicle." Another 23 percent questioned the quality of an electric vehicle, too.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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