TODAY’S STUDY: WHAT PEOPLE THINK AND KNOW ABOUT ALTERNATIVE FUEL VEHICLES
Electric Vehicle Consumer Survey; Consumer Attitudes, Opinions, and Preferences for Electric Vehicles and EV Charging Stations
4Q 2013 (Navigant Research)
Alternative fuel vehicles, particularly battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), are a small but growing portion of the automotive market. First commercially available in 2010, the volume of BEVs and PHEVs has grown significantly during the last several years, with new auto manufacturers bringing models to market and existing manufacturers reducing prices. Navigant Research expects shipments of BEVs and PHEVs in the United States to reach 30,195 and 59,106, respectively, by the end of 2013. By 2020, shipments are expected to reach 130,641 and 210,772, respectively.
In order to better understand consumer attitudes toward BEVs and PHEVs, Navigant Research conducted a web-based survey of 1,084 consumers in the United States. The survey was executed in the fall of 2013 using a nationally representative and demographically balanced sample. The key findings of this survey are summarized in this report.
» Favorability ratings for alternative fuel vehicles remain high, with all three types of vehicles (hybrid, electric, and natural gas) above the 50% mark for favorability.
» The top five brands consumers would consider for an electric vehicle (EV) include Toyota (46%), Ford (45%), Chevrolet (45%), Honda (42%), and Nissan (30%).
» Consumers are most familiar with the Chevrolet Volt (44%) and the Nissan LEAF (31%). Familiarity with the Tesla Model S, Ford C-Max Energi, and the BMW i3 is below 25% for each.
» While 41% of survey respondents chose the gasoline-only engine as their preferred engine type, the hybrid engine was the most common second choice (20%). In terms of the top three engine preferences, there was a slight difference between gasoline and hybrid engines (64% vs. 63%).
» Two-thirds of consumers surveyed stated that EVs have unique features that stand out from their gasoline counterparts, and 6 out of 10 respondents agreed that EVs are much cheaper to own in the long run than gasoline cars.
» Nearly 50% of consumers said high fuel economy was the most important feature in a vehicle.
» While 41% of consumers were interested in public charging locations, only 16% were willing to pay more than $2 for a 15-minute charge at such locations.
» Consumers had a favorable opinion of all three types of alternative fuel vehicles. Favorability (very favorable or favorable) was highest for hybrid vehicles at 67%, followed by EVs at 61%. Natural gas vehicles (NGVs) also had a high favorability rating at 56%...
Summary and Conclusions
As more alternative fuel vehicles come to market, consumer favorability for hybrids, BEVs, PHEVs, and NGVs is strong. Respondents to Navigant Research’s survey held generally positive opinions of EVs, with the majority agreeing that they have unique features that make them stand apart from their gasoline counterparts. However, interest in BEVs and PHEVs remains moderate. Even under several different scenarios, interest in BEVs and PHEVs remains below 50%, indicating that consumers like the idea of EVs, but may not be won over by their features and price points.
With regard to specific models, consumers were most familiar with the Chevrolet Volt and the Nissan LEAF. Less than a quarter of respondents were familiar with the Tesla Model S, Ford C-Max Energi, and BMW i3. Consumers did not rank any BEV high in regard to being a good value for the price.
Engine, Body Type, and Option Preferences
Despite the growing number of alternative fuel vehicles, consumers rate gasoline-only engine vehicles as their most preferred engine type. However, when the top three preferences for engine type are added up, there is only a slight difference in favorability between the gasoline-only engine (64%) and the hybrid gasoline/electric engine (63%).
When viewed by self-identified technology adopter status, more than 70% of respondents who rated all-electric engines or plug-in hybrid electric engines as their first choice identified themselves as late majority or early majority. This indicates that the market for EVs is expanding beyond the early adopter stage.
Currently, most alternative fuel vehicles are small to midsize passenger cars, the body type consumers rate most desirable. This preference may be tied to fuel efficiency, as it was the top option consumers wanted. Roughly one-third of consumers preferred SUVs. This may be an area for auto manufacturers to explore as they build out their BEV and PHEV portfolios.
While consumers desire fuel efficiency, more than half said they also desire high performance, including acceleration and handling, as well as all-wheel drive capabilities. Environmental benefits of BEVs and PHEVs, such as zero emissions, as well as autonomous capabilities and the ability for the vehicle to provide remote electricity or backup household electricity, were less important.
It is possible that price points could hinder EV adoption, as the majority of consumers say they plan to spend less than $25,000 on their next vehicle. Although prices for some alternative fuel vehicles have declined, the majority remain above this price point.
Public Charging Stations
While interest in public charging stations is moderate, consumers do not appear to be willing to pay for the convenience. Only 40% of respondents were interested, while more than half stated they would only use a quick charge station if the cost were free or less than $1.
While the driving range of BEVs is still limited to a few hundred miles at best, the deployment of public charging stations will continue. Because consumers do not appear to be willing to pay for the convenience of charging BEVs, manufacturers will need to consider the cost of building these stations as part of the cost of doing business.