Pike Research: Unproven Reliability Concerns May Hinder PEV Demand

According to a new survey from Pike Research, some skeptical consumers may not be ready to buy plug-in electrical vehicles (PEVs) because they are concerned that the technology has not yet been proven, and it may not be as reliable as traditional gasoline vehicles.

“The electric vehicle industry has been very focused on addressing so-called driving ‘range anxiety,’ the term used to describe consumers’ qualms about the effective range of a PEV on a single charge,” says senior analyst John Gartner. “But the fact is that a ‘wait-and-see’ approach about the technology itself was a greater issue for consumers in our survey. It could easily take several years for mainstream car shoppers to get comfortable with the idea of electric vehicles.”

However, adds senior analyst Dave Hurst, the flip side of Pike Research’s survey was that 44 percent of respondents stated that they would be “extremely” or “very” interested in purchasing a PEV with a driving range of 40 to 100 miles and an electricity cost equivalent of $0.75 per gallon. “Despite the skepticism of many consumers, the early adopter market should easily meet the industry’s expectations for the first few years of electric vehicle sales,” says Hurst.

Other key findings of the survey are:

  • 83 percent of survey respondents drive 40 miles or less in a typical day, making “range anxiety” a non-issue.
  • levels of interest in PEVs were not dramatically different between demographic segments such as age, gender, income, and level of education, suggesting that these vehicles should have solid mass-market appeal in the long term.
  • price sensitivity analysis indicates that automakers will face challenges when marketing PEVs. The optimal price point (OPP) for PEVs is 18.75 percent above the base price of a comparable gasoline vehicle, but this is still significantly lower than automakers’ intended prices.

When asked to choose between five different plug-in hybrid and all-electric range/price options, respondents did not state a clear preference for any single configuration. For example, interest levels were very similar for less expensive plug-in hybrids with a 10-mile range and more expensive all-electric vehicles with a 100-mile range.

When asked which vehicle brands they would consider for an electric vehicle, panelists were most likely to choose Ford (51 percent) and Honda (50 percent), two automakers who do not currently have PEVs on the market. Chevrolet (45 percent) and Nissan (33 percent), the two major manufacturers launching models in 2010, ranked third and fifth, respectively.

Pike Research’s report, "Electric Vehicle Consumer Survey,” analyzes results from a Web-based survey of 1,042 consumers based on a nationally representative and demographically balanced sample of adults in the United States. The report examines the dynamics of consumer demand for PEVs, fast residential charging outlets, and workplace, public, and private charge points. It includes a detailed analysis of price sensitivity and optimal price points for PEVs, as well as data related to typical consumer driving patterns that will affect demand for such vehicles. The report also includes comparison of demand among different demographic segments. An Executive Summary of the report is available for free download from the company's website. The full report is available for a fee.