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2012 Electric Vehicle Ownership Experience Study Results

11/9/2012
Electric vehicles (EVs) will remain a very small part of the U.S. market unless automakers can lower prices and demonstrate to consumers the economic benefits of owning them, according to the recently released J.D. Power and Associates 2012 Electric Vehicle Ownership Experience Study.SM

This inaugural study is based on online responses from more than 7,600 vehicle owners and panelists who either currently own an EV, are considering an EV for their next vehicle purchase, or shopped for an EV but decided not to purchase one. The study was fielded in October 2012, and explores the EV shopping and consideration experience, as well as the ownership experience. It also provides an analysis of the needs and expectations of current and future EV owners.

Current EV owners most often cite environmental friendliness as the most important benefit of owning an EV. However, consumers considering an EV for their next vehicle list lower fuel costs as their primary consideration.

"Current EV owners focus on the emotional benefits of owning an electric vehicle--which are having positive effect on the environment--but the way for manufacturers to take EVs to the masses and increase sales is to address the economic equation," said Neal Oddes, senior director of the green practice at J.D. Power and Associates. "There still is a disconnect between the reality of the cost of an EV and the cost savings that consumers want to achieve."

For example, the study finds that, compared with the price of similar gasoline-powered vehicles, owners of all-electric vehicles (AEV) pay a premium of $10,000, on average, for their vehicle, while plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) owners pay a $16,000 premium, on average, compared with the price of similar gasoline-powered vehicles. Based on annual fuel savings, it would take an average of 6.5 years for AEV owners to recoup the $10,000 premium they paid at the point of purchase, while the payoff point for PHEV ownership is 11 years.

"The payback period is longer than most consumers keep their vehicle," said Oddes. "The bottom line is that the price has to come down, which requires a technological quantum leap to reduce the battery price. There also needs to be an improvement in the infrastructure, or the number of charging stations outside of the home. Until those two concerns are addressed, EV sales will remain flat."

Oddes notes that as battery technology improves, manufacturers are able to produce more affordable EVs, which should lower the current price premiums. Lowering the cost of ownership may help increase market share--electric vehicles currently account for less than 1% of new-vehicle sales in the United States, according to LMC Automotive--but other problems still have to be solved.

"Consumers remain anxious about the cost and lifespan of EV batteries, the infrastructure needed to charge EVs, and the vehicle's driving range," said Oddes. "Automakers need to continue to address these issues and educate consumers about the benefits of EV technologies in order to gain momentum in the marketplace."

Driving range and the availability of charging stations are the top concerns among consumers considering an EV. However, current EV owners indicate an average daily commute of 34 miles--which is well within the range of a fully charged EV.

The size of the vehicle is the second-most-frequently cited reason for rejecting an EV. Consumers considering an EV look more frequently for a midsize sedan than any other type of vehicle. Currently, most of the EVs being produced are in the small vehicle segments, which should change as new midsize models enter the market in 2013.

The payoff for automakers is that once they get consumers to buy an EV, they tend to retain them as customers. Overall, 82.5% of owners indicate they "definitely will" or "probably will" buy another EV of the same brand. The average brand retention among owners of all vehicle types is 49.8%.

The following tips may be helpful to consumers when considering an electric vehicle:

  • Drivers with predictable, unwavering daily driving requirements are the best candidates for all-electric vehicles. If your driving requirements are variable, consider a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle that provides pure electric driving for shorter distances, but can handle a longer trip without recharging, if necessary, by utilizing the gasoline-powered back-up engine.
  • Be sure to investigate potential federal or state tax incentives associated with an electric vehicle purchase. These incentives may vary, depending on the make and model selected. Also, ask your local utility company about special EV battery-charging programs and special rate programs that may be available.
  • Topography affects electric vehicle range. If you live in a mountainous region, your driving range will be somewhat variable, as the vehicle consumes charge going uphill and then captures energy while coasting downhill.
  • The U.S. Department of Energy offers maps that show the locations of charging stations through the country at http://www.afdc.energy.gov/locator/stations/


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