Published October 05, 2011
Consumers around the world are ready to start buying electric cars, but not necessarily the ones on sale.
According to a survey conducted by professional services firm Deloitte titled “Unplugged: Electric vehicle realities versus consumer expectations,” interest in EVs is high, but the current crop of vehicles are too expensive and can’t travel far enough for the majority of respondents. They also feel that the charging infrastructure to support them is not yet sufficient.
Range is of utmost importance in the United States, where 63 percent of respondents expect an EV to be able to travel 300 miles or more per charge. This is in spite of the fact that three-fourths of Americans drive less than 50 miles per day. The Nissan Leaf, the only mainstream battery-powered car that is currently on sale, has an EPA-rated range of 73 miles, while the agency says that the upcoming Mitsubishi i can go 63 miles.
The amount of time it takes to charge the batteries is also a major issue. Most U.S. participants said they hope to be able to “fill up” their electric cars in less than two hours, compared to the typical eight-hour or longer charge times today. Twenty-three percent expect it to be even faster than that, under 30 minutes.
Next year Tesla will be introducing a version of its new sedan called the Model S that can go 320 miles between charges and be recharged in less than an hour at a commercial fast charging station, eliminating two concerns of potential customers. But the convenience will come at a high price, $77,400, which could create another hurdle for its appeal.
Globally, most consumers are looking for electric cars to cost the same as an equivalent conventional vehicle and start below $20,000, but 78 percent of Americans said that $30,000 is acceptable. The Leaf starts at $35,400 and is eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit, while the i has a base price of $29,125. Various state incentives are also available that can bring the total cost to buy an i under $20,000.
But the biggest competition for EVs could come from the old-fashioned internal combustion engine as it becomes new-fashioned. The majority of those surveyed said they would lose interest in EVs if the fuel efficiency of conventional cars reaches 50 mpg. Corporate Average Fuel Economy is set to rise in the U.S. to 54.5 mph by 2025. According to Deloitte automotive sector leader Joe Vitale, if fuel economy ever hits 75 mpg, “interest in pure battery electric vehicles falls off the cliff.”