Since electric vehicles (EVs) have become one of the hottest topics in the automotive industry a shadow has always followed the discussion. Range anxiety, as many call it, has together with price been named the 2 biggest preventors of large scale EV adaption. However, range anxiety is more a psychological problem than it is a real usage issue. In a prior article, I already described that 200 miles of range would be more than just sufficient for most US drivers after an analysis of the 2009 NHTS database on US driving behavior. But what if customers have started to realize that their driving needs are less than anticipated?
In 2011 Deloitte and Accenture analyzed the behavior of potential EV buyers in different countries. Accenture has come to the conclusion that 50% of consumers expect at least 270 miles of range, while Deloitte has found that 56% of American consumers would expect an EV to drive for at least 300 miles on one charge. These results are 5 years old, but confirm the general publics believe that a car needs to have a range of 300 miles.
However, there are three major factors that, over time, can influence the desire for 300 miles of range. The first is ownership/usage, the second public information and the third type of EV:
Once consumers start owning electric vehicles, they will (for the first time) track their daily usage habits. Ultimately, new EV owners might come to the conclusion that their usage patterns do not require their EVs to drive 300 miles on a single charge. With more information on EVs people will understand those vehicles and their usage behavior more in depth and over time their desire for range will diminish. Finally, customers who desire to buy a full electric vehicle (BEV) might expect less range compared to those who are interested in buying a plug-in hybrid (PHEV). Thus, the desire for range might lead to customer segmentation even within EVs.
Clean Technica and EVObsession have published the results of a survey taken by two thousand potential EV buyers and current EV users in January 2016. Potential EV buyers, are educated consumers that have learned about EVs and are considering to buy them. EV users are current drivers of EVs. Both groups have answered the question on how much range they expect from a BEV.
~50% of potential EV buyers desire more than 190 miles of range from a BEV. Compared to 270 miles as tested by Accenture in 2011, that is a reduction of 80 miles in about 5 years. Also ~50% of current EV users believe that 190 miles are enough to satisfy their needs; again 80 miles less than the average consumer in 2011; very similar results for both groups.
We can conclude that, first potential EV buyers are well educated on real life needs, second EV users still have a high desire for 190+ mile vehicles and third that BEVs might have lower range requirements than PHEVs. Also, even the distribution of answers seems similar for both target groups (with more current EV users accepting 100 miles of range). While it is not surprising that EV users desire less range than the general public assumes to be feasible, it is somewhat unexpected that potential EV buyers and current EV owners have similar preferences.
Based on the three studies mentioned we can only determine that potential EV buyers and EV owners in 2016 would consider BEVs with significantly lower range than the general consumer expected from an EV in 2011. We can neither conclude that EV drivers have less desire for range than potential buyers nor that EV owners have a different range desire than today's average driver! However, other studies have claimed that their might be a shift in consumer behavior, especially among those who are currently using EVs.
If consumers start realizing that 200 miles are enough for most household needs, we could see mass market adaption for BEVs starting in 2017, led by the Chevy Bolt and Tesla Model 3 (which should be affordable and have 200+ miles of range). Exciting times could be just ahead of us!
Sini Ninkovic analyzes the EV market and its customers since 2012. He helped bringing BMW's i3 and i8 to market and currently works as Product Planner for Lucid Motors.