Navigant Research Blog

For EVs, It’s Love at First Drive

Ryan Citron — October 29, 2013

A recent government-funded study in the United Kingdom found that 80% of consumers would consider swapping their car for an electric vehicle (EV) after test driving EVs for an extended period.  Over the trial, about 350 drivers were given EVs, more than 1.5 million miles were driven, and more than 51,000 recharges were recorded.  The study found that consumers’ attitudes to EVs shifted as they became more accustomed to the functionality of the car.

At the outset of the trial, there was typical concern among drivers about compromising their daily routine to fit in with the range limitations of the EV.  However, the average daily mileage was just 21.4 miles, which is well below the range of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) such as the Nissan LEAF and within the all-electric range of many plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), such as the Chevrolet Volt.

At the end of the trial, 80% of participants said they could picture replacing their traditional petrol engine vehicles with an EV and half of the participants said they planned to do so.  This transformation of attitudes toward EVs suggests that consumers may be more inclined to purchase these vehicles than previously thought.

While the data shows that after an extended test drive EVs are an easy sell, auto manufacturers still have to get customers behind the wheel, as consumer awareness is still lacking.  Despite the challenges (including the higher cost of the vehicles), Navigant Research’s report Electric Vehicle Market Forecasts projects that by 2020, 7% of light duty cars sold worldwide will be electric.  There are currently three main types of EVs: hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) such as the Toyota Prius, PHEVs like the Chevrolet Volt, and BEVs like the Tesla Model S and Nissan LEAF.   Rising gas prices, declining battery costs, increasingly stringent fuel standards, and steady government incentives will all contribute to the persistent growth of EV markets.

Annual Light Duty Electric Vehicle Sales by Drivetrain, World Markets: 2013-2020


(Source:  Navigant Research)

While the average American drives closer to 40 miles per day, the study nevertheless shows that once consumers have the opportunity to drive EVs for extended periods they are much more likely to purchase them.  Another recent study performed by German psychologist Thomas Franke shows that range anxiety significantly decreases after 3 months of driving an EV.

That is especially true for the darling of the BEV market, Tesla Motors.  Between September 2012 and September 2013, Tesla’s stock price rocketed from $29.35 to a high of $193.37.  Additionally, the Tesla Model S was the best-selling car in all of Norway last month, representing 5.1% of total vehicle sales in the country.  When the President of Audi of America calls Tesla Motors “cool,” EVs and their impact on the overall global vehicle market can no longer be ignored.

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