Navigant Research Blog

Mountain West States Buy In on Regional EV Fast Charging Network

— December 14, 2017

To support the growth and adoption of EVs on their regions’ roadways, governors of eight Mountain West states signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to work collaboratively on a regional EV fast charging network spanning across 5,000 miles of freeway. They will also work on a plan for the EV charging infrastructure to link their states together. The states that have signed on so far are Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming.

Anticipating EV Population Increases

These states have recognized the growth of EV populations and anticipate EVs will continue to penetrate the markets. As discussed in our Market Data: EV Geographic Forecasts report and illustrated in the following chart, Navigant Research expects sales of over 1.6 million plug-in EVs (PEVs) by 2026 in North America.

Historic and Projected Sales of PEVs, Base Scenario, North America: 2012-2026

Source: Navigant Research

Pursuing Goals

The goals of the MoU are to accomplish the following:

  • Coordinate station locations to maximize use and minimize inconsistency between charging infrastructure.
  • Develop practices and procedures to encourage the adoption of EVs and address range anxiety.
  • Develop operating standards for charging stations.
  • Incorporate EV charging stations in the planning and development process.
  • Encourage automotive OEMs to stock a variety of EVs in participating states.
  • Collaborate on funding and finding opportunities for the network.

Direct current (DC) fast charging stations will cost between $150,000 and $200,000 each. It would require 50 to 60 stations to electrify the key travel corridors in Colorado, according to officials.

Following in Their Footsteps

Unsurprisingly, West Coast states have already tackled a similar project. In 2013, California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia signed on to the Pacific Coast Action Plan on Climate and Energy. They committed to the creation of an electrified highway corridor connecting the three states and the province. In the years since, the governments have been able to install a network of DC fast chargers along Interstate 5, Highway 99, and other major roadways dubbed the West Coast Electric Highway.

Tackling the Funding Puzzle

The Mountain West states are looking for sources of funding as they move forward with their own plans for a regional highway. While the West Coast Electric Highway project was able to capitalize on federal grants and funding to capture investments, the current administration and majority party seem less keen on assisting the adoption of EVs, meaning the Mountain West states may have to look elsewhere. Colorado has identified and is already planning on using some of the funds received from the Volkswagen settlement, Electrify America, to drive interest in public-private partnerships to develop its electrified highway infrastructure. That being said, the MoU does not specify funding requirements or timeframes for the project or any of the states.

Absent the support of the federal government, the success of this regional project rests on the political will of the state governments and continued support from elected officials, automakers, utilities, and planners.

 

Even If It Doesn’t Survive, the Tesla Vision Has Already Won

— December 14, 2017

Whatever the ultimate fate of Tesla as a business, the vision of its founders seems assured to come to fruition. They set out nearly 15 years ago to build an electric sports car that would show a skeptical public that EVs aren’t the car form of broccoli (good for you, but not much fun). The envisioned electric car would be a gateway to electrifying all transportation.

With every new job at an EV maker, we are moving closer to that goal. Sales of the Chevrolet Bolt EV climb steadily with each month, Nissan is about to launch the second-generation LEAF, and more options will arrive in the coming months. Perhaps most importantly, the future combination of automated driving and electrification will provide great synergy in making transportation clean and safe.

The Bolt and LEAF are examples of automakers taking inspiration from Tesla and mixing traditional expertise in mass manufacturing and support. These automakers and most others are now aggressively developing and planning deployment of automated EVs like the Chevy Bolts being tested in San Francisco, California by GM unit Cruise Automation.

Can Tesla Stay Afloat?

Sadly, Tesla’s own quarterly financial statements don’t bode well for the brand that kick-started this next era of mobility. The company has shown an inability to execute on the core task of profitably building consistently reliable, high quality products to customers. The 3Q 2017 report showed the company was spending more than $2,000 per year per vehicle providing service while only generating $1,000 in revenue. Given the reduced maintenance an EV should require compared to an ICE, this is a clear indicator of Tesla’s spending on honoring warranties. As the in-service vehicle fleet grows, this problem will grow rapidly unless the company can come to grips with the basics of mass manufacturing.

As Tesla attempts to ramp up production of the Model 3, it must first address these challenges—or the reputation the brand has built around Elon Musk’s cult of personality will be squandered.

The Quandary of Some Typical Tesla Customers

Take, for example, a Northern California couple that can afford to buy a Tesla, including the Model X they own. He loves technology and is the definitive early adopter, often buying the latest life-enhancing gadgets. His CEO wife is far more pragmatic, though she also appreciates what technology can do to make life easier and better. She wants to replace her current premium German performance car with an EV when the lease is up in the next month. On the surface, another Tesla would be the obvious choice, but they’ve had numerous issues with it that have taken multiple service trips to resolve. Some issues, like an Autopilot system that has a predilection for randomly shooting toward guardrails, remain unresolved.

They looked at the 2018 LEAF this week, and she is seriously considering it. While it lacks the performance of the Tesla, she expects it to be far more reliable, coming from a company that knows how to bend and weld steel. Despite the problems with the Tesla, her husband wants to stick with the brand to support the vision. Fortunately, he’s in a financial position where he can do that. Most of the car buying public can’t afford to be so tolerant.

If Musk wants Tesla to remain a viable business after he rockets off to Mars, he needs to start listening to frustrated Tesla owners like this pragmatic CEO rather than reveling in his adoring fans.

 

Consumer Survey Indicates Core Audience Needs Expansion

— December 12, 2017

Automakers are introducing new EV models that will appeal to a broader audience of car buyers. Yet, understanding the demographics of consumers with the greatest potential to buy plug-in EVs (PEVs) remains a formidable industry challenge. Navigant Research conducted a survey to understand consumer preferences and demographics when considering a vehicle purchase. Overall, survey results indicated that electric powered vehicles were the first choice of vehicle for their next purchase for 14% of respondents, while 74% indicated gasoline powered as their first choice. When combined, diesel, hydrogen, natural gas, and propane autogas powered vehicles accounted for 12% of respondent’s first type fuel choice.

First Choice Fuel Type for Next Vehicle Purchase

Source: Navigant Research

The gap between electric and gasoline powered vehicles is large for consumers considering a vehicle purchase, but the number considering an EV jumps to 58% of respondents when their second and third choice of fuel types are considered. So, what can the EV industry do to convince that 58% to prioritize emissions-free driving?

To best distinguish who may purchase a PEV, results of respondents who were favorable toward PEVs (ranked electric as their first fuel type preference) and who owned a PEV were compared to focus on any key differences between the two groups. According to the survey, an average PEV owner is likely to be under 40, live in a single-family home, have a 4-year college degree, and make above $50,000 in yearly income.

Consumers with access to parking at their residence are more likely to purchase PEVs due to the ease of access to charging—having an electrical outlet near the dedicated parking increases this likelihood. Therefore, consumers with garages, largely found in single-family homes, are the most likely to own a PEV. A lack of home charging requires a consumer to rely on public charging infrastructure, which in many areas is still insufficient, and discourages adoption.

Observed Consumer Trends

Overall, the demographics of PEV owners and those interested in purchasing a PEV were similar, but two differences stood out. Younger age groups are more likely to own a PEV and be favorable toward a PEV as their next vehicle purchase. There is also a widening gap in the older 45-64 demographic between those who are favorable toward PEVs and those who own them. The 45- to 64-year-old demographic made up 10% of the PEV ownership population, but 21% of those who were likely to purchase a PEV. This data points to a demographic that has unrealized potential for PEV adoption.

The second trend of significance is the disparity between those living in single-family homes and those in multi-family units, such as apartments, lofts, and townhouses. Lack of access to charging is a major barrier to PEV adoption, and those who do not live in single-family homes are less likely to own or be likely to purchase a PEV, as shown in the chart below. No major differences in housing types stand out between the two groups, suggesting that more charging options are necessary to entice multi-family dwellings to buy electric.

EV Consumer Survey: Housing Type

Source: Navigant Research

The Road Ahead

While the consumer survey shows many with positive attitudes toward PEVs, market challenges need to continue to be addressed to make an all-electric transportation future possible. The announcement of longer-range and lower priced battery EV models, charging infrastructure investments, and purchasing incentives indicate that PEVs are here to stay. Market stakeholders should take advantage of this upward momentum to target a wider audience of individuals purchasing vehicles, and promote PEVs to those outside of the current core target demographic.

For more information, see the recent Navigant Research report, Market Data: Electric Vehicle Charging Equipment.

 

Cities Looking to Automated Vehicles to Solve Congestion and Emissions Challenges

— November 21, 2017

Around the world, major cities have been setting targets to combat the negative effects of local transport on public health, local pollution, noise levels, and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Cities are looking increasingly at the potential of automated vehicles (AVs) to help solve these problems through improved traffic flow, the near elimination of collisions, increased productivity, and reduced pollution and GHG emissions.

 Moving toward Full Automation

The concept of automated or self-driving cars has shifted from the realm of science fiction into reality, as showcased by some of the latest developments in cities around the world:

 Key Challenges Remain

Partial automation is becoming commonplace in all road vehicle classes. Full driving automation is starting to be piloted in numerous cities globally with regular commercial deployments expected in the next 2 to 3 years. Before AVs can become ubiquitous in city streets, new infrastructure investments, communication network upgrades, the need for fleets to operate in varied conditions, and concerns about cybersecurity need to be addressed. Cities also need to develop frameworks to integrate and coordinate AV mobility services with existing transit services to optimize the use of road infrastructure and avoid increased congestion. Although the AV was not at fault for the accident, the recent Las Vegas automated shuttle collision shows why vehicle-to-vehicle communications will also be crucial to the success of AVs.

If AVs are managed properly, highly integrated with public transport, and coordinated as part of a multimodal transportation ecosystem, the shift to self-driving vehicles could lead to reduced traffic congestion in cities, lowered demand for parking spaces, and highly beneficial energy and environmental effects. For more information on the potential effects of AVs in cities, see Navigant Research’s recent white paper on Redefining Mobility Services in Cities.

 

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