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KBB.com study: Range/recharge concerns limit buyer interest in EVs

By KBB.com Editors on November 30, 2010 11:12 AM
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A new Kelley Blue Book Market Intelligence study on buyer attitudes regarding electric vehicles has found that the majority of in-market consumers polled are not yet ready to make the transition to an electric-powered vehicle. Only seven percent of the car shoppers who responded indicated they would consider an EV for their next vehicle purchase or lease. As expected, the two key reservations expressed by the majority of potential buyers concerned the vehicle's per-charge range (87 percent) and the limited availability of charging stations (84 percent).

Conducted in late October with input from 219 in-market shoppers who visited the site, the survey also turned up several other pertinent bits of information regarding consumer attitudes towards electric cars in general as well as several of the best-known EVs and hybrid models. Seventy-eight percent of the respondents indicated that any EV they might purchase would be used primarily for everyday transportation and commuting duties. They also indicated that to meet their specific needs, it would have to be able to travel 340 miles on a single charge.

Despite the sudden high profile of EVs in the media, only 45 percent of those who took part in this KBB poll indicated any interest in electric technology. The primary motivating factors among that group was the ability of EVs to help reduce the country's reliance on foreign oil (85 percent) and reduce pollution (83 percent). On a more pragmatic level, 35 percent were interested because of potential tax credits and eight percent cited the prospects of automatic access to carpool lanes. Overall, 91 percent of the KBB survey respondents thought that for any merits EVs have, they remain expensive to purchase; and 43 percent did not believe they'll retain their value over time as well as a conventional alternative.

Queried on their personal awareness of individual EVs and hybrids, 71 percent of the KBB respondent base named the Chevrolet Volt, followed by the Toyota Prius Hybrid (68 percent), Ford Escape Plug-in Hybrid (46 percent), Nissan LEAF (45 percent) and the Tesla Roadster (39 percent). That hierarchy remained largely intact -- albeit clustered within a mere 10-percent total spread -- when the survey group was shown photos of these and other soon-to-be-available models and asked which they would consider for purchase. There, the top three spots were unchanged but the upcoming Ford Focus Electric slipped ahead of the Nissan LEAF and pushed the Tesla out of the top five. Despite their relative positions in the EV attitude poll, the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan LEAF have both enjoyed triple-digit month-over-month increases in new-car shopper activity since KBB began tracking them in August.

In assessing the results of this research, James Bell, executive market analyst for Kelley Blue Book's kbb.com, noted that: "While it seems the car-shopping public still has a long way to go concerning electric vehicle consideration and understanding the realities of electric vehicle technology, the fact that there are all-new methods of propulsion becoming available to drivers is another great step forward for the automotive industry." Bell further observed that: "The Volt versus LEAF race continues to heat up, and there are many other players coming to market in the alternative energy space in the near future. Time will tell whether this technology will be readily adopted by a large number of mainstream car buyers, or if this will just be another flash in the pan of vehicle history."

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