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Aftermarket Costs Are Obstacle to EV Ownership

Consumers Accept EV Sticker Price, Balk at Charging Costs


Updated May 31, 2011

It may not be the premium purchase price but the cost of home recharging that slows a consumer's acceptance of an electric-only vehicles, or EV. However, overall EV market share may have more potential than anticipated.

I was recently in touch with Leslie Monreal-Feil, external relations, IBM Global Business Services, on results of a recent EV consumer survey by IBM Institute for Business Value. The survey of consumer and auto industry executive attitudes regarding the EV market reveals the execs may not have a handle on what is keeping more consumers from choosing an EV car.

Auto Execs, Consumers Differ on EV Issues

Monreal-Feil shared with me that sales of conventional vehicles are expected to peak around 2020, according to auto industry execs, before EV and hybrid cars begin to garner a greater market share going forward. That has automakers looking at EVs as one of the hottest new products. But if IBM's survey results are any indication, there are a lot of consumer demands about EV ownership that will need to be ironed out first. Performance, recharging and convenience remain large question marks for most consumers.

While IBM's polling of auto industry execs revealed a focus on government incentives and oil prices as the main driving factors for consumer acceptance of EVs and the premium cost of green vehicles the major deterrent, a look at survey results of consumers finds that initial cost is less of a concern than the cost of installing a recharging station at home.

Overall EV Market Potential Strong

The survey by IBM's Institute for Business Value included 1,716 U.S. drivers and interviews with 123 auto industry executives. Overall, the results indicated greater potential for a growing EV market than might have been predicted, even early in the game, with 19 percent of drivers saying they were either "very likely" or "likely" to consider choosing an EV the next time they shopped for a new car.

IBM says those findings are particularly significant since 42 percent of drivers surveyed indicated they knew only "a little" about EVs or have "only heard of them." Those findings could mean the gate is swinging open for automakers to use educational campaigns to grow the pool of potential EV purchasers.

Another potential surprise for automakers? About 40 percent of drivers didn't have an issue with paying up to 20 percent more for their EV compared with buying a similar gas, diesel or hybrid model. About 27 percent said they were willing to pay just 10 percent more, while 13 percent say they were prepared to pay more than 20 percent over the price of other classes of cars.

But if consumers are willing to get over EV sticker shock, they found necessary accessory cost a lot less palatable. Only 13 percent of drivers say they are willing to consider spending more than $1,000 to adapt their residence for a home recharging station for their new EV, a project that generally carries a price tag between $1,000 and $2,000.

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