Boulder, Colorado – Concerns about unproven technology and reliability are key consumer objections to plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs), according to a new survey by Pike Research, and the benefits of fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions may not be enough to overcome them. Upcoming mass-market PEVs include the battery-electric Nissan Leaf and plug-in range-extended Chevrolet Volt.

“The electric vehicle industry has been very focused on addressing co-called driving ‘range anxiety,’ the term used to describe consumers’ qualms about the effective range of a PEV on a single charge,” said senior analyst John Gartner. “But the fact is that a ‘wait-and-see’ approach about the technology itself was a greater issue for consumers in our survey. It could easily take several years for mainstream car shoppers to get comfortable with the idea of electric vehicles.”

However, the survey also found that 44 per cent of respondents stated that they would be “extremely” or “very” interested in purchasing a PEV with a driving range of 40 to 100 miles (64 to 160 km) and an electricity cost equivalent of 75 cents per gallon. The firm said that despite the skepticism of many consumers, the early adopter market should easily meet industry expectations for the first few years of electric vehicle sales.

Other key findings in the survey were:

– 83 per cent of respondents drive 40 miles (64 km) or less in a typical day, making “range anxiety” a non-issue for the majority of prospective PEV drivers.

– Levels of interest in PEVs were not dramatically different between demographic segments such as age, gender, income and level of education, suggesting that these vehicles should have solid mass-market appeal in the long term.

– Price will be a major challenge, with the survey finding that the optimal price point for PEVs is 18.75 per cent above the base price of a comparable gasoline vehicle. This is still significantly lower than the automakers’ intended prices.

– Respondents did not state a clear preference for any single configuration, with interest levels very similar for less expensive plug-in hybrids with a 10-mile (16 km) range and more expensive all-electric vehicles with a range of 100 miles (160 km).

– When asked which vehicle brands they would consider for an electric vehicle, 51 per cent stated Ford and 50 per cent said Honda, although these two automakers do not currently have PEVs on the market. Chevrolet ranked third at 45 per cent and Nissan was fifth at 33 per cent, although these companies are close to market with electric vehicles.

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