Are US drivers beginning to get switched on to electric cars?

10% would consider investing in new technology

Over 10% of US drivers surveyed said they would consider purchasing a plug-in hybrid or electric vehicle, according to a survey by Ernst & Young's Global Automotive Center. The report canvassed the views of a thousand American licensed drivers to gauge consumer awareness and interest of plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles in the market. Based on this sample, this figure would equate to approximately 20 million American drivers who are favorable towards purchasing plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles. The survey is part of Ernst & Young's advanced vehicle powertrain initiative, which focuses on the business opportunities and issues companies face in the development of alternative transportation solutions. Commenting on the findings, Mike Hanley, Ernst & Young Global Automotive Leader, said that although only 10% of the drivers responded positively to purchasing plug-in hybrid or electric vehicles, for a powertrain technology which is not yet widely available, it is a significant number which should not be ignored. “As the survey suggests, electric vehicles have an opportunity to make a significant entrance into the US public consciousness over the next few years. Even if only a small portion of the 10% of survey respondents who said they would consider a plug-in hybrid or electric vehicle when introduced are serious, there would still be more than enough demand to sell out the 2010 and 2011 production runs of the major and new manufacturers, while buying crucial time to build out infrastructure and increase public awareness.”

Opportunities and challenges for the sector

Some of the biggest challenges – highlighted in the survey – for advancing the popularity of new powertrain technologies from the niche into the mainstream are access to charging stations, battery driving range and vehicle costs. While there are clear barriers to consumers fully embracing these technologies, 34% of survey participants said they would subsidize local charging stations, further illustrating that a significant number of drivers recognize the future benefits of plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles. Hanley concluded, “Electric vehicles have long been touted as the future technology of the industry and subsequently, we saw a real appetite in the market for additional insights into the public's reaction to plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles as a new means of transport in the US. The popularity of new powertrain technology will only increase and the market leaders will be those companies that have their fingers on the pulse of consumer trends and behavior.”

Key survey findings:

  • Roughly 10% of the survey participants said they would consider a plug-in hybrid and electric vehicle purchase.

  • 34% of survey participants said they would subsidize local charging stations.

  • Public awareness of emerging powertrain technologies remains weak across the US.

  • Not many consumers are willing to embrace the new technology prior to it being well-established in the market.

  • No other plug-in hybrid and electric vehicle incentive or benefit is considered nearly as important as saving money on fuel.

  • Among several considerations, access to charging stations, battery driving range and vehicle cost are by far the three most significant consumer concerns.

A focus on China's market

On January 14, during the North American International Auto Show, Hanley will speak at the China Business Update (CBU) and China Automotive Review (CAR) seminar with a theme of “Green Vehicles and China's Automobile Market – What Makes Would Come to America and When.” Here, he will discuss the key survey findings.

Please click here to view the complete survey.


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