DETROIT -- Charging stations outside the home and the range-extended technology planned for the Chevrolet Volt help to reduce electric-vehicle owners' range anxiety.
But both are just temporary props that may prove unnecessary in the long term, speakers at the Automotive News Green Car Conference/Exhibition said today.
Rich Steinberg, manager of electric vehicle operations and strategy at BMW of North America, said that the one-year test of the Mini EV by consumers in markets around the world, including New York, found that the 100-mile range of the Mini EV on a single charge was “sufficient for most trips.”
“Charging is not a big issue even without public charging stations,” he said.
“Range anxiety is an emotional issue,” Steinberg admitted. But he urged his audience to keep logs of their driving patterns. “From when you leave the garage, your equivalent of a gas station, to when you come back,” he said, “how many times do you actually drive more than 100 miles?”
Lack of space
A much more critical limitation in owners' eyes, he said, was a lack of space for luggage and people. BMW filled the back seat of each Mini to turn it into a Mini EV, turning the car into a two-seater.
Of the test consumers, which included a fair number of early adapters, Steinberg admitted, 45 percent of the households used the Mini EV for 90 to 100 percent of their trips. “All households report not using other vehicles as much” once they had the Mini EV.
Those results left him skeptical of the need for an onboard petroleum-fueled engine to recharge the batteries, as on the range-extended Volt.
That range-extended technology, Steinberg said, is “another insurance policy,” which may lose its appeal when consumers find recharging at home is sufficient.
“Initially, there's a lot of interest in that range-extender. But over time,” he predicted, “people will say, ‘Why invest in a gasoline motor when I never use it?' ”
'You're a smoker'
Brian Carolin, Nissan North America Inc.'s senior vice president for sales and marketing, also questioned the need for range extension. The Nissan Leaf electric sedan goes on sale in December.
“The important thing for us about the Leaf was to have a unique proposition,” he said. “Zero-emission was a great selling point.”
Carolin quoted Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn as saying, “Whether you smoke five cigarettes or 50 cigarettes a day, you're a smoker.”
Ultimately, he said, all-electric, rather than range-extended, “is where the consumer will want to get.”