SAN DIEGO -- How do you put a value on concerns over how far an electric vehicle can go on a single charge? That is among the factors Kelley Blue Book is wrestling with as it calculates residual values for EVs reaching the market.
Eric Ibara, director of residual-value consulting at Kelley, said fear of being stranded with a dead battery -- often called range anxiety -- is a real concern for potential buyers of the Nissan Leaf electric sedan.
Charging stations will be difficult to find when the vehicle debuts in December. That means early adopters will have to charge their vehicles at home or work, a process that will take several hours, he said.
Putting a value on refueling concerns "is not easy to do. We're still struggling with it," said Ibara, who made his comments here at a symposium on residual values. "Refueling will be a major item for people who purchase a Leaf."
The first Leaf buyers are expected to know and accept the technology's limitations. Indeed, Nissan dealers are quizzing would-be buyers and won't deliver a Leaf until a buyer has a home charging station installed.
But if shoppers shun the Leaf because of range anxiety, the car's residuals will take a hit.
Ibara said range anxiety is not expected to be a problem for the Chevrolet Volt because it is a plug-in that uses gasoline to generate more electricity.
Both Nissan and Chevrolet will offer 36-month lease deals. The Leaf plan is $349 a month with $1,999 down. The Volt will be $350 a month with $2,500 down. Ibara said he expects "a fair number" of those cars to be leased. Kelley will publish residuals for both sometime next year, he said.
"We would like to experience the vehicles first, and we won't get that opportunity until later this year," Ibara said.
He said there are no EVs on which Kelley can build its residual models. So the company is using residuals for the Nissan Versa as its baseline to set residuals for the Leaf and residuals for the Chevrolet Cruze as the baseline for the Volt.
Kelley projects that the 2011 Versa will hold an average of 50 percent of its sticker value after 36 months. The 2011 Cruze is expected to hold 51 percent of its sticker.
Ibara said performance, drive, comfort and styling also will affect electric-car residual values. But he added: "It's a new technology, and we want to make sure we account for that new technology as well."