Study: Second Roadblock To EV Ownership Is Size (We All Know The First)

NOV 11 2012 BY JAY COLE 10

Toyota Prius Plug-In? Still Not Good Enough To Compete

The “2012 Electric Vehicle Ownership Experience Study” is out, and it contains all the usual facts and figures you would expect from a study of this nature, but also a few interesting extra tidbits thrown in as well.

Sorry Chevy Volt, You Can't Dethrone Gas Vehicles Either

J.D. Power and Associates, the author of the study, states that price is the main roadblock to widespread adoption of plug-in cars here in America.  They also note current EV owners generally value the environmental impact of the vehicle they drive much higher than the overall market does.

“Current EV owners focus on the emotional benefits of owning an electric vehicle–which are having a positive effect on the environment–but the way for manufacturers to take EVs to the masses and increase sales is to address the economic equation,” said Neal Oddes, senior director of the green practice at J.D. Power and Associates. “There still is a disconnect between the reality of the cost of an EV and the cost savings that consumers want to achieve.”

Thankfully, the study doesn’t end there (because we all know EVs cost a lot of money), and states the second roadblock to plug-in vehicles.


Right-Sized Model S Is Unfortunately Wrong-Sized In Price

Electric Vehicles are too small.  The study deftly shows that the average buyer is not all that keen on driving a compact car.  After trucks and SUVs, midsize cars are really what the average customer wants.  The best selling EV brands today like the Chevrolet Volt, Nissan LEAF and Toyota Prius Plug-In, just aren’t big enough.

If price and size are the biggest concerns in consumer’s minds, it would seem that Ford is best positioned to make the biggest inroads to the greater adoption of plug-in vehicles in 2013.   Both the C-Max Energi, but especially the Fusion Energi, look to be two of the biggest and cheapest models available to customers next year.

In a real world example of this result perhaps being valid, our own Lyle Dennis, will be trading in his (very famous) Chevrolet Volt for a C-Max Energi at some point this month.  He says just needs more room.

Coming Early 2013, The Closest Plug-In To Compete For Mainstream Affection Will Likely Be The Mid-Sized Ford Fusion Energi. MSRP After Federal Credit Is Expected To Be About $5,000 Higher Than Average Gas Fusion Sale

Other points of interest in the study:

  • 44% of current owners of EVs indicate the top benefit of their vehicle is lower emissions
  • owners of all-electric vehicles (BEV) pay a premium of $10,000, on average for their vehicle
  • owners of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV)  pay a $16,000 premium
  • based on their fuel consumptions of gas, it takes 6.5 years for BEV owners to recoup the $10,000 premium they paid, 11 years for PHEV owners
  • 33% of all owners charge from a standard 120v outlet
  • 43% of EV also charge their vehicle away from home,  85% of those do not pay for the service
  • average commute of an EV owner is 34 miles

The conclusion?

“The payback period is longer than most consumers keep their vehicle,” said Neal Oddes, senior director of the green practice at J.D. Power and Associates. “The bottom line is that the price has to come down, which requires a technological quantum leap to reduce the battery price. There also needs to be an improvement in the infrastructure, or the number of charging stations outside of the home. Until those two concerns are addressed, EV sales will remain flat.”

So, all EVs need to accomplish to displace gasoline cars in America is to get $13,000 cheaper, grow in size and function, and have charging stations (available for free) dotted around landscape.   Sounds easy.

It appears that mass plug-in adoption might take awhile, but at least we can say we are headed in the right direction.

JD Power

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10 Comments on "Study: Second Roadblock To EV Ownership Is Size (We All Know The First)"

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Vehicle size is wasted most of the time. One doesn’t need a 7-passenger vehicle to commute work work everyday. Part of the environmental aim of plug-ins is to reduce waste and switching to a smaller vehicle is part of the paradigm change of being more efficient.

“The payback period is longer than most consumers keep their vehicle”

Well, there is a good and easy way to fix that, keep the vehicle longer. Personally I have been guilty of this with my previous vehicles, the main reason being the soaring maintenance costs and headaches associated with an aging car. Hopefully plug-in vehicles overall will reduce this, however the fast-improving technologies will create a new push for people to trade their plug-ins.

The study sounds pretty realistic. And yes, it looks like Ford is poised to hit the market running with their plug-in offerings; it appears their strategy of keeping their toe in the water before diving in has them jumping into where the waters run deepest.

I’d say the jury remains six months out with Nissan as to whether they are headed up or down. Recent sales numbers have risen thanks to great lease offerings but…… is it a permanent trend or is there another wall ahead for them? At its current price, the LEAF’s ability to compete for buyers as more extended range EVs come into the market will get more difficult.

As for GM, they’d better have some tricks up their sleeve to play if they want to stay ahead of the game. The ELR will be interesting…. if its performance numbers are in the Model S ballpark, it will be a big deal for GM and the EV world. But GM will have to no less than match Ford in offering EREVs that are roomier and more family oriented, priced at competitive levels.

The price of my Volt was the same as the equivalent Chevy Cruze after the local, state and federal incentives and I pay $0.00 for fuel with my solar system. So this study doesn’t take into account the many local and state incentives or the advantage of going solar. I also sized my solar for my house only, but switched to time of use after I bought my car and now my system takes care of my house and car energy use. I think most people just don’t know about all the options and also think too short term. If dealers could take all the federal, state and local incentives off the price at the time of sale, sales would definitely increase.

While many people want to include the incentives towards EVs that make then cheaper, it is important to realize 2 things. First, the incentives are totally different in each state. For example, we have zero incentives here in Texas, other than the federal. The second thing is that these incentives will not last forever. And ultimately the vehicles need to be able to sell at a reasonable price without these incentives.

All this speculation is thrown out the Window when gas hits 6 bucks a gallon or the next time you are waiting in line for gas after a hurricane. Both are inevitable and the EV is the winner.

There really is a gaping hole for an efficient vehicle with 3rd row seating.

Right now the best in the market is the Mazda 5 – which gets a disappointing 22/28/24 (city/hwy/combined) EPA rating.

It’s nearly impossible to move more than 2 small children with the size of car seats these days unless you have a 3rd row. Which means that unless you have a minivan, you end up taking 2 vehicles very frequently.

Get a hybrid drivetrain (or even better a PHEV with 20+ mi EV range) into a minivan that gets mid-30s mpg and you’ll have a winner.

I agree with Dave R. “Get a hybrid drivetrain (or even better a PHEV with 20+ mi EV range) into a minivan that gets mid-30s mpg and you’ll have a winner.” In other words GM give us that MPV5 (EREV VOLT SUV)!!!

That Fusion Energi may be the sales leader a year from now….


We have owned a Civic hybrid, a 2007 Prius and just traded a 2010 Prius for a 2013 Volt. It may not make short term economic sense at this time, compared to buying an economical vehicle and certainly not in the timeline that we did it in, but at least we are now supporting more American jobs and a list of other important issues facing our nation and loving driving mostly on U. S. electrons in the process! Our next vehicle hopefully will be an American made BEV with 120 or more real world mile range with ample space; of course my wife said we are not trading this one in too soon.

Size is mostly over-rated for most commuters. If you take a look a round, more than 60% of all the cars out there carry less than 2 people. That is why they are so many people “PARKED” in the traffic while HOV lanes are moving. We can’t even get people to “carpool”, why do we need a monster vehicle to carry 4 or 5 people? Lyle Dennis traded in his Volt for a C-Max Energi b/c his wife bought a Leaf. That is MAIN REASON. That is a FACT that most sites failed to mention. It clearly showed the disadvantage of a BEV. Since Leaf is the other car, then the Volt become the ONLY vehicle for LONG FAMILY trips. But sorry to break it for Lyle Dennis, the C-Max energi doesn’t have too much more room and it certainly doesn’t fit 3 car seats in the back row. Not to mention the fact that Ford C-Max are NOT getting the so called 47mpg in real world. Most people are only getting 35-38 MPG in the real world. The realistic way is to get two small EV/EREVs for commuting and get a minvan for long family trips…