Posted by Dale Buss on November 30, 2010 05:00 PM
No consumer good has more panache right now than Nissan Leaf, the all-electric vehicle that isn’t even on sale yet, or the Chevrolet Volt, which is nearly as green but has a small gasoline engine in addition to battery power.
While both models compete for year-end honors — such as the European car of the year nod, just awarded to the Leaf — it’s becoming increasingly clear that very few American consumers, for the conceivable future, want to buy an EV.
The latest evidence comes via Kelley Blue Book, one of the most popular purveyors of automotive intelligence. Only 7% of car shoppers in their survey indicated they were "likely" to consider an EV for their next new-vehicle purchase or lease.
Also interestingly, respondents said that they would expect an electric vehicle to get 340 miles per charge in order for it to meet their needs. Compare such expectations with the reality of all generations of EVs to date, including the latest one: Leaf gets maybe up to 100 miles on a single charge, Volt only about 50 miles, though its gas engine can clock another 300 miles.
From KBB's consumer research, it appears that General Motors has been at least partly effective in raising suspicions about the all-electric Leaf over “range anxiety.” The primary concerns about EVs expressed by consumers were their drivable range on a single charge and the availability of charging stations along the way.
Don’t assume, either, that the popularity of EVs will triumph over time as they hit the market and win over consumers. Hybrid powertrains — representing a major step on the way toward all-electric vehicles – have only picked up a few percent of the U.S. market more than a decade after their introduction and despite the continuing media hype about them.
As always, money talks here. EVs and even most hybrids are still too expensive for most Americans to consider. And as long as gasoline prices remain below $3 a gallon, they just don’t have enough financial incentive to change their minds.