Nrel finds ev customers want longer range, lower cost – gas 2

An EV survey by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory finds that of 1,015 people who took a recent survey, 24% would consider a plug-in hybrid as their next vehicle. 20% would consider a battery electric car.

But there’s a catch. Isn’t there always? When it comes to electric cars, more than half (52%) said it would need 300 miles of range. 70% plan to spend less than $30,000 on their next car. 42% said the magic number for them is $20,000 or less. Do you know of any electric cars with 300 miles of range that cost less than $30,000? Neither do I. Not many plug-in hybrids fill the bill, either.

Therein lies the EV dilemma. They cost too much and underperform, at least as far as many potential buyers are concerned. There is a growing attack on EV subsidies, thanks to the bottomless pockets of the Koch Brothers and their well paid acolytes. Clearly, EV sales are not going to reach significant numbers without them. What’s a poor car company that wants to comply with increasingly rigid emissions regulations to do?

At the SAE World Conference in Detroit this week, Larry Nitz, executive director for hybrid and electric powertrain engineering at General Motors, told the audience, “Most customers don’t even understand the benefits (of electrification). Quite frankly, we’ve been bad at explaining our technology to customers.”

Kevin Layden, director for electrified programs & engineering at Ford, says for those uneducated about their virtues, electrified vehicles can be intimidating, even for members of his own family. He tells how neither his wife nor daughter would pick up a Fusion Energi PHEV sedan for him when he was out of town.

However, now that his wife has driven the car extensively, she asks, “‘Why doesn’t everyone have one of these?” He told the group, “We have to make sure that first communication point is, ‘It’s so damn easy and so convenient, it’s better than just a (vehicle with) just an ICE’.”

NItz believes electrification will be embraced by a wider number of new-vehicle buyers once more owners share their stories of how electrified vehicles are a pleasure to drive, as well as how they can be more convenient and cost-effective than ICE-only models.

“One thing we learned that was really profound, and you’ll see it in electrified vehicles going forward, is the after the initial (Chevrolet) Volt, after customers bought the car, lived with the car, owned the car…the first, second and third (feedback) they came out with was, ‘It’s fun-to-drive, quiet, responsive.’ It wasn’t ‘Saves me money, energy efficient, cool technology.’”

Jackie Birdsall, executive engineer at Toyota Engineering and Manufacturing North America, concurs with Nitz, saying she doesn’t know anyone who after experiencing the smooth delivery of power an electrified vehicle provides, wants to go back to an ICE-only model.

One thing Nitz, Layden, and Birdsall overlook is that the manufacturers have done a lousy job of educating their dealers about their hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and electric cars. As a result, consumers are often frustrated when they visit a dealership ready to purchase, and are confronted by untrained sales people who know less about the automobiles then they do.

This was the subject of several comments on a story about the Chevy Volt that Gas2 published a few weeks ago. At least 4 people shared horror stories of grossly incompetent staff at Chevrolet and Nissan dealerships. We have reached out to Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors, who has promised us a response to this issue.

This week, Darrin Gesse, the person in charge of marketing for Chevrolet’s electric vehicles made a comment that Chevy would roll out a new program soon. It plans to bring its products directly to the homes of prospective customers so they could drive them and get familiar with how they operate. That’s an excellent idea. There is an old expression in the car business that goes like this: “The feel of the wheel seals the deal.”

When I reached out to GM customer service, no one knew anything about the plan Gesse is talking about. Another example of one hand not knowing what the other is doing. The message appears to be that traditional dealers are incapable of selling electric cars. That’s something that Elon Musk and Tesla Motors have been saying all along.

Source: NGT News, Ward’s Auto