Posted by : Allison Eckelkamp | On : October 6, 2011

I was once entirely convinced that electric vehicles (EVs) might just be the “killer app” for smart grid.  But, for EVs to create a demand for smart grid technologies and applications, there first needs to be a demand for EVs.

The previous EV forecasts for electric vehicles have been good, and with President Obama’s stated goal of 1 million EVs on US roads by 2015, the concept is at least part of the American consciousness (probably more so than the concept of “smart grid”).

Additionally, EVs like the Tesla have appealed to car enthusiasts all over the world.

Why wouldn’t people like a car they can simply “plug in” at home? The benefits are clear: EVs and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) are predicted to have lower “fueling” costs (possibly equivalent to 75 cents per gallon), lessen our demand for foreign oil (by more than half with wide-scale adoption), and slash emissions (close to 30 percent) – especially if we can charge them up on wind or other renewable energies.

With smart meters, other smart grid technologies, and variable pricing plans in place, consumers could get an even better bargain if they charged during off-peak hours – like, when they’re sleeping, which is when they’re apt to plug in anyway.

Unfortunately, some EVs still leave a lot to be desired, according to consumer survey results published in a report this week by Deloitte. The survey of 13,000 people in 17 countries found that “no more than four percent of global consumers [are] likely to be satisfied with today’s electric vehicles.”

Why? To summarize Deloitte’s findings:

  • Vehicle range is an issue – Americans have the highest expectations, and only 63 percent would be satisfied with a 300-mile range. The kicker – most mass-market EVs will get about 100 miles to the charge, or twice the 50-mile-per-day (or less) commute that 77 percent of Americans now have.
  • Charging takes way too long – As a society that demands instant gratification, most American consumers (58 percent) want a two-hour charge, and 23 percent want their cars to charge in less than 30 minutes. According to Deloitte’s press release, “in all countries, only a minority viewed up to eight hours (the normal time it takes to recharge the typical batter in today’s vehicles) as acceptable.“
  • The price premium on EVs is not gonna fly – People don’t want to pay any premium on EVs;  in fact, more than 50 percent of consumers worldwide are opposed to any price premium (65 percent in the U.S.).

Why would people buy an EV? According to the survey, if fuel prices continue to rise. More than half of Americans surveyed said a price point of $4 per gallon on gas would make them more likely to consider an electric vehicle. But, if traditional cars can achieve 50 miles per gallon, the majority of consumers around the world would be less likely to consider an EV purchase.

The challenges are certainly clear. Craig Giffi, vice chairman and automotive practice leader, Deloitte LLP, stated in press release: “For the time being, the mass adoption of electric vehicles is more likely to occur in countries that are willing and able to take an aggressive policy approach that encourages and subsidizes the market. And in today’s world, with so many sovereign debt challenges, that is very likely to be a road less traveled.”

In more hopeful news …

Other announcements this week hold promise for EVs and most certainly will help us learn more about the likelihood of EV adoption, including a pilot announced by Dominion Virginia Power and a research collaboration announced between GE and Nissan.


Click here to download entire Deloitte study.

Image provided by: Paul Martin Eldridge: