Is public awareness about electric vehicles like the Nissan Leaf actually increasing, or not? A new study, released this week, says potential buyers still have major misconceptions about the EV segment.
Respondents in the study, according to the New York Times (here), were not aware of several facts, such as the increased price of electric vehicles and their potential fuel savings. Electric vehicles can be pretty complicated, but who in 2012 doesn’t know that they A) are most expensive than their gas-powered counterparts and B) save you a lot of money on fuel? These seem like basic concepts, but ok. Back to basics.
So, are these misunderstandings driving customers away from the Chevrolet Volt, or pushing them into the depths of eco-friendliness with both feet? Are they swinging to one side, or the other? Neither, according to Dr. John Graham, who designed the study:
“In some cases, the misunderstandings would cause one to be more pessimistic about the vehicle than they should be. And in other cases, it would cause people to be more optimistic than they should be.”
Basically, neither EV supporters nor critics know what they’re talking about. That’s a major problem for automakers, most of whom are doubling down on electric, hybrid and other futuristic fuel-efficiency strategies.
The study, from the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs and published by the journal Transportation Research, interviewed 2,300 people in 21 large American cities. You could argue that’s not a large enough audience to gauge the knowledge of the entire country, but Dr. Graham and his team insist its an accurate depiction. The study was conducted in Fall 2011, but again, they maintain the results are relevant today.
If true, it seems that American buyers are not only uninformed, but also not interested enough to find out the facts. The auto industry will need to change that around if they hope to sell cars over the next 10-15 years. By 2025, they will be required to average 54.5 MPG across their entire fleet, and they won’t be able to do that without electric and hybrid vehicles.
It would be interesting to see the study results broken down by region, because hybrid and EV knowledge does seem high – some would say too high – here in California. Several automakers brought new electric and hybrid vehicles to the Los Angeles Auto Show last month, to cater to the eco-conscious market and adhere to new state laws requiring electric cars. Is California more accepting because there are more electric vehicles, or are there more electric vehicles because California is more accepting? Would increasing awareness in less informed parts of the country also increase their desire to own an electric vehicle?
Automakers are facing a lot of difficult decisions on the near horizon, and unfortunately for them, it seems studies like this produce more questions than answers.