Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Electric Car Market

This morning, I found this interesting Zpryme report on the market for electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids.  While the projections are somewhat interesting, I think such things are always basically guesswork.  More useful is the survey of current consumers.  According to Zpryme "A web-based survey was conducted from November 17 – 22, 2010, to a representative sample of 1,046 men and women in the U.S.".   I'm not quite sure how you guarantee that a "web-based survey" is "representative", but I guess we'll have to give them the benefit of the doubt.

At any rate, you can see above that the result suggests that 8% or so of consumers are Very Likely to buy an EV in the next two years.  That sounds like a huge number for a nascent market that literally sold the first production cars from major vendors in the last month or two.  However, drilling into some internals suggests some modification of this conclusion.  In particular, of the "Likely" purchasers, about 10% are willing to spend $10k over an equivalent conventional vehicle:

Since early EVs do in fact carry that kind of price tag, I think we can write down the 8% to 0.8%.  Still, with around 12 million vehicles being sold in the US, that suggests an early adopter market of about 100,000 buyers willing to pay this kind of premium.  That's probably plenty for the Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf, etc to sell their first couple of years of production.

To go beyond that into a mass market, however, the premium is going to have to come down quite a bit (or else oil prices go up correspondingly).

The survey also asked about how much environmental issues where a factor in people's consideration of an EV.  Unsurprisingly, almost all likely buyers are motivated at least in part by environmental concerns:

Color me orange.  I'm planning to buy a Volt as soon as I can find somewhere that will sell me one (the dealership here in Ithaca has not been able to provide any useful information on when they might be available locally).  This is notwithstanding a sustained lobbying campaign against the Volt by my kids, who don't like the way the front looks (interestingly, they approved of the Opel Ampera).


KLR said...

Heh, your anecdote is as telling as anything in the data. My 2000 Plymouth gave up the ghost a year ago and I had to scramble to find a new car - went with a 2007 Yaris, considered other models like the Honda Fit - my prerogative of course being MPG, and little else. Reading online reviews I was startled to see how fixated people are on cupholders. I mean, come on people - it's a recess. WTF! Wonder what the late Roman equivalent was to this kind of frivolity. Having older/eccentric friends who almost all drive beaters made in the 80s/mid 90s I was oblivious to this particular form of irrationality. They're not rabid materialists, either.

I'm waiting on my copy of Build Your Own Electric Bicycle. That market is going places, I reckon. Price spikes? Lines at the gas station? Plop down a couple hundred bucks and you're off to the supermarket, no matter how obese or superannuated you happen to be.

porsena said...

The roughly 20% of US GM dealers signed up to sell the Volt can be tracked down from this link. I imagine they have waiting lists that you'd need to get onto.

Stuart Staniford said...


Thanks - none within 150 miles right now :-(

Stuart Staniford said...

Looks like there's a bunch down in NYC - guess I'm going to have to expend some gas to get this thing :-)

Jim and Linda Kelley said...

There was a post suggesting EVs are similar to corn ethanol,not much net savings. The energy embedded in the battery is more than any realistic fuel saving. The unknown was at the recycle point of the battery. How about an electric trike.