IBM: Electric cars face consumer concerns despite high interest

IBM study shows electric car pitfalls, potential

High gas prices alone will not fuel an electric car revolution, rather if the auto industry could address a variety of other concerns having to do with recharging, convenience and cost it would go a long way toward making the vehicles more popular.

These were a few of the conclusions of a pair of IBM studies of consumer attitudes and auto industry executives.  IBM interviewed 1,716 US drivers and 123 auto executives.

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On the positive side, the IBM study noted there is a potentially large market for electric vehicles:

  • 19% of drivers surveyed said that they were either "very likely" or "likely" to consider purchasing an electric-only vehicle when shopping for a new car. This is notable, given that 42% of drivers know only "a little" about EVs or have even "only heard of them."
  • 30% of drivers surveyed said that they would consider switching to an electric car that got 100 miles or less per charge. Current electric vehicles get about 50 to 100 miles per charge.
  • 40% of drivers said they would pay up to 20% more for an electric-only vehicle compared with a similarly-featured gas-, diesel, or hybrid-powered vehicle, with 27% saying they would pay 10% more and 13% saying they would pay 20% more.

So what are the concerns? From the IBM study:

  • The price of the home charging installation often required to support an EV could pose an obstacle to EV adoption. Only 13% of drivers said they would consider spending more than $1,000 to retrofit their residence to support recharging of an electric vehicle. According to industry estimates, retrofitting to a 240 volt outlet accessible to vehicles averages between $1,000 and $2,000.
  • In addition, two-thirds of consumers expect a price discount on their electricity for charging at home overnight. This expectation could place increasing focus on utilities for time-based pricing to encourage home charging, or more public charging will be required if an electricity discount is not available.
  • IBM said the auto executives were skeptical of consumers' willingness to pay a premium for green vehicles. Responses for the driver survey were similar across urban, suburban and rural areas -- with some notable exceptions. For example, rural respondents were the most likely (59%) to say they would pay nothing more for an electric-only vehicle compared with a similarly-featured gas-, diesel, or hybrid-powered vehicle.
  • Home charging is considered important to the success of EVs. Of the drivers surveyed, 83 percent said they park their primary vehicle in the driveway or garage of their private residence, as opposed to in a parking lot, on the street, in a shared garage or some other location.
  • Infrastructure needs to make charging electric vehicles easier. When deciding where to put charging stations, retail hubs like malls and shopping centers are good locations. Partnering with large employers in target regions to create charging infrastructure in the workplace also makes sense, said Kal Gyimesi of IBM's Institute for Business Value group which conducted the studies.

 Follow Michael Cooney on Twitter: nwwlayer8  

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