Interest in EVs strong, but range anxiety may be barrier to many, study finds

(August 25, 2010) Range anxiety still appears to trump curiosity when it comes to the general public's attitude towards battery-electric vehicles, according to a new study that's got to be a disconcerting bit of news at Nissan, which is preparing to debut the Leaf, the first production BEV in the U.S., later this year.

While about 40 percent of Americans say they likely try to test drive a battery-electric vehicle sometime in the future, about half of those polled said mileage between battery charges is a major concern, while about a third said battery life was an issue, according to a Consumer Electronics Association study.

Consumers are weighing such concerns against positive BEV attributes such as extremely low fueling and no tailpipe emission. The lack of oil changes and tune-ups are also big selling points, the CEA said, citing its poll taken in late May and early June.

Nissan Leaf goes
to the public in 2011

"Environmental benefits, coupled with potential cost savings in fuel and tune-ups, will lead to increased interest for electric vehicles and potential floor traffic at dealerships," said Chris Ely, CEA's manager of industry analysis. "But concerns regarding battery life, charging stations and limited mileage may keep some consumers away until a comprehensive infrastructure is in place."

Nissan earlier this year started taking deposits on the five-seat Leaf, which will be priced at $32,780 before federal tax credits or local incentives kick in. Mitsubishi also is preparing to launch its i-MiEV four-seat electric city car in the U.S. and is trying to price it at less than $30,000, pre-incentives. Both cars deliver about 100 miles of range at city speeds on a fully charged battery.

Other battery-electric cars slated for U.S. market entry over the next year or so include BEV versions of Ford Transit Connect commercial van and Ford Focus compact, the Smart Fortwo EV and the Coda sedan that will  be sold only in California at first.

Range anxiety, no matter how problematic, doesn't seem pervasive enough to kill EVs, however, and in public acknowledgment of that the Consumer Electronics Association, which holds the giant CES trade show in Las Vegas each January, will feature electric vehicles for the first time at the upcoming 2011 show.

Danny King, contributor