The moment of truth for transportation electrification
Consumer range anxiety fades
- "If you are buying iPhones®, it's because they look nice, feel nice and you're really cool if you have one. With EVs, it's the same thing. Those that experience them say, 'I want one.' It's an emotional thing, not how much it costs."–Bonn participant
- "People who can afford more expensive things start things rolling, and afterward, those with less money want it too, and the chain reacts." –Bonn participant
- "Early adopters want much more communication, direction, to be involved, and they expect a dialogue through immediate notification, just as anyone else buying a US$30,000 object would want. The challenges aren’t about the product, even technical issues."—Detroit participant
- "We can't expect the consumer to hand it to us. We've got to do the work."—Detroit participant
- "This is the start stage of a long journey. But the market needs people from different parts of the ecosystem to work together. Not just government, but third-party providers and OEMs. Because these are big numbers. And from a technical point of view, we don’t know exactly what consumers will buy in the future."—Beijing participant
- "The idea of ownership is shifting to sharing. We have to think of new concepts, not just apply old ones to an entirely new industry." —Beijing participant
Driving an EV generally wins over drivers and diminishes the concern that the vehicle’s battery range is insufficient to take them to their destinations (range anxiety). Now, if we could just ramp up production!
Would-be buyers test-drive electric vehicles
Developments in Europe
Feedback from the consumer session was overwhelmingly positive in the US and Europe, with most participants agreeing that last year’s hot button issue of range anxiety has faded to some degree as would-be buyers test-drive EVs. Using extended-range vehicles, some added, would help lessen, if not eliminate, those fears.
Those in Beijing, by contrast, were much more cautious because of the consumer’s lower earning power, risk appetite and eco-consciousness.
Developments in China
E-mobility was the buzzword in Bonn, with car-sharing widely seen as a stepping-stone to consumer EV purchases after users familiarize themselves with the technology. Perhaps because the lessee bears more risk than the rental car company in Europe (the reverse is true in the US), companies across the continent are more apt to embrace the car-sharing model, they said.
Novel business models, many agreed, lay the groundwork for true e-mobility. Several examples of creative partnerships were mentioned, such as independent companies selling charging solutions.
To maintain the momentum, however, participants underscored the need to “walk the talk” by continuing the hard work of step-by-step creation of a consumer EV ecosystem.
- Regional showcase projects demonstrate that range anxiety fades quickly and driving EVs creates converts.
- The industry needs an “iCar” – an EV with cool quotient and mass appeal.
- Greater diversity in vehicle type is needed, vehicles tailored to market segments. The luxury segment could lead adoption because price is not the primary concern among these drivers.
- Consumer education is needed to assuage range anxiety.
- Need to create a business case for every stakeholder in the value chain—energy provider, OEM, infrastructure provider, customer.
- EVs should be viewed in the context of a broader e-mobility solution where car ownership is not the primary model; opportunity to expose a greater number of drivers to EV technology.
- Lack of consumer awareness and lack of charging infrastructure is a barrier.
- Trials show that the EV driving experience improves with time and range anxiety fades.
- Demand for EVs outstrips supply; important to increase EV production volumes.
- Need to provide opportunities for consumers to experience EVs.
- Don’t make missteps with the early-adopter community—the same level of service and communication expected as with ICEs.
- No consumer market can be expected for several years—the price is too high, even with subsidies.
- Most buyers are first-time purchasers: risk averse, low-income, focused on status.
- Protectionism and preferences for local EV manufacturers makes it difficult to scale nationally.
- There is an immediate opportunity for small, low-speed EVs in the cities; the long-term opportunity lies with larger vehicles since most Chinese own only one car.
- Need to view EVs within an e-mobility framework; it is time to think of new approaches, not just apply old ones to an entirely new industry.
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