When fueling up means plugging in

May 18, 2011 By Elizabeth Boyle
A Chevrolet Volt, being shown during an Earth Day event in Wilmington. Credit: Lisa Tossey

Want a Nissan Leaf? Join the 20,000 people on the waiting list to get one. The Chevy Volt got your eye? General Motors ramped up availability earlier this year to try and meet demand. With the latest generation of electric vehicles gaining traction, new findings from University of Delaware researchers are informing automakers’ and policymakers’ decisions about the environmentally friendly cars.

Results of one study show the electric car attributes that are most important for consumers: driving range, fuel cost savings and charging time. The results are based on a national survey conducted by the researchers, UD professors George Parsons, Willett Kempton and Meryl Gardner, and Michael Hidrue, who recently graduated from UD with a doctoral degree in economics. Lead author Hidrue conducted the research for his dissertation.

The study, which surveyed more than 3,000 people, showed what individuals would be willing to pay for various electric vehicle attributes. For example, as battery charging time decreases from 10 hours to five hours for a 50-mile charge, consumers’ willingness to pay is about $427 per hour in reduction time. Drop charging time from five hours to one hour, and consumers would pay an estimated $930 an hour. Decrease the time from one hour to 10 minutes, and they would pay $3,250 per hour.

For driving range, consumers value each additional mile of range at about $75 per mile up to 200 miles, and $35 a mile from 200-300 miles. So, for example, if an electric vehicle has a range of 200 miles and an otherwise equivalent gasoline vehicle has a range of 300, people would require a price discount of about $3,500 for the electric version. That assumes everything else about the vehicle is the same, and clearly there is lower fuel cost with an electric vehicle and often better performance. So all the attributes have to be accounted for in the final analysis of any car.

“This information tells the car manufacturers what people are willing to pay for another unit of distance,” Parsons said. “It gives them guidance as to what cost levels they need to attain to make the cars competitive in the market.”

The researchers found that battery costs would need to decrease substantially without subsidy and with current gas prices for electric cars to become competitive in the market. However, the researchers said, the current $7,500 government tax credit could bridge the gap between electric car costs and consumers’ willingness to pay if battery costs decline to $300 a kilowatt hour, the projected 2014 cost level by the Department of Energy. Many analysts believe that goal is within reach.

The team’s analysis could also help guide ’ marketing efforts — it showed that an individual’s likelihood of buying an electric vehicle increases with characteristics such as youth, education and an environmental lifestyle. Income was not important.

Research shows potential customers of electric vehicles have concerns about limited driving range and long charging times. Credit: Lisa Tossey, University of Delaware

In a second recently published study, UD researchers looked at electric vehicle driving range using second-by-second driving records. That study, which is based on a year of driving data from nearly 500 instrumented gasoline vehicles, showed that 9 percent of the vehicles never exceeded 100 miles in a day. For those who are willing to make adaptations six times a year — borrow a gasoline car, for example — the 100-mile range would work for 32 percent of drivers.

“It appears that even modest with today’s limited battery range, if marketed correctly to segments with appropriate driving behavior, comprise a large enough market for substantial vehicle sales,” the authors concluded.

Kempton, who published the driving patterns article with UD marine policy graduate student Nathaniel Pearre and colleagues at the Georgia Institute of Technology, pointed out that U.S. car sales are around 12 million in an average, non-recession year. Nine percent of that would be a million cars per year — for comparison to current production, for example, Chevy plans to manufacture just 10,000 Volts in 2011. 

By this measure, the potential market would justify many more plug-in cars than are currently being produced, Kempton said. 

Explore further: Boeing and Chinese firm to turn 'gutter oil' into jet fuel

More information: The findings of the two studies were reported online in March and February in Resource and Energy Economics and Transportation Research, respectively.

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krundoloss
not rated yet May 18, 2011
What is the freakin hold up? ALOT of people want an electric car, and the car makers are taking FOREVER to produce them. Why? Just produce the things and people will buy them! Look at how many people bought the Prius! But they better SELL them, none of this forced-lease-we-can-take-your-car-at-any-time crap!
jwalkeriii
not rated yet May 18, 2011
Funny thing is electric cars don't make much economic sense-- yet.

Search for this article in Google for specifics:
Chart of the Day: Should Rising Gas Prices Drive Up Electric Vehicle Sales?
Bob_Wallace
not rated yet May 18, 2011
In order to drop charging time from ten hours per 50 miles to five hours per 50 miles you just have to plug into a 240vac outlet rather than a 120vac outlet. That would cost the same as installing an outlet for an electric clothes dryer in your garage.

"Norway-based electric car firm Think announced yesterday that it has teamed up with charging technology specialist AeroVironment to produce a new system that promises to recharge a flat battery to 80 per cent capacity within 15 minutes.

The tests have confirmed that the technology is ready for commercial deployment and Think said that it would now work with AeroVironment to roll out fast-charging stations to fleet customers and commercial sites such as shopping malls, convenience stores and parking garages."

http://www.busine...-minutes

Please remember that when the horseless carriage first hit the road there were not gas stations on every corner.
Eikka
not rated yet May 19, 2011
Decrease the time from one hour to 10 minutes, and they would pay $3,250 per hour.


Just goes to show that consumers aren't rational, OR, that the study is bogus and the results don't reflect the real world.

Because $3,250 buys you roughly a thousand gallons of gasoline, which will give you 40,000 miles worth of driving in a reasonably efficient modern small car with all the convenience that gasoline gives you.

So if drivers are ready to pay that much more to get from "inconvenient" to "slightly inconvenient", then I don't know what is going on with these people.

But what I know is that when presented with the real opportunity to buy the electric car that costs 40,000 miles worth of driving more than your standard car, that still doesn't perform as well as the standard car, and where you still have to pay for the electricity as well (another 10k miles perhaps?) I imagine the vast majority will listen to the voice of their wallets going "No you idiot! NO!"
Eikka
not rated yet May 19, 2011

Please remember that when the horseless carriage first hit the road there were not gas stations on every corner.


Nor did you need one, because the carriage could carry more than a gallon of fuel at a time.

Henry Ford designed his car to be able to run on moonshine that the farmers could make themselves. It could also be run on kerosene, which was abundant because it was used in lamps. Most of the early engines could be run on pretty much anything that burns, such as turpentine.
33Nick
not rated yet May 21, 2011
Part of the holdup is companies looking at different types of Lithium chemistry. If all worked on one, prices would drop and research would increase, exponentially improving performance.

As far as why people are willing pay and have less "performance", (performance means different things to different people) is that many realize the impact paying for gasoline which ends up in countries with ties to groups that distabilize "word peace". Those are the same groups we spend billions of dollars fighting. In one sense, we subsidize these countries and groups when we pay for gas, we subsidize petroleum companies and then spend spend more tax payer's money fighting the people we subsidize. Smart! When you tally it up, paying more for a car that drives less (remember 80% of the US drives less than 60 miles a day), gas cars are not efficient, no matter how you look at it, future wise, environment, technically (60% of the energy lost heat) etc. You just need to be honest and unemotional.
that_guy
not rated yet May 21, 2011
Decrease the time from one hour to 10 minutes, and they would pay $3,250 per hour.


Just goes to show that consumers aren't rational, OR, that the study is bogus and the results don't reflect the real world.

I think you're comparing apples and oranges a little bit, as it's a time/convenience issue vs. Money. Also the beginning of the article is written in the wrong perspective. At the end of the article, it gives an example of a regular car vs the electric car, and that discount counts for a gas car as well, against an arbitrary electric.

So if all else was equal, an electric car that takes an hour to charge would have to be $2700(50 minutes difference) less than the gasoline one that fills in ten minutes to have equal appeal. Plus you would see significant savings on...gas money over the years. Most people drive their cars more than 40k miles.
that_guy
not rated yet May 21, 2011
What is the freakin hold up? ALOT of people want an electric car, and the car makers are taking FOREVER to produce them. Why? Just produce the things and people will buy them! Look at how many people bought the Prius! But they better SELL them, none of this forced-lease-we-can-take-your-car-at-any-time crap!


I thought the article made the holdup abundantly clear. There are some serious convenience and price/economic issues. The prius sells well because it is a good combination of price and convenience.

The reason why there's not a lot of pure EV vehicles is not just because GM was timid, it's because there are a lot of drawbacks: Expense, range, room, etc. It is hard for a company to sell a lot of cars when they're more expensive and less convenient. In fact, it appears that the nissan leaf would have to go for less than 15k for it to be widely successful. (Seriously, don't call 2000 cars success when the company sells 10 million vehicles a year.)