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Published on August 9th, 2015 | by Tina Casey

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10,000 EV Drivers Can’t Be Wrong… But They Can Be Different (CleanTechnica Exclusive Interview)

August 9th, 2015 by  


The Ford Motor Company has just come out with a new survey of electric vehicle drivers and the big number has been rippling through the Intertubes: more than 90% of EV drivers love their EVs and will stick with electric for their next car. That certainly vindicates the EV driving experience in general, but there are some intriguing details behind that number, mainly having to do with the difference between different types of EVs.

For that story, we turn to Stephanie Janczak, Manager of Electric Vehicle Infrastructure and Technology at Ford, who graciously spent some time on the phone with CleanTechnica to dig into the details of the new survey.

Ford EV driver survey electric vehicles

EV Drivers By The Numbers

The purpose of the survey was to gain a better understanding of just how and why people are integrating electric vehicles into their lives.

Ford commissioned the EV custom survey firm PlugInsights for the survey, so let’s take a quick look at that company first.

PlugInsights draws from a panel of EV drivers primarily located in the US, and samples are weighted according to the latest available monthly sales figures. As the maker of the charging station app PlugShare, the company has a keen interest in helping auto manufacturers grow the EV marketplace:

PlugInsights’ mission is to amplify the voice of the driver to automakers, utilities, regulators, charging networks, financial analysts, and the rest of the plug-in car industry. We want the insights we uncover to light the road ahead for those who are creating tomorrow’s electric vehicles and services.

We’re guessing that Ford culled some particularly useful marketing information from the new survey that it’s not going to share with the competition, so not with us either. However, the numbers released publicly look great for the overall EV market. The breakdown is that 92% of battery electric vehicle (BEV) owners and 94% of plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) owners plan to buy another EV in the future.

More Good Numbers For EV Drivers

Janczak broke those numbers down for us a little more. Among the 92% of BEV drivers who said they would buy another EV, the primary choice was another BEV. The driving experience (“instant power,” as Janczak expresses it) was cited along with an appreciation of clean technology.

While BEV owners tended to say they would stay with full battery technology for a future EV purchase, PHEV owners were more inclined to switch to BEV for their next electric car.



 

Since many households have more than one car, the survey also delved into second-car ownership. The survey found that, among EV owners, the second car ownership rate topped 90%, and the second car tended to be a gasmobile.

Second-car owners said they tended to use the gasmobile for longer trips, which, according to Janczek, suggests that improvements in battery range will prompt EV owners to replace their second car with an EV, too.

The survey supported that view, and in addition it showed that the tendency for PHEV owners to switch to BEV holds true when it comes to the second car. Among the PHEV owners who also own a gasmobile, 73% said that, when it comes to replacing their gasmobile, they were pretty much split on either a PHEV or a BEV.

EVs & Solar Energy

The real question is why BEV owners are not interested in switching down to PHEV, while PHEV owners tend to switch up to BEV. Janczek spotted a few clues in the survey.

The survey showed that BEV drivers tend to be more aware of, and concerned about, global warming issues, and have chosen electric as part of their lifestyle decision-making. PHEV drivers, in contrast, are attracted primarily by the potential for saving money.

We’re thinking that the group of PHEV drivers who plan on switching to BEV includes a fair number who are attracted by an even greater money-saving potential, as well as some who are developing a keener awareness of the environmental impacts of their personal mobility choices. Of course, with “instant power” as a top attraction PHEV drivers have tasted, they may simply want to drive on electricity more.

According to Janczak, Ford is particularly interested in the relationship between solar ownership and EV ownership as a lifestyle choice, and the survey validates the company’s solar-based lifestyle initiatives.

When asked about their use of solar energy, 83% of EV drivers said they had solar panels at home already or would consider installing them in order to get a true zero-emission driving experience.

Solar adoption at home is important because, as long as fossil fuel power plants continue to supply electricity to the grid, grid-connected EV drivers will be at least partly fossil-powered.

As that 83% figure shows, there is considerable overlap between EV ownership and solar acceptance, which Janczak attributes to an awareness of global warming issues. That supports the idea that EV ownership is part of a “complete lifestyle” focused on reducing emissions.

Janczak also notes that, as far as the chicken-and-egg sequence goes, adopting solar at home doesn’t necessarily come before the purchase of an EV, but the two are related.

You’re Going To See More Connectivity

All in all, the EV driver survey validated the idea that future vehicle ownership will be part of a more holistic, connected, electric-based mobile lifestyle powered by renewable energy.

On the consumer end, Ford has already begun to integrate solar into its MyEnergi package, while integrating vehicle ownership, ride sharing, and mass transit through a suite of connectivity-based initiatives.

Ford has also been highlighting wind and solar-enabled EV charging at selected dealerships, and it has been ramping up its corporate sustainability measures with more solar among many other initiatives, including the introduction of biodegradable car parts.

Though the EV driver survey yielded no real surprises in terms of raw numbers, Janczak said that the passion expressed by EV owners in the survey is another factor supporting the trend toward a more sustainable model for personal mobility.

Image via The Ford Motor Company.

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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.



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