Published on January 24th, 2016 | by Zachary Shahan


CleanTechnica Report: “Electric Cars: What Early Adopters & First Followers Want”

January 24th, 2016 by  

We here at CleanTechnica, EV Obsession, and GAS2 are launching our first report. It’s a report that was made possible by the thousands of readers who completed a handful of surveys we created to dive deeper into the electric car market. I think the report, Electric Cars: What Early Adopters & First Followers Want, fills a number of important information gaps, and includes many interesting findings.

The intro of the report is below, or you can just download the full thing (for free) right here and read it all.

EV Report 1

The electric car market has been growing exponentially in the past few years. But it is still a small percentage of the new car market in most places, typically representing less than 1% of new car sales. What is needed to grow electric car sales to a majority of new car sales? What types of cars and what features will dominate in such a market? When will we reach that milestone?

“Early adopters” and “first followers” will lead us into an electric future, as they do with every technology transition. The sooner they get what they want, the sooner electric cars will become mainstream products that the majority of new car buyers are choosing. These early buyers illuminate broad consumer needs and desires that we often don’t consider simply by theorizing. Getting their feedback sooner rather than later can help companies and governments save time and money, while guiding them along the most effective path into the future.

EV Report 2

Through four different surveys completed by over 2,000 people, we have gathered useful and unique insight into what existing and potential electric car owners and lessees want from their electric cars, charging infrastructure, and local policymakers. This report details the minimum electric driving range that people want from fully electric and plug-in hybrid electric cars, their range–price “sweet spot,” specific features they want or require in an electric car, their preferred car classes, and specific electric car models they intend to buy or lease. The report also delves into preferences regarding buying or leasing and how these options have been split amongst early adopters.

“Why wouldn’t you try to make the future better, if you are going to be a part of it.”
~Elon Musk

External to the cars, the report offers insight into electric car charging preferences and habits, solar power adoption, the attraction of different government incentives, and electric car business models that respondents think will most effectively advance the electric car revolution. 

Marika Lily EV ReportThe report also explores what early adopters and first followers consider to be electric cars’ greatest benefits and attractions — matters which might help automakers, electric car advocates, and policymakers more effectively grow the electric car customer base.

The surveys conducted for this report also delve into more obscure but important matters, such as the ability to upgrade a car’s battery in future years, access to Supercharging, DC fast-charging capability, autonomous driving options, and over-the-air software updates, among other things. Demographics such as respondent gender, household income, number of cars in the household, and location also offer some interesting insights.

EV Report 4

Wrapping up the report, we discuss a potential “EV revolution” — specifically, expectations for when electric cars will account for 10% and then 50% of new car sales, as well as a brief presentation on disruptive technologies and technology adoption curves.

Is the future electric? We think so. The only question is — how fast will we get there?

Again, you can download the full report here.

Report sponsors include Cost of Solar, Plugless Power, the Low Voltage Vehicle Electrification Event, and Pono Home.

Check out our new 93-page EV report, based on over 2,000 surveys collected from EV drivers in 49 of 50 US states, 26 European countries, and 9 Canadian provinces.

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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the typed word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession, Solar Love, and Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in.

  • Perttu Lehtinen

    Tesla is doing everything right, the others are doing almost everything wrong.

  • SecularAnimist

    I want dirt-cheap, ultra-simple, generic “clone” EVs based on an open-source architecture, assembled from easily upgraded components using industry-standard interfaces and form factors.

    • Benjamin Nead

      Me too. The used i-MiEV I now own is closer to that than most EVs
      I see for sale today. But this probably isn’t the complete step forward
      you envision.

      Simple: yes, I’m with you there. Open-source architecture? Check. Not sure where you place “dirt cheap” on a dollars/cents scale, but I’m guessing $13K to $18K base price new? How light/heavy is it going to be?

      It doesn’t have to be hyper fast or have cutting edge range. But the idea that improved bolt-on and downloadable upgrades are going to be continually developed is essential. To be that cheap, they’re also going to have to make hundreds of thousands of them at first and millions of them over the years. Make that many of them and you’ve got a benchmark for industry-standard interfaces.

      The important thing is an honest business model 10 or 15 years later . . .
      when the first cars made really start showing their age. Will they still be desirable enough to continue upgrading the evolving standards associated with batteries and other modular electronics? Or will this car be as obsolete as a 15 year old cheap/simple/clone desktop computer with all the then-standard interfaces and form factors?

      The other key thing that has to be factored is safety, which are evolving standards that are different in different parts of the world.

  • Kyle Field

    Awesome! So excited to read through this! Thanks for all your hard work to pull this together and extract the key messages from it…can’t wait to read more about it.

    • Can’t believe I’m finally publishing it. 😛

      • Andrea B.

        I’m so excited to see this live! Congrats Zach and CT team!

  • Roger Lambert

    I’ll tell you what I want. I want Interstate highways with inductive charging.

    Remember the recent exploded view of the huge amount of technology in the Chevy Bolt? It looked like there was a fully-blown Dodge Hemi in the front of that car.

    All that expense. All that weight. All that multiplied by every single EV on the road. It’s absolutely insane. Hundreds of millions of EV cars, eventually, all five to seven times more expensive than they need to be – all so each and every one of them can carry a thousand pound battery with them and regulate and reclaim juice during the trip.

    All done to increase the range of these vehicles for long trips. Trillions of dollars of reiterative tech to solve a problem which disappears with electric-induction highways. Are we not throwing our money away?

    Take the U.S.: 253 million cars and trucks on the road. Let’s imagine they are all EV’s. Let’s say that the cost per car to have a huge battery and manage it is $20,000 (What do you think a $35,00 Leaf would cost if it didn’t need a battery system – I am guessing $15,000 and that is being very generous).

    Let’s take a guess and say that the electrical components for an electric highway would have a life-span of fifty years. Let’s say that EV cars have a lifespan of ten years.

    So, 253 million cars x $20,000 per car, replaced 5 times over 50 years = 25 trillion dollars. Crazy.

    It’s as if city managers all over the country decided not to build a water and waste system. Everybody would instead need to drill their own well, and put in a leach field septic system. Every single person in the city.

    Thinking collectively could put a lot of money into our pockets.

    • sjc_1

      Electric interstates could cost $20 million per mile for 0.1% of the cars. Taxpayers are not going to pick up the tab and private sector would have to charge a fortune.

      • Roger Lambert

        Eventually, it will be 100% of the cars, surely? I imagine tax payers would be pretty happy to spend $20,000 less per car, and have no range anxiety.

    • MarTams

      What is the overall efficiency of inductive charging on the road?

      • Roger Lambert

        I don’t think we know the answer to that, yet. This is all still in the development stages, although Stanford engineers have said this is tech that could work today.

    • Otis11

      Not only that, the wireless power transfer efficiency through roads AWFUL!

      Just the power wasted would be cost prohibitive.

      Not to mention the power electronics for even semi-efficient power transfer at the kW level to put in the car would be more expensive than the power electronics currently in electric cars (so it wouldn’t decrease price) and you would have to insert huge power electronics in accessible areas along the highway. (To make the transfer more efficient you want lots of smaller ones, but to make it economical you want few large ones… Either way you go, the economics break down.)

      Sorry, but that would keep cars about the same price and require public work projects BEFORE we could roll them out (chicken and egg problem) that are expensive to build, expensive to maintain and expensive to run.

      • Roger Lambert

        I don’t follow you at all. From what I have read, this tech is pretty easy – very little different to inductive charger plates installed in your garage floor. The whole point is that it does NOT take a lot of extra gear. You need plates in the road, and an inductor plate on the bottom of the car. And, from what I have read, even though this tech is very young, efficiencies are quite high – 85%+.

        • Otis11

          Well, I’ll leave it at this: (Keep in mind I’ve worked on wireless inductive chargers using ultra-high-frequency resonance in order to improve efficiency – and built them in the lab – it’s not all roses.)

          The basic principles involved are definitely the same as the one in your garage floor, but there are some very important differences in practice.

          First, the one in your floor sits on the floor, meaning the charging panels are only a few inches away from each other. On the road, you can’t have a 6-inch boxes above the road – continuously. Lane changes would be impossible. This means you’re implanting them in the road (which has structural problems), or more likely, putting them (the coils anyway) below the road surface. This goes from transferring the power <6 inches to 24-30 inches (the original 6" + 6" of box height + 12-18" of pavement). And the losses here are super linear – meaning a 4x distance has significantly more than 4x the losses.

          Next, in your garage you're standing still. You have one coil parallel to the floor in the charger (primary coil) and another coil parallel to the floor in the base of your car (secondary coil). It is very easy to line up so that one coil is almost directly above the other coil and it stays there. This is absolutely necessary for the even 80% efficiency these wireless chargers achieve (Some claim higher, but I have yet to see it demonstrated in the real world). Now you can move the top coil forward or backward a few inches and still get very close to maximum efficiency, but if you move the coils more than 3 inches or so, efficiency drops dramatically. (It's a trig function – cos(0) only losses a bit changing to cos (30), but going from cos(30) to cos(60), or even from cos (60 to cos(70) you drop off dramatically). Try having lots of these coils in/under the road such that you turn each one on in time for the car to pass over it and off after such that it's at full power only when the cars coils are over it almost exactly.

          Also keep in mind that you would have to transfer significantly more power than the car is using during 3 inches of travel that the car is over the coil, wait for the car to travel 12 inches to the next coil, and repeat. This means you need to transfer 4-5x the average energy consumption. There is also energy wasted during start-up (so that it can be at power when the car arrives) and residual power remaining in the coil after the car leaves (so that it charges the whole time the car is over the coil) that are also wasted. This would result in dramatically lower efficiencies than in a stationary wireless charging case.

          There are significant other factors preventing in-transit wireless charging, but these here already preclude it from being anywhere near practical without major technological breakthroughs that I don’t see on the horizon. (Not to say they won’t happen, but don’t look for them in the 15 year time frame – much less the 5-10 we’d want.)

          (Disclaimer – not all of this is strictly correct and there are known ways around some of these problems, but they introduce problems of their own. I have simplified here to make it understandable by non-electrical engineers and will not be going into detail about the problems with each potential ‘work-around’ as there are too many to explain. These principles due hold true for the first order and are presented in good-faith. Someone simply looking to argue and familiar with the topics could tear into them because of the simplifications, but the results hold, and -to my knowledge – no one can currently present data to dispute the conclusions drawn from this explanation.)

          • Joe Viocoe

            Not to mention the high frequency switching.

            Induction charging cannot use DC… and requires much high frequencies than 60 hertz that our grid operates on.

            This requires some serious equipment to be placed at intervals along the road. It will not be a matter of just burying copper coils in the road… but now, there will be large equipment boxes placed along side, tied to the grid, with weather proofing, and cooling considerations.

            This will make high speed rail look like child’s play.

          • Otis11

            “This will make high speed rail look like child’s play.”
            – hahaha… I’m going to keep that quote…

            Yeah, it wouldn’t be easy, but if that were the biggest issue, that could be overcome with a steady improvement of existing technology – that’s what engineers are for. (Btw – you’re going to get much better efficiency and can use less copper in the coils if you go into the Mhz range. And I’m going to stop people there – while computers can do Ghz, that doesn’t transition to power electronics. It’s a different beast)

            But yes, overall you are correct. Wireless in transit charging creates more problems than it solves.

          • Joe Viocoe

            “Wireless in transit charging creates more problems than it solves.”

            Yes… it will be the “flying car” of the 21st century.

    • Harry Johnson

      I would be more than satisfied if most vehicles were range extended EVs. A 75 mile range with a onboard generator would mean the oil industry is forever changed. These generators could burn biodiesel, ethanol or natural gas but only occasionally. Emissions would plummet and the horrific baggage that comes with oil would end.

    • Joe Viocoe

      THIS is the mentality that leads to ridiculous waste. Consumers who think that all the cost, complexity, and magic could just be handled by someone else, as a public works project… and that consumers should not bear any responsibility or cost for transportation.

      If you want a network of interconnected transportation that is always connected to the grid… buy a train ticket!!!

      You are not gonna get the convenience of your own car, while offloading the cost and energy requirements to the road system.

      • Roger Lambert

        You seem to not like public works projects. Perhaps you boycott the Federal Interstate Highway system- a public works project, financed by taxes on consumers, to build an interconnected transportation system?

        And why do you think people would lose the convenience of their car? And what did I write that made you conclude that I think that consumers should not bear any cost for transportation?!?

        • Joe Viocoe

          No, I just think that public works projects should overwhelmingly benefit the public compared to alternatives.
          Before the highway system… interstate commerce used trains. Huge, overwhelming, advantage to everyone, to build a highway.

          Your suggestion is no significant improvement over our existing highway. Only serves to shift energy consumption from the individual, to the road itself.

          There is no way the consumer could pay for it. The cost would have to be spread over everyone. When I say consumer, I mean the drivers who actually benefit, not every driver.
          While a few hundred folks can drive their induction charged EVs, the millions will be driving on concrete alone, but paying for copper (and all the power electronics, etc in the roads).

    • Joe Viocoe

      I’ve been arguing against similar proposals from Solar Roadways for a while.

      The cost benefit isn’t as simple as you think… and the assumption of a static $20k per battery is wrong.

      Yes, there is waste lugging around the extra weight of a battery for each car…
      But your suggestion creates waste as millions of miles of copper and power electronics that also sit idle while nobody is driving on it.

      It shifts the burden of waste, but does not eliminate it… and won’t even reduce it.

      If we were to calculate how many kilograms and US Dollars that may go unused in a EV, compared to the rest of the EV… ($ of battery % of $ of whole EV)… and compare that to the reality of your suggestion ($ of infrastructure actually utilized at any given moment % of $ of entire grid connected infrastructure built into roads).
      You’ll find that the total cost of an infrastructure project of this scale, is seriously high. Trillions of dollars that make the War on Terror look like bake sale money. And even then, the waste would be enormous too.

      In this instance, collective thinking doesn’t save money.

      • Roger Lambert

        Solar Roadways has absolutely nothing in common with induced-charging roadways.

        You keep making statements about how expensive this would be, as if there is not a titanic expense associated with EV battery tech. As I said (guessed, actually), the 50 year cost of needless huge batteries could be $25 trillion dollars. That’s trillion with a “T”. That will buy a lot of copper coils.

        And I have to say – I don’t think you should be decrying the huge cost of induced charging before we know what induced charging will actually cost.

        • Joe Viocoe

          Battery costs have already come down lower than predicted… and $20k is certainly not the price going forward 50 years.

          Compared to an infrastructure project of this epic proportion… which most predictions tend to under-estimate…. billions of dollars will need to be spent long before the first 100 drivers could even use this network.

          And yes, having studied the Solar Roadways plan in detail… you’re plan shares much in common.

  • sjc_1

    First Followers Want…RANGE

  • Shane 2

    Cheap fossil juice is slowing the switch to EVs. Common sense says that there should be higher taxes on the fuel because of the damage caused by burning it. Similarly, there should also be taxes on burning coal and NG.

    • Dan

      And some of those taxes should go directly to offset the “grid maintenance fees” being contestee over net metering in Nevada and elsewhere for solar. Utilities could use public money to upgrade smartgrid capabities, grid storage, and charging infrastructure without stifling the growth of rooftop solar. I’d like to see google, apple, or tesla get into the utilities game. Apple especially since they have lots of reserve cash being thrown against the wall towards an ev to compete with Tesla. A lot more would stick and be more usefulbdown the road if they revolutionized utilities business models.

      • Dan

        Nevada is growing into a silicon valley state. They could be in Gigafactories backyard

    • Perttu Lehtinen

      It might slow it down, but for example here in Finland there are high taxes on gas, but people don’t care. They whine and pay. However, Tesla is doing relatively well also here, but that’s because Tesla is Tesla.

    • Simple INDIAN

      or No Subsidy

    • Ernie

      No it’s not. Norway isn’t slowing down it’s rate of EV uptake with the same factors at play. The biggest reason they’re doing so well at this is the fact that EVs cost about the same as equivalent gasmobiles. There’s other incentives there, but it’s mostly the price of cars.

      Instead of taxing coal and natural gas, they tax the cars until the economics make sense to drive an EV instead.

      So my prediction is that once automakers can build EVs just as cheap as gas cars (and in the US, EPA fleet MPG requirements are helping that happen from the gasmobile end, causing their price to rise), it’ll basically be all over for gas cars. Especially considering that this is a thing that will happen in the future, when batteries will be all the more capable.

      • Shane 2

        Norway is a special case because of the massive tax incentives to buy an EV as well as access to special lanes, toll road exemptions, cheap ferry use etc. But Norway has a tiny proportion of the world’s vehicle fleet. As I said a special case. I’m a Bjorn Nyland fan so I take note of the situation in Norway. A good principle is that the polluter pay. Norway also has high gasoline taxes compared to many parts of the US.

        • Ernie

          Norway is a special case, but it’s still not immune from massive fluctuations in the price of gas. Your position is that people aren’t willing to buy EVs now because the difference in running costs isn’t as great, providing a disincentive to buying an EV.

          In Norway, the difference in the purchase price of a VW Golf GT and a VW e-Golf is exactly nothing. Yet, Norwegians are still buying more of the latter than the former. The running costs of an EV are still lower than a gas car, but there are other good reasons to buy an EV, in spite of their few drawbacks.

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