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What You Want In An Electric Car

In our 7th article pulled from Electric Cars: What Early Adopters & First Followers Want — a new report from CleanTechnica, EV Obsession, and GAS2 — I’m jumping into some of the really juicy stuff — specific features people want, car classes people are interested in, and some specifics regarding batteries.

Tesla Model S electric sedans charging 2We asked only the non-owners/lessees about required and desired features they want in an EV. In order of popularity, but removing one answer due to potential misunderstanding, these were the features most required by respondents (note that respondents were able to select multiple features). In order of popularity:

  • Access to Tesla’s Supercharger network (or a comparable network… if one ever gets built) (54.1%)
  • 5 seats (28.4%)
  • All-wheel drive (27%)
  • Towing capability (13.6%)
  • A free car rental for up to 3 weeks a year, or free access to a carsharing service for up to $500 of use (12.6%)
  • Sunroof (10%)

I also asked these people, “Which features would you love to have in an EV, and could make you select one model over another?” Again, multiple answers were permitted. The breakdown of preference for the potential extra features we listed is as follows:

  • Access to Tesla’s Supercharger network (or a comparable network… if one ever gets built) (61.4%)
  • Ability to check charging status on a smartphone app (57.4%)
  • Over-the-air software updates (50.4%)
  • Ability to preheat or pre-cool the car using a smartphone app (45.3%)
  • Autonomous cruise control (where the car automatically adjusts its speed to match the vehicle in front of it) (44.2%)
  • All-wheel drive (40.5%)
  • Keyless start, stop, and entry (37.7%)
  • A system that would allow you to send electricity from your battery back into the grid (for some extra cash from the utility, of course) (34%)
  • 5+ seats (27.4%)
  • Autosteer (25.9%
  • Automatic parking (where you can get out in front of your house, for example, and the car will drive into the garage and park) (23.7%)
  • Auto parallel park (22.4%)
  • Towing capability (19.9%)
  • A free car rental for up to 3 weeks a year (19.1%)
  • Sunroof (16.9%)
  • Option to get leather seats (15%)
  • Option to get non-leather seats (14.6%)
  • Free access to a carsharing network for up to $500 in use (10.5%)

From both of the questions above, we can see that respondents greatly value and desire Tesla’s Supercharger network, or would value and desire a comparable super-fast charging network… except that no others exist.

Tesla Model S electric sedans charging 1Other top desires concern “smart” features that make driving and fixing the car more convenient and less stressful, such as the ability to check charging status on a smartphone app, the ability to preheat or pre-cool the car using a smartphone app, over-the-air software updates (again, only offered by Tesla at the moment), and autonomous cruise control.

Another thing that only Tesla offers is the option to upgrade the battery pack for more capacity after a few years (for a designated price). Such an option has been recommended by our readers numerous times, so I was curious to see how important it was, in general, to respondents. 69% of potential owners indicated they would be significantly more attracted to a fully electric model if they would be able to upgrade the battery pack. Only 7% didn’t care about that.

battery upgrade 1

In terms of a plug-in hybrid model, 34% stated they would be significantly more attracted to a model if they would be able to upgrade the battery pack. 40% didn’t care.

battery upgrade 2

Aside from features, another critical aspect of a car for many consumers (other than the color) is the class or type of vehicle it is. Only a handful of widely available electric cars are on the market, not even covering all classes of vehicle. If automakers want to lead the way in this market, they should know what class of car potential EV buyers most desire.

This is how things broke down according to the two populations we surveyed:

car classes 1 car classes 2

  1. Intermediate (owners/lessees = 33% | non-owners/lessees = 27%)
  2. SUV (owners/lessees = 19% | non-owners/lessees = 24%)
  3. Compact (owners/lessees = 20% | non-owners/lessees = 22%)
  4. Full Size (owners/lessees = 18% | non-owners/lessees = 19%)
  5. Sports Car (owners/lessees = 5% | non-owners/lessees = 3%)
  6. Pickup Truck (owners/lessees = 4% | non-owners/lessees = 5%)
  7. Scooter/Motorcycle (owners/lessees = 1% | non-owners/lessees = 1%)

Interestingly, none of the genuinely mass-market EVs on the market today are in the intermediate class. The Nissan LEAF is in the compact class, the Chevy Volt is in the compact class, the BMW i3 is in the subcompact class, and the Tesla Model S in the full-size class. If you consider the Ford Fusion Energi a mass-market EV, it is in the intermediate/midsize class, but it’s debatable whether this is a “mass-market” EV or simply a compliance car, and it is heavily criticized by many EV enthusiasts for having only about 20 miles of electric driving range on a full charge.

You can download the full “Electric Cars: What Early Adopters & First Followers Want” report here.

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

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Written By

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.


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