MINI Survey Shows Many Electric Car Customers Are Dazed & Confused About EVs

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The first all-electric MINI — based on the BMW i3 — will go on sale in 2020. Gearing up for the marketing campaign that will accompany the launch of that car in the US, MINI decided to ask Americans what their expectations are for an electric car. It commissioned a survey conducted by Engine International for that.

MINI electric car
Credit: MINI

“It is important for us as a brand to understand how consumers want to use their electric vehicles, and what they know and don’t know about them, as we move closer to the launch of the MINI Cooper S E electric vehicle in the US,” said Andrew Cutler, Head of Corporate Communications, MINI USA, according to an Associated Press report. “The more intelligence we gather, the more we can educate consumers about the many benefits of electric mobility and what MINI has to offer in the new MINI Cooper S E electric vehicle coming in early 2020.”

The survey asked a number of questions of 1,004 Americans 18 years or older — half men and half women. The takeaway from the survey results is that most people don’t have a clue when it comes to understanding what electric cars are all about. A recent CleanTechnica article by Carolyn Fortuna emphasized the need to educate consumers about electric cars. Boy, howdy!

74% said they had no idea where the nearest EV charger was located. When asked how much time it takes to charge an electric car, 53% said they didn’t know or thought it was about 30 minutes. Two-thirds said that EVs were mostly for early adopters. Almost as many said electric cars were primarily for commuting and urban driving.

That last part shouldn’t surprise anyone. Most research shows that the average American drives less than 30 miles a day. But that still doesn’t stop many of us from believing that as long as we have money for gas, we have the freedom to chuck it all, hop in the car, and head west to follow our dreams. Can’t do that in an electric car, now can you?

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Nevertheless, 73% said 75 miles of range was adequate for their needs and a significant number of those who responded to the poll indicated the federal tax credit would not be a significant part of their decision making process if they decided to purchase and electric car. (They probably don’t realize that could be another $7,500 in their pockets.)

What are we left with? The general impression is that people don’t know much about electric cars and most of what they do know is wrong. Hardly good news for those who want to see the EV revolution move forward.

Education is the key, but who should be doing the educating? Certainly those of us who own electric cars can tell our friends and neighbors about them and offer them test drives, but if we rely on that, the revolution won’t be complete until 2121 or so. The Earth simply can’t wait that long.

Manufacturers could do more. Electrify America is in the middle of an educational campaign and Audi has just decided to follow suit as it prepares to bring its e-tron electric SUV to market. Kudos to both for at least doing something (even if Electrify America’s work is a court mandate for cheating consumers and illegally polluting our air). But what of other manufacturers? And how hard would it be for car dealers to hold EV education events?

We’re not talking about boring lectures where someone drones on and on about electric cars. A little music, a few hot dogs, and a selection of electric cars to drive. One or two well trained individuals on hand to answer people’s questions. Not a lot of money or time needed, but has anyone actually heard of a car dealer doing such a thing?

Those of us who are part of the CleanTechnica community are well informed and like to think others are, too. But the truth is, most drivers in the US have no idea how an electric car operates or how to charge one. They don’t know the joy of waking each morning to a full battery, disconnecting the charger, and driving all day on electrons instead of molecules.

If life on Earth was not threatened with extinction, all this talk of EVs might be just the subject of cocktail party conversation, but we are on the verge of an existential crisis, one that will overwhelm us shortly if we don’t act immediately. On the one hand, good on MINI USA for trying to understand consumer attitudes about electric cars. On the other hand, BMW has been selling electric cars for many years now and should already know what is needed to get customers interested in EVs. Perhaps The Eagles said it best: “Things in this life change very slowly if they ever change at all.”

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." You can follow him on Substack and LinkedIn but not on Fakebook or any social media platforms controlled by narcissistic yahoos.

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