Survey of International Drivers About EVs Reveals Surprises

Posted by Stephen On Saturday, September 17th, 2011

An international survey conducted by TÜV Rheinland shows that Toyota is the brand that consumers would be most likely to buy an EV from. Drivers in 12 important world markets were surveyed, representing both established European and North American markets, as well as emerging markets such as China and India.

When asked to name the company that came to mind when they heard the word EV, Toyota was by far the most popular response. 34% then said that if they were going to buy an EV, they would choose a Toyota, with 17.2% opting for Honda, 15.9% for VW and 14.6% for Nissan.

Of course, the irony of this is that of these top four, it is Nissan that is most aggressively developing and marketing EVs. If you are talking about next-generation vehicles, then it would be fair to say that Toyota has been more focused on gasoline hybrids, Honda on hydrogen fuel cells and VW on hybrid diesels. Perhaps Nissan needs to change its ad agency?

Of course, the results varied somewhat by country, with Germans putting VW at the top, and the French choosing Renault. But the interesting thing is that in both of these markets, it is Toyota that is sitting there in second place, indicating a consistent level of association between the Toyota brand and EVs across the board.

Tesla will probably want to disagree with this next result, but when asked which country was most advanced in EV development, the majority of respondents chose Japan (57%), followed by Germany (42%).

When asked about how to support the introduction of electric vehicles, most drivers asked responded that direct assistance to reduce the purchase price was top. This was followed by financial incentives to assist EV development, and then by tax incentives.

Of course, a major issue with any form of transportation is where we get the energy that powers it. In this regard there was strong general agreement internationally on the need to use renewable energy resources to generate electricity to power EVs.

Despite the green image of EVs, only German drivers said that they would get an EV for environmental reasons alone. Respondents in most other countries ranked this factor alongside the issue of cost.

On the flip side, limitations on driving range was the factor that was most likely to cause these consumers in Germany, France and the China to be hesitant in purchasing an EV. In Japan, the US, Portugal, Israel, Spain and Italy, price was the key factor in reluctance to purchase. Finally, in the UK and India most concern was about the lack of recharging stations (perhaps inflated by Top Gear’s recent shenanigans in Lincoln). Only in India was there significant concern about safety, but again this may be due to local sentiment in India caused by issues with the (ICE) Tata Nano.

Drivers most favorably disposed to EVs were in China, India and Italy. These drivers tended to list reasons such as concern for the environment, knowledge about EVs, and the fact that EVs tended to match their driving habits. The UK, Germany, Spain and France had drivers that were moderately well-disposed towards EVs. On the one hand, these drivers felt they had a moderate amount of information about EVs, but on the flip side the lack of relative importance given to environmental concerns stood out.

This interesting result puts paid to the stereotype that consumers in the emerging markets of China and India are most concerned with gaining mobility whereas it is the European and US consumers who have more cash to spare and therefore can afford the “luxury” of environmental concern.

In Portugal, the US and Israel, the survey found drivers relatively antagonistic to EVs. The primary reasons given were a lack of concern about the environment, as well as worries about safety. The relatively negative stance of drivers in Israel is particularly ironic for Project Better Place, whose Israeli founder has been pushing EV use in his homeland.

And the drivers who are most antagonistic to EVs? Well, they are in Japan (that has 3 of the top 4 car makers most associated with EVs) and Denmark (usually seen as a leader in clean energy and environmental concern). Interestingly, driver respondents in these countries listed EVs not matching their driving style, safety concerns and lower environmental awareness as the reasons why they are not interested in EVs.

I am not so familiar with Denmark, but I have to say that the Japanese drivers’ responses are somewhat surprising. First of all, Japan is a small country and most car journeys are relatively short (which is why the Japanese run up such a low annual mileage), so personally I would have thought that the stop-start urban driving that most Japanese do would be ideal for an EV.

On the other hand, the recent accident at the Fukushima nuclear facility, and the continuing power use restrictions imposed since its shut down must surely have turned some people off to the idea of electrically powered cars. If the US driver is concerned about the security (and human cost) of Middle East oil, the Japanese driver is now more worried about the safety of generating electricity using nuclear power.

Source: Response (Japanese)

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