While there are still clearly many skeptics out there who doubt that electric vehicles will catch on with mainstream motorists, a recent survey by Ford Motor Co. proves that existing owners of electrified vehicles are nonetheless overwhelmingly pleased with their choices.
Ford's survey, conducted in conjunction with EV research entity PlugInsights, found that 92 percent of battery electric vehicle (BEV) owners and 94 percent of plug-in hybrid-electric vehicle (PHEV) owners plan to purchase another electric vehicle in the future. Clearly drivers that have made the switch to electrified vehicles love them, and in most cases, any limitations such as BEV range-anxiety have not proved to be sufficiently troublesome that owners feel inclined to revert to a gasoline-only vehicle.
I spoke to Ford's manger of electric vehicle and technology deployment, Stephanie Janczak, about the survey, and she told me one of the reasons the automaker conducted it was to find out how to get people into an electric vehicle in the first place, as well as gain an understanding of the needs and aspirations of EV drivers.
This is important to Ford, as it currently offers both a pure electric version of its Focus hatchback, as well as plug-in hybrid versions of its Fusion end C-Max models. Although the company could have simply surveyed its existing customer base, by partnering with PlugInsights, it was able to reach a panel of 10,000 EV motorists who drive cars from multiple manufacturers. This allowed Ford to survey a much larger sample size than it would have been able to get from just its own customers -- not to mention gain a greater understanding of EV driver habits across a wider range of vehicle brands. So, what did the company discover?
As well as discovering EV owners are a devoted bunch, Ford found that EVs are perhaps no longer just viewed as "the second car" in the family. So, while it's true that most electric vehicle drivers currently have a gasoline-only car in the family, 73 percent of respondents said that they would probably replace that gasoline-only vehicle with another BEV or PHEV vehicle when it came time for replacement.
Additionally, the survey found a strong correlation between EV ownership and the adoption of solar power by households. Eighty-three percent of electric vehicle drivers will consider, or have already installed, solar panels to charge their vehicles at home. Ford's Janczak told me that although the decisions to install solar and to get an electric vehicle are separate, many drivers end up doing both for environmental reasons and to save on energy costs.
Interestingly though, the use of home fast-chargers is not as widespread as might be expected. Almost half of plug-in hybrid electric vehicle drivers and over a quarter of battery electric vehicle drivers are still using conventional 120-volt outlets at home; that's despite the finding that 88 percent of EV drivers actually want home fast-charging. I asked Janczak if she had any insight as to why more owners were not installing fast charges. She said this is probably due to the installation costs of fast-charging equipment remaining quite high and also suggested that, as many drivers are leasing their vehicles, they might be holding off on investing in fast chargers until they are sure they are satisfied with an electric vehicle for the long term.
Janczak told me that incentives still play a huge role in the adoption of electric vehicles, and leasing remains a preferred way of getting behind the wheel of an EV. She suggested that with the rapid rate of change in technology, leasing allows people to move to the the next generation EV technology more easily.
And it has to be said, electric vehicle owners are a very technology-centric crowd. An overwhelming finding was that electric vehicle ownership is intrinsically linked with the use of mobile technologies. EV owners use smartphone apps to check battery-charge status, start climate-control functions and to find public charging stations. The most requested smartphone features include vehicle health alerts, charging time indicators, and the ability to reserve and pay for charging functions.
Still, despite the fact that existing EV owners are delighted with their experience, most drivers today still aren't opting for electrified vehicles. But a takeaway from the survey might be that since most drivers who have gone electric seem to have no plans to go back, maybe at some stage we'll see a tipping point. In the meantime, Ford will use the findings of this survey to inform its decisions for future products and features in the vehicles it brings to market.
Image courtesy of Ford Motor Co.
Phil Covington holds an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School. In the past, he spent 16 years in the freight transportation and logistics industry. Today, Phil's writing focuses on transportation, forestry, technology and matters of sustainability in business.