California EV drivers eye extended range

Californians like their electric vehicles, but a significant minority do wish their cars could go farther without having to be plugged in. That was the conclusion by the California Center for Sustainable Energy (CCSE), which did a study as part of the Clean Vehicle Rebate Project.

The study, said to be the largest of its kind, surveyed PEV owners and drivers in the state that’s home to 35 percent of the nation’s electrics. Questions covered why people bought their EV, how they charged their vehicles and how they drove them, and also asked about views on personal and public charging stations.

Image courtesy of the CCSE

In some ways, this was a study of attitudes toward one car, the Nissan Leaf; 97 percent of the survey respondents were Leaf owners or leasees. Future rounds of the ongoing study will incorporate other makes, and will expand to include plug-in hybrid vehicles such as the Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid or Chevy Volt.

States Mike Ferry, transportation program manager over at the CCSE: “With roughly 1 of every 40 new car transactions in the state being a plug-in electric vehicle, it clearly shows California has established itself as a national and worldwide leader in the promotion and deployment of alternative fuel and zero-emission automotive technologies. The PEV market in California has grown tremendously during the past six months, and with the recent addition of several new models, we need to continue to better understand what is driving and shaping this exciting market.”

The Golden State, according to the study, has roughly 30,000 electric and electrified vehicles. Sales tripled last year compared to 2011, with PEVs accounting for around 2,500 new vehicles sold per month. Automakers, utility companies (especially power), and urban planners are keenly reviewing the CCSE data to better plan their EV charging infrastructure (e.g., public charging stations) and marketing strategies.

Highlights from the CCSE’s survey and subsequent study include:

  • 95 percent of the respondents said the state’s rebate was an important factor in their PEV purchasing decision.
  • Over 90 percent were satisfied with their PEV purchase.
  • Satisfaction with public outlets rose from 17  percent to over 20 percent.

But on range, “nearly nearly 40 percent of PEV drivers expressed some level of dissatisfaction with their vehicle’s all-electric range,” the study said. Furthermore, according to the study: “When asked what all-electric range would result in extreme satisfaction, 57 percent of respondents expressed a desired range of 150 miles or greater . This is nearly double the Nissan Leaf’s EPA rated range of 78 miles and exceeds the rated range of nearly all battery electric vehicles currently on the market.”

Full details of the survey can be found at the CCSE’s website. Funding for both the organization and the study was provided by the California Air Resources Board.

Joel Arellano, EarthTechling