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By Neal Gorevic
This is the first in a series of articles by Neal Gorevic and Haven Thompson that will look at electric vehicles and how automakers, as well as other players in the space, are planning/will need to plan on leveraging digital marketing and product development to help drive adoption for electric vehicle purchase and to help manage and support EV ownership.
In 1899 and 1900, electric vehicles outsold all other types of cars, such as gas- and steam-powered vehicles. In 1897, the first fleet of electric taxis was introduced in New York City. Pictured above are several of those electric taxicabs, with the drivers perched on top.
It is official: vehicle manufacturers are embracing electric again. More than 100 years since the first fleet of electric taxis hit the streets of New York City in 1897 and a number of mass-produced electric vehicles, including the General Motors EV1, were developed in the 1990s, manufacturers across multiple price points are developing a range of electric vehicles options, including hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), and battery electric vehicles (BEVs).
According to automaker estimates, by the end of 2011 General Motors will manufacture 10,000 Chevrolet Volts and Nissan is expecting to have 50,000 Leafs in production. Ford currently offers its Transit Connect in electric and plans to release the new Focus Electric by early 2012. Toyota is planning on expanding its Prius platform to include plug-in hybrid electric models. Tesla’s first four door sedan, the Model S, will come early next year and even BMW is planning to launch a full line of electric vehicles under its new BMW i sub-brand in 2013, to name a few of the manufacturers in the space.
Even as electric vehicle production ramps up, many are wondering whether or not consumers are ready for the shift in driving behavior, vehicle maintenance and support that comes with an electric-powered vehicle. According to J.D. Power estimates, mass-market electric vehicle adoption might not be as close as many in the industry hope. By 2020, J.D. Power projects that HEVs and PHEVs will account for roughly 10 percent of vehicle sales in the U.S., or nearly 1.7 million units, and BEVs will account for less than 1 percent of sales, or 108,000 vehicles. With a projected collective market share of less than 11 percent, many OEMs are interested in understanding and responding to consumer concerns about electric vehicles as they look to increase adoption over the coming years.
According to a recent study by Deloitte, the top four barriers to entry for mass product adoption of electric vehicles in the U.S. are: vehicle price, reliability, costs of charging and convenience to charge during ownership. For many future electric vehicle owners, these are all valid concerns. A shopper searching on Edmunds.com would note the MSRP for a new Chevrolet Volt is more than $40,000, compared to the $16,000 Chevrolet Cruze or the $21,000 Chevrolet Malibu. And while the U.S. government projects massive growth in electric vehicle adoption, there are only 722 public charging stations in the U.S. today, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.