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Opportunities for electric vehicle manufacturers to overcome consumer barriers to purchase lie in delivering a great driver experience

In 2020, the British government took the decision to ban sales of gasoline- and diesel-powered internal combustion engine (ICE) passenger cars in the UK, a ban set to begin in 2035. This includes hybrid vehicles (PHEV and HEV), leaving only full electric cars (BEV) as an option. Within this context and despite the dramatic impact of Covid on the automotive Industry, the EV market (BEV, PHEV and HEV) has continued to grow, reflecting strong demand for BEVs from consumers. BEVs are forecast to represent 12% of car registrations by the end of 2022, as this graph shows:

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Consumer barriers for manufacturers remain

However, there are some key barriers manufacturers need to overcome in order to drive a successful migration to fully electric vehicles - some of which are not about the product. Consumer research shows that the top three barriers are:

  • Charging points infrastructure
  • Price at time of purchase
  • Driving range

When it comes to infrastructure, it is not simply about the number of charging points and/or their distribution across the country; it’s also about the maintenance of the current network, and the accuracy of the information shared by the multiple apps that have proliferated to help drivers. The following experience is certainly anecdotal, but does reflect the fears of those considering EVs, and the challenge of doing long journeys.

My travels to France in an EV highlight the issues manufacturers must tackle

I have had an EV for the last two and a half years. The driving range of my car is 280 miles, and I had never had a problem before this summer - but most of my journeys were short (under 200 miles), in areas I regularly visit and I am familiar with. Recently my family decided to go a step further and drive to St Aygulf, in the south of France. With the help of multiple apps we trusted, like Next charge, Chargemap or Ecotricity, we planned and started our 935-mile journey… a journey that ended up being stressful and very long.

We quickly discovered that the data provided by the apps is far from accurate: 100% of charging points I stopped at with a status of "unknown" were broken or were under construction, meaning no charge was available. (Now I just translate "unknown" as "Do not Go".) A few of the charging points were in private venues, and so not accessible. 100% of the charging points that were supposed to have a speed of 22 kwph were in fact delivering 7.5kwph, so increasing charging time by 3.

On the motorway in France, only one network (ionity) was always reliable, and we learned the hard way to avoid the others. Across the French Ionity network, charging points are only distributed every 150-170 miles, so it is better not to miss one. Typically, each station had 3 to 5 high speed charging points, where we could charge our battery to 80% within 20-25 minutes. Fortunately, we weren’t travelling at a busy time and did not have to struggle with queues but, as more people return to the roads and EV adoption grows, this risk becoming a serious problem. To those who already become impatient having to wait a few minutes for a diesel or petrol pump, waiting over 20 minutes for an EV charging point will be unthinkable.

It took us eight hours to travel from Norwich to Paris, and another 14 hours to drive from Paris to St Aygulf. With an ICE, the leg from Paris to St Aygulf should only have taken 9. It was stressful, tiring and I won’t do it again.

Would I recommend buying an EV today?

It would really depend on the person’s journey patterns, number of cars and the needs/ habits of their household.

The enjoyable part of our journey was the opportunity to chat with other EV drivers at the charging points and share our experiences. Interestingly, though all of them were happy with their car, most of them also were considering going back to traditional ICE cars, because of the problems they regularly encountered on the infrastructure network.

If car manufacturers want to convince consumers to buy an EV (and encourage early adopters to repurchase an EV), their role is not only about building and promoting a car but also in delivering a great user experience; There are a variety of opportunities for manufacturers to make a difference – starting with the following ideas:

  • Play a key role in influencing the maintenance and development of the network and then ensuring easy access to accurate information, so as to make their customers’ experience seamless and painless.
  • Capture  and fully leverage new data points to better understand some drivers’ journeys and help to convince them to move to electric; connected car data has an essential role to play here.
  • Facilitate access to short term rentals/ subscriptions to provide easy and flexible access to EV and ICE: It could be a way to reassure ICE drivers and help them to migrate to EV or the other way around, reassure EV drivers they could have a flexible access to an ICE for long journeys when needed.

EV migration will take some time and moving to service delivery is a challenging shift for car manufacturers - but it will be critical if they want to retain their customer base.

 

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