What is Missing to Spur EV Consideration?

What comes first, the electric vehicle or the electric vehicle charger?

By: Dave Emig, Senior Research Director; Andy Moylan, Senior Project Director

What came first, the chicken or the egg? This question has fueled a bevy of philosophical discussions over many centuries. The answer to this question is unclear and quite possibly will never be answered, but it will continue to lead to some interesting discussions and be the impetus for critical thinking.

Let’s apply this to the electric vehicle industry. What comes first, the electric vehicle (EV) or the electric vehicle charger? Seems like a silly question to begin with because they are one in the same, right? For the purposes of this article, let’s forget about the standard electrical outlet most consumers have in their garage and focus on the sale of the vehicle.

Typically, when purchasing an electric vehicle, the consumer is given options about what charging unit could be installed at their home, and arrangements are made for it to be placed at the owner’s residence. So to answer the question, with the purchase of an electric vehicle, the consumer gets the charging unit first. But let’s take one additional step back and think about consumer’s consideration of the electric vehicle in the first place.

Previously, word of mouth, the motivation to be environmentally conscious, and tax credits were some of the factors driving purchase.  Now, design variations and more information surrounding the technology are the catalyst for increased consideration.  Still, it is difficult to take the leap to commit with something that is so important to our daily lives.

The evidence shows that the electric vehicle market is heating up and gaining more momentum. Tesla has made another major splash and is planning on riding those ripples into a boat load of sales. To date, there are over 373,000 pre-orders of the Model 3, which is on the heels of the Model X launch. Many automotive manufacturers are stepping up their EV game:  improvements are coming to the Nissan Leaf, the BMW i3 is getting more range, the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt is expected to be available for consumers to purchase soon, and according to Green Car Reports, Audi just announced a serious commitment to electric vehicles starting with an all-electric SUV in 2018.

What seems to be the biggest barrier to purchasing an electric vehicle is overcoming range anxiety.  How does one manage their day and still have the ability to be spontaneous while managing the unexpected, such as heavy traffic or that extra errand that needs to be run? Any anxiety from a myriad of circumstances will not be fully solved by simply adding more range to vehicles. There must be a means to provide consumers with peace of mind for not only the typical day, but for the unforeseen, unplanned events that come with life. So how is this possible?

Morpace recently asked a series of questions as part of its February Omnibus and the results were interesting. For starters, nearly 85% of consumers indicate that they travel less than 50 miles a day (in total) during an average week. Considering this, there are a number of electric vehicle options that would fit the needs of the majority, but there is always the ‘what if’ factor that causes unease, possibly preventing the purchase of an EV.

Currently, one-quarter of consumers cite an interest in considering an electric vehicle, according to our Omnibus. Now the key question: What if charging stations were more abundant at places of employment? Not necessarily the mall or the grocery store, but your place of work. Could that impact consumer acceptability of EVs, and lead toward higher sales?

Of those surveyed in our Omnibus, more than 8 in 10 indicate a level on unawareness when it comes to the location of charging stations in their area, with half being completely unaware and the remainder knowing there are some present, but not certain of the exact location. And when thinking about their place of employment, over 80% of those surveyed indicate there are no charging stations.

Charging stations at places of employment could be an area of great reward for manufacturers given the impact this would have on consumers. Having that safety net, that accommodation to gain back those precious miles needed for the ‘what if’ spontaneous moment, could give consumers the final nudge to take that leap to purchase an electric vehicle, and ultimately benefit manufacturers.

This belief is bolstered by the fact that about 1 in 3 respondents would be more likely to consider an electric vehicle if there was a charger at their place of employment. That repeatable action of going to work each day and seeing a line of open charging stations might encourage consumers to start asking questions and investigate EVs.

So, ask yourself the question…which came first, the electric vehicle charger at work or the electric vehicle?


The Electrifying Introduction of the Tesla Model 3

The Electrifying Introduction of the Tesla Model 3By: Andy Moylan, Senior Project Director

It’s no secret that Tesla received more orders for the Model 3 than anticipated on the first day. According to Tesla, the current reservation count is around 373,000 for this premium-brand’s EV that can travel 210 miles on a charge, especially considering the largely attainable base price of $35,000.

Some of our Morpace MyDrivingPower community members placed a $1,000 deposit on a Tesla Model 3, so we wanted to hear more on what these influencers thought of the introduction and the deposit experience.

As unique as the Tesla Model 3 is, so was its introduction…for an automotive product, that is. The unveiling created a high-tech and energetic atmosphere that was more reminiscent of a technology product than that of an automobile. This was more than a car on a stage with the drape pulled off, followed by a series of conventional speeches. MyDrivingPower members referenced similarities to Apple including comparisons between Elon Musk and Steve Jobs in terms of their presentation styles, and they don’t believe any other automotive manufacturer could generate this kind of buzz.

“Clever PR getting the community excited and speculating, feels like Apple in the old days when Steve Jobs would come on stage and do the ‘oh and one more thing’.”

“The introduction process was very Silicon Valley; it was far more fun and genuine than the typical unveilings at auto shows.”

Tesla did something that positively no other automaker could execute with such fanfare. Tesla enjoys a brand halo that no others can seem to match. They have a hardcore fan base that admires their dedication to electric vehicles—there are no internal combustion engines in the line-up, not even as a backup. The large, tablet-like touch screen in the center of the dashboard (complimented by a rumored high-tech Heads Up Display), advanced battery technology, a proliferating supercharging network, and the Autopilot feature speaks more high-tech than any other brand.

“No one else builds or supports cars the way Tesla does (supercharging, styling, performance, updates and ownership experience).”

All of the initial orders  provided Tesla with a substantial cash infusion to continue the development and launch of the Model 3. Some MyDrivingPower members recognize that they are essentially loaning Tesla the funds necessary to bring this vehicle to market.

“I had no problem loaning Tesla a grand for however long it takes to deliver the Model 3.”

“I am eager to support what they’ve created and break free from the traditional automakers.”

Tesla offered online ordering as well as taking in-person orders at Tesla stores. Most of the community members went to their nearest Tesla store (in some cases, a 90 minute drive one way) and stood in line for hours. Despite the long wait, they enjoyed the camaraderie with other EV enthusiasts and felt like they were part of something historical. Placing a deposit at the store also gave some a feeling of confirmation because they delivered it to an actual Tesla employee. Those that ordered online preferred to avoid the lines and placed the deposit from the comfort of their homes.

“I needed an early Model 3 to minimize my time without a car in that gap between my lease expiration and when I take delivery of the Tesla. This is why I waited in line to secure the earliest possible reservation number.”

“As a current owner, I was invited to put my name into a lottery for a ticket to the announcement, but after hearing horror stories about the last one, I decided to pass and watch it at home. I simply went to the website at 7:30 and entered my order without a hitch.”

So why would members be willing to put down a deposit for a car with a design and a feature list that is not yet finalized? Because there is a level of trust, based primarily on the design, performance, and safety associated with previous models—notably, the larger Model S. Members are confident that these traits will carry over to the Model 3.

“The reason I chose Tesla so far is because I know they have a history of producing beautiful cars with a lot of tech packed into them. They also believe in the future of their cars with constant software updates.”

“Based on my co-workers’ experience who have the Model S and my brief exposure to driving that car, coupled with Tesla’s commitment to the success of BEVs, I’m all in.”

So, the deposits are in. But, how long do they plan to wait for their vehicle? Will they take the base vehicle offered, or build up their future car with additional features or options? There is more to come as we continue the conversation with our community.


Are We On the Brink of an Electric Vehicle Revolution?

EV Parking Station

By: Dave Emig, Research Director

As the automotive industry evolves, battery-powered vehicles are being integrated more and more into the car-buying equation. While sales figures for electric vehicles (EVs) are still relatively low, that could soon change.

There are three major factors fueling the potential for increased sales of electric vehicles. First is the adoption of CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards that require vehicle manufacturers to reach a 54.5 mile per gallon average for their entire U.S. vehicle fleet by 2025. This has indirectly motivated manufacturers to integrate EVs into their product portfolio. As such, the level of competition between manufacturers has increased, allowing for a few start-ups to emerge, thereby promoting more rapid change.

Second is the blistering pace at which technological advancements are being made with batteries, such as outputs (power), capacities, and sizes. The most important technological advancement, however, is the increased distance these new EVs can travel, which helps to curb range anxiety and fit the needs of many more consumers.

While these two elements have greatly aided in the proliferation of EVs, the third factor, the design of these vehicles, has also become more important. Manufacturers are moving away from the outlandish, quirky designs and creating vehicles that are more conventional and aesthetically pleasing. But it’s not just all about design—these modern EVs are now offered in different sizes, from small compact cars to large utilities!

The combination of these factors, along with the growing confidence of consumers in EVs, is spurring interest. However, adoption of EVs is still in its infancy, primarily due to a lack of familiarity. While there are some early adopters who have done their research, became comfortable with the idea of an EV, and took the leap, they find many consumers are playing the waiting game. Whether the consumers have no interest at all or don’t feel an EV will fit their lifestyle, they just can’t bring themselves to purchase one at this time.

Manufacturers who are interested, but waiting, find there are a number of hurdles to overcome before general consumer interest increases to a serious consideration to purchase. Consumer concerns over purchasing EVs are understandable. After all, outside of buying a home and the cost of higher education, a new vehicle is the largest purchase many consumers will make in their lifetime.

While “fear of change” may ultimately be the primary barrier, many consumers indicate deterrents like a lack of infrastructure (charging stations at work, close to destinations, etc.), the length of charging time required if unable to use a 240V or supercharger, complexity with home installation (with some not owning a home with a garage), and worries about the longevity of the battery. But, resoundingly, owners emphasize that there is a serious lack of knowledge when it comes to the dealership experience. Often times, consumers need to find answers to their own questions. The role of the dealership staff to help educate consumers about the advantages of the EV and how they function is critical. If the sales staff at a dealership aren’t invested in the concept of EVs or comfortable selling them, chances are sales will lag, meaning dealer commitment is crucial.

Let’s face it, with any change comes some level of anxiety. It will always be present. As EVs evolve, many of the current hurdles will disappear, yet if the consumer does not understand or have confidence in the product, they will not buy.

So how do dealers manage this shift?

We performed Morpace-managed client focus groups with electric vehicle and plug-in vehicle owners in 2015 and discovered a few key points that can help answer this question. Consumers who have purchased an EV were more enthusiastic about the vehicle and had more knowledge than dealer personnel. This knowledge gap has a negative effect on the decision to purchase, but there is a solution to consider–appoint a sales person who lives and breathes electric vehicles. This sales person would drive the car(s) daily, know the cost per mile (very important to consumers!), be able to identify charging locations around consumers’ work, office, and daily route, explain the ancillary benefits such as free parking, and be able to respond confidently to any questions, especially those concerning range anxiety. “Having those sales folks that really understand it [EV technology] is going to be crucial…The knowledge about electric cars needs to be in the hands of the people selling them. People coming in may have great knowledge, but, you have to have that confidence that you’re buying from someone who will be able to support you.”

While fine-tuning the dealership will help, there is more hope on the horizon.

The bright side for manufacturers selling EVs is that many current owners indicate they have no desire to go back to a conventional engine for their daily vehicle. They despise buying gas and love the driving experience of an EV. Owners find the lack of engine noise, instant torque, and shifting to be extremely appealing , summing it up by mentioning that “a gas car now just feels mundane. It doesn’t feel as sophisticated”. As a result, these owners have become staunch advocates. Word of mouth is the best form of advertising… and it is FREE!

But how do you get someone who is still skeptical to actually take that leap? Sell them a used EV!

There are a large number of EVs that will be hitting the market in the coming year. Dealers and manufacturers will want to move them as quickly as possible, which means consumers could get an EV for quite a bargain. The financial commitment for a used EV will be less of a burden and should entice those who are playing the waiting game to take the plunge.

However, a primary concern remains: How reliable is the battery? The dealership can do their part by providing the expertise, but consumers want assurances, primarily an honest warranty on the battery (or straight up replacement). They want the warranty to guarantee the range and charging cycles, freeing them from concerns with degradation. “Dealers need to test the battery, if it meets a certain range, then they’re good to go. They need to provide a warranty and guarantee that the vehicle will at least go a certain range.” Ideally, manufacturers and dealers could develop a specific, rigorous pre-owned program unique to EVs in an effort to quell consumers’ key concern surrounding the battery and make used EVs even more appealing.

While familiarity and interest in EVs is growing, manufacturers and dealers will need to find ways to combat consumer fear, getting them past the tipping point to purchase. Current issues with selling used EVs need to be addressed to get consumers in the vehicle to experience the benefits that so many current owners relish. To do this though, dealers need to be committed. If they can find a way to adapt the sales experience to give consumers the information they want in order to curb concerns, we may be on the brink of an EV revolution.

As production increases over the next few years, manufacturers who are in the EV game will be primed to make a splash as current used EV owners will be looking to buy a new EV.


Electric Vehicles: A Smart and Economical Choice for Small Businesses

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By Michael Schmall, Vice President; Kimberly Doherty, Project Director

When you think of electric vehicles, the terms “practicality” and “affordability” are probably not the first things that come to mind — especially for a small business. That perspective could be changing, as electric vehicles continue to bring new and modern dynamics to this automotive segment.

The fact that electric vehicles are more attainable and desirable for small business owners is evident when we spoke with Tracey Stroia, owner of the all-electric Smart car used for deliveries at TV’s Deli & Diner, located in Trenton, Michigan.

“Food delivery has been an offering of our business for over eight years, and it continues to be an important primary service we provide for our customers,” says Stroia. TV’s Deli & Diner also features a catering business and has several traditional cargo vans that are used for select deliveries. In the past, these vans were utilized for all deliveries, even when individual delivery orders came into the restaurant.

Between the businesses’ young drivers—who weren’t very experienced at driving the larger cargo vans—and fluctuating gas prices, Tracey recognized the opportunity to consider alternative vehicles that are better suited for her business’s delivery needs. Keeping an open mind during her search led Tracey to realize that not only would a smaller vehicle reduce gas costs, but an electric vehicle could eradicate them all together. As a result, Tracey began to entertain the idea of leasing an electric vehicle, which could potentially slash overhead delivery costs and provide a major source of savings for her business.

After further exploring her options, Tracey decided to choose an all-electric vehicle for her business’s deliveries. She did not start out her search with a specific electric car in mind. In fact, Tracey was very flexible about what make and model vehicle she would consider. Her “open-minded, what-is-best-for-my-business” approach eventually led her to consider a Smart brand vehicle. The Smart Electric Cabriolet caught Tracey’s attention because of its affordability and cost-reducing characteristics. To her surprise (and eventually to her staffs’ surprise as well), this vehicle had quite the “get-up-and-go” power and was ultimately spacious enough for even her 6’4” employee to ride comfortably in, while still allowing enough additional space for the food being delivered.

There is no doubt that the overall pricing available on this vehicle was the number one feature for Tracey. Tracey did the math — she wasn’t going to lease any vehicle that did not optimize her business. With a monthly lease program that was less than the average cost of gas per month on one of her delivery vans, choosing the Smart vehicle was an easy decision.  The fact that her “Smart” choice was an electric vehicle and doesn’t pollute the environment is an added bonus for her, in addition to the cost savings it continues to provide.

Tracey finds leasing her Smart car to be an environmentally sound choice that hasn’t sky-rocketed her electric bills. It has offered more stability in the cost of running the delivery portion of her business because it creates insensitivity to the volatility of gas prices. For Tracey’s small business, owning and operating an electric vehicle simply makes good business sense.

Employees of TV’s Deli & Diner enjoy driving the car around town and find it to be not only surprisingly quick, but also a pleasurable driving experience. The Smart car was a unique vehicle that stood out to Tracey, and it continues to be well noticed among TV’s customers. The fact that it is an all-electric vehicle, modified with TV’s Deli & Diner advertisement, and charged right out front of their restaurant, creates quite the buzz.

“I’ve had loyal customers who [because of the vehicle] just now realize that we deliver,” Tracey stated, emphasizing that the vehicle doesn’t just save gas money, but also attracts new delivery customers. The positive response Tracey has received from the unexpected marketing and tell-tale uniqueness of her small electric vehicle was an additional advantage that wasn’t anticipated, but is much appreciated.

Tracey’s experience relates to business owners’ vastly expanding awareness and willingness to consider alternative powertrain vehicles. It is also a reminder that, ultimately, small businesses will make decisions that are overwhelmingly based on their economic merit.


Research Challenge: Catching the Elusive Green Mind


By Julie Vogel, Vice President

About five years ago the U.S. government had delivered a stiff mandate to automakers: by the year 2025 – just 10 years from now — any automakers wishing to sell vehicles in the U.S. must offer ones that average 54 mpg. Automakers were seeking a  ‘Reality TV’ type of insight of  Electric Vehicle (EV) owners, to understand how the plugging in and recharging of EVs was incorporated as part of daily life.

Here’s where it gets difficult. The elusive, Electric Vehicle owners represent less than 1% of the population and EVs are less than 1% of vehicles on the road. Also, these rare owners were starting to burn out from endless research requests from multiple corporate researchers.

Given Morpace’s unique contacts with both automakers and energy-efficient owners, the MyDrivingPower online research community was born, which includes more than 250 owners of electric and hybrid vehicles from across U.S.

Today, the collective voice of these vehicle owners is shaping the electric vehicle industry. This information is being utilized by vehicle manufacturers, utility companies, and government agencies, charging station manufacturers, battery manufacturers and the media.

For more insights visit this article in Automotive News.


Online Communities: A Powerful Media Relations Tool

By Jason Mantel, Vice President

A strong selling point for Market Research Online Communities is the ability to collect information quickly, sometimes instantaneously, from community members.  The theory goes that having members is exponentially more powerful than having respondents – members are engaged in your brand, eager to share, will be brutally honest in sharing the feedback your brand needs to hear. They are also available to you when you need them. Paper

As a primary market research firm, this is the line we use to promote MROCs.  Too often, though, these amazing tools are not leveraged for an amazing benefit: speed.

Morpace was contacted by Automotive News for thoughts on the electric vehicle market.  We host a MROC in this space, called My Driving Power.  The request came to our team at 4 p.m. on a Monday afternoon, and some of the questions were on topics where we had limited feedback.  Our first inclination was, “we’re missing that data!” And then suddenly, we remembered what we tell our clients – that MROCs generate fast results. (Really, it took time for this to sink in!) One of our analysts posted a few key questions immediately to our members.  And they didn’t let us down.

By 7 a.m. the next morning, we experienced a nearly 30% response rate, and robust results we could share with the publication.  We were able to answer specific questions, with statistically relevant figures, and pages of valuable comments, literally overnight.  I can’t recall another instance in my research career where that was possible, let alone with such a targeted audience.  (And many of our clients who host communities are yet to leverage their members for this type of benefit.)

I can imagine the value of this result in just about any corporate suite.  Even though I knew how it was supposed to work, I was simply amazed when it did.