“Continental Mobility Study 2011”:
- Number of potential buyers still low – with the exception of China
- Nine out of ten users in Germany and the US drive fewer than 100 km each day
- Battery range fears remain pronounced – even among short-distance drivers
- Long idle times at home – mainly in the driver’s own parking space – and at the workplace
Hanover, December 15, 2011. Motorists around the world are open-minded when it comes to hybrid and electric cars. However, their purchasing decisions are based predominantly on the price. Their willingness to pay extra is far removed from the actual additional costs, which amount to around €10,000 compared with traditional drive systems for combustion engines. These are the most important findings of the “Continental Mobility Study 2011”, compiled and conducted in four countries and ten megacities by the market and social research institute infas, and one of the most comprehensive acceptance studies on the subject of electromobility to date.
Further important results concern vehicle range and charging station infrastructure: Almost three quarters of German motorists and well over half of American drivers would find it “very annoying” if they had to charge or refuel their car every 150 kilometers – even though 90% of them would not drive more than 100 kilometers per day and would thus remain within the possible operating distance between battery charges. Furthermore, 50% have a fixed parking space at home with a power socket.
Young adults surveyed in Europe, Asia, and North and South America
As environmental pollution increases and fossil fuels become ever scarcer, governments and the automotive industry in Europe, China and the US are investing in the development of alternative drive and mobility systems. On behalf of Continental, the international automotive supplier, infas examined how these developments are being accepted by potential buyers and users, their expectations of such vehicles and the extent to which they see hybrid and electric cars as the solution to existing problems.
The “Continental Mobility Study 2011”, surveyed car users in Germany, the USA, France and China as well as young adults (up to 35 years of age) in Berlin, Hamburg, Paris, Los Angeles, Sao Paulo, Moscow, Beijing, Bangkok, Delhi and Singapore. National mobility surveys were also evaluated.
German motorists seem to know the most about alternative drive systems, with 96% being familiar with hybrid and 99% with electric cars. In comparison, the values for the other countries were as follows: US: 91% and 92%; France 69% and 67%; China 87% and 92%. “The markets we examined show a great fundamental interest in buying electric cars,” said Continental Executive Board Chairman, Dr. Elmar Degenhart. “However, consumers expect affordable mid-range vehicles suitable for everyday use with fully developed technology and acceptable comfort. Only when prices drop significantly – which requires production volumes to increase greatly – will we see considerable sales potential develop.”
Private vehicle ownership remains important
Eight out of ten car users in all countries surveyed feel it is important to own their own vehicle. These values only decrease in the metropoles, and predominantly those in Europe. German and Chinese respondents (79% in each case) prefer models that enable them to enjoy both long and short journeys in comfort (US: 57%, France: 68%). The majority try to drive in a way that saves energy (Germany: 74%, US: 62%, France: 68%, China: 70%). Chinese respondents in particular (59%) believe it is important to own a car that meets with the approval of others. In Germany, however, the prestige factor is afforded very little consideration (14%). The American (27%) and French (36%) respondents found themselves between the two in this regard.
Sales potential still low for electric cars
Who are the current potential customers for electric vehicles? The “Continental Mobility Study 2011” deals with the issue of potential demand, considering the awareness level, a suitable usage pattern – in this case defined as at least 70% short journeys with a maximum of 150 kilometers traveled daily and no more than four routes exceeding 100 kilometers per month – specific purchase intentions as well as whether drivers expected to pay more.
In purely mathematical terms, this would result in current potential demand for vehicles run solely on electricity of 4% in Germany, 2% in the US and 1% in France. At 14%, the market prospects in China are outstanding by contrast.
Chinese respondents also appear to be the most optimistic when it comes to the suitability of electric cars for everyday use: More than 60% expect that this will be the case by 2015 – 2021, and thus in the foreseeable future. 50% of German drivers are of the same opinion, with the Americans (40%) and French (12%) somewhat more cautious.
Short journeys and long idle times: Ideal prerequisites for use
National traffic surveys from the US and Germany were evaluated in the Continental Mobility Study to answer the question of how private vehicles are currently used in everyday life. The result shows that 40% of cars were not used at all on the day of the survey. Nine out of ten cars are driven fewer than 100 kilometers per day – in both the US and Germany, and the daily idle time of a vehicle between journeys is substantial . In Germany, 40% of vehicles are parked at home for an average of three hours during the day, while 15% are parked at the driver’s place of work for seven hours. In the US, 35% are parked at home for 2.5 hours, and 10% at the workplace for 6.5 hours. 52% of cars that cover more than 100 kilometers per day in Germany are also parked for more than five hours during the day.
“These values show that a nationwide network of public charging stations is not essential for ensuring the smooth operation of electric vehicles,” stated José A. Avila, Continental Executive Board Member and head of the Powertrain Division. In all countries surveyed for the “Continental Mobility Study 2011”, over 80% of drivers have a fixed parking place at home, although the amount fitted with a power socket still varies: 51% in Germany, 49% in the US, 36% in France and 13% in China.
The price determines the purchase
Motorists in all countries stated that price was the most important factor in buying an electric car: 43% in Germany, 41% in the US and 49% in both France and China. Consequently, tax reductions, bonuses and subsidies from the state for purchasing electric vehicles are at the top of the wish list in all countries as well as the expansion of the public charging station network.
However, potential buyers would also be prepared to cut back in other areas in favor of an alternative drive system: In Germany, the majority would be willing to reduce their maximum speed (71%), while only a few would want to reduce safety (10%). 32% would also be prepared to compromise on operating range and 38% on comfort.
“Criteria for successful market penetration with electric cars include a coordinated approach by all involved and across all industries as well as the standardization of all components that do not serve to distinguish between manufacturers on the market,” said Avila. “The benefits and drawbacks of this new form of individual mobility must also be explained to motorists. The study clearly shows that even drivers who only travel short distances of up to 30 kilometers worry greatly about the possibility that the vehicle will not last the distance. And this has no basis in fact.”