Why every fifth electric car buyer returns to ICE

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(ORDO NEWS) — Towards a greener future, manufacturers and scientists need to not only make electric vehicles attractive to buy, but also make people reluctant to give them up. With the first question, everything is more or less clear, but the second is rarely in the field of attention of specialists. American researchers have found out which types and brands of electric vehicles are the worst retaining a customer, as well as for what reasons this happens.

The results of the analysis of 4167 questionnaires were published by the Institute for Transportation Research at the University of California in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Nature Energy. Since the study was conducted by employees of a US government agency, the report based on it is posted in the public domain on the portal of the National Center for Sustainable Transportation (National Center for Sustainable Transportation, NCST). The conclusions, of course, are identical, and the text of the documents should not differ much (but the reviewed article is paid).

The results obtained by Scott Hardman and Gil Tal may be good news for some and upset for others. So, out of 4167 respondents who bought a new plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) – battery (BEV) or hybrid (PHEV) – 1,856 people decided to buy a new car. Among them, almost 21% wanted to switch from electric traction to internal combustion engines (moreover, more people want to give up hybrids), but more than half do not exclude a return to the “green” camp in the future.

An important note: the data was collected only among Californians and included those who bought electric cars or hybrids in 2011-2018. That is, their experience of ownership came at a time when technologies in this industry were rapidly developing, and modern models differ significantly in characteristics. As the respondents filled out a detailed questionnaire, the researchers were able to delve deeper into the details of avoiding electric traction.

Tesla surprises

The distribution by brand looks curious. The most famous brand of electric vehicles is the undisputed leader in customer satisfaction with the car: less than 10% of those who buy Tesla are going to refuse electric traction. The results are better only in Cadillac (0%) and Honda (7.14%), but in their case the sample is not sufficiently representative – only three cars of the first brand and 26 in the second.

But in the camp of the favorites among the “refuseniks” gathered an impressive company of aksakals of the automotive industry. Those who bought Fiat (38% of respondents who bought this brand want to go back to the internal combustion engine), Ford (27.48%), Toyota (24.47%) and BMW (21.01%) least of all want to return to plug-in electric vehicles. If we close our eyes to a small sample (less than 25 questionnaires), you can join Audi (33.33% of “refuseniks”), Hyundai (53.33%) and Mitsubishi (33.33%). Average results are shown by Volkswagen (18.18%), as well as Kia (20.83%) and Nissan (20.6%).

Electric cars are not for everyone yet

In addition to direct questions such as “Why do you want to ditch the electric car?”, The questionnaires contained items on specific aspects of the car ownership experience. Both those looking to buy the next green car and those looking to return to ICEs have equally praised the PEV’s safety and charging costs. Differences were found in impressions of reliability, range and ease of charging. In addition, a significant contribution to the abandonment of electric vehicles was made by the number of cars in the family, the average income, as well as the type of place of residence (own house or rented one or apartments in an apartment building).

As a result, the researchers concluded that the main reasons for buying a gasoline (or diesel) car after owning an electric car or a hybrid are as follows:

  • Lack of fast charging at home (Level 2, 240 volts). Moreover, the presence of a developed network of charging stations in the city almost does not affect the situation, since most trips are made along the home-work route and it is inconvenient for people to call somewhere along the way. The lack of a sufficiently powerful outlet (or the ability to install it) is typical for rented living space and apartments in apartment buildings;
  • Insufficient efficiency in the case of hybrids (PHEV) and dissatisfaction with the range in the case of battery electric vehicles (BEV);
  • In addition, low annual household income, gender (women do it more often) and the absence of other cars in the family besides PEV increase the likelihood of not using electric traction.

Is it possible to draw any conclusions from this

Certainly, California is an excellent choice for such a study: in the state already 8% of cars moving on the road are electrified to some degree. However, in other regions of the United States, the situation may be somewhat different, so that for the whole of America, one study cannot be said. Finally, it’s important to consider that in the last couple of years, all EV makers have released radically better models than those they sold in 2011-2018. And the survey took into account hybrids, to which more and more questions arise.

But all the same, Tesla fans will now take this scientific work on their banner and will praise their favorite brand for the smallest percentage of abandonment among its owners. And opponents of electrification will certainly point the finger at “as much as 20 percent who do not want to return to this” green “hell.” In any case, this is a very interesting statistic and the issue needs to be investigated further. Even in the early years of mass adoption of electric vehicles, almost 80% of satisfied owners are not a bad result. I wonder what the similar numbers were 110 years ago when the Ford Model T was trying to conquer the market?


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