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Friday, January 21, 2011

Will Your Next Vehicle Be A Plug-in?

I was curious about how many people will be considering a plug-in car for their next purchase. It could be pure electric like the Nissan LEAF, Ford Focus Electric, or Tesla Model S; or it could be a PHEV like the Plug-in Prius, Chevy Volt, or Karma Fisker. Anything with a plug, or as this blog is titled, a car with a cord.

Where I work, anyone can submit a poll question. The questions are put on the internal employee homepage for 48 hours. So, I submitted the poll you see in the image to the left.

This poll was taken at a major high-tech company. It is a multi-national corporation with offices and sites around the world. And like many high-tech companies they have a large percentage of their employees on the west coast of the US.

The results are encouraging, 16% say they are buying a BEV or PHEV. And an other 33% say they will buy a PEV when the price comes down.

I see three factors that are likely to drive prices down in the next 3 years:
  1. Manufactures are currently building out and increasing their volume capacity.
  2. More companies are coming out with plug-in vehicles. This is no longer just a high priced niche market.
  3. As leased vehicles are returned at the end of their term, there will a supply of used PEVs that does not exist today. Many people (smartly) do not buy new cars, regardless of the technology.

Assuming prices come down, if this poll were taken at face-value then 49% of people will be driving plug-in vehicles in 3 years. Obviously, transitions cannot occur that quickly. But this poll does show that many people are considering PEVs and that some of the industry predictions such as hitting 5% to 20% of new sales by 2020 are possible. Ω


Sidebar: Lies, damned lies, and statistics
Before there are comments about the "errors" here, I will point out that there are many problems with this poll. First, it is about what people intent to do. There is no commitment required. In some cases these answers would be similar if asked "do you plan to eat healthier this year?". The only certainly honest answers are the 45% that confirm they will still be using gasoline.

The second issue with this poll is that it is a self selected group. If someone is thinking about plug-in cars, this is far more likely to catch their interest. Conversely, how many people are actually interested in saying "I am going to continue polluting and funding terrorism?", so many people that are not considering a PEV will pass this by.

The third issue that I see with this poll is that there are three "Yes" answers, while there is only one "No" and one "N/A". It directs people away from gasoline as much as possible. While polls are often "directive" in the questions and or possible answers, this one is heavily skewed toward PEVs.

The fourth (likely far from last but the last one I will mention) is the audience for the question. It was people that work in a high-tech company.  High-tech workers are generally paid more than the average citizen and people in high-tech are also more likely to be early adopters of new technology from smart phones to cars. This is not a group that represents the average person.