It’s not uncommon in the power sector to hear that executives are simply out of touch with consumers.

A recent IBM report which surveyed 1,716 US drivers and 125 industry executives, shows that this may also be true in the electric vehicle (EV) industry. Furthermore EV executives might not be doing enough to connect with other industries.

“Through our survey, we discovered that average consumers seem to appreciate the sustainability benefits of driving an electric vehicle. However, they aren’t particularly interested in paying a higher premium to purchase one. In addition, they have concerns regarding total miles per battery charge – despite the fact that today’s electric cars can typically handle the average driver’s daily needs without needing to recharge,” the report says.

Written by Kalman Gyimesi and Ravi Viswanathan, “The shift to electric vehicles: Putting consumers in the driver’s seat” emphasizes the degree to which the average consumer is ignorant of electric vehicles and their potential.

“Even those who consider themselves knowledgeable have misconceptions,” Gyimesi and Viswanathan write.

Its All About The Education

A recent EV study conducted by international consulting group Deloitte was more pessimistic about the future of the EV industry, claiming that battery technology was simply not going to catch up with consumer needs in time. Read more and download the full document here.

But the IBM report concluded that EVs were the most “logical solution” to global concerns of oil shortages and rising prices as well as increases of carbon dioxide emissions and climate change.

“Our interviews with auto executives also point to a move toward electric vehicles, with 83 percent citing migration of the product portfolio toward electrified vehicles among the ‘best options’ for developing mobility solution offerings,” Gyimesi and Viswanathan write.

Barring the issues of consumer ignorance and consumer hesitations due to price and range of EVs, “many signs point to a bight future for electric vehicles,” the report says.

The authors add: “Automakers must convince consumers that EVs offer the same convenience and value as conventional vehicles.” This convincing goes hand in hand with education, they found, as consumers who felt they were educated on EVs said they were 2.5 times more likely to buy one.

“In reality, some EV cost of operation estimates for a five- to six-year period are up to three
times less than those for similar ICE [internal combustion] vehicles.15 So, even informed consumers are not aware of the potential long-term savings offered through EV ownership. Obviously, education is important for consumers across the knowledge spectrum,” the report says.

Listen To IBM

But EVs are far from a perfected technology. The report focuses on the fact that the industry still has a long way to go to meet customer needs. The authors suggest the industry better utilize existing technology “by leveraging a vast array of creative partnerships with entities outside the current industry ecosystem.”

Breaking Energy highlighted some of the early high-profile electric vehicle partnerships earlier this year here.

The industry needs to capitalize on the desire of consumers to be “connected” by offering them ways to interact with the EV remotely and use it as part of other information sharing networks, such as linking the car to smart phone applications, the report says.

On this front, the report also emphasizes the advances of smart grid technology (a space in which IBM has been very active globally) and its potential to unlock further adoption of EVs.

The report also highlighted IBM’s Battery 500 project, started in 2009, that intends to dramatically improve lithium-air battery performance and energy storage capabilities. EV makers need to expand their partnerships to include companies (like IBM) that also have a vested interest in the success of EVs, the report says.

“Partners will be critical to successfully build the battery charging infrastructure, as well as solve some of the EV pricing challenges,” the report says.

Download the full IBM report here.

Photo Caption: Visitors look at the Opel Ampera gasoline and electric car at the exhibitor’s hall at the 24th Party Congress of the German Christian Democrats (CDU) on November 15, 2011 in Leipzig, Germany. Opel, which is owned by U.S. carmaker General Motors (GM), has begun selling the car through its 55 dealerships across Germany. In the USA the car is sold under the brand Chevy Volt.