EPRI / SCE Report Measures Consumers Interest in and Infrastructure Expectations for Plug-in Vehicles

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Hybrid Owners have the highest interest in PHEVs. Source: EPRI/SCE. Click to enlarge.

The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and Southern California Edison (SCE) designed and implemented a survey to characterize consumers’ perceptions of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and their expectations of their electric utility as a supplier of transportation energy and associated services.

The objective was to develop and test a survey instrument and associated analytical methods that could subsequently be used by utilities and other entities to inform local stakeholders about consumers’ perceptions. Additionally, EPRI envisions that the combined survey responses will provide a rich source of data to address issues related to preparing electric utilities as they accommodate PHEVs and other types of electric vehicles.

The survey was administered electronically to about 900 residential customers of SCE. Respondents were recruited from commercial Internet panels and were required not only to pass screening criteria but also to establish an intent to purchase or lease a new vehicle in the next five years. More than half of those selected for the survey indicated that their acquisition would occur within the next two years, and more than 80% stated their intent to acquire a new vehicle within the next three years.

Key findings of the quantitative research include:

  • Consumer charging preferences. 95% of people surveyed in Southern California say they would prefer to charge their electric vehicle at home. There is also strong interest in public charging locations such as their place of work, gas stations and shopping centers/malls.

    Hybrid Owners are more likely to be interested in charging their vehicle at their place of work, while Non-Hybrid Owners are more likely to be interested in using gas stations to charge vehicles, perhaps because they may see it as a logical place to charge (refuel) their vehicle.

  • Accessibility of at-home charging locations. 62% of respondents have a 3-prong, 120-volt outlet that fulfils the basic requirement for home charging: located close to the vehicle, typically in a garage, carport or driveway. For 240-volt charging, about 83% report having 240-volt service in their residence, but may require an additional outlet closer to the vehicle.

    About half expect it to take between 4 and 8 hours to fully charge a PHEV; one third expect it to take only 1-3 hours.

  • Acquisition interest. PHEV acquisition interest is highest among Hybrid Owners, as 20% say they will “definitely” purchase or lease the vehicle compared to Non-Hybrid Owners (8%). The Top 2 Box figures (Definitely will and probably will) are 28% for Non-Hybrid Owners and 53% for Hybrid Owners.

    In addition, Hybrid Owners self-report being the first to acquire new technologies, again suggesting they may be early adopters of PHEV technology. Non-Hybrid Owners with high daily mileage also seem to have high interest in this technology.

    As gasoline prices rise from current levels of about $3.00 per gallon, PHEV acquisition interest rises among Non-Hybrid Owners; however, acquisition interest in BEVs rises much faster. As gas prices double from $2.50 to $5.00, interest in conventional vehicles decreases by half, while interest in BEVS triples.

  • Fast-charging. Public fast-charging (defined as a 10-15 minute public charge facility) availability may have a strong influence on PHEV adoption, as two in five Hybrid Owners and one in three Non-Hybrid Owners say the capability will “definitely” influence their acquisition decision. About 75% said they would pay a 33% premium (over the slower, at-home rate) to fast charge. That percentage drops to 30% if the relative cost of fast charging is double that of slow charging.

  • Charging plans. The majority of respondents report that charging a vehicle at night will be the most acceptable time, as half prefer the “Night-time Discount” plan. However, one-third prefer the “Flatrate/Night-time Only” plan, and the remainder prefer the “Anytime” plan. In addition, those who prefer night-time charging (either the “Night-time Discount” or “Flat-rate/Night-time Only” plan) are more likely to choose the additional interruptible discount charging plan.

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