With governments strongly encouraging the growth of electric vehicles and automakers repositioning various brands to align with that goal, it’s worth a manufacturer’s time to examine the market. Mini, which BMW Group intends to evolve into an EV-focused nameplate, plans to release its first battery powered vehicle in 2020. However, before that occurs, the brand decided to commission Engine International for a little market research.
The firm conducted a general population survey of 1,004 presumably average Americans — all above the age of 18 and split equally by gender. Unfortunately for BMW, the results were less than promising. Most people still don’t seem to have a handle on what EVs offer or how they function. However, that might not necessarily be because they are clueless morons. Apathy undoubtedly plays a role here, especially as EV ownership remains relatively rare.
“It is important for us as a brand to understand how consumers want to use their electric vehicles, and what they know and don’t know about them as we move closer to the launch of the MINI Cooper S E electric vehicle in the U.S.,” said Andrew Cutler, head of Mini’s corporate communications in the U.S. “The more intelligence we gather, the more we can educate consumers about the many benefits of electric mobility and what MINI has to offer in the new MINI Cooper S E electric vehicle coming in early 2020.”
With 74 percent of respondents claiming they had no clue where the nearest EV charging station is located in relation to their home and 66 percent claiming to believe that electric cars were primarily for early adopters, Mini said the survey underscored a need to “raise mainstream awareness around EV technology.”
That’s no doubt true, especially if the brand hopes to thrive after shifting away from internal combustion engines. We’re more inclined to believe that mainstream tastes simply haven’t caught up to electric cars. They’re still relatively novel contraptions associated with a mobility culture that makes some people a little uneasy.
Other less encouraging aspects of the survey included feedback on charging times and what EVs were good for. Most individuals claimed they were primarily for commuting and urban driving. It’s an assumption many automakers are trying to change, but you one could still make a strong case for. While charging stations are cropping up all over North America, the network isn’t quite robust enough to ensure headache-free EV ownership across the board. Relatively wide gaps in some rural areas remain.
When consumers were asked to choose an acceptable amount of time it should take to charge an EV, the most popular answer (at 28 percent) was “I don’t know,” followed by “30 minutes” (at 25 percent). As charging/battery technology continues to advance, times vary wildly between vehicles and stations. At-home charging frequently requires tucking the car in for the night while some newer e-vehicles, utilizing high-capacity stations, can get a majority charge within 30 minutes. However, a complete charge usually takes substantially more time — if you have a smartphone, you’ve seen this phenomenon in action. That last 20 percent always seems to take forever.
There was some good news for Mini within the survey, though. The company said that many who responded to the poll indicated the federal tax credit would not be a significant part of their decision making process if they decided to purchase an electric car — perhaps because they were unaware that it equates to free money from the government. We don’t care what you’re buying — a $7,500 tax credit is absolutely going to influence your decision.
The automaker also claimed that 73 percent of the consumers surveyed said that a battery range of up to 75 miles was sufficient for their daily use. That’s something carmakers can deliver now, suggesting that range anxiety might not be a problem for Mini or BMW Group as the shift toward electrification continues. But we still think a cautious approach is the correct one. Build those EVs and improve the charging network; just don’t presume your customer base is universally ready — even with the proper education from automakers.
[Images: BMW Group]