May 17, 2011 (From the CalCars-News archive)
Here's our second extended post, with reports on how plug-ins are being received in the marketplace, the long-awaited sequel to "Who Killed The Electric Car," reporters and analysts trying to figure out how big plug-ins will be how soon, some frustrating examples of misreporting, and a possible new way to respond.
GM'S ROB PETERSON OUTLINES VOLT'S (AND INDUSTRY'S) MARKETING
CHALLENGES: GM-Volt's Jeff Cobb has posted a series summarizing GM marketing spokesperson Rob Peterson's presentation at the Washington Electric Drive Transportation Association DC conference in April. He discussed the transition from "early adopters" to "fast followers." http://gm-volt.com/2011/04/08/grassroots-growth-volt-dealerships-are-learning-how-to-usher-in-the-age-of-the-ev/. He talked about the company's transparency policy and about building strategic relationships with multiple constituencies, such as utilities, plug-in advocates (including gracious call-outs to "enthusiasts" Chelsea Sexton, Felix Kramer and GM-Volt.com), and the broad advanced-tech auto industry: http://gm-volt.com/2011/04/29/gms-rob-peterson-discusses-the-volt-teams-strategic-relationship-building/. He focused on getting the word out about customers' experiences: http://gm-volt.com/2011/05/04/gm%E2%80%99s-rob-peterson-customers-volt-stories-are-key-to-marketing-success/. And he talked about managing expectations, both among plug-in advocates and customers, especially as critics and detractors pile on: http://gm-volt.com/2011/05/09/gms-rob-peterson-talks-to-industry-peers-about-managing-expectations/
REVENGE OF THE ELECTRIC CAR: We can't wait to see the long-awaited sequel to "Who Killed the Electric Car," which premiered on Earth Day at NYC's Tribeca Film Festival. CalCars' top two priorities get a direct boost from two of the film's four stories: for PHEVs, GM's outspoken Bob Lutz, and for conversions, the flamboyant Greg "Gadget" Abbott from http://www.leftcoastelectric.com inspires us by turning almost any classic internal combustion vehicle into an EV. (We hope the enthusiasm spills over to lower-cost and higher-volume solutions.) And of course we also root for Carlos Ghosn's Leaf, and Elon Musk's Teslas. The film is still on the festival circuit, but you can help get it into a theater near you! http://www.revengeoftheelectriccar.com
EPRI'S CONSUMER GUIDE: The Electric Power Research Institute has published "Plugging In: A Consumer's Guide to the Electric Vehicle." It's free and handy in eight pages. (For more detail, see Plug In America's 64-pager, CHARGED UP & READY TO ROLL.") http://my.epri.com/portal/server.pt?Abstract_id=000000000001023161 (Try again if URL doesn't work the first time.)
ANOTHER VOLT+LEAF HOUSEHOLD: Sacramento-area's George Parrott and his wife started driving the Volt/Leaf combination shortly after Felix Kramer.. Though journalists got some numbers wrong, the Consumer Reports story and AP short video were positive. http://news.consumerreports.org/cars/2011/04/a-tale-of-two-evs-california-man-shows-how-chevrolet-volt-nissan-leaf-can-pay-off-1.html
TAKE CARE, CLEANTECH ANALYSTS: A mildly cautionary headline, "Electric Car Boom Could Deliver a Surge in Grid Power," drew our attention. But the story immediately escalated to "They're going to be hell on the grid." Later the author implied we need to invent some advanced technology to ensure that most charging is off-peak. (How about a timer and time-of-use pricing?) Steve Lough of the Seattle Electric Auto Association, Brian Wynne of the Electric Drive Transportation Association, and we and others brought the issue back to reality. Then Reuters picked up the story, but unfortunately without our responses. Spawning a true whac-a-mole, the alarm proliferated to over 8,000 sites. http://gigaom.com/cleantech/electric-car-boom-could-deliver-a-surge-in-grid-power/
WHAT SURVEYS ABOUT PUBLIC INTEREST IN PLUG-INS TELL US: We're a big fan of Jim Motavalli (and he often quotes us). Jim has been around the block many times: he wrote "Forward Drive: The Race to Build 'Clean' Cars for the Future" back in 2000, when he was editor of E: The Environmental Magazine. Now he writes for the NY Times, BNET, Mother Nature Network, The Daily Green, PlugInCars.com, and others. He'll have a new book, tentatively called "High Voltage: The Fast Track to Plug In the Auto Industry," out in November. His recent inquiry into why gas prices are the only commodity whose cost is posted everywhere is memorable. He has great interviews about its psychological impact. http://www.bnet.com/blog/electric-cars/why-do-gas-stations-post-their-outrageous-prices-because-well-they-always-have/4153
Now, in "Sure, Americans Want Electric Cars — But Only If They're Magical," Jim wades through vastly different public survey responses. He concludes that most Americans are confused about electric cars. In an exchange worth reading, plug-in advocates Paul Scott and Mike Kane differ with Jim effectively and eloquently. We agree that tens of millions of car buyers "get" the lifetime savings of plug-in cars and their global benefits. Yet even stipulating that survey questions and results are misleading, and that most buyers are motivated by emotion and not by payback, we also agree with Motavalli's fundamental points: Uninformed potential buyers want plug-ins with an up-front price cheaper than their gas-guzzlers. In other words, they want to eat their cake and have it too (the right version of that adage). This isn't surprising in a nation where so many worship "truthiness," paying more attention to wishes and myths than to science and facts. http://www.bnet.com/blog/electric-cars/sure-americans-want-electric-cars-8212-but-only-if-they-8217re-magical/4077
CHALLENGING J.D. POWER'S VIEWS:
http://www.autoobserver.com/2011/04/consumer-group-lambasts-jd-power-conclusions.html The Consumer Federation of America has jumped on J.D. Power's conclusion in its 2011 U.S. Green Automotive Study http://www.jdpower.com/news/pressRelease.aspx?ID=2011039 that consumer interest and sales of new plug-in vehicles will be low for the next five years. Without even challenging the company's methodology in surveying 4,000 potential buyers as well as gathering info from other sources, the 300-group coalition says it draws entirely different conclusions from the numbers. http://www.autoobserver.com/2011/04/consumer-group-lambasts-jd-power-conclusions.html . (Alas, neither CFA nor JDP, however, connected the dots to show no matter what happens with new cars ales, plug-ins won't be a meaningful percentage of ALL cars within even 15 years unless we also convert millions of existing vehicles.)
ON WHETHER WE'LL GET A MILLION PLUG-INS BY 2015: The US Department of Energy's latest projections say 1.2 million http://green.autoblog.com/2011/04/15/doe-plug-in-vehicle-sales-to-total-1-2-million-in-u-s-by-2015/. And another take, from John Voelker (IEEE and Green Car Reports): http://spectrum.ieee.org/green-tech/advanced-cars/one-million-plugin-cars-by-2015
MISSING INGREDIENT FOR PLUG-IN MARKET INFORMATION: Building on ideas we've proposed in the past, we have a concept for a new company that would analyze and deliver market intelligence and new ideas from current and future plug-in drivers. A side benefit would be better ways to combat misinformation. If you are (or know) an entrepreneur with time and resources to work on this, look back at the earlier (non-profit) concept http://www.calcars.org/calcars-news/1116.html and send us a serious email with the subject line "Drivers-To-Drivers."