Thursday, October 18, 2012
The psychology of car buying almost deserves its own volume. It almost always starts out as a numbers game infused with sensible logic, cost analysis and long term TCO calculations.
Then the buyer hits the lot, the numbers go racing from the head and emotion is the only thing left. Well, at least that's how it has been working up until now. Then the electric vehicle entered the picture.
The electric vehicle has moved emotion to the top of the list.
** Its green; the right thing to do
** Its cool; techy cool. Nissan knew this and took advantage with its "windowesque" start up chime and multi-colored displays. Hard to dispute the fact that a picture of the Nissan Leaf dash would easily blend in with just about anyone's Christmas home decor.
** Its convenient; no getting gas
** Its cheap (if you can make it past the sticker price)
the list goes on and on, but most (even the convenience thing) of these reasons are based in emotion. Now, it could be argued that "Greenness" and its righteous quality is based in fact and one would be correct but that is not the reason why most of us choose to "green up"
But anyway the reason for this entry actually has nothing to do with EV's but hybrids; namely plug in hybrids.
For those who have found that EVs are not all that inconvenient as most would have us believe; the new push is an EV/hybrid household. Right now; two combinations dominate. the LEAF / Prius or the LEAF / Volt. Ford and Toyota are both challenging that domination with new products.
Toyota was first out with adding plug on their hybrid king the Prius but many felt it a token gesture at best when it was realized that the EV range was barely 10 miles. But blended range driving did give a big mileage boost for those who had that longer commute and the Prius still boasted the big "5 -0 MPG" a milestone that still allows them to stand alone.
Ford taking some pages from the Toyota play book developed a product from scratch; the C-Max. It is slightly bigger, slightly cheaper, and double the EV range of the Prius. A major challenge to unseating the Prius from the top spot. it did not quite make the 50 mpg level but came close enough at 47 mpg. (edited; actually its 42 MPG for the Energi AND early test drives with the hybrid are showing performance in the 30's...) But the key thing; 21 miles of EV range doubling the PiP (Plug in Prius) a definite white glove "slap in the face" challenge to Toyota.
After the C- Max Energi specs were announced (release date is not until Jan 2013) I fully expected Toyota to counter with a longer EV range to compete. After all, Ford was beating Toyota in 3 of the 4 main metrics. But Toyota chose to bet on Customer Loyalty which is essentially emotional buying.
But one thing is clear; both Ford and Toyota have declined to challenge Nissan in the "family affordable" EV car class. What they have recognized however is the powerful emotional draw that EVs possess over their owners. A force so powerful it is overcoming the logic infused with the traditional car buying process. a draw that permeates the EV owners surroundings so completely that the big concern; How much that "EV ness" will affect neighbors, relatives and co-workers.
So are the plug in vehicles with impractical EV ranges a compromise allowing people to be seen plugging in but not really committing to the movement? I am proud to live in a state that does not jam up their HOV's with single passenger vehicles like Volts, PiP's and LEAFs but cant help but wonder how a LEAF driver feels when he sees a slow PiP driving in front of him?
The final thing to mention; Only the Volt has the EV range to meet the needs of the massives in the plug in field. its 40 mile EV range no doubt decided on stats showing the Average American drives 38 miles a day (2 mile buffer for late night runs for ice cream probably) but its price is decidedly not middle class despite GM's attempts to disquise that fact with attractive leasing deals and I still recommend the lease anyway due to the promise of bigger, better and possibly cheaper plug in options in the "near" future.
Right now; the EV world is far from mature. the LEAF is still the best choice for many 2 car households including mine but they still have unresolved issues that will affect some commuting needs. So lease it; get a 3 year one and then re-evaluate with the best of the 2015's