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Automotive Survey Signals the Beginning of the Lithium Era

In a paper presented at the Second Lithium Supply and Markets Conference held in Las Vegas last January, I further developed a framework originally suggested in a 2008 article to explain the main factors (i.e. oil prices, technological development and resistance to change) that may determine the adoption of lithium batteries for different types of electric cars.

For reasons of space, the third determinant was then examined in relation to governments and companies only.  Here I would like to start a discussion about acceptance of/resistance to change by consumers. This is now possible thanks to some interesting information provided by Ernst & Young in its first   Automotive Survey measuring the understanding of and interest in plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles in the US published in December 2009. As argued by a recent article, the key findings of the Survey are: 

  •  Roughly 10% of the survey participants said they would consider a plug-in    hybrid and electric vehicle purchase.
  •  34% of survey participants said they would subsidize local charging              stations.
  •  Public awareness of emerging powertrain technologies remains weak            across the US.
  •  Not many consumers are willing to embrace the new technology prior to it  being well-established in the market.
  •  No other plug-in hybrid and electric vehicle incentive or benefit is  considered nearly as important as saving money on fuel.
  •  Among several considerations, access to charging stations, battery driving  range and vehicle cost are by far the three most significant consumer  concerns.

Taken as a whole, these findings give additional support to the kind of arguments I have been advancing for the last two years or so with reference to the inauguration of the lithium era in the world.   

First, the Survey results point to many more drivers willing to buy plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles than initially thought. In effect, the above mentioned percentage translates into about 20 million American drivers favoring that kind of acquisition which is, for example, well beyond President Obama´s target to have 1 million of such cars on US roads by the year 2015. 

Second, this is further reinforced by the Survey result that more than one out of three Americans would subsidize local charging stations.

Third, as anticipated in my January article, not only the price of oil is perceived as one of the most important factors determining the adoption of lithium batteries but it also does seem to do a great deal with drivers´decision to purchase a plug-in hybrid and/or electric vehicle.

Fourth, battery driving range and vehicle cost, which appear among the three most significant consumer concerns when it comes to buying electric cars, seem to be intrinsically related to technological development of lithium batteries for electric cars. 

Lastly, lack of public awareness of electric cars may be only increasing consumers’ resistance to adopt the emerging technology before it is well-established in the market. 

Disclosure: No positions.