Electric cars in the real world: Daimler study reveals some surprises

Fri, 2015-08-07 06:00 -- Doug Peeples

Council Lead Partner Daimler, parent company of Mercedes-Benz, recently completed a two-year real-world study of electric cars. The multi-purpose study, referred to as eMerge, yielded a lot of information about driver behavior, EV technology and vehicle pricing. Daimler and its partners also wanted to take a hard look at the need for a publicly available charging infrastructure.

Knowing the customer
The company, of course, is heavily committed in the EV market and wanted to know what it takes to provide cars people will want to buy. And it learned quite a lot during the two-year study which involved a substantial amount of driving for business and private customers driving 146 smart fortwo all-electric cars, as well as participant interviews.

While some study results were predictable, others were not:

  • EV supporters are generally educated, technically knowledgeable with above average incomes
  • The less a participant knew about EVs, the more negative his or her attitude was
  • Purchase price is a critical part of the buying decision. However, many participants interviewed were not aware of the savings EVs provide
  • Range, performance, space and charging time also are important
  • The "ideal target group" drives 31 miles daily, which makes an EV purchase attractive because of its lower operating and maintenance costs
  • Access to public charging also was very influential with interviewees
  • In the end, positive opinions about electric cars boiled down to image -- and environmental awareness was not very important

With the completion of eMerge, Daimler will move on to eMerge2, which will involve 200 electric Mercedes-Benz B 250e and hybrid-electric models. Researchers want to explore how the different vehicle models and their technology affect why they are used, and to compare how drivers use all-electric vehicles and hybrids. The intent is to use the data in the development of electric drivetrains and other systems.

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Doug Peeples is a Portland, Oregon-based writer specializing in technology and energy. Follow @smartccouncil on Twitter.

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