Is $23,750 The Right Price To Get Electric Car Sales To Soar?

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Electric Vehicle price sensitivity analysis, by Pike Research, July 2012

Electric Vehicle price sensitivity analysis, by Pike Research, July 2012

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There are many reasons plug-in electric car sales are still just a tiny fraction of the market.

The biggest hurdle may be high price, compared to gasoline cars of the same size, right now (along with range limitations).

Despite a cost-per-mile that's just a fraction of what a gasoline car costs, most consumers walk away when they see a sticker twice as high.

Now industry analyst Pike Research has crunched some numbers, and calculated the price at which it feels car buyers would seriously consider electric cars as viable gasoline competitors.

That price? $23,750.

As Pike analyst John Gartner puts it in a recent post:

The optimal price point for selling a plug-in electric vehicle where consumers would feel that they were neither too cheap nor too expensive is $23,750, which is $10,000 to $15,000 or so less than current plug-in electric price tags.

Pike uses consumer survey data on how buyers perceive value based on price for electric vehicles. There are four sets of data, showing the percentage of more than 1,000 survey respondents who feel that a car is "Too Cheap," a "Bargain," "Expensive," or "Too Expensive."

The post includes not only a photo of carrots (incentives, get it?), but a graph showing its "Electric Vehicle Price Sensitivity Analysis."

The graph's colored lines clearly show the price at which an equal number of consumers feel an electric car would be a "Bargain" as feel it would be "Expensive".

Gartner calls that the "indifference point," and those two lines cross at $23,750.

While we have a number of questions (including whether that price is before incentives or it's a "net price," meaning incentives are already subtracted out), the result feels broadly right to us.

A 2012 Nissan Leaf in the low-level SV trim level, with an EPA-rated range of 73 miles, starts at $35,200.

2012 Nissan Leaf electric car - net pricing shown on Nissan website

2012 Nissan Leaf electric car - net pricing shown on Nissan website

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In California, the higher trim-level Leaf SL (which makes up the majority of sales) still runs $28,100 or more even after netting out fully $10,000--comprising a $7,500 Federal tax credit and a $2,500 state purchase rebate.

More Leafs have been sold in California than in any other state, but the $35K-plus sticker price is undoubtedly a turnoff when the Nissan Sentra 10 feet away starts at $16,430.

With lithium-ion battery costs likely to decline at 6 to 8 percent a year, and the cost of gasoline cars set to rise in real dollars as they acquire more expensive powertrains to meet stiff new fuel economy rules, electric cars will likely come into their own by the end of this decade as their prices fall.

But until the difference is far lower than it is now--perhaps $5,000, or the difference between a stripped compact model and a high-line version, say--electric cars are likely to remain niche players.

So tell us: At what sticker price (never mind running costs) would a plug-in electric car become irresistible to you?

Leave us your thoughts in the Comments below.


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Comments (57)
  1. Comment disabled by moderators.

  2. Isn't it the case the for the Chevy Volt, range is never an issue in the customer's mind, however, for BEVs range is a question in the customer's mind. Of course, in reality, range might not truly be an issue, but what is in the customer's mind is perhaps more important than reality.

  3. I would not buy an electric-only vehicle. A setup like the Volt seems to be the best option. Electric-only for most in-town errands. And a small generator fueled by gas that kicks in once the batteries have depleted. Although the Volt is butt ugly to me, I think GM has the right technology in place.

  4. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but "butt ugly"? I use a lot of restraint when I say the Leaf is not exactly a good looking car. I happen to like how the Volt looks but that wasn't the primary consideration. It looks better to me than many cars, particularly most of the asian makes. I was a kid in the '50s when cars had style, grace and huge fins. Different thinking about design is good and I'm no slave to what a car looks like. The Mitsubishi "i" is attractive in it's own way and I'd certainly go for something like that over an absolutely impractical SUV that is designed to make the driver feel like he/she's on safari in the Serengeti when they are really in congested traffic in Los Angeles.

  5. so in other words, the same price as most compact cars with some features in them. Elantra,Focus, civic, etc.. Who would't buy one if they were the same price as a gas car and cheaper to run? No brainer.

  6. take $5,000 off the 2013 price and you will definitely increase sales but i dont think that will happen. yes, i believe the price will be cut significantly but to levels just below or at 2011 Prices

  7. Oh dear God here we go again. You can't judge customer's willingness to pay for something by asking them. Please review Bob Lutz's book and the failures of Conjoint Analysis. It simply doesn't work.

    Also, the problem with EVs might not be the price at all but other things.

    But just as a general question, why is the "Expensive" line higher than the "Too Expensive" line. It seems backwards to me.

    In contrast, the "Too Cheap" line is lower than the "bargain" line, which seems more likely.

    Wonder if they did any benchmarking to see if this technique could accurately predict the right price for an ICE (which is known) and to what accuracy could they predict it.

    Utter non-sense.

  8. That is correct. For a given price, more people think it is "expensive" instead of "too expensive". Less people think it is "too cheap" instead of "bargain"...

  9. I guess I can see that, but I would have been totally confused by these descriptors. The difference between "too cheap" and a "bargain" is unclear. Wonder how many of the people surveyed were clear on the terms and wonder is the terms were pretested.

  10. The base Leaf is already that price (actual selling price in CA) after tax rebates. Plus the HOV stickers.

    I almost bought one if the range wasn't a concern. If Nissan lower the price by another $5k, adds bettery battery cooling/heating, include 6.6KW charger and an universal 120/240V EVSE, you will see a Volt and a Leaf in my garage.

  11. i'd suggest a good model for this is the Hybrid cars. When they were a premium product, they were very much a niche and lots of mavens were discouraging buyers. I looked at a prius in 2002 and was waved off by my mechanic. But now when a Prius is $25K, it's a huge seller and it's comparable to a Camry or within 7K of the Corolla, it's their big seller. I think as the battery prices keep dropping, they will make great market share gains

  12. the absolute correct thing about this article is that it recognizes that price is the only true barrier.

    range is a non-issue for the vast majority of people, already.

    even moreso each year after, as the range creeps up.

    they wont bring the price down until they have exhausted sales at the previous upper limit.

    if the bigwigs desire, evs will take over. and at the rate that is most beneficial to the bigwigs.

    only time will tell for sure, but i will still continue to hold onto my 10-year prediction, which has about 9 years left on its timeclock.

    i have always thought i was being conservative by giving the ev industry a full 10 years.

  13. by that i mean lets wander out 10 years in the future. look at the average joe deciding which NEW CAR he is gonna buy.

    by then, i think the overwhelming percentage of people will be unwilling to invest new car dollars in ice technology.

    10 years of slowly dropping prices is still quite a bit after the full 10 years.

    evs have less parts and once they are in tall order, they will be actually cheaper to manufacture than their ice counterparts.

    and tons cheaper than volt-hybrid technology, (which i dont think will even be around in 10 years) which is even more complicated than its ice sister.

  14. Explain to me how you are going to get from SF to LA in one day or from Boston to DC in one day...

  15. you are talking about an extremely small percentage of drivers, such that it does not mean beans from applesauce to the growth of the industry whether today's batteries can do this.

    however, i suspect that it will be possible sometime in the future for those who desire it.

    even with today's batteries, one could go that far, with enough batteries. as batteries become cheaper, smaller, and more powerful, it will become practical for those who desire it.

    today, those people would have a gas car if they travel long distances often. but most households have more than one car, and few would need more than one of their vehicles to travel outside of that 100-mile range.

  16. "extremely" small? Well, just this last week, I was having this discussion with 3 different people at work. They all brought the range problem up. I asked them how often they took long trip in the last 6 years that they owned their econ box. They said about 3-6 trip between SF to SD. and few to OR and WA. I said that it is totally okay to rent cars during those occasions (they are all single car owners). They gave me this dirty look that basically said that I was crazy to do that.

    At the end, people love to have the "freedom". The freedom to go anywhere they want quickly. Gas engine has its range limited, but there are gas infrastructure in place and within 5 mins, the ICE car can go just as long as the drivers desires...

  17. To go from Memphis to Nashville I rent a car. Otherwise I drive my Leaf.

  18. This is exactly the problem. Using an automobile to get from SF to LA, etc., was never a good idea. It never will be. A train is the best way to do such trips and we need to re-educate ourselves on mass transit where it makes sense.

  19. @EV Enthusiast: If you say 10 years to large scale EV adoption depending on bigwigs giving the go sign I would say you were wrong.Part of those "bigwigs"are in the oil business and they are currently investing massive amounts of money in the exploitation of ever more marginal oil reserves. What they need is high oil prices to make these investments worth their while, what they can't afford is alternative energy vehicles taking too much pressure off the oil market. Generally these interests predict a couple of more decades of oil dependency and they might have the power to make their predictions come true. For now that means holding plug-ins and biofuels back and more of the hydrogen smoke screen. Rivalling interests remember?

  20. you could be correct. i am not in the in, that i really know what their plans are.

    and i dont doubt that there is some "in-fighting" going on with those rivaling interests.

    but i will stick with my initial decision, and bear the brunt if i am in error.

    we are fortunate that we have one big company (nissan) showing real desires to bring about the ev industry.

    at this point, i think it is all about which interests have the most clout with batteries.

    i have no doubt that if really desired, we could have batteries 10 years from now that are ridiculously better than what is current, in terms of both price and range.

  21. To be sure, my rivalling interests theory is not at odds with your 10 years prediction, but like you said it's all about which interests have the most cloud and Big Oil is a factor to be reckoned with.

    Luckily, so is the consumer electronics industry and they need better batteries badly. It's the chink in Big Oil's armour that Elon Musk so cleverly exploited and according to McKinsey it's what's going to be the driving force behind further capacity improvements and price reduction that will see battery prices at about $200/kWh by 2020 and about $160/kWh by 2025:

    Fits your 10 years prediction nicely....

  22. Technology is moving so fast that it will be much less than 10 years from now that batteries will be much improved than what is available now...Charging techniques are improving equally as fast...This is why I contend that it makes more sence to lease this first generation mass produced EV as it will be obsoleted so quickly due to technology improvements

  23. We find it interesting that the average new car price in the USA is $30,748 (, yet people need the new EV cost to be $23,570 for it to be marketable.


  24. This only means 3 things... 1. Price is competitive already. 2. People are terrible at math. 3. EV has range issue, at least perceived range issue. You still can't get from SF to LA in one day...

  25. San Fran to LA in a day is a charging infrastructure issue. After there are DC quick chargers on I-5 as we've been promised, it is a do-able trip in a Nissan LEAF.

  26. Of course you can. Get on a plane.

  27. Sort of noticed that as well. These type of price questionnaires are frequently not tested to see if they are right. If they had tested this question for regular ICE cars, at least we could see the "relative" difference in peoples price expectations for ICE versus EVs. But the fact that what people say they are willing to pay for a car is probably dramatically different than what they actually pay makes the data virtually useless.

  28. The price of the Mitsubishi i is $29,125 before incentives. So in California, it costs $19,125. Yet they don't sell. This Pike Research study is another piece of ...

  29. @JP: Good point, but to be fair, Mitsubishi has many problems that Nissan, Chevy, and Toyota don't. It's a second-tier maker at best, with far fewer dealers, mediocre gasoline vehicles, a middling-to-lousy reputation for quality, and an outdated model lineup. And, the 'i' is smaller than a Mini Cooper or Fiat 500, meaning it's a size of car Americans typically don't buy. All of those factors together add up to a tough sales job for the little 'i' regardless of price.

  30. I did not read anywhere in the study that the result applied only to a first-tier car maker with great dealers, a good reputation for quality, making great gasoline vehicles, and having an up-to-date line-up, or that an electric car had to be of a certain size... :-)

  31. In terms of the i-MiEV - it's as close to Cavuto's "golf cart" moniker as any of the EVs. It's light, small and basically one step above the NEV. Leaf can be a net-cost of $20K with some mass-production. Volt should become a $35K MSRP in 3 years. I suspect a Chevy Cruze-EV or Sonic-EV is in the works for 2015 and that will beat the Leaf price.

  32. The reasons why the Mitsubishi "i' may not be selling is it's range of 62 miles is lowest range of any EV marketed in the USA. It’s motor is underpowered at the equivalent of 66 HP and it has styling issues since it looks like a ultra small/cheap compact.

    Here is what Mark Phelen of the Detroit free press wrote about the Mitsubshi "i"

    “The i costs less than most electric and plug-in hybrid cars, but it's smaller, less comfortable and has less range than most competitors. All electric vehicles face questions about their battery range and charging time, but the competitors outperform the i”

  33. There are more comments in this thread
  34. I continue to be puzzled as to why EV's are more expensive than the ICE cousins. It takes many hundreds more parts to make an ICE vehicle operate and much more costly routine maintenance than does an EV. A potential buyer of an EV needs to figure into the cost to purchase the savings due to lack of maintenance expenses compared to the maintenance needs of an ICE vehicle. Combine that with the fact that there are only 3 primary parts to an EV (battery, controller & motor) vs. the thousands of parts it takes to assemble and maintain an ICE....The torque of an electric motor is so great that this negates the need for a transmission...another part that should save in the cost to manufacture/sell an EV

  35. A true EV (Leaf, Spark EV, oh and Tesla...) - should be easier to make when reduced to the bare minimums. Now, the battery thermal management system makes them more complex than they have to be. The future base-EV would look like a Leaf or Coda with no TMS and fewer base functionality. I imagine a Leaf being a $25K car in 2018.

  36. ICE has been refined for the last 100 years. Auto makers can make engine at a cost of $1 to $3 per hp. That is really low in comparing with a high end EV motors. Sure EV's TCO is low but it also has limited range especially in severe weather. At least it is perceived that way...

  37. One additional thought to consider: Mass produced EV's are new to the marketplace. How much did we pay for the first VCR? Cell phone? Flat screen TV? Just a few years ago flat screen TV's were $5000.00 or they can be had for

  38. I've posted this before, but a Blueray DVD player cost $1000 in 2006 in their first year. I bought one for under $100 this year . . . Let the early adopters (i.e. the ones who care about status) subsidize for everyone else. It's the VERY least they can do.

  39. If there's a market for a $60,000 Mercedes, BMW or Lexus (have you seen the MSRP for GM's new Chevy Camaro?)there's a market for an EV in the $30,000 range especially when you take into consideration the maintenance free aspects of an EV. Makes more sence to plug it in at home than to travel 10 miles to find the least expensive gasoline

  40. But those Mercedes, BMW and others are "ego status symbols" and those folks really (presumably) don't care about costs, resources or other things in nature. Their care is "look at me - oh wait, I want my privacy, so don't look at me. But I'm glad I got you to look at me for a little while." Some of the most "eco-friendly" people are very rich but most are not - they are avoiding becoming high-income earners and part of "the system" and would rather live lightly, carefully and efficiently. Why live lavishly and then just save on gasoline?

    The point of this is - get the cars cheaper so people with lower incomes who are also interested in spending less on gasoline can buy them.

  41. hi chris,

    i had to start a new thread, since there was no way to reply to the old one.

    at this point, i still have some lingering doubts that it will actually occur.

    so i would happily give up another 10-20 years, for the knowledge that it will definitely occur.

    we have been held hostage by oil for a century. if we are really going forward, that is most important.

    we just gotta get off this oil parade - the wars, the environment, etc.

    at some point, it gets beyond disgusting at what greed is capable of doing.

  42. The McKinsey report I referred to claims that total cost of ownership for EVs will equal that of an equivalent ICE vehicle once battery price drops to $250/KWH (maybe that's what would enable the $23,750 figure?). That's bad news for oil interests since that moment is not too far in the future, but the range issue is real too and that's where the ICE would still have an advantage, though people will have to pay an ever higher price for that. The thing that would absolutely spell the end of the reign of oil is the battery that could be recharged in minutes (or at least

  43. i simply dont see range as any real issue - not for the vast majority.

    i have zero doubts that the "range" issue will solve itself way before evs totally take over.

    price is what deters everyone. used ices will be around for a long while. they will be cheaper, and provide the function of going long distances.

    however, what people have not really considered is the drop in gas stations that we are gonna find.

    i would say that in the past 10 years in my area, they never put in a new gas station, like before. once the facility needs major retro-fitting, something else entirely goes in there.

    this gives me confidence that the long-term goal of the bigwigs has already been written on the wall, so to speak.

    how long ? how high is up ?

  44. we will start running into the situation of not having a gas station at every corner, like we are used to having.

    gas stations can only stay in business if it makes money. even now, it is almost impossible to find a gas station that only sells gas.

    many of them have little markets, car washes, etc. as part of that business.

  45. Great chart and research. I agree - it's right around my own "price-point". I used GM Card points plus bonus points plus PA state rebate and Federal Credit to make my Volt purchase be right about $25K. Higher than that and I was really feeling like avoiding the purchase.

  46. The top 3 reasons ranked by importance to the buyer of An EV vrs a ICE vehicle

    Price is everything: A compliance car such as the Ford Focus EV at $39,200, which is $22,205 over the base price of Ford Focus gasoline car at $16,995.The Nissan Leaf is somewhat more affordable at $32,780 before the $7,500 tax incentive The Tesla Model S is the only EV that seems to be marketed appropriately to its luxury sport sedan competitors

    Range: Why do all the EV’s currently available from the traditional automakers seem to have a range of 60 to 88 miles with 75 miles seemingly appearing to be the industry agreed upon range for the battery pack? (I say at 150 miles range becomes a non issue.)

    Styling: Most buyers do not want to make a green statement

  47. I think that $22,300 is the right price to get this whole thing going, so yes I completely agree that a lower price will make the EV revolution get more traction. That's what I bought my 2011 Think City for, new from the factory. For modest income people the rebates are important, but the purchase price, ie. loan amount is equally/more important. I could have bought a less expensive car, but I really WANTED and electric car. I've wanted one for 10 years or so. It is also important that it looks cool.

  48. hi Xiaolong,

    as john briggs pointed out, you cant put much stock in what people say, in those situations.

    i can absolutely 100% guarantee you that if the prices of evs were the same as ices today, they would be selling like hotcakes.

    people make brash seat-of-the-pants comments all the time. just look at how often they say they are gonna quit their job cuz of such and such. they seldom do.

    an ev is simply better for the majority of people, which is why the majority of people would buy them - self interest, and that is one of the few things that you can bank upon people to do - what is best for themselves.

  49. EV prices are already low enough when the average car selling price is over $30k.

    Leaf can be leased for less than $289. You would rarely find a car that is cheaper to lease than that. Not to mentione the HOV lane access in California. Yet, people aren't jumping at Leaf in california like other "hot" cars... Instead, they jump at Prius...

  50. Having worked at a place were market research showed we needed to decrease the price to increase volume, I can tell you that SOMETIMES price is not what is holding you back. We were assured a that if the price could be reduced from $800/unit to $499/unit, then the volumes would jump.

    Well we did it and only got a 20% increase in sales volume (and lower profitability). The problem was the market we were selling in to either wanted the product or they did not. Price was not the main factor for that market segment.

    Having said that, I don't know if the situation is the same for EVs or not. But I learned that market research is difficult and imprecise.

  51. the average car selling price is nowhere near "over 30k".

    not any car that is comparable to the leaf, focus, coda.

    these are all small compact cars, which are nearer the high teens.

  52. Okay. I would agree that $30k was for the entire market. Compact Car is a bad definition. BMW 1 and 3 series are both compact cars. So are Volvo S40, Audi A3, Mercedez A class and C230. Lexus IS 250 is also compact car as well...

    You probably meant "econo crappy box" such as Yaris, Versa, Elantra...etc.

    But those cars don't perform like a Leaf or don't provide rides as smooth or as quiet as the Leaf.

    Leaf can be had for about $23k after all the incentives and Leased for about $289 per month. That is the price range of Prius C. Why aren't Nissan blowing away Prius C? or Honda Civic or Corolla? Those cars are around $20k with comparable equipped options...

  53. the average price for a compact car like the leaf, focus, or coda is not over 30k, or even close.

  54. Check out comparable equipped cars. They are easily in the low 20s...

    Leaf and Focus are both well equipped. A well equipped econo box are in the low 20s as well. Why aren't Leaf selling when the actual price is about $23k? Now with good Lease price and gas saving, why aren't people jump out of their Prius and get into a Leaf?

  55. from all articles written on this site, they always refer to the evs of today costing much more than their ice counterparts.

    i have yet to see one person agree with your statement that the evs are about as cheap.

    regarding the incentives, these are tax deductions. few people qualify for all of it. so it is a BIG mistake to subtract the full amount of the incentive, and pretend that is the price the average joe will pay.

    leasing is not something that most people do - as a general rule, it is more expensive.

  56. Wrong again. Most of the Naysayers don't do the math. There are plenty of sites where it proves that Leaf aren't way over price. Most the Naysayers complain b/c the MSRP price difference.

    Now let us get something straight. IT IS NOT TAX DEDUCTION!!!!!! It is tax credits. It is different from your deduction. You have to have "tax liabilities" exceeding $7,500 to claim it. Even at 15% tax rate, $7,500 is about $50k. If you don't make $50k per year, what are you doing buying a $20k New car? CA $2,500 is CASH. No income limit.

    Obviously, you don't own an EV, else you would have known this with personal experience.

    You can also lease it so you get the saving in your payment regardless of income.

  57. you are correct - i do not own an ev, and probably wont until this car no longer works - probably more than 10 years.

    you are the only person claiming that evs are prices similarly to ices.

    making 50k is far different than having a 50k gross income.

    if you do your research, you will see than many, if not most, people will not get the full 7500 credit.

    and once again, leasing is generally a more expensive option overall, which is why most people buy their vehicles instead of leasing them.

    there is also the upfront difference when buying, which is what most people do.

    when it comes time that the ev and ice are sitting on the lot at the same price with no other shenanigans, there will be 99evs sold for each ice.

    take that to the bank.

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