To achieve mass adoption, the average electric car will need to offer 31-minute charging, 291 miles of range, and a base price of $36,000. Those three factors comprise a global tipping point for EVs, according to a new study commissioned by oil company Castrol, which is looking to sell so-called "e-fluid" lubricants for EVs.
Findings are based on surveys of 9,000 consumers, 750 fleet managers, and 30 automotive industry professionals in 8 countries—the United States, United Kingdom, Norway, France, Germany, India, China, and Japan.
Consumers surveyed ranked price as the most important factor in the potential purchase of an electric car, followed by charge time and range. Most car buyers seem to expect some breakthrough in battery technology soon, as 61% are adopting a "wait and see" approach, according to the study.
Fleet managers appeared cautious as well. While 58% said they felt "personally motivated" to go electric due to potential environmental benefits, 54% are waiting for competitors to make the switch before they do, according to the study.
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Most consumers surveyed said they would consider buying an electric car by 2024, and the study predicts that EVs will reach "mainstream adoption" in the U.S. in 2032. In comparison, India and China are predicted to reach mass adoption in 2025 and 2027, respectively, while France is expected to reach that milestone in 2031.
Automakers are making progress in engineering, with some electric cars achieving at least one of the metrics for the designated mass-adoption tipping point, the study noted. There are also different range standards by market, so this might have a somewhat different meaning from region to region.
However, automakers may need to boost their public-education efforts.
"An equally critical challenge is helping consumers understand that, in many cases, the future that they want from electric vehicles is closer than they may think," the study's executive summary said.
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There have definitely been some false alarms. The charging-technology company ABB claimed in 2013 that we'd already reached the tipping point for EVs—based on the declining cost of batteries.
Volkswagen claims that in the U.S. we've just passed a tipping point—and if you look at the surge of Tesla and consumer interest in general, it might be right.
These claims demonstrate how easy it is to misuse the phrase tipping point, which author Malcolm Gladwell described as a moment of critical mass—a complex sociological moment rather than something that can be pinned down to a single number or inflection point.
Electric cars are already the source of much buzz in the auto industry but, as LMC Automotive pointed out last year, 7 out of 10 new vehicles will still be powered by gasoline in 2030.
And although this survey's targets might give us a good sign we've gotten there, we might not be truly able to identify all the signs that it was the tipping point until it's already passed.