What France Can Teach The World About Selling EVs

France plans to ban fossil fuel cars by 2040 and Paris has said it will prohibit them by 2030. Yet, only two percent of cars sold in France in 2018 were either pure electric or plugin hybrids primarily because consumers appear to be basing their car-buying decisions on out-of-date information about both the performance of electric vehicles (EVs) and the total cost to own and operate one.

What’s happening in France is emblematic of a global challenge facing EVs. Even though electric car technology is improving, and they are becoming more affordable, few consumers are aware of the progress.  Misinformation about new technologies often slows adoption by the public and can be particularly deadly for ones like electric cars where the new technology is essentially performing the same task as the old. No doubt, the misconceptions held by French consumers are not limited to France, meaning that automakers, dealers, and governments worldwide have an education challenge ahead if the goal is to expand EV sales and eventually make electric the primary automotive propulsion system.

In a recent study conducted by Oliver Wyman of more than 1,000 French consumers, we found that 76 percent expressed an interest in purchasing an electric car, but most still hesitated because they believed that the limitations of battery technology would prevent them from taking longer road trips. Fifty-six percent told the survey that the range of EV batteries was too low. They also believed that EVs would be much more expensive to own and operate. While those perceptions are not entirely unfounded, the reality on both fronts is far better than current consumer assumptions.

Underestimating EVs

What are the facts? While most of the French consumers estimated the average range of EVs to be around 250 kilometers, or 155 miles, the current range of a typical EV is now more than 300 kilometers, or about 186 miles. Tesla currently offers cars with ranges of almost 500 kilometers, or more than 300 miles, and many other automakers including Chevrolet, Audi, Hyundai, and Nissan offer models with ranges above 360 kilometers, or 225 miles. Those distances easily accommodate the majority of European road trips and even most trips in larger countries like the United States.

Indeed, electric cars are more expensive to purchase than conventional cars. Where a midrange internal combustion model would cost around 18,000 euros in France, an EV is likely to be priced at about 32,000 euros — a purchase price that drops to 26,000 euros after French government subsidies are applied.

But what French consumers often failed to consider is how much less expensive EVs are to operate and maintain. While it typically costs around five euros to fully recharge a standard battery using an overnight charge at home, four out of five consumers thought the costs were higher, and more than half put the figure between four and 10 times greater. To the contrary, it’s internal combustion engines that end up being more expensive over time — because of the higher and less predictable costs of both maintenance and fuel.

Cost of ownership

According to a study by UFC Que Choisir, a French consumer organization, the total cost of owning and running a midsize electric sedan in the first four years would be 3.4 percent less than that of a new diesel car. Though the electric model will depreciate nearly 3000 euros more than the diesel in those early years, this is more than outweighed by cheaper fuel. As the cars get older, the EV improves in value against a diesel, primarily because of the relatively low cost of maintaining it and lower depreciation in later years.

A lack of familiarity with electric vehicles makes people hesitate — only about a third of our survey had ridden in one and many were confused about what was necessary to charge a car at home. For faster adoption, automakers and dealers will have to embark on an educational effort to expose people to EVs. To make people more comfortable, some automakers are even experimenting with offering EVs as a service rather than just a one-off sale. That allows consumers to test drive them for extended periods and get a first-hand understanding of the economics and range.

As car companies ramp up production, no doubt the economics will develop to support the kind of marketing campaigns for EVs that the industry has used for years for conventional autos. But just like consumers, automakers must become better convinced EVs are worth the investment.

This article was originally sourced from here.