WASHINGTON — Point-of-sale rebates are one way to help speed consumer acceptance of plug-in electric vehicles, according to a new study by the National Research Council.
The report recommends making PEVs more affordable by extending current incentives and converting the existing tax credits to more immediate point-of-sale rebates. It also says the federal government should work with states to create a policy in which PEVs would remain free from roadway or registration surcharges for a limited period of time.
The study included battery-electric vehicles, which are powered only by electric motors, and plug-in hybrids, which have an internal-combustion engine that turns on when the battery is depleted in order to extend the vehicle's range. Both types of PEVs use the electric grid to charge the batteries while they're parked.
Researchers further broke down the types of PEVs into four categories: Long-range battery electric vehicles, such as the Tesla Model S; limited range battery electrics, like the Nissan Leaf and BMW i3; range-extended plug-in hybrids, typified by the Chevrolet Volt and Ford Fusion Energi; and minimal plug-in hybrids, like the Toyota Prius Plug-in.
The report, Overcoming Barriers to Deployment of Plug-In Electric Vehicles, was compiled at the request of Congress and, in addition to investigating reluctance on the part of buyers to consider a plug-in vehicle (PEV), also recommends ways to overcome barriers to acceptance.
As expected, the report cited cost, range concerns and a limited charging infrastructure as barriers to consumer acceptance of these vehicles.
According to the study, PEVs accounted for just 0.76 percent of light-duty vehicle sales in the U.S. by the end of 2014.
Whichever type of PEV is chosen, according to the report, consumers say that home is the most important location for charging, since vehicles tend to spend the majority of down time parked there. The ability to charge at the workplace is also an important consideration, although the current infrastructure in most locations does not yet widely support this.
To help address the infrastructure issue, the study recommends that local governments streamline their permit processes and adopt building codes that require new construction to accommodate future charging stations.
Another recommendation at the federal level is that the government should work to eliminate the current crop of incompatible charging plugs and establish a standard, so that drivers can charge their PEVs at all for-pay public charging stations, just as conventional vehicles can refuel at any gas station.
However, the report does stop short of recommending that the government directly invest in the installation of new public charging stations. Instead, it advocates for additional research to determine how much public infrastructure is needed and how it can be deployed to encourage more drivers to adopt PEVs.
Consumers looking for more information on PEVs should consult the Edmunds page, Is a Plug-in Hybrid or Electric Car Right for You? Another valuable resource is the Edmunds Plug-in Vehicle Roundup, which includes useful information on a number of currently available PEVs.
Edmunds says: Clearly, more work needs to be done if car shoppers are going to jump on the plug-in electric vehicle bandwagon in a big way.