The shift to electric vehicles

Putting consumers in the driver’s seat

As issues ranging from environmental concerns to fluctuating oil prices increasingly push consumers toward alternatives to combustion engines, the world seems poised for an electric vehicle (EV) rebirth. Today’s EV, however, is beyond anything nineteenth century drivers could imagine. From intelligent driving to proactive service and remote vehicle access, EVs can offer the safety and convenience today’s consumers crave.

However, hurdles to the adoption of electric vehicles remain, primarily concerns regarding price and range. To further understand these hurdles and gauge consumer and industry attitudes about EVs, we coupled interviews with executives from both leading and emerging automotive companies with a survey of consumers who rely on cars as their primary transportation mode.

Through our survey, we discovered that average consumers seem to appreciate the sustainability benefits of driving an electric vehicle. However, they aren’t particularly interested in paying a higher premium to purchase one. In addition, they have concerns regarding total miles per battery charge – despite the fact that today’s electric cars can typically handle the average driver’s daily needs without needing to recharge.*

Our study also revealed another potential roadblock that can certainly be addressed by the industry – the simple fact that many consumers don’t know enough about electric vehicles. Even those who consider themselves knowledgeable have misconceptions. The good news for those interested in driving EV adoption is that there is substantial interest in electric vehicles. In fact, one fifth of drivers are either “very likely” or “likely” to consider purchasing an electric-only vehicle when shopping for a new car.

While consumer education is important, automakers must also rely on innovation to help drive EV adoption. We suggest they tap into the innovative technology inherent in the vehicle itself to enhance the driver’s experience through various connected features. In addition, the industry must be aggressive in developing new business models while forging new partnerships to build the infrastructure necessary for widespread EV adoption.


*IBM Institute for Business Value analysis of survey data on average miles driven and average range of current electric vehicles available in the United States. 2011.

Download the complete IBM Institute for Business Value study

Meet the author

  • Kalman Gyimesi

    Kalman Gyimesi

    Industrial / Automotive Leader, IBM Institute for Business Value

Automotive consulting

Deep industry expertise provides the foundation for solving the most complex business problems.


  • IBM

    Download the IBV App

    Access our latest thought leadership, including C-suite studies and industry insights. Maintain a library, receive regular updates. Explore enhanced content.


  • IdeaWatch Newsletter

    IdeaWatch Newsletter

    Sign up to receive monthly e-mail updates on recent papers from the IBM Institute for Business Value.

Advancing mobility

The new frontier of smarter transportation