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Electric Cars Could Thrive in the Second Car Market

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Until I spent some time at the L.A. Auto Show last month, I hadn’t really thought about the electric car as potentially finding a niche as the second, or even third, car that a family would buy. The idea is that a consumer owns a traditional internal combustion engine car for longer or more spontaneous trips, and then in urban or neighborhood settings, a consumer might opt for an electric car as a second option.

A variety of auto makers are actually vying for the second car market for electric vehicles, instead of competing head-to-head with traditional car makers for an internal combustion engine replacement. Think, with its Think City urban EV, is publicly stating that it’s not trying to compete directly with the Nissan LEAF or GM’s Volt, but rather, the Think City will shoot to be an eco-friendly, gas-free, additional car. Volvo’s President of Special Vehicles, Lennart Stegland, also told me at the L.A. Auto Show that Volvo, too, is looking to offer its C30 EV as a second or third car option.

While EVs as an additional car won’t necessarily make as dramatic a dent in carbon emissions as EVs replacing traditional cars, the early market could offer a foothold into consumers’ homes, particularly because the first generation of EVs will be met with some trepidation.

Consumers are expected to take a cautious “wait and see,” approach to the first generation of EVs, according to a survey from Pike Research. In other words, look for that effect that happens when consumers wait for the second-generation of the iPod or iPhone (s aapl) to come out before buying one in spades for the first generation of plug-in cars. As John Gartner, analyst with Pike, put it, “It could easily take several years for mainstream car shoppers to get comfortable with the idea of electric vehicles.”

Beyond the “second car market,” EVs could find an easier sell with fleets for companies and governments. GE pledged to buy 25,000 EVs over the next few years, which would be the largest single purchase of electric vehicles to date.

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4 Responses to “Electric Cars Could Thrive in the Second Car Market”

  1. I love it how people think electric vehicles are been made to save the enviroment. They are only being made because of the fleet emissions legislation for manufactures and it’s cheaper to make an electric cars ? Most Americans are multiple car families, second car will be an electric car!

  2. cosmic mariner

    Nissan should develop a pull along range extender generator trailer for the LEAF, but make it Biodiesel 100 or CNG/Propane fired, not gasoline=benzene and imported oil dependency burning. These trailers could be rented for the occasional distance traveler, or owned outright by the dyed in the wool wanderlusters. Nissan should also install several quick charging stations in each of its dealerships and make them available 24/7 as an intermedial measure for what range issues there are. With 1100 Nissan dealers in the continental US, LEAF owners could immediately be comforted in knowing that many destination cities would have at least one fast charging possibility. I would think the more traffic driven to dealerships [through fast charging] the better for Nissan in terms of exposure and future sales.

  3. Dennis Lee

    It’s not cost effective for for consumers at this point. Build a lite delivery vehicle (mini SUV) that that rural mail carriers could use, then you are targeting a market for a car that would pay it’s way, and be visible to millions as dependable option.

  4. This is exactly why I would buy an EV. And really I think it would be used a lot on errands and daily trips, while we save the gas guzzler for longer weekend and state-wide trips. And doesn’t driving in daily stop-and-go traffic release more carbon/use more gas than highway driving? I think it could have a larger impact than this article makes it seem.