Crossing The EV Mass Adoption Threshold

Designing Ideal EV Experiences for Wider, Faster Market Adoption

The Elusive EV Transition Threshold

Due to global climate change, decarbonization policy pressures, and technological advances, transportation start-ups and legacy automotive brands are investing heavily in electric vehicles to bring about the next era of mobility. The good news is that EV sales are increasing.

In 2021, EVs represented almost 9% of global new car sales. BloombergNEF’s Electric Vehicle Outlook 2022 predicts plug-in vehicle sales will triple by 2025, due primarily to higher adoption in China. Yet, the world is not on track to reach net zero emissions by 2050. For the transportation sector to do its part, zero-emission vehicles need to represent 93% by 2035, and the last ICE vehicle needs to be sold by 2038. Multiple factors influence the rate of EV adoption but a critical one—design of the entire EV user experience—is perhaps the most poorly understood.

Do consumers see a true value proposition? Do electric vehicles offer a better experience over combustion platforms? Is the cost and perceived effort to own and use this new technology worth it? To cross the mass adoption threshold, it’s not enough to have a similar experience to familiar internal combustion vehicles: EVs must provide a superior mobility experience. When the EV experience is superior across all consumer touchpoints, it adds up to exceeded consumer expectations, thereby making the investment and effort to adopt worth it.

Only The Half Of It

For consumers, mobility is about freedom and empowerment. Whether combustion vehicle, electric vehicle, scooter, or skateboard, this will always be true. In fact, over years of consumer research for Fortune 500 automotive brands and multimodal app startups alike, consumers express a remarkably consistent set of desired attributes for any mobility experience. Our Lextant Ideal Mobility Experience framework reveals these experiences need to be Personalized, Inviting, Effortless and Capable to be considered by the majority for adoption and use. EVs today only deliver on half of this desired ideal experience: Inviting and Personalized. They do not yet deliver an experience that is fully Capable or Effortless. In fact, EVs require more investment and effort to adopt and use than combustion engine cars do. But this doesn’t have to be.

My Ideal Mobility Experience

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The EV “Satisficing” Challenge

For consumers, any new vehicle represents a significant investment. In considering EVs, consumers continue to express confusion around how best to choose—and what it will be like to own and use—these new electric offerings. It’s this combination of high investment and high confusion that makes for sluggish short-term EV market adoption. Herbert Simon, a Nobel Prize-winning social scientist, studied the behavior of individuals and organizations when faced with a challenging decision. He used the term “satisficing” (a portmanteau of “satisfy” and “suffice”) to describe how humans’ cognitive limits constrain decision making, how, for instance, consumers’ inability to educate themselves on all aspects of a purchase in order to make the best decision prompts them to settle for a less than perfect choice. With the purchase of EV’s, the anxiety associated with this imperfect choice is compounded by the level of upfront investment required, and other financial considerations, such as how long it will take consumers to recoup their investment through energy savings or economic incentives.

EV consumers express challenges in three main areas

Technology

Knowing enough to make an informed purchase decision. Consumers don’t know the intricacies of battery types, the impact of climate on battery life, the types of charging equipment needed and how to install it in their home, etc.

Quality

Knowing how to discern it in EV products and supporting services. Consumers are unsure of the readiness and reliability of EV technologies, for example. 3

Effort

Knowing what is required to use an EV every day. Consumers are unsure of the availability of charging stations, the compatibility of proprietary charging stations, and the availability of repair and service centers. Are these journey touchpoints at parity with known combustion vehicle experiences?

The Trip Planning Problem

Consumers often express concern about the unknowns of planning both short and long journeys and unfavorably compare this daily planning expectation with the relatively effortless trip planning required for internal combustion vehicles. They have anxieties about computing driving range based on vehicle load, and use of systems like air conditioning or connected services. The location of compatible chargers must be factored into route planning. The non-productive time needed for charging must be accounted for as well. Add family members to this mix and consumers’ planning anxieties are amplified. In fact, in a recent study by the University of California Davis, one in five consumers return to combustion vehicles after purchasing an EV, primarily due to the difficulties related to trip planning for fuel.

Getting To A Desired EV Experience

The truth is that the electric vehicle experience today “has baggage.” While EVs promise connected capability, energy savings, and unique benefits from novel vehicle layout and configurations, the experience today is not an improvement over traditional, known combustion platforms. And while early adopters are willing to make the investment and deal with the ambiguity and effort of purchasing and owning an electric vehicle, the majority of the market will remain hesitant until we can provide a superior experience. And we can.

To reach the EV mass adoption tipping point, the entire EV ownership experience has to offer substantial benefits over current ICE experiences. Once those experiential enhancements are designed in alignment with the brand’s positioning, EV adoption becomes less dependent upon higher consumer effort, which will always typify certain consumer segments but not the mass market. Lextant’s EV Mass Adoption Model illustrates the two mutualistic dynamics, and a reasonble EV market trajectory, as consumer purchase and ownership effort decreases and the EV experience becomes manifestly superior to ICE experiences and in ways distinct and valuable to each brand’s customers.

Owning 75% of the U.S. EV market, Tesla’s current position is an obvious outlier, as the company still faces overall mobility experience hurdles but has made its brand so synonymous with visionary and eco-conscious innovation that consumers desire to be part of the brand vision despite the extra effort it requires.

As innovators of future mobility, Lextant has identified five opportunities to facilitate the mass market shift to EVs

Turn Barriers Into Benefits

By understanding moments in the EV adoption journey, we can begin to systematically ideate and design to overcome the ambiguity, effort, and planning barriers. For example, it’s uniquely stressful that a new EV purchase requires a consumer to make significant modifications to their home for charging. They need the right equipment, they need to know the requirements for the installation, where best to install, how to install, and who to call for help. Every EV could come with a scheduled contractor to advise and install the charging infrastructure needed for your home as part of the purchase price of the vehicle. Similarly, the in-vehicle infotainment system should work collaboratively with the driver to maximize battery use and plan trips around compatible charging stations. This reduces anxiety in use for owners and family members. Until charging technologies mature, additional features could provide concierge-like suggestions for how to spend charging times to minimize perceived delays and maximize non-productive trip time.

Activate The Benefits Of EV

Electric vehicles do have innate benefits that can be maximized to offer an improved and differentiated mobility experience. Moving motors to the wheel hubs opens up novel interior and storage configurations. With new power characteristics, EVs can emphasize enhanced acceleration and driving performance, and quiet luxury comfort, and communicate these as valuable brand attributes. Employing the latest software and connected vehicle technology allows for greater connected and personalized services, seamlessly integrated with data-hungry personal, home, and work systems. Additionally, this technology can update itself and stay current, avoiding the “digital decay” and obsolescence problems of current vehicles. By emphasizing the experiential characteristics unique to EVs, consumers can see an improved future mobility experience worth investing in.

Thinking In Combinations

Truly new mobility experiences are possible by combining EV platforms with Autonomous, Smart, and Connected capabilities. These innovations are occurring simultaneously to transform mobility. Used together, the resulting experiences can truly be transformative. This is one of the ways that Tesla has created success—by providing a technologically advanced connected and autonomous experience that just happens to be on an electric platform. For many, Tesla has made the definitive case for a new and transition-worthy experience. Despite its recent decline in stock market value, Tesla made up three-quarters of the electric cars sold in the United States last year.

Designing For An Ideal Mobility Experience

It’s important to go beyond the barriers of short-term EV adoption and design for an ideal mobility experience. To cross the EV mass adoption threshold, we need to co-create with consumers the “life-level” connected experiences they desire. This starts with defining the emotional outcomes like Freedom and Empowerment that consumers seek, and how the benefits, features, and user experience attributes of new EVs can deliver on them. This approach allows us to break out of current conventions and transform experiences in truly novel ways. Lextant’s Ideal Experience frameworks can define consumer value, prioritize opportunity spaces, and provide the foundation for an experience-driven strategy at all points in the mobility journey, from choice and connected usage to shared mobility and servicing. It’s not enough to take our current vehicle conventions and swap out a new energy source: we need to think about holistic, life-level mobility.

Track EV Experience Metrics

If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. Any human-centered strategy is iterative and engages end users throughout the design and development process. By establishing EV Experience Metrics™ based on the Ideal Experience Frameworks outlined above, manufacturers can assess and refine the EV experience and keep it moving towards the mass adoption threshold, differentiated and superior to current experiences and other mobility brands. Effective Experience Metrics™ grounded in desired outcomes can help automotive manufacturers assess competitive experiences, predict market success, and diagnostically identify needed improvements to their products and services.
It’s difficult for consumers to confidently purchase and drive what they don’t understand. EVs need to create extreme clarity around both the EV benefits over ICE vehicles and their respective brand differences to help people see themselves in an improved future. By anticipating and designing for maximum confidence and pleasure in the entire EV adoption and use journey, and designing and communicating meaningful differences between ICE experiences and EV, and between EV brands, we can ensure every moment of truth in the EV experience is successful. This can propel a more certain and accelerated EV mass adoption, in our urgent global race towards net zero emissions by 2050.
Cross The EV Mass Adoption Threshold With Lextant

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Lextant’s research has informed the design of nearly 60% of consumer vehicles now on the road in the U.S.
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