EV Readiness: Let’s Walk Before We Run

The term, “coopetition” is often thrown around RMI. It describes a spirit embraced by innovative companies to set aside their differences and collaborate toward a common goal—one that is often much bigger and more ambitious than what an organization could reasonably achieve alone.

Project Get Ready’s diverse group of partner cities and technical advisors are a perfect example of this concept. Even though all the PGR cities want to be leaders in the electric vehicle transition (for a variety of reasons) and the technical advisors—ranging from technology suppliers, research organizations, and automakers—want to have an edge in an emerging market, this group gets together to regularly share expertise.

“So many stakeholders feel part of this movement that it is a huge difference from 10 years ago,” said Britta Gross, director of global energy systems at General Motors, during last weeks call. “But simplification is key. Let’s walk before we run because we don’t know all the answers today.”

These stakeholders are sharing insider information and tips on how to overcome barriers for one major reason: The EV transition is too big, too complex and too important to tackle solo.

Building an Information Network

Gathering a big picture view of consumer interaction with EVs is essential for a city to build a successful EV ecosystem. For automakers, customer data can inform future products that can successfully penetrate beyond early adopters to mainstream customers.

“Automakers have a very controlled launch process for EV fleets,” said Gross. “ We watch, gauge and measure so when you accelerate vehicle production, everything is in place.”  

During last week’s call, two automakers, BMW and GM, shared unique EV consumer insights from months of data collection and analysis. BMW detailed the results from a 2009 pilot program testing the user experience of all-electric Mini E’s in the Los Angeles and New York metro areas.

This was our first foray into customer-facing EVs,” said Peter Dempster, advanced technologies engineer with BMW, during the call. “We wanted to understand how consumers were interacting with their cars, look at driving and charging patterns, and overall, gauge how people viewed electric mobility in terms of reaching societal goals.”

In partnership with University of California at Davis, BMW analyzed 54 participants in an in-depth consumer study, using customer driving diaries, interviews and focus groups.
Here’s a few interesting findings:


  • Forget range anxiety. Drivers found they could go between 80miles to100 miles on a single charge. Drivers also became less anxious about range over time.
  • The average customer charged one time every three days.
  • Two-thirds of people who participated in the pilot changed the way they think about energy use both in and out of the car.
  • A large percentage of consumers showed a strong desire to couple vehicle charging with renewable electricity generation.

Along with user feedback, the pilot also brought to light numerous opportunities to streamline utility integration, home inspection, and third party permitting and installation.

“We’re addressing challenges with home inspectors and being more proactive in engaging stakeholder groups and facilitating more robust data flow between utilities and other stakeholders,” Dempster said.

GM is running an early notification system pilot with its Volt. Customers fill out surveys about their anticipated charging needs which is shared with the local utility for grid analysis. While this is an optional program, GM is getting close to 90 percent participation. Utilities are already noticing some patterns.

“We’re watching to see what proves valuable,” Gross said. “Luckily, with this network, we can pass on the knowledge from any trial-and-error.”