It will take as long for people to adapt to electric vehicles as it did for them to embrace washing machines, a new report from Deloitte Consulting suggests.

Noting that it took from 1930 until 1975 for washing machines to go from 10 per cent use in US homes to 70 per cent, Deloitte predicts that EVs will take only a 2-5 per cent market in the US over the next decade. By contrast, the jump for mobile phones to 70 per cent from 10 per cent in the US market took just 10 years.

Several car companies, including Nissan which launches its Leaf EV in the US later this year, have predicted that EVs will take a 10 per cent or higher market share within that timescale.

The study also showed that Nissan and General Motors, introducing its Volt this year, face a potential problem with consumer perception of their brands when it comes to electric cars.

"The auto purchase decision in the United States is very much a brand purchase. People tend to affiliate with automotive brands," said Robert Hill of Deloitte.

The survey found that 17 per cent of consumers would prefer to buy an electric car from Toyota, 15 per cent from Honda and 12 per cent from Ford. GM's Chevrolet brand was fourth at 8 per cent, and Nissan was ninth at 4 per cent.

Deloitte estimates that established automakers, led by Toyota, have spent $10 billion in the past decade promoting hybrid cars such as the Prius, which still make up only 3 per cent of the pool of US cars.

Deloitte interviewed nearly 2,000 vehicle owners, plus executives from automakers, clean-tech start-ups, dealers and energy companies. The study says executives working for traditional OEMs tend to be more realistic than their upstart counterparts, particularly in assessing customer expectations regarding vehicle performance, quality and charging convenience.

The report says so-called "range anxiety" is strong despite the efforts of car makers and others to emphasise that EVs can easily cope with the average daily commute of less than 40 miles. Deloitte says 70 per cent of its respondents say they won't consider an EV until it has a 300-mile driving range. Fewer than one in five respondents said they would accept an eight-hour recharging time.
Deloitte says four in five of those interviewed were interested in battery-swapping facilities but that would not be feasible unless battery designs were more standardised.