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Electric vehicle survey reveals consumer preferences


January 2, 2011

A 1912 advertisement for the Detroit Electric

A 1912 advertisement for the Detroit Electric

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Almost every day, we hear about advances in the development of practical electric cars. Those advances won’t mean much, however, if no one is buying the things. With that in mind, ZPryme Research and Consulting recently conducted a web-based survey of 1,046 men and women across the U.S., asking how they felt about various aspects of buying an EV (electric vehicle).

First of all, only 8.5 percent of respondents said they were very likely to buy an EV within the next two years, although 28.7 percent considered themselves somewhat likely. Of the remaining somewhat or very unlikely respondents, 25.8 percent said they were somewhat likely to buy an EV in the next five years.

Why get one?

The top reason for buying an EV would be the price of the vehicle, according to 66.8 percent of those surveyed, with fuel savings coming in as the number two reason, at 50.4 percent. Although it was not cited as a reason for buying an EV, 64.1 percent of respondents who were very or somewhat likely to purchase within the next two years said that environmental concerns were very important to them. Of those that were very or somewhat unlikely to buy, only 32.4 percent were very concerned about the environment.

Of all the people surveyed, 31.1 percent said they would be willing to pay more for for an EV than for a conventional vehicle, with 12.6 percent saying that they would pay up to $5,000 more, and 5.2 percent stating they would pay $10,000 more.

Range and charging time

Within the very to somewhat likely within two to five years group, 33.7 percent said that 400 miles (644 km) would be a sufficient range, while 33.3 percent were willing to settle for 300 miles (483 km). When it came to acceptable charge times, 32.1 percent indicated 4 hours, 18.1 percent indicated 6 hours, and 20.0 percent would wait for 8. If it were possible to pay a premium to charge their cars faster, 87.4 percent said they would opt for it. The ability to charge one’s EV at home is also a big deal, with 93.2 percent describing it as very important.

What they would buy

As far as makes and models goes... well, people aren’t going to buy a car if they aren’t aware of its existence. When asked which EVs they had heard of, respondents listed the Chevrolet Volt (53.1 percent), Ford Focus EV (49.1 percent), Nissan Leaf (30.8 percent) and Tesla Roadster (16.8 percent) – brands such as BYD and ZAP sat somewhere under 5 percent. When it came to which automaker those surveyed would like to buy an EV from, five brands stood out: Ford (17.8 percent), Toyota (16.7 percent), Chevrolet (16.0 percent), Honda (12.6 percent) and Nissan (7.1 percent).

Regional differences

While there were no strong differences in how receptive people in different geographical quadrants were to EVs, the western states were the most welcoming, with 40.1 percent of respondents categorizing themselves as likely to buy an EV. The south and northeast U.S. came in next at 37.3 and 37 percent, respectively, with the midwest coming in lowest at 35.3 percent.

What needs to be done

At the end of its 71-page report on the results of the survey, ZPryme makes some predictions on what will need to happen in order for EVs to become widely accepted. For one thing, it suggests, the vehicles should be integrated with the Internet, wireless networks, telematics, and users’ smartphones. The " likely" group is apparently a techie bunch, and would be more interested in vehicles that take full advantage of current technologies.

A Smart Grid that manages municipal power systems will also be essential, in order to avoid blown transformers and black-outs due to overloads from all those charging batteries. Likewise, a charging infrastructure will need to be put in place, allowing users plenty of opportunities to recharge in the field, but also at home. That charging also needs to be required less often, with the development of low-cost batteries that can go 250 to 350 miles (402 to 563 km) on one charge. The lower-cost batteries should help bring the total price of an EV down to that of a conventional vehicle, which is another challenge that reportedly must be met.

Finally, and not surprisingly, Zpryme suggests that “Consumer education is at the heart of EV adoption.” Regardless of what advances are made in EV connectivity, range, convenience and price, consumers still won’t purchase electric cars if they’re holding onto their old misconceptions.

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

1046 people were questioned.. love surveys an statistics.. ./endsarcasm surely more than 1000 people could have been found.. an not just from the US.

Part of the problems with EV\'s is they are new technology an no one knows whether EV\'s or some other form of engine will become standard. Are they really greener.. this is a question I find myself asking about a lot of new technology. Grid supplied power, doesn\'t seem that green to me. Batteries are not particularly green either. Heck apparently even solar panels produce more of a carbon footprint in production than you would save from the energy produced from the panel compared to coal power plants.

just my random 2cents.

Facebook User

The paradox here is that the more educated consumers become about EVs (at least given current technology), the less attractive this alternative becomes - unless new misconceptions are displacing the old ones.

John Welsh

No one seems to think about the environmental impact of the Batteries. Where are they made? Where does the ore come from? What are the environmental practices in those countries. How about if your in an accident and the LIon batteries are ruptured, it requires a Hazmat team to deal with the toxic elements.

As far as the environmental impact the current electric and many hybrid cars will likely do more damage before they leave a show room floor than my 78 Mercedes 300D that gets 29MPG hwy and with simple care will continue to do for easily 500k miles ever will.

Dory Goldberger

there is a huge potential for city dwellers for these cars (like myself) but one BIG hurdle is that a large number of us must use \"street parking\" rather than garages. There is no way to plug in and charge up for us. random parking spots on the street won\'t allow for simple \"plug it in and charge\". For this group, a far more efficient hybrid is still the solution both for miles per gallon and reducing pollution footprint. Unless you\'re going to put public outlets at avery out door parking spot............ not.

David Larson

@ Facebook user - time to update your knowledge - the anti solar lobby have been pedalling that payback garbage for years. A US government report has shown that the energy or carbon payback for a solar panel is somewhere between one and two and a half years depending on the type and construction of the panels (and that report is a few years old, so probably shorter again).

Marc 1

Yeah the CURRENT issues of conversion effiency - coal - fire - steam - generator - transmission lines - transformers - battery charging - electric drive system.


Air Fuel - piston - drive train.

I\'d like to see a joule bomb energy value to match each fuel - and then see a defined units of energy in at the start of each energy conversion process - to units of energy being put into the rubber contact patch of the tyre.

I\'d also like to see 100% plus renewable national grid supplies up and running.

This is the world\'s \"Going to the moon\" challenge.

Mr Stiffy

All the advancement in EV technologies will be a waste of time and money.....as long as EV\'s continue to be butt ugly.

Kenny Alaska

@Facebook user, @Dory You\'d better do some research before throwing out those myths randomly (that OPEC would love to hear loud). First of all, \"solar panel as dirty as coal power plant\" is one of the silliest thing I\'ve ever heard. Secondly, rare earth that we use (that chinese use:) in batteries are not rare at all (nor more hazardous, dirtier than oil), quantities used insignificant compared to total weight of the batteries, nevertheless 97% of the production belongs to chinese because some smart guy 10 years ago said \"this IS what we should do!\". Today we (you included) consume all those batteries made in china. Next step EV batteries and EVs themselves. Unless we wake up of course, and, compete with some thing significant (not yet another petrol car that we baptize EV because the name is VOLT or AMPER:) As for the mileage you get from an EV (for equal quantity of energy put in to the batteries or into the tank) is 5 times the ICE car. I spare you the figures but if you are willing to know it\'s just a google away.


Since we\'re mentioning plug in hybrids in this article, the Chevy Volt designers missed a golden opportunity. The Volt is a primary electric drive car. The engine doesn\'t drive the wheels. All it does is recharge the battery. So the designers COULD HAVE put in an engine that would be much more fuel efficient even if it wasn\'t so good at driving the wheels such as a Stirling external combustion engine or a small Tesla turbine engine. But they missed the opportunity and put in a plain old four stroke gasoline engine. Normally, I try not to make fun of the business plan of a company that\'s doing well, but since the taxpayers had to bail out GM recently, I feel like that frees me up to bother them about missing a golden opportunity to actually make a true innovation.


What I do not understand is why no one discusses the strategic impact. Using electricity would free us from send all our cash overseas. Electricity would turn energy into more of a resource that could be controlled from inside the USA. It is easier to clean up a few thousand power plants than try to clean up a few hundred million cars. We could use nuclear, coal, wind or other technologies interchangeably if cars are electric. As it is we are bleeding hundreds of billions of dollars and making our country weaker because we are slaves to oil. We fight wars because of oil.


One should have a diesel vehicle to travel the world and other electric to go to buy bread at 5 miles.

Carlos Barria Casanova

If the EV is going to work and be successful - you need two things: !. And irresistible price. 2. A battery exchange. Everyone knows batteries don\'t last forever and they are expensive. We know how to exchange propane bottles so why not build cars with a battery exchange? Instead of getting gas - you get a battery fully charged and ready to go in the same amount of time. The batteries are maintained with the price built into the exchange. That way you can do a cross country drive and never have worry about buying a new battery. No longer would cars run out of juice or gas. The road ranger would have to carry some batteries!


Gee Wiz... there are still 1046 people left who will waste time on another concocted survey... amazing... shades of Fredrik Pohl & C.M Kornbluth \"The Space Merchants\" As for hybrid electrics.... what a waste, what a boondoggle... basically a reverse engineers wet dream... www.dynacam.com(AXVC) & www.taxi2000.com should have changed our world for the better 12 & 27 years ago respectively... but Nooooooo!!! Too many two-bit dickweed step n\' fetch it\'s concocting worthless two-bit big buck surveys in a world that is all dollars and absolutely \" no sense \". Sincerely, Dennis A. Graham


Me Stiffy I think what you\'re asking for is \"embodied energy\" values for each platform.


Why would vehicle manufacturers even be contemplating EV\'s as anything other than a personal vehicle?

Surely anything now that is going to carry more than two people and can carry a \"tank\" of gas should be going straight to Hydrogen with MAYBE a Hybrid back system for emergencies charged by the car running during the hydrogen buring phase, but we dont have one now so why should we have a hybrid car in the future.

Make the leap people the technology is already ahead of EV\'s with as I said only small personal vehicles potentially deriving a benefit from EV\'s

Gavin Greaves

the biggest problem with EVs is that there is no way that an EV can be your only car! Think about it...with a maximum 400 mile range (and THAT\'S stretching it) road trips will be limited to drives within your own state. Cross country drives will need to be done with an ICE...EVs are purely commuter vehicles!


As EV\'s become more familiar to the user and as consumers see the advantages of being free from dependency on petrol, I am sure that survey results will change favorably in the direction of EV purchase and use. This means that with increased consumer interest and purchase, there will be increased competition between companies to provide better EV\'s as well as improved batteries and lighter car bodies and lower car prices. There should also be greater incentives for the development of good charging systems and greater incentive for the use of distributive renewable energy sources such as PV.

Adrian Akau

The efficiency of the internal combustion engine is 56% max, while the income of an electric motor already reaches 98%. So, the simple replacement of one technology by another is in itself a great energy saving, not to mention the great reduction in the use of moving parts and lubricating oils.


As I see it if a family has two cars why not make one of them an EV for commuting and the other a conventional vehicle for those longer trips or longer shopping trips.

However, not all of us can justify two cars. When there is just the two of us, both retired, one car has to do everything my motorcycle can\'t from the weekly shopping to the vacation runs across the continent and back. The latter is a very long way away for EVs.


It would be very simple to add a little generator on a receiver hitch type set ups for long trips. You could stay in a KOA Campground in one of their Kamping Kabins and charge there,also.

More importantly: why don\'we all be a little less pig-headed and say, \"How can we solve these problems?\" Rather than just perpetuate the anti-Wright Brothers mentality of \"That will never work-give up?\"

As far as ICE problems,is it so hard to find some other liquid that burns? In this age of synthetic everything and the verge of cloning and nanotechnology,why is that so hard?

Greed,laziness and deceitfulness are the only reasons I see.


Greetings. I only lament that electric vehicle technology was not developed from the start, e.g., since 1912. Think of how far advanced we would now be. Still, better late than never. Since technological development is occurring at exponential rates, perhaps it will not take too long to develop viable, non polluting, vehicles that draw their power from non polluting, easily renewable sources, e.g., wind, solar, geo thermal... stored in biodegradeable systems... Also, to cut through the dogmatic \"red tape\", so that we can finally go forward, unimpeded. It is not a matter of whether or not electric vehicles will be produced and utilized by the mass market, but how soon. I am sure that there were those who felt the horse and buggy would never be completely replaced by the internal combustion powered automobile either. The question is: \"How quickly is one willing to embrace the future?\"


Has anyone else noticed their electric bill going through the roof? I\'m getting hit with a 9% increase this month, where I live. I don\'t think it would save me much money right now. Sure, we can drive consumers there by raising oil prices to $5/gallon, but then we\'re at the mercy of the power companies. I\'m all for it if we also come up with good energy alternatives to power them, like small, efficient, and save nuclear reactors, and not those AWFUL looking wind turbines that now litter the otherwise gorgeous Columbia River Gorge, where I live. And let\'s quit ignoring the environmental impact of battery vehicles. They are atrocious.

Michael Axel

Ignoring whether the govt is making a smart move or not, the Nissan Leaf is now fairly competitive with other cars after its $7500 subsidy. We have a 2nd car and the range of the Leaf is fine for our local driving. I have one reserved, but the key to whether I will buy it is the extended warranty on the batteries. This is not yet public even though the car is being sold in small numbers. The free warranty is 8 years. For local use only, I should only have about 60k miles then. If I conclude that in 10 years I will likely need to spend over $10k for a renewed battery, I will pass and just keep my Prius Hybrid.

Rare Earth elements are more of an issue with the Permanent Magnet electric motor than with the battery. But in future years, the Chorus AC Electric motor could substitute for motors than need Rare Earths. It also has other advantages that should reduce the cost of EV and Hybrid cars. http://www.chorusmotors.gi/


Real world people want real world solutions that are practical, affordable and desirable. The range is important especially as there is little or no charging infrastructure yet, and most people can only have one car. I think the enviromental concerns about charging from the grid is a red herring, there is a fraction of the pollution from an electric car powered from the dirtiest of grids (currenty coal power) our UK grid could be and hopefully will be much cleaner but is far cleaner that say the US. We know they can be desirable, clean and very fast it\'s just the battery technologies. To see a very expensive but highly desirable car British designed and made have a look at the Lighting GT. Even that would be affordable to many more people if it were mass produced but it does show a little of what can be done when it becomes mainstream. I have no doubt electric drive become the norm as we advance and mature. Simon


What advances in EV (or ICE) technology?? In the 1990s Toyota produced their RAV4 EV. Its range was 120 miles despite being shaped like a brick. At the same time Honda had the Civic VX which achieved 46/55 mpg. Yes, that\'s right 55mpg. Here we are 15 years later and not one manufacturer has bothered to develop the tech. But why should they bother? The two top selling vehicles of 2010 were the F150 and the Silverado.


Gavin Greaves,

Please stop with the hydrogen rhetoric. Is it clean? Sure. Is it practical? No. There are so many obstacles right now with generating, transporting and storing hydrogen that it won\'t be a viable fuel source for decades. It\'s very energy-intensive to create. It\'s hard to transport. It causes embrittlement of metal engines and fuel systems. It\'s very low density, so you need ultra-high pressure tanks to store a useful quantity of it. Even liquid hydrogen doesn\'t have as much energy density as gasoline, and the liquefaction process would use even more energy. Where are all the hydrogen fueling stations? Wishful thinking doesn\'t make a hydrogen economy feasible.

Ed and rdinning,

Just how often do you go on transcontinental vacations? If it\'s no more than a couple of times a year, why keep a gas guzzler around just for those? An intelligent driver would simply rent on such rare occasions and drive an electric every other day.


We know of plenty of liquids that burn. They\'re all hydrocarbons, like gasoline, kerosene, diesel, ethanol, methanol, etc. The hard part is creating a cheap, reliable source for them, hence things like research into cellulosic ethanol.


If people would just embrace small nuclear reactors we would be filling our cars with water. I love it when you mention nuclear energy and everyone thinks of Chernobyle, the fact is nuclear energy has taken remarkable strides in the past ten years. We sit on a gold mine of energy and we do not take advantage.


Can we get one that doesn\'t look like a bug or an old-lady car for under $100K please?

I like the concept, but the styling for the consumer market is unappealing. I\'d rather get 10mpg than drive around in any of the sub-50K designs I\'ve seen so far. Can it be that hard to shove the technology into a Mustang or Camero body and get us a decent looking, functional electric or hybrid?

The closest I have found is a guy in West Palm who converts old Porches to electrics and sells them in the 45K range...


I question such a small survey. As an EV nut for over 20 years I have also been doing the math. I won\'t buy one until it\'s cheaper than an ICE. The major makers are building an EV on an ICE platform. WHY? No wonder they all fall short. I am betting the first economic EV will be made by a new company. I am watching and waiting for Aptera because their platform is innovative.


and battery changing is completely forgotten

Guntis Ratkevičs

and one car that is normal size and can change battery in minute RENAULT FLUENCE Z.E.

Guntis Ratkevičs

To the Naysayers, the ICE fans:

You\'ve had your turn, 800 moving parts, 58% efficiency, and a rolling CO and NaSO4 dispensary. Now it\'s our turn, waaaaaay less, like a dozen moving parts, centralized, controllable pollution [power source].

We may just have conductively electrified roadways soon, so charging and range become non issues...

Kudos to the college teams, the garage industries, and finally Tesla, Coda and Aptera and I hope they all survive when Big Auto jumps in for good....

I\'ll be the one driving past the gas station..

jason david steel
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