Harris Poll Finds Electric Vehicle Interest On The Rise

A Harris Poll of 2,240 U.S. adults surveyed online between May 8 and 13, 2013 found electric cars are beginning to post impressive numbers.

Recently the 100,000th plug-in vehicle was sold. And last year, roughly 440,000 cars deriving some degree of “go” from a battery—including hybrids, plug-in hybrids and cars running on electricity alone—were sold in this country, with approximately 50,000 of them being pure electrics.

Those are big numbers, but it’s important to look at them with an equally big dose of perspective. With roughly 14.5 new million cars and trucks sold in the U.S. last year, combined hybrid sales of roughly 390,000 vehicles represent 3% of total sales; those 50,000 pure electrics? About 0.3%. But with more and more manufacturers producing battery-propelled vehicles of one kind or another, and fuel prices showing no sign of falling, many anticipate continued growth for the sector. The Harris Poll set out to gauge Americans’ interest in electric and other higher-mileage vehicle offerings.

Harris Interactive has been tracking consumer consideration of both hybrid and pure electric cars for some time via its Harris Poll AutoTECHCASTsm study, with results echoing findings from this poll.

“Consideration has been on the rise over recent years for traditional hybrids, while other electric car segments—though showing points of growth—have been more sporadic in their gains,” explains Mike Chadsey, vice president, solutions consultant at Harris Interactive.

When asked which of several improved-efficiency vehicle types they would consider the next time they are in the market for a new vehicle, nearly half of American car owners (or anticipated owners) indicated that they would consider a traditional hybrid (48%), while nearly four in ten (38%) would consider a smaller and/or less powerful gas-powered vehicle.  Just over one-fourth (27%) would consider a plug-in hybrid, two in ten (19%) an electric vehicle and 16% would consider a diesel vehicle.  Roughly four in ten (41%) indicate that they would only get a vehicle with lower operating costs if they could do so without changing their driving habits or expectations.

Echo Boomers (ages 18-35) are significantly more likely than either Baby Boomers (ages 48-66) or Matures (ages 67+) to consider a traditional hybrid or a smaller and/or less powerful conventionally propelled vehicle, and are more likely than any other age group to indicate that they would consider a plug-in hybrid or an electric.

Men are significantly more likely than women to indicate that they would consider a plug-in hybrid (34% men, 21% women) and an electric vehicle (25% men, 14% women) and three times as likely to indicate that they would consider a diesel (24% men, 8% women).

An interest in electric cars was more than 40% higher among those in households with three or more vehicles, when compared to those with one or two (26% among those with three or more, 18% among those with 1-2). Perhaps knowing you have a couple of backup vehicles in the bullpen for those longer trips eases the range anxiety many associate with electric cars.

While interest in hybrid and electric cars does not change significantly when comparing those traveling 30 miles or less in an average day vs. those traveling 31 miles or more, interest in diesels, known for having long driving ranges, is roughly 70% higher among those traveling an average of 31 miles per day or more (13% 0-30 miles, 22% 31+ miles).

Plug-in’s struggle to charge up
Current and prospective drivers were also asked how their likelihood to consider several types of vehicles has changed within the past two years.  Focusing specifically on those driven at least partly by their batteries…

    Over four in 10 (43%) indicate being more likely to consider a traditional hybrid (43%)—roughly twice the percentage saying they’re less likely to do so (21%).

    Adding an electrical plug appears to put the brakes on consideration growth, with current or prospective drivers reporting being more (30%) and less (30%) likely to consider them in equal percentages.

    Taking away the gas tank entirely seems to stall things out further still, with the 23% more likely to consider them overpowered by the 38% less likely to do so

Challenges and opportunities for pure electrics
When asked to select their top concerns related to pure electric vehicles, price (65%) and range (63%) were the top issues, followed by repair/maintenance costs (55%), reliability (53%), performance/power (48%) and the fact that it is still new technology (44%).

But the electric vehicles industry still has some juice left; in addition to being in a state of constant advancement, the study indicates that several incentives—including some already being tried out by current manufacturers – show the potential to impact Americans’ likelihood to consider such vehicles:

  The majority of Americans (56%) would be more likely to consider such a vehicle if it were incentivized with a free fast-charge station installed in their home.

    Nearly half (47%) would be more likely to consider one if it cost the same as a similar gas-powered vehicle.

    Over four in 10 (42%) indicated that having charging stations at or near their workplace would provide such an incentive.

    Smaller, but still notable, percentages indicate that a free gas-powered loaner for a set number of days per year (20%), reduced costs on toll roads (17%), collision insurance provided with their lease (15%) and HOV or “carpool” lane access (14%) would make them more likely to consider an electric car.

“Furthermore,” continued Chadsey, “it’s important to note that hybrids were once a new, untested technology, but have been slowly merging into the mainstream as more and more manufacturers put out their own versions of this vehicle type. It’s likely that this same progression could be seen within the plug-in hybrid and pure electric categories, though it’s important to note that traditional hybrids also gained an early boost from outside factors such as sharply rising gas prices and a strong environmental movement. Either could easily recur and, along with the steadily increasing number of companies offering their own takes on these newer categories, could help more and more of these vehicles find homes in mainstream garages.”

Until then, The Harris Poll and Harris Poll AutoTECHCAST will both be keeping the engine running on this topic.

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