Study: American Drivers Not Interested In Electric Cars

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A new study finds that the average American driver is not interested in electric cars, despite a large national push for them. (photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

A new study finds that the average American driver is not interested in electric cars, despite a large national push for them. (photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

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WASHINGTON (CBS DC) – Despite a large increase in advertising and information on electric vehicles, a new study finds that the average American driver is still uninterested in such cars.

A study from the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs casts doubt on the Obama administration’s goal of putting a million plug-in electric vehicles on the roads by 2015. But the study does indicate that consumers are more receptive to buying electric cars in some cities, including San Jose, San Francisco, Chicago and Boston.

The researchers surveyed more than 2,300 adult drivers in 21 large U.S. cities in the fall of 2011. They found that the perceived drawbacks of electric vehicles outweighed the advantages for most consumers.

The primary drawbacks are the limited driving range, the vehicles’ high sales or lease price and the inconvenience of recharging batteries.

“Although many engineers, environmentalists and politicians are enthusiastic about electric vehicle technology, this survey reveals that new car buyers, based on early impressions, have little interest in purchasing plug-in vehicles,” writes John D. Graham, dean of the School of Public and Environmental Affairs and a co-author of the study.

Many in the survey said that fuel economy was a major advantage of plug-in vehicles, but that didn’t outweigh perceived negatives, such as charge time and sticker price.

There are more than 11,000 commercial charging stations deployed, and while some visible chargers are important for public awareness, the vast majority of charging still happens at home. The issue of adopting electric vehicles comes down to cost, as well as other issues such as vehicle design.

The survey found the early adopters who are likely to buy plug-in electric vehicles are predominantly highly educated, male, concerned about the environment and worried about American dependence on foreign oil. They are also more likely to have previously owned a hybrid vehicle.

The findings were published online by the journal Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment, in advance of its January 2013 issue. Sanya Carley, assistant professor in SPEA, is the lead author. Other co-authors are Rachel Krause and Bradley Lane of the University of Texas at El Paso.

“Those interested in electric vehicles at this time are attracted to the environmental imaging associated with electric vehicles and are typically technology pioneers,” Carley writes in an Indiana University press release. “It’s helpful to know this information, because it can help manufacturers identify their early car-buying population, and it also reveals which consumer types are not being reached by current marketing campaigns.”

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