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Published on August 26th, 2010 | by Chris Milton

14

Americans Slowly Warm to the Electric Car, Show Willingness to Try New Things

A new study published by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) has found that more and more Americans are warming to the idea of driving electric vehicles, citing environmental concerns as the main reason for making the change.

Over a quarter of the people surveyed described themselves as familiar with electric cars while 42% of respondents said they were likely to follow news reports about electric vehicles. Nearly a third of respondent described themselves as familiar or very familiar with hybrid vehicles.

Of those who said they would consider buying an electric car, nearly 80% said their greatest advantage was the fact they run without gasoline, while 67% cited the reduction in pollution.

However, when it came to reasons not to buy an electric car the survey showed that a definite gap remains between the public’s perception of the accessibility and applicability or electric vehicles and the technical reality.

Nearly 60% of respondents were worried that the limited mileage of an electric car would hamper their ability to use one, while over 70% were worried they would run out of charge in the middle of a journey.

However, in 2003 the US Department of Transportation Bureau of Transportation Statistics found that nearly 90% of commuters travel 30 miles or less one way, with over half travelling 15 miles or less. In addition, the provisional results of the 2009 National Home Transportation Survey have found that the average daily trip of a car is 11 miles. All these figures are well within the range of a typical electric vehicle.

Furthermore, two-thirds of consumers raised concerns about not being able to recharge their vehicle, with over half saying that they would not consider purchasing an electric vehicle if it meant they had to install special charging equipment at home.

All electric cars can recharge from the standard 120v system available in any home or business. The only disadvantage the 120v system has is that it can take between 8 and 12 hours to fully recharge an electric vehicle. However, as the figures above show, the majority of electric vehicles will not need a full charge every night, and a great many may only need to be charged at the weekends.

It’s this basic misunderstanding about the usefulness of electric cars for everyday use which is one of the greatest obstacles to promoting electric vehicle use today, even before the infrastructure is in place for stretch commuting and other journeys of over 100 miles.

In January 2011 the CEA’s International Consumer Electronics Show will be held in Las Vegas. For the first time ever it will include a special TechZone dedicated to electric vehicles, with manufacturer Audi being among the first exhibitors to sign up.

This is the perfect time for electric vehicle companies to correct the public’s misconceptions and show how useful electric cars are today. Let’s hope they seize it.



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About the Author

is a seasoned sustainability journalist focusing on business, finance and clean technology. His writing's been carried by a number of highly respected publishers, including The Guardian, The Washington Post and Scientific American. You can follow him on twitter as @britesprite, where he's one of Mashable's top green tweeters and Fast Company's CSR thought leaders. Alternatively you can follow him to the shops... but that would be boring.



  • dustin s

    The number of electric cars available need to increase rapidly to keep public attention on them. If you could rent one from a rental company or being able to ride in a taxicab model of the electric vehicle so people can experience the vehicle without the worry of having to buy one. It only takes one ride in a vehicle to decide if you like it or not.

  • dustin s

    The number of electric cars available need to increase rapidly to keep public attention on them. If you could rent one from a rental company or being able to ride in a taxicab model of the electric vehicle so people can experience the vehicle without the worry of having to buy one. It only takes one ride in a vehicle to decide if you like it or not.

  • Art Gallery

    Maybe a good tool would be an electricity to gasoline conversion chart, web applet, etc. Input your KWH charge (or better yet, zip or postal code) and it calculates the “estimated energy equivelant” price per “gallon/litre.” That should hammer the point home.

  • Art Gallery

    Maybe a good tool would be an electricity to gasoline conversion chart, web applet, etc. Input your KWH charge (or better yet, zip or postal code) and it calculates the “estimated energy equivelant” price per “gallon/litre.” That should hammer the point home.

  • http://www.biodiversivist.com Russ Finley

    If the Leaf proves to be all it claims to be, electric car sales may rocket if real world experience mollifies many of these concerns.

    Biodiversivist

  • http://www.biodiversivist.com Russ Finley

    If the Leaf proves to be all it claims to be, electric car sales may rocket if real world experience mollifies many of these concerns.

    Biodiversivist

  • http://www.britesprite.co.uk Chris Milton

    Some great points there .. thank you!

    There are many small car clubs starting to spring up all over the place, offering people the opportunity to economically hire a car rather than buy one. The only manufacturer I know of who’s jumped onto this bandwagon is peugeot (http://www.clubpeugeotuk.org/) .. it’d be interesting to hear of other clubs, especially if they embrace EVs.

  • http://www.britesprite.co.uk Chris Milton

    Some great points there .. thank you!

    There are many small car clubs starting to spring up all over the place, offering people the opportunity to economically hire a car rather than buy one. The only manufacturer I know of who’s jumped onto this bandwagon is peugeot (http://www.clubpeugeotuk.org/) .. it’d be interesting to hear of other clubs, especially if they embrace EVs.

  • Alex

    Another thing I foresee, at least initially, is trading money for the oil companies to money for the utility companies. granted, a lot of the energy is way cleaner than just burning gas, but if you were trying to avoid giving money to corrupt bureaucrats your going to have to install some kind of wind/solar charging station at home eventually. i know that seeing my utility bill go up $35 a month won’t exactly put a smile on my face either…

  • Alex

    Another thing I foresee, at least initially, is trading money for the oil companies to money for the utility companies. granted, a lot of the energy is way cleaner than just burning gas, but if you were trying to avoid giving money to corrupt bureaucrats your going to have to install some kind of wind/solar charging station at home eventually. i know that seeing my utility bill go up $35 a month won’t exactly put a smile on my face either…

  • http://gas2.org/2010/08/26/americans-slowly-warm-to-the-electric-car-show-willingness-to-try-new-things/#respond Ralph

    At least 5 new technologies should intertwine to make this vehicle more popular

    1-Swappable re-chargable battery (for home or vehicle use).

    2-Situational robotics to assist the swap (if the robotic componant uses a solar charged battery too, its all the better.

    3-Funding now being granted to big oil, big utility, big bank and big auto needs to instead, go into assisting the consumer in acquiring these free energy mediums.

    4- Community governments need to allow construction of these residential/commercial facilities to be put on the fast track. Permit fees, tax subsidies, energy credits, long term low interest loans and similar methods need to be incorporated.

    5-modern construction techniques need to be implemented. Quit thinking that it takes 20 or 50 years to make these things happen. We are in an age that is untested as far as time and rate of progress are concerned.

    Persons with disabilities and the elderly need to have access to these products to assist with their daily situations.

  • http://gas2.org/2010/08/26/americans-slowly-warm-to-the-electric-car-show-willingness-to-try-new-things/#respond Ralph

    At least 5 new technologies should intertwine to make this vehicle more popular

    1-Swappable re-chargable battery (for home or vehicle use).

    2-Situational robotics to assist the swap (if the robotic componant uses a solar charged battery too, its all the better.

    3-Funding now being granted to big oil, big utility, big bank and big auto needs to instead, go into assisting the consumer in acquiring these free energy mediums.

    4- Community governments need to allow construction of these residential/commercial facilities to be put on the fast track. Permit fees, tax subsidies, energy credits, long term low interest loans and similar methods need to be incorporated.

    5-modern construction techniques need to be implemented. Quit thinking that it takes 20 or 50 years to make these things happen. We are in an age that is untested as far as time and rate of progress are concerned.

    Persons with disabilities and the elderly need to have access to these products to assist with their daily situations.

  • http://www.britesprite.co.uk Chris Milton

    The funding issue is critical : so much free trade rhetoric revolves around ensuring that a level playing field exists between different countries yet with a massively subsidised oil industry it’s difficult to see anything “free” or “fair” about the current automotive market.

    Interestingly an article on Gas2 in May addressed how quickly you could recoup the extra spend in solar panels to charge your electric car: check out http://gas2.org/2010/05/14/charging-an-electric-car-at-home-how-many-more-solar-panels-do-i-need/ . Long story short though, other than the capital outlay (not in significant, I know), your combined utility/gas bills should head downwards, not up.

  • http://www.britesprite.co.uk Chris Milton

    The funding issue is critical : so much free trade rhetoric revolves around ensuring that a level playing field exists between different countries yet with a massively subsidised oil industry it’s difficult to see anything “free” or “fair” about the current automotive market.

    Interestingly an article on Gas2 in May addressed how quickly you could recoup the extra spend in solar panels to charge your electric car: check out http://gas2.org/2010/05/14/charging-an-electric-car-at-home-how-many-more-solar-panels-do-i-need/ . Long story short though, other than the capital outlay (not in significant, I know), your combined utility/gas bills should head downwards, not up.

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