Electric Cars: Some Love ‘Em, Others Leave ‘Em

People love their electric cars. At least, that’s what they say. In survey after survey, EV owners rave about their cars and insist they could never go back to driving a car with an “infernal” combustion engine ever again. As a group, they say they are hugely satisfied with their cars.

Electric cars satisfaction rating

Chevy Volt owners are some of the most satisfied EV drivers of all. In fact, until the Tesla Model S knocked it off the top of the chart, the Volt had the highest customer satisfaction rating of all cars sold in America, according to Consumer Reports. 92% of Volt owners say they would buy another one. Things are much the same at Ford, where 90% of its EV owners report they would buy another. Nissan LEAF drivers sing the same tune, which earned the car an owner loyalty award from IHS. And Tesla owners? Don’t even talk about those people! They love their cars more than life itself, so it seems.

Electrics have so many advantages over conventional cars. They have more torque for faster acceleration. They are quiet. They need fewer repairs. The cost of electricity is less than the cost of gasoline, even at today’s historically low prices. Add in all the environmental advantages from having no tailpipe emissions (or very few in the case of a plug-in hybrid) and driving an electric car is a no-brainer.

Until it isn’t. According to a new report from Edmunds.com dated January 4, “Electric vehicles are struggling to maintain loyalty among current owners. According to Edmunds data, only 29 percent of people who traded in an electric-powered vehicle (including pure EVs and plug-in hybrid cars) this year went on to purchase another electric-powered vehicle. Interestingly, about 33 percent of electric-powered trade-ins this year instead went toward a new truck or SUV.”

If you are a regular at Gas 2, you may find that statistic somewhat shocking and more than a little disturbing. Our beloved EVs are being cast aside in favor of trucks and SUVs? Heresy! Apostasy!! Edmunds.com senior consumer advice editor Ronald Montoya explains. “For the most part, shoppers are motivated more by economics than by a duty to the environment.” We said as much in a recent article.

Montoya goes on to say, “That’s why it’s no coincidence that we’ve seen a decline in EV sales as gas prices have tumbled. More technology and infrastructure also still need to be developed to help ease range anxiety. Automakers are well aware of these obstacles, and they are working hard to reduce the price premium on these vehicles while at the same time investing money to improve the national support grid for EVs.”

I brought this up with my wife over breakfast (she is way smarter than me). She suggested that part of the reason people are trading in their EVs for larger vehicles could be that their lifestyles are changing. Folks who bought a LEAF or a Volt may have gotten married, had children, and find they need more room to haul kids and stuff around. At the moment. electrified SUVs and trucks simply aren’t available in the US market.

The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV has been setting sales records in foreign markets, but the dolts who run Mitsubishi’s operations here in America have conspired to shoot themselves in the foot over and over again, keeping it out of the hands of US drivers for more than three years. It’s as if they are scared to death it might be a success.

Let’s face it. For whatever reason, almost every manufacturer has elected to make its plug-in or electric models sedans so far. Even the much anticipated Tesla Model 3 will begin as a sedan. Yet more than half of all passenger vehicles sold in America last year were light trucks or SUVs. Sedans are just not where the action is when it comes to selling cars to large numbers of people.

Before we bemoan the fickleness of people who tell pollsters one thing and then do another, perhaps we should lay some blame at the doorstep of the car companies who have refused to build the electric cars people actually want? Let’s give General Motors some credit for making the Chevy Bolt a small crossover SUV instead of another electric sedan. That’s a big step in the right direction.


Steve Hanley

Closely following the transition from internal combustion to electricity. Whether it's cars, trucks, ships, or airplanes, sustainability is the key. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.