60% Of Americans Unaware Electric Cars Exist

It’s hard for people who read Gas2 to believe, but a recent survey of 2,500 people by Altman Vilandrie & Co. finds that 60% of Americans are totally unaware that electric cars with plugs actually exist. 80% have never driven or ridden in one. Whose fault is that? Last week, we called out the auto companies for spending next to nothing on advertising for their electric and plug-in products.  The car makers have spent little if anything on charging infrastructure. Their dealers hide the cars out back and try to switch people who ask about them to a conventional car instead.

electric car

There appears to be a conspiracy of silence among manufacturers when it comes to telling their customers about electric cars, especially in states other than California where zero emissions rules are lax or nonexistent. Chrysler is so petrified of the plug-in label that it appears nowhere on the outside or inside of its brand new Pacifica Hybrid minivan. As far as any Chrysler customer knows, that vehicle is no different than an ordinary Toyota Prius. Chrysler obviously thinks people are afraid of cars with plugs and they may be right.

The survey queried 2,500 people. 85% reported they believed there were no charging stations available to them. 74% had no idea how long it takes to charge an electric vehicle and 83% believed an electric car was too expensive for their transportation budget. Yet when people took a test ride in one, 60% reported they enjoyed the experience while only 8% said they didn’t like riding in an electric car.


“While the EV adoption rate is low, there are signs of strong latent demand in the marketplace,” says Altman Vilandrie & Co. Director Moe Kelley, who co-directed the survey. “The auto industry still needs to make more low-priced models available to consumers, as well as finding a way for more drivers to try out an EV. If those things happen, we should see the EV adoption rate accelerate.”

After analyzing the data, Altman Vilandrie & Co. discovered that lower prices would go a long way toward invigorating the electric car. Specifically, it found that cars priced around $35,000 would have an adoption rate 5 times higher than the current models from Tesla Motors. The new Chevy Bolt and upcoming Tesla Model 3 will have starting prices near that figure. The company estimates that the release of models costing less than $35,000 by all other automakers would boost EV adoption by nearly 24 times compared to the current market.

“Price matters, and our analysis shows that more affordable models would go a long way to changing the perception that EVs are luxury items for the urban elite,” says company director Soumen Ganguly, who also co-directed the survey. “Both electric and self-driving vehicles are the future of personal transportation, but car makers need to make sure consumers are excited about going electric now – and that goes beyond the obvious environmental benefits.”

Other findings of the survey analysis include the following:

  • range anxiety continues to exist for all drivers – from those who are in the car for more than three hours a day (87%), to drivers on the road for less than an hour a day (72%).
  • younger and more affluent consumers were more likely to buy an EV than the rest of the motoring public: 17% of consumers earning $100,000 or more and 18% of 25-34 year-olds plan on making an EV their next car.
  • Older drivers (65+) are more likely to turn to Ford or Volkswagen for an EV, while Tesla and Mercedes are most appealing to young drivers (18-24). Overall, Tesla and Volkswagen have the largest potential share of the EV market.

The car companies say they would spend more money advertising their cars with plugs if more people were interested in buying one but more people would be interested if they knew more about them. Isn’t that what advertising is for?

Source and photo credit: Next-Gen Transportation

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.