Elon Musk, CEO, of Tesla Motors with his Model S electric sedan(Photo: Jessica Brandi Lifland for USA TODAY)
Owners of plug-in electric cars are well-off, well-educated people
who want to wean themselves and the nation off high-price oil, according
to a pair of new reports.
The independent reports add to the
prevailing profile of electric-car owners as affluent people who are not
(and don't have to be) terribly concerned about the high purchase price
of the current crop of plug-in vehicles compared with ordinary cars, or
even conventional hybrids.
MORE: Drive On: Tesla's Model S wows 'Consumer Reports'
In the past two years, plugs-ins
ranging from the $36,050 Nissan Leaf, powered only by electricity, to
the $39,995 Chevrolet Volt, which has a gas engine to back up its
electric motors, have attracted wide attention, but not blockbuster
sales. Some 26,100 Leafs and Volts combined have been sold so far this
year, about 0.2% of overall vehicle sales.
In a boost to electrics, Motor Trend magazine
this week named Tesla's swoopy all-electric sedan, the Model S, as its
Car of the Year. The unanimous choice of the judges for its performance,
looks and features, the Model S sells at luxury car prices starting at
$57,400 to $105,400 for the most capable model with the most features.
Depending on the model and battery, it has a range rating of up to 265
miles per charge.
MORE: 'Motor Trend' Car of the Year: Tesla Model S
Electric cars will remain a small portion of the
U.S. vehicle market unless automakers can figure out ways to cut prices
and boost the perceived benefits, according to a new study by J.D.
Power and Associates.
The federal government's current subsidy is
a $7,500 tax credit, and there are proposals to change that to a
$10,000 subsidy at purchase, the same amount that the study found that
electric-vehicle owners pay as a premium for the average EV compared
with similar conventional cars.
"The bottom line is that the price
has to come down," says Neal Oddes, senior director of the green
practice for J.D. Power in a statement. "There also needs to be an
improvement in infrastructure, or the number of charging stations
outside the home."
The gasoline savings, however, add up. J.D.
Power finds the average electric vehicle owners saw only an $18 monthly
boost in utility bills from recharging, compared with the $147 a month
they would have paid in gas to drive the same distance. About one in
three owners were receiving special discount pricing from electric
utilities as part of plans usually based on off-peak charging at night.
survey of 7,600 owners found 43% say they charge their vehicle away
from home. When they do, 85% say that it's in a place where they're not
charged for the juice. Their average daily commute is 34 miles, easily
within range of most electric vehicles on the market. Only 11% say they
fear that their batteries will run out before they can recharge,
rejecting the notion they are plagued by "range anxiety."
separated compilation of Internet responses by 990 electric-vehicle
owners and enthusiasts by the Electric Vehicle Information Exchange,
part of a consulting group called Oceanus Automotive, also found them to
be different from most motorists. EV owners and fans were primarily
"very well educated, upper-middle class white men in their early 50s
with ideal living situations for EV charging," usually garages where
they can recharge their cars overnight, said the group's report.
almost all owners, their electric car was their primary vehicle, the
report said, and these owners were motivated to buy by high-price gas,
rather than the environment. "Energy independence, and not environmental
anxiety, was the primary reason that these respondents became
interested in electric vehicles," the report says.