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Study: Electric Cars Inciting Little Interest from Shoppers

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author photo by Doug DeMuro January 2013

Most car shoppers aren't interested in fully electric cars, and many shoppers are unaware of their benefits. So says a new study from the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs, which surveyed 2,300 adult drivers. But while EVs aren't stirring many buyers, hybrids and plug-in hybrids are raising eyebrows.

According to the study, only around 4 percent of drivers said they would seriously consider a plug-in electric vehicle. Of that small group, 78 percent said they'd consider plug-in hybrids, which use a gas engine and an electric motor. That leaves just 22 percent -- or less than one percent of respondents -- interested in a fully-electric vehicle.

But one reason shoppers are shying away from EVs may be a lack of knowledge. According to Dr. John Graham, the study's author and dean of the university's School of Public and Environmental Affairs, many shoppers don't know the benefits electric vehicles can provide.

"We found substantial factual misunderstandings of electric cars in our sample," said Dr. Graham, who noted that such false impressions cause shoppers to take a more negative view of EVs than they should. For example, most shoppers don't realize how cheap electricity is. Around 70 to 80 percent cheaper than gas, electricity help can help drivers recoup the high up-front costs of EVs.

Another misconception the study found was that many drivers think EV range is too limited for their driving. But the average daily distance that respondents traveled was only 28.35 miles. That amount could be easily covered by today's crop of electric vehicles. According to Dr. Graham, that's because most drivers plan "for peak demand, not the ordinary use of the vehicle."

Misconceptions or not, automakers selling electric vehicles are feeling the pinch. Facing dropping sales, Nissan is now leasing its LEAF EV hatchback for just $199 per month for 36 months after $1,999 down. That's a tremendous offer on the LEAF, which boasts a range of around 75 miles, as its base price is around $36,000 with shipping.

But electric vehicles aren't for everyone. Drivers interested in saving fuel without going electric can consider the Ford Fusion Hybrid and Toyota Prius. Each achieves nearly 50 miles per gallon in city and highway driving. Other choices include the Chevrolet Volt, Ford C-Max Energi and Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid. Those plug-in models use an electric motor but also include a "range extending" gasoline engine that allays concerns about range anxiety.

What it means to you: With shoppers shying away from EVs, they're not likely to become more popular in the near future.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
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Study: Electric Cars Inciting Little Interest from Shoppers - Autotrader