Consumers Blind to Electric Vehicles' Cost Savings, Study Reveals


  • 2013 Nissan Leaf Picture

    2013 Nissan Leaf Picture

    Consumers are in the dark when it comes to the cost benefits of electric vehicles like the Nissan Leaf. | November 22, 2013

Just the Facts:
  • U.S. consumers are ignorant about the financial benefits of electric vehicles.
  • About 95 percent of the respondents were oblivious to state and local subsidies, rebates and other incentives for plug-in electric vehicles.
  • Researchers surveyed more than 2,000 drivers in 21 of the nation's largest cities.

BLOOMINGTON, Indiana — Researchers may have found a reason for the slow sales of electric vehicles: U.S. consumers are ignorant about the benefits to their wallet.

The report, "Perception and Reality: Public Knowledge of Plug-in Electric Vehicles in 21 U.S. Cities," revealed that 95 percent of the respondents didn't know about state and local subsidies, rebates and other incentives for plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs).

The study, by John D. Graham, dean of the Indiana University Bloomington School of Public and Environmental Affairs and colleague Sanya Carley, and Rachel Krause and Bradley Lane from the University of Kansas, surveyed more than 2,000 drivers in 21 of the nation's largest cities.

They questioned drivers about battery electric vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles such as the Chevrolet Volt and some models of the Toyota Prius.

While much has been written about the existing federal consumer tax credits of as much as $7,500, subsidized installation of recharging stations, and numerous state and local financial incentives, along with favored access to high-occupancy vehicle lanes and city parking, consumers are in the dark.

"Only two out of 758 survey respondents living in areas where subsidies for home-charging equipment are offered were aware of their availability," the researchers note. "The low rate of awareness of state and local PEV incentives suggests the incentives have not yet been meaningfully communicated to members of the mainstream public."

Furthermore, a majority of consumers can't answer basic factual questions about the cost of owning a PEV.

"If consumers believe they have higher purchase prices, higher fuel and maintenance costs and lower driving ranges than they actually do, they're not going to shop for them when it comes time to buy a new car," Carley said in a statement.

Edmunds says: Electric carmakers had better become better educators if they want sales to inch up.

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