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Who ‘Drive’ the Electric Car Market?

There's a big push for electric and hybrid vehicles but who's actually buying them?

Becky Graebner


September 26, 2013 - 9:30 am

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Everybody loves charts.  Here’s a very interesting one published by The Wall Street Journal, highlighting the use of electric and hybrid cars in the United States. The data for these charts was collected through the “EV Project,” which was sponsored by the Department of Energy.

Here are some of my take-aways from this handy chart:

Points that will make EV/hybrid manufacturers happy:

-65% of  Nissan Leafs (EV), replaced a previous vehicle

The obvious goal of EV/hybrid manufacturers is to entice consumers to put their gas-powered car out to pasture and replace it with an electric car.  65% of Nissan Leaf owners did just this.  Only 28% bought an EV as an additional vehicle (probably to supplement a gas-powered car), and a meager 7% bought an EV to replace an older car, but actually kept both vehicles.  Yes, this is a small number (we’re only looking at Nissan Leaf owners), but to Nissan, this probably deserves a pat on the back.

-The number of EVs and hybrids sold has spiked since 2010.

Since 2010, the numbers of EV/hybrids sold has increased drastically. The EV sales numbers for year 2013 are only through July.  According to the Electric Drive Transportation Association, the numbers for 2013 are expected to double those from 2011.  True, the number of EV/hybrids sold  in 2013 will probably be lower than those sold in 2012, but for manufacturers, it’s still an impressive number compared to 2011.

Points that will give EV/hybrid manufacturers pause:

-The majority of EV/hybrid owners are middle-aged and older

Remember when I said the baby boomers were the dark horse of the auto and tech markets?  Well, it seems they are also holding the strings in the electric car market.  EV/hybrid manufacturers are trying desperately to get all Americans into these cars.  Unfortunately, they are still too expensive for the younger, less wealthy Americans.

-Almost 4 out of 5 EV/hybrid owners had incomes of $100,000+

I guess this isn’t a huge surprise, since electric cars are usually pricey. The price tag of EVs and hybrids is an ongoing struggle for manufacturers hoping to extend its consumer market. Again, it is going to be difficult for manufacturers to cement EV/hybrid buying-loyalty in younger Americans if they cannot afford the cars…

Becky Graebner moved to the east coast from Wisconsin in 2011. She is still a rabid Badger and Packer fan, although she does support the Caps in hockey. She enjoys Formula 1 and Indycar. She likes the eastern seaboard but does miss track days with friends and family at Elkhart Lake and the Milwaukee Mile. Her favorite drivers are Kenny Brack and Robby Gordon.

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All Comments   (3)
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I personally doubt EV's will sell to a wider market until gasoline price hits a tipping point, maybe like $8-10/gallon (in 2013 dollars - at the rate the USA is printing money, we're bound the hit $8-10 as a nominal price). Until then, they're just SelfRightousMobiles.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Maybe. But why would folks then turn to a glorified, shorter-range golf cart that costs twice as much? I think they'll stick to gasoline cars and simply drive them less.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Giving up a gasoline powered car for a Leaf says a lot about you. The Leaf is absolutely useless outside of an urban area. Even a Smart Car has more capability. Pure EVs are for rich urbanites who only want a car to go to the grocery store or the mall. It is a runabout not a multi-use viehicle. If you live in Miami you aren't running away from Hurricane in it and if you ever without power you are stranded. Only those people who can go can pay others to move them about in a pinch would select this car. As a second car it has some value but there are cheaper green alternatives. Did I say green, well only if you charge via nuclear power. After accounting for generation and charging losses the Leaf only gets about equivalent of 35 mpg all things considered.

If you want to be green the plug-in is the way to go. You can feel superior to your earth destroying neighbor and still go places without being dependent on a cord.
1 year ago
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