Can Electric Cars Break Out of Niche Market?

Are you an environmentally aware, well educated, upper-middle class white man in your early 50s with a garage equipped with an electric outlet? If so, you meet the demographic to buy an electric vehicle. And that may be the EV's only potential group.

Plug-in Electric Vehicle  (PEV) owners have been called a 'niche group' by many auto analysts, and two new reports described by Chris Woodyard would seem to confirm that categorization.

Woodyard writes that the reports reveal that PEV owners "are well-off, well-educated people who want to wean themselves and the nation off high-price oil.... 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."

Not exactly a recipe for wide-spread sales - and that's illustrated in sales data.  "Some 26,100 (Nissan) Leafs and (Chevrolet) Volts combined have been sold so far this year, about 0.2% of overall vehicle sales (in U.S)", notes Woodyard.

"The bottom line is that the price has to come down," says Neal Oddes, senior director of the green practice for J.D. Power & Associates," which published one of the reports.

Increasing the federal tax credit for buying PEVs from $7,500 to $10,000, as has been proposed, might just help, as it has been estimated to be the "premium" for these emission-free vehicles "over a similar conventional car".

In California, PEV buyers are eligible for a $2,500 additional rebate - perhaps explaining whey PEVs are "said to catching on, likely topping 2,000 autos (for the month of October) for the first time", writes Morgan Lee of U-T San Diego.  The state rebate program is administered by the California Center for Sustainable Energy that received 1,820 rebate applications during the month of October, its highest participation to date."

Woodyard writes that the two "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."

"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."

Woodyard provides a more precise demographic from the Electric Vehicle Information Exchange report.

"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."

However, a more optimistic outlook for the PEV is provided by Yuri Kageyama of The Associated Press in addition to the U-T article. Kageyama writes that the Nissan Leaf has been upgraded - it will cost less (after manufacturing starts in Tennessee) and go futher on an electric charge.  He notes that the Leaf is the world's most popular PEV, with half of all sales being in Japan, unlike in California where the Chevy Volt reigns.  

How long the Volt remains the PEV best-seller is uncertain as it is "being challenged by a new plug-in version of the Prius and, starting in December in San Diego, the plug-in Ford C-Max Energi, which is sized along the lines of the Prius V. Honda is rolling out an all-electric 2013 version of the Fit, starting with leases in California and Oregon", writes Lee in U-T.

Full Story: Studies: Smart, rich people buy electric cars

Comments

Prepare for the AICP Exam

Join the thousands of students who have utilized the Planetizen AICP* Exam Preparation Class to prepare for the American Planning Association's AICP* exam.
Starting at $199
Planetizen Courses image ad

Planetizen Courses

Advance your career with subscription-based online courses tailored to the urban planning professional.
Starting at $14.95 a month
poster

A Short History of America

From comic book artist Robert Crumb, poster shows how the built environment has changed throughout the decades.
$14.95
Book cover of Insider's Guide to Careers in Urban Planning

So you want to be a planner...

Check out our behind the scenes look at 25 careers in the Urban Planning field
Starting at $14.95