Perceptions of Electric Cars

Based on the results of an Indiana University study, American drivers don’t understand electric cars, and base most of their judgments about plug-in vehicles on preconceived and faulty notions. This lack of awareness could hinder the auto industry’s push to produce more electric and hybrid vehicles.

The study, run by Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs, surveyed 2,300 adult drivers in 21 different U.S. cities. Misconceptions about price and mileage were most common.

Price Perceptions

Ask a car enthusiast about the price of 1986 mustang parts and he or she can probably give you an accurate response. Ask the same person about the cost of electric cars, and they’ll often be way off the mark.

People understand electric cars are more expensive than gas-powered vehicles, but they don’t realize the difference can be expressed in thousands of dollars. Instead, they expect to pay a few hundred dollars more for a plug-in car. So when people go shopping for electric cars, they’re shocked by the extra cost, which makes gas-powered vehicles seem more attractive.

While they underestimated the purchase price of electric cars, survey respondents didn’t recognize an equally significant cost consideration: fuel. Electricity, on a per-mile basis, costs 70 to 80 percent less than gasoline. People surveyed focused on purchase price without considering future savings.

Electricity and Range

The old perception of electric cars as short-range vehicles likely to run out of juice in mid-drive remains strongly embedded in the national psyche, even though today’s plug-in hybrids have a range comparable to gas-powered vehicles.

The need to drive for long distances is often cited as an argument against electric cars. In the survey, however, the average distance driven was only 28.35 miles a day, a driving distance easily within a single charge for an electric car.

Little Interest

The survey demonstrated that the auto industry needs to do more to raise interest in and awareness of electric cars. Only 4 percent of people surveyed reported considering buying an electric car. Of these, only 22 percent considered a pure electric vehicle; the remaining 78 percent were considering plug-in hybrids.

Auto manufacturers are under pressure to improve their products’ mileage and lower greenhouse exhaust emissions. To accomplish these goals, many manufacturers are looking to pure electric plug-in cars. But if the survey is accurate (and there’s no reason to think it isn’t), the American public views electric cars as a niche product, with little relevance to their own needs.

Unless the auto industry ramps up public education and advertising for electric cars, the plug-in car isn’t going to catch on. And that would be a shame, because for the first time in history, we can produce electric cars capable of meeting the average driver’s needs.

Michelle is an aspiring writer with a passion for blogging. She enjoys writing about a vast variety of topics and loves that blogging gives her the opportunity to publicly voice her thoughts and share advice with an unlimited audience.