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EV owners: Smarter and richer than the rest of us?

A new study confirms that most $40,000 electric cars aren't driven by Joe Blow.

By Exhaust Notes Nov 21, 2012 12:20PM

Want to look smarter and richer? Buy an electric vehicle. A new survey says that electric-car owners tend to be wealthier and better-educated than the average American driver.

A study by the Electric Vehicle Information Exchange surveyed 970 respondents, most of whom reported some interest in electric vehicles. According to the survey results, respondents who already lease or own electric vehicles tend to be "very well-educated, upper-middle class, white men in their early 50’s with ideal living situations for EV charging. The vast majority graduated with a four-year or postgraduate degree, and they said they make well over six figures in household income each year." The survey also found that, "Energy independence, and not environmental anxiety, was the primary reason that these respondents became interested in electric vehicles."

The fact that most electric car owners tend to be wealthy comes as no surprise, given the high price of most electric cars. Motor Trend magazine just named the Tesla Model S its 2013 Car of the Year. The Model S has a price that starts at $57,400 and goes up to $105,400. The Nissan Leaf is nowhere near as luxurious as the Model S and it starts at $35,200. The Chevrolet Volt, an extended-range hybrid, starts at $39,145. According to the Detroit Free Press, 26,100 Leaf and Volt cars have been sold so far this year, which is about 0.2 percent of overall vehicle sales.

Taking the high prices and small market share into account, a press release from J.D. Power and Associates says, "Electric vehicles ... will remain a very small part of the U.S. market unless automakers can lower prices and demonstrate the economic benefits to consumers."

The J.D. Power Electric Vehicle Ownership Experience Study reports that electric cars carry an average price premium of $10,000 compared with a similar gas-powered vehicle. Owners of plug-in hybrids pay an average price premium of $16,000 over similar gas-only cars. According to J.D. Power, the average electric-car owner would need 6.5 years to make up the car’s price difference in fuel savings. The average plug-in-hybrid driver would need 11 years.

Beyond the price concerns, the J.D. Power study found that today's electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles aren't meeting the needs of most consumers. Concerns about charging and range keep people from buying electric cars, as does the small size of most electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. Consumers are also hesitant about the reliability of electric and plug-in hybrid cars. That's similar to a finding in the Electric Vehicle Information Exchange study, which found that respondents who said they are interested in owning an electric vehicle also worry about the practical aspects of going electric.

"Pragmatic reasoning, like cost and convenience benefits, will be more effective in convincing this group to adopt electric vehicles than philosophical reasoning," the study concludes.

-- Jamie Page Deaton

More from U.S. News and World Report:

Nov 28, 2012 11:57AM

"A new survey says that electric-car owners tend to be wealthier and better-educated than the average American driver."


This is an obsurd statement.  It's rediculous to single out electric vehicle owners.    I guarantee if you surveyed ALL owners of vehicles priced in excess of $40k you would find this to be true. 

Nov 22, 2012 7:12AM
They may be richer, but they are not smarter just because they bought one.
Well yes they are richer but they are plain **** stupid. They spend 40k on a throw a way car, your average guy can not aford that. After a few years using any electric car try selling it, who will buy a used car that will need a new 30k battery not me!  A smart poor person will buy a car use it a few years then sell it at a good price. It's just common sense not a college degree, to use money wisely.
Nov 23, 2012 8:51AM
"Want to look smarter and richer? Buy an electric vehicle."

It might look "smarter", but anyone who buys an electric vehicle right now, when ranges are small, when the vehicles themselves are complex and expensive, when there is no infrastructure for them, and when most of our electricity comes from extremely polluting sources, only proves that they do not know anything about economics, environmental protection, automechanics and cars in general.

In other words, it is a clear message to anyone in the know:

"I do not know anything about cars, I just want to be hip at all costs."

And dear automotive journalists: no matter how much you hype electric cars and hybrids, the truth of the matter is, clean diesel technology is superior. Europeans have figured it out en masse, why can you not?

Nov 23, 2012 5:53AM

With my long commute I am one of those "concerned about range" group members.  No doubt the "maximum" range of these vehicles involves using no electrical accessories.  However, I am also one of those who likes to use airconditioning when it's hot outside, windshield wipers, when it's raining, headlights when it's necessary, heater when it's cold, and radio almost always.  Until I can be assured I can use those and get back and forth to work on a charge count me as one of those, "not ready to adopt" group membrs.

Dec 1, 2012 12:54AM

Golf carts sell

And you dont have to be smarter or richer to own one...?

Just more media hype on EV...

Nov 22, 2012 10:34AM
Just buy a good fuel efficient one, the electric are nice but battery life is still up in the air. When it does go it will be 6k or more to replace. I would buy an electric just for the enviromental aspect of it, but wait still like my stang better...
Dec 1, 2012 9:04AM

I have a problem with this "smarter" stuff. Of course people who can afford expensive cars tend to have more wealth, but smarter? Just because someone goes to college and even post graduate school doesn't mean they are necessarily smarter, it means they went to school for a longer period of time because they could afford to and had the opportunity to based on their entire resume. You don't get to go to college just because you have good grades, anyone who has applied to colleges knows they look at many different variables and $ is of course included.

So please don't demean people because they can't afford an expensive hybrid and can't afford to go on to college for monetary or social reasons either! There are many people out there that are very intelligent but haven't gone to college...

Dec 1, 2012 4:29AM
the volt or electric cars use more materials that are harder to aquire than those of a fossil fuel powered car.It's like the argument over global warming /it always heats up before cycling to an ice age x amount of time from warm up.Everthing cycles in nature.
Dec 1, 2012 1:46PM
Electric cars = COAL FIRED
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