CFA Study Finds Consumer Interest in PEVs Growing, Especially Among Millennials

Consumer interest in purchasing a plug-in electrified vehicle has increased in the past year, especially among Millennials, according to the Consumer Federation of America’s second annual survey on the topic.

Among those Americans surveyed, 36 percent are interested in a purchasing a PEV, up from 31 percent in 2015. Among the age groups, Millennials (18-24 year olds) have the strongest interest, with 50 percent interesting in buying one.

CFA commissioned ORC International to conduct a national phone survey of 1,007 adult Americans on consumer attitudes toward electric vehicles. What the study calls electric vehicles included plug-in hybrids and battery electric vehicles.

While still less than one percent of U.S. new vehicle sales, CFA finds it significant that sales of PEVs have outpaced the sales of hybrids in U.S. sales – during 2000 to 2004 for early hybrids compared to 2011 to 2015 for PEVs.

Popularity of early PEVs versus hybrids

The CFA chart shows that U.S. sales volumes of PEVs was higher in the first year of 2011 compared to the first year of U.S. hybrid sales in 2000. One difference has been that the PEV product selection became wider than hybrids in the early years, with the Toyota Prius and Honda hybrids making up hybrid choices until around the mid-2000s.

“Consumer interest in buying electric vehicles is growing at the same time these vehicles are becoming more available and more attractive,” said Jack Gillis, CFA Director of Public Affairs, in the press release. “It does not surprise us that electric vehicle sales have grown more rapidly in their first four years than did those of hybrid vehicles.”

Educated consumers have more interest, as has been the case since PEVs entered the market in 2011. In the survey, for those who consider themselves very knowledgeable about electric vehicles, 55 percent are interested in buying PEV. For those who say they have no knowledge of PEVs, only 22 percent are interested in buying one.

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One survey question spoke to the latest marketing and technology improvements in PEVs with competitive pricing, operating and maintenance costs, the 200 mile range, and the ability to recharge in less than an hour. With that question, 57 percent are interested in buying a PEV. The interest went up with those who they know a lot about PEVs, with 62 percent interested. For Millennials answering that question, 70 percent are interested in making that purchase.

“As the younger buyers enter the market, more attractive EVs are made available, and consumers learn more about these vehicles, interest in purchasing them is likely to grow significantly,” said CFA’s Gillis.

In tandem with these survey findings, CFA released an updated version of The Car Book’s Snapshot Guide to Electric Vehicles. The guide offers an overview of the key features of 2017 model EVs for consumers to compare mileage, range, and charging types available for the new models. You can download the buyer’s guide for free on the website.

When looking at market dynamics and product offerings for consumers interested in PEVs, CFA acknowledged the influence lower gas prices have had on the market. That damped PEV sales a bit in 2015, but automakers have been offering several new, longer-range, and lower-priced PEVs. As of this year, 13 automakers have at least one PEV model for sale, according to CFA. The only major carmakers to not have them for sale now are Subaru and Mazda. New offerings by automakers will be increasing in 2017.

Range is improving with four 2016 models able to travel over 100 miles on a charge – the BMW i3, Nissan Leaf SV/SL, Tesla Model S, and Tesla Model X. The 200-mile-plus Chevy Bolt and Tesla Model 3 are raising more interest in PEVs.

Becoming more price competitive will help sales grow for PEVs, said CFA. The organization analyzed comparable gas-engine vehicles with PEVs.

“While some manufacturers, including Fiat and Kia, do charge significantly more for their EVs, others – including Ford, Smart and Volkswagen – have priced electric and gas-powered versions of the same model similarly,” CFA said in the release.

CFA also analyzed government incentives on purchasing PEVs and installing chargers. Along with the $7,500 federal tax credit available for most PEVs and rebates in a few states, utilities are offering incentives for installing home chargers. Gulf Power in Pensacola, Fla., offers a $750 credit toward the costs of upgrading a home for a Level 2 charger. Austin (Texas) Energy will rebate 50 percent of the cost up to $1,500; and many states offer tax credits, according to CFA.

Consumer Federation of America