Everyone Uses Electricity – But Who Drives Electric Cars?

By Jesse Sokolow on 26 September 2013
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The 2014 BMW i3 at the IAA

The 2014 BMW i3 at the IAA

Electricity drives the world we live in – be it everyday appliances or computers, television, and phones.  More recently, it has extended its reach to automobiles.  While a majority of the American population may be using an electronic device at any given moment, plug-in vehicles represent less than 1% of total U.S. sales, although the numbers have grown substantially in the past three years.  Their appearance on the scene is so recent that relatively little is known about their owners as well as their habits.  Some light is now being shed on this matter.

Since 2009, the EV Project, financed with grants from the U.S. Energy Department, has been collecting and analyzing data from over 8,000 electric vehicle drivers.  The findings have shown that owners of electric cars drive less than those of conventionally powered cars, for reasons that ostensibly include their using the vehicles primarily for shorter trips.  In addition, a separate study showed that range anxiety caused many electric vehicle owners to avoid longer journeys.

Another finding from the EV Project’s data shows that the average buyer of an electric car is generally more affluent than the average gasoline powered car purchaser.

General Motor’s gas-and-electric Chevrolet Volt retails for around $40,000, while Nissan’s all-electric Leaf model sells for about $30,000.  The new BMW i3 will have a MSRP of $41,350 when it hits the showrooms shortly. The study reports that, in addition to economic status, owners of electric vehicles are also more likely to be more environmentally conscious than the average consumer, as large numbers report having solar panels.

These results go hand-in-hand with data that shows that owners of electric vehicles tend to cluster in the same neighborhoods.  In addition, data shows that owners tend to plug in at similar times, usually in the evening.  Both facts are probably of greater significance to electric utilities than the general populace but are nonetheless interesting.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)