Plug-in Cars Suitable For 42 Percent Of U.S. Households, Study Finds

Those who have read Douglas Adam’s celebrated series The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy will be familiar with the ultimate question to life, the universe and everything. And of course, its answer: 42.

More people could go electric than you think...

More people could go electric than you think…

But perhaps the ultimate question relates to the tailpipe, emissions and plugging in, because a recent study by Consumers Union and the Union of Concerned Scientists has concluded that a massive 42 percent of U.S. households could make the switch from a gasoline vehicle to a plug-in car without any problems whatsoever.

Not only that, but the study’s conclusion revolves around car which are readily available today — not future models that offer hypothetical tipping points that consumers would need to see before making a purchase decision to go electric.

The phone-based study, which was conducted in late September, asked 1,000 randomly selected Americans aged eighteen or over a range of questions relating to their current driving requirements and car, such as their daily commute, who travelled with them in their car,  what parking eligibility they had and if they knew what charging capabilities they currently had at home and work.

The UCS even came up with this really neat infographic to explain its findings.

The UCS even came up with this really neat infographic to explain its findings.

The study focused on three key criteria:

  • Access to parking with a wall outlet or charging station.
  • Four or fewer passengers (since most EVs on the market today seat either four or five adults)
  • No hauling needs (since most EVs on the market today are not designed for hauling)

Of those questioned, 42 percent met all three criteria, with work or home-based charging marking them as suitable for either an all-electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle. Interestingly, another 33 percent met all but the charging criteria, making them ‘a plug away’ from being EV-ready.

This, as the study points out, is often due to a lack of electric outlets next to parking spaces at apartment complexes, other multi-family dwellings or at work. This reinforces what many advocates have been saying for years: the real barrier between someone buying an electric car and not buying an electric car is a simple wall outlet.

Moving on, the study details that a further 12 percent of those questioned could meet all but the towing/hauling requirements for owning an electric car. While this 12 percent may currently be excluded from plug-in eligibility, it is expected that cars like the Volvo XC90 plug-in hybrid — which will come with towing capability as standard — could help at least some of that 12 percent meet plug-in eligibility.

Within range

In addition to the core eligiability questions, the study also examined people’s attitudes towards electric cars and how far they travelled on a daily basis.

A massive 76 percent of those questioned reported weekday travel totals of less than 60 miles, making their travel needs well suited to any electric car on the market today — placing them even within the 62 mile EPA-approved range of the Mitsubishi i-Miev.  Given most people questioned said they would prefer a plug-in hybrid over a pure EV however, it’s likely that none of these questioned would find themselves unable to add extra trips during their average workday due to range limitations.

Attitudes positive, but education key

The study asked respondents how knowledgeable they were about plug-in cars, as well as how likely they would be to purchase one. As you might expect, those who said they were most knowledgeable were also most likely to buy an EV, with 74 percent of those who said they knew a lot about plug-in cars saying they would consider purchasing one.

Only 47 percent of those who said they knew nothing or little about EVs would consider purchasing one, while concerns about repair costs and range — followed by charger availability — proved the biggest barrier to ownership.

What does this tell us? Like other recent studies, it highlights a need for better plug-in education among car buyers and the general public. Like the early days of any new technology, the amount of time spent educating consumers is directly proportional to the rate at which that technology is adopted.

You can find out more about the study at the Union of Concerned Scientists’ website, or read the survey’s full methodology and data here.

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