Most consumers don’t know about electric vehicle incentives

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One of the reasons why electric cars are poor sellers is because consumers have little understanding of the financial incentives and other benefits available to owners of the vehicles.

That’s the finding of two Indiana University researchers who surveyed more than 2,000 drivers in 21 of the nation’s largest cities. They discovered that 95% of respondents didn’t know about state and local subsidies, rebates and other incentives.

For example, only 2 out of 758 survey respondents living in areas where subsidies for home charging equipment are offered were aware of their availability, the researchers said.


A large majority, 75%, also was uninformed about the savings in fuel and maintenance costs that all rechargeable cars such as battery-electric and plug-in hybrid cars offer over traditional gasoline vehicles.

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“It is well-established that current mainstream consumer interest in these vehicles is low,” said John D. Graham, one of the co-authors of the report. “What should be particularly troubling for plug-in electric vehicle proponents and manufacturers is that the respondents to our survey live in major urban areas, the places where PEVs make the most sense due to daily travel patterns.”

Americans will purchase about 50,000 rechargeable cars this year, a tiny fraction of the 15.5 million new vehicles that will be sold in the U.S. in 2013.

The trickle of sales comes despite a federal $7,500 tax credit, additional rebates in some states, including California, and other incentives such as permits to drive solo in carpool lanes.

The survey questioned drivers about the two major types of plug-in electrics: battery-electric vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf, and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, such as the Chevrolet Volt and some models of the Toyota Prius.


Most respondents also couldn’t answer basic factual questions about the cost of owning the cars.

“If consumers believe they have higher purchase prices, higher fuel and maintenance costs and lower driving ranges than they actually do, they’re not going to shop for them when it comes time to buy a new car,” said Sanya Carley, co-author of the report, which was published in Energy Policy, an academic journal.


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