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Pike Research US consumer survey finds decreasing fundamental interest in plug-in electric vehicles

US consumer interest in PEVs, 2012. Source: Pike Research. Click to enlarge.

A new Pike Research survey assessing US consumer demand, preferences, and price sensitivity for plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) and electric vehicle charging equipment (EVCE) has found a decline in the fundamental interest in PEVs among survey participants between 2011 and 2012.

In 2012, 35% of respondents stated that they would be extremely or very interested in purchasing a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) or battery electric vehicle (BEV) with a range of 40 to 100 miles and an electricity cost equivalent to $0.75 per gallon. In 2011, 40% stated they were extremely interested or very interested in this type of vehicle.

The web-based survey of 1,001 consumers in the United States was executed in the fall of 2012 using a nationally representative and demographically balanced sample. Pike Research conducted a similar survey in 2010 and 2011.

Among other findings of the Electric Vehicle Consumer Survey are:

  • Consumers continue to cite insufficient driving range as a reason they are not interested in PEVs, followed by a desire for the technology to develop further before committing to purchasing a PEV. However, this latter reason saw a significant decline from 2011.

  • Levels of interest in PEVs were not significantly different between demographic segments such as age, gender, income, and level of education, suggesting that these vehicles should have solid mass-market appeal. Consumers who are younger and have higher levels of education were somewhat more likely to demonstrate interest in PEVs.

  • Early adopters of technology were almost twice as likely to be interested in PEVs as the average consumer. Self-identified Democrats were somewhat more likely than Republicans (41% vs. 31%) to state they were extremely or very interested in PEVs.

  • Early adopters of technology were almost twice as likely to be interested in PEVs as the average consumer. Self-identified Democrats were somewhat more likely than Republicans (41% vs. 31%) to state they were extremely or very interested in PEVs.

  • Consumer familiarity with the PEV models varied, ranging from 25% to 54%, with the Chevrolet Volt leading and the Mitsubishi i-MiEV trailing in familiarity. However, no particular model of PEV stood out as a particularly good value for the money. Depending on the specific model, only 24% (for the i-MiEV) to 46% (for the Prius PHV) identified PEVs as an excellent or good value.

  • When asked which vehicle brands they would consider for a PEV, respondents continued to gravitate toward the same five brands in 2012. Toyota (50%) and Ford (43%) remain in the top two spots, followed by Chevrolet, Honda (both 42%), and Nissan (34%).

  • More than a third of respondents did not agree that PEVs are much cheaper to own than a gasoline vehicle. Almost half disagreed that PEVs are exciting to drive and own.

  • More than a third of respondents stated they believe that PEV batteries are dangerous and 4 in 10 stated that PEVs often leave their owners stranded when they run out of power.

EVSE. 81% of the respondents indicated they would be extremely or very interested in a residential fast-charging EV charging unit that would utilize the same amount of electricity but reduce charging times from 8–12 hours to 2–4 hours. More than 60% of respondents stated they would be interested in purchasing residential fast-charging equipment if the equipment and installation cost was less than $750.


Dave R

"Fast" charging at home is only very rarely useful.

After 18 months of LEAF ownership I have only really wanted faster than 240V/16A/3.8kW (dead to 100% in 7-8 hours) charging at home a couple times - and even then it didn't keep me from making the desired trip, just mean I was at the very low end of the charge when I got back home.

Those few times having 240V/30A/7.2kW charge rate would have been sufficient to give an extra ~12mi buffer for the time I had available to charge.

The rest of the time, even 3.8kW charging is more than fast enough - charging faster only puts a higher peak load on the grid.

J1772 can handle all the way up to 240V/80A/19kW charge rates - that's fast enough to charge your typical EV today from near-empty to near-full in an hour. 240V/40A/9.6kW is enough to charge from near empty to near full in 2 hours and a standard electric range/oven plug.

The hardware isn't expensive - 19kW J1772 EVSE equipment can easily be built for around $750.


Early 2007 800,000 people were "interested" in the Volt. The first year they sold 8,000. Be careful with surveys, LOTS of people say they are "interested".


I'm enamored with plug in hybrid technology. I went to purchase a Chevy Volt about 2 weeks ago. I've driven them a few times now, and after talking to some very satisfied owners, I wanted one. I found one in the right color, with basic options and leather seats.

I left the dealership without a new Volt. The 0.0% interest payment schedule is why.

36 months: $1228/month
48 months: $921/month
60 months: $737/month

Now, I don't know what world people are living in, but I can't afford that. Remember, this includes a $3000 "discount" and a $2000 rebate! Also, I'd really hate to finance a car for 60 months. My current car gets 27 real world MPG. $7,500 tax rebate or not, the Volt does not come anywhere near close to saving me money. It's downright unaffordable for the working man.

The hardware isn't expensive - 19kW J1772 EVSE equipment can easily be built for around $750.
When you read the J1772 specification, you realize just how little it needs to satisfy it.  It's within the capabilities of an amateur electronics hacker.

I have had my Prius PHV for about a week. I am using the EV miles for my frequent, short or local trips. 50hp from the PHV battery is great in city driving. I can keep up with the traffic with half the EV power.

When I go on the highway, I use the gas engine (getting over 60 MPG on gas). If I use EV miles on the highway, it gets used up in 5-10 minutes so it is better to use gas with superior energy density and refueling speed.

With this strategy, I am getting about 13 miles on 3 hours charge with a regular 110V outlet. That's more than my needs since everything is close together in NYC. I end up using up the extra EV miles on the highway. A 43.1 miles trip returned 90 MPG with one charge (3.1kWh).

I got the Base model (loaded with plenty of features) for about $25k ($3,500 cash bonus and $2.5k tax credit included).


the reality of the current crop of electric cars are a joke. high cost, short range and fear of the maintenance after 10 years. and for what? Something a diesel can do for a third of the cost. EV is here, but its a rich mans toy, not a middle class car. How far away is the the new battery tech that costs 75% less with three times more power, 5 years? i have been hearing 5 years for 15 years now. scientists are either overly optimistic or tell tall tales. i want EV to be real and cheap. it should cost much less. no exhaust, no complex motor but alas year after year nothing but disappointment


>>Something a diesel can do for a third of the cost.

And also less CO2/mile at the present grid mix. Right on, Bob.

Even better: Diesel hybrid, no plugin, 70mpg easily for a Golf- or Jetta-sized car.



Let me calculate. Your Volt price arround $41 000. You have rebate $2000, discount $3000 and tax credit $7500. Finaly you have $28 500. Which competing car you are considering for those money? You should asume fuel savings as well. Lease is tricky thing since tax credit could go to the lessor.


I would conclude that PHEVs and EVs simply are too expensive to be of any greater interest in the near future. Of course, consumers can say that they are interested in an interview but, at the end of the day, i.e. at the car dealer, they will walk out without a deal, just as one customer on this forum did.


Wait until gas starts to drift up around 2015.. then complain about that $75 bill to fill up the tank.


I have already paid $75 to fill up my tank (2008).  A plug-in is insurance against increased fuel prices, and I'm getting one just as soon as they'll let me order the one I want.

john mcavoy

A LEAF can be leased for $249 a month today. I've owned one now for 18 months. I have never accidentally run down my battery in 20,000 of driving. no tune ups. no oil changes. no gasoline!


Peter XX,

There is a difference between too expensive and priced too high. I would say that the EVs and PHEVs are priced too high, because no one really wants to sell that many right now. The costs will be comparable to the ICE cars, but only when the car companies want to sell them in reasonable quantity.

Of course, as long as people buy stuff that keeps them poor, because of the hidden costs, they will keep selling those. Serfs are most difficult when they have no debt.

Bob Wallace

EVs and PHEVs - you pay more up front but you pay less over the life of the vehicle.

Do the arithmetic....

Trevor Carlson

Yes Bob, please do the arithmetic.

You can buy a lot of fuel for the price premium a PHEV has over IC powered car ($18,325). A conventional comparable vehicle to the Volt would be a Cruze. The fuel savings between the two is not that compelling. 35 MPG vs 26 MPG city but negligible highway economy difference. The Cruze actually has more hip and legroom than the Volt. All for the low price premium of $39,995-$21,670 for comparably equipped vehicles according to Chevy's own website.

Also the majority of interested and potential PEV customers do not have chargers for these vehicles so the cost to install one cuts into or negates the rebates and incentives.

.... and don't forget to account for the time value of money.

PHEVs are still upper middle class toys.


The fact that 'the public' names the top 2 brands for plug-in vehicles, Chevrolet and Nissan, as no 3 and 5 on their list says it all. They are clueless.


Disappointment? Compared to 3 years ago you can actually BUY ev's. And there is a choice!

You're expecting waaaay too much. Inform yourself about car technology, market and industry and you'll discover why cars are not like mobile phones and don't see a new generation every 6 months.

Bob Wallace

A Cruze is the equivalent of a Volt? You matched features and trim? I'll take your word for that and use your $39,995 vs. $21,670. Deduct $7,500 Volt subsidies.

Finance for 5 years at 4%. Drive 14,000 per year. $4/gallon gas and $0.12/kWh electricity with 4% inflation.

After 12 years of owning and operating the Volt will cost approximately $3,000 less.

Charge with more typical $0.08/kWh off-peak electricity and the Volt advantage doubles.

Lost economic opportunity would drive Volt advantages more toward zero. More frequent maintenance costs for the Cruze would likely more than offset those opportunity costs. Bonds and CDs aren't returning very high rates, paying for twice as many brake rebuilds would quickly eat up those modest gains.

Bob does arithmetic.

Bob Wallace

Trevor - just for fun I ran some quick numbers to let us know how much economic activity would be lost by spending more up front for the Volt.

I used a very generous 2% rate of return (we are talking about a low risk investment when buying a PHEV). Over the first five years putting the extra Volt - Cruise money into 2% return investments would net one about $475.

That would cover one brake rebuild and one tune up?


What will you tune up on a Leaf?

Points, Plugs, Oil change?

Trevor Carlson

Bob -

Depending on location the great majority of families whose gross income is less than $100k/yr just do not have the budget to purchase a $40k vehicle in cash. Using the rebates as part of the business case is questionable as that is introducing outside money not earned by the purchaser. (it's not free money even if it feels like it is)

The Cruze monthly payment with $5k down and a $3k trade is about $350/month for a 4 year loan at 6%.
The Volt monthly payment with $5k down and a $3k trade is $807.88/month not counting the difference in insurance, depreciation, etc. If you count federal rebates (put $12,500 down) the payment would drop to $632/month.

Most people prefer to keep their vehicles less than 4 years though during the recession the average has increased but as we recover that number will come back down. Therefore any "payback" period greater than 4 years is not practical unless it is significant.

I'm not an expert to investing but I've always been told that vehicles are not assets that appreciate and therefore are not investments. Unless you're comparing collectibles, vehicles are liabilities and the money you tie up in a vehicle could otherwise be used for any type of investment not just the ones with a "generous" 2% ARR. (There's a decent chance a blind monkey could do better than that in the stock market.)

Also if you actually look at your power bill you'll find that your effective rate is much higher than $0.12/kWh with all the fees, etc. accounted for. For instance the "rate" on my bill is $0.069 for 292 kWh of electricity but the effective rate on my last bill is actually $0.169. With the new mandates coming to increase investments in renewable energy our effective rates are sure to shoot up as the investments are made ahead of the 2025 requirements.

If you're only driving 40 miles per day during the week, that is only 10kmi per year. (yielding the maximum MPGe savings possible) That's about $612 in electricity costs per year. ($51/month) There would be some fuel burned but we'll assume it's nearly negligible for this best case scenario for the Volt.

Cruze: 26 MPG (100% city, short trips) for 10,000 miles/year @ $4.00/gallon = $1,538.46 ($128.20/month)

Therefore just the energy cost to drive the Volt saves you $77.20 in savings per month but at a cost of at least $282-$460/month for the loan (not including insurance). I don't see how that makes a positive business case.

I'm not opposed to the Volt - just don't try to justify it and push it as something that will save people money.

Maybe this will help:

For the sake of argument let's just say you have $10,825 to spend on investments (the up-front cost difference between the Volt and Cruze WITH federal incentives).

Let's assume you receive 6% APR compounded monthly for 4 years, that money would make you on average $61/month plus the savings in depreciation which nets approx. another $275/ month in favor of the Cruze. Savings in insurance would not be insignificant but the difference in cost of maintenance per month probably would be.

In total let's be conservative and call it a $350/month advantage... for the Cruze.


Given that the Volt's battery size was driven more by politics than economics, it's not surprising that the economics don't pencil out as favorably as they might.

Repeating this exercise with the plug-in Prius or one of Ford's Energi models would be worthwhile.

Kit P

@ Trevor
Good analysis, just one quibble. Those who are interested in saving money keep their cars a lot longer than 4 years. Of course they do not spend $40 k on a new car either because of the rate of depr eciation.

Roger Pham

Good point, KP.
A PHEV that is used 10,000 miles/year can last for 20 years. Since the ICE in the PHEV is use infrequently, it probably will last double this 200,000 miles life span of the ICE a typical high-quality ICEV. The battery will be changed in about 10 years, but probably will more than save the owner money on gasoline and brake replacement and ICEV tune up and transmission rebuild or replacement. In 10 years, the new replacement battery pack will cost less than 1/2 the cost of current-day pack. Power electronics will cost a lot less, too, with increasing production of PEV's.

Those who want to keep their car for this long don't care about depreciation rate. Those who want to sell their PHEV will find a higher resale value than a comparable ICEV because the engine is used sparingly, there is no costly gear-shift transmission to repair nor replace, the brakes won't need any work ever, and the cost of a new battery pack will be but a fraction of current-day pack.

So Trevor, please kindly re-do the math!

Bob Wallace

Trevor - where do you get a guaranteed 6% return on investment? Let's use real numbers, shall we?

I ran my numbers assuming nothing down, 100% financing.

Using the rebate is totally reasonable. Buy a Volt, get a rebate.

Would you loose money were you to trade after 4 years? Possibly not. The Volt you would be selling should fetch a higher resale value since someone can drive for a lot less per mile. BTW, I know no one who trades cars every four years.

Lots of people drive on the weekend as well as during the week. 14k is a reasonable number. It also happens to be the DOT US average.

Yes, if you look at only the first 4 years then the Cruze will cost less per month, but after the 5 year financing period I used things reverse, the Volt becomes cheaper to drive. As I said, over a 12 year period the Volt is cheaper to own and operate. Here's my original statement -

"EVs and PHEVs - you pay more up front but you pay less over the life of the vehicle."

Bob Wallace

"Given that the Volt's battery size was driven more by politics than economics"

You might recall that GM and Toyota collaborated on a study of US driving patterns and found that 85% of all driving days were 40 miles or less.

I really don't know how "politics" played into the Volt battery size.

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