In the Northeast, Survey Shows Strong Interest, Big Potential for Electric Vehicles

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In the Northeast, Survey Shows Strong Interest, Big Potential for Electric Vehicles

Many Northeastern Drivers Could Benefit From Driving Electric, Survey Finds

WASHINGTON - Thirty-five percent of Northeast drivers are likely to consider an electric vehicle (EV) for their next vehicle purchase or lease, and 55 percent have some interest in EV technology, according to a new survey released by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports.

“Consumers looking for a new vehicle this summer are thinking more about the many benefits of driving on electricity,” said Josh Goldman, lead policy analyst for the UCS Clean Vehicles Program. “More than 65 percent of survey respondents want to see automakers offer more electric options across a variety of classes, including sedans, SUVs and minivans, and over half think that every automaker should offer a plug-in model for sale.”

“There's a real market opportunity in the Northeast to increase electric car sales,” said Shannon Baker-Branstetter, policy counsel for Consumers Union. “With better vehicle availability and consumer awareness, automakers could serve the millions of Northeast consumers who are open to going electric.”

The results of the survey not only indicate a high level of interest for EVs in the Northeast, but also demonstrate that millions of Northeast drivers could utilize an EV today. The survey found that more than 4 out of 10 households in the Northeast could use an EV with little or no change to their driving habits and vehicle needs. Survey respondents met the basic criteria for using a typical plug-in hybrid EV available today if they have access to parking and an electrical outlet at home, need to carry 4 or fewer passengers, and do not need hauling or towing capability.

However, new car shoppers in the Northeast have fewer electric options compared to California. For example, since the beginning of 2016, only 1,744 new plug-in vehicles were available on Edmunds.com in and near New York City, and only 733 vehicles available on Edmunds.com in the Boston region were plug-in EVs. Searching Edmunds.com over the same time period for plug-in vehicles within 50 miles of Oakland, CA, on the other hand, yielded over 5,800 plug-in options, and 8,200 electric vehicles in the Los Angeles area. In addition, some electric vehicle models like the Fiat 500e or Chevrolet Spark EV are unavailable in some or all of the Northeast states, while all are available in California. 

The survey results suggest that increased availability of plug-in vehicles at dealerships and more model options could increase consumer adoption of the technology. Over 88 percent of survey respondents said they would not buy a vehicle without a test drive. With fewer electric vehicles in the Northeast, car buyers will have a harder time finding plug-in vehicles to test drive and therefore not get a sense for why electric vehicles have some of the highest ownership satisfaction scores in Consumer Reports’ ratings (Tesla Model S at 97 percent, Chevy Volt at 82 percent, Nissan Leaf at 76 percent).

The survey also examined consumer attitudes toward EVs in California, which has been the focus of automaker efforts to deploy the technology and represents almost 50 percent of today’s EV sales with over 200,000 EVs sold to date. California drivers reported an even higher level of interest in and understanding of EVs, suggesting that similar efforts to increase consumer knowledge and exposure to EVs in the Northeast could raise interest even further.

The survey was conducted among 1,213 randomly selected adults in California and 9 Northeast states who were licensed to drive and had driven a vehicle in the past 12 months. The survey was carried out from April 1 to April 8. The margin of error is 4 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level for questions asked of all respondents.

View an infographic about the survey findings and more information on the survey results here.

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The Union of Concerned Scientists is the leading science-based nonprofit working for a healthy environment and a safer world. UCS combines independent scientific research and citizen action to develop innovative, practical solutions and to secure responsible changes in government policy, corporate practices, and consumer choices.

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