Cars Nielsen Energy Survey reveals overwhelming majority of Americans would buy an electric vehicle

Published on April 27th, 2011 | by Tina Casey


Wouldn’t You Really Rather Have an Electric Vehicle?

April 27th, 2011 by  

Nielsen Energy Survey reveals overwhelming majority of Americans would buy an electric vehicleNever underestimate the power of American consumers to fall out of love with an icon. We’re talking about the gasoline engine, the embodiment of American sinew and spirit. Yep, it’s headed to the dust heap of romance past along with the Marlboro Man and shoes with spats. The Nielsen Energy Survey recently questioned consumers about their preferences when purchasing a new car, and when you crunch the numbers a whopping 85 percent said they would buy a plug-in electric vehicle powered by the whisper of a  electric battery, not the roar of a gasoline engine. O how fickle is the heart of consumers when they are stabbed in the back by high gasoline prices!

America Hearts Electric Vehicles

The energy consulting company E Source teamed up with the Nielsen company to do the crunching of the Nielsen Energy Survey. What they found certainly vindicates GM’s decision to include a just-in-case gasoline engine with its Chevy Volt electric vehicle — and its purposeful decision to market the car as a vehicle for all Americans, not just the “real” ones. Though overall 85 percent of consumers surveyed said they would buy an electric car (pdf), 58 percent actually prefer a hybrid electric car such as the Volt. Only about 8 percent are ready to go all-electric.

Not So Fast on that EV Thing…Hey, Wait for Me!

Given the state of the U.S. economy, it’s no surprise that not everyone is ready to jump right out and grab the nearest EV. Only 3 percent of consumers surveyed are ready right now. Most (57 percent) say they’ll buy an EV when they’re ready to replace their current car, and a significant number (25 percent)  are waiting until the technology goes mainstream. They better not blink. The Army started looking into mass purchases of EVs in 2008 and dipped its toe in the water by leasing 4,000 EVs back in 2009 — and remember, the Army owns the largest vehicle fleet in the world. The U.S. Postal Service, which owns the world’s largest civilian fleet, has had electric vehicles on the road since 1899 and it recently stepped up its efforts to press more electric vehicles into service. EVs are also being introduced into car rental fleets.

Don’t Look Back, Hydrogen Fuel Cells May be Gaining on You

Electric vehicles may have a head start in the mass market, but hydrogen fuel cells are right behind them. It seems that in the future hydrogen fuel cell-powered car owners may be able to manufacture their own hydrogen at home with a simple solar-powered device. Well, you know that crazy, fickle American consumer. Today it’s electricity, tomorrow it’s hydrogen fuel cells. As for gasoline…so 2000-and-late!

Image: Electric sign by withassociates on

Check out our new 93-page EV report, based on over 2,000 surveys collected from EV drivers in 49 of 50 US states, 26 European countries, and 9 Canadian provinces.

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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

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  • Randy Swchaert

    Did you wonder if there was an effort out to control the electric car industry. Well, let’s name the names:
    The Solyndra case proves that the DOE LOAN and ATVM funding was based on pure bribery and lobby manipulation. All of the failure points on Solyndra have been visible for ages so they would not have gotten the money if “real due diligence” had been performed instead of giving the money away to hard-wired campaign contributors. Kleiner Perkins put Chu in office as Secratary in order to get favored nations funding for their portfolio companies and keep competitors to those portfolio companies from getting funded. Steve Westly and Kholsa helped them along with Raj Gupta.

    The Detroit News writes that Detroit & Telsa recipients used the money to pay bonuses to staff and other uses, have parties and other uses not intended for the funds. How the *H* did a Japanese company get U.S. taxpayer dollars from the DOE?

    The DOE ATVM And Loan Gaurantee programs were conducted by criminals in order to commit crimes. The “Car Czar” Steve Rattner (Now a proven criminal by the State of NY), Lachland Seward, Matt Rogers and his partner Steve Spinner and most of Tesla’s friends at McKinsey Consulting from Silicon Valley (Who used Tax payer jets to fly back and forth to Silicon Valley to go bike riding), Steve Westley and a group who now left DOE, and some who are still there are criminals. They stole your tax money and put in in their friends pockets. Federal investigations have already shown that Detroit embezzeled and misspent the first monies distributed. Every company that has so far gotten money has misspent it, did not have what they said they had at the time they applied, were tied to campaign contributions and rated lowest on the comparison reviews. If you google: “Unprofessional behavior plagues SRS” to read about the death threats, you can see the depths to which some of these people will sink. See the recent mass exodus from DOE of key staff in the last 9 months: They took the money and ran.

    The few applicants that did get money spent tens of millions of dollars on bribes and lobby “incentives” equal in ratio to the money they got. Now the White House says that $17B of the taxpayer money that Detroit got is a write-off and is lost forever. In other words Detroit has already embezzeled more money than all of the other applicants applied for put together.

    Google Tesla’s Siry on “DOE stifles innovation” to read what one of the highest level staff at one of the car companies said.

    The GAO, a federal crime busting agency, just released public reports saying that the DOE Loan programs were corrupt. All of the people under Seward were “connected” or “made men” in the Detroit cadre. Seward changed the section 136 first-come-first serve rule (Which appears to be illegal) in order to provide advantages to his friends in Detroit who didnt bother to apply in time and to cut out the smaller players who were already ahead in the application proces

    Subpeonas of Detroit and DOE Loan Departments will prove crime, corruption, favoritism and rigged contracts were the rule and not the exception. BTW: Revenge of the Electric car is a paid product placement film. It is not a real documentary.

  • I didn’t knew that only 3 percent of consumers are ready for it now… it’s quite low. thanks for the article,


    • Anonymous

      There’s a tremendous amount of ‘range anxiety’ fueled, I would guess, by the oil industry and its friends.

      Three percent is enough for now. Both Nissan and GM are reporting more demand than they can meet for their EVs. As EVs come off the assembly line they will be snapped up and put on the road.

      As early adopters get some months of driving experience on their EVs people around them will take notice and start to understand whether today’s EV will or will not work for them.

      Price aside, the 100 mile range Leaf EV should work well for about one third of all American drivers. The electric/gas hybrid GM Volt should work for almost all others.

      Some people really do need 4WD, some really do need minivan interior space, some really do need to tow heavy trailers. Those needs are not met by the current generation of electric vehicles. I’m guessing that no more than 20% of all American drivers fall into this category, probably much less.

      We should move quickly from 3% to double digits. Especially if gas prices stay high.

  • Anonymous

    When we have affordable, 200 mile range EVs, and an ample number of rapid charge stations between cities I think we’ll see a very rapid move away from ICEVs.

    Few drive more than 50 miles a day. A busy day of driving around town or to the next town isn’t going to exceed 100 miles.

    With a 200 mile range and rapid charging a 500 mile driving day becomes practical. Drive 200, stop ten minutes for an 80% ‘top up’, drive 160, stop ten, drive 160. Now you’ve driven 500 miles with only two ‘pee stops’.

    And driving an EV is financially like driving a 30MPG ICEV on $1/gallon gas.

    We could have those affordable 200 mile EVs hitting our shores this year when the BYD e6 arrives. The charging stations are being installed….

    • Renewable hydrogen

      The trouble remains the added strain on an already over-burdened and antiquated grid system. EV vehicles have a history of trouble in colder climates. H2 fuel cell is the wave of the future, and although not an immediate cure all, after recent technological breakthroughs, it is possible to quickly transform into the Hydrogen economy

      • Anonymous

        We are already in the process of upgrading the grid. Massive work has been going on for a while.

        EVs such as the Leaf can be pre-heated (or cooled) using grid power when plugged in. And the heater/AC can be controlled by cell phone or PC. People living in really cold parts of the country will need to plug in at night, even if they don’t really need to charge.

        No big deal. If you’ve lived in a cold climate you are probably already familiar with block heaters (or sticking a drop cord with light bulb under your hood).

        EV batteries give off heat as they discharge so the only need for additional heat is when the car is started cold.

        Volvo has added an ethanol heater to their EV. It can be used to pre-heat the batteries and warm the passenger compartment.

        There are solutions.

        The hydrogen economy. It’s long shot….

        It’s not clear that we can generate hydrogen efficiently enough from renewables or engineered organisms. Remember, right now we use natural gas, and that would be a dumb thing to continue. Better just to stick the NG in the tank.

        Storage, there have been developments in the lab, but I’ve not seen any proved in the field. Hydrogen is a tricky little devil to keep in the can.

        Distribution. We’d have to build an entire new generation/distribution system. The electric grid is already in place, under utilized at night, and dual purpose.

        Conversion to motion. Interesting development in using materials other than platinum for fuel cells, but there’s no working model yet as far as I know.

        Hydrogen might have a role in energy storage. If some of the inefficiencies can be solved. But I think it will be way too late to the transportation dance.

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