Published on November 29th, 2013 | by Zachary Shahan


Wow — Only 22% Of Public Knows About Tesla Model S, Only 31% Familiar With Nissan Leaf

November 29th, 2013 by  

Originally published on EV Obsession.

Confirming what I postulated last weekend, people are not familiar with electric cars yet. In a survey conducted by Navigant Research, only 31% of respondents were familiar with the highest-selling electric car to date, the Nissan Leaf. Only 22% were familiar with the Tesla Model S, which has gotten a great deal of press coverage this year, both for being the best car on the market (as decided by numerous major auto journalists and magazines) and for its high-flying stock.

To believe that 78% of the population doesn’t know about the Model S, and that 69% don’t know about the Nissan Leaf will surely come as a major shock to many of our readers, but that’s the reality today.

And, of course, while so many people don’t know about these two electric vehicles, even more don’t know about the many other electric cars on the market.

Here’s the chart regarding EV & PHEV model awareness:

EV awareness

As you can see, only about 16% were familiar with the BMW i3 (read my BMW i3 review if you haven’t yet).

Of course, if these people aren’t even aware of the plug-in cars on the market, you can pretty much bet they have no idea that electric cars are so much nicer to drive. Heck, you can’t really grasp that until you actually drive one!

A lot of the results in the survey are not that interesting to me, since the respondents really didn’t even know what they were talking about, but there were several other findings and charts that I did find particularly interesting.

For one, despite the great lack of awareness about electric cars, a good portion of respondents said they would be interested in an electric vehicle that fit the specs of what they could more or less have today.

The question:

Assuming the other features were right, how interested would you be in purchasing a BEV with the following characteristics?
» Electricity cost equivalent of $0.75 per gallon
» Driving range of 100 miles on a single charge
» You could plug in the vehicle to charge at your home each night
» Additional charging stations may be available around town
» A price of $26,000 after any purchase incentives

(Note that the Nissan Leaf is available for $21,300 after the federal tax credit and $18,800 in some states after state rebates, and that its range is 73 miles on a single charge; the Chevy Spark EV is available for $19,995 after the federal tax credit and $17,495 in states with a $2,500 EV rebate, and has a single-charge range of 82 miles.)

The response:

EV desire

Even more positively, 39% were more interested in a $15,000 EV with a $75/month battery lease:

battery leasing

So, even with most respondents really not knowing much about battery electric vehicles, there’s quite a positive response.

Interestingly, they weren’t as into the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) option. The question here was:

Assuming the other vehicle features were right, how interested would you be in purchasing a PHEV with the following characteristics?
» Electricity cost equivalent of $0.75 per gallon
» Driving range of 25 to 35 miles on a single charge, then the gasoline engine provides additional 300 miles of range with fuel economy of 35 miles per gallon
» You could plug in the vehicle to charge at your home each night
» Additional charging stations may be available around town
» A price of $28,000 after any purchase incentives”

And the response:

PHEV desire

But, still not a bad response given the lack of awareness.

Notably, the brands they’d most consider buying an EV from seem to fit overall brand preferences more than any knowledge of actual electric cars (notice Nissan’s rather weak performance as well as Tesla’s super low position):

EV brand preference

The majority of respondents (60%), either from noticing the fuel prices in other questions or from their knowledge of hybrid electric vehicles (and some, of course, from their actual knowledge of electric cars), did agree with the statement that “EVs are much cheaper to own in the long run than gasoline cars.”

EV opinions

And, even more interesting (imho), the respondents heavily favored fuel economy when asked to rate the options that were most important to them in selecting their next car! If they actually realized how fuel efficient EVs are, it looks like most of them would be purchasing one!

EV fuel economy

Well, it looks like we have a lot more educating to do! Hopefully the people who took the survey went and learned a lot more about electric cars afterwards.

Those were the findings that really stood out to me in the new (free!) white paper by Navigant Research. There were other interesting ones, too. However, many others I found to be essentially useless given how uneducated the respondents were about electric cars. But since the paper is free, I do encourage you to head over there, download it, and have a look yourself.

And be sure to help educate your friends and families about electric cars! Some good links to start with would be this electric car overview, our electric car benefits stories, and especially this article on how much nicer electric cars are to drive and this one on 7 reasons to love electric cars.

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

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the typed word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession, Solar Love, and Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in.

  • Eric Cartmanez

    Also, who are the respondents? Are they just the general population or people who actually intend to buy a car? It doesn’t matter too much wheter or not you know about the vehicle if you’re not in the market for a car.

  • Doug

    This survey seems to support the fact that consumers are not well informed. Maybe I know a lot about EVs, but very little about something else…

  • Jon Rodriguez

    If you want to hear more about Tesla, here’s a rare interview we recorded with Elon Musk!

  • Will E

    TESLA and Tour de France. ride the tour de France with Tesla team.
    the Pyrenees the Alpes . All the world will know Tesla and the EV driving awesomeness.

  • Matt

    First “1,084 consumers in the United States” is a US sample only. Second all depends on what people mean by familiar. I don’t want to sound like a winer, but if you don’t live in select location on the east or west coast then you may have only seen a Tesla on line. I have see a Volt and a Leaf, but short of a several 100 mile road trip I could not have test driven either until early this year.

    • If someone asked me “Are you familiar with _____?” and I’d heard of it but didn’t know much about it, I’d agree with the “I’m somewhat familiar with it.” option. The only time I’d go lower is if I’d never heard of it. I’m quite confident that’s how the huge majority of people would respond. (Note: I do have a background in sociology.)

  • Jouni Valkonen

    thanks for sharing this. This is important, because lots of anti-teslarians claim that there is not enough demand for Model S to increase production rate. How there cannot be demand, if globally only 1% of potential customers are familiar with Model S and of those far less than 1% has actually testdriven Model S.

    Therefore it is not reasonable that global sales for Model S/X are 200k in 2016, because there won’t be direct competition for Tesla at least five years. All competitors are ICE-cars or hybrids.

    • Also be sure to note that Tesla is currently “supply limited” rather than “demand limited.”

      • Shiggity

        More specifically, battery production is limiting them atm. Panasonic can’t make the cells fast enough.

        • Bob_Wallace

          This is an interesting point in EV development. It harkens back to when the price of solar panels rose because silicon refining plants couldn’t keep up with demand.

          • Jouni Valkonen

            I think that the battery supply will follow solar panel production path that around 2016 we have so much overcapacity that prices will fall and only the largest scale cell producers will survive.

            Swanson’s Law depicts the solar panel price evolution, but it should be applicable also to lithium battery price evolution.

          • Bob_Wallace

            We have surplus battery manufacturing right now. Multiple battery factories are running far below full capacity.

            What is in short supply is the brand of batteries that Tesla uses. This could probably be solved very quickly by subcontracting/licensing to factories that would love more business.

          • Jouni Valkonen

            I somewhat disagree and right now the battery supply is not limiting factor for Tesla. They have agreed that Panasonic will supply the minimum of 1.8 billion cells to Tesla that is predicted demand for the Model S/X. However this is only the lower limit what Tesla agreed to buy (no matter what). If Model S/X manufacturing ramp up exceeds predictions then of course Panasonic can deliver more batteries. How much more; that is of course a question.

            It should not be a problem to increase battery production rate, because it takes just few months to establish new cell assembly line. Of course battery subcontractor chain is complex (therefore Tesla wants to simplify it with gigafactory), so overall production ramp up may take a year, but so does it take time to ramp up the production rates of car assembly lines.

          • Hi Jouni, I think Bob is right:

            Battery shortage is an acute problem for Tesla.

          • Jouni Valkonen

            Battery shortage is not a long term problem (>2 years). The article said that Musk said that the battery shortage should relieve in 2014.

          • Yep, I got Elon’s statements on this recorded, #4 here:

        • Jouni Valkonen

          It is hard to predict the near future demand growth. However, I think that this is not permanent state, but only short term supply problem. It is far faster to increase the battery production capacity than car manufacturing capacity. Therefore there should be enough batteries, but Tesla may be supply limited still for decades.

          Other reason see below…

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