Americans say ‘no’ to electrics despite high gas prices

This USA Today article says that, based on a recent Gallup poll, 57% Americans are resistant to buying electric cars, but the question asked in the poll — “How high would gas prices need to rise before you would buy an electric car that you could only drive a limited number of miles at one time?” — seems to have guided phrasing. The question focuses on a disadvantage of electric cars. Would the results differ if the question just said “How high would gas prices need to rise before you would buy an electric car?” Before we start telling Americans what their peers are thinking, we need to be sure polls’ questions aren’t leading the answers.


Posted 5.25.2011 on USA Today

by James Healey


That’s a stiff headwind just as automakers are developing electrics to help meet tighter federal rules that could require their fleets to average as high as 62 miles per gallon in 2025. And President Obama has set a goal of a million electric vehicles in use in the U.S. by 2015.


The anti-electric sentiment unmasked by the poll shows that pure electrics — defined in the poll question as “an electric car that you could only drive for a limited number of miles at one time” — could have trouble getting a foothold in the U.S.


Such cars “are very much niche vehicles. They find acceptance among a core group of passionistas, but too many questions remain for mainstream consumers,” says CEO Jeremy Anwyl. He says consumers worry about range per charge, recharge time and battery replacement cost. Electrics also are priced thousands of dollars more than similar gasoline cars.


“It’s not for every consumer,” says Maurice Durand, spokesman for Mitsubishi, which is to start selling a small four-passenger electric called the “i” in the U.S. in November. The “i” can go about 80 miles on a charge, and at $27,990 plus shipping, could be the lowest-priced electric.


Electric-car buyers also could qualify for a $7,500 federal tax credit, and some states also offer credits.


The only mainstream pure electric now on sale is the Nissan Leaf, EPA-rated at 73 miles on a charge. It starts at $33,630 before any tax credits.


Researcher J.D. Power and Associates projects sales of pure electrics this year will be 10,727, rising to 95,939 in 2015. Industry estimates for total 2011 light-vehicle sales are in the 13 million range, rising to about 14 million by 2015.


The poll of 1,024 adults nationwide has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. It was done May 12 to 15, when the average gas price was about $3.98. It’s now about $3.83.


Nissan interprets the poll numbers as a good sign, pointing out that “as many as 40% are considering driving electric vehicles.” Nissan sold 1,044 Leaf electrics through April since its introduction in December, according to Autodata.

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