Automakers are introducing new EV models that will appeal to a broader audience of car buyers. Yet, understanding the demographics of consumers with the greatest potential to buy plug-in EVs (PEVs) remains a formidable industry challenge. Navigant Research conducted a survey to understand consumer preferences and demographics when considering a vehicle purchase. Overall, survey results indicated that electric powered vehicles were the first choice of vehicle for their next purchase for 14% of respondents, while 74% indicated gasoline powered as their first choice. When combined, diesel, hydrogen, natural gas, and propane autogas powered vehicles accounted for 12% of respondent’s first type fuel choice.
First Choice Fuel Type for Next Vehicle Purchase
Source: Navigant Research
The gap between electric and gasoline powered vehicles is large for consumers considering a vehicle purchase, but the number considering an EV jumps to 58% of respondents when their second and third choice of fuel types are considered. So, what can the EV industry do to convince that 58% to prioritize emissions-free driving?
To best distinguish who may purchase a PEV, results of respondents who were favorable toward PEVs (ranked electric as their first fuel type preference) and who owned a PEV were compared to focus on any key differences between the two groups. According to the survey, an average PEV owner is likely to be under 40, live in a single-family home, have a 4-year college degree, and make above $50,000 in yearly income.
Consumers with access to parking at their residence are more likely to purchase PEVs due to the ease of access to charging—having an electrical outlet near the dedicated parking increases this likelihood. Therefore, consumers with garages, largely found in single-family homes, are the most likely to own a PEV. A lack of home charging requires a consumer to rely on public charging infrastructure, which in many areas is still insufficient, and discourages adoption.
Observed Consumer Trends
Overall, the demographics of PEV owners and those interested in purchasing a PEV were similar, but two differences stood out. Younger age groups are more likely to own a PEV and be favorable toward a PEV as their next vehicle purchase. There is also a widening gap in the older 45-64 demographic between those who are favorable toward PEVs and those who own them. The 45- to 64-year-old demographic made up 10% of the PEV ownership population, but 21% of those who were likely to purchase a PEV. This data points to a demographic that has unrealized potential for PEV adoption.
The second trend of significance is the disparity between those living in single-family homes and those in multi-family units, such as apartments, lofts, and townhouses. Lack of access to charging is a major barrier to PEV adoption, and those who do not live in single-family homes are less likely to own or be likely to purchase a PEV, as shown in the chart below. No major differences in housing types stand out between the two groups, suggesting that more charging options are necessary to entice multi-family dwellings to buy electric.
EV Consumer Survey: Housing Type
Source: Navigant Research
The Road Ahead
While the consumer survey shows many with positive attitudes toward PEVs, market challenges need to continue to be addressed to make an all-electric transportation future possible. The announcement of longer-range and lower priced battery EV models, charging infrastructure investments, and purchasing incentives indicate that PEVs are here to stay. Market stakeholders should take advantage of this upward momentum to target a wider audience of individuals purchasing vehicles, and promote PEVs to those outside of the current core target demographic.
For more information, see the recent Navigant Research report, Market Data: Electric Vehicle Charging Equipment.