California Drivers Very Happy With Their Plug-In Electric Cars

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Nissan Leaf electric car with eVgo quick charging station. [courtesy eVgo]

Nissan Leaf electric car with eVgo quick charging station. [courtesy eVgo]

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With Chevy's Volt topping customer satisfaction surveys for the last few years running, it's no surprise to hear that other plug-in electric cars are also popular with owners.

A new survey from the California Center for Sustainable Energy (CCSE) shows that over 9 in every 10 plug-in drivers reports overall satisfaction with their vehicle.

That's impressive, given California is the largest market in the U.S for plug-ins.

Over 30,000 plug-in vehicles roam the state's roads, making up 35 percent of the U.S. total. It's a tally that increases every month too, to the tune of around 2,500 vehicles at the current rate.

Climate conditions, driving conditions and the state's healthy plug-in vehicle rebates mean there are few better places to own an electric vehicle, the CCSE survey confirming that those rebates were an important motivating factor for 95 percent of respondents.

It's worth noting at this point that the vast majority of respondents in the survey are Nissan Leaf owners, at 97 percent--it'd certainly be interesting to see more of a mix with Chevy Volt drivers and now that there are decent numbers on the market, the new Tesla Model S.

Enough range... but not enough range

Other interesting statistics stemming from the survey include just how far respondents drive.

On average, owners drive their cars around 29 miles per day, or around 910 miles per month. A full half of those surveyed drove between 15-30 miles per day.

That tallies with virtually every other previous survey, suggesting Americans as a whole drive little more than this per day--and confirms that even 100-mile electric vehicles comfortably cover the average driver's daily duties. Even so, drivers would still prefer a little more--a whole 40 percent are dissatisfied with their vehicle's range.

How much range is enough range? 150 miles seems to be a suitable figure--57 percent would be "extremely satisfied" by this point.

A telling statistic is that 94 percent of respondends own a regular, internal combustion vehicle--so EVs don't quite replace their regular cars in all scenarios.

Electric cars at charging stations at Disney Family Museum, San Francisco [photo: Wendy Bartlett]

Electric cars at charging stations at Disney Family Museum, San Francisco [photo: Wendy Bartlett]

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Charging for charging

The survey suggests that most drivers charge both at home and at night, when rates are cheapest--as low as $0.60 per hour.

For many it's pretty green too--almost 40 percent of respondents have photovoltaic systems installed at their home.

It's just as well drivers mostly charge at home though, since satisfaction with public charging is still generally low--only 23 percent were satisfied, as of October 2012. However, it's also improving--that figure climbed from just 17 percent in February 2012. Two-thirds said they'd be prepared to pay up to $1 per hour for public charging.

Others charge at the workplace, available to 37 percent of respondents--though they aren't keen on being charged a fee for it, 66 percent reporting they used it less than once a week if they had to pay.


The good news is electric car owners are typically pretty happy with their vehicles.

There's a lot to like about plug-ins not necessarily covered in a survey like this--tanglible factors like refinement and driving characteristics, and the intangibles of knowing you're minimizing your contribution to pollution and greenhouse gases.

At the same time, they're a long way from perfect (at least as far as the survey's majority Leaf owners are concerned)--range could be higher and public charging could be better.

The good news is, virtually all of those factors will only get better from here.

You can view the CCSE survey in its entirety here.


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