Electric-Car Buyers Not As Loyal To The Plug As They Think

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2016 Nissan Leaf

2016 Nissan Leaf

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It's often said that once you drive an electric car, you'll never want to go back to one with a conventional engine.

And various surveys of first-time drivers to actual plug-in car buyers support that notion.

But some new data indicate that people who've owned an electric car don't, in fact, always buy another one.

DON'T MISS: Electric Car Drivers Tell Ford: We'll Never Go Back To Gasoline

First, the case for the "love 'em" side.

Take the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid, which GM says earns the highest customer satisfaction scores of any vehicle the company has ever sold: virtually every Volt owner rates it positively.

2013 Chevrolet Volt, Catskill Mountains, Oct 2012

2013 Chevrolet Volt, Catskill Mountains, Oct 2012

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Or consider a survey by Ford of 10,000 drivers of both battery-electric cars and plug-in hybrids, which found nine out of 10 saying they wouldn't go back to cars with internal-combustion engines,

A whopping 92 percent of battery-electric drivers, and 94 percent of plug-in hybrid drivers, plan to purchase another plug-in car as their next vehicle.

ALSO SEE: More Data Confirms: Electric-Car Drivers Really Love Their Cars (Jun 2014)

But intentions and actions may not necessarily be the same. Data from car-shopping site Edmunds says that love for plug-in cars isn't matching up with new-car purchases.

BMW i3 and Volkswagen e-Golf electric cars using Combined Charging System (CCS) DC fast charging

BMW i3 and Volkswagen e-Golf electric cars using Combined Charging System (CCS) DC fast charging

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According to Edmunds data, only 29 percent of people who traded in an electric-powered vehicle (including pure EVs and plug-in hybrid cars) this year went on to purchase another electric-powered vehicle.

Interestingly, about 33 percent of electric-powered trade-ins this year instead went toward a new truck or SUV.

Several factors might explain this. One is that electric-car drivers are waiting for longer-range models to be introduced over the next few years.

The electric range of plug-in hybrids will rise from the initial 11 to 38 miles to a broader array of models with 30 to 53 miles.

And the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV will kick off an era of affordable battery-electric cars with 200 miles or more of range.

It's expected to be followed by a Nissan Leaf with similar range, perhaps a longer-range BMW i3, and at some point, the 200-mile Tesla Model 3 as well.

CHECK OUT: Electric Cars' Secret Advantage: They're Just Nicer To Drive (Apr 2012)

Other factors might include relocation, changing family and household needs, or a switch to vehicle types not currently offered as electric cars.

But whatever the reasons, it's crucial to keep in mind that what people say they intend to do isn't always matched by their actions.

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