What is the maximum electric-car price for mass-market success? Poll results

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2016 Nissan Leaf SL, Hudson Valley, NY, Dec 2015

2016 Nissan Leaf SL, Hudson Valley, NY, Dec 2015

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A few weeks ago, we asked our Twitter followers how low electric-car prices would have to go for them to succeed in the market.

The answers were revealing, because the sweet spot seemed to be around $25,000, the price chosen by half the respondents.

Another quarter of the survey participants chose $30,000 (not so coincidentally, the effective post-incentive cost of the very cheapest 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV).

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But we were curious about how much flexibility there was in that pricing, so we asked the question a different way.

In a new survey, rather than asking how low, we asked how high the price for an electric car could go.

The answers were remarkably consistent with the earlier poll.

More than one-third of respondents (34 percent) said $30,000.

And the bulk of the rest of the survey participants were evenly split between a maximum price of $25,000 (26 percent) and $35,000 (27 percent).

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Only 13 percent chose "$20,000 or less" as the highest price for an electric car to succeed.

Interestingly, $30,000 is slightly below the average transaction price for a new passenger vehicle sold in the U.S. this year.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

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That number now hovers around $34,000, with continuing low interest rates and longer loan terms enabling larger vehicles to be sold given continuing low gasoline prices.

But whether carmakers can adequately explain and market the notion of sticker price versus effective price remains to be determined.

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Not every buyer will necessarily qualify for the full $7,500 federal income-tax credit offered for electric cars from the tiny Mitsubishi i-MiEV to the priciest Tesla Model X P100D.

On the other hand, many "buyers" are actually choosing to lease their electric cars, which allows the tax credit to be realized immediately in the form of lower monthly payments.

It also provides a hedge against rapidly improving battery technology and falling prices for longer-range electric cars.

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