More than half of car buyers know little about electric cars, if anything


2017 Nissan Leaf

2017 Nissan Leaf

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In the six years since modern electric cars went on sale in large numbers, educating the public has been one of the greatest challenges for advocates of plug-in cars.

Those efforts still have a long way to go, it seems.

Electric cars have become more common over the past few years, but more than half of car buyers still know very little about them—if anything at all.

DON'T MISS: Electric cars are on the market, so where are all the ads? (Dec 2016)

That's according to a new survey of 2,557 U.S. car buyers conducted by Altman Vilandrie & Company (AVC).

The majority of respondents said they were unfamiliar with electric cars, noted Car and Driver (via Charged EVs).

When asked to describe their knowledge of electric cars, about 60 percent of respondents chose the multiple-choice answers "I've never heard of electric vehicles" or "I've heard of electric vehicles, but I don't know much about them."

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV, road test, California coastline, Sep 2016

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV, road test, California coastline, Sep 2016

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In addition, 80 percent said they had never driven an electric car, or even ridden in one as a passenger.

Even respondents who were somewhat familiar with electric cars did not necessarily have a completely positive view of them, the survey suggested.

According to AVC, 85 percent said current public charging infrastructure was inadequate, and 74 percent said charging takes too long.

CHECK OUT: How can automakers sell more electric cars? Sierra Club report has suggestions (Aug 2016)

Regarding the cars themselves, 83 percent said current models are too expensive.

Younger and wealthier consumers proved marginally more likely to buy electric cars than other demographics.

Of those surveyed, 18 percent of 25-34-year-olds and 17 percent of those earning $100,000 or more per year said they planned on making an electric car their next purchase.

2017 Volkswagen e-Golf

2017 Volkswagen e-Golf

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The survey also found that buyers over age 64 preferred Ford and Volkswagen, while respondents aged 18 to 24 preferred Tesla.

Overall, Tesla and Volkswagen were the brands respondents said they were most likely to buy an electric car from, although VW's e-Golf is only available in certain states.

As far as boosting electric-car sales, AVC said adoption rates could grow significantly if prices were lower.

Specifically, it said electric-car sales could grow to 24 times their current level if more cars were priced around $35,000—which may not be an unattainable goal.

Tesla Model 3 design prototype - reveal event - March 2016

Tesla Model 3 design prototype - reveal event - March 2016

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The 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV offers an EPA-rated 238-mile range at a base price of $37,495, while Tesla has said its Model 3 will have a 215-mile range, and a base price of $35,000.

Other 200-mile electric cars in that price range are expected to follow, including a second-generation Nissan Leaf.

But will the existence of these models matter if car buyers continue to be largely ignorant of electric cars overall?

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