When will major buyer demand for electric cars arrive? Poll results

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2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV electric cars outside dealership    [photo: Patrick Reid]

With modern electric cars about to enter their eighth year on sale, they remain a tiny fraction of the North American and global markets.

While plug-in models now make up almost 1 of every 20 vehicles sold in California, in the U.S. overall and globally it's more like 1 percent.

The hurdles to getting shoppers to consider electric cars are well-documented—high purchase price, lack of awareness, and dealer recalcitrance among them—but analysts are confident their time will come.

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The question is when "consumer pull" will start to supplant "regulatory push" and the sales curve for electric cars will start to rise much more rapidly.

That's what sales experts call a "hockey stick" curve.

We polled our Twitter followers about exactly when that would start to happen, asking them when they thought "major buyer demand" for electric cars would arrive.

One in five respondents (exactly 20 percent) said it would happen before 2020.

But the vast majority, fully 62 percent, said that moment would come during "2020 to 2025."

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That's remarkably definitive, but it squares with a lot of predictions showing that battery costs will fall enough to make plug-in cars with 200 miles or so of range broadly competitive with their gasoline counterparts by 2025.

Only a small number of participants thought the time would be after 2025.

Teaser for 2018 Nissan Leaf debuting in 2017

Teaser for 2018 Nissan Leaf debuting in 2017

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2018 Nissan Leaf ProPilot Assist

2018 Nissan Leaf ProPilot Assist

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Section of 2018 Nissan Leaf spy shot [image via S. Baldauf/SB-Medien, as used on Motor Authority]

Section of 2018 Nissan Leaf spy shot [image via S. Baldauf/SB-Medien, as used on Motor Authority]

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The 2025-to-2030 period was chosen by 13 percent of survey respondents, and "after 2030" by a mere 5 percent.

As always, these results aren't particularly valid on a scientific basis—but in this case, they square pretty well with industry expectations.

Sales of plug-in electric cars have increased every year since 2011, with the exception of 2015, which saw a slight dip.

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Another spike could reasonably be expected during 2018, when the second-generation Nissan Leaf and the Tesla Model 3 are expected to join the Chevrolet Bolt EV among 200-mile-plus electric cars priced under $40,000.

Whether manufacturers actually want to sell as many electric cars as the market might demand may then become a more relevant question.

That, of course, is an entirely separate topic. And poll.

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