A survey conducted by MBA students at the University of Michigan shows that contrary to popular belief, a large percentage of potential electric vehicle buyers would be willing to trade off vehicle range for price.

The survey, released by Norwegian based electric car company Think, appears to have two main camps of users.

One is willing to reduce the range of an EV from 100 miles per charge to between 70 and 80 miles if the retail price drops by $5000; the other would pay a premium of $5000 over the price of a 100-mile vehicle to receive a 150- to 160-mile range.

The results open up the possibility that future electric cars could be offered with different battery sizes for differing consumer requirements.

Charging Cord

Charging Cord

The survey was completed by 367 consumers, and respondents' answers were screened by MBAs from the Ross School of Business.

But of the answers received, only those from consumers most likely to consider an electric vehicle similar to the Think made it to the survey.  This resulted in a mere 94 answers making the analysis, hardly representative of a mainstream purchasing public.

That said,  the concept offering different capacity battery packs is an enticing one, especially if the result is more affordable electric cars.

Offering vehicles with different engine-and-gearbox combinations is standard for gasoline fueled cars. While the size of the fuel tank remains the same, different engine and gearbox combinations produce different efficiency figures.

Offering a consumer the choice of three different battery pack configurations, with an option to upgrade or downgrade pack capacity at a later date, could revolutionize electric vehicle pricing structure.

A drop of $5,000 in the $30,000 price of an electric vehicle such as the 2011 Nissan Leaf might dramatically increase sales. Combine this with a federal tax rebate of $7,500 and the price would become ultra-competitive for anyone requiring a range of only 80 miles per charge.

Since most Americans live within 20 miles of work, a range of 80 miles per charge is more than enough for most consumers only needing an efficient commuter vehicle.

But for sub-100 mile EVs to be considered by most consumers as primary vehicles, charging infrastructure will have to become more prevalent or  battery swap technologies will have to be built in. Otherwise, such electric vehicles are likely to remain second or third cars in most households.