Plug-in electric cars are driving silently off showroom floors in growing numbers--but who is buying them, and why?

Data on electric-car owners can provide valuable insight for policymakers, helping to show which strategies for increased adoption are more likely to work.

Now, one such a resource is available to the public.

2013 Chevrolet Volt in Santa Monica, California [photo: Chris Williams]

2013 Chevrolet Volt in Santa Monica, California [photo: Chris Williams]

The California Air Resources Board (ARB) has put the results of its survey of Golden State plug-in car drivers online, Green Car Congress (via Charged EVs) reports.

The EV Driver Survey Dashboard gives the public access to data from owners who applied for the California Clean Vehicle Rebate Project (CVRP), an incentive program that gives buyers a check for $2,500 after the purchase of a new zero-emission vehicle, or $1,500 for a plug-in hybrid.

The survey data sample represents CVRP applicants who purchased their vehicles between September 2012 and April 2014. The surveys themselves were collected between October 2013 and May 2014.

Data from these respondents can be filtered in a number of ways through the online portal, including by vehicle manufacturer, powertrain technology, and geography.

Participants were asked about such factors as their motivation for buying a plug-in car, demographic information, awareness of region-specific time-of-use electric rates, and their dealership experience.

One theme that emerged quickly is the importance of the CVRP purchase-rebate program of $2,500 for battery-electric cars and $1,500 for plug-in hybrids and range-extended electric vehicles.

2012 Tesla Model S beta vehicle, Fremont, CA, October 2011

2012 Tesla Model S beta vehicle, Fremont, CA, October 2011

More than two-thirds of respondents said the California incentive--along with the $7,500 Federal income-tax credit for electric cars--was either "very important" or "extremely important" in their purchase decision.

The California Center for Sustainable Energy--which administers the CVRP program--has issued more than 60,000 rebates, adding up to over $130 million, since the program began in March 2010.

Between then and March 2014, about 83,000 plug-in electric cars were sold in California--accounting for about 43 percent of all U.S. plug-in sales during that period--and more than 70 percent of Golden State buyers took advantage of the CVRP incentive.

Other than a check from the state government, the data show California buyers were also motivated by saving money on fuel. Fully 37 percent of respondents listed it as the most important reason for their purchase.

Another 21 percent of respondents named reducing environmental impact as their number-one concern. And 15 percent said solo access to carpool lanes was the primary factor in their decision.


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