A survey of car buyers has found a surprisingly high level of support for electric cars–but also found limited knowledge, which may be holding some buyers back.

The survey was weighted toward drivers in the Northeast, and was sponsored by five Northeastern states. The survey did not directly ask how many respondents planned to buy an electric car, but 50 percent said that purchase incentives aren't high enough.

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Seven Northeastern states, all of which follow California's mandate for zero-emissions vehicles, have banded together to try to get more buyers to demand electric cars in their states, and thus get automakers to offer more electric cars for sale there.

Five of those Northeastern states sponsored this survey, including Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The survey was taken nationwide, but those five states were intentionally oversampled to weigh the opinions of their residents more heavily.

While several plug-in cars are available nationwide and many are officially offered in any state that follows California's electric car mandates, in reality few models are actually sold outside of California and Oregon.

Electric car benefits from Drive Change consumer survey

Electric car benefits from Drive Change consumer survey

In the online survey of 1,002 consumers likely to buy a car in the next year, the survey found that only 43 percent of buyers considered themselves knowledgeable about electric cars, but 73 percent said they were interested in learning more. Some 71 percent would like to see more types of electric cars on the market, such as SUVs and pickups.

More than four-fifths of respondents (82 percent) believe electric cars are a practical evolution of technology, while only 10 percent deemed electric vehicles an unnecessary luxury in the same question. The other 8 percent weren't sure.

The runaway reason for wanting electric cars, cited by 96 percent of respondents, was to save money, either specifically on fuel (57 percent), or overall (39 percent.) Helping the environment came in second, also at 39 percent. Tax incentives came in third at 28 percent.

When it came to reasons to avoid buying an electric car, lack of charging stations was the number one reason, cited by 38 percent of respondents. Charging time and range were close behind at 36 percent and 34 percent, respectively. The Northeast has fewer public charging stations than California, where the bulk of electric cars are sold. 

High up-front costs would dissuade 31 percent of buyers from choosing an electric car, and another 24 percent of those intending to buy a new car in the next year said it would be difficult to install a charger where they live.

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More than half of respondents (56 percent) said they were aware of tax incentives, and large minorities were aware of other incentives such as charging, free parking, and carpool-lane access.

When it comes to saving money, 63 percent of respondents even believe electric cars will achieve that for them, yet more than half thought the incentives aren't enough to get them to buy an electric car.

The poll was conducted in conjunction with the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management as part of its Drive Change, Drive Electric program, along with  the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of Global Automakers. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 percent.