Cars like the Nissan Leaf are being predominately purch... Cars like the Nissan Leaf are being predominately purchased by one demographic (Credit: Nissan).
Guess what? Your average electric vehicle buyer is not your typical American.

Electric car buyers are predominantly white, male, well-educated and homeowners, according to a survey of 970 EV owners by the Electric Vehicle Information Exchange (EVIX). Their median household income was $108,624, compared with the U.S. average of $51,914. In other words, except for political leanings, they look just like the members of the U.S. Congress and White House challengers last year who regularly bashed EVs and government subsidy for them.

Rich white men. Who knew?

Of course, these are the same people, demographically speaking, who typically are the first adopters of all new technology. Remember Gordon Gekko and his gigantic cellphone from the 1987 movie Wall Street? Who else at the time could afford a Motorola DynaTac 8000X than a rich guy?

But this is part of the stumbling block that keeps electric vehicles from gaining wide acceptance: The only people who can afford them right now are wealthy who tend to consider image in their car purchase more than buyers with lower family incomes. That's part of what keeps EVs in the political limelight, as taxpayers question whether we should be funding $7,500 coupons for people who could afford these cars even without a rebate. President Obama has even talked about jacking up the subsidy to $10,000.



But EVIX found there's a pool of potential buyers waiting for costs to come down and for the battery capability to increase. Most potential buyers said they're waiting for battery charges to carry the car at least 150 miles before they would buy one.

"Also, this group of respondents said that without financial incentives to reduce the cost of the vehicle, they would not pay current market prices for an EV," said Kara Saltness Norwood, director of EVIX Strategy.

J.D. Power did a similar study recently, finding that electric vehicles will remain a small part of the U.S. market until automakers can lower prices. People considering buying an electric car are looking for lower fuel costs, the group said, which is a hard equation to figure out when vehicle costs are so high.

"Current EV owners focus on the emotional benefits of owning an electric vehicle – which are having a positive effect on the environment – by the way for manufacturers to take EVs to the masses and increase sales is address the economic equation," said Neal Oddes, senior director of the green practice at J.D. Power. "There is still a disconnect between the reality of the cost of an EV and the cost savings consumers want to achieve."

There are few pure electric cars on the market right now - the Nissan Leaf, Tesla Model S, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, Ford Focus EV, Honda Fit EV and the BMW Active-E 1 series. There are several advanced hybrids, like the Chevy Volt which runs on battery power and a backup gas engine that prevents the car from ever running out of power as long as there is gas in the tank.


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