Updated Jun 1, 2018

Exclusive poll: Electric cars show growth potential despite doubts

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Data: Survey Monkey poll conducted May 22-24, 2018. Poll methodology; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios

Fourteen percent of U.S. adults say they're either "extremely" or "very" likely to go electric with their next car purchase or lease, while a combined 62% said they would probably steer clear, according to a new Axios/SurveyMonkey poll. Another 23 percent said they were "somewhat likely" to get an electric car.

Why it matters: Even though most of the public is still wary of electric cars, the findings actually show that electric car sales have room to grow massively in the U.S. — because even the small percentages of people who say they're interested suggest a market far bigger than the people who buy electric vehicles now.

One level deeper: Sales of pure electric and plug-in hybrid electric cars in the U.S. last year were close to 200,000 combined. That's a little more than 1 percent of the country's roughly 17 million auto sales.

That means if the preferences revealed in the survey begin translating into actual consumer behavior in coming years, sales that are already growing are poised to expand greatly.

  • “Those numbers actually tell us that, given the level of education of the market as it is now, there is still quite a lot of space to grow for electrification,” Bloomberg New Energy Finance analyst Salim Morsy tells Axios.

Yes, but: There are still plenty of factors that can prevent pro-electric consumers from making the leap, including limits on vehicle availability in some regions, the number of models to choose from and many other factors that influence decisions.

The poll also reveals several other views about electric vehicles. A few takeaways:

  • Among the people who might go electric with their next vehicle, 73 percent of respondents selected environmental benefits as one of the reasons and 72 percent cited savings on gasoline.
  • Thirty-six percent said the convenience of home charging could be a reason to buy electric.

The catch: 15 percent of respondents likely to purchase an electric vehicle would like to be able to drive 300 miles before re-charging, and 40 percent would like to go 350 miles.

  • That signals a potential hurdle to widespread consumer adoption of pure electrics, because vehicles priced for the mass-market don't go that far.
  • For instance, the base model Nissan Leaf has a 150-mile range, the Chevy Bolt is listed at 238 miles, and the base model Tesla Model 3 — which is not yet available — has a 220-mile range.

Methodology: This Axios/SurveyMonkey online poll was conducted May 22-24, 2018 among 2,586 adults in the United States. The modeled error estimate for the full sample is 3 percentage points. Respondents for this survey were selected from the nearly 3 million people who take surveys on the SurveyMonkey platform each day.

Data have been weighted for age, race, sex, education, and geography using the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to reflect the demographic composition of the United States age 18 and over. Crosstabs available here.

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