Survey finds electric car buyers motivated by environmental concerns, technology

By Todd Woody
December 8, 2010

RTXVC88.jpgWith the first mass-market electric cars hitting the streets this month in the United States, one question looms: Who will buy these cutting-edge vehicles?

General Electric commissioned a survey to find out and the results shed some light on what is likely to motivate different kinds of potential electric car buyers.

The global conglomerate, of course, has a vested interest in promoting the electric car market. GE has its corporate hands in everything from batteries to charging stations to smart grid technology that will be crucial to managing electric cars interaction with utilities.

A research firm surveyed 1,000 people about their thoughts on electric cars. Half were drivers of gasoline-powered cars and the other half drove hybrid or electric cars.

Three types of buyers emerged – the environmentally conscious, tech-loving gearheads and the frugal.

Not surprisingly, self-identified green consumers are motivated by environmental considerations when deciding whether to buy an electric car. One hundred percent of those surveyed said they worried about the environmental impact of cars and the U.S.’ dependence on foreign oil. One hundred percent of them also believe global warming “is a real threat to the planet.”

Only 15 percent of green consumers said they “loved cars” while 44 percent of those surveyed said they were “really into technology and gadgets.” But nearly half agreed that the car they drive expresses their personality.

For early-adopting technology enthusiasts, though, environmental concerns take a back seat to cool wheels. Eighty-one percent are “really into technology and gadgets” and 61 percent love cars. While 85 percent of them share green consumers’ concerns over dependence on foreign oil, only 65 percent of those surveyed were “very concerned about the environmental impact of cars” and 62 percent believe global warming is a threat. Sixty-two percent of the early adopters said you are what you drive.

Marketing expensive electric cars to the miserly is going to be a tough sell, the survey shows. Nearly half of whom GE calls “frugal travelers” said they are skeptical of buying new technology and only 31 percent “love cars.”

But they do share the other respondents concerns over imported oil, with 92 percent very concerned about such dependence.

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