Who Are EV Early Adopters? −

100% Electric Vehicles

Published on January 25th, 2016 | by Zach


Who Are EV Early Adopters?

In our third article pulled from Electric Cars: What Early Adopters & First Followers Want — a new report from CleanTechnica, EV Obsession, and GAS2 — I’m jumping into who the respondents of the surveys were. Given that our readers were primarily the respondents, this is basically a look at who you are.

EV driver incomeOne of the four surveys was directed only at current EV owners and lessees (also referred to “EV drivers” in parts of of this report). Two of the four surveys were directed at both EV drivers and potential EV buyers. One survey was directed only at potential buyers yet to purchase or lease their first EV.

Across the board, the respondents from the two main surveys were heavily male and wealthy.

93.5% of EV drivers were male, and 90.5% of potential buyers were male.

58% of EV drivers indicated their annual household income was over $100,000, while 38% of potential owners/lessees indicated the same.

88.5% of EV drivers indicated that their annual household income was over $50,000, while 75% of potential owners/lessees indicated the same. Note that median household income in the US was $53,657 in 2014.

Wannabe EV Income

Respondents were primarily living in the United States, closely matching CleanTechnica, EV Obsession, and GAS2 readership. The figures were:

  • Owners/lessees: 
75.4% live in the US; 
6.8% Canada; 
5.4% the UK; 
2.6% Australia.
  • Potential buyers: 
62.5% live in the US; 
10.1% Canada; 
6.5% Australia; 
5.8% the UK.

EV driver residence EV wannabe residences

Respondents were also primarily living in small towns and big cities (rather than medium-sized cities). The figures were:

  • Owners/lessees: 
27.3% in cities with over 1 million inhabitants; 
29.4% in towns with under 50,000 inhabitants.
  • Potential buyers: 
24.1% in cities with over 1 million inhabitants; 
27.6% in towns with under 50,000 inhabitants.

cities 1 cities 2 The EV drivers had primarily bought their EVs in just the last 3 years, which is what would be expected looking at overall historical EV sales data. This is how our respondents broke down: 41.1% of EV drivers had their EV for under 1 year, another 20.6% for 1 year, another 24.2% for 2 years, and another 10.9% for 3 years. Only 6.4% had an EV for 4 years or more.

no years

Somewhat surprisingly, 20.6% of respondents stated that they have only one car — seemingly indicating that having only an EV is already adequate for many individuals. 45.8% have 2 cars, and 33.6% have more than 2 cars.

no of carsAdmittedly, we did not identify how these percentages were split between owners of plug-in hybrid electric cars (which essentially have no range limitations), Tesla owners (which typically don’t have notable range limitations), and owners of fully electric non-Tesla cars (i.e., fully electric cars with under 100 miles of range on a full charge). In future surveys on this topic, responses should be segmented according to these distinctly different types of EVs.

Even more surprisingly than the point above, though, 76.4% of EV owner/lessee respondents said that they had a good buying experience, while 17% indicated “meh” and only 6.6% indicated not having a good buying experience.

buying experienceGiven the widespread criticism of conventional dealers when it comes to selling EVs, and a number of “horror stories” in that regard, I expected the responses to be much more negative.

Only 22.5% of respondents had a Tesla (a Model S or a Roadster), so that seems to indicate that 69.5% of non-Tesla buyers had a good buying experience (and that’s assuming that every single Tesla buyer had a good buying experience, which is probably not the case… but pretty close). Color me shocked.

PHEV non-ownersAmong the potential first-time EV buyers/lessees, 37% wouldn’t consider a PHEV or EREV. Among those who would consider a PHEV/EREV, 16% want a minimum of 50 miles of electric range, and 14% want a minimum of 60 miles of electric range.

52% of respondents intend to never buy or lease a PHEV/EREV. Of the remaining respondents, the breakdown as far as when they intend to get one is as follows:

  • 23.2% within 1 year
  • 18.5% within 2 years
  • 18.3% within 3 years
  • 7.8% within 4 years
  • 18.6% within 5 years

So, 86.4% of remaining respondents plan to get one within 5 years.

EREV PHEV timeOver 50% of potential first-time buyers plan to buy or lease a fully electric car within the next 3 years, with the general breakdown as follows:

  • 16.5% within 1 year
  • 17.9% within 2 years
  • 21.5% within 3 years
  • 7.5% within 4 years
  • 16.5% within 5 years

So, 72% of remaining respondents plan to get a pure EV within 5 years.

As far as buying vs leasing, 71% of owners/lessees would buy rather than lease their next EV, while 69% of potential owners plan to only buy, 15% plan to only lease, and 15% plan to both buy and lease. Among existing EV drivers, 60% only bought their EVs, 34% only leased, and 5% did both.

Regarding buying new versus used, 65% of respondents plan to get a new EV, 22% plan to get a used EV, and 13% don’t know yet.

Beyond questions about their cars and potential cars, we asked respondents a few questions regarding energy efficiency and solar power. As expected, responses from EV drivers indicated that driving electric does improve ones efficiency.

Specifically, with regard to driving efficiency, we asked, “Does owning/leasing an EV make you drive more efficiently (not counting the efficiency boost you get simply from driving electric)?” 70% of respondents said that it does. 6% weren’t sure, and only 24% said, “No.”

energy efficient driving

Regarding energy conservation at home, we asked, “Does owning/leasing an EV make you conserve energy in your home more?” 41% of people responded, “Yes,” 17% “Not Sure,” and 42% “No.”

energy conservation

In terms of solar power, 37.5% of current EV drivers have home solar panels, while 21% of potential EV drivers have home solar panels. Clearly, these percentages are much higher than for the populace at large.

solar owners solar non-owners

You can download the full report here.

Report sponsors include Cost of Solar, Plugless Power, the Low Voltage Vehicle Electrification Event, and Pono Home.


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About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy since 2009.

Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he’s the founder and director of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity.

Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, SCTY, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB. After years of covering solar and EVs, he simply had a lot of faith in these companies and felt like they were good companies to invest in as a portion of his retirement strategy.

To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.

  • Fran

    While the info here is not particularly surprising (aside from the dealer experience!) it is nonetheless interesting to see what we may have just assumed as EV types and Clean Technica readers quantified. I do take issue with the reference as “wealthy” at household incomes over 100k. Since the household moniker implies at least two incomes of ~ 50k or perhaps just over it is hardly “wealthy” by today’s standards. Now if you have info that a large chunk of that group was well north of that figure that is a whole different socio-economic level. Case in point…my wife and I both retired in 2015. Up to that point we broke the 100k barrier only recently after 45 years in the workplace (and were in that group for the poll) but we are hardly what we’d call wealthy.

    • Yeah, “wealthy” seems stretching it. You were $100K, but if you’re truly retired, you’re now 0, which makes average income of (surprise!) $50K, about that of national average. That national average figure includes kids just starting out in life and retirees and singles. In places where EV have been selling well (CA), $100K household in bay area is middle if not lower middle, far from wealthy.

      • TrueNorth00

        The Bay Area is exceptional. And represents 1% of the country’s population.

        With more than half of all buyers well above the highest median income of any state, EV buyer’s are most certainly well off. “Rich” might be a stretch. More like Upper Middle Class.


    • TrueNorth00

      $100k is a good bit over the national average. In fact, just shy of double. So, yes, to the average American, these folks would be quite wealthy.

      Fully 50% of EV buyers are over $80k. That’s $8000 over the highest median income of any state. And the majority of buyers have more than one vehicle in their household. These people are most certainly not average. Closer to Upper Middle Class really:


      • With roughly 50% of Americans paying no federal income tax, most due lack of enough income, other half would have to earn lot more than average. While I don’t know if that would be $100K on average among those who can afford to pay fed income tax, $53K is lot lower than it sounds.

        Another thing to consider is ~$35K average price of new car. From perspective of those not making enough to pay federal income tax, anyone buying a new car would seem rich, not just EV.

        • TrueNorth00

          I’m not going to get into a debate on tax policy. The point I was trying to make is that far from being middle class, the average EV buyer, from the above stats, is clearly a little wealthier than average. It’s an indication of how far along we are the mass adoption curve.

  • Lots of great info! But income comparison against comparable would be more interesting. National average includes people just starting out (ie, 18 year olds) and retirees on part time job.

    People who bought early BEV (ie, Leaf) did not have charging infrastructure. They needed a second gas car. They were also able to buy $30K “city” car. So the interesting income would be households of comparable (ie, 2 cars and “boutique” car). Unfortunately, this number isn’t easy to come by. But my gut feeling is that EV adoption was significant among those group.

    Going forward, with expanding charging infrastructure and used Leaf dropping in value, hopefully more people will drive EV. And if Chevy decide to continue SparkEV and fed tax subsidy rolls over to help the poor buy EV, it could be direct competition to sub $20K gas cars like Versa, Elantra, Corolla.

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