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Who Buys Electric Vehicles? Discover the Three Key Groups Driving the EV Revolution


Three groups of people traditionally buy electric vehicles. Taken from a GE survey of over 1,000 consumers, the 50 percent that owned electric vehicles and 50 percent that did not are:

The Environmentally Conscious

This group sees electric vehicles as symbolizing their commitment to the planet’s sustainability and fossil fuel independence.

Technology and Car Enthusiasts

Environmental benefits aside, they see the technology as simply cool and representing cutting-edge innovation that puts them ahead of the pack. This is the group known as early adopters.

Frugal Travelers

They see electric vehicles as a way to permanently reduce their travel costs with the added benefit of being environmentally friendly.

The EV Experience: A Different Kind of Drive

There is no question that driving and owning an electric vehicle is different from driving a traditional gasoline-powered vehicle. There is no vibrating noisy engine up front, the car is well-balanced, so the ride is very smooth, and all of the power of the electric power system is available instantly, so you have outstanding acceleration. Maintenance is very low, and you never have to stop for fuel. Your home becomes the fuel stop, so each evening you plug in and leave the following morning with a range of 230 miles. Installing a charging station in your home, roughly $1,500, is just part of the responsible person’s cost of owning an EV.

Real-Life Commuting

I do not know a single person that drives 230 miles per day to and from work and running family errands. We have fuel stops on every corner for fossil fuel vehicles because we do not have fuel at home, and we do not have to be disciplined to drive a gasoline-powered car. With an EV, you drive home in the evening, pop the electric vehicle connection cap, plug the car in, and in the morning, you have 230 miles, or 90 miles in some EVs, of range for your day. You are ready for your day of a typical 40-mile commute at a cost of approximately $1.75. No range anxiety here, just a normal workday.

Addressing Range Anxiety

Range anxiety certainly seems to be a part of the ownership of an electric vehicle. The electric vehicle driver has a certain amount of planning required depending on their trip. Studies show that most Americans drive only 30 to 40 miles per day. Most EV owners live in a suburban home with a charging station for their vehicle.

The Convenience of Home Charging

EV drivers never have to stop for fuel. EV drivers simply go home and charge the vehicle overnight and the next morning they are ready for their day of driving downtown and doing most of the types of trips they could do in a day, then drive home, plug it in, and the next morning they are ready again. Range anxiety can become a real factor if you venture outside the standard workday trip and do not plan the number of additional miles needed, and then make the miles added at the lunch stop exceed the requirements. A gas vehicle never has to worry about this small anxiety issue. To remove this range anxiety issue, most EV owners also have a second vehicle in the family that can substitute for the EV on those nonstandard days. I have had electric vehicles for 8 years and I have to say there is no good reason for range anxiety. For most day-to-day driving ranges, anxiety is just not necessary. Below is the map of charge point stations across the U.S. If you drill down, it is easy to find a charging station near you and know all of the details like, type of station, availability, and exact location.

Practical Use Cases

I also have a small EV (Electric Smart Car) in Los Angeles that is used for various work purposes on the west coast. This vehicle is a mid-range electric vehicle that gets somewhere between 70 and 80 miles to a charge, depending on the type of trip. Great fun to drive and very inexpensive for tooling around a normal day in LA, but not so good for a trip. Every now and then I try to test my range anxiety skills and push the purpose of this vehicle.

Personal Experiences and Insights

I absolutely love my electric vehicles, and as most people in the parking business know, I am kind of a risk taker. But electric vehicles, at least today, are limited to the normal family trip purposes of going to work, dropping kids off at school (well, grandkids), running around the city and back home to plug in. Going to visit grandma on the weekend or a trip to the mountains may be better left to the Lincoln Aviator.

Challenges in Charging Infrastructure

There are also a certain group of people who think that a charging station is there just for them and they do not even bother plugging their vehicle in. All of the major charge providers show the location of their charging stations and show the current status of each station. For EV owners that are pushing the range anxiety a little, having the ability to know exactly where the charging stations are located and if they are available is unbelievably valuable. However, if someone just parks in the space, the station on the map shows available then the EV driver arrives at the station with 1 mile left in the battery only to find a Tesla parked, but not charging. I have never experienced that, but I have heard the stories.

Economic Implications of EV Charging Stations

We are in the business of charging for a parking space for time. Time has a value associated with it. Monthly parkers who park at charging stations all day for a charge that should only take a couple of hours, or just pretend to be charging and staying all day are paying for a non-reserved monthly space but using it as a reserved space. Patrolling charging stations takes a lot of manpower and cost added to the facility’s annual operating expenses, making the cost of an EV space considerably more than the cost of a regular non-reserved or even a reserved space. It is a convenience to some of the visitors or tenants of the building, but it is an added service that has a value, and that value is always more than the price on the rate sign.

The Environmental Impact of EVs

Over the last decade, there has been an increase in the purchase of electric vehicles (EV). One draw for many people who decide to buy an electric car is that EVs are often considered to be one of the most sustainable forms of transportation. Unlike hybrid vehicles or gas-powered cars, EVs run solely on electric power – depending on how that electric power is produced, your EV can be run 100 percent on sustainable, renewable resources. There are four factors to consider when evaluating the impact of electric cars on the environment: tailpipe emissions, well-to-wheel emissions, the energy source that charges the battery, and the car’s efficiency.

Electric Car Emissions: Tailpipe and Well-to-Wheel

When an electric vehicle is running on electricity, it emits no tailpipe (also known as direct) emissions. When evaluated on that factor alone, EVs are a lot more eco-friendly than conventional gasoline-powered vehicles on the market today. However, when evaluating the eco-friendliness of an electric vehicle, you also need to take the “well-to-wheel” emissions into account. This is an overarching term that includes greenhouse gas and air pollutants that are emitted to produce and distribute the energy being used to power the car. Electricity production results in a varying amount of emissions, depending on the resource. While “being green” in the act of driving your electric vehicle is a start, if your primary goal in purchasing an electric vehicle is to reduce your greenhouse gas and pollutants emissions, you should also prioritize using zero-emissions electricity wherever possible.

Well-to-Wheel Emissions: A Comparison

When taking well-to-wheel emissions into account, all-electric vehicles emit an average of around 4,450 pounds of CO2 equivalent each year. By comparison, conventional gasoline cars will emit over twice as much annually. The amount of well-to-wheel emissions your EV is responsible for is largely dependent on your geographic area and the energy sources most commonly used for electricity.

Optimizing EV Ownership

Purchasing an EV and getting the most out of it means the purchase must be done with a very trip-specific mindset. It is very efficient to have a charging station at home, used for the average commute round trip and the standard family-oriented trips around the community. These are the trips that fit the EV’s daily range, have the most time driving slowly or sitting in traffic (the most inefficient driving for gasoline-powered vehicles), make the driver feel they have a higher technology vehicle, and are contributing to the protection of the environment. Range anxiety may at some point be a part of every EV owner’s life, but basically, the responsible person can own an EV, get the most out of it and not suffer range anxiety.

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