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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Who Is Buying Electric Cars in California? Exploring Household and Vehicle Fleet Characteristics of New Plug-In Vehicle Owners


For many years researchers have been trying to predict who would purchase electric vehicles such as plug-in hybrids (PHEV) or battery electric vehicles (BEV). This study explores the characteristics of 1,200 households who actually purchased a new plug-in vehicle in California during 2011-2012. These households are not part of a small scale demonstration project or a limited study, rather part of the new developing market for plug-in vehicles. Most of the owners purchased the Nissan LEAF, a BEV, while small portion of the sample purchased a Chevrolet Volt, a PHEV, or a Tesla roadster, also a BEV. We use the 2009 National household Travel Survey to compare the new plug-in car buyer’s characteristics to the general population and new car buyers in California. We focus on socio-demographic, vehicle fleet characteristics, regional and location factors, and purchasing motivations factors. The result of this study can be used to improve the modeling process of the potential demand for plug-in vehicles and the derived demand for charging and to help in evaluating the impact of policies to increase the demand for these vehicles.

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