California Plug-in Electric Vehicle Owner Survey Results

by Ernie Hernandez on August 24, 2012

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California Center for Sustainable Energy completes EV Survey

The California Center for Sustainable Energy surveyed more than 2,500 electric vehicle (EV) owners to provide the state with its most comprehensive data compiled to date regarding the usage of EVs in California. Of the 2,526 vehicle owners selected for the survey, 1,419 vehicle owners chose to respond, which demonstrates the willingness of the EV community to contribute to the knowledge base to improve the usage and perception of the electric car as a true alternative to a gasoline or other conventionally fuelled vehicle. Over a third of all plug-in vehicles in the United States are owned by Californians (12,000+), with roughly 1,000 more being added each month within the state, including plug-in hybrids.

Here are some quick highlights before we take a closer look at the results:

  • 89% of owners use their plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) as their primary vehicle, even though 95% also own a conventional fuel vehicle
  • Owners average 800 miles per month in their PEV
  • 39% of PEV owners also have a home solar energy system with 17% more considering installing one within the next year
  • 91% have installed a residential Level 2 charging station
  • 83% of respondents were either Dissatisfied or Extremely dissatisfied with the current public charging infrastructure in California
  • Roughly two-thirds of PEV charging takes place during off-peak hours

Vehicle Charging

One major claim against EV adoption is the strain that it would put on a heavily burdened electric grid system. As can be seen in the above summary, the majority of EV owners are already charging during off-peak hours. One must keep in mind though that 39 percent of all PEV owners in California also own a solar energy system. Based on survey responses, these are the EV owners more likely to charge during on-peak hours, so they are not putting any additional strain on the grid as they are producing their own power.

Let’s step back from the survey for a moment and speculate about EV owners in other states. Even if the majority do not choose to install a solar energy system, the likelihood is that these owners will use the charge timer in the car or in their charging station to charge during non-peak hours. Of the five major electric utility providers in California, all of them offer time of use (TOU) rates, which offer lower rates for off-peak and super-off-peak than on-peak usage. We expect this rate structure to be embraced in other regions of the country also. Based on survey respondents, the availability of TOU rates impacted charging behavior to charge during reduced cost off-peak or super-off-peak rate periods. We suspect that the same would be true in any area of the country. We have written about this before, but now we have this study to point to as a reference.

Other points worth noting

  • 96% of survey respondents are Nissan LEAF owners
  • 71% of primary PEV drivers are male
  • The vast majority use their PEV for commuting, personal errands, and shopping
  • Most rely on their conventional fuel vehicle for business and vacation travel
  • 96% own their own home
  • 66% drive 30 miles per day or less
  • 94% drive 45 miles per day or less
  • 87% have a bachelor’s degree or higher, with 52% having a post-graduate degree

Finally, one point that surprised us the most – of the 12,000 EV owners in California only 8,000 have claimed Clean Vehicle Rebate Project checks for a $1,500 to $2,500 reduction in the price of their PEV. These rebate checks can be applied for by purchasers of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) such as the LEAF, but also by plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), Commercial zero-emission vehicles (trucks), Neighborhood electric vehicles (NEVs) and Zero-emission motorcycles. We suppose that some of these vehicles may have been acquired prior to the initiation of the program, but there are possibly some that have yet to submit their rebate application.

The survey link above points to a summary of the survey. A link within the summary points to the survey results. Additionally, further analysis will take place regarding public charging infrastructure; the link between PEV ownership and solar installations; and TOU rate structures and their influence on charging behaviors. Based on the high dissatisfaction rating with the public charging infrastructure, our thought is that this area will be the first to get significant attention. The installation of an evenly distributed quick charge network is a requisite to further the greater adoption of BEVs and PEVs.

Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

gtbhawaii November 25, 2012 at 2:33 pm

Aloha,

Are there still rebate programs in place for purchasers of 2013 ev’s, or bev’s? I have just ordered the 2013 Zero DS (electric) Motorcycle – in Colorado there is a state rebate of $6000, but what about Hwawaii, or the rest of the country?

Does anyone know if the “plug” rebate is coming back? Instead of a $42,000 rebate for a Tesla; how about making all rebates $5,000 – $10000, and broaden the base of ev owners.

Reply

Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) November 26, 2012 at 9:15 pm

Just did some quick research. It seems the Federal tax incentive for electric motorcycles expired at the end of 2011 (found here on the Brammo site). Some states (apparently not Hawaii) offer some state incentives (found here on the Zero site). Hope that helps.

Regarding electric cars – there is an up to $7,500 Federal Tax Credit (found here). In addition, several states offer additional incentives. Check with your own state to find out more. Just Google “Whatever State electric vehicle incentives”

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