AAA predicts healthy future for electric vehicles

While gas prices in the United States are about 40 percent lower than they were five years ago, AAA is predicting that there will still be a robust interest in electric vehicles in the future.

The organization recently conducted two random surveys that collected responses from 1,004 respondents. Fifteen percent said they will likely buy an electric vehicle the next time they get a new or used vehicle. This is almost equal to the share of respondents planning to get a pickup truck (16 percent).

Younger buyers were even more likely to consider an electric vehicle. Eighteen percent of those between the ages of 18 and 36 said they will probably get an electric vehicle for their next automotive purchase, compared to 10 percent of respondents between the ages of 53 and 71.

Thirty-two percent of respondents said they would prefer to purchase a gas-electric hybrid vehicle. This share included 40 percent of those between the ages of 18 and 36, 32 percent of those between the ages of 37 and 52, and 22 percent of those between the ages of 37 and 52.

"With their lower ownership costs and compatibility with emerging autonomous technologies, electric vehicles are poised to be a key vehicle of the future," said Gregg Brannon, director of automotive engineering at AAA. "Tesla—a standout in AAA's evaluations—has helped widen the appeal of electric vehicles by showing they can be stylish, performance-focused, and filled with cutting-edge technology."

Among those who said they will likely buy an electric vehicle, 87 percent said they were motivated by concern for the environment. Sixty-two percent said they believed they would be able to realize long-term cost savings, 52 percent wanted to have access to cutting-edge technology, and 29 percent said it would give them access to carpool lanes.

Most respondents reported that they lived within the range of existing electric vehicles, with an average round trip distance of 46 miles. Sixty-six percent said they travel less than 30 miles round trip for their job, while 17 percent drove 31 to 60 miles and another 17 percent drove more than 60 miles.

Charging infrastructure remained the key concern for drivers who said they were undecided or unwilling to purchase an electric vehicle. Sixty-nine percent said they didn't think there were enough charging stations available, and 68 percent worried about running out of charge. Other concerns included higher purchase costs (57 percent) and battery replacement or repair costs (55 percent).

"Range anxiety stems from seeing gas stations, not charging stations, on every corner," said Brannon. "While electric vehicles may not yet fit every lifestyle, the number of charging stations has quadrupled over the last five years and battery ranges support average commutes."

Fuel economy was a less pressing concern in choosing a new vehicle, although 70 percent of respondents said they consider it important. Ninety-three percent said reliability was important, 71 percent cited cost, and 70 percent cited crash ratings. Other factors considered important in vehicle choice included performance (69 percent), safety features (50 percent), and brand (48 percent).

Forty-three percent said they will likely get a car for their next vehicle purchase. Twenty-six percent favored an SUV, 16 percent wanted a pickup truck, 5 percent were considering a minivan, and 1 percent said they would likely get a motorcycle. Seven percent were undecided.

AAA also announced its Top Green Vehicle awards based on ratings from tests conducted at the Automobile Club of Southern California's Automotive Research Center. Electric, hybrid, compressed natural gas, diesel, and high fuel economy vehicles were rated based on ride performance, quality, and safety for the annual AAA Green Car Guide.

Tesla's Model S X 75D was named best overall green vehicle as well as best in the SUV category. The automaker's Model S 60 was named best large car.

Other winners included the Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier (subcompact car), Volkswagen e-Golf SE (compact car), Lexus GS 450h F Sport (midsize car), and Ford F150 XLT Super Crew (pickup).

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