As consumers continue making our homes smarter, families healthier and lives greener, we are increasingly reminded of the carbon footprint we leave behind. As more electric vehicles crop up across the auto industry, it begs the question: Will low-pollutant, electric vehicles disrupt the auto industry and dominate the roads a generation from now?
Just as electric vehicle sales have climbed steadily over the last five years, so have the searches around electric cars. We charted the search volume of variations on the term “electric car” over the last three years, and you can see a consistent rise in consumer interest — particularly this year.
So who are these electric car fans? Are they just a fringe segment of eco-friendly consumers, or do they represent the future of the auto industry?
The Electric Vehicle Audience
Using the AudienceView platform, we looked at in-depth profiles of consumers that have purchased new or leased electric vehicles to understand if today’s consumer is truly paving the way for tomorrow’s auto industry.
We identified that the strongest age segment for electric vehicle ownership is age 35-44, whereas older millennials and older generation X’ers lead with leasing.
Most electric vehicle owners are over-indexing for being married, but there were sharp differences when it came to having children in household. The profiles showed that electric vehicle owners and lessees under-index in having children, but those who search online for electric vehicles over-index for having kids. The interest in electric cars is clearly there, but it’s possible that due to the compact size of most electric vehicles, auto manufacturers are not converting consumers with children
Ironically, Tesla owners over-index by 88% for being married and for having children age 10+ in the household. Tesla consumers are 54.5% male, have a median age of 39 and a high median household income of $422K. The affluence of this segment is unsurprising considering that Tesla has a $100K+ price tag for most models (except the Model 3 announced in March 2016, to be released next year).
Taking a look at those who own or lease a more affordable Toyota Prius, Chevrolet Volt, Nissan Leaf or BMW i3 we see some distinctions from the Tesla audience: they have a median household income between $118K and 184K, which remains well above average but not nearly as wealthy as Tesla owners. Across the board, any consumer with a household income under $75K is significantly less likely to own or lease an electric vehicle.
Electric vehicle owners and lessee’s are also highly educated; Tesla owners in particular are much more likely to have at least a college degree.
Attitudes & Motivations of Electric Car Fans
So what do these owners and lessees of electric cars truly care about? Electric vehicle consumers over-index for expressing concern “About Pollution and Congestion Caused By Cars” and admit they would “Buy Eco-friendly Products If They Were Less Expensive,” indicating cost is definitely a factor for these consumers. They also strongly believe that “Each Of Us Has A Personal Obligation To Do What We Can To Be Environmentally Responsible.”
Examining how actively electric vehicle consumers commit to living an environmentally friendly lifestyle uncovered some interesting distinctions. As you see the chart below, those searching for electric vehicles are not completely committed to the green lifestyle just yet. Interestingly, the Tesla consumers are more likely to be “Behavioral Greens,” meaning they are committed to living green in their everyday lives. General electric vehicle owners are not quite committed to living an eco-friendly life, but lessees are actually showing stronger commitment. Perhaps this is because lessees would like to ensure they continually have the most advanced features and anti-pollutant technology?
Electric Vehicle Search Trends
When looking at searches for electric vehicles within the automotive category, we see the top two searches are Tesla and the affordable Tesla Model 3, with Prius falling just outside of the top ten. The high ranking of the Tesla Model 3 suggests strong consumer interest — and with a $35,000 price tag (about half the cost of the Model S) it also demonstrates that Tesla is committed to reaching the mainstream consumer.
So will electric vehicles disrupt the auto industry?
Interest in electric cards is certainly growing, but the industry still has several hurdles to overcome. Today, electric vehicle consumers are mostly affluent, educated and without children—which is an excellent starting point but leaves out a huge portion of middle class family market share. In terms of cost accessibility, the Tesla remains pricey, more affordable models are coming down the pipeline. Moreover, popular options such as the Prius, the Volt and the Leaf are growing at a steady pace. Should a more affordable electric vehicle that seats 5-8 come along, we could see a true game changer set to disrupt the automotive industry!
For more auto trends, consumer behavior and details on Tesla, get our Auto Trends Report.