Indiana University Survey: 95% of US Consumers Had No Clue That Electric Vehicle Incentives Existed…Back in October 2011


Back When the Chevy Volt Was Still a Concept, Consumers Knew Nothing About Electric Vehicle Incentives.  Of Course They Didn't - Who Releases Survey Results Like This?

Back When the Chevy Volt Was Still a Concept, Consumers Likely Knew Nothing About Electric Vehicle Incentives. Of Course They Didn’t – Who Releases Survey Results as Ridiculous as This?

Oh boy…where to start.

In 2010, Electric Vehicles Incentives Were a Mystery to US Consumers - Why Tell us That Now?

In 2011, Electric Vehicles Incentives Were a Mystery to US Consumers – Why Tell us That Now?

Indiana University just released some findings from a survey of more than 2,000 driver in 21 of the US’ largest cities.  Here’s a breakdown on those findings:

  • 95% of respondents had no clue that state or federal incentives existed for plug-in vehicles
  • Only 2 out 758 respondents were aware of subsidies for home charging equipment
  • 75% of the respondents were uniformed of the saving in fuel and maintenance costs of EVs

And so on…

We’d have no issue with the findings presented by Indiana University if they were current.  The problem is…well, we’ll get to that in a second.  First, a quote from John D. Graham, one of the co-authors of the study:

“It is well-established that current mainstream consumer interest in these vehicles is low.  What should be particularly troubling for plug-in electric vehicle proponents and manufacturers is that the respondents to our survey live in major urban areas, the places where PEVs make the most sense due to daily travel patterns.”

So, when did Indiana University release these findings?  Answer – November 13, 2013.

When was the survey conducted?  Answer – October 2011

“The online survey was conducted in October 2011, just before the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt were made widely available, so the results should be seen as a baseline of general knowledge and opinions about PEVs. The survey was conducted in these cities: Austin, Baltimore, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, Detroit, El Paso, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Los Angeles, Memphis, Nashville, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Diego, San Jose/San Francisco and Seattle.”

Houston, we’ve got a problem.

Does Indiana University have an agenda?  Is there a valid reason for this delayed release?

Of course, few knew of the incentives for plug-in vehicles back in October 2011, as the EV segment was in its infancy, but why release the data now?

Something seems fishy.

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11 Comments on "Indiana University Survey: 95% of US Consumers Had No Clue That Electric Vehicle Incentives Existed…Back in October 2011"

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Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

Maybe they’re trying to process all their data on an old 286 PC, and it just took this long to finish?

Even a ‘286 ain’t this slow. There’s got to be some other reason.


Sometimes it just takes a long time for academic research to be published. Professors are working on multiple topics all the time, and their priorities are partly based on the available funding and student labor.
Best to see this as a baseline from which follow-on studies can track the effect of manufacturer education / advertisements and government policy over time.

A lot of people I know don’t even know they and plug in hybrids existed. Such as it’s always fun to point out to people when their is a EV or plug in a parking lot in that a lot of people will go up to them to investigate them in that a lot of people didn’t know they existed.

I notice that too. I work at a company full of computer programmers, yet some of them that I’ve talked to still didn’t know there are fully-electric vehicles out there. I asked the receptionist and she replied, “you mean, like a hybrid?”. At least she was in the same ballpark.

This amazes me given the amount of advertising Nissan does for their LEAF.

Same observation here, although I think the situation is slowly improving, so a 2-year-old survey is probably quite meaningless today indeed. Shortly after I got my Leaf (early 2012), colleagues were asking me what kind of mileage it was getting. All engineers, many with PhDs, so I didn’t hesitate to get technical. But a couple times, it went nowhere really fast, e.g: “It gets around 1.7 m/kJ” (yes, this is also N^-1, but let’s not get overboard here and stick to “distance for given quantity of energy” for now) -blank stare- “That’s 3.8 miles per kW*h” -same blank stare- “Couple cents of electricity per mile” “…er, but I meant, how much gas?” “Zero, it doesn’t use gas, it’s elec-” (cutting me off after “gas”) “Diesel, whatever” “It’s electric, no other fuel whatsoever. It has no gas tank, just a big battery” (now thinking I’m messing up with him) “Naaaah, you put *something* in it” “Just electrons, really. You charge it like a big cellphone. I’m not kidding. You have a minute? I can show you…” It seems like people slowly get to realize that cars can also be powered by electricity, as I didn’t have quite as surprising a conversation… Read more »


I have had the same scenario, almost word for word, on many occasions. I have had people tell me that it isn’t possible or I am wrong.

I usually just say now “2 1/2 years, 37k miles, and I still can’t find where to put the gas.”

This is interesting. Tesla haters usually complain that Model S demand is shrinking, but this is silly because more than 90 % of potential Model S buyer has not heard enough about Model S so that they could make a rational choice when they go to _Car Dealer_ to look for a new car.

Therefore what will happen, when Tesla starts marketing their cars? In China alone there are a million potential customers who have never heard about Tesla.

I know it takes a while to get survey information compiled especially in academic circles, but you would think that smart, academic minded people at a large university would be able to present that data in the proper context in a span of two years.

It does get me to thinking about what I knew about electric vehicles then, and how much progress we have made, even if we are impatient waiting for even better.