Electric vehicle awareness: the key to boosting sales

Electric vehicle sales are doing pretty well, Voelcker writes, but advocates say education and awareness can go a long way towards selling more electric vehicles.

Jae C. Hong/AP/File
The Ford Focus Electric car is displayed next to a home charging station at the LA Auto Show in Los Angeles, in this November 2012 file photo. The best way to make people aware that electric cars are now a viable option is to let them get in the cars and drive them, Voelcker writes.

You might not know it from general media coverage, but plug-in electric-car sales are actually doing pretty well.

Still, people get impatient, and electric-car and environmental advocates want more, faster.

So what are the best ways to boost adoption of plug-in cars?

Education and awareness are the two key factors, said Brian Wynne, president of the Electric Drive Trade Association, on a conference call today.

And it turns out the best way to make people aware that electric cars are now a viable option is to let them get in the cars and drive them.

That's what the industry sometimes calls "getting butts into seats." 

Wynne said that roughly one in three car buyers say they're willing to consider purchasing a plug-in electric car, in general.

But once they actually try out an electric car, he said, that number doubles--to about two out of three buyers.

This isn't particularly new--it was a theme at Plug-In 2012 earlier this year too--but it's important for electric-car advocates to understand just how little knowledge or understanding of the cars the general public actually has.

"We're just at the very beginning" of the process of getting plug-in cars into the mainstream, Wynne said.

Price is important, too, he acknowledged--and having a range of different vehicles, at different price points, for buyers to choose among.

But first and foremost, it's letting people drive electric cars, to experience "instant torque, great acceleration, the quiet ride and the smoothness," as Wynne enthused.

So while events like the annual National Plug-In Day festivals across the country expose thousands of potential buyers to electric cars, it's the everyday contact with friends, neighbors, and coworkers that will really make the difference.

As the saying goes, “It takes an owner to make an owner.”

Here's our challenge to the plug-in drivers among our readers: How often do you show off your car to others? How often do you let people test-drive it?

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