A majority of U.S. automotive consumers would consider buying a plug-in hybrid-electric vehicle and, to a lesser extent, a full-electric vehicle next time they are in the market for a new car, according to a study by consultancy Accenture.

But would-be EV buyers cite various conditions, ranging from generous tax breaks to easy access to charging points.

Seven out of 10 respondents say they would prefer plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles to full EVs. Sixty-one percent say they may buy an alternative-fuel vehicle within the next three years.

But first they want an improved charging infrastructure. Utility companies are the top choice among respondents for charging their EVs, the study says.

Seventy-seven percent say they would prefer buying charging services from such companies. Sixty-eight percent cite traditional service stations as their choice, while 65% named retailers.

Accordingly, the study recommends that energy utilities work with auto makers and dealers to monitor local energy demand for alternative vehicles, with an eye toward enhancing charging infrastructures.

Such an alliance would benefit both the energy and automotive sectors, says James A. Robbins, Accenture’s North American Automotive and Industrial Equipment Industry Lead.

“One of the key challenges facing the auto industry today is building consumer confidence in the electric-vehicle experience,” he says.

“This report suggests that utilities can play a key role in elevating that confidence, while helping to spur more EV sales.”

High gasoline prices are making EVs attractive potential purchases, Robbins says.

“But clearly the other part of the EV equation is the creation of a consistent, readily available charging infrastructure. Working together, the utilities and auto companies may be able to make EVs a truly viable alternative in the U.S. market.”

The study cites other factors affecting potential EV purchases:

  • Seventy-two percent of U.S. respondents say having a home charging point is important.
  • Beyond price, the top-three factors for considering a switch to an EV are access to tax breaks, priority lanes and free parking. Eighty-five percent cite no car tax as the key incentive.
  • Eighty-five percent say having their vehicle charged with electricity generated from renewable energies, such as hydro, wind or solar power would spur their purchasing an EV.
  • Seventy-four percent of respondents would prefer to buy, rather than lease, their alternative-fuel vehicle.

sfinlay@wardsauto.com