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Survey: Consumers intrigued by electric cars

Consumers Reports finds about one quarter of adults will consider a plug-in when shopping for new cars, even though there are few available.

Despite few options, about one quarter of U.S. consumers surveyed said they are likely to consider a plug-in vehicle on their next auto purchase, according to the Consumer Reports National Survey Center.

Consumer Reports on Thursday published the results of the survey that asked 1,752 adults about their views regarding plug-in electric vehicles. In random phone interviews, 26 percent of people said they are likely to consider a plug-in car when shopping, with 7 percent saying they are very likely to do so.

The survey indicated that consumers were not willing to give up much on performance or convenience to use the new technology, according to consumer reports.

Driving range is perhaps the biggest barrier to adoption of all-electric vehicles, such as the Nissan Leaf, which is expected to go on sale in the U.S. later this year. In tests in the U.S., the driving range of the electric Mini-E is between 75 miles and 100 miles, which varies with weather and driving habits, according to BMW.

But there was a range of sentiment on the question of driving range. The median range that consumers said they wanted from an electric car was 89 miles. But, 45 percent said that they would be satisfied with a driving range of under 75 miles and 29 percent said that under 49 miles would be fine.

On the question of price, there's a range as well. The median extra amount consumers said they would pay for electric was $2,068, but 20 percent said they are not willing to pay anything more, and another 20 percent saying they would pay at least $5,000 extra.

One could interpret the top-line result in a different way: a majority of respondents--nearly three quarters--said they don't expect to consider a plug-in electric car for their next purchase.

However, there have been other studies that indicate that consumers are interested in electric vehicles in their different forms because they have the potential to save drivers money on fuel and pollute less than gas-only vehicles.

Because of differences in driving range needs and availability of public charging stations, the roll out of plug-in cars is likely to happen in certain regional clusters, say experts.