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Owner data: once you go electric, you never go back

Preliminary results from electric vehicle owners indicate that EV owner satisfaction blows that of conventional vehicles out of the water.

It is the secret weapon of electric vehicles: drivers that switch to EVs fall in love with their cars in a way that internal combustion engine vehicles cannot match. PlugInsights Research, a division of Recargo, presented data at this week’s EDTA convention that forcefully supports this notion (via Inside EVs).

Norman Hajjar, managing director at Recargo best known for his 12,000 mile electric road trip, revealed new data showing incredible loyalty among first adopters of electric vehicles.

Granted, early adopters were generally highly enthusiastic about their vehicles from the very start and by their nature are more likely to be satisfied with the electric ownership experience. Nevertheless, PlugInsight’s findings speak too loudly to be ignored.

The current age of electric cars officially began in late 2010 with the introduction of the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan LEAF. As three years is the most common lease duration, PlugInsights has been collecting data from EV owners whose leases have expired. A pool of 900 such owners was asked if their next vehicle purchase would be an EV or an ICE.

Out of those 900 owners, an astounding 96.9% said they would buy another electric vehicle, either a pure electric or a plug-in hybrid. Just 1.9% of respondents reported a desire to return to a conventional vehicle.

This isn’t the only intriguing data. Driver satisfaction over time was also monitored in terms of Net Promoter Score, a common metric using owner data to evaluate number of promoters of a product minus number of detractors. Once again, the electric vehicles embarrassed even the best internal combustion engine cars.

The most highly rated automakers rarely exceed an NPS score of 50 as an overall brand. In 2012, for example, the leader was Subaru at 56.8 while no other automaker topped 49. Chevrolet languished at just 12.3. These numbers make the preliminary EV results all the more impressive.

Not surprisingly, Tesla displays the strongest NPS scores. After owning a Tesla (either the Roadster or Model S) for two to three years, drivers gave the brand an otherworldly NPS rating of 94.2. After three years the number climbs to 96.6.

Chevrolet departs sharply from their lousy overall company trend with the plug-in hybrid Volt; owners gave it an NPS score of 79.2 in the first year of ownership and 85.2 after three years.

The Nissan LEAF rounded out this particular data set, as no other automakers produced volume electric vehicles as early as Chevrolet, Nissan, and Tesla. LEAF owners rated the commuter EV at 66.8 in the first year, though the car’s score declined to 49.8 after three years. Even so, this lowest-rated electric vehicle exceeded the overall NPS rating of all but one automaker.

Again, the data is probably skewed by the zealous early adopters. It will be interesting to see if the trends hold in the coming years, such as mid-2016 when 95,716 EVs will be three years old.

Nevertheless, the data is so utterly and convincingly supportive of the notion that drivers love their EVs that the auto industry would be foolish not to take notice. Owner satisfaction and loyalty are crucial to the goals of every automaker, and the owner satisfaction and loyalty of electric vehicles are unmatched by their conventional counterparts. Once you go electric, it’s a safe bet you won’t want to go back to your old ways.


mike w (not verified)    May 23, 2014 - 12:18PM

I agree 100%. Once you go electric you don't want to go back! Also found it interesting that the Chevy Volt's NPS score was higher than the Nissan LEAF's NPS. The LEAF outsells the Volt. I will agree with the NPS scores-we have a LEAF and when it comes time to replace it will NOT be with another LEAF, but it will be another EV.

Sfosri (not verified)    May 24, 2014 - 11:50AM

In reply to by jay (not verified)

I will never buy a leaf. Nissan battery warranty is pathetic. They will just repair you battery if you lose 3bars out of 12. I lost 2 bars and barely get 55 under ideal conditions. I just got a Chevy Volt since my lease is up on my Leaf. I'm getting almost 45 electric range in my Volt. No wonder i the Volt had a higher satisfaction and the Leaf is lower. People buying a used Leaf are in for a big disappointment. You don't see them telling you how many bars are missing in the used Leaf listing.

mike w. (not verified)    May 24, 2014 - 9:02PM

In reply to by jay (not verified)

Hay Jay good choice with the Volt. We have a 2011 LEAF and we have a capacity loss issue. Lost 15% the first year and 3% the second year. We will not qualify for a new battery under the capacity loss rider as I don't expect to lose and additional 12% in the next few years. Nissan also will not sell replacement batteries you have to lease them so were going to get a Volt gen II sometime next year. The brake rotors on my leaf warped at 7000 miles and had to be cut. The build quality, design integrity and battery durability are not meeting my expectations.
I also hate having to press "Accept" or "Decline" on the nav screen every time I start the car.

Brian Keez (not verified)    May 24, 2014 - 5:06AM

After 63k miles on my LEAF, I understand the drop in satisfaction but I would not, cannot, go back to combustion vehicle. The fuel cost alone for a combustion vehicle woild be a step backwards for me. Not to mention the constant vibration, noise and maintenance cost of an ICE.

I am on my second battery in my LEAF. It's likely that degradation is the major cause of the lower NPS score for the LEAF. However, cost-wise, Nissan made the right move with their battery configuration. The LEAF is bringing the pure EV to the masses. Now where is my Bladeglider?

mike w (not verified)    May 24, 2014 - 2:10PM

Hat Jay good choice on the Volt. We bought a 2011 Leaf and after 1 year of ownership we lost one bar/dot on the battery capacity gauge. I live in Virginia so the rapid capacity loss can not be blamed on heat-ditto no DCFC. after 2 years of ownership the battery capacity is at 82%. at the current rate of capacity loss we will NOT qualify for the battery warranty. At 7000 miles the front brake rotors warped and had to be cut. A new set of brake rotors will, ,I think, be required just after the warranty expires.
Our current full charge range is down to 47 miles ( no heat no A/C) and a 3.3 kw charger can completely recharge a dead battery in 3 hours flat, not 7 like the owners manual suggests.
Bottom line we are not having a good experience with this car or NISSAN so I will not buy another and will not recommend the LEAF to anyone.

Jake (not verified)    May 24, 2014 - 8:23PM

The Volt is significantly more expensive than a Leaf. I think that by itself explains most of the difference in sales.

Bert (not verified)    May 26, 2014 - 2:42PM

I am halfway through the 3-year lease on my Honda Fit EV. Love the car and would like to extend the lease or buy it at the end, but Honda says no way. So I am starting to look around for my next EV.
I will never go back to the ICE age.

John Hardy (not verified)    June 11, 2014 - 2:09PM

For me the attraction of the EV is the instant smooth seamless torque with no gearchanges, no turbo lags, no waiting to get up on cam. I have a GT40 replica with a 5 litre v8. I prefer driving my Vauxhall Ampera (Europeanised Volt). The GT40 has far more power but it is far less usable.

Bert Bigelow (not verified)    June 11, 2014 - 2:39PM

In reply to by John Hardy (not verified)

The GT40 replica is a nice toy. Wish I could afford one. But EV's, as you say, are "real world" cars that also happen to be fun to drive because of that instant torque. With the Fit, I also get good handling. Absolutely flat cornering with all that battery weight under the floor. The low-rolling-resistance tires are the only downer. Lots of road noise...and I suspect that adhesion in the wet is not great, although it rains so infrequently here in Southern California that isn't much of an issue.