Want to look smarter and richer? Buy an electric vehicle. A new survey says that electric car owners tend to be wealthier and better-educated than the average American driver.

The 2013 Chevrolet Volt. Photo courtesy Chevrolet.

A study by the Electric Vehicle Information Exchange surveyed 970 respondents, most of whom reported some interest in electric vehicles. According to the survey results, respondents who already lease or own electric vehicles tend to be "very well-educated, upper-middle class, white men in their early 50’s with ideal living situations for EV charging. The vast majority graduated with a four-year or postgraduate degree, and they said they make well over six figures in household income each year." The survey also found that, "Energy independence, and not environmental anxiety, was the primary reason that these respondents became interested in electric vehicles."

The fact that most electric car owners tend to be wealthy comes as no surprise, given the high price of most electric cars. Motor Trend magazine just named the Tesla Model S its 2013 car of the year. The Model S has a price that starts at $57,400 and goes up to $105,400. The Nissan Leaf is nowhere near as luxurious as the Model S and it starts at $35,200. The Chevrolet Volt, an extended range hybrid, starts at $39,145. According to the Detroit Free Press, 26,100 Leaf and Volt cars have been sold so far this year, which is about 0.2 percent of overall vehicle sales.

Taking the high prices and small market share into account, a press release from J.D. Power and Associates says, "Electric vehicles (EVs) will remain a very small part of the U.S. market unless automakers can lower prices and demonstrate the economic benefits to consumers, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2012 Electric Vehicle Ownership Experience Study released today."

The J.D. Power study reports that electric cars carry an average price premium of $10,000 compared with a similar gas-powered vehicle. Plug-in hybrid owners pay an average price premium of $16,000 over similar gas-only cars. According to J.D. Power, the average electric car owner would need 6.5 years to make up the car’s price difference in fuel savings. The average plug-in hybrid driver would need 11 years.

Beyond the price concerns, the J.D. Power study found that today's electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles aren't meeting the needs of the majority of consumers. Concerns about charging and range keep people from buying electric cars, as does the small size of most electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. Consumers are also hesitant about the reliability of electric and plug-in hybrid cars. That's similar to a finding in the Electric Vehicle Information Exchange study, which found that respondents who said they are interested in owning an electric vehicle also worry about the practical aspects of going electric. "Pragmatic reasoning, like cost and convenience benefits, will be more effective in convincing this group to adopt electric vehicles than philosophical reasoning," the study concludes.

Looking for a hybrid or electric car? Check out the U.S. News rankings of this year's best cars. Then, look for a great deal on a new car by checking out this month’s best car deals. You can also find the best local prices in the area by using our Best Price Program. Also, be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook