2014 Ford Focus Electric
2014 Ford Focus Electric (Ford Motor Company)

A recent study by market research firm Experian Automotive suggests that there are economic and social differences between electric vehicle (EV) and hybrid consumers. The study also found that the sale of electric vehicles is rapidly outpacing the sale of hybrids.

Those who buy EVs are younger, wealthier and have slightly better credit than those who purchase hybrids (including plug-in hybrids), the study says. Experian Automotive found that roughly 21 percent of electric car buyers earned an average household income of at least $175,000 last year while just 12 percent of hybrid buyers earned the same amount. By comparison, the U.S. Census Bureau says the median household income in the United States between 2008 and 2012 was $53,046.

Both hybrid and electric vehicles are typically more expensive than traditional gas-only models. A hybrid vehicle can cost up to 20 percent more than its gas-only equivalent and the premium is even higher for electric vehicles, says Edmunds.com. For example, a 2014 Ford Focus Electric costs $35,170, which is more than twice as much as the gas-only Focus. An Edmunds.com analysis found that the all-electric Tesla Model S (from $69,900) was the most commonly registered car in roughly a third of America’s most affluent zip codes in 2013.

People who purchase hybrids tend to be older than EV buyers, the study found, and more than 45 percent of hybrid consumers were at least 56 years old in 2013. Roughly 55 percent of those who bought electric vehicles were between 36 and 55 years old and only about 26 percent were over 56 years old.

“At first glance, one would imagine that consumers purchasing either a hybrid or electric vehicle would be nearly identical; both are environmentally conscious, are of similar ages and have higher income levels,” Melinda Zabritski, senior director, Experian Automotive, said in a statement. “While for the most part those statements ring true, our research shows that there are slight differences between the two. One possible reason for the disparity could be the growing popularity of the higher-end luxury electric models available.”

Last year, about 98 percent of all registered vehicles with alternative powertrains were hybrids, Experian Automotive says. However, the number of registered EVs went up 245 percent in 2013, while the number of registered hybrids increased by just 19 percent.

The electric vehicles with the most registrations in 2013 were the Nissan Leaf, Tesla Model S, Ford Focus, Fiat 500e and Mitsubishi i-MiEV, according to Experian Automotive. The most registered hybrids were the Toyota Prius, Toyota Camry Hybrid, Honda Civic Hybrid, Toyota Highlander Hybrid and Ford Fusion Hybrid.

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