Mass-produced electric vehicles are on the horizon, and a new study by Deloitte Consulting (PDF) examines Americans' views on this new automotive technology. In a study of 2,000 auto owners, Deloitte surveyed consumer awareness of electric vehicles, the desirability of EVs, and whether consumers would ultimately adopt EV technology. One question asked in the survey provides some bad news for the upcoming Nissan Leaf.

When querying consumers about their brand preference, Deloitte Consulting asked which companies would consumers be most likely to purchase an EV from, and only 4 percent of survey participants selected Nissan. Pre-orders have already begun for the Nissan Leaf, which should be available late this year or early 2011, but only 4 percent of consumers surveyed said they would likely purchase an electric vehicle from Nissan.

As is often the case in surveys examining hybrid or alternative fuel vehicle purchase decisions, Toyota came out on top. The study shows that 17 percent of consumers surveyed would purchase an electric vehicle from Toyota. However, Toyota doesn’t have plans to bring an electric vehicle to market anytime soon. The company is currently in the prototype stage with a Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, but that won’t be available until 2012 at the earliest.

There are only two other companies besides Nissan that either have an electric vehicle available for purchase today or will be releasing one in the next year— Chevy and Tesla. Only 2 percent of survey respondents said they would be likely to purchase an EV from Tesla — obviously the six-figure price tag of the Roadster has something to do with this. Chevy fared a bit better than Nissan with 8 percent of those surveyed likely to purchase a Chevy EV.

The Deloitte study suggests that both Nissan and Chevy may find a bumpy road ahead. “Nissan and Chevrolet will likely face challenges in their upcoming EV launches. As first-to-market products, their vehicles will bear the cost and burden of educating consumers.” Source: Deloitte Consulting (PDF)

Another problem facing the Nissan Leaf launch is its range. Although the 100-mile range of the Leaf is excellent and more than enough to meet the daily driving requirements of most consumers, it is far less than what the American public wants to see in an electric vehicle. The survey showed that most people want to see an EV with a minimum 300-mile range before they would consider purchasing one.

This is a bit of good news for Chevy as the Volt has a range of about 340 mileswith 40 miles of all-electric driving available before the combustion engine takes over. However, vehicle price is the main factor that consumers will use when considering an EV purchase. Unfortunately, the Chevy Volt price tag will be out of the reach of many Americans if the rumors of a $40,000+ price tag are true.

Overall, the Deloitte study estimates that by 2020, electric vehicles will have a 3.1 percent market share of new auto sales here in the United States. This equates to about 465,000 electric vehicles sold per year. As more automakers enter the EV arena, their individual shares of this market will shrink, making the production of EVs less cost-effective.

Also on MNN: Nissan says Leaf is a game-changer