Automakers apparently need to do a better job of educating consumers about the virtues of battery-powered cars and crossovers.
In a recent survey conducted by the AAA, just 16 percent of those polled said they’re likely to choose an electric car or crossover SUV as their next vehicle. The association suggests that a general lack of knowledge and experience could be hampering the widespread adoption of electrified autos despite Americans’ desire to be more environmentally friendly.
“Today, more than 200,000 electric cars can be found on roads across the country as almost every manufacturer sells them,” says Greg Brannon, AAA’s director of Automotive Engineering and Industry Relations. “But, like other new vehicle technologies, Americans don’t have the full story and that could be causing the gap between interest and action.”
The AAA’s study found that U.S. consumers tend to lack a firm grasp of how EVs perform, which is likely dissuading them from considering a battery powered ride in the first place. For example, 59 percent of those surveyed were clueless regarding whether electric vehicles have better range when driving at highways speeds or in stop-and-go traffic. Contrary how gas-fueled vehicles behave, EVs actually do better around town in this regard, especially since they can recapture energy to charge the battery when decelerating and braking. Plus, an EV uses little to no power when it’s sitting at a stoplight. An EV's electric motor consumes more energy when the vehicle is driven continuously at higher speeds.
Motives For Buying An EV
Nearly two thirds (74 percent) of survey respondents who said they're likely to buy an electric vehicle cited a concern for the environment as a prime motivation. Electric vehicles, of course, produce zero tailpipe emissions. Yet some argue they only shift environmental damage to the power plants used to generate electricity, with areas that depend on fossil-fuel-fired sources being the most environmentally damaged. However, the Union of Concerned Scientists concluded that EVs are generally responsible for less pollution than conventional vehicles in every region of the U.S.
Lower long-term operating costs were cited by 56 percent of those who favor an EV. Indeed, it’s considerably cheaper to keep an EV running than a comparable gas-powered model. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency says the Hyundai Ioniq Electric will cost an owner $500 to drive 15,000 miles each year, based on average electricity rates. That amounts to an estimated $5,250 savings compared to the average vehicle over a five-year ownership period.
Two thirds (67 percent) of those likely to buy an electric car said they’re willing to pay more for it than a gas-powered model. While they are still be pricier than conventional cars, most EVs remain eligible for a one-time $7,500 federal tax credit to help soften the blow (it’s being phased out for Chevrolet and Tesla models). For example, a Nissan Leaf that starts at $30,885 essentially costs $23,385 when the tax credit is factored into the deal. What’s more a number of states offer their own subsidies to EV buyers. For example, Colorado residents can take advantage of a $5,000 state income tax credit that, if eligible for the full amount, would effectively lower the cost to $18,385. Plus, used electric vehicles, like any of those listed here on MYEV.com, are eminently affordable.
The survey determined that younger motorists show the most interest in electric vehicles, with 23 percent of Millennials and 17 percent of Generation Xers saying they're likely to purchase an EV, versus just eight percent of Baby Boomers.
Areas of Anxiety
Concerns about buying an electric vehicle include a fear of running out of battery power while driving among 57 percent of those surveyed. In fact, Americans only drive an average of 40 miles a day, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, which is well within any EV’s range. For 2019, 11 models can run for 150 or more miles on a charge, with nine of them able to go for more than 200 miles before needing to be tethered to the power grid.
More than half (58 percent) of those considering an EV were worried about not having sufficient access to charging locations. The truth is, most electric vehicle charging is done at home. And the number of public charging sites is rising rapidly. According to the U.S. Department of Energy there are over 26,000 charging spots in the U.S. as of this writing. The Electrify America network recently installed more than 120 DC Fast Charging stations in Walmart parking lots in 34 states, many of which are in the nation’s heartland. The company is planning to maintain a network of Level 3 stations no more than 120 miles apart from each other on major corridors to facilitate interstate travel.
Nearly half (47 percent) of respondents fear the steep cost of battery repair or replacement. That’s a genuine issue of concern, but fortunately automakers cover the battery pack for at least eight years or 100,000 miles, whichever comes first, with Hyundai offering lifetime coverage on its Ioniq and Kona EVs.
Areas Of Importance
Among buying considerations, a previous AAA study determined that 92 percent of those likely to buy an EV said the vehicle’s reliability is of primary importance, and they generally fare well in this regard. That’s because an electric motor has far fewer moving parts than a gasoline engine and only requires a simple single-gear transmission. Further, an EV eschews many components that could fail, like a radiator, exhaust system, and a catalytic converter.
Crash-test ratings are of importance to 77 percent of EV intenders. While not all have been tested, EVs that have been evaluated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration get top ratings for occupant protection. For example, the Chevrolet Bolt EV gets five out of five stars in this regard, as do the Tesla Model 3 and Model X.
Acceleration and handling are important to 69 percent of EV intenders, and in fact most models excel in both regards. EVs are generally quicker than their gasoline-powered counterparts because an electric motor generates 100 percent of its available power instantly and delivers it continuously. What’s more, because an EV’s battery pack is usually mounted beneath the vehicle, it has an inherently low center of gravity that enables quicker handling abilities.
Having high-tech accident avoidance systems, including automatic emergency braking and lane-keeping assistance are important to 60 percent of those likely to choose an EV. For 2019 a dozen EVs offer autonomous braking and lane-keeping systems as either standard or optional equipment.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the AAA found that 40 percent of consumers who are presently unlikely to buy an EV would consider one if gas prices were to rise in the months or years ahead. However, the study determined fuel costs would need to hit the $5.00 a gallon mark to have a significant effect on EV sales.