Survey: Range, cost, infrastructure sum up why shoppers avoid EVs

We’ve heard it repeatedly as the result of various polls and surveys: Active and prospective car shoppers are interested in fully electric vehicles and eager to go electric. 

The AAA, for instance, has in annual surveys for the past three years found that 15 to 20 percent of Americans “will likely go electric in their next vehicle purchase.”

With battery electric vehicle sales remaining around five percent of the U.S. vehicle market, why are some Americans not yet making the leap? The lack of variety in fully electric vehicle types is certainly part of it, but as a new survey points out, the reason shoppers are avoiding EVs still boils down to some familiar reasons. 

Car shoppers' EV avoidance reasons - Autolist

Car shoppers’ EV avoidance reasons – Autolist

In the poll of 1,567 “current car shoppers,” conducted earlier this month and released Tuesday, Autolist found the primary reasons for avoiding electric vehicles—in order—to be driving range, the price relative to similar gas vehicles, and the lack of charging infrastructure in their home area. Meanwhile, the most important attributes, in order, were seen as price, range and available charging. 

Consumers continue to want high driving-range numbers—and perhaps to the detriment of luxury-priced models like the Jaguar I-Pace and Audi E-tron, they have much higher expectations for rated range from luxury vehicles. 

When Autolist asked consumers for the minimum range they’d accept in a $35,000 electric vehicle, the leading answer was “between 250 and 300 miles”—stipulations perhaps most closely met by the Hyundai Kona Electric, with its $37,995 base price and 258-mile EPA-rated range. The Chevrolet Bolt EV and Kia Niro EV are also close to meeting those expectations. 

2019 Hyundai Kona Electric

2019 Hyundai Kona Electric

But when Autolist asked the same about a $70,000 EV, the responses, the most common response was “more than 500 miles.”

At an EPA-rated 370 miles, the Tesla Model S Long Range currently holds the top rated range of any regular-production electric vehicle. No EV currently achieves close to 500 miles, or even 400 miles. 

2019 Tesla Model S

2019 Tesla Model S

There’s a riptide beneath these impressions, and that’s age. The survey found a direct and pronounced correlation between age and the importance of EV range. For instance, 32 percent of those 18-23 years old listed range among the top three avoidance issues, while for those over 76 years old it was in the top three for 60 percent. Autolist reports that there was a similar trendline created between age and the importance of the charging network, although that one had an inflection point around age 45.

Also, with rising shopper age, sticker price was less important, but resale value was more important.

A Volvo/Harris poll from earlier this year surveyed both EV drivers and non-EV drivers and found strong belief among both groups that EVs are the future. However 61 percent of respondents indicated that a lack of charging structure held back a purchase. While 38 percent of EV drivers were concerned about running out of power, 58 percent of all drivers combined indicated this concern. 

One other figure stood out as especially surprising (and promising for the future of the technology): 55 percent of respondents said that the EV would be their primary—not secondary—vehicle if they bought one today. The survey also found that 69 percent supported tax rebates and other incentives aimed toward the wider adoption of EVs. That echoes the bipartisan support of the tax credit earlier this year, after it had been potentially on the chopping block. 

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