They offer some of the fastest acceleration on the planet, a near silent and serene driving experience and reduce humans’ overall impact on the environment.
So what exactly needs to happen for electric vehicles to start climbing past their paltry 1-2 percent market share in the U.S?
A recent survey aimed to find out.
Autolist.com polled nearly 1,600 current car shoppers in August and asked them about their expectations and anxieties about going electric.
A key question we asked was ‘What are the biggest reasons you would not buy an all-electric vehicle?’ The three most common answers — in order — were concerns over EVs’ range, their high prices relative to gas models and a lack of charging infrastructure in the area.
When asked a slightly different question — ‘What would your top three priorities be in choosing an EV?’ — consumers’ answers were largely the same. Price was the most common answer (by a wide margin), with range and charging access rounding out the top three responses.
Despite significant progress in EV technology and gains in consumer awareness, these are the same concerns that shoppers have had for years. Yes, in that time EVs have made gains in reducing charge times, improving overall range, and cutting costs. But consumers remain hypersensitive to the delta — real or perceived — between living with a gas-powered car and living with an EV.
It wasn’t all bad news for EV adoption though.
Shoppers were largely in favor of tax rebates and incentives, plus other perks at the federal, state and local level to encourage the adoption of EVs, with 69 percent of respondents favoring such action. Just 16 percent of consumers were against the idea, and 15 percent were unsure.
Consumers also have realistic expectations for the range of so-called “affordable” EVs, models that sell for around $35,000 before any state or federal incentives or rebates.
When respondents were asked what was the minimum range they would accept on a model in this price range, the most common response was “Between 250 and 300 miles.”
That’s very close to what a small handful of affordable EVs offer today. The Hyundai Kona Electric is rated at 258 miles of range, the Chevy Bolt at 243 miles of range and the Kia Soul Electric at 238 miles. Each starts at about $37,000 before incentives.
On the other side of the price spectrum however, consumer expectations were very much divorced from reality.
Autolist asked consumers what range they would expect on a luxury EV that cost $70,000. The most common answer — by far — was “More than 500 miles,” and 61 percent of respondents said this luxe EV would need at least 400 miles of range.
The current range leader on the market is Tesla’s Model S Long Range. At $80,000 before any incentives, it promises an EPA range of 370 miles.
That electric vehicles’ range continues to be the biggest reason people avoid them has been particularly frustrating for EV automakers and proponents.
Consumers expect electric vehicles to have the same overall range as their gas vehicles — often between 300 and 500 miles or more. Yet the average person drives just 37 miles a day, according to Federal Highway Administration.
EV fans will point to things like fast charging or an electric vehicle’s overall efficiency as more relevant factors in using an EV to impact the environment positively. Yet range anxiety has proven to be a lasting concern.
And — for better or worse — range has also become the unofficial benchmark that each new EV is measured against. Among the latest crop of luxury EVs from Europe — the Porsche Taycan, Audi e-tron, Jaguar I-Pace, and upcoming Mercedes EQC — exactly none of them offers more than 300 miles of range. This has led critics of EVs and Tesla fans alike to deride these new models as sub-standard and not worthy of consideration.