Consumer Reports asked 8,027 Americans whether they would consider buying or leasing an electric car, and 36% said yes. That is the highest positive response rate to a CR electric car poll ever. And while that is good news for EV advocates, there are a few things that need further clarification in order to get an accurate picture of people’s attitudes about driving electric cars in the United States.
Only 14% said they absolutely, positively, are getting an electric car next. For many others (57%), their enthusiasm was tempered by concerns about charging, range, and the cost of purchasing or leasing an electric car. You may be astonished to hear that 46% had no knowledge there were federal, state, and local incentives available for people who buy or lease an electric car. How can that be? Apparently we here in the CleanTechnica community live in a bubble where we assume everyone knows what we know.
Consumer Reports found that 14% of American drivers say they would “definitely” buy or lease a battery-electric vehicle today. That’s up markedly from the 4% who said the same in CR’s 2020 EV survey. The primary reasons they gave are that it costs less for electricity to recharge an EV than for gasoline to fuel a conventional car. Lower maintenance costs and lower overall costs were also a factor.
“The survey shows that there is clear interest among Americans in reducing costs for transportation and lowering their environmental impact,” says Quinta Warren, associate director of sustainability policy for Consumer Reports. “It underscores some key concerns, but fortunately, many of these barriers to owning a battery electric vehicle EV can be addressed through experience and education.”
The Feel Of The Wheel Seals The Deal
That last part about experience and education is important. Deidre Popovich, an assistant professor of marketing at Texas Tech University, tells CNN, “Product experiences provide us with sensory information which we can use to evaluate our enjoyment. This is particularly important with high-value purchases such as a house or a car because we want to make sure we will be happy with our decision.”
There will always be some customers who are especially resistant, she says. Some will tend to look for the negative in any new or innovative product or experience. “Early adopters ask questions to support their natural desire to try something new. Late adopters, on the other hand, tend to ask questions to gather evidence about why they should not try something new.”
As more electric vehicles make their way onto roads and into driveways, giving more people experience with them, there should be a corresponding increase in interest and demand. Almost half of those who said they would “definitely” buy or lease an electric vehicle have a friend, relative, or co-worker who owns one. Of those who said they definitely would not, that figure was only 13%.
Similarly, 71% of the people who said they would “definitely” buy an EV had seen one in their neighborhood, while only 27% of those who wouldn’t consider one had. Overall, about 44% of respondents said they have seen an EV in their neighborhood.
Also, far more of those who said they would buy an electric vehicle had been a passenger in one, while very few of those of those who would not consider an EV had ever ridden in one. According to the survey, 83% of Americans have never ridden in or driven an electric vehicle. That’s why it is so important that rental car companies are buying electric cars for their fleets. The more people who experience electric cars, the more people who will want to own one. GM spokesperson Kelly Cusinato tells CNN, “We expect Blazer EV, Equinox EVs, Silverado EV, to be of interest to rental companies and we agree that once customers get exposure to EVs, they are more likely to consider them.”
Other Findings From The EV Survey
As with most polls, the Consumer Reports survey slices and dices the raw data to see how age, gender, ethnicity, and other factors affect the answers people give. Here are a few insights from this latest poll about who is likely to consider buying or leasing an electric car:
- Males are more likely than females
- Younger adults are more likely than older adults
- Americans with a higher education are more likely than those with a lower education
- Americans with a higher household income are more likely than those with a lower household income
- Americans who live in urban areas are more likely than those living in suburban or rural settings
Overall, two-thirds of Americans say they would be likely to use low carbon fuel in their personal vehicle if the cost per gallon were the same as the cost of traditional fuel. And here’s something that indicates how out of step the reactionaries currently in control of the Republican agenda are with mainstream America. Seven out of 10 people who responded to the CR poll said the issue of climate change is personally “very important” (35%) or “somewhat important” (35%) to them. Three out of 4 Americans agree that human activities contribute to climate change.
The High Cost Of EVs
Almost two-thirds of respondents said the high cost of EVs would deter them from buying or leasing an EV, and yet most didn’t know the total cost of owning an electric car can be lower than for a conventional car once lower maintenance and fueling costs are taken into account.
The 2023 Chevy Bolt now starts at $26,595 — $20,000 less than the price of the average new car. People are blown away by the cost of a Lucid Air or Ford F-150 Lightning or Hummer EV. Those are the ones they read about in the news. GM in particular seems to be intent on bringing lower priced electric cars to market in the US with the upcoming Equinox EV rumored to start at $30,000.
Consumer Reports also found that people who have electric cars and plug them in at home are far less concerned about range issues than people who don’t own an EV. There is simply no way to explain how simple it is to own and drive an electric car. It’s like a smartphone. Plug it in when you go to bed and it’s good to go all the next day. Here again, word of mouth is an important factor in the EV revolution. People who don’t like electric cars tend to be people who have never driven an electric car.
Manufacturers and dealers could be much more involved in educating consumers with ride and drive events. Education is the key or as they say in the car business, “The feel of the wheel seals the deal.”
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