Americans Cite Range Anxiety, Cost as Largest Barriers for New EV Purchases: Study

More than three-quarters of Americans agree that EVs are the future, so why aren't they buying?

via Volvo

Three in four drivers agree that EVs are the future of driving. A new study by Volvo focuses on the perception of EVs by consumers in their current market state, showing why some consumers have made the switch and why others are avoiding hanging up the pump.

Over the past several years, the world has seen a sharp uptick in the number of electrified vehicles (EVs) on the road. Namely, European countries (like Norway and Sweden), China, and the United States are seen as blossoming locations where EVs are beginning to take hold as a noticeable form of transportation. Analysts predict that this market will continue to grow, likely reaching a valuation of $356 billion by 2023. For that to happen, drivers must continue to adopt EVs as a primary means of mobility.

Why Drivers Are Switching to EVs

Manufacturers, alongside consumers, strongly believe that EVs are the future. Some automakers will eventually force the hand of the consumer to EV by sharply increasing production numbers over the next several years, while other brands seem to be committing to full electrification across their respective lineups. Many consumers aren't waiting for automakers to force the switch—electrification is already booming, and for good reasons.

The convenience of charging at home appears to play a huge factor for those who own an electric car. More than half (51 percent) of all reported charging takes place at home, while another 16 percent are plugged in at work. Only a third of charging appears to be performed as destination charging or while commuting.

via Volvo

More than half of all EV drivers report that the majority of their charging is done at home.

Despite the upfront cost barrier, EV drivers state that their vehicles have made a positive impacted their wallets when considering fuel cost and long-term maintenance. Nearly three-fourths of drivers agree that gas savings outweigh the higher upfront cost of the vehicle.

Owning an EV also appears to be a status symbol of cleaner living. Volvo's study found that half of all current EV drivers believe that their vehicles make a positive environmental impact; 49 percent even believed that it made a bigger impact to the environment than recycling. Nearly three-fourths (73 percent) of respondents say driving an EV helps them to feel better about making less environmentally conscious decisions in "other areas of life."

Perhaps one of the more interesting findings from the study is the number of EV drivers who consider themselves to be auto enthusiasts. Thirty-eight percent of EV drivers surveyed considered themselves to fit the stigma, while only 24 percent of all other drivers felt passionately about their vehicles.

Why Drivers Aren't Switching to EVs

The majority of vehicles sales in the United States are still based around the traditional internal combustion engine (ICE). Drivers are familiar with the tried and true technology, holding the affordable option of purchasing a small and fuel efficient gasoline engine as a keystone for their next vehicle purchase. As with any switch, consumers may be afraid to take the jump at first, especially when a technology is still in its infancy with many manufacturers.

By a margin, the largest reason that consumers have avoided purchasing an electric car is range anxiety. That is, 58 percent of drivers are afraid that they will run out of power before being able to charge their vehicle, while another 49 percent fear the low availability of charging stations.

via Volvo

Volvo found that 58 percent of total respondents cited range anxiety as a barrier for purchasing an electric car.

The upfront cost of electrified vehicles have also put off consumers looking to purchase a new car. Buying a vehicle with any form of electrification generally tends to be more expensive. As an example, consumers looking at purchasing the lowest-cost Tesla Model 3 will find themselves paying $42,900 out of pocket, nearly 19 percent higher the national average of a new car in the United States hovers at $36,115.

"It's just like people literally don't have the money to buy the car," commented Tesla CEO Elon Musk on the cost of the company's most affordable sedan, the Model 3, during a quarterly earnings call. "It's got nothing to do with desire. They just don't have enough money in their bank account. If the car can be made more affordable, the demand is extraordinary."

Other notable reasons include the perception of service costs, performance capabilities, and lack of variety across models. Forty-two percent of non-EV owners felt that finding a charging station on the go might be difficult, while another 31 percent feared the seasonal impact on driving.

Non-EV drivers also tend to believe that electric cars don't have the capability to be performance vehicles. Only 19 percent of all drivers surveyed report that they feel EVs can offer a "responsive" driving experience; consequently, this number is eclipsed by EV owners with 39 percent agreeing that their vehicles are, in fact, responsive. The majority of EV drivers classified their driving style as "adventurous, fast, and even aggressive," calling their time behind the wheel "thrilling."

What Would Make More Drivers Switch to EVs

The largest current fear of moving from ICE to EV appears to focus on the range of vehicles. Short of battery technology improving to include higher density cells or solid state storage, consumers may be satisfied with a more robust charging infrastructure for on-the-go charging, despite it representing a fraction of where drivers charge their vehicles.

Overall, 61 percent of those surveyed said that they would be more inclined to purchase an EV if there were more charging stations. Drivers report that they would love to see an influx of charging stations pop up at coffee shops and gyms, perhaps cluing the powers that be of an untapped market that will expand as the future of EV charging infrastructure continues to evolve.

Faster charging could also convince more drivers to switch. Thirty-eight percent of EV owners surveyed reportedly feel that charging their vehicle takes longer than they anticipated, while nearly half (48 percent) said that they would pay more to charge in half the time it currently takes them.

Of course, finance is also a huge player when making any purchase. More than half (57 percent) of consumers said that they would be more likely to purchase an EV if it were the same price as a traditional vehicle. Another large chunk of consumers (41 percent) cite government-backed financial incentives, such as the EV tax credit, as a reason to buy.