Consumer Ignorance on Electric Vehicles Is Still a Major Problem, AAA Survey Says

Lack of knowledge is stopping people who are interested in electric cars from actually buying them.

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Automakers are launching more electric cars than ever, but car buyers are still largely ignorant of how those cars work, according to a new AAA survey. And that lack of knowledge may be slowing adoption of electric cars.

"Today, more than 200,000 electric cars can be found on roads across the country as almost every manufacturer sells them," Greg Brannon, AAA director of automotive engineering and industry relations, said in a statement. "But, like other new vehicle technologies, Americans don't have the full story and that could be causing the gap between interest and action."

Of those surveyed, four out of 10 said they believed most vehicles will be electric by 2029. However, in another AAA survey conducted earlier this year, 55 percent of respondents said they believed most cars would be able to drive themselves within the same timeframe, even though that is much less likely to happen. Lack of understanding may have contributed to that attitude.

Many survey respondents lack fundamental knowledge of electric cars. Regenerative braking helps boost range in stop and go traffic, but most respondents seemed to be unaware of this, with 59 percent saying they were unsure of whether electric cars had a greater range in stop and go traffic or highway driving.

Yet AAA claims its results show that 40 million Americans would likely consider an electric car for their next vehicle purchase, with Millennials more likely to take the plunge than other age groups. Respondents cited concern for the environment (74 percent) and lower long-term costs (56 percent) as the main reason for considering electric cars. Respondents also seemed less concerned about potential downsides than in previous surveys. Concern over lack of charging stations and range anxiety was down 11 percent from 2017, while concern over battery-replacement costs and a higher purchase price for electric cars were down 8 percent and 6 percent, respectively.

The survey results indicate that people like the idea of electric cars, but more buyers will have to actually plunk down cash for them in order to achieve the ultimate goal of electrification: reducing emissions. AAA recommends that car buyers do as much research as possible, including going to dealerships to test drive cars and pepper salespeople with questions. That may not help, however, as traditional dealers haven't shown much enthusiasm for selling electric cars. That's one of the reasons why Tesla has never used them, preferring to sell cars directly to customers.