ORLANDO, Fla. —The future is electric, but most consumers aren’t sure exactly when it will hit.
Forty-two percent of Americans believe most vehicles will be electric by the end of the next decade, compared to 45% who do not, according to AAA’s annual survey of consumer attitudes about electric vehicles (EVs). This is more bullish than many projections for battery electric vehicles (BEVs), which currently make up about 1% of new-vehicle sales in the United States. LMC Automotive has estimated that by 2030, 30% of U.S. new-vehicle sales will be electric, with most hybrids (23%) and only 7% BEVs.
Meanwhile, 16% of consumers say they are likely to buy an EV the next time they are ready to buy a new vehicle, which is unchanged from the 2018 survey. Millennials are more open to the idea, with 23% likely to consider buying an EV, compared to 17% of Generation X and 8% of baby boomers. The environment (74%) and lower long-term costs (56%) were the most popular motivators for those likely to buy an EV.
“Today, more than 200,000 electric cars can be found on roads across the country as almost every manufacturer sells them,” said Greg Brannon, director of automotive engineering and industry relations for AAA, Orlando, Fla. “But, like other new vehicle technologies, Americans don’t have the full story, and that could be causing the gap between interest and action.”
Here are four insights on consumers’ EV attitudes and outlook ...
1. Range anxiety is waning
Of consumers who are unlikely to buy an EV or unsure about it, 58% are worried about a lack of charging locations, while 57% are concerned about running out of a charge while driving. Another 57% are worried that EVs’ current range is not suitable for long-distance trips.
The percentage of consumers with range-anxiety-related concerns is shrinking, however. Since the first AAA EV attitude survey in 2017, concern about the availability of charging locations has fallen by 11 percentage points, while concern about running out of a charge while driving is also down 11 points.
2. Fuel costs matter
About 40% of consumers who are unlikely to buy an EV or are unsure about it said higher gas prices could motivate them to reconsider. Gasoline prices would have to hit $5 per gallon before it would be an influencing factor, however. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) expects gasoline prices to average $2.92 per gallon for the summer 2019 driving season of April through September.
Millennials (64%) would be much more likely to consider buying an EV as gas prices increase, compared to Generation X (41%) and baby boomers (30%).
3. Drivability is confusing
There is still a lot of confusion about EVs’ capabilities, according to the survey. Nearly 60% of consumers said they were unsure whether freeway or stop-and-go traffic would be less demanding on an EV’s battery. AAA said that, unlike internal combustion engines, EVs are more efficient in stop-and-go traffic because the vehicle can recapture energy to charge the battery when it decelerates before a stop.
4. EVs are worth the extra money—to some
Of consumers who are likely to buy an EV for their next vehicle, 67% said they are willing to pay more than for a conventional vehicle. Of these, 44% would be willing to pay $4,000 or more than a conventional vehicle, while 23% would pay more than $4,000.
While the sticker price of an EV is typically higher than that of a comparable conventional vehicle, federal and state rebates can reduce the upfront cost, and an EV's lifetime maintenance and fuel costs are lower. According to the EIA, electricity costs per “e-gallon” are typically about half the U.S. retail average for regular gasoline.