By Carolyn Fortuna
Even with clear benefits and increasing availability, there are consumers who are hesitant to switch to electric vehicles. What are the factors that create or inhibit momentum toward EV adoption? That is exactly the question that a group of UK researchers posed as they attempted to determine how consumers felt about EVs. The resulting study shows that key barriers to EV adoption include strongly held ideas about infrastructure and higher costs — mostly due to a lack of education about EVs.
Key Findings about EV Awareness and Perceptions
What did respondents think about EVs in general? 53% of individuals who took the survey did not know that an electric car can be charged from a domestic socket. Also, people from all age groups considered electric cars to be “expensive.” Here are some interesting stats that emerged.
- Although 4 out of 10 could name Tesla, the next best known EV brand was BMW, listed by just 18%. Other brands struggled to get above 15% in EV name recognition.
- 31% of the survey group believe that electric vehicles need more infrastructure that provide recharge time (42%). This is like a 2018 AAA survey also determined that 58% of consumers said they wouldn’t go electric because they feared running out of charge while driving.
- All age groups consider the EV expensive: average car spending is £14,000, with the average cost of an electric vehicles falls around £32,000. What participants failed to understand is that the true price of a vehicle includes the lifetime costs of owning and operating it. A study by the Electric Power Research Institute, for example, showed electric vehicles performed in many cases better than conventional vehicles, due to cheaper fuel and lower maintenance cost.
- Only 11% of all respondents claimed to be happy to pay upwards of £35,000 for an EV.
- The study found that EV misconceptions are still rampant, with over half of the audience (53%) not knowing you can charge an EV with a normal household plug. This is consistent with the 2018 AAA survey in which 63% of those surveyed cited that there are not enough places to charge as a reason they were unsure or unwilling to choose an electric vehicle as their next car.
- 20% were not aware that tax benefits were available to those buying electric cars. One in five of the audience didn’t know that EV drivers in the UK don’t pay Road Tax.
- Two thirds also didn’t know that the battery gets help charging every time an EV driver hits the brakes
The Demographics of EV Adoption
The data above is the result of a survey of 2,000 UK drivers in a nationally representative study. Three distinct purchasing groups emerged in the research:
- 18-24 year olds who are open and interested in EVs.
- 2 out of 3 are interested in EVs.
- Fewer than almost 9/10 say they wouldn’t consider an EV purchase.
- Style of an EV is all-important to over half of them.
- 25-54 year olds are not averse to EVs, but they do have distinct concerns. This audience is most likely to choose the EV compromise of a hybrid.
- 55+ year olds who are significantly harder to convince:
- Over half of over 55s (54%) term EV technology as experimental.
- 7 out of 10 deem it unproven.
Even with improvement in EV technology, less than a third (28%) would consider buying an EV.
Lower running costs (63%) and being better for the environment (64%) were the biggest benefits for two thirds of the audience overall, with the latter being most important for an under 25 audience and the former for the over 25s. However, performance isn’t an issue, with just 20% saying they believe performance be a barrier to purchase.
The survey did focus on the private purchase of electric cars rather than on other EVs such as light electric vehicles or commercial vehicles. It also did not include questions about modes of EV use such as car- or ride-sharing.
Approaches to Educating Consumers about EVs
A comparison of research about EV perceptions points to 5 distinct elements of awareness available through information and tools:
- general information,
- cost comparison,
- public charger locations,
- incentives, and
- model availability.
What are some of the existing EV consumer awareness programs that are showing promise?
National Drive Electric Week is a nationwide event to increase awareness and highlight benefits of electric vehicles across US cities. Three non-governmental organizations (Plug-In America, the Sierra Club, and the Electric Auto Association) serve as the national team to support the various events across the country. In addition, many local organizations and individuals work together at the grassroots level to bring the full range of events to local communities. This event continues to increase in scale each year.
The EV Experience Centre is essentially just a storefront in a typical shopping mall that is stocked with plug-in vehicles from 6 different manufacturers, all sorts of charging equipment, and, most importantly, 10 EV Gurus who have been specially trained on all of the vehicles and chargers in the store.
The GoEVCity Policy Toolkit helps cities to develop engagement and partnership programs to expand public awareness and education in order to increase public understanding of EV feasibility and benefits.
The Greenlining Institute offers the “Electric Vehicles for All: An Equity ToolKit” is specifically designed to provide tools, tips, and resources that will help make EVs accessible to underserved communities. The toolkit’s chapters are broken out into sections that highlight information and lessons learned from current models in California like the Charge Ahead California Initiative (SB 1275, De León).
Moving forward, car companies are going to have to do a lot more than announce — ta da! — that they’re releasing a new model electric vehicle. Instead, they’ll have to have a marketing strategy that includes significant investment in widespread consumer awareness education that focuses on the benefits of EVs while also shattering the myths that surround all-electric transportation.
Range anxiety continues to be of concern to current owners of gas-powered vehicles as they think about driving an EV. Part of this is due to the current basic framework of EV chargers. This fear can be easily demystified with information and guidance.
In the same way that dealers for years have been offering incentives to customers through free hotdogs and ice cream, balloons, and giveaways, dealer awareness activities that welcome potential EV buyers must be developed. Well-trained sales staff. Electric vehicle showcases. EV clinics. Guided test drives. Current EV owners who serve as mentors. Workshops in charging, both at home and on the road.
And communities can help, too. Awards in recognition of individuals, organizations, or businesses that play an important role in advancing electric mobility. Formal youth EV education. Company fleets that include EVs for wider exposure. Initiatives that link electric vehicle awareness programs to tourism.
The incentives need to be modified, too, so that 3 distinctive age and life stage groups feel as if their concerns are being alleviated. This approach does start with different strategies and messaging but must also clearly address the risks and unknowns that the average car owner has to overcome before taking the step to an EV.
Such explicit edutainment approaches give today’s car companies the chance to showcase new products and possibilities. Anytime a company gets to rejuvenate its product line and reinvent itself, the company flourishes. This mindset is necessary for EVs to take their necessary place in a zero emissions transportation future.
It’s time to “educate the masses,” as the following poetry slam narrative argues.