Survey: EV Price, Range Anxiety, Infrastructure Keep Car Shoppers Away

·4 min read
Photo credit: FREDERIC J. BROWN - Getty Images
Photo credit: FREDERIC J. BROWN - Getty Images
  • Even as electric vehicle sales continue to climb in the U.S., many car shoppers aren't always swayed by high-tech features or zero emissions. A new survey of 1350 car shoppers conducted by Autolist in April and May found plenty of reasons for EV skepticism.

  • The most common reason cited by car shoppers who didn't buy an EV was the price, followed by range anxiety and concern about where to charge up.

  • There's good news, too, for automakers with EVs to sell. Almost a quarter of respondents said they don't know enough about EVs to really consider them, which means more ads and educational campaigns could swing the needle.

A momentous shift in the auto industry away from fossil fuels and into electric, zero-emission vehicles is well underway. Although ownership of EVs is still minuscule in the U.S., automakers are very busy trying to figure out how, exactly, to get more people to purchase an electric vehicle. Swooping in with an assist for this mission are consumer surveys that try to understand people's reasons for buying an EV, and their reasons for waiting to make the switch.

Autolist published the latest such report this week, and it reveals both pitfalls and promise for purveyors of electric vehicles. The good news? Range anxiety, once the bugbear of mainstream thought about EVs, is no longer the top concern for shoppers. The bad news? Range anxiety is now second, cited by 44 percent of the 1350 car shoppers Autolist surveyed in April and May, following the high price of EVs (48 percent) and questions about infrastructure (36 percent; each respondent was asked to list their top three concerns).

"These are the same top three concerns that we saw in 2019 and again in 2021," Autolist CEO Corey Lydstone said in a statement. "While sales of EVs are slowly improving as more compelling models hit the market, consumers' impressions of electric vehicles aren't improving."

Too Expensive, Even If Gas Prices Keep Rising

While tax credits are available for some EV buyers, high up-front purchase prices are n0w the key hurdle for EV adoption in Autolist's findings. While EVs offer lower running and maintenance costs than gasoline vehicles, 28 percent of respondents said they were totally unwilling to pay more for an electric vehicle than a similar gasoline-powered vehicle. And don't expect America's historic high fuel prices to push these reluctant car buyers into EVs, at least not yet. When asked how high gas prices would have to get to make them consider buying an EV, 21 percent of those surveyed said there's no gas price too high. Twelve percent said $6 gallons of gas would do the trick, while other prices between $5 and $10 were all trigger levels for around 7 to 9 percent of respondents.

Putting Autolist's findings into context with other EV surveys is worthwhile. Earlier this month, KBB released its Brand Watch report for the first quarter of 2022 and found that "surging gas prices in March led one in four shoppers to consider electrified vehicles." It's also important to note that hybrids and plug-in hybrids count as "electrified" vehicles in KBB's usage. CarMax also released consumer information this month and found that internet search and test drives of electric vehicles had their largest spike in over a year in March 2022, right "around the same time gas prices in the U.S. spiked," the company said.

More Choice, More Availability Are Needed

There was some good news to be found in Autolist's data for companies selling EVs, though. Some of the reasons shoppers cited as a reason they wouldn't buy an EV are rapidly being solved, including "not the right size or body style" (11 percent). Trucks and SUVs are popular in the U.S., and these segments are just now starting to get real, all-electric options. Another solvable problem—especially once global supply chain issues get sorted out—is that 6 percent said EVs were hard to find. But the biggest issue that should not be a big issue is that 23 percent of shoppers said they didn't want to buy an EV because they don't know enough about them. That sounds more like an opportunity than a problem, something CarMax pointed to from another recent survey it conducted. In that survey, "65 percent of respondents said they would be more likely to consider purchasing an EV if they knew they could return it within 30 days if they didn't like it." Nothing like butts in seats, as they say.

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