As more electric and plug-in vehicles come to market, U.S. drivers are are showing increasing interest to try them out. At the same time, future interest in gasoline-powered vehicles is fading, despite the fact that they dominate new vehicle sales.
Data from a YouGov poll for Forbes Wheels of more than 33,000 licensed U.S. drivers showed that 22.9% of respondents would consider purchasing an electric vehicle as a new or used car. The survey allowed drivers to choose multiple engine/motor types. That percentage may not seem huge, but that rate of consideration for a future electric vehicle purchase is about eight times the current market share of EVs, currently just 3% of all new vehicles sold.
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In comparison, gasoline-engine vehicles that dominate the marketplace now are under consideration by 44.9%. Interest in hybrid vehicles was shown by 27.1% of respondents. The only other engine/motor type with more than 10% was diesel, mentioned by 12.4% of respondents. For pickup truck-intenders, diesels are often considered alongside gasoline: Diesels offer greater power, better fuel economy and longer engine life even if their prices can be up to $10,000 higher than their gas engine equivalents.
“Protect the Environment” Tops Reasons to Buy
Among EV intenders, the most-often cited reason for considering an electric car was to protect the environment, but low cost of operation also ranked high. Among people open to buying electric cars the motivators were:
- To protect the environment – 45%
- Low running costs (e.g. tax, maintenance and charging) – 38%
- Reduced cost of fuel – 30%
- Future proofing (e.g. petrol and diesel are in decline) – 22%
- I like how silent these types of cars are – 19%
- Low insurance costs – 15%
- I like the design of the car – 15%
- Low purchase price – 15%
- I like the brand – 14%
- It has unique features – 14%
- I like using the latest technology – 12%
Holdouts Say EVs Cost Too Much
On the flip side, drivers who said they’re not open to buying an electric car also had strong feelings about cost and convenience. Their top reasons were:
- Initial cost is higher – 32%
- There are not enough charging stations – 30%
- Charging time – 28%
- Hassle of charging – 27%
- Cost of charging at home – 27%
- Longevity of battery – 26%
- Low mileage range at full charge – 21%
- Range of models to choose from is reduced – 16%
- Low performance in terms of speed – 13%
- I don’t like the design – 8%
- Financial benefits, tax breaks, and legislation are confusing – 8%
Some of the objections may be reflections on older EVs, such as range and low performance (all but the lowest cost EVs are zippy). Others are spot on: higher initial cost, lengthy charging time, charging hassles (at least at public stations). These concerns suggest automakers need to do a better job telling would-be buyers how EVs have evolved and that studies now show the lifetime cost of ownership in the electric versus gasoline stakes favors EVs.
Agreement: EVs Represent the Future
By a margin of almost 3 to 1, respondents agreed, “Electric cars are the future of the motor industry,” with 65% in agreement: 29% definitely agreeing, 36% tending to agree. Twenty-three percent disagreed: 10% in definitely disagreement, 13% tending to disagree. Thirteen percent said they neither agree nor disagree.
EVs Draw More Interest in the West, Northeast
The survey showed more favorable attitudes toward EVs among respondents from the West and Northeast, less so among respondents from the Midwest and South, by margins of 7 percentage points. These were mentions among the top four engine/motor choices. Drivers from the West ranked each option highest, including diesel, which is fading except among pickups and a handful of SUVs. These are ranked by the percentage considering EVs:
- West drivers: 44% petrol, 31% hybrid, 27% electric, 15% diesel
- Northeast drivers: 42% petrol, 27% hybrid, 26% electric, 11% diesel
- Midwest drivers: 48% petrol, 27% hybrid, 23% electric, 11% diesel
- Southern drivers: 45% petrol, 24% hybrid, 19% electric, 13% diesel
The same West/Northeast, Midwest/South split in responses came on the question if “Electric cars are the future of the motor industry.” Again, ranked by agreement with the question, secondly by who (South or Midwest) disagrees less:
- Western drivers: 69% agree, 20% disagree
- Northeastern drivers: 68% agree, 20% disagree
- Southern drivers: 62% agree, 14% disagree.
- Midwestern drivers: 62% agree, 24% disagree
The survey, fielded by YouGov, includes responses received through mid-September.