Even though they’ve been around since the late 1800s, 60 percent of Americans surveyed this year said that they were “unaware” of electric cars. While one is forced to wonder exactly how the question was worded, no possible answer inspires confidence in the public’s knowledge on the subject of EVs.
It would seem, at least in this instance, that modern-day America is largely unfamiliar with the electric car. There is also an underlying range anxiety afflicting prospective buyers. That doesn’t bode well for the rapid normalization that many automakers are anticipating in the years to come. However, there is a silver lining for an electric future.
While 80 percent of the 2,500 people surveyed by Altman Vilandrie & Company had never been inside an EV, most of those who had said they enjoyed the experience. Still, even those peoplehad complaints about the higher than average cost associated with battery-powered cars.
“While the EV adoption rate is low, there are signs of strong latent demand in the marketplace,” said Altman Vilandrie & Company Director Moe Kelley. “The auto industry still needs to make more low-priced models available to consumers, as well as finding a way for more drivers to try out an EV. If those things happen we should see the EV adoption rate accelerate.”
Some companies are doing that already. The Chevrolet Spark EV, Volkswagen e-Golf, Ford Focus Electric and Nissan Leaf are all prime examples of more affordable electric options, though none have yet addressed the issue of range anxiety — which really harms EV adoption rates.
Of the surveyed group, 74 expressed fears that the battery might not provide an adequate range, while 85 percent worried that there wouldn’t be enough charging stations to make EV ownership worthwhile. While there are electrics on the market now with range limits exceeding 200 miles, they start at $68,000 and are only available from one manufacturer. Chevrolet’s $30,000 (after tax credit) Bolt, which is just rolling out in select regions before a full release in 2017, claims 238 miles.
“Price matters, and our analysis shows that more affordable models would go a long way to changing the perception that EVs are luxury items for the urban elite,” said Altman Vilandrie & Co’s Soumen Ganguly, who co-directed the survey with Kelley. “Both electric and self-driving vehicles are the future of personal transportation but carmakers need to make sure consumers are excited about going electric now, and that goes beyond the obvious environmental benefits.”