The Drive Change. Drive Electric campaign is a public-private partnership between auto manufacturers and northeast US states to advance consumer awareness, understanding, consideration, and adoption of electric cars. A recent survey about the attitudes of potential EV owners showed that it’s not the EV itself that makes people wary — it’s the lack of certainty about charging and costs that hold potential EV owners back from making the leap to EV personal ownership. An “impact of the unknown on the everyday” holds many potential EV owners back from their first all-electric transportation purchase.
These data results were released early to a select number of press contacts. Of many interesting patterns that I found that emerged in the survey (1000 likely car buyers nationwide, along with a nationally representative sample), 5 major reasons loom as barriers for potential EV buyers to avoid or even reject EVs as their next car buying option. The respondents speak from a lack of background knowledge about most aspects of EVs today in the US. They just don’t know that electric cars are far simpler, mechanically, than internal combustion cars and are generally more reliable.
Potential EV owners’ concerns could be easily overcome by robust US state and federal policy changes to address EV infrastructure gaps, automakers’ campaigns to inform the public, and tech companies’ exhibitions of EVs in towns and community centers. People want to step away from polluting internal combustion engines (ICEs); they’re just afraid.
Availability of charging locations: 38% people surveyed by Drive Change. Drive Electric said they were worried they would be unable to find a working charge point — that there were not enough charging stations near them. Many regions across the US are creating policies that address the imminent need for easy-to-access EV charging stations. For example, the northeast corridor, from the Washington DC metro area to Maine, is a heavily populated area that is poised to become one of the world’s leading electric vehicle (EV) markets. Working collaboratively, a dozen northeast US states developed a set of recommendations titled the “Northeast Corridor Regional Strategy for Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure” to advance public and private investments in electric car charging and increase the use of electric cars throughout the region. Other states are also implementing policy changes to enhance EV infrastructures, and more is coming.
Time to recharge: 36% of those surveyed felt they didn’t have ample time in their schedules to recharge an EV. Electric vehicles have various battery pack sizes; the battery pack size determines the amount of energy stored in the vehicle. Electric vehicle charging stations have different maximum power delivery ratings. This chart tracks the May, 2018 charge time for all-electric cars available in the US.
But lots of progress has been made in just the last year in technologies that help to reduce recharging time. Researchers at Drexel University School of Engineering claim they have created a new highly conductive two-dimensional material they call MXene that will permit faster battery charging. Battery research is taking place using transmission electron microscopy at Brookhaven’s Center for Functional Nanomaterials and Condensed Matter Physics. Panasonic has announced that it is in the process of developing cobalt-free EV batteries, and, as the world’s largest automotive lithium-ion battery manufacturer and Tesla’s exclusive battery cell supplier for the Model 3 sedan, this announcement has real potential for accelerating EV battery performance. Clearly, as recharging time comes down, more potential EV owners will come onboard.
Driving range: Yes, many people wish that EVs had more range, and 34% of the Drive Change. Drive Electric folks surveyed ‘fessed up to range anxiety. Kyle here at CleanTechnica just drove the Honda Clarity Electric, which he called “the family friendly EV we have longed for.” He also felt compelled to state that it lacked range (89 miles). But Carlos Ghosn, chairman and CEO of the Renault–Nissan–Mitsubishi Alliance, says electric cars with at least 300 kilometers (186 miles) of range are sufficient to address most fears about running out of battery power while driving, especially since the average person drives fewer than 50 kilometers (31 miles) a day. So that standard that Kyle, his family, and others feel is necessary is coming soon.
Zach here at CleanTechnica compiles a helpful annual list of EVs with the most range. We each need to weigh our average commutes and the ranges of EVs that we admire to reconcile whether we actually do need a full ICEV fuel tank worth of range on a daily basis.
High upfront costs: 31% of those surveyed said the expense to get into an EV was too much. While some EVs are costlier upfront than comparable legacy vehicles, but may people don’t realize the difference in purchase price is often offset by savings on fuel and maintenance, as well as the various tax breaks and incentives that are available. Many believe that EVs will be better and cheaper than ICEVs at the value end of the small SUV and compact car segments by 2022 and at parity at the higher-priced end of these segments by 2019. By 2024–2025, EVs will outcompete on both features and price across vehicle segments.
Plus, a recent CleanTechnica article discussed how battery costs, coming through with cutting-edge cell chemistry as well as more efficient production processes, are a key differentiator in the race to enable EVs to achieve overall price competitiveness with ICEVs — at the dealership finance desk, not just over the ownership lifetimes of the vehicles.
Difficulties in home charging: Myths about home EV charging are rampant, as 24% of the survey respondents indicated. And there isn’t much public outreach to inform people about what a home charger entails. So here goes. Data reveals that the vast majority of charging happens at home. Owning a home makes the process of adding an EV charging station to the home electrical network a fairly straightforward process, as any upgrades can happen at the discretion of the homeowner and adds to the value of the home. Did you know you can install a Level 2 charger in your home that can recharge your battery in four hours with a reasonable cost of around $500 to $600?
Okay, not everybody owns a home, and many individuals who would like to own an EV cannot charge at their apartment or condo complex. But California is leading the way for urban EV charging with the California Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Project (CALeVIP), working with community partners to develop regional incentive projects to install plug-in EV chargers and accelerate the expansion of charging infrastructure. Other states are taking notice, too. CleanTechnica’s 93-page electric car driver report devotes its largest section to charging and speaks to home charging dilemmas and solutions.
It is often said that fear of the unknown may be the most fundamental fear. Every time an individual encounters an unfamiliar situation, the fear arises and prevents an individual from taking actions that are forward-thinking and productive. Often, an individual who fears the unknown chooses to run away from the situation and loses out on opportunities to experience better things in life.
CNNTech says 2018 will be “the Year of the electric car,” so it seems to be time for people with FOEV to take a few baby steps. Take an EV for a test ride. Read CleanTechnica and learn a lot more about EVs and the tech behind them. And join in with others who are committing themselves to zero-emissions transportation, joining in on the electrification of the US.
Update: Elaine O’Grady, Senior Policy Advisor at NESCAUM, responded to some CleanTechnica questions with this statement: “Most cost buyers nationwide do not consider themselves knowledgeable about electric cars. We see an opportunity here because the more car buyers learn about electric cars – including the many makes and models available, the different technology options, the convenience and savings that come with driving electric, the purchase incentives, and that they are fast and fun to drive – the more likely they are to consider one for their next vehicle. The ‘Drive Change. Drive Electric.’ campaign is all about making more people aware of the benefits of electric cars and that driving electric can fit seamlessly into their everyday life.”