Photo courtesy Majella Waterworth

The Electric Car Revolution Is Still On Track, Says Cox Automotive

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Cox Automotive has just published its 2024 Path To EV Adoption study, which finds the electric car revolution is alive and well, despite a spate of naysayers who have been saying quite the opposite lately. The company says its latest research took place in the first quarter of this year and included a nationally representative sample of 2,557 American vehicle shoppers and 526 dealers. The purpose of the study was to gain a better understanding of those shoppers’ and dealers’ perceptions, preferences, and attitudes toward electric car offerings. The study was structured to capture a broad spectrum of demographic variables, including age, income, geographic location, and current vehicle ownership, to ensure the findings accurately reflect the diverse landscape of the American consumer base.

In the introduction to this latest study, Cox Automotive says a second, significant wave of shoppers is ready to consider buying an electric car in the second half of this decade. The survey results show nearly half of all vehicle shoppers in market today are not even considering an EV, a group the study identifies as Skeptics. These are people who are considering the purchase of a new car but are limiting their choices to cars with infernal combustion engines.

But the Skeptics are beginning to come around to the idea of driving an electric car, the study suggests. As technology improves, the US EV charging network expands, and lower electric car prices arrive, 54% of those who are Skeptics today will become EV Considerers within three to five years, the survey suggests. Within the next ten years, 80% of today’s Skeptics will be ready to consider an electric car as more barriers to adoption of the new technology fall.

Electric Car Sales Are Up & Down

Last year, electric car sales in the US surpassed 1 million units for the first time, according to sales estimates by Kelley Blue Book, a subsidiary of Cox Automotive. Nevertheless, interest in purchasing an electric car had declined since 2022. Not to worry, the survey says. The slowing of EV sales growth is likely just a shift in market dynamics as electric car sales enter a new phase of development.

“While we’ve seen EV sales growth slow and consideration dip, we believe this is part of a normal growth curve and not the end of the story,” said Isabelle Helms, vice president of research and market intelligence at Cox Automotive. “We remain bullish on the long-term future of EV sales in America, as many Skeptics today will be carefully considering an EV by the end of the decade. With more infrastructure, education, and technological innovation and improvements, we believe electric vehicle sales will continue to grow in the long term.”

MarketWatch notes that prediction lines up nicely with the expectations of the auto industry and government regulators. The EPA recently issued new tailpipe emissions rules that are somewhat less aggressive in the near term, with the expectation that a dramatic increase in electric car sales later will result in a net reduction in emissions that is fairly close to what the government wanted in the first place.

The Next Wave Of Electric Car Buyers Is Coming

The 2024 Path to EV Adoption study suggests a second wave of EV Considerers is preparing to enter the market. It predicts EV consideration will increase in three to five years, with 54% of current Skeptics expected to become active EV Considerers. Within 10 years, 80% of today’s Skeptics will have become EV Considerers. By that time, most vehicle shoppers — looking at both new and used vehicles — will be actively considering an electric vehicle. Is this as fast as many CleanTechnica readers might hope? No, it is not. But it does offer hope that the EV revolution will be completed — eventually.

As Skeptics slowly become Considerers, overall electric car sales in the US are predicted to increase dramatically. Currently, only 45% of consumers in the market for a new car within the next 12 months say they are considering an EV, down from last year when 51% of in-market shoppers were looking at EV options. In the 2026 to 2028 timeframe, the research suggests 79% of vehicle shoppers — both new and used — will be considering an electric car. By 2033, 90% of all vehicle shoppers will have electric vehicles on their lists.

The expected shift is being driven largely by expectations for significant technological advancements and a notable improvement in the available EV charging infrastructure. At CleanTechnica, we firmly believe access to convenient and reliable electric car charging infrastructure is critical to moving EV doubters off the fence and into the electric car ecosystem. Many of those who are Skeptics today are waiting for better range, longer battery life, improved reliability, and overall technological advancements. Those who are Considerers say “price” is the primary barrier to them purchasing an electric car. On the other hand, Skeptics consider the “lack of charging stations” the top barrier.

The Electric Car Goes Mainstream

The new research from Cox Automotive also suggests the EV market is slowly becoming more mainstream. While current electric car ownership is heavily tilted toward luxury and high income households today, the research suggests more Gen Z, multicultural, and less affluent shoppers will be attracted to EVs in the near future. The market is also seeing a notable uptick in used EV consideration. In 2021, 62% of EV Considerers were looking at used EVs. Today, 77% are considering the purchase of a used electric car.

While Tesla continues to be far and away the most considered EV maker, many mainstream brands are making inroads. The new report shows that electric vehicles from Toyota, Hyundai, and Kia have experienced notable increases in awareness and consideration since 2021. Meanwhile, Ford continues to be the most considered electric car manufacturer after Tesla. However, a majority of vehicle shoppers are not even aware of EV offerings from other major automakers, the Cox Automotive study reveals, which suggests many are not researching EVs at all. Only a third of those who participated in the study said they were aware of electric car offerings from Nissan — a disaster for the Japanese company which a decade ago lead the EV revolution with the first edition of the LEAF.

Dealers Are Getting Onboard

The study also shows that relations between dealers and automakers are improving when it comes to selling and servicing EVs. The dealers reported they are getting more marketing support from manufacturers but said they need additional resources beyond training in selling EVs. More EV incentives are high on their list, including free maintenance programs and more money for advertising. Dealers also said they are getting more pressure to sell EVs from the automakers, particularly at the high end of the market.

86% of dealers reported they are likely or somewhat likely to continue making investments in EV charging infrastructure to support the sale of EVs, which Cox Automotive sees as a signal of a more collaborative approach toward electric car sales.

The Takeaway

EV revolution
Credit: Future Business Tech

Those in favor of new technologies often point to the so-called S Curve as a model of how new ideas get accepted in the marketplace. It is generally assumed that once a new technology achieves a market penetration of 5%, the battle is over and the path to general acceptance is guaranteed. Nothing could be further from the truth. The thinking behind the S Curve assumes that there will be constant innovation along the way, and that those who fail to innovate will fall by the wayside.

We are seeing lots of innovation in battery technology from companies like CATL, Gotion, and BYD. That’s good. But they are all Chinese companies which are getting substantial pushback from many nations worried that cheap cars from China will decimate local industries. The innovations needed to move the EV revolution forward may be stopped dead in their tracks by political considerations, with obvious negative implications for how quickly the further embrace of electric car technology occurs.

The Cox Automotive study is a ray of sunshine in a world in which much of the news about EVs is negative. We welcome this good news, even if it it may or may not become reality. Shakespeare said, “The course of true love never did run smooth,” and the same can be said about how quickly electric car technology goes mainstream. The most we can say is the EV revolution seems to be gathering momentum for a new leap forward, beginning in a few years — in other words, just it time to collide with manufacturers introducing new hybrid and plug-in hybrid models. What interesting times we live in!

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." You can follow him on Substack and LinkedIn but not on Fakebook or any social media platforms controlled by narcissistic yahoos.

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