Lack of experience with EVs may be acting as a brake on adoption, though with first-hand experience, demand could accelerate swiftly
Washington, D.C.—Consumer Reports (CR) has a new survey of what Americans think about battery electric vehicles and low carbon fuels. The nationally representative survey of 9,030 American consumers was fielded in late June and July 2023.
The survey finds that around seven in 10 Americans express some level of interest in buying or leasing an electric-only vehicle (EV). This is consistent with the results from a similar survey fielded by CR in 2022.
Among Americans who said they expect their next vehicle to be new, 38% said they would at least seriously consider getting an EV if they were to get a vehicle today. This however highlights a significant gap between consideration and actual purchases, as only around 7% of new vehicle purchases in 2023 were battery electric vehicles.
Deeper analysis of the survey findings showed that overall consumer experience with EVs is very low. Consumer Reports developed an EV experience index on a scale of 0 to 4 based on answers to a series of four survey questions, ranging from whether they have seen an EV in their neighborhood to whether they have driven one. Only 5% of Americans score a 4 on the EV Experience Index, meaning they had had all four experiences CR asked about, while 64% of Americans score a 1 or less.
CR’s analysis also shows that willingness to get an EV increases as EV experience scores increase. This relationship remains statistically significant even when controlling for demographics and EV ownership history. Among Americans who scored a 4 on the experience index, 71% said that they would at least seriously consider getting an EV if they were to get a vehicle today. Conversely, only 13% of Americans who scored a 0 on the experience index said they would at least seriously consider getting an EV today.
“Right now it appears that lack of experience with EVs may be acting as a bit of a brake on EV adoption,” says Chris Harto, senior sustainability policy analyst at Consumer Reports. “However, the data seems to be showing that once more consumers get some first hand experience with EVs, demand could accelerate swiftly.”
The survey also found low awareness of existing EV incentive programs:
- Only 47% of Americans are aware of tax credits available for the purchase or lease of new EVs.
- Only 19% of Americans are aware of tax credits available for the purchase or lease of used EVs.
However, 48% of Americans said that tax rebates or discounts at the time of purchase (or lease) would encourage them to get an EV. These findings indicate that improving awareness of existing EV incentive programs could improve their effectiveness at increasing EV sales.
Low Carbon Fuels
The survey asked consumers about their perspectives and awareness of low carbon fuels (LCFs). Prior to taking the survey, only 25% of Americans had heard of low carbon fuels in vehicles. Once they learned about the fuels, 63% of Americans said they would at least somewhat likely use LCFs in their personal vehicles if the price was the same as traditional fuel.
Among the Americans who said they would be at least somewhat likely to use LCFs in their own vehicle, the two most commonly selected factors that contributed to this willingness were beliefs that low carbon fuels create less pollution than traditional fuels (64%) and that low carbon fuels have lower greenhouse gas emissions than traditional fuels (58%). One third of them say that they see LCFs as a stepping stone between traditional fuels and going fully electric (33%).