When it comes to EV adoption, education is key

Nearly half of U.S. adults have heard nothing at all about EV incentives, according to a new Consumer Reports survey. But it’s these incentives that could nudge people toward a purchase.

Electric car charging

Many people are curious about adopting EVs.

Photo: Ernest Ojeh/Unsplash

While just a small sliver of the public currently owns an electric vehicle, many more people are EV-curious, according to a new survey commissioned by Consumer Reports.

That gulf between current EV customers (roughly 2% of the public) and the potential customers (at least 36%) represents not only a fertile market both for the car companies themselves, but also the potential that the public will buy into a decarbonized transportation sector sooner rather than later.

While just 14% say they would “definitely” buy or lease an EV, an additional 22% said they would “seriously consider” doing so, assuming they were in the market. Meanwhile, 28% said they would not even consider it, and the rest said they may consider one in the future, but they have some nagging reservations about making the switch.

However, not all demographics are equally eager about a potential EV purchase. Men are likelier than women to “definitely” or “seriously” consider an EV, as are those with higher levels of education or income. Young adults and those living in urban areas are also demographically inclined toward EV ownership.

More generally, familiarity with “the fundamentals of owning an electric-only vehicle” tends to make a person more likely to consider buying or leasing one. However, only 9% of people said they are “very” familiar, even after a year of splashy prime-time advertising of EVs.

Accordingly, EV skeptics tend to be most wary of the aspects of ownership that bear little resemblance to owning a gas-powered vehicle. For instance, among the respondents who said they wouldn’t immediately consider an EV purchase, 61% said charging logistics represented a major barrier. A majority of respondents also reported that vehicle range (55%) and overall costs of ownership (52%) are concerns.

The survey asked the cost-concerned respondents which aspect of costs proved most worrisome, and the overall purchase price of EVs — which still tend to be higher for EVs than for gas-powered cars — topped the list, at 58%. And maintenance and repair costs, which tend to be lower for EVs than for gas-powered alternatives, were a concern for 40% of those who said they had cost-related worries.

But awareness of the incentives — including those that could offset some of these costs — available to EV purchasers remains low, suggesting that the EV sector has some major educational hurdles to clear if it wants to speed adoption.

Nearly half (46%) of U.S. adults have heard nothing at all about EV incentives. These potential incentives include tax rebates, exemptions from emissions inspection and home charger installation discounts.

Just 34% of the public has heard about tax rebates or discounts available to offset the purchase price or lease, and 28% has heard about tax credits applied at a later date. Many EVs are eligible for both federal- and state-level credits when purchased new, though more significant federal tax credits have reportedly been stripped from a potential spending bill under consideration by Congress.

But the survey also found that incentives — assuming people know they’re available — could nudge people toward purchasing an EV. Tax rebates applied at the time of purchase or lease are particularly encouraging (53%), followed by discounts to install home charging infrastructure (49%).

The survey was performed by NORC at the University of Chicago from Jan. 27 to Feb. 18, 2022, among a representative sample of 8,027 U.S. adults. It has a margin of error of 1.59 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.


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