Study: Why aren't people buying electric cars?

DENVER (May 9, 2019) – Just 16 percent of Americans say they are likely to buy an electric vehicle the next time they are in the market for a new car, per a new survey from AAA. That's down from last year's all-time high of 20 percent, and on par with 2017 figures. Surprisingly, only 4 in 10 Americans believe most vehicles will be electric by 2029 – a smaller percentage than those who believe most cars will be fully autonomous by that time, which is much less likely. All told, a general lack of consumer familiarity and hands-on experience contributes to the slow adoption of electric vehicles.

"The electric vehicle remains the car of the future, and already, 200,000 electric cars can be found on America's roads as they're produced and sold by nearly every manufacturer," said AAA Colorado spokesman Skyler McKinley. "Still, just like any emerging technology, Americans feel like they don't have the full story on electric cars. That's driving a wedge between being interested in an electric vehicle and actually purchasing one."  

Key Findings
AAA's annual electric vehicle opinion survey found that while consumer interest remains steady, Americans lack a comprehensive understanding of electric vehicle performance –  giving them pause when it comes time to buy a new car. Six in ten Americans, for example, are unsure whether an electric vehicle battery will last longer on the freeway or in stop-and-go traffic.

Sixteen percent (16%) of Americans say they are likely to buy a an electric vehicle the next time they are in the market for a new or used vehicle.
Milennials and Generation X are more likely to consider buying an electric vehicle than Baby Boomers (23% and 17% vs. 8%).

Concern for the environment and lower long-term costs continue to be the key drivers of interest in electric vehicles, and remain unchanged from 2018.

Americans who are likely to buy an electric vehicle would do so out of concern for the environment (74%), lower long-term costs (56%), interest in cutting-edge technology (45%), and access to the carpool lane (21%).

The majority of Americans who are likely to buy an electric vehicle are willing to pay more than they would for a gas-powered vehicle.

Two-thirds (67%) of Americans likely to buy an electric vehicle would be willing to pay more for it.
Four in ten (44%) would be willing up pay up to $4,000 more.
One-fourth (23%) would be willing to pay more than $4,000 in additional costs.

Adoption Barriers
Of those who are unlikely to buy an electric vehicle:

58 percent are concerned there are not enough places to charge.
57 percent are concerned they will run out of charge while driving.
47 percent believe the range is not suitable for long-distance travel.

Gas Price Impact
Per AAA research, four in ten consumers who are unlikely to buy an electric vehicle would consider buying one if gas prices rise. Still, fuel would need to cost at least $5.00 per gallon to have a sizable impact on consideration. Colorado gas prices currently average $2.84 per gallon. As gas prices rise, Milennials are more likely than Generation X and Baby Boomers to change their mind and consider buying an electric vehicle.

The Best Green Cars
Consumers interested in electric vehicles should research and learn as much as possible about these types of cars. AAA recommends drivers visit a dealership, test drive an electric vehicle, and ask as many questions as possible of the dealer and other electric vehicle owners. It is also important to understand charging options available at home to ensure consumers can take full advantage of electric vehicle technology with the least inconvenience.

Each year, AAA releases its Green Car Guide, which rates electric vehicles, hybrids, and highly fuel efficient cars based on criteria such as ride quality, safety, and performance.  This comprehensive guide can serve as a resource to consumers as it provides both detailed reviews of each car tested and a high-level overview of green vehicles in America. Consumers who are on the fence will find that this guide can be a valuable resource for learning more about electric and other environmentally friendly vehicles.

In 2019, the following vehicles earned AAA's Top Green Car award:

Overall: 2019 Jaguar I-Pace EV400 HSE
Subcompact: 2019 Chevy Bolt Premier
Compact: 2018 Nissan Leaf SL
Midsize: 2018 Tesla Model 3 RWD
Large: 2018 Tesla Model S P100D
Pickup: 2018 Ford F-150 4x4 Supercrew
SUV/Minivan: 2019 Jaguar I-Pace EV400 HSE
Best Under $30k: 2019 Toyota Camry SE
Best $30k to $50k: 2018 Nissan Leaf SL
Best Over $50k: 2019 Jaguar I-Pace EV400 HSE

Winners, detailed evaluation criteria, vehicle reviews and an in-depth analysis of the green vehicle industry can be found at AAA.com/greencar.

"It's almost certain that when the self-driving car arrives, it will be an electric car," McKinley said. "In that way, today's ready-to-drive electric cars are a glimpse at the future, and with more manufacturers than ever producing electric vehicles, going green is quickly becoming a viable option for many Americans."

Parts & People

Parts & People is published monthly by Automotive Counseling and Publishing Company, Inc., a Colorado corporation, P.O. Box 18731 Denver, CO 80203, 303-765-4664. President-Lance Buchner. Founded by Lance Buchner and Dave Lucia.