One in Five Americans Say Their Next Car Will be Electric

Cable For Charging An Electric Car An electric car charger. Credit: Think Stock Photos

Demand for electric vehicles is rising in the US with one in five Americans saying their next vehicle will be an electric car, according to a survey by the American Automobile Association, the country’s biggest vehicle organization.

The survey results, which were released Tuesday,  show an increased interest in buying electric cars over even last year, when 15 percent of Americans said their next vehicle would be electric. Lower-than-average ownership costs, added safety features, and increased driving ranges are helping steer the trend towards electric vehicles. Specifically, range anxiety—the fear that an electric car battery will run out of power—is beginning to wane, the AAA found.

Most importantly, the AAA survey showed that 80 percent of potential electric car buyers want an e-car because they are concerned about the environment. This is encouraging at a time when the Trump administration is peeling back environmental protections.

Getting their hands on cutting edge technology (54 percent) and access to special traffic lanes (35 percent) were also high on the list of reasons for  those saying they would make an e-car purchase.

Despite an increase in popularity among American buyers, there are still some reservations about making the electric plunge. Six in ten Americans (63 percent) who are unlikely to buy an e-car say they are mainly concerned about not having access to an adequate public charging infrastructure. That figure, however, is down from 69 percent in 2017.

Most Americans also still have foggy notions about how long it takes to recharge an e-car, the survey found. Seven in ten Americans (68 percent) said that a charge time of no more than 30 minutes was reasonable. The problem is that, even with a Level 2 charger, it can take several hours to charge a fully depleted long-range electric vehicle. For those using a standard 120-volt household outlet, an overnight charge may be necessary.

The range of an electric car’s battery is not the primary concern of prospective buyers, the survey found. Reliability is the biggest issue, with 92 percent of those likely to buy an electric or hybrid vehicle saying it is important when evaluating which car to buy.Some 77 percent of shoppers said crash ratings were a priority, followed by cost at 71 percent, acceleration and handling at 69 percent, and advanced safety technology such as automatic emergency braking and lane keeping assistance at 60 percent.

Some automakers, and even some retail stores, are bringing electric power to the people by funding the expansion of DC fast-charging stations across the country. Automakers such as Nissan,Volkswagen and BMW are chipping in to build a network of rapid charging stations. These networks, which are going up along major east coast highways and the cross-country Interstate 80, will be completed by 2020.

Walmart and Target, two major US retailers, have partnered with Electrify America, Volkswagen’s e-car—oriented subsidiary, to bring fast chargers to hundreds of stores across the country, giving EV owners easier access to charging at popular shopping destinations.

Still, actual sales of electric vehicles are a fraction of overall vehicle sales in America. Fully electric vehicles are just 0.05 percent of new car sales overall, according to data from Consumer Reports.
AAA also asked buyers about their likelihood to purchase a hybrid car. Three in ten American adults said they are considering buying one, a figure unchanged from last year.
The electric car study surveyed 1,000 Americans by phone in March 2018.

Charles Digges

charles@bellona.no