In just a few short years, electric vehicles (EVs) have come a long way. The number of available models has roughly tripled since 2016, and that path should continue over the next several years as automakers such as Hyundai, Volkswagen, Ford and Audi begin production on highly anticipated models.
At the same time, the average EV battery capacity has grown rapidly in recent years and is expected to double again from 2020 to 2030 as battery technologies continue to improve. States such as California and Washington have adopted EV mandates, and a 2020 forecast from DNV suggests that over three-quarters of all passenger vehicle sales in the United States will be EVs by the early 2040s.
Adding to this momentum, the Biden Administration has already announced several initiatives in support of electric vehicles, including a potential $100 billion for EV rebates, significant investments in charging infrastructure across the country and the transition to electric vehicles for various government institutions.
Yet despite these trends, many consumers are still uninformed about electric vehicles, their battery ranges, how to charge them, maintenance requirements, etc. At SECC’s 2021 Virtual Consumer Symposium last month, we convened a panel of experts to discuss how stakeholders can deliver easy-to-understand information to consumers, improve the EV customer experience and, ultimately, help them reap the potential benefits of EVs.
According to John Eichberger, the executive director of the Fuels Institute, one of the most important shifts has to do with the types of EVs that are coming on the market. In 2020, more than three-quarters of all vehicles sold in the United States were light trucks (meaning pickups, SUVs, minivans and crossover vehicles), and there has been a steady increase in available EVs in this category – with many more to come.
For example, Ford recently announced the 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning, the electric version of the F-150, which has long been the best-selling vehicle in the United States. Chevy, Tesla and Rivian all have electric trucks on the way, and there’s a long list of available all-electric SUVs, including options from Volvo, Volkswagen and Hyundai. Helping consumers learn about these newer options will be crucial for driving EV adoption in the near term.
An area for concern, according to BlastPoint’s CEO Alison Alvarez, is ensuring that the consumers that want to adopt EVs have easy access to charging stations at home and especially in their communities. Research from BlastPoint suggests that most EV adopters today are more affluent consumers who are able to install home EV chargers in their single-family homes.
However, we know from SECC’s consumer research that younger people who are highly motivated by environmental concerns are the segment that’s most interested in EVs. These consumers aren’t likely to have their own homes and would rely on chargers at multi-family properties, their workplaces and at other locations around their communities.
Fortunately, EV charging stations have proliferated rapidly over the past few years and should continue this path moving forward, especially if the Biden Administration’s infrastructure plans come to fruition. Ensuring that these stations are equitably dispersed in communities, however, is another must for helping consumers access EVs. As Alison stated at the Consumer Symposium, “EV infrastructure begets EV drivers begets EV infrastructure”.
Finally, according to Eric Cahill, Ph.D., senior strategic business planner of electric transportation at SMUD, an essential component of increasing adoption of EVs is meeting where consumers they are. To get consumers acquainted with a new technology like electric vehicles, messaging needs to be aligned with consumers’ priorities, their values and their concerns. Strategies like customer segmentation, focus groups and surveying can help stakeholders understand the values, interests and concerns of consumers and develop programs and messaging that direct address these.
All of the panelists at the recent Consumer Symposium stressed that while the recent growth and innovations in the EV space have been exciting, we’re still very much at the beginning of the transition to EVs. As the shift to electrified transportation continues over the next decade, it’s essential that stakeholders listen to consumers and ensure that the transition is equitable and consumer friendly.
To hear more from this panel and other presentations at the 2021 Virtual Consumer Symposium, watch the recordings here.