With major investments coming from government entities and private companies as well as increasing interest among Americans, electric vehicles (EVs) are poised for significant growth in the coming years.
To provide insights on the coming EV revolution for electricity providers and other industry stakeholders, the Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative (SECC) recently conducted an in-depth study of Americans’ concerns and interest around EVs and related programs and technologies, including demand response and smart home devices.
The “Electric Vehicles: Driving the Customer Experience” report confirmed a lot of what is known about current EV owners: they tend to be more tech-savvy than the general population; they care more about being energy efficient at home (particularly for environmental reasons); and they’re more likely to participate in providers’ demand response programs.
However, the research also revealed many interesting findings about consumers who haven’t purchased an EV and don’t plan to purchase one in the near term. Here are three key findings about EV non-adopters today:
1. They frequently lack direct experience with or knowledge of electric vehicles.
First, it’s important to note that there’s a significant education gap between EV owners and non-adopters. When asked to correctly identify the differences between types of EV chargers, many respondents struggled, including current EV owners; however, there’s a significant gap between owners and non-owners. For example, about half (48 percent) of EV owners correctly identified Level 3 charging, compared to just 23 percent of non-owners.
The education gap goes beyond being able to correctly name charging levels and types of EVs, though. Most non-adopters simply have no real-world experience at all. Only one-quarter (26 percent) know someone that has an EV, and only 9 percent have actually driven one themselves. Nearly two-thirds (61 percent) stated that they have no experiences with EVs whatsoever.
These findings suggest that electricity providers have a clear role to play through ride-and-drive events and other forms of community outreach that provide hands-on experience. Cobb EMC’s Electric Vehicle Checkout, which allows customers to take an EV home for a few days, is a great example of a program that can close the education gap.
2. They are very concerned about battery range and charging convenience.
When asked directly about concerns around EVs, those that are unlikely to purchase are mainly concerned about battery ranges and charging convenience (both the length of time it takes to charge and the availability of chargers in their community).
Half of non-adopters say they’re concerned “the battery won’t have enough range to get me where I need to go”, and 46 percent are concerned that charging the battery will take too long. Forty-five percent state that “charging stations are not convenient for me to access”.
While many areas do lack charging infrastructure, this is quickly as investments are pouring in from government entities, automakers, electricity providers, charging companies and other stakeholders. Austin Energy’s EV Buyer’s Guide provides an online map to help consumers learn about their charging options around the community. In addition, the utility’s Plug-In EVerywhere network subscription plan also offers unlimited charging for around $4 per month at over 1,000 Level 2 charging ports, allowing for affordable, convenient charging.
Electricity providers can also help non-adopters understand the current EV battery ranges through online tools, community events and other initiatives. While the 200-mile mark was considered rare just a few years ago, that’s closer to a minimum for new models today. For example, both the Hyundai Kona and Chevy Bolt EV (two affordable models) both have 260-mile ranges, which is more than enough for the vast majority of Americans.
3. Price is still a significant barrier for consumers who might otherwise adopt.
There’s another notable barrier for the Tech-Savvy Proteges and Green Innovators, SECC’s two customer segments that are more likely to be EV owners, and that’s cost. These consumers care more about the environment, are more willing to participate in energy-saving programs and are more comfortable with technology – all traits that point to EV adoption – but price sensitivity seems to be notable barrier for some of them.
For example, about half (48 percent) of Green Innovators who aren’t likely to purchase an EV cite that they are more expensive as a major barrier, compared to 43 percent of all non-adopters. We also asked non-adopters if they would purchase a hybrid or EV for their next vehicle if the cost was the same as a gas-powered car. Among those who had previously said no, 52 percent of Tech-Savvy Proteges and 38 percent of Green Innovators said they would change their minds with this cost change (28 percent and 26 percent for Energy Indifferent and Movable Middle, respectively).
Furthermore, Green Innovators and Tech-Savvy Proteges demonstrate a much higher interest in used EVs, potentially due to the lower sticker price. Seventy percent of Green Innovators and 68 percent of Tech-Savvy Proteges are open to it, compared to 55 percent of the Movable Middle and 46 percent of Energy Indifferent consumers.
These findings suggest there’s a segment of consumers ready to adopt if they receive assistance on the upfront cost of the EV. SCE’s Pre-Owned EV Rebate program is one example of a program that’s helping consumers of all income levels get behind the wheel of an EV. The program offers up to $4,000 in rebates when consumers purchase or lease an eligible used electric vehicle.
The new research clearly highlights some of the barriers that are holding back EV adoption. Fortunately, though, many electricity providers are already leading the way with programs that address consumers’ concerns. By listening the voice of consumers, providers and other industry stakeholders can help smooth the road to electric vehicles.