As EV sales grow, new survey shows more and more US drivers want to go electric

Electric vehicle sales in the US are taking off—the latest report from Kelley Blue Book (via Cox Auto) shows that sales of pure EVs soared to 196,788 in the second quarter of 2022, a record high and a 13% increase from Q1. 

Above: A Tesla and other electric cars charging. Photo: Michael Fousert / Unsplash

Meanwhile, more and more drivers are feeling the electric tingle. A new survey from Consumer Reports found a record amount of interest in going electric. The nationally representative survey of 8,027 American consumers found that 71% of respondents expressed some level of interest in buying or leasing an EV: 14% would “definitely” choose one if they were to get a vehicle today, 22% would “seriously consider” one, and 35% “might” consider one.

The 14% of respondents who would “definitely” go electric is a marked increase over the 4% who said the same in CR’s 2020 survey. And here’s the kicker: The latest survey took place in late January and early February, when the national average price for gasoline was between $3.34 and $3.52 per gallon.  Now the average price is about $4.48, according to AAA

What makes people want to buy an EV? Cost, cost and cost. Of CR’s respondents, 33% said it costs less to charge an EV than to refuel a fossil burner, 31% cited lower total cost of ownership, and 28% cited lower maintenance costs.

What makes people not want to buy an EV? The top three barriers cited were charging logistics (61%), range (55%) and cost (52%). As regular readers of this column will recognize, these are objections that are largely imaginary, at least for most drivers, and could be eliminated by providing more accurate information to prospective buyers.

There are now over 48,000 public charging locations in the US (although low- and moderate-income communities need greater access). Furthermore, many drivers will never need to use public charging—CR says a good home charger can be had for $500 to $700 (just be sure it’s UL-listed), and modern EVs offer ranges of 250 miles, so overnight charging at home is convenient and cost-effective for most drivers.  Interestingly, CR’s survey found that, of existing EV owners, only 27% considered range to be an issue at all.

When it comes to cost, who’s right here? Half of CR’s respondents think driving electric costs more than burning gas, and a third think it costs less. Again, regular EVannex readers know that, while EVs tend to cost considerably more than “comparable” legacy vehicles, the savings on fueling and maintenance will repay the higher purchase cost in just a few years.

Furthermore, while pricey performance machines such as the Tesla Model S Plaid get most of the headlines, budget EVs are out there. According to KBB, the average price for a new EV in June was over $66,000, compared to the industry average of $46,000. However, these numbers are misleadingly skewed by the large number of high-priced, low-volume EV offerings. The 2023 LEAF is going for $27,800, the 2023 Bolt starts at $26,595, the Tesla Model 3 starts at $46,990, and the new Chevy Blazer EV will theoretically cost around $45,000 when it hits the market in 2023.

There’s a patchwork of federal, state, and local incentives that can lower the costs further for many buyers, but many consumers don’t know about them. CR’s survey found that 46% of respondents were unaware of the incentives available, but 53% said tax rebates or discounts would encourage them to buy. In many areas, electric utilities offer incentive programs that not only offer savings, but also simplify the process of getting home charging set up.

CR’s free EV Savings Finder allows car buyers to find incentives available in their local area. PlugStar also offers a similar online tool.

Kelley’s report shows that EV sales are growing quickly, and CR’s survey indicates that they could be growing much faster still—but automakers, governments and advocacy groups need to do a lot more to educate the car-buying public.

“A growing number of people want clean cars that cost less to drive,” said Dr. Quinta Warren, Associate Director of Sustainability Policy for Consumer Reports. “Some of us have questions about the transition to electric vehicles, as many of us are unfamiliar with them. Expanding charging options and elevating incentives, combined with education campaigns and getting more people to experience EVs personally, can all help drive adoption.”


Sources: Consumer Reports, Cox Auto, New York Times