New Report Shows Sharp Growth in US Consumer Interest in EVs

A new study finds electric vehicle consideration rising in the U.S., but cost and charging infrastructure remain big concerns. (Volvo Car USA)

The coronavirus pandemic sparked changes in consumer spending, and marked a dramatic shift in consumer consideration of battery-electric vehicles (BEV). A new study conducted by OC&C Strategy Consultants finds that the average American car buyer is now more likely than ever before to consider purchasing an electric car as their next vehicle.

The study, available here, measured consumer sentiment about BEVs in six countries: the United Kingdom, the United States, China, Italy, Germany, and France. After surveying over 7,500 drivers, researchers found that while Americans were the least likely to say they plan to purchase an electric car as their next vehicle, the pace of BEV consideration in the U.S. has increased sharply since 2019.

Americans considering electrified vehicles increased across the board. The percentage of American consumers reporting that they will “definitely” buy a BEV for their next car increased from 10% in 2019 to 16% in 2020. This increase was second only to German buyers, who reported an 8% increase in EV consideration (from 11% to 19%, respectively). U.S. consumers also report increases in hybrid and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) consideration, which rose by nine points for hybrids and eight points for PHEVs.

Factors contributing to the accelerated consideration of electric vehicles include changes in perceptions of driving range and charging infrastructure. Range anxiety remains the leading concern for potential EV drivers, with 60% of drivers citing the issue as their primary concern. However, the percentage of drivers worried about access to charging stations fell to an all-time low of 46%. Increasing concerns about the environment also weighed heavily in favor of consumer interest in EVs, with 29% citing it as an essential factor in their car buying decision.

According to the study, consumers reported price as the most significant barrier between them and full EV adoption. Despite government incentives and decreased costs of ownership, the average consumer is put off by the perception that EVs are more expensive. Sticker price is a sticking point with over 45% of potential EV buyers.

To overcome this, the study cites both government programs and manufacturer incentives as ways that work to encourage EV adoption. Programs such as Care by Volvo all-inclusive subscriptions to electrified vehicles and the long battery warranties provided by automakers such as Lexus are examples of initiatives that help soothe drivers’ apprehension. But the study indicates that government subsidies, such as those made at the state or federal levels, have the most impact on EV adoption because of their ability to lower the initial purchase price.

So, while Americans remain the group most difficult to convert to EV ownership, continued efforts by the federal government, states, and auto manufacturers will continue to move the needle towards a fully electric and more sustainable future.