Electric cars are still struggling to gain acceptance in the marketplace, and public perception is not keeping pace with developments, according to a new study. The survey of 2557 Americans asked, “Which of the following best describes your knowledge of electric vehicles?” About 60 percent picked the multiple-choice answers “I’ve never heard of electric vehicles” or “I’ve heard of electric vehicles but I don’t know much about them.” Furthermore, 80 percent of those questioned had never driven or been a passenger in an electric car.
In the survey, run by Altman Vilandrie & Company (AVC), even many respondents with knowledge of EV technology showed skepticism about their viability as alternatives to conventional cars. AVC reported that 85 percent think the current charging network is inadequate, 83 percent say today’s electric vehicles cost too much, and 74 percent say charging takes too long.
Those perceptions aren’t necessarily wrong; although our tests of the latest electric cars show significant improvement on all those points in the past decade, a truly useful charging infrastructure is geographically scattered, the cars tend to cost more than their conventional equivalents, and recharging still takes more time than simply refilling a gas tank. The market research firm said it also consulted 20 “automotive experts” for its self-commissioned study of public perceptions of electric cars.
There was some good news for brands selling all-electric cars, such as Chevrolet, Tesla, Nissan, Mercedes-Benz, and BMW. Of the people who had experienced EVs, 60 percent said they enjoyed them, and only 8 percent said they didn’t.
“There are signs of strong latent demand in the marketplace,” said Moe Kelley, co-director of the survey. “The auto industry still needs to make more low-priced models available to consumers as well as finding a way for more drivers to try out an EV. If those things happen, we should see the EV adoption rate accelerate.”
Unsurprisingly, AVC’s analysis of the survey indicated that there would be an uptick of growth (AVC estimates 24 times the current market) for the electric-car industry if the vehicles were priced lower, specifically around $35,000. That’s certainly a possibility, with the Chevrolet Bolt dipping to less than $30,000 after tax incentives and the upcoming Tesla Model 3 priced at $35,000. Still, the price won’t matter to people who don’t even know viable electric cars exist.