While Automakers Welcome Them, Electric Vehicle Buyers Are Hesitant
The world’s major automakers have made something abundantly clear: They believe electric vehicles will dominate their industry in the years ahead. Yet for that to happen, they’ll need to sell the idea to people like Steve Bock. When Bock recently replaced his family’s 2013 Honda Pilot SUV, he considered — and then dismissed — the idea of buying an electric vehicle.
Instead, Bock, of suburban Raleigh, North Carolina, settled on a Subaru Outback. Like nearly every other vehicle sold in the United States, it runs on gasoline. Opinion polls show that a substantial majority of Americans are aligned with Bock. An EV might be on their shopping list if it cost less, if more charging stations existed and if a wider variety of models were available. In other words, the time isn’t right.
Automakers Take the Risk
It adds up to a significant risk for the largest automakers. With governments across the globe intensifying efforts to reverse climate change, the automakers are staking their futures on the notion that consumers will soon be ready to buy vehicles that run not on the internal combustion engines that have powered cars and trucks for more than a century but on electricity stored in a battery pack. For now, EVs make up less than 2% of U.S. new-vehicle sales and about 3% worldwide.
Two polls late last year offered a glimpse of Americans’ appetite for electric vehicles. One, by Consumer Reports, showed that only 4% of adults with a driver’s license planned to acquire an EV the next time they buy a vehicle. An additional 27% said they would consider one. About 40% express some interest — but not for their next purchase. About 29% don’t want an EV at all.
The Future of Electric Vehicles
Tony Johnson, marketing director for Chevy electric vehicles, notes optimistically that surveys done for GM show that the number of people who would consider an EV is far higher than it was five years ago. “There are more choices, competitive pressure,” he said. “A new generation of technology will drive prices down. We’re getting there.”