By Sean Tucker
Americans bought more electric vehicles in 2020 than ever before. U.S. consumers are on a pace to buy far more in 2021 – EV sales are up 88% over 2020’s numbers through the end of September. Even when sales of most types of new cars are slowing thanks to supply-chain challenges, EV sales continue to grow.
Yet electric cars remain less than 3% of the cars on American roads.
Automakers are rolling out dozens of new EVs this year. By the end of 2022, there may be more than 100 different EV models for sale in the U.S. The people who design and build cars are all-in on the electrification of driving.
Buyers? They have a few reservations.
The 2021 Cox Automotive Path to EV Adoption Study shows that Americans are more willing than ever to consider buying an EV. But some barriers remain in the average shopper’s mind. (Cox Automotive is the parent company of Kelley Blue Book.)
Shoppers thinking it over, not there yet
In the summer of 2021, during the research phase of the study, consumers had nearly 300 different models to choose from, but less than 20 pure electric models, with most being higher-end, luxury offerings. The average price paid for a new EV was close to $60,000, before rebates, and well above gasoline-equivalent vehicles.
Among new-car shoppers, 38% said they were willing to consider an EV. But that number drops to 21% when researchers asked if shoppers were “more than 50% confident their next vehicle will be an EV.”
Only 3% were certain they would buy one.
Range still a concern, but a shrinking one
Two years ago, 47% of study respondents said they were concerned that low driving range would make an EV impractical for them. This year, that number dropped to 37%.
The younger the shopper, the less concerned they were with range. Just 29% of millennials cited range as a problem. Among Gen Z shoppers, that figure was just 20%.
One reason range is fading as a concern is that automakers are building new EVs with longer ranges.
In 2019, the minimum expectation for range on a full charge was 184 miles, and, at the time, the average EV delivered 195 miles per charge, approximately 6% above the minimum acceptable level. In 2021, range expectations jumped to a minimum of 217 miles. Among EVs offered today, the average range is approximately 257 miles, 18% more than the minimal accepted range.
Price concerns aren’t fading
While shoppers may be less worried about range, their attitudes on price are not changing significantly. The new study shows that 51% of shoppers noted EVs were too expensive to seriously consider – almost the same figure as in 2019.
EVs are, in fact, on average more expensive to purchase than their gasoline-powered counterparts. In October, when average transaction prices for a new vehicle topped $46,000, the average EV was above $56,000, a premium of more than 20%.
Shoppers don’t know about many EV options
As many as 83% of respondents were aware that Tesla /zigman2/quotes/203558040/composite TSLA -5.26% sells EVs. Just 44% were aware that Ford /zigman2/quotes/208911460/composite F -4.62% does – even though Ford’s all-electric Mustang Mach-E has been on the market for most of 2021 and won the 2021 North American Utility Vehicle of the Year award.
Nissan /zigman2/quotes/207656007/delayed NSANY -0.56% has sold its all-electric Nissan Leaf, the most affordable EV in America, for more than a decade. But only 37% of survey respondents knew the Leaf existed. Chevrolet has similar issues. The all-electric Bolt was launched in late 2016 and is now the third-best-selling EV in America. Yet 69% of current EV shoppers were unsure if Chevrolet even makes an EV.