US Drivers May Need to Adjust Their Perception of EVs

Demand for electric vehicles among American drivers is cooling despite the recent rise in EV sales. A Pew Research Center poll from July 2023 found that one-half of Americans were unlikely to consider a battery electric car as their next vehicle and 13% were sure they didn’t want to buy an electric car.

The report revealed that public interest in buying an electric car has dropped by 4% from May 2022, likely due to a couple of critical issues. The first is high prices that have made electric cars unaffordable for the vast majority of the American public. Limited confidence in EV charging infrastructure has also kept many Americans from making the plunge and purchasing EVs.

America doesn’t have a well-developed network of public EV chargers, and high-range electric cars tend to be luxury models that are out of the reach of the general public. The unfortunate truth is that most U.S. drivers don’t believe new electric cars could fully replace their current internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, especially with the aforementioned issues.

This is partly because most drivers want an electric car with the same fuel capacity as a traditional car, an EV that can go as far as an ICE with a full gas tank on a single charge. According to S&P Global Mobility principal analyst Chris Hopson, people want a vehicle that doesn’t require a significant lifestyle change. For a market that overwhelmingly prefers pick-up trucks and SUVs, or alternatives with at least 300 miles of range, electric vehicles as they are would require a substantial change in lifestyle for their owners.

Despite this fixation on range and mileage, however, a 2022 U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics study shows that over one-half of all Americans traveled less than three miles per day and only 2% of all daily trips were longer than 50 miles. Even though Americans rarely take to the open road, they want to know they have the ability to take long trips when they want. This love for the open road coupled with limited EV charging options on major roadways has been a key barrier to EV adoption in the country.

An analysis by S&P Global Mobility revealed that over one-half of households that buy non-Tesla electric cars feel considerable disappointment and opt for a gas-powered car as their next drive. McKinsey & Company’s Center for Future Mobility in the Americas co-lead Russel Hensley notes that many U.S. drivers are waiting for better electric vehicles and trucks or for certain automakers to release electrified versions of existing gas-powered models.

He says younger drivers may be more open to the idea that EVs simply can’t do everything their gas-powered counterparts can do. This demographic of drivers might be open to shaping their lifestyle around EV technology instead of expecting EVs to fit their lifestyle.

EV manufacturers across the board, including entities such as QuantumScape Corp. (NYSE: QS), have their work cut out to help the American public shift its perception of EVs and buy the vehicles in larger numbers.

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