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Top reasons why Americans don’t want to buy an electric car

Top reasons why Americans don't want to buy an electric car

A row of EV chargers goes largely unused in Pasadena, California.

A row of EV chargers goes largely unused in Pasadena, California.
PhotoMario TamaGetty Images

Electric cars are making progress in the US, but it is slow. Despite American automakers such as FordGeneral engines and Jeep all with an EV (or at least a plug-in hybrid) to refer to, Americans just don’t buy a ton of EVs† There are three main reasons, and you can probably guess them: high price, low range and lack of charging infrastructure.

Electric cars are still too expensivestill too short on range and – even with the newest push EV in the US – there are still not enough places to charge according to a study released today by Autolist, whose Annual electrical survey has been running since 2019.

This year, Autolist spoke to more than 1,300 U.S. car buyers to take their temperature on EVs. The survey results confirm what you may have suspected or observed during your commute. It’s clear that the vast majority of motorists in America will still prefer internal combustion cars to electric vehicles by 2022, but the reasons have changed since Autolist’s study began. Here are the biggest hurdles to owning an electric car, according to US car buyers surveyed:

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The high price of electric cars, previously the top concern for US buyers, is now the main hurdle; nearly half of respondents said electric vehicles are too expensive to buy or lease. Range anxiety is becoming less of a thing for Americans, dropping to second place, although 44 percent of respondents still list it as their number one concern. And 36 percent of respondents cited the lack of infrastructure (meaning chargers are available), rounding out the top three.

While I hate to deliver bad news, EVs aren’t going to get cheaper anytime soon. Raw materials are becoming more expensive, increasing production costs for EV manufacturers and in turn increasing EV prices across the board. So much for manufacturing at scale that lowers costs as technology matures.

A way to compensate for these high costs has been achieved government grants and incentives† The research shows that Americans largely support it. Two-thirds of respondents (66 percent) said federal incentives should boost electric vehicle adoption.

The problem with these subsidies — which can take up to $7,500 off the price of an electric car through tax credits — is that they don’t apply in all cases, and decrease when a carmaker sells more than 200,000 electric cars. Tesla, GM, and Toyota have all topped that number, so if you’re relying on a discount to make an EV affordable, you won’t be able to get it from any of those automakers.

In a somewhat surprising twist, the high price of gas doesn’t seem to be pushing American drivers toward EVs. When asked what gas price would lead subjects to switch to an EV, the biggest answer was, “It’s not about the gas price.”

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That puts EVs in a bit of a squeeze, because an important argument for switching is saving money on petrol! In addition to saving on gas, there are of course many reasons to switch. That is, combustion cars and electric cars have one thing in common: Buying one isn’t quite a rational decision.