Electric vehicles may have more interest from U.S. consumers than anticipated, a positive signal for automakers that are pouring billions of dollars into R&D of EVs over the next several years.
In fact, 7 in 10 U.S. drivers are interested in getting a fully electric vehicle at some point, according to the survey from Consumer Reports.
That's good news for the nearly 100 EV models headed to the U.S. through 2024 as automakers place their bets on consumer interest in the vehicles.
The survey, released Thursday, assessed 3,392 adults with valid driver's licenses in the U.S. between July 29 and Aug. 12. While only 4 percent of drivers "definitely plan" on getting an EV for their next vehicle, 27 percent say they would consider it.
Forty percent of drivers say they have some interest in getting one in the future, but not necessarily for their next vehicle. Twenty-nine percent say they have no interest in ever getting one.
Interest varies by age, Consumer Reports found. Thirty-seven percent of millennials said they would definitely get or consider getting an EV for their next purchase, while that score was lower for Gen X drivers, at 31 percent. Only 25 percent of baby boomers said they would definitely get or consider getting an EV for their next purchase. Twenty-one percent of those born from 1928 to 1946 have interest in EVs.
Political affiliation also impacts interest in EVs, though 79 percent of Democrats and 63 percent of Republicans say they have at least some interest in the vehicles.
Range was one concern assessed by Consumer Reports. About half of drivers surveyed said they would consider purchasing an EV if it had a range of at least 300 miles on a single charge.
Cost in comparison with traditional internal combustion engine vehicles and charging also remain concerns for drivers.
Among the attributes that would most encourage a driver to purchase a plug-in electric vehicle, "costs less to charge than fueling a gasoline-powered vehicle," "lower maintenance costs than gasoline-powered vehicles," "a purchase price similar to a gasoline-powered vehicle in the same class," and "ability to charge at home" were most common.
Forty-eight percent of consumers surveyed said "not enough public charging stations" is the reason why they are not planning to purchase or lease a plug-in electric vehicle for their next car.
Conceptions about charging availability and access are challenges for the industry.
Homeowners with their own garage and plug have an easier way to charge their EV than do those doing long-haul and highway driving or those who live in multifamily housing.
Seventy-two percent of drivers surveyed said they would most likely do their charging in their private driveway or garage if they owned an EV, but 42 percent of drivers said public charging stations along highways would increase their interest in owning an electric vehicle.
"Drivers are used to plentiful gas stations, and may not realize that if they have a personal garage or driveway, they'll be doing most of their charging at home," Chris Harto, senior sustainability policy analyst at Consumer Reports, said in a release. "Even though our research shows that the typical driver would do as little as six stops at a public charging station per year, a more robust network of fast-charging stations would help alleviate buyers' concerns about switching to an electric vehicle."
For some of these drivers concerned about charging, the onus falls on the government to fund public fast-charging infrastructure. Fifty-five percent of drivers say "the federal government should invest money to increase the availability of plug-in electric vehicle charging stations," and only 17 percent are opposed to this policy action.
Harto said EVs offer an overall cost savings for consumers — but that, in addition to EV development, automakers should make sure they are educating consumers about the benefits.
"In addition to federal incentives and rebates, automakers should use their marketing muscle to educate consumers about electric vehicles, including their fuel and maintenance savings and great performance," Harto said.