A decade from now, most auto industry experts believe electric-vehicle sales will exceed 1 million a year, but that self-driving vehicles will still be a niche technology unavailable for purchase by the masses.
Consumers disagree. Less than half of consumers surveyed for a AAA report released Thursday believe that most vehicles will be electric by 2029, while more than half believe their cars will have the ability to drive themselves, "a reality that is much less likely to happen," the report says.
The report examines that disconnect, particularly as it applies to consumer understanding of EVs.
"Like other new vehicle technologies, Americans don't have the full story," says Greg Brannon, AAA's director of automotive engineering and industry relations.
Only 16 percent of respondents say they are likely to buy an EV the next time they're in the market for a new or used car, a number that's unchanged from the results of the same survey in 2018. Among the barriers: uncertainty about how the vehicles work in some common driving scenarios.
For one example, 59 percent of Americans were unsure whether EVs would have better range when driving at highway speeds or in stop-and-go traffic. (Unlike traditional gasoline-burning vehicles, braking recharges the battery for better range.)
Some of those unlikely to buy an EV tell AAA that gasoline prices would need to rise to at least $5 per gallon before there's a sizable impact on their consideration of an electric.
U.S. residents, more accustomed to crossovers and pickups with internal combustion engines, might have a steep learning curve ahead. Driven by a push for EVs elsewhere across the globe, automakers plan to introduce dozens of new electric models in the years ahead.
If there's reason for EV optimism, it's that some of Americans' chief worries about the cars are dissipating. Concern there aren't enough charging points have decreased 11 percentage points over the past two years, as have concerns about running out of charge while driving.
Agitation over higher purchase prices is down 6 percentage points from 2017. In fact, roughly 4 in 10 respondents willing to consider an EV said they'd be willing to pay up to $4,000 more for the vehicle.
"These vehicles are a big part of the future of transportation since self-driving cars, when they do arrive, will likely be electric," Brannon said. "The difference, of course, is that electric vehicles are already here and with the advancements in style and range that have been made over the last few years, they have become an even more viable option for many Americans."
There are some glimmers of hope for consumer acceptance. But at least in the United States, most signs point to a long road ahead for EVs.
— Pete Bigelow