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As more Americans consider an electric car, many shoppers still have questions and concerns — some of which are actually outdated or unfounded.
This year will see the release of more electric cars — and even pickup trucks — prompting 27% of likely shoppers to say they would consider buying an electric car in the next four years, according to a study by J.D. Power. And the popularity of EVs continues to rise. While auto sales were down 21% year over year in the final quarter of 2021, mostly due to parts shortages, sales of electric vehicles rose 72%, according to Kelley Blue Book analysts.
Despite a surge in popularity and improved capability, the common objections to buying an EV continue to be “all the usual suspects,” says Stewart Stropp, senior director of automotive retail at J.D. Power.
What are the most common objections to buying an electric car?
1. Limited range
“Range anxiety” refers to the angst an electric vehicle owner feels when their battery charge is low and sources for charging are unavailable. Range anxiety and the fear of getting stranded were valid when EVs were first released because their range was less than 100 miles. This anxiety continues to exist, according to Stropp, whose study found an interesting disconnect.
Jan Faiola, a medical researcher living in Long Beach, California, shares her concern about range as she begins to shop for an EV in the next few months. “Will it limit the way I travel?” she asks. “I just don’t want any surprises after I buy one.”
“What we are hearing from the EV rejector set is, ‘I need a range of 500 miles,'” Stropp says. However, current EV owners driving cars with a range of 250 miles have found that completely adequate.
Stropp notes that the range of many EVs available today is well over 200 miles and increasing as new models are released. For instance, the 2022 Lucid Air sedan boasts a range of 520 miles.
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2. Few charging stations
Nearly half of respondents in the J.D. Power study cited doubts about the charging infrastructure. Stropp again sees a disconnect because nearly all EV owners charge at home.
The typical driver would make as few as six stops at a public charging station every year, Stropp says. “But a more robust network of fast charging stations would help alleviate buyers’ concerns.”
Mark Duda, a retired engineer living in the Detroit area, wants to get an electric car but echoes those concerns. “I’m waiting for the accessibility of charging stations to improve,” he says.
Duda might not have much longer to wait. The Biden administration has plans to make half a million chargers available to the public in the U.S. — five times more than the currently available 100,000 chargers.
3. Limited selection and utility
The first EVs in the market, with the exception of Teslas, were smaller sedans or hatchbacks, such as the Nissan Leaf. Stropp says this kept a lot of people out of the market. With the release of more SUVs and pickup trucks, he sees that objection declining.
The Ford F-150 Lightning, arriving spring 2022, offers an EV for contractors and pickup truck enthusiasts. And many midsize SUVs are becoming available, such as the Volkswagen ID.4 or the Hyundai Ioniq 5.
Lack of a family-friendly SUV, big enough to hold her three children and a dog, prevented Emily Rando, an accountant from Maynard, Massachusetts, from getting an EV. “When we were shopping, the only all-electric one available didn’t have much trunk space,” she says. Instead, she leased a 2021 Volvo XC90 plug-in hybrid with an all-electric range of 20 miles.
4. Too expensive
The extra expense of getting an electric car was cited as an obstacle by 43% of respondents in a 2020 survey conducted by Consumer Reports. While the purchase price of EVs looks higher than gas cars, that perspective ignores the big picture. In fact, “consumers can save a lot of money in the long run by switching to an EV,” according to Chris Harto, Consumer Reports' senior sustainability policy analyst.
Once all savings are factored in — leasing incentives, tax breaks, fuel and repair savings — “the typical total ownership savings over the life of most EVs ranges from $6,000 to $10,000,” Consumer Reports states.
5. Lack of information
While conducting the J.D. Power study, Stropp found that most people voicing opinions about electric cars had never driven or even ridden in an EV. “They don’t understand how fun and thrilling an EV can be with the quiet ride and the instant acceleration,” Stropp says.
Once they’ve been in an EV, Stropp says shoppers are three times more likely to get one. One such convert is Rando, the accountant, who plans to go all-electric for her next car. “We love how the plug-in hybrid Volvo drives — especially when it is in electric mode,” she says. “It’s so quiet and smooth. And we love that we’re driving a greener SUV.”