The National Renewable Energy Laboratory recently released a new report on public electric vehicle awareness — and specifically on the current barriers to wider awareness and adoption.
The new National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) report is based on a study conducted back in February 2015, notably, so things may have changed somewhat since then on some counts (following the Tesla Model 3 reveal, etc).
The study findings are based on a 1,015-household sample designed to be representative of the US population. NREL is reportedly planning to repeat the study yearly in order to track the growing transition to electric vehicles.
Here are some of the key findings from the study (“Consumer Views on Plug-in Electric Vehicles-National Benchmark Report”):
Vehicle Purchasing Behaviors
- 60% of respondent households owned two or more vehicles.
- 53% stated their last vehicle purchases were sedans.
- 48% stated their next vehicle purchases would likely be sedans.
- 29% had purchased vehicles in the last year.
Plug-in Electric Vehicle Awareness
- 48% were able to name a specific plug-in electric vehicle make and model.
- 49% reported having seen plug-in electric vehicles in parking lots.
- 52% stated plug-in hybrid electric vehicles were just as good as or better than traditional gasoline vehicles.
- 45% stated pure electric vehicles were just as good as or better than traditional gasoline vehicles.
- 24% stated they would consider or expect to purchase plug-in hybrid electric vehicles for their next vehicle purchase or lease.
- 20% stated they would consider or expect to purchase pure electric vehicles for their next vehicle purchase or lease.
Barriers to Plug-in Electric Vehicle Acceptance
- A pure electric vehicle would need to be able to travel 300 miles on a single charge for 56% of respondents to be willing to consider purchasing one.
- 55% said they would not consider a PEV because the vehicles are too expensive. A majority (70%) stated they expected to pay $30,000 or less for their next vehicle, and 42% expected to pay $20,000 or less.
- 18% were aware of charging stations on the routes they regularly drove.
- 53% of respondents could consistently park their vehicles near electrical outlets at home.
- 51% of respondents would be willing to pay incremental costs for plug-in electric vehicles.
Plug-in Electric Vehicle Acceptance
- Respondents who were aware of plug-in electric vehicle charging stations were more likely than respondents overall to view plug-in electric vehicles positively and be willing to consider purchasing them.
- Respondents who were able to name one of the top nine best-selling plug-in electric vehicles were more likely than respondents overall to view plug-in electric vehicles positively and be willing to consider purchasing them.
- New vehicle purchasers were more likely than used vehicle purchasers to view plug-in electric vehicles positively and be willing to consider purchasing them.
The interviews used for the study were conducted by phone, by the Opinion Research Corporation. Those interviewed were randomly selected — through a dual-frame sampling design, where the sample was drawn from independent landline and cell phone sample frames. The response samples were all weight-adjusted.
While 20% (or 1 out of 5) respondents said their next vehicle could be a pure EV and 24% said so about plug-in hybrids, a key factor to remember is that only 48% could name a specific plug-in electric vehicle model. Were the 20% mainly from the population that could identify an actual EV? Or were they largely from the population that knows nothing about this industry (and is probably equating EVs with conventional hybrids)?
Interestingly, more respondents (49%) said they had seen plug-in electric vehicles in parking lots … than could actually name a plug-in electric vehicle model (48%). But perhaps some respondents had seen cars charging in parking lots without knowing their names.
While the preferences about purchasing preferences may be somewhat interesting, the important thing to realize here is that awareness of these vehicles is still really low. If over half of the respondents can’t name a single EV model, there’s a good chance they aren’t aware of the benefits of EVs and how viable the options on the market would be for their lifestyle and budget.