It's accepted wisdom among electric-car fans and advocates that within a few years, mass-market car buyers will start snapping up battery-electric cars. First, battery prices have to come down to the point that electric vehicles aren't much pricier than comparable models with gasoline engines. But what it that assumption simply isn't backed up by data on buyer attitudes and expectations?
That idea may smack to some as anti-EV propaganda, but it comes from a respected source: the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Davis. That group has studied driver and shopper attitudes toward plug-in vehicles for many years, and issued some of the first studies that summarized the various differing motivations for purchase of an electric car.
A recent blog post from the institute lays out the core concern: "Automakers and Policymakers May Be on a Path to Electric Vehicles; Consumers Aren’t. . . ."
But, they write, "There are no paths to meet the plug-in electric vehicle commitments and promises being made by automakers and politicians unless consumers are engaged in the transition to electric drive."
They conclude, bluntly: "Evidence from California says consumers are not" engaged in that transition.
While policymakers, advocates, environmentalists, and others are increasingly excited about electric cars, they write, such enthusiasm "is utterly lost on the vast majority of the car-buying public—even in California, touted as being among the global PEV market leaders."
Direct link to blog post: https://its.ucdavis.edu/blog-post/automakers-policymakers-on-path-to-electric-vehicles-consumers-are-not/
From which, these quotes:
In California, less than one percent are PEVs. PEVs accounted for only 1.1% of U.S. vehicle sales in 2017 and were on track to be less than 5% of sales even in California. Many of these are repeat sales to the same households, so an even smaller percent of households are adopting and experiencing these vehicles. . . .
The problem is the number of car owning households that are paying attention to PEVs is not growing. . . .
The percent of car-owning households who had already considered a PEV at the time they completed their questionnaire is no higher in 2017 than it was in 2014. . . .
According to the California Energy Commission, there were approximately 5,700 non-residential PEV chargers installed in California in August 2014; this more than doubled to over 11,500 by August 2017.
By and large, Californians didn’t notice the increase in PEV charging infrastructure. The figure below shows the distributions of how many people report seeing PEV chargers in the parking facilities they use. The doubling of away-from-home PEV charging infrastructure barely registers in the percent of California drivers sighting that infrastructure. In fact, the increases from 2014 to 2017 are so small that the statistically defensible conclusion is they are not different. That’s the good news.
Further, we ask households to rate their agreement with the statement “There are enough places to charge electric vehicles” on a scale of strongly disagree (-3) to strongly agree (+3). The mean scores for 2014 (-0.68) and 2017 (-0.61) are not statistically different; both indicate on average slight disagreement there is enough PEV charging. Again, that’s the good news.
The bad news? Despite more than doubling the number of away from home PEV chargers from 2014 to 2017, the percentage of California households who registered the strongest disagreement with the statement, “There are enough places to charge electric vehicles”—that is, the percentage of people who scored the statement as -3—nearly doubled from 13% in 2014 to 23% in 2017. . . .