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Understanding Consumer Misconceptions of Plug-In EVs

Raquel Soat
Jul 19, 2019

EVs

Due to plug-in EVs (PEVs) gaining market momentum across the globe, automotive OEMs have invested in the acceleration of battery technologies. This is leading to an increasing amount of available PEV models and higher driving ranges. Incentive programs on federal, state/provincial, and local levels for purchasing PEVs and charging equipment also increase adoption and drive the market.

However, consumer adoption of PEVs is still low relative to the total vehicle market. These technologies can seem confusing and impractical to some consumers, especially outside of urban areas where PEVs are more common. To increase PEV adoption, we must mitigate myths and misconceptions with increased education and awareness efforts. But first, we need to understand what misconceptions are deterring the market.

Misconceptions Slow Market Growth

Do consumers have knowledge of federal, state, and local purchase incentives for PEVs? Do they understand the charging capabilities, range, and price points of PEVs currently on the market? These questions are at the heart of Navigant Research’s annual consumer survey, which analyses consumer vehicle preferences, PEV awareness, and demographics of PEV adopters. Navigant Research surveyed 2,300 consumers from the top 100 metropolitan statistical areas in the US and identified over 100 PEV owners.

A consumer's level of knowledge about new technologies will influence the rate at which they adopt the technologies. This remains true for PEVs. The Navigant Research survey found that only 11% of respondents correctly identified the maximum amount for the federal tax credit ($7,500), with over 60% assuming the tax credit was less than $7,500 and nearly 25% believing there was no federal tax incentive program for battery EVs (BEVs). Other findings include:

  • Of respondents, nearly 72% did not correctly identify the driving range of a standard BEV (using the Nissan Leaf as an example)
  • Of respondents, 63% did not know the fuel cost for a BEV was 40%-65% less expensive (relative to an internal combustion engine vehicle)
  • Of respondents, 66% did not know that maintenance costs for BEVs are lower (relative to an ICE vehicle)
Stakeholder Engagement Will Be Key

The lack of PEV awareness and knowledge is deterring market adoption. Stakeholders will need to address and mitigate these knowledge gaps if market growth of PEVs is to continue increasing year-over-year.

Two stakeholders that play a pivotal role in closing knowledge gaps and increasing adoption are dealers and automakers. Many dealers do not fully understand the technology behind the PEVs they sell and also lack knowledge surrounding incentives. By educating dealers, automakers can ensure that consumers fully understand the benefits of buying electric and receive a lower purchase price through incentives.

Creating education campaigns around federal, state, and local incentives for PEV and EV supply equipment (EVSE) purchases would greatly benefit the market. Electrify America has begun such an initiative by using vendor-agnostic advertising to encourage consumers to buy electric. Electric utilities could play a role in education campaigns by partnering with automakers to offer manufacturer rebates and PEV-specific charging rates or EVSE rebates.

PEV education initiatives will likely require a joint effort from stakeholders but will ultimately result in heightened PEV adoption that benefits all parties involved.