Research

[Study] Nearly 60% of Americans have considered buying an electric vehicle or hybrid

1 in 5 have considered going fully electric

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According to the International Energy Agency, 2020 was a record year for electric vehicles. Even though there was a decrease in overall car sales during the pandemic, electric car registrations increased by 41% in 2020, and there were 10 million electric cars on the road worldwide at the end of the year. 

The most recent surge in popularity of EVs can be traced back to the 1990s when the first mass-produced hybrid, the Toyota Prius, came out. It was a popular car among celebrities and increased interest in hybrids and electric vehicles. Then, in 2006, Tesla announced that it would start producing luxury electric cars, and other carmakers wanted to get in on the EV action as well.

Now some of the biggest companies out there are seeing value in switching to electric. Amazon, AT&T, IKEA North America, Siemens and more have joined an alliance to accelerate the transition to electric vehicles. Plus, the United States Postal Service (USPS) has committed to the electrification of its fleet as quickly as it can

The Zebra wanted to learn how American consumers feel about electric cars in 2022. Are they planning to buy one? Why or why not? Our new study examines the general population's current sentiment toward electric cars and hybrids vs. gasoline-only vehicles.

Key findings

  • 1 in 5 people have considered purchasing a fully-electric vehicle.
  • The number one reason for not considering an electric vehicle is the initial purchase/financing cost.
  • Hybrids are considered at twice the rate of fully-electric vehicles. 
  • Tesla is the number one EV brand both considered for purchase and actually purchased.

1 in 5 people have considered purchasing a fully electric vehicle

Across the general population, nearly 60% of people have considered buying a hybrid or EV and nearly 20% of people have considered purchasing an EV. Reduced cost of gas and environmental sustainability were the primary motivators people cited. Other less popular motivators include government incentives, the potential of an autonomous vehicle, aesthetics and the enhancement of personal brand.

Motivators for Buying a Fully Electric Vehicle

When we break this down by state, we see some differences. About 65% of people in Texas have not considered a hybrid nor fully electric vehicle, and about half of California residents have also not considered a fully electric vehicle. Why? Texans are one and a half times more likely than the general population to feel like EV technology is too new or that they lack understanding of it. California drivers are more dissuaded by the lack of charging capability at their residence. 

Approaching the data by age, we found that the level of consideration for EVs increases as the age decreases. Around two out of three Boomers have not considered a hybrid or fully electric vehicle, while two out of three Gen Zers have considered one. 

That’s looking at people who have considered purchasing an EV, but what about actually buying one? When it comes to people who have purchased hybrid or electric vehicles, only 19% of people have purchased a hybrid vehicle in their lifetime, and 6% have purchased a fully electric vehicle. About 75% of people have not ever purchased a hybrid or fully electric vehicle. 

Cost is the number one reason for not considering an EV

When asked for the main reason they’re not considering an electric vehicle, most respondents mentioned the initial purchase cost. About 28% of people would not be willing to pay for a fully electric vehicle. 

About half of respondents said they wish to pay less than $40,000 outright or less than $500 per month when purchasing a car. With the average transaction price for an EV being $56,000, manufacturers have a long way to go before motivating the general population to switch to electric. 

Also, while environmental sustainability is one of the primary motivators for considering or purchasing an EV, we still found that across generations and regions, many respondents cited they do not perceive EVs to be better for the environment, often due to pollution created by manufacturing and unethical battery mining practices. 

Lithium-ion mining has horrible consequences for the environment. Even if it’s going on in other countries, it’s still a problem.” - A 39-year-old male in North Dakota

Other reasons people aren’t considering EVs are the lack of charging stations available and the inability to engage in outdoor activities due to lack of offroading and towing capacity. Some respondents also worried that they’re dangerous to drive and maintain because of exploding batteries

Some detractors for not purchasing an EV vary by generation. Of those dissuaded by the low mileage range, 33% are Boomers. Of those who cited the technology as too new, 41% are Gen X. Millennials are the most concerned about recharging time on the road, while Gen Z is the most concerned about higher insurance rates.

“We live in a rural area. This means things are further away, and there are no charging stations here.” - A 42-year-old female from Ohio

Hybrids are considered at twice the rate of electric vehicles

Hybrids are considered two times more often than electric vehicles when people are purchasing gas-alternative vehicles. About 40% of people have considered a hybrid compared to only 18% of people who have considered a fully electric vehicle.

What’s the difference between a hybrid and an all-electric vehicle?

Electric vehicle: An electric vehicle is entirely powered by a large battery and electric motor. There is no need for an engine or a gas tank in these types of cars. Drivers can recharge the battery via electricity from their homes or an electric car charging unit.

Hybrid vehicle: A hybrid car is fueled by gasoline, but it doesn’t rely only on gas to run. The cars also have electric motors that act as generators when a driver hits the brake, and the energy from braking is stored in a battery to use the next time the driver accelerates. These electric motors help drivers save fuel. Sometimes, the electric motor and the gasoline engine work together in a hybrid car. 

Plug-in Hybrid vehicle: Plug-in hybrids have larger batteries than other hybrids and can be recharged through external power (hence the words “plug-in”). When the batteries are fully charged, these cars function similarly to electric cars, relying solely on the battery. However, when the battery’s power goes down, the gasoline engine kicks in, and the car works similar to non-plug-in hybrids.

 

We found that new, hybrid vehicles are the most desired gas-alternative vehicle among the general population. About 50% of people would consider purchasing a new hybrid car, compared to just 7% of people who would consider purchasing a used, fully-electric vehicle. Plus, of those who have purchased EV or hybrid vehicles, three out of four purchased new. 

Condition of EV or hybrid people have considered purchasing

 

 

Tesla is the number one brand both considered for purchase and actually purchased

Tesla is the number one considered manufacturer for electric vehicles among the general population, followed by Toyota, Ford and Chevrolet. Half of all people considering purchasing an electric vehicle are considering Tesla, and of those who have purchased an electric vehicle, one in five actually did purchase a Tesla

When it comes to what type of body style electric vehicle drivers prefer, sedans are the most popular. Two out of three people considering EVs consider a sedan, while a little less than half purchase a sedan. Of those who have purchased an EV, about one in four purchased an SUV.

EV-purchase-styles-02-02

 

While electric vehicles have become more accessible to the general population, they haven’t actually claimed much market share with the masses. Our study shows that there may be a lack of education and resources from car manufacturers about the pros and cons of EVs. 

While there has been the assumption that most people who prefer or consider EVs are doing it for the environment, our study shows that’s not always true. EV manufacturers must appeal to several different values today in order to be competitive.

Methodology

The Zebra conducted a consumer survey with panel provider Maru Blue from January-February 2022. The general population sample size was 1,200 and the by generation sample was 1,848. 

All participants had to be over 18 years of age, be a licensed driver and must have previously acquired a vehicle (cash, financing, lease, gift all satisfy). 

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