It’s been two long decades since the Toyota Prius, the first mass-produced hybrid car, debuted worldwide. Fast-forward to 2022, when an estimated 85-plus new electric vehicles are slated for market in the next three to four years. As the auto industry increasingly shifts its focus to electric, it seems the American public is finally warming to the idea.

CivicScience survey data reflect growing adoption of electric vehicles among U.S. consumers. In 2020, an average of just 4% of adults owned an electric vehicle. That average doubled in 2021, with 9% of respondents reporting ownership today. 

Looking more closely at adoption, a separate survey assessed total current vehicle ownership among more than 2,400 U.S. car owners. 

Hybrid vehicles (non plug-in) make up the biggest portion of alternative fuel vehicle ownership: 7% of respondents own a hybrid electric vehicle (e.g. Toyota Prius), while 4% own a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (e.g. Toyota Prius Prime). 

Five percent own a full battery-powered electric vehicle, such as the Nissan Leaf or a Tesla model, while 3% report owning another type of alternative fuel vehicle, such as a hydrogen fuel cell electric car (e.g. Toyota Mirai).

Increased adoption tracks with overall growth in electric vehicle sales, estimated to have accounted for 3.6% of total U.S. car sales by mid-2021. That share is forecasted to continue rising, in hopes of improving lagging adoption rates in the United States when compared to Europe and China.

When it comes to demand, CivicScience tracking shows the surge in adoption is coupled with increased intent to purchase. Today, more than one-quarter of auto buyers say they plan to buy an electric vehicle as their next purchase.

The majority of potential electric buyers are most likely to purchase a hybrid vehicle: 13% standard hybrid and 7% plug-in hybrid. About one-quarter of future electric buyers (accounting for 7% of survey respondents) would consider purchasing an all-electric vehicle next.

In line with hybrid vehicle interest, an analysis of 15 manufacturers with non-luxury electric options finds that Honda and Toyota are the most favored by the electric vehicle crowd (both owners and intenders) – more so than American-owned Ford, Chevy, or Tesla. 

Although Tesla still ranks highly for favorability, it’s likely that the current popularity of hybrid vehicles takes precedence over all-electric, giving Toyota and Honda an edge. While the Japanese automakers are venturing into all-electric territory, they both currently offer several different hybrid and hybrid plug-in models, including highly-demanded crossovers.

Of course, the price point of electric vehicles can’t be overlooked and has long been a barrier of entry for many. This is only further complicated by COVID-19, chip shortages, and increasing used car prices. Currently, 55% of people believe now is a bad time to invest in a big purchase such as a new car – a growing and concerning trend challenging expectations for industry growth.