Have EV buyers peaked for the time being? Some say they have, including a list of nearly 4,000 U.S. auto dealers who are calling for the Biden administration to reassess the EPA tailpipe emissions mandate released earlier this year. The mandate essentially requires the majority of new car sales to be electric by 2030, but according to auto dealers, that’s looking unattainable as EV sales have slowed and EVs are piling up on lots.

CivicScience data show that interest in electric vehicles among U.S. consumers is stuck in a holding pattern. The percentage of those who say they aren’t interested in buying an EV has been clocking in higher month-over-month (at 61%), while intent to buy is averaging lower compared to the start of the year. However, November shows an uptick in intent (up two points from October), which coincides with rising consumer sentiment toward making a major purchase.

Additional ongoing tracking indicates that the majority of Americans still aren’t hedging their bets on EVs – data for the month of November show that 54% of respondents believe EVs will remain ‘niche’ in the next few years, up from 51% who said the same last November.

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What are the main barriers currently keeping people from purchasing an EV? Here’s what the most recent data show:

Cost and Charging Concerns Are Key

For those who would consider an electric vehicle, nearly two-thirds say they are being held back by cost, despite tax incentives and reduced prices on some EV brands (such as Tesla) this year. The average price of a new EV is around $50K, while the average car buyer wants to spend less than $30K on their next purchase, as shown by recent CivicScience data. Cost remains the leading deterrent year-over-year.

While less-expensive options exist, such as the Nissan Leaf or buying a used electric vehicle, price is only one issue. Nearly half of potential future EV buyers foresee battery charging to be problematic, including those who have limited or no access to convenient charging. Likewise, range and mileage concerns remain top of mind.

Battery Safety – Also a Cause for Concern

To what extent are reports about lithium-ion battery fires in EVs and electric bikes impacting intent to buy? Consumer data would suggest a good amount. Among those who would consider buying an EV (excluding those who say they would ‘never’ consider an EV purchase), 40% are ‘much less likely’ to purchase one, while an additional 25% say they are ‘somewhat less likely’ to do so. Even though some research finds EV fires occur less frequently than gas-powered vehicle fires, they certainly aren’t helping to sell skeptical consumers on electric vehicles.

Ultimately, the data suggest that all-electric vehicles remain an impractical, unappealing option to most Americans at the moment. Even if intent to buy continues to increase, it’s likely that cost, battery charging infrastructure, and safety all need to be addressed before EVs can become the dominant vehicle on the road. On the other hand, it’s reported that hybrid vehicles are increasingly in demand, indicating Americans are looking for alternatives to traditional gas-powered cars.

Additional Insights from the CivicScience InsightStore™:

  • People who already own an EV will spend the most on their next car purchase (31% will spend above $50K), whereas more than half of EV intenders are looking to spend under $30K on their next car.
  • Younger adults (under age 35) are more likely than older adults to consider an EV for their next purchase, whereas Americans aged 35-54 and those earning between $50-$100K yearly are the most likely to say the cost of ownership is too high.
  • Over 40% of renters cite limited access to charging as one of their top three reasons for not purchasing an EV (among those who would consider an EV). However, that’s even higher among homeowners (54%).
  • Americans who live in the suburbs and rural areas are much more likely than those in cities to be deterred by range and mileage concerns.
  • People who want to buy an SUV or crossover harbor greater concern over electric battery fires than those looking to buy a truck or sedan.

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