The Gist: U.S. adults who are considering an electric car are more likely to be Millennials. Not surprisingly, they are concerned about the environment. But, convenience of electric vehicle usage and the economy may play a role in adoption rates. 

Electric vehicles have been on the rise for quite some time now. One forecast shows that the number of electric cars on the road will triple over the next 2 years, and that adoption will grow to 125 million by 2030 (from 3 million in 2017). Tesla is consistently in the news, and although it is on the higher end of the price range for electric cars, the automaker is continuing to scale production capacity. And, estimates show that electric vehicles are more inexpensive to own and run.

With this news circulating, coupled with adoption rate projections, we wanted to see what motivations lie behind those who would be likely (and not so likely) to consider purchasing or leasing an electric vehicle in the future. 

Nearly ¼ of U.S. adults say they are either “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to purchase or lease an electric car as their next vehicle. While the majority, over ¾, of the adult population say they are not at all likely to purchase, there are a reasonable number of people who are at least considering the option. Within these groups, we explored what factors might motivate or not motivate people to consider electric cars. 

Life Stage and Behaviors 

The trend of electric car adoption seems to appeal to younger generations. Millenials are more likely to consider purchasing or leasing an electric car. Of those who are “very likely,” 53% are Millennials, and of those who are “somewhat likely,” 44% are Millennials. Baby Boomers are the least likely to consider an electric car.  In this case, the generation a person belongs to makes a difference in the level of consideration. 

The majority of American adults take a personal vehicle to work; however, U.S. adults who take some mode of public transit to work are far more likely to consider an electric car. It’s possible that those who use a less-polluting transportation option are more likely to factor environmental consciousness into a car purchase.

Economic Sentiment and Purchase Intent

Feelings about the economy’s health can also play a role in car purchase behavior. Negative feelings about the economy when considering a major purchase have been on a steady decline since 2015. In conjunction with that trend, more U.S. adults think it’s a “good time” to make a major purchase, like a new car, in 2018 compared to 2015. But whether these positive feelings immediately translate into good news for the electric car industry is not entirely clear.  

Of those who say they have a high propensity to buy an electric car, 40% think it’s a bad time to make a major purchase, like a car, given the state of the economy. It is promising for the electric car sector at least, that among those who are “somewhat likely” to buy an electric car next, the majority, 79% think it’s either a good time or an average time to invest in a major purchase. This could present an opportunity for electric car manufacturers to carefully craft messages targeted to anyone on the fence.

We also dug a bit deeper past economic sentiment to look at car purchase intent:

The intent to purchase a car “in the next 6 months” is strongest among Millenials – almost 40%. Based on our earlier insights, Millennials were the most likely to say they’re “very likely” to choose an electric car as their next car. While this doesn’t tell us whether Millennials and Gen Xers are definitely intending to go electric, we know at least their intent to purchase is there.

Environmental Concerns

When looking at how likely people are to be concerned about the environment in the past year compared to their likelihood of electric car adoption, the numbers are surprising: 

Not surprising, those who are likely to consider electric are also more likely to be very concerned about the environment (81%), but a high level of concern among those who aren’t likely is still relatively high. Of those who are not going to consider an electric car, one of every four (25%) still say they are very concerned about climate change/the environment/climate change. If the environment is a general concern on some level, some people may not view buying an electric car as a way to minimize their concerns while others may be motivated by that reason. 

US adults who are very likely to purchase an electric car are not only more concerned about the environment, but they also try to adjust their lifestyle to help the environment. Over half of those who are somewhat likely to purchase an electric car say they try to adjust their lifestyle for the environment if it’s convenient enough. 

Given the big differences in usage of a traditional gas-powered vehicle vs. an electric vehicle, more convenience could sway this group of people. Some reports show that electric charging stations, perhaps one of the biggest differences, are on the rise which could improve the convenience factor/motivator.  

With the adoption projections of electric cars on the rise, the profile of a typical electric car owner may evolve. Currently, we know that those who are likely to adopt electric vehicles are more likely to be Millennials, and have concerns over climate change and the environment. We aren’t necessarily sure if this group will be the most likely to actually buy as intent vs. follow-through can vary.

As Millennials get older, we could see that electric car ownership rates will grow. If the electric car industry can work to improve the convenience of owning one, people who are somewhat likely to purchase an electric car may be swayed. We’ll keep monitoring perceptions on electric cars as time goes on.