In 2020, Plug In America conducted the first of our annual survey of electric vehicle (EV) consumers—both drivers and those considering an electric vehicle. We are proud to present the results of this survey, which offers a fascinating insight into the opinions and habits of the growing number of EV consumers.
Plug In America Executive Director Joel Levin and other PIA team members presented a webinar on the survey report on February 25, 2021. Watch the recording:
Among the findings of the survey:
- EV drivers are very satisfied with their vehicles, with 96% reporting that they are likely to purchase an EV as their next vehicle.
- A majority of both current EV drivers and those considering an EV, over 60%, indicated that clean air/environment was a “most important” consideration in the decision to purchase an EV.
- Compared to current EV drivers, those considering an EV were slightly more likely to cite “cost savings” and less likely to cite “performance/fun to drive” or “cutting edge technology” as considerations.
- The federal EV tax credit and inexpensive home charging were cited as significant economic considerations when deciding to purchase an EV.
- EV drivers indicated room for improvement with the shopping experience, with only 15% rating the knowledge of the salesperson about EVs as “very high.”
- More than 50% of current drivers have experienced problems with public charging, although these problems were more prevalent in those who drove non-Tesla EVs.
Plug In America is the voice of the EV driver; while there are several groups who perform surveys of EV drivers, Plug In America’s membership includes EV drivers with years or even decades of experience with the vehicles. In September–October 2020, Plug In America surveyed over 3,500 electric vehicle (EV) owners and over 800 individuals interested in purchasing an EV. We have, in the past, surveyed our membership to understand charging habits, battery performance, and other aspects of EV driving. The intent of this survey was to understand the current state of EV driving and consideration in the United States, in particular:
- What are the primary motivations for drivers and those considering EVs?
- What are the most valuable sources of information available to EV customers?
- What is the quality of the current EV buying experience for customers?
- Are EV owners content? Why and why not?
- Where do prospective EV owners converge and diverge from existing owners?
The overall picture is one of satisfied EV owners, with 96% intending to purchase an EV as their next vehicle. The primary motivation for EV owners to purchase the vehicle was the environment and air quality, with approximately 60% indicating this was a “most important” consideration, twice the rate of a cluster of secondary factors including cost savings, interest in cutting edge technology, energy independence, and fun of driving. A majority of respondents (over 75%) expressed a preference for charging from renewable energy, increasing the environmental benefits of EVs even further.
Owners were satisfied with the information they were able to obtain when investigating EV purchasing, with 85% indicating satisfaction with finding the information they needed to buy or lease an EV, particularly with EV-specific websites like PlugStar.com, rated as the most valuable source of EV information. However, owners were left wanting with the experience they received at dealerships, with only 15% considering the salesperson “very high” in knowledge, and only 40% considering them highly knowledgeable. While EV owners intend to continue EV ownership, they voice frustration with public charging infrastructure, with approximately half having experienced problems with public charging.
Those who do not currently own an EV but are considering purchasing one within the next 12 months share some similarities with current owners, but there are stark differences. Similar to current EV owners, these “intenders” are primarily motivated by environmental and clean air impacts to purchase the vehicle, but they express less strong feelings overall, particularly less concern with the cutting edge technology and the fun of driving. They also find EV-specific websites to be the most valuable source of information on EVs, but are more likely to rely on friends and family than current owners. These intenders are somewhat different demographically as well. They tended to be younger, less likely to earn over $100,000 per year and less likely to live in a single family home, though that is still the dominant home type, with ~80% of respondents.
The following report explores these findings in more detail, and also provides insight regarding what can be done to encourage further growth in the adoption of EVs. These results indicate that there must be greater investment in public charging infrastructure with a focus on reliability, and that a better dealership experience is essential as the market continues to evolve from innovators (the ones who adopt a technology even before the “early adopters”), who may have been more tolerant of market shortcomings for ideological reasons.
Overall, the report paints an encouraging picture of EV adoption. As a significant motivating factor in EV adoption is improving air quality, we recommend that this benefit be kept in mind when developing state incentives. Incentives for EVs support a public good (cleaner air and a more liveable climate).
Improving the dealership experience is a key area of Plug In America expertise, which the report shows is an important area to continue to expand our work. We encourage regions and states to implement dealership engagement programs such as PlugStar, which supports, trains, and certifies dealers to sell EVs. This program has proven results in improving customer satisfaction and dealer success in regions where it is implemented.
Respondents frequently mentioned the problem of nonfunctional public chargers. Plug In America recommends that grant programs for publicly-funded EVSE include requirements for reliability (including redundancy, uptime requirements, and maintenance requirements).
Overall, the picture is encouraging, with EV drivers very satisfied with their vehicles. While there are some issues in need of attention, such as dealership knowledge and public charging reliability, policymakers and industry stakeholders have developed promising solutions to these concerns.