41 Percent of Those Planning to Buy a Car May Go Electric, Study Finds

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(Photo: Ernest Ojeh/Unsplash)
A new study from Ernst & Young has revealed that out of those looking to buy their next car, 41 percent are interested in going electric. EY surveyed consumers from 13 major international markets (Australia, Canada, China, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Sweden, the UK, and the US) and found that the degree of interest varies by country—only 17 percent of Australian consumers are thinking of going electric, compared with 48 percent of those in China and 63 percent in Italy. But overall, the shift marks a significant 11 percent jump in EV interest from EY’s study last year.

“This represents a breakthrough moment in consumer attitudes that could hugely accelerate demand for EVs and alternative powertrain vehicles,” the study concluded. “Previously, many consumers expressed generalized concerns over sustainability, but those concerns did not translate into action when it came to buying their next car.”

Powertrain preference of consumers planning to buy a car (Graph: Ernst & Young)

The study comes at what many are hoping to be the tail-end of the COVID-19 pandemic, during which consumers spent more time in their own neighborhoods. For many, quarantine offered some people a bittersweet opportunity to recognize the pleasure of having cleaner, less-polluted air and take inventory of the ways in which an individual can affect the environment. According to EY’s data, this pandemic-induced epiphany is the reason behind 78 percent of potential EV buyers’ willingness to ditch the carbon-burning engine and seek out a better solution.

Buying an EV is now easier than ever, but some consumers remain wary. Out of the consumers EY surveyed, 50 percent indicated cost as a potential barrier to purchasing their first EV, and 32 percent were concerned about charging infrastructure. Although many electric vehicles have a higher up-front cost than their carbon-burning predecessors, their total cost of ownership (TCO) is often lower thanks to fuel and maintenance savings. And while anything new can at first feel intimidating, implementing charging infrastructure isn’t nearly as complicated as it sounds.

In the US and UK, for example, you can generally install an at-home EV charger if you own your property or if you obtain permission from your landlord. Home EV chargers can go for as little as $199 for a lesser-known brand on Amazon or $700+ for the luxury brand Chargepoint. (Surprisingly, a Tesla Wall Connector sits in the middle at $500.) According to the US Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center, an EV with a 200-mile/66kWh range would cost only $9 to fully charge at a cost of $0.13 per kWh. Compare that with a $3.50/gallon fuel cost and your average 25mpg carbon-burning vehicle with a 16-gallon tank (which costs $56 to fill) and the long-term savings are abundant—you have about $18 left in your pocket every time you recharge. If you drive enough to recharge even just twice a month, a mid-level charger will pay for itself in less than a year.

Of course, this only works if you drive a smaller vehicle. Delivery professions and trades that require hauling of larger goods or materials have far fewer options, as electric vans and pickups are only just entering the mainstream and carry hefty price tags, and long-haul electric trucks seem further away than ever. And if you live in a place like San Francisco that requires you to park out on the street, owning an electric vehicle may be more work than it’s worth. As such, EVs aren’t a blanket solution to transportation-related pollution, but rather a supplement to other environmental efforts. 

EY (and likely many consumers) are hoping this marks a transformation in the way consumers approach personal transportation and the environment. Of those surveyed, 66 percent of consumers indicated they’d be making their purchase within the next year, which means both the auto industry and the planet could begin seeing changes very soon. 

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