CONSUMER CHOICES

According to some natural scientists and economists, one potential step to reduce emissions and mitigate climate change would be the widespread adoption of all-electric vehicles (EVs), which can be powered by electricity generated by sunlight, wind, and water. 

According to the U.S Energy Information Administration, transportation emits more greenhouse gases than any other sector in the US, attributable to transportation’s near-complete dependence on fossil fuels. Thus, emissions can be dramatically reduced by widespread adoption of EVs. Perhaps partly for this reason, manufacturing and sales of EVs have been increasing in recent years. Still, thus far, such sales represent a small share of consumer automobile purchases in the United States. In fact, only 40% of Americans in 2020 thought that they would even consider buying an all-electric car in the future (see the figure below).


Question wording can be found here.

In 2020, the PPRG asked a series of questions about EVs in order to gauge Americans’ perceptions of EVs and to explore the reasons why citizens may be hesitant to purchase these vehicles.

ENVIRONMENTAL BENEFITS

When asked about whether they thought that driving an EV helps the environment, 71% of Americans thought it helped a moderate amount or more, with just under 30% saying it will help the environment “a great deal” (29%). 


Question wording can be found here.

SAFETY

A majority of Americans believed that there was little danger of EV batteries catching on fire, with 63% saying it was only slightly likely or not likely at all. Conversely, only 11% of Americans thought that it was extremely or very likely that the battery in an EV would catch on fire.


Question wording can be found here.

ECONOMICS

Nearly one-third of Americans (29%) believed that maintaining EVs is more costly than maintaining gasoline-powered cars, which could make them less likely to purchase an EV. However, 50% of Americans believed that the cost of repairs and maintenance for EVs was comparable to those of gas-powered cars. 


Question wording can be found here.

Furthermore, 45% of Americans believed that driving EVs were less costly than driving typical gas-powered cars, compared to only 22% who believed that it was more costly.


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More Americans also believed that the value of EVs depreciated more slowly than gas-powered cars than believed they depreciated faster (27% to 15%, respectively). Though it is important to note that most respondents (52%) thought both EVs and gas-powered cars depreciated at about the same rate. 


Question wording can be found here.

PERFROMANCE AND EFFICIENTCY

The proportion of Americans who believed that EVs had worse acceleration as compared to gas-powered cars (25%) was about the same as the proportion who believed that EVs had better acceleration (26%).


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The difficulty of charging EVs may be a big reason for why many Americans are reluctant to purchase them as opposed to standard gas-powered cars. More than twice as many Americans believed that finding places to charge EVs was extremely or very difficult (46%) than believed it was slightly difficult or not difficult at all (21%).


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Additionally, a large majority (65%) of Americans believed that very few mechanics, or even none at all, were capable of repairing EVs. 


Question wording can be found here.

PRIOR EXPOSURE

Finally, relatively few Americans have driven or know someone who has driven an EV. In fact, only 34% of respondents have had this exposure to EVs, possibly making the other almost two-thirds of Americans who have not been exposed to EVs less likely to purchase one in the future.


Question wording can be found here.