February 2, 2017

A new report has shown that the US public is struggling to come to terms with new technology in the automotive industry. In fact, more than half of them know nothing about electric cars.

Forget self-driving technology, forget fully connected cars and ride hailing schemes that could make ownership redundant at a stroke. The man and woman on the street is still struggling to get to grips with a plug-in car that doesn’t rely on gasoline, even though they can walk into a showroom and order one right now. This is a serious stumbling block.

The report was conducted by Altman, Vilandrie & Company, which surveyed 2,557 North American car buyers. 60% of them either knew nothing about electric cars, or said they had heard of them but really don’t know about them.

Most people have never experienced an EV

These are people out shopping for new cars and 80% of them said they had never driven or ridden in an electric car. With that in mind, there’s almost no way that these people would even look at buying an EV.

Those that do know a little about electric cars clearly don’t know enough. 83% of them claimed that electric cars are just too expensive, which suggests that they only really know about the high-end Tesla Model S and Model X.

Tesla is taking orders for the $35,000 Model 3, the Chevy Bolt now has a confirmed price tag of $37,495 and the Kia Soul starts from $31, 950. All of these cars come with a Federal Tax Credit rebate that drops the price below $30,000.

Considering the negligible fuel costs, the new wave of electric vehicles are much cheaper than a petrol-powered machine over the lifespan of the car.

Infrastructure and recharge times are an issue

Other concerns mentioned in the report are, perhaps, more reasonable. 85% of the respondents claimed that the charging infrastructure is just inadequate, while 74% claim that charging takes too long.

Ignoring the fact that most modern EVs can charge off a domestic supply and the range is good enough to get the average commuter to work and back, the infrastructure is a valid problem. Tesla has committed to doubling the Supercharger network, though, the White House is working with BMW, Nissan and GM to boost the network in 35 states and charging points are now a common sight at highway refueling stations.

There is still a lot of work to do on the charging network to bring it up to code for the modern consumer, but the industry has made massive strides in recent months and it’s an issue that’s under control. As for the charging time, a Tesla Model S can replenish almost half its battery life in 20 minutes and that can give it almost 200 miles of range.

These  are old-school problems

These concerns, then, seem to be old, ingrained prejudices against electric cars that refuse to go away. It’s a legacy of the early, outdated technology that really wasn’t fit for purpose. These were understandable reasons why the electric car simply didn’t gain traction, but they are old problems that have left a mark that will need scrubbing out.

There is some good news in the report. 18% of the 25-34-year-old respondents and 17% of the people that earn $100,000 or more said they intended to buy an electric car next. But that’s a tiny cross section of the people interviewed and really isn’t good enough when we look at how hard the industry is working towards a fully electric future.

Germany and Holland are looking to ban the sale of cars with internal combustion engines by 2030 at the latest and we’re really heading to a tipping point where the public don’t have a choice. Electric cars will be the only option, sooner rather than later, and with the arrival of the Chevy Bolt and the upcoming Tesla Model 3, they are clearly a better option for the cost-conscious buyer than a petrol powered car.

Electric cars need to be cheaper, but do they?

The survey claimed that electric cars could increase their sales by a massive 24 times, if they can offer prices of $35,000. But here’s the thing, they already are. The general public just needs to get over the preconception, forged largely by the manufacturers themselves, that electric cars are a premium option.

So basically the industry has already answered all of the major concerns presented by the respondents in this survey. The only problem is that the public just don’t seem to know it. So while we obsess over the details of self-driving tech and the user experience, there are more serious issues for the industry to deal with.

Simply put, the EV industry needs to tell a better story and sell its wares to the masses. Right now, this survey shows that electric cars are still a niche item and that the world at large is seriously ignorant about the progress in the EV industry. That’s something that has to change, and it has to change fast.

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