But many remain in the dark about the costs involved.
The United States of America may be the world's second-largest automotive market, but there has been strong pushback from the buying public when it comes to electric vehicle adoption. But according to Consumer Reports' latest and largest survey, it seems Americans are warming to the idea of an EV, or at the very least, low-carbon fuels. This comes at a time when Q2 sales reports have shown strong growth in EV demand, revealing that fears of range anxiety are being allayed and the cost of new EVs is coming down.
According to Consumer Reports, 71% of Americans have shown some interest in buying or leasing a battery-electric vehicle.
That figure can be further broken down, however, as only 14% would "definitely" purchase or lease a BEV if they were buying one today. This represents a big jump from CR's study in 2020 in which only 4% said the same, although back then, only 3,392 licensed drivers were surveyed compared to 8,027 consumers sampled this year. 22% of those taking part in the survey claimed they would "seriously consider" one, while 35% "might" consider an EV.
Driving this change of mindset is the ever-increasing price of gas. When the survey was conducted in late January to early February, gas prices had risen to $3.52 per gallon on a national average. Several months down the line and prices have risen further, now at a national average of $4.87.
33% of consumers claimed that an EV being cheaper to charge than refueling a car was the primary factor in their interest, while 31% attributed the lower lifetime cost of ownership to their interest. 28% of those polled were in favor of lower maintenance costs as the main proponent of EV adoption.
There are, however, a number of barriers in preventing buyers from making the switch, among them the access to charging infrastructure, the lack of knowledge pertaining to incentives, and range anxiety, which still plagues the masses. 61% of the consumers who would "definitely" buy or lease an EV were concerned over where and when they'd be able to charge it - a growing concern for those who don't have access to home charging as CarBuzz discovered recently. 55% were concerned about the range between charges, and 52% were most worried about the cost of purchase and ownership.
The latter point is crucial, as CR found that 46% of Americans are unaware of the incentives available when it comes to purchasing an EV. Admittedly, these do fluctuate vastly from state to state, with California providing more incentives and benefits than some others. There's also the ever-changing nature of federal tax rebates for EVs and plug-in hybrids (PHEVs). The current maximum credit is $7,500 for qualifying buyers and vehicles, although there has been talk of raising this amount. However, brands like Tesla are no longer eligible due to the volume of plug-in type vehicles it has sold, a threshold that Toyota recently crossed as well, signaling a reduction in the credit available to buyers of the Toyota bZ4X. 53% of American buyers say rebates and benefits at the time of purchase would sway them in favor of EVs.
On the topic of charging infrastructure, this is something that is improving. At present, the USA has more than 48,000 public EV charging stations. However, these tend to be located away from low- and mid-income communities. Home-charging costs anywhere from $500 upwards and is often limited to homeowners, not renters.
CarBuzz has previously spoken of a change in mindset needed among EV buyers, plugging in daily rather than when your battery runs low. This notion is supported by experienced EV owners, as Consumer Reports claims that only 27% of EV owners are concerned about range, compared to 56% of non-EV owners.
Much has been said about carbon-neutral synthetic fuels, with Porsche, Bentley, Aston Martin, and others all pursuing this as a means of keeping the combustion engine alive. CR found that 61% of Americans value environmental impact when acquiring a new vehicle. Despite this, only one in four were aware of low-carbon fuels (including ethanol, biodiesel, hydrogen, propane, and liquefied natural gas). Of those polled, 67% would be willing to use these fuels if they were comparably priced to traditional fuels.
"As automakers roll out more electric vehicles, there are other low carbon fuels that could eventually complement this shift to more sustainable transportation," said Dr. Mohammad Tayarani, senior policy analyst at Consumer Reports.
European lawmakers have left the door open to this as well, after rewording the proposed 2035 combustion ban to allow for the potential use of these fuels - provided manufacturers can prove their viability and sustainability.
The general consensus among CarBuzz staffers is that there doesn't need to only be one solution to personal mobility. While the nature of EVs technically suits the majority of the US population's needs, giving buyers the option of a more traditional alternative with low-to-no impact on the environment and a more traditional vehicle ownership experience is far from the worst option. By maintaining a diverse automotive ecosystem, the world would also be able to make necessary adjustments easier than trying to change methodologies wholesale.
At the end of the day, vehicle ownership needs to finely balance cost, convenience, and environmental impact. For many, cost is a driving factor, though, and the other factors are only truly considered when they fall within an affordable price range.
Dr. Quinta Warren, associate director of sustainability policy for Consumer Reports with a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering puts it quite succinctly when she says, "A growing number of people want clean cars that cost less to drive."