A recent survey* of vehicle buyer intentions across Australia, Canada and the US has thrown up some interesting similarities between the three markets, as well as some localised differences.
Most notably, according to the survey by car insurance comparison website, Compare the Market:
- Men are more likely than women to prefer electric vehicles;
- Younger age groups (between 18 and 34) are more likely to prefer electric vehicles than any other generation;
- People are more willing to spend higher amounts on EVs than they are on ICE vehicles;
- Women are generally motivated to spend less on cars than men;
- Purchase price and battery life/replacement costs are the two main identified barriers to entry for an EV purchase;
- Older generations (55+) are most likely to be dissuaded from buying an EV due to concerns about battery life, driving range, and cost of charging.
Drilling down into the Australian stats, purchasing interest (as measured by the question “If two identical vehicles were available in both a traditional or electric model at the same price, which would you prefer?”) came out as:
- Prefer an electric car: (50.8%)
- Would opt for a ‘traditional’ vehicle: 36.2%
- No particular preference: 13%
Further questioning about perceived barriers to buying an EV in Australia revealed the following as concerns:
- Purchase price: 66.6%
- Battery life/replacement cost: 58.1%
- Charging times: 52%
- Driving range: 47%
- Charging price: 42.3%
- Understanding of technology: 28.9%
Interestingly, most of these barriers (except price) are in fact old issues that have receded with the technology found in the newest EVs.
(You can find my most recent summary of the EV myths around charging speed, range, battery life and EV versus ICE emissions here).
As for the charging cost consideration coming to the fore: I would see it as a sign that the public is moving to giving very serious consideration to an EV as their next car through a growing interest in their costs/benefits.
Understanding the cost to run an EV is not a hard thing to do, but a mental shift is needed to make the swap of kWh for litres.
Doing the sums, when charged at home EVs are definitely way cheaper to run. To prove that – try the calculation for yourself by swapping litres/100km for kWh/100km and applying the kWh price you pay.
(By the way, I am currently putting together an article on DC charging costs – early indications are that charging on these networks still works out to being a quarter to a third cheaper than petrol. More on that topic soon).
All-up, I would summarise the set of barriers found in the survey as all fitting under the last listed category – i.e. “understanding of technology”.
This is where well-funded campaigns to fill in the gap between the current EV technology and people’s understanding of it are needed. Such campaigns are a great help in getting people over the line with adopting the new technology through dispelling ‘the fear of the unknown.’
However, websites, media campaigns and support services cost money and thus far, such work has not received much financial support here.
Well-funded examples do exist elsewhere, though, including: Electrify America in the US, the Office of Zero Emissions Vehicles in the UK and the government-supported New Zealand EV information site. Getting that information out en-masse to the public is therefore possible, but it needs a bit of will and direction setting by government.
To me, four things jump out at me from this survey –
- Many of the public worries found in the survey would be assuaged by a better understanding of current EV capabilities and features.
- We need to get trustworthy EV information out to the public in more and larger ways.
- A missing topic in the survey was charger availability. As an EV driver doing regional/interstate driving as well as consulting in the area of charging needs for inner city and apartment dwellers – this is an issue that is going to become important as the EV transition increases both in speed and overall EV car numbers.
- There is only one real barrier left to buying an EV for people with good access to charging – and that’s the cost of the EV itself. This was borne out by the survey data on what price points would sway a purchase of EV over ICE – as shown below:
Interestingly, the long commented ‘Tesla Stretch’ (referring to people being willing to spend more on a Tesla than other new cars) is shown here to be what I have long called it: it’s really the ‘EV Stretch’.
This survey shows that, for more expensive cars (over $45k), people are (within reason) willing to go the extra bit to buy EV over ICE. It would also seem from this survey that once EVs hit the $35k to $45k bracket, we will see a surge of buyer interest even greater than what we have recently seen for the first sub-$50 BEVs.
Given the sub-$40k price point may be hit as early as later next year or into 2024, we may not have long to wait to see if this is borne out in the data. After that, the benefits of EV ownership should start to come through by example, with EVs spreading out into every neighbourhood and owners start talking to their neighbours about their EV experiences.
Harking back to my overall point about needing to better understand EVs before buying one: Compare the Market’s general manager of car insurance, Stephen Zeller, put it this way, when commenting on the survey results:
“If you are in the market for a new car, it’s imperative that you really understand what capabilities you need as a driver, and then complement that with market research to ensure you find a car that best suits your needs.
“Things such as running costs, driving range and performance in different types of weather can vary quite dramatically between different vehicles. Among other factors, drivers should consider their average length of vehicle ownership to see if spending a higher amount on a car will be financially viable for them in the long run.”
* Survey was conducted by Insurance comparison website, Compare the Market and is based on results from more than 2,500 adults across Australia, America, and Canada. The intention of the survey was to better understand the public’s new vehicle buying preferences. Further information on the survey can be found here.
Bryce Gaton is an expert on electric vehicles and contributor for The Driven and Renew Economy. He has been working in the EV sector since 2008 and is currently working as EV electrical safety trainer/supervisor for the University of Melbourne. He also provides support for the EV Transition to business, government and the public through his EV Transition consultancy EVchoice.