Less than 10% of Car Buyers Purchased an Electric Car in the Past Year — What’s Holding You Back?

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Despite attractive tax credits available to owners of new and used electric vehicles (EVs) and a heavy push from the federal government to have EVs account for at least 50% of new car sales by 2030, Americans may be warming to the idea of eventually owning an EV. Still, according to a new study by GOBankingRates, it hasn’t translated to sales.

Polling 1,091 Americans aged 18 years and older on a number of consumer-related and personal finance issues between Aug. 14 and Aug. 16, 2023, GOBankingRates found that less than 10% of car buyers bought an electric vehicle in the past year.

The survey, conducted through PureSpectrum’s platform, shows that among those respondents who did purchase a car or truck in the last 12 months, only 3.71% bought a new fully electric model, compared to 27.32% who got a gas combustion vehicle and 13.53% who opted for a new hybrid.

Used vehicle buyers chose to buy gas-fueled cars, per the study. According to response rates, 41.91% preferred to buy a car or truck with an internal combustion engine, whereas 4.51% and 9.02% went for used fully electric and hybrid varieties, respectively.

But why are car buyers overwhelmingly committed to buying fuel-burners instead of electric options? Some hesitance of buying electric results from consumers’ discomfort with change, and changing over from their trusted internal combustion machines will take time.

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However, as a recent survey by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC) and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research reveals, cost poses the primary obstacle to buying electric.

EVs Are Still Way Too Expensive

Even EV enthusiasts have to admit that electric cars are costly, and because of growing demand, even used models sell at a premium. Prices will fall once EVs permeate the market, but even price cuts and incentives aren’t enough to sway many Americans to take the plunge.

Electric vehicles are still more expensive than conventional autos. According to Kelley Blue Book, the average transaction price for electric cars was $53,438 in June, compared to $48,808 for gas-powered vehicles, without considering federal EV tax credits.

Electric vehicles are pricey because their main component, lithium-ion batteries, are costly to produce. While sales of EVs have increased dramatically over the past couple of years, the lithium price has grown astronomically. New types of batteries, such as solid-state, will be introduced to the EV market in time, but for now, if you have to replace your electric car’s battery, it will cost thousands, if not tens of thousands, of dollars.

“You’re going to have more and more people trying to source larger quantities of the supply of lithium to make sure that they have whatever they need to operate for the next fiscal year,” Craig Dillard, partner at the law firm Foley & Lardner, told Business Insider.

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Not Enough Functioning Charging Stations

According to a Feb. 15 White House Fact Sheet, over 130,000 public ports were in the U.S. The number of stations and ports grows every week, but there are still too few to meet the expectation of EVs on roads in the coming years.

Charging infrastructure is growing — the federal government alone is investing $7.5 billion in EV charging, as detailed in President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal. But at the present, it isn’t easy to find an available, functioning charging location in the U.S.

Of 56,256 charging stations identified by the Alternative Fuels Data Center in November 2022, over 4,000 were “temporarily unavailable” because they were undergoing some form of maintenance, USAFacts reported.

What’s more, stations are unequally distributed. The vast majority are located in California, which had 15,706 as of last November, followed by New York, Florida and Texas. Alaska, on the other hand, had just 58.

The slow switchover to electric vehicles in the U.S. can be partly attributed to growing pains. The industry can reach its expected targets by competently addressing the twin hurdles of cost and infrastructure (and “range anxiety” concerns). Americans can embrace this forthcoming EV technology with assurance instead of indifference. 

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