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EV adoption can be hindered by unrealistic consumer expectations: research

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Deloitte, a leading professional services network, has published research and analysis on the obstacles ahead of EV adoption globally.

Deloitte summarized its findings well in one of the first sentences of its analysis: “interest in electric vehicles is growing, but concerns about price, autonomy and charging time remain”. This survey is part of a series that Deloitte has conducted annually for over a decade called the “Global Automotive Consumer Study.” In this year’s publication, the focus was on electric vehicles.

The first surprising piece of data is how far behind the United States is in interest in electric vehicles. Deloitte found that only 8% of respondents were confident that the EV would be their next vehicle. However, this is an outlier compared to other recent surveys conducted in the US. Of the nations surveyed by Deloitte, China led the way in EV interest, with more than a quarter of respondents saying their next vehicle would be electric.

Less surprising were the reasons respondents were interested in buying an EV. Despite the almost constant messages from governments, media sites and automakers, the cost of ownership was by far the most significant attraction for consumers. Significantly more influential than concerns about the environment or personal health.

Shortly after, Deloitte highlighted consumers’ top concerns when purchasing an electric vehicle, and unsurprisingly, affordability was the #1 concern across all industries. In the US, other top concerns included range, charging time, availability of public charging, and availability of charging at home. Globally, in addition to concerns about initial EV cost, charging time, range and charging availability were also top concerns.

Only one country had responses that differed dramatically from the norm, China. Chinese respondents not only stated that the superior driving experience was the main attraction for electric vehicles, but their biggest concern was safety regarding battery technology.

For anyone who lives or has purchased an EV in the United States, these results should come as no surprise. America’s leading EV seller, Tesla, no longer sells a vehicle under $40,000, and the vast majority of Tesla vehicles sell for much more. Compounding the problem further, the traditional low-end brands have yet to bring their prices down to par with gas offerings.

Ford’s F150 Lighting sells for thousands more than its gasoline equivalent. Toyota’s first EV offering, the BZ4X, is several times the cost of an entry-level RAV4. And although the Chevy Bolt became popular specifically for its affordability, it remains much more expensive than gasoline vehicles in its class.

The other area where EVs fail to meet customer expectations is the range they are capable of. A surprising 19% of respondents stated that they would like a vehicle with a minimum range of 600 miles, while the majority of respondents expected more than 300 miles of range. And while many may believe these expectations are unfairly high compared to gas vehicles, perhaps this too is a messaging problem automakers must address in the coming year.

These results come with the caveat that they vary considerably from market to market. Notably, respondents from Southeast Asia needed less reach, while respondents from Europe and the US said they needed more.

On a more positive note, Deloitte was able to find areas where advancement in EV technology has finally managed to meet consumer expectations. The vast majority of respondents said they would be willing to wait between 10-20 minutes or 20-40 minutes for a full charge, and over 40% of respondents said they would be willing to wait a maximum of 20 minutes.

While these expectations are high, they are finally within reach for many popular vehicles. Hyundai’s fastest charging vehicles charge from 10 to 80% in 18 minutes, while Teslas that connect to the state-of-the-art Supercharger charge to 80% in a similar amount of time.

For someone who spends time immersed in the world of electric vehicles, as I do, it can be a bit of a culture shock to hear about the concerns and motivations that are affecting the purchasing choices of people around me. Still, it might be an important exercise to step away from the keyboard and see what others really think. And for manufacturers, data such as that collected by Deloitte can be a powerful tool that shows where consumer attention is and what is affecting how they spend their money.

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Will EV adoption be hindered by high consumer expectations?