Americans want more electric vehicles, but 50% by 2030 seems unlikely

Enlarge / More EVs are good, but will the US be online when batteries run out?

Jonathan Gitlin

The past few weeks have taken me to Europe, and it’s easy to see how many new electric vehicles are on the roads there. For example, in Germany, almost 14% of new cars sold in 2021 were battery electric vehicles, and a further 12.5% ​​were plug-in hybrids. Even Brexit-beleaguered Britain saw a BEV bonanza of 11.6% in new car sales last year.

Here in the United States, we are also buying more electric vehicles than ever before. But in 2021, BEVs still only make up 3% of the new car market, and that worries me about the country’s ambitious goals for electric vehicles to account for half of all new car sales in less than a decade.

Transportation and climate change advocates had hoped for a comprehensive plan to decarbonize the way Americans move around the country, but as with so many ambitious (and even meager) plans, that push did not survive contact with the US Senate. What we got was a new federal government policy stipulating that half of all new cars and light trucks should be zero-emission vehicles – a mix of BEVs, PHEVs and fuel cell EVs – by 2030, plus an additional $7.5 billion for more EV chargers. Add to that statements from automakers promising – or aspiring – to go all-electric by 2030, and the future looks bright.

But these ambitious goals have yet to fully permeate the rest of the federal government. Despite strong criticism from the White House and the Environmental Protection Agency, the United States Postal Service will initially buy only 5,000 BEVs as part of a plan to replace 50,000 to 165,000 delivery vans.

What do buyers want?

The good news for those who want to see the adoption of electric vehicles increase in the United States is that consumer interest is higher than ever. Online car retailer CarMax says that from 2021 it has seen steady growth in customer searches for electric vehicles, as well as an increase in test drives. Both of these trends increased significantly between February and March 2022. The company notes that during the same period, gasoline prices increased by 66 cents per gallon on average.

Going electric isn’t a particularly cheap option if you’re buying a new car, especially since many automakers are focusing on the high end of the high-profit market as they introduce new models. electrified.

Then again, those looking for a bargain rarely buy new, and CarMax names the Chevrolet Bolt EV, BMW i3 and Nissan Leaf as three popular EVs that each command less on the used market than the average car sold. at CarMax (~$29,000). Still, CarMax’s most popular electric vehicle is the Tesla Model 3, which has an average price of $49,440.

As we’ve noted before, the easiest way to convince someone of the superiority of EVs is to put them in an EV for a few minutes. This idea was confirmed again by JD Power, which conducted another study on car buyers’ attitudes towards switching to an electric vehicle. The analysis found that 24% of new vehicle buyers were willing to consider an electric vehicle if they had driven one, and 34% wanted an electric vehicle if they had driven one before. By comparison, only 11% of EV-naive people were willing to consider going electric.

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