Why Aren't North Americans Buying Electric Cars?

CC BY 2.0. Teslas charging in Huntsville, Ontario/ Lloyd Alter

Price is no longer the main obstacle. Lack of understanding might be.

If I actually did any driving, I would get an electric car. Around where I live, all of the gas stations have gone to condos, and there is often a half-hour lineup to fill your tank, whereas you can fill your electric car at home and it is a lot cheaper. There are preferred parking and HOV lane access and often there are government rebates, so what's not to love?

Less Than Half of Americans Interested

But when you look at the data from the AAA, only 4 in 10 Americans have any interest at all. Most of them don't really understand how they work. More Americans actually think they will be in self-driving cars in ten years than in electric cars.

For instance, electric vehicles, unlike those running on gas, do better in stop and go traffic because the car can recapture energy to charge the battery when decelerating. However, AAA’s survey found that a majority of Americans (59 percent) were unsure of whether electric vehicles have better range when driving at highways speeds or in stop and go traffic.

The things that used to worry Americans are worrying them less; range anxiety is down by 11 percent, there are fewer worries about batteries wearing out or that there are not enough places to charge them.

Americans Born After 1980 More Likely to Buy Electric

But still, "only sixteen percent of Americans say they are likely to buy an electric vehicle the next time they are in the market for a new or used vehicle." And most of them are millennials, a quarter of which want them, vs baby boomers, only 8 percent. Reasons for wanting one:

Americans who are likely to buy an electric vehicle would do so out of concern for the environment (74%), lower long-term costs (56%), cutting edge technology (45%) and access to the carpool lane (21%).

Kelly Blue Book

© Kelly Blue Book

SUV Loving Nation

I would have thought it was simply that electric cars cost more, but 67 percent of Americans said they were willing to pay more, with a quarter saying they would pay over $ 4,000 more. And there are lots of electric cars available now costing around the average price paid in the USA for light vehicles, which now is $ 37,577. The average pickup-truck now costs $48K and the full-size SUV is $63K, so this isn't really a price issue.

Others have noted that "if you have to drive your kids to hockey practice you need an SUV." I had no idea hockey was so popular, or it has just become the universal excuse. And the conservative governments where I live fight against carbon taxes because "it's a big country, and people have no choice but to drive." But they do have a choice about what to drive. Maybe we need a much high carbon tax, not a lower one.