As government mandates like Corporate Average Fuel Economy targets make electric cars more attractive to manufacturers looking to meet these standards, it is worth asking how consumers are responding to these vehicles as they gain traction in the marketplace.
A recent study commissioned by the UK Department of Transport, incorporating research from previous studies in the UK, the United States, and elsewhere, paints a picture of electric vehicles gaining a loyal finding, with the vast majority of electric vehicle owners saying that they were satisfied with their car and would recommend electric vehicles to others. While range anxiety remains an issue for road trips in pure electric cars, private owners appear to have happily adopted their use for shorter trips, like commuting or running nearby errands. Notably, where an electric car is part of a multi-car household, the electric car is used for the majority of trips taken in the household, indicating that for these households, the electric car is the primary car.
While owners of these cars praise their smoothness and performance, and indicate that they will likely purchase them again in the future, it is unclear just how much government subsidies are propping up this market. In California, for purchases from January 2014 to May 2015, buyers of electric vehicles indicated over two-thirds of buyers considered federal tax incentives a “very important” or “extremely important” factor in making their purchase possible, while over 70% considered state rebates very or extremely important. According to an EU study, subsidies are also an important motivator for fleet purchasers, such as governments and corporate fleet operators, which so far have accounted for the majority of electric vehicle purchases.
What does this information point to?
Electric cars have so far been more expensive than comparable fossil fuel-powered cars; however, subsidies and tax breaks appear to be doing their job of getting people to at least consider electric cars. And once they are driving these cars regularly, consumers appear to be very satisfied with them. As prices for these cars fall with production costs, we can expect to see these cars taking a greater and greater share of the market—which may provide a means to both provide products that consumers enjoy using, and meet fuel-economy mandates.