When automobiles first made the scene about 125 years ago, they were pricey to the point that only the rich could afford them.
The less affluent had to stick with their horses – until vehicle prices ultimately came down, largely because Henry Ford figured out the economies of scale mass production brings.
We’re in the midst of seeing automotive history repeat itself, this time with the advent of battery-electric vehicles.
Many lower-income people aren’t keen on EVs for a lot of reasons, mainly because of affordability.
That’s according to Autolist, an online vehicle search platform. The company, part of CarGurus, surveyed roadblocks to EV adoption. Of the 3,100 polled car buyers, 42% said battery-powered cars were too expensive.
Manufacturers continually release new EVs in an effort to increase adoption, but affluent car buyers propel advances, says Autolist founder and CEO Corey Lydstone.
“As the market matures and EVs themselves become more capable, we’re definitely starting to see more shoppers view them as real-world possibilities,” he says. “Unfortunately, those gains are largely limited to higher-income households.”
Making EVs affordable for all consumers will be essential to widespread adoption, he says.
The company’s researchers found that the lower a shopper’s income, the greater their opposition (in various ways) to EV adoption.
To define above average income, consider that The Pew Research Center calculated that in 2020 the lower household income was $48,500. Pew defined upper household income as greater than $145,000 and middle household income as falling in a range between the two.
“It’s clear from our survey that making EVs affordable for all consumers will be essential to their widespread adoption,” Lydstone says.
Virtually all mainstream automakers say they are working on that affordability issue with future products.
Autolist’s 2023 survey indicates that the lower the income of the respondent, the more likely they were to:
- Say they don’t see themselves owning an EV in the future.
- Say there weren’t any public charging stations in their community. One-third of respondents making under $30,000 say that.
- Cite a lack of charging stations in their area as a key reason they wouldn’t buy an EV.
- Refer to their unfamiliarity with EVs as a key reason they wouldn’t buy one.
“These results really hammered home the notion that it’s not just the high costs of EVs that are turning lower-income shoppers away,” Lydstone says.
Key Concerns About EVs
As in its previous surveys, Autolist asked shoppers to choose their top three EV concerns this year.
The top answers overall were the same as in previous years. But the pushback is abating a bit. Here’s a look at this year’s results versus 2022’s responses.
- Too expensive to buy or lease: 42% (down from 49% in 2022)
- Worried about the range on a single charge: 39% (down from 44% in 2022)
- Concerns about where to charge it: 33% (down from 35% in 2022)
The easing of consumer concerns “is a good sign overall for the EV industry,” Lydstone says. “More parity among consumers’ concerns means that models hitting the market today are chipping away at issues people have had with EVs for a long time.”
ICE Cars More Eco-Friendly Than EVs?
An ironic survey result indicates that in 2023 compared with 2022, fewer people said they believe EVs are better for the environment than are internal-combustion vehicles.
In this year’s survey, 38% of people agreed with that statement, a drop from 46% in 2022. Meanwhile, the number of people who said gasoline-powered vehicles were better for the environment increased to 13% in 2023 from 9% in 2022.
Researchers launched the survey to analyze if the goals set for EV adoption are as inevitable as some believe. One example is a goal set by the Biden Admin. of having 50% of all new-vehicle sales be electric by 2030.
“Just because the barriers to entry are coming down,” says Lydstone, “it doesn’t necessarily mean that all consumers are hopping on board.”