J.D. Power: Totally Changing Society Hasn’t Made People Want Electric Vehicles

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Despite governments the world over practically forcing electric vehicles down our collective throat via stringent emission standards, the average person living in North America hasn’t changed their mind on them. According to a recent survey by J.D. Power, the “Mobility Confidence Index” for battery-electric vehicles remains largely neutral.

Even as global lockdowns have made them a more viable option, with more people working from home and driving fewer miles every week, North Americans aren’t budging. In fact, citizens of the United States may actually be turning on EVs while Canadians remain slightly more agreeable  something that probably extends beyond the automotive realm.

“Automakers took a step back once the COVID-19 pandemic hit, disrupting supply chains and slowing production,” Kristin Kolodge, executive director of driver interaction & human machine interface research at J.D. Power, said in a statement. “With so many more people working from home or making shorter commutes, this is an opportunity to further tout the benefits of battery-electric vehicles and self-driving technologies. However, consumers remain skeptical because of their lack of first-hand experience with these technologies and lack of education about how and why these technologies work. Until auto manufacturers can rectify this, adoption will continue to be an uphill battle.”

Attributing a “lack of education” as the core reason people aren’t embracing every concept you’d like them to has become so commonplace in 2020 that we’re not even going to bother taking the claim seriously. The automotive industry has been using it as the default excuse for why people aren’t buying EVs in droves for years  often ignoring the very real issues of range anxiety, extended charging times, and higher-than-average pricing. Frankly, it seems like teaching people about electric cars is the best way to convince some not to buy one. That might become a serious issue as North America is estimated to see roughly 100 brand new EVs by the year 2024.

To its credit, J.D. Power did not exclusively focus on the false premise that people are just too stupid to want to buy electric vehicles and ultimately addressed concerns of battery range:

More U.S. consumers are expressing a desire for battery-electric vehicles to have a greater range, while having less patience to wait for their vehicle to charge. More than three-fourths of respondents expect a range of 300 miles or more, up three percentage points from 2019 Q3. The percentage of U.S. respondents willing to wait only 15 minutes or less to charge the vehicle to travel 200 miles has increased to 45 [percent] from 41 [percent] in 2019 Q3. Nearly four in five Canadians express a driving range preference of 450 kilometers or more, while 47 [percent] are willing to wait only 15 minutes or less to charge the vehicle to travel about 300 kilometers.

Canadians’ lowered expectations also seemed make them more inclined to consider buying electric in general. Having surveyed around 9,000 “consumers and industry experts” in September with help from SurveyMonkey, J.D. Power found its Mobility Confidence Index for battery-electric vehicles decreasing among American drivers to 54 from 55 (on a 100-point scale) while increasing among Canadian drivers to 58 from 57. The self-driving index was even lower, dropping to 34 (from 35) in the United States with Canada remaining at 36.

Despite our belief that educating people on EVs probably wouldn’t move the needle more than a hair, direct experience might make them seem a little less ominous. The survey showed that roughly two-thirds of motorists had no first-hand experience electric cars. Familiarizing consumers with EVs will probably take the edge off some of the presumed nervousness but only if the vehicles being tested actually suits their needs. While better (and cheaper) products are incoming, there are plenty of EVs retailing over $50,000 today that are incapable of making 300 mile round trips without stopping for a recharge. A lot of people will hop into one of those and admire the experience before opting for something less expensive, more utilitarian, and driven by gasoline.

But there’s genuine hope for electric vehicles to turn the tide. Despite the lower-than-anticipated interest, EVs will continue providing consumers with opportunities to familiarize themselves as they get increasingly better and more common. Meanwhile, autonomous vehicles seem to have freaked everyone out. According to the study, only 14 percent of people who drive a personal vehicle in the U.S. feel comfortable riding in self-driving cars.

“At the outset of the pandemic, there was uncertainty on the implications of consumer preferences, but the data tell us that attitudes on self-driving and electric vehicles have not changed,” said Jon Cohen, chief research officer at SurveyMonkey. “We continue to see that younger American have the most positive views of both self-driving and electric vehicles. Canadians also continue to have more positive views than Americans.”

While autonomous vehicles remain in reverie, around 13 percent of respondents said they’d seriously be considering buying an EV before 2022. But 30 percent said they’d probably never buy one, making the light at the end of the electric tunnel look faint. We’re inclined to believe this isn’t so much an issue with consumers but the ridiculous goals being set by governments and the automotive industry.

The industry is supposed to cater to the customer, not some new economy planned by government decree  that’s how you get turds like the Yugo 45 and Moskvitch 412. Once EVs have proven themselves superior to internal combustion vehicles, they’ll begin selling like hotcakes used to whenever they were wildly popular. But remaining constantly annoyed that legacy automakers can’t supply the market with electric products people will bend over backwards for is why Tesla is making everyone else look like they arrived late and bitter to a party held specifically in their honor. We know governments are mandating efficiency quotas and the green movement is deafeningly loud but it takes time to sway public opinion on a global scale. That 30 percent claiming they’ll never buy an EV may even change their minds if the next batch that goes on sale proves to be dramatically better than their predecessors.

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