Quick Facts About Roadblocks to EV Sales
Despite nonstop positive press, government subsidies, and Americans’ propensity for wanting and acquiring the newest “big thing,” electric vehicles (EVs) remain out of reach or unwanted by many in the United States. EVs are those cars, SUVs, and light trucks powered solely by electricity from a battery charged by plugging into an outside source. You will also sometimes see them called battery electric vehicles (BEVs).
According to the latest numbers, 5.8% of all U.S. new vehicle sales in 2022 were EVs, up from 3.2% in 2021. The number will grow even more in 2023, but why is the proportion of electric vehicles not higher? With the hundreds of millions of dollars invested in EV marketing and incentives, how is it that EVs simply don’t have universal appeal? What roadblocks to EV ownership prevent electric cars from being in every driveway?
What Are the Roadblocks?
Here at Kelley Blue Book, we spend a lot of time behind the wheel of EVs, driving them in real-world situations. Generally, we really like them. Our experiences run the gamut from the Chevy Bolt EV ($26,500) to the Mercedes-EQ EQS ($104,400). Overall, we give EVs high marks for acceleration, cutting-edge technology, quietness, and, of course, fuel economy. Yet, we understand some consumer hesitation in making a $30,000-to-$100,000 commitment to a technology with which they still have some doubts.
Just what are those persisting doubts or roadblocks to EV ownership? We’ve looked to the experts at AAA car club for a few statistics and polled several of our editors and reviewers for some answers. The statistics are from a survey AAA published in July 2022.
Although AAA’s survey didn’t mention it, one nagging issue for most EV producers — and consumers alike — is the supply. Automakers, for the most part, are having difficulty keeping up with consumer orders of EVs. We touch on the lack of variety below, but the issue is bigger than that. EVs are simply difficult to obtain. Even if you find an EV you like, you might have to wait a year to get it. If manufacturers could keep up with demand, electric cars would likely be a bigger slice of the sales pie. And automakers will likely maintain a supply in upcoming years, as they boost EV production or convert to all-electric model lineups.
At 60%, tied for the top spot among the reasons for not buying an EV, according to AAA, is their high manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP). Yes, there are a handful of affordably priced EVs, like the Hyundai Kona Electric, at $33,550. However, the bulk of EVs cost $40,000 or more. “EVs are still expensive, with an average transaction price of around $65,000,” said Kelley Blue Book reviewer Eric Brandt.
“At this point in the EV evolution,” added executive editor Brian Moody, “they’re a luxury purchase.” However, history shows us that the initial high price of products with new technology comes down.
Lack of Charging Locations
Also registering as a primary roadblock for not buying an EV among 60% of Americans is charging station scarcity. In other words, some shoppers worry about being able to find a charger when away from home.
In reality, there are more than 50,000 public Level 2 and DC Fast chargers throughout the U.S., and several providers are increasing that number daily. Still, charger availability remains a serious concern for many, especially for potential EV buyers outside of urban areas. “The public charging infrastructure is growing but it’s still nowhere near the nationwide availability of gas stations,” Brandt said.
At 58%, nearly as many survey respondents are just as worried about range as the top two AAA concerns on our list. This is the case even though 60% of those same respondents believe EVs have a range somewhere between 100 miles and 350 miles. Indeed, the average range for vehicles is improving and road trips are possible. However, the fear of running out of juice without a charging station in sight remains as much of a concern today as it was five years ago. Still, proponents maintain the position that most EVs have more than enough range to accommodate most drivers’ average daily miles.
Although none of our Kelley Blue Book experts mentioned battery range as a continuing concern, they cited the loss of range in colder temperatures as a prevailing uncertainty. “EVs have a noticeably shorter driving range and longer charge times when the temperature is cold,” Moody explained. “The bottom line is, an EV will be a dramatically different experience for those living in upstate New York than those in Southern California.”
Brandt agreed, saying, “Freezing temperatures can reduce EV range by as much as 32%. There have even been reports of public charging stations not working at all in sub-zero temperatures, but gas pumps work just fine in any climate.”
Our experts all mentioned an insufficient variety of available EV models as a reason some consumers aren’t purchasing. “Car variety isn’t vast at the moment,” admitted reviewer Lyn Woodward. “And, if you are brand loyal to, say, Honda, they don’t even offer an EV.”
Moody chimed in, “The lack of availability of mid-priced all-electric SUVs is a barrier, for sure. Automakers need to make an EV SUV about the size of a Toyota Highlander and price it in the $40,000 range.”
Brandt pointed out the limited number of EV family vehicles. “What EVs are available for a family with four kids?” he said. “The cheapest 3-row EV is the Tesla Model Y, starting at $70,000 with a tiny third row. The family-friendly Rivian 1S starts at $78,000. There is good reason to stick with a $38,000 (gas-fueled) Honda Odyssey.”
High Cost of Battery Repair and Replacement
EV battery warranties cover at least 8 years or 100,000 miles, with some automakers covering even more. For example, Mercedes-Benz covers 10 years or 155,000 miles. Despite the terms of battery-warranty coverage, concerns over the costs of replacing them persist. Of those AAA surveyed, 55% expressed replacement cost concerns. “Worries over battery cost and longevity are surely a barrier for the average new-car shopper,” Moody said.
Fewer AAA survey respondents, 33%, said the inability to install a charging station at home was a reason not to purchase an EV. According to the National Multifamily Housing Council, 56.3 million Americans live in apartments. Millions of others own condos in multi-unit buildings. These all are problematic for charging EVs.
“As an apartment owner/dweller, I am at the mercy of the building HOA/management to install an EV charger,” said Woodward. “The expense of installing a charger (under such conditions) wouldn’t make the EV purchase worth it. Apartment renters face an even tougher struggle, especially in older buildings that would need to be rewired.”
Another potential EV roadblock is the effect towing — or hauling heavy payloads (people plus cargo), for that matter — has on an EV pickup truck’s range. Despite poor fuel economy, pickup trucks are America’s best-selling vehicles and have been for decades. Not every pickup truck performs heavy work, but many do. EV pickups offer significantly more torque, especially from a standing stop, than traditional piston trucks; however, the heavier the load or trailer, the less range.
Towing can cut the range by as much as half. Moreover, EV pickup trucks provide a much lower payload limit than combustion pickup trucks. While the standard Ford F-150 has a maximum payload of 3,335 pounds, the F-150 Lightning EV version’s payload limit is 2,000 pounds. Many truck buyers aren’t able to trade the work capability of piston pickups for the fuel-economy benefits of an EV pickup.
You’ve probably read or heard reports of EV battery fires. There have been enough of them to make some consumers wary. Although the frequency of EV fires per mile driven is no more than for gasoline-fueled cars. Some studies suggest EV fires are less frequent than fires in gas-powered cars. Still, the incidents gained the attention of the media and put that concern into the minds of many consumers.
There are indeed many EV repairs your neighborhood mechanic can’t make. Some electric-only brands like Tesla and Rivian have neither dealerships nor service centers. However, they will send a service technician to the vehicle’s location. Still, this leaves a degree of uncertainty that some consumers don’t want to deal with.