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The Reason American Car Buyers Are Still Shying Away From Electric Vehicles

Despite the promise of reducing air and noise pollution, electric cars have yet to make a dent in the American market, where they account for only 1-2 percent of sales.

A recent survey by Autolist.com, which polled nearly 1,600 current car buyers, aimed to understand why consumers are still shying away from electric vehicles. One question asked was, what are the biggest reasons you would not buy an all-electric vehicle? The three most common answers were concerns over range, high prices compared to gas models and a lack of charging stations.

A similar question, what would your top three priorities be in choosing an EV? elicited the same general responses — price, range and charging access.

Despite advances in EV technology and heightened consumer awareness, these preoccupations have barely changed over the last few years. Although electric vehicles have managed to decrease charge times, improve overall range, and reduce costs, car buyers are still not keen on the idea of trading their gas-powered car for an EV.

Still, buyers do see some benefits to tax rebates and incentives as well as other advantages at the federal, state and local level to support the implementation of EVs, with 69 percent of respondents favoring government funding. However, 16 percent of consumers were opposed to EV technology, and 15 percent were uncertain.

Car buyers also have realistic expectations for the range of ‘affordable’ EVs, models sold for roughly $35,000 before any state or federal incentives or rebates. When asked what would be the minimum range they would accept on a vehicle in this price range, most respondents answered: “between 250 and 300 miles.”

Currently, several affordable electric cars offer that range. The Hyundai Kona Electric promises 258 miles of range, the Chevy Bolt 243 miles, and the Kia Soul Electric 238 miles. Each starts at around $37,000 before incentives.

Yet when asked what their expectations were from luxury EVs that cost $70,000, consumers answered “more than 500 miles” with 61 percent of respondents saying they would anticipate at least 400 miles of range. However, Tesla’s Model S Long Range, the current range leader, costs $80,000 before any incentives and only promises an EPA range of 370 miles.

Consumers expect electric vehicles to have the same range as gas vehicles —between 300 and 500 miles or more, yet the average person only drives 37 miles a day, according to Federal Highway Administration, therefore, range anxiety seems mostly unjustified.

RELATED: Ford Doubles Down On EV Strategy With Two New Electric Crossovers

Still, some EV automakers are heeding the public’s concerns and making range the unofficial benchmark for each new EV. The latest luxury EVs from Europe — the Porsche Taycan, Audi e-tron, Jaguar I-Pace, and upcoming Mercedes EQC —offer no more than 300 miles of range, which has prompted many critics to ridicule these new models as sub-standard.

Although the transition is slow, it is somewhat steady, and new mainstream EV models from Ford and Volkswagen promise to allay public fears and encourage acceptance. We'll see.

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