People are starting to buy electric cars for the same reason they buy any other car

Getting charged up over EVs.
Getting charged up over EVs.
Image: Reuters/David W. Cerny
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The concerns of the average electric-car buyer are starting to look more like those of any other car buyer. Their biggest worry? How much the cars will cost.

Range anxiety, how far an electric vehicle (EV) can travel before needing to be recharged, has topped the list of prospective EV buyers’ concerns for years. And it remains one, especially for those unfamiliar with the technology. But in August, a survey by Autolist, an online car marketplace, ranked range and price in a dead heat (about 40%) as the most important factors concerning buyers. Recharging time and the proximity of charging stations followed as top considerations.

Range anxiety has faded into the rearview mirror for luxury car owners as well. According to another recent Autolist poll, among those deciding between Tesla’s Model S and Porsche’s electric Taycan, range wasn’t even a factor. Instead, brand reputation, performance, charging networks, and styling topped buyers’ list.

Part of the reason for reduced fears is that EVs are shipping with more potent battery packs capable of covering 300 miles or more per charge. The $79,000 Tesla Model S (before tax incentives) promises a 370-mile range, while the 2020 Porsche Taycan ($130,000 estimated) is expected have a range of least 300 miles per charge.

On the lower end of the price spectrum, range anxiety persists, but it appears to be a temporary condition for many of those who haven’t driven EVs yet. Around 65% of EV owners said they had range anxiety when they purchased their cars, but it went away after a few months. For EV owners, sticker price was also the top purchasing factor (47%) in a 2018 survey by Volvo of 1,510 US drivers, although the average buyer was still worried about range and charging stations.

Today’s battery ranges have enough juice for most trips. The average driver in the US travels 28 miles per day (pdf). Standard EVs get anywhere from 150 miles (Nissan Leaf) to 310 miles (Tesla Model 3) at prices close to or under the median car price in the US. For those willing to spend more, long-range battery packages can push the range figure up to 375 miles.

Most people charge at home (51%) and work (16%), according to Volvo. With electric charging stations slowly expanding (although petrol stations still have seven times more locations than electric ones), more people will have options outside their daily routine. What will convince the 20% of US drivers who plan to buy an EV? More fast-charging stations, particularly at convenient locations such as coffee shops or gyms, and of course, lower prices.

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