Between hybrids and all-out electrics, the tech has been in place for at least partial electric transmissions to get us to our destinations for a while now. Yet, reports show that auto consumers are not buying electric for some reason. This, despite the claims that there is long-term cost savings and it is more eco-friendly, is something that baffles the experts.

What reasons could consumers be sticking with their diesel and petrol-powered versions of Peugeot vans and Japanese compacts instead of their more fuel-efficient, electric-motor powered counterparts?

More Expensive Off the Bat

For one, because of the hybrid battery and the customised engineering that is necessary for this still relatively new technology, electric cars are more expensive initially. They are long-term investments in an era where those trying to keep up with the Jones’ are flipping cars every few years, which negates the cost savings that generally are seen in the long haul.

If you are talking about the more specialised electric vehicles, like the kind that Tesla makes, then you are looking at only luxury vehicles, pretty much. Those are well out of the price range of most buyers except those comfortably in the middle and upper middle class, which explains its cost exclusivity.

Tech Remains Unproven

For many, the internal combustion engine has been around for as long as they can remember and that is good enough for them. Their political leanings may colour them indifferent to the environmental impact of cars that run on fossil fuels, so their old-school approach of sticking to ostensibly more powerful, reliable petroleum-burning engines that can get them from point A to B, no matter how long the journey, is enough for them to stick with the tried and true.

The infrastructure for long-distance travel is certainly not developed in most countries, so for those concerned with traveling farther than just the city limits, this is a real technological concern until they develop batteries that can hold a charge longer. Yes, in some places there are charge stations, but these are too few and far between to be of practical use for the average consumer. Also, in some cases one has to wait a long time to have access to the limited number of charge stations available.

Too Many Options Confuse the Consumer

The categories and classes for plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) are numerous, which could cause potential buyers to be confused and reluctant to spend on what is available without first understand all the options.

The National Academy of Science produced a report that was commissioned by the US Congress which divided PEVs into four classes: minimal plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) which can only perform short trips on battery power alone; short-range battery electric vehicles; range-extended PHEVs which, most of the duration of a trip, drive on electric power; and long-range battery electric vehicles (BEVs), which are rated to travel anywhere from 200 to 300+ miles on a single charge before needed to see a station. As a relatively new product to the market, this class confusion is surely preventing people from investing.

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Tom Brown

Tom Brown is an automotive market enthusiast living in the United States. He holds a diverse background in automotive marketing and enjoys utilizing that to produce insights into the inner workings of the industry.

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One thought on “Why aren’t more people buying electric cars?”

  1. Good article Tom, although I’m not sure I can agree with: “Tech Remains Unproven” How so? Are we talking about speculative battery life? Then in 2008 tests were made with Southern Calilfornia Edison (I was there) on Johnson-Saft and showed 200,000 miles without notable degradation. As you can imagine, the technology has evolved since then. Price? That point is becoming less relevant, as battery price has regularly come down, and continues to do so. The electric motor? No one could argue against how an electric motor will outlast its multi-part functioning ICE cousin. Cost of lifespan? You said, it costs less in the long run.

    “For many, …their old-school approach of sticking to ostensibly more powerful, reliable ” More powerful? Unless you can afford Porsches and Ferrari, how many $120,000 cars give you 691HP? I’m not sure what you mean by “more powerful. Do you mean torque? Certainly not. Raw HP, maybe, but torque is more important anyway, especially when it comes to EVs. Finally the last word “reliable” leaves me perplexed. You mean less reliable than an internal combustion engine that calls you in on planned maintenance every few other months, otherwise it won’t work?

    Now I agree on the silly acronysms that confuse people. Remember that was used to confuse people internal combustion technology as well.

    I think the answer is much more simple. Through hype and marketing, people expect 500 miles on a tank of gas with Ferrari performance, which they don’t even get anyway. Carmakers are stuck between striking a balance between fuel efficiency and raw power, hence the so-called VW scandal. I don’t think people have ebnough time to study the problem and make an educated decision. That to me, is the reson why they don’t buy EVs, and the fact that plugs are everywhere, except in multi-unit dwelling garages.

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