Misconceptions about safety, product quality, costs, and benefits continue to make customers hesitant to buy electric vehicles (EVs) despite rising gas prices, competitive EV performance, and government-funded rebates, a new study concludes.
“Until now, initiatives related to the energy transition generally focused on the technological and financial barriers to their realization. Psychological factors have been given very little consideration,” said Mario Herzberg, a researcher at the University of Geneva who recently worked on a study about public perceptions of EVs.
But “many studies show that individuals do not automatically adopt the behaviours most beneficial for themselves or society, often due to a lack of access to complete information.”
Herzberg’s research team found that people often expect EVs to perform worse than internal combustion vehicles. They theorized that this might be due to a tendency to remember big events rather than commonplace ones. When they walk into a showroom, a potential car buyer might be more likely to consider an EV’s ability to sustain a long road trip, rather than routine shorter trips to the grocery store, reports Grist.
The study found that people underestimate the number of daily tasks EVs can support by as much as 30%. But that tendency can be corrected using a “compatibility intervention” rather than a financial argument to inform a purchase, helping buyers focus on whether an EV can suit their lifestyle before considering the dollar savings. The study showed that a compatibility intervention prompted customers to consider spending up to $2,000 more on an EV.
“The results of this study speak to the need to address consumer fears and misconceptions around EV adoption,” Grist says. “Otherwise, the climate benefits of EVs could be limited—or even reduced.”
Customer EV aversion can also be caused by misperceptions about vehicle safety. Media stories about Teslas catching fire, for example, leave customers perceiving fire risk as more likely for an EV than an internal combustion vehicle—even though those regular vehicles catch fire at a rate of 1,530 per 100,000, compared to just 25 for fully electric models. Both performed better than hybrid vehicles, which had a fire rate of 3,475 per 100,000, reports the New York Times.
The Times cites other safety benefits: Since EV batteries are located at the bottom of the car, their front trunk area creates a more efficient crumple zone that improves driver safety in a collision. And EVs are designed to cut off high-voltage power to the battery at the moment of impact to avoid fires during collisions.