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A new survey from Consumer Reports indicates that interest in electric vehicles (EVs) is accelerating. However, large chunks of the car-buying public are still unconvinced. The pace has to pick up in order to cut carbon emissions as quickly as possible. Rather than standing on the sidelines, employers can take some guidance from the new survey, and help encourage their employees, clients and customers to make their next car purchase a zero-emissions one.
The new Consumer Reports survey is the largest-ever survey of its kind undertaken by the well-known consumer rights and information organization. The nationally representative sample includes more than 8,000 adults.
Over and above demographic differences, the survey revealed an overall upswing in the willingness to buy an all-electric vehicle over the past two years. Back in 2020, a similar survey found that only 4 percent of drivers answered “definitely” when asked if they would buy or lease an all-electric car. That answer more than tripled in the new 2022 survey, to 14 percent.
In the new survey, Consumer Reports also identifies a significant number of fence-sitters who are open to persuasion.
“…More than a third of Americans would ‘definitely’ or ‘seriously’ consider buying or leasing an electric-only vehicle if they were to buy a vehicle today,” the organization explained.
The new survey was taken between January 27 and February 18 last winter, when gas prices averaged from $3.42 to $3.52 per gallon. Prices rose to an average of approximately $5.00 per gallon from spring into the summer. If the survey were undertaken at the higher price point, it’s quite possible that the affirmative answers would be even higher.
The upward leap in consumer interest from 2020 to 2022 is encouraging. Awareness about the cost of owning electric vehicles is also increasing. According to the survey, about one-third of drivers are aware that it costs less to charge an electric vehicle than fuel up a gas-powered car. About the same percentage are aware that overall lifetime costs are also lower for electric vehicles, including maintenance and repair.
Still, Consumer Reports points out that only 2 percent of Americans currently own or lease an all-electric vehicle. Many drivers are still put off by charging logistics, range anxiety, and cost, even though some all-electric models now cost less than many new cars.
“The 2023 Chevy Bolt now starts at just $26,595—putting it around $20,000 less than the price of the average new car,” Consumer Reports observes. “And for many EVs, the true purchase price may be even less than the sticker price because of federal, state, and even power utility incentives. Almost half of Americans (46 percent) are unaware that there are incentives available.”
In addition, Consumer Reports suggests that many EV-resistant drivers are also unaware that operating and maintenance costs are generally lower for electric vehicles, not higher.
“…Just over half of Americans (52 percent) who weren’t already committed to buying an EV said the costs of buying, owning, and maintaining it would prevent them from leasing or purchasing one,” the report’s authors further explain.
Overall, the survey strongly suggests that driver outreach and education could make a significant difference in EV adoption, and that is where employers can help.
For example, the survey found that drivers who have already experienced an EV, either as a driver or a passenger, are more like to express interest in buying one. Employers who already have an EV in their fleet could schedule times for their employees to take a test drive or even provide time off for employees to test drive an all-electric model at a local dealer.
Employers can follow up by providing their employees with information on any applicable state or federal rebates.
They can also help raise awareness about public and workplace charging station availability. That could help persuade employees who live in housing that does not accommodate private charging stations, or who simply want to avoid the expense of installing their own private charging station.
In some areas, utilities are beginning to offer EV owners incentives for scheduling their charging times at off-peak hours. Employers can make sure their employees are aware of these incentives, too.
Some automakers are beginning to market bi-direction charging, which means that EV owners can use their vehicle battery as a zero-emission emergency power generating station. Employers can help ensure that employees are aware of this capability, especially in areas prone to power interruptions.
There is no need for employers to reinvent the wheel on EV promotion. A body of knowledge is already available, particularly in cities that have already partnered with local utilities and other stakeholders to encourage EV purchasing or leasing.
For example, in July 2018, the city of Columbus, Ohio set up a fund to provide employers with additional rebates to incentivize employee EV purchasing or leasing. The program launched with Alliance Data and AEP Ohio as the first two employer partners.
Based on its experience with the two rebate projects, Columbus recommends the practice as an effective pathway for encouraging EV adoption among employees.
However, employers also need to take employee demographics into consideration. Participation in the Columbus rebate program followed the pattern in the new Consumer Reports survey: Most of the employees who requested rebates fit the higher-income, higher-education demographic. Employers who want to reach a broader demographic will need to tailor their rebate program accordingly.
Columbus also emphasizes that a successful rebate program involves careful, holistic planning.
“As with any benefit or workplace program, internal coordination and streamlined processes are key to success,” the city explains.
The elements of a successful program include a team-based approach to managing the program, along with a strong communications strategy including a dedicated FAQ web page and other internal platforms. A hassle-free tracking tool to process requests is another key element.
The city also recommends inviting community partners in to host presentations that provide facts and break down myths about electric vehicles. Employers can also partner with community organizations and dealers to host road tests.
The Consumer Reports survey found that workplace charging availability is not a leading issue for most drivers who are willing to purchase or lease an EV. However, Columbus’s experience suggests that demand for workplace charging will rise as EV ownership rises among employees.
“Our partners have seen increased demand for workplace charging stations after the number of associates driving electric increased,” the report explains.
The promotion of electric vehicles provides employers with a significant new opportunity to prove they are serious about sustainability. However, to achieve any real effect, employers must also be willing to put some honest work into the effort.
Image credit: Ford Media Relations
Tina writes frequently for TriplePundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, clean tech research and emerging energy technologies. She is a former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes.
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