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How can the EV experience be further optimized for consumers globally?


An increasing number of automakers are rolling out a variety of new EVs designed to appeal to various demographics, and while governments introduce legal, regulatory, and funding measures to support and develop new EV infrastructure, consumers are not only becoming even more aware of electric vehicles themselves, but also the broader EV user journey.


However, despite the progress being made in the EV market, consumers ultimately receive information about EVs from sources of mixed quality and bias – leading to a mix of attitudes toward EVs and electrification as a whole. With governments and OEMs continuing to progress electrification – through increased EV production capacities and support for new initiatives to help consumers go electric – it is crucial to understand how and why the view of the end consumer can vary, how misconceptions about EVs can be tackled to encourage further adoption, and how a positive attitude can be maintained throughout the EV customer journey.

Our new Optimizing the EV Journey report provides insight into these areas and more through a comprehensive global EV survey that covers more than 1,600 drivers in the EU, U.S., and China. This article highlights some of the survey’s most interesting and surprising takeaways, while assessing how consumer attitudes towards EVs have changed since our last global EV survey in 2020.


The barriers, and drivers, of EV adoption in 2023


Since our last survey, we have seen a significant increase in several concerns which represent potential barriers to EV adoption. Specifically, consumers are becoming more concerned about the legitimacy of the claimed environmental benefits of EVs – likely due to increased media coverage around the environmental costs of EV battery production. While environmental concerns are likely to increase in the near term, especially as the American and European markets mature, we are optimistic that improvements in battery technology and sustainability will lead to an overall reduction in the mid- to long-term.


Another important barrier increase from 2020 to 2023 was related to concerns about in-car technology, suggesting that consumers have not been able to find EVs with the mix of technologies that they desire. Much of this concern came from respondents in the more-nascent U.S. market. We expect these concerns to decline as the market matures, and as more models roll out with a wider range of technologies.


On the other hand, we saw a marked decrease across several concerns in a shift led by American consumers. The most dramatic decrease was in the concern about a lack of charging stations, which is likely due to the increased public awareness of the country’s massive, tax-payer-funded, National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) program that is rapidly increasing the number of easily accessible public fast chargers. Our survey also found that Americans are now less concerned about the initial cost of EVs than they were three years ago.


EV vs ICE


Despite being a key concern for consumers, environmental impact is also the top motivator for consumers purchasing an EV in America and Europe, narrowly sliding to second place in China. Other EV characteristics such as lower operating costs, quieter driving, and improved performance were highlighted by consumers in all three regions as key motivators as well.


The fact that environmental friendliness is shown to be both a motivator and a concern represents a paradox in the collective consumer decision process. In our survey, environmental friendliness was seen as a motivator for approximately three times more respondents than those who saw it as a concern or barrier. While this suggests that EVs are still generally seen in a positive environmental light, we expect the intensity of the negative opinions to increase in the near term as the realities of EV production receive more attention from mass media. Many automakers and battery manufacturers are already working hard to reduce the size of their products’ carbon footprint, though these complex and expensive activities are something that consumers are often not aware of.


As consumers themselves become more eco-conscious, OEMs need to highlight their efforts to reduce their carbon footprint and publish transparent data about the impact of their vehicles on the environment. Both Volvo and Polestar are brands that have been leading the industry with consumer-facing lifecycle analyses that clearly explain the net effect of choosing their electric vehicles over traditional ICE vehicles.



The state of public charging networks


Perhaps the most surprising result from our survey was the sentiment of EV drivers regarding public charging networks. We asked respondents about the various characteristics of these networks – including the number of chargers available, the reliability of the stations, ease of use, ease of locating, and more. Contrary to what is often reported in mass media, the results showed an overwhelmingly positive sentiment on all characteristics of the charging networks. Americans were the most positive respondents, followed by Chinese, and then Europeans. On average, fewer than 10% of the surveyed drivers had a negative impression of charging networks.


While there is no doubt that more charging station investment is needed globally, the survey’s result suggests that the current situation for the average driver is sufficient, or even satisfying. We of course need to remember that the current population of EV drivers are early adopters, or at least within the early majority, and may be more tolerant of setbacks related to an electric lifestyle as a result.

It’s likely that the overwhelmingly negative press related to EV charging is more reflective of specific examples as opposed to the reality for the average charging session. However, solving these issues, especially those related to availability and reliability, will be necessary to enable adoption by the broad majority of the driving public. At the same time, since the planning and deployment of charging stations can take as long as one or two years, it’s critical that industry and governments plan for the market situation far in advance. Here, the deployment of robust backend systems and durable, modular, equipment will ensure that the value of today’s investment is maximized.



Optimizing the EV user journey


While good progress is being made in developing a more positive perception of EVs among consumers – from their environmental impact continuing to be a key motivator for adoption to the more positive reception of charging infrastructure by today’s EV drivers – automakers and governments alike must extend this sentiment through to consumers in the late majority or laggard groups in order to achieve widespread EV adoption. Though, for consumers, adopting an EV represents only the first step in their broader EV journey – an experience that OEMs must account for in a way that holistically meets the needs and desires of consumers globally. These needs and desires form the foundation of the full Optimizing the EV User Journey report.


While measuring and understanding attitudes towards EV ownership through its consumer survey, the report also maps out the best practices for optimizing this experience to enhance both consumer perception and EV adoption. It takes a quantitative, analytical, deep dive into how consumers perceive the complete EV customer journey, from motivators and point of purchase, to end of life and sustainability. Optimizing the EV User Journey also looks beyond the EV, assessing consumer attitudes to the companion apps and charging solutions that work to support EV drivers throughout the ownership experience.



Want to explore the full scope of consumer attitudes towards the EV journey? Be sure to view the below report to learn more!



 

If you are interested in learning more about our consumer-focused research and consultancy services, please contact us at info@sbdautomotive.com.


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