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Identifying and resolving the barriers to EV adoption

Over the last few years, the EV market has made impressive gains and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. As EVs become cheaper to produce, purchase incentives and vehicle premiums will become less dominant in the consumer purchase decision. Cost however, is only one of several factors that play an important role in the consumer purchase journey. Additional barriers can negatively influence a consumer’s perception of the EV ownership experience, causing them to continue buying ICE vehicles.

Barrier #1 – Charging infrastructure

In a survey carried out by SBD Automotive (a global automotive strategy consultancy), a lack of EV charging infrastructure was identified as a major concern by nearly half of the respondents. While there has been steady growth in EV charging infrastructure, many customers are finding it both difficult and frustrating to find a charging station today.

One reason for this can be observed in the location of the chargers themselves. In the UK, for example, many charging points can be found on popular roadways, motorways, and service areas. These points are often part of a wider charging network and are the result of a partnership between a charge point operator (CPO) and a motorway services operator. For customers in smaller cities or rural areas away from these roads, locating charging infrastructure becomes more difficult. The infrastructure in these areas often consists of individual charging stations – a contrast to the motorway charging infrastructure that groups several points together. Furthermore, with minimal signage to indicate their location, these individual points are often hard to find. In many cases, they are installed in dimly lit spaces such as indoor parking garages, or on the back side of a retail store – making this process even more difficult.

Once the user finds a station, they may encounter further problems related to exclusive charging networks. These networks, such as Tesla’s Supercharger network, are owned by OEMs and are often exclusive to their EVs. While these networks are favored among the OEM’s customers, they can easily alienate or intimidate the potential EV consumer base – especially those who are uneducated on how EV charging works.

While today’s EV charging infrastructure may be somewhat limited in the scope of the wider customer base, work is being carried out rapidly to develop it worldwide. Overcoming this barrier ultimately requires governments, OEMs, and CPOs to not only install more charging points, but ensure that these points can be sufficiently located, accessed, and used by a broad range of customers. As these solutions materialize, the current barrier that EV charging infrastructure presents will gradually become less of a concern for consumers.

Barrier #2 – The false perceptions of EV ownership

As highlighted in the first barrier, it is evident that poor customer experiences have the potential to damage both the perception of EVs and their wider reputation. For consumers making the purchase decision, negative perceptions of EVs can be even more harmful and could discourage EV adoption entirely. As part of its consumer survey on the barriers to EV adoption, SBD Automotive assessed the impact of these perceptions on the purchase decision.

“Only early adopters want EVs”

Figure 1: A graph showing the EV differences in purchase consideration by innovation segmentation. (Source: SBD Automotive - report 208: Overcoming Barriers to EV Adoption)

This perception suggests that only early adopters want to buy BEVs, and that there is an increasing lack of interest across subsequent consumer segments. However, SBD Automotive’s survey (Figure 1) disproves this by demonstrating a strong, consistent confidence in EV purchase interest across all segments. As expected, early adopters have the most confidence in EVs, with 94% of participants in this segment stating that they would ‘definitely’ (65%) or ‘probably’ (29%) consider buying an EV. While hesitancy increases through each following segment, this confidence remains strong. For example, 82% of participants in the early majority, and 69% of participants in the late majority, would still consider purchasing an EV. A small decrease (13%) in the number of ‘yes’ responses between these segments further illustrates this strength. Even in the laggards segment, 48% of participants were still open to buying an EV compared to 27% who were ‘not sure’, and 24% who would not consider purchasing one. Together, these statistics indicate that while early adopters are eager to buy an EV, there is an observable consistency in this eagerness across all consumer segments. This consistency itself indicates the potential for a broader EV uptake – with the more hesitant consumers in these later segments potentially waiting on more support for EVs before making their purchase decision. Figure 1 demonstrates just one of several falsehoods surrounding EVs that can damage their reputation among consumers. Ultimately, dispelling these falsities and removing or mitigating concerns will drive confidence and facilitate EV purchasing. This education could be provided initially by OEMs and continue at the dealership, allowing consumers to voice their concerns more directly and develop their confidence in EVs.

As more OEMs announce and release new EVs, and as more measures are put into place by governments worldwide to promote their use, the prospect of widespread electrification is drawing closer. However, this can only happen once consumers are confident enough in EVs to make the purchase decision and commit to these efforts. As such, it is essential to break down the barriers that are presently holding consumers back from purchasing EVs. While this insight has covered two of these barriers, SBD Automotive’s “Overcoming Barriers to EV Adoption” research report takes a deep dive into many more. Through a global EV survey, key barriers are identified and intricately analyzed by our EV experts. The report then identifies a number of best practices that automakers, and the wider EV sector, can adopt to overcome these barriers and drive EV uptake.


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