AAA: Gas prices leading the charge for Americans to go electric
A new national survey by AAA shows that a quarter of consumers plan to go electric for their next vehicle purchase.
The most common factor for those interested in buying an electric vehicle (77%) is a strong desire to save on fuel costs. However, AAA notes that there are still those who are hesitant to make the switch, due to lingering concerns relating to range, purchase price and availability of public charging options.
“Consumers who are fed up with the wild price swings at the pump, may be more willing than ever to make the switch to an electric vehicle,” said Gene LaDoucer, regional director of public affairs for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “Record-high gas prices have brought the cost of owning an EV more in line with a standard gasoline-powered vehicle."
EV sales continue to steadily rise within the United States. In 2021 alone (through October), almost 450,000 EVs were sold – an 88% increase year over year. Despite rapid growth, EVs account for less than 1% of light vehicles (cars and trucks) in operation today. However, industry analysts forecast the share of EVs on the road will reach 15% by 2030, and 50% by 2050.
While fueling costs can vary greatly -- depending on vehicle type, electricity costs and gas prices -– AAA determined the cost of charging an EV is 2-4 times less than fueling a gasoline-powered vehicle. When comparing two popular EV sedans against popular gasoline-powered vehicles, AAA found:
- EVs Charged at Home – Based on the current national average rate, you’ll spend about 3.5 cents per mile charging at home (around $10 per full charge).
- EV at Public Charger – You can expect to spend about 7 cents per mile (around $20 per full charge). However, costs at public chargers can vary by location and the type of charger you use.
- Gas Vehicles – Based on a national average price of $4.66 per gallon, drivers spend about 15 cents per mile (about $70 for a full tank). This is nearly twice as expensive as charging an EV at a public station and about four times that of charging an EV at home.
In addition to fuel savings, electric vehicles cost less to maintain, because they don’t have spark plugs, need oil changes or air-filter replacements. However, upon the conclusion of a federally-mandated 100,000 mile vehicle warranty, EV owners may need to cover the cost of a new battery, which ranges in price from $2,500 to over $10,000.
AAA will dig deeper into the cost of owning an Electric Vehicle in August, as part of its “Your Driving Costs” study.
While EV owners do 75% of their charging at home, there is a variety of public options. There are also different charging levels, which can impact the amount of time it takes to recharge your vehicle.
- Level 1 Charging provides 2-5 miles of range per hour (40 miles for 8 hours of charge), which is adequate for a typical U.S. driver who averages about 30 miles daily. Level 1 chargers can plug directly into a standard household electrical outlet.
- Level 2 Charging can add 25 miles of range per 1 hour (depending on the size of the vehicle and power setting). EV owners commonly install this for home charging, because it can fully charge an EV overnight. As of 2021, more than 80% of public EVSE ports in the United States are Level 2 chargers.
- DC Fast Charging equipment provides approximately 100 to 200+ miles of range per 30 minutes of charging. As of 2021, over 15% of public EVSE ports in the U.S. were direct-current fast chargers, yet availability is forecast to increase.
Data from the U.S. Department of Energy suggests there are nearly 55,674 charging stations throughout the nation. Most new charging stations have been installed at hotels, car dealerships, office buildings and federal government facilities.
Even as more Americans lean into electric options, AAA found lingering consumer hesitation surrounding price, range, and accessibility to charging.
The top EV concerns consumers cited were:
- Higher purchase price – 60%
- Worries there are not enough places to charge – 60%
- Concern about running out of charge when driving – 58%
- Unsuitable for long-distance travel – 55%
- High cost of battery repair or replacement – 55%
- Unable to install a charging station where they live – 31%
AAA finds that consumers have a reasonably accurate understanding of current electric vehicle range. Six in ten (60%) Americans think electric vehicles can travel between 100 to 350 miles before running out of charge. This aligns with today’s electric vehicle capabilities. These findings suggest that while automakers have made great strides to improve range, consumer anxiety over it remains a barrier to adoption.
“The anxiety surrounding range for consumers is often more of a perceived issue, until they learn more about it,” LaDoucer continued. “Many EV owners cite range as one of the things that concerned them before purchasing the vehicle. Yet those concerns disappeared as they learned to integrate their electric vehicle into their lives.”
Easing EV Anxiety
AAA believes having a better understanding of the following aspects of electric vehicle ownership will help consumers overcome their concerns.
- Performance: Electric vehicles are more efficient in stop-and-go traffic because the car can recapture energy from braking to charge the battery when decelerating.
- Charger Accessibility: The number of public charging stations has more than tripled in the past five years. While charging infrastructure has improved, more work is needed to support greater consumer adoption in the coming years. In February, the United States Department of Transportation dedicated $5 billion over 5 years to help states create a network of EV charging stations along designated fuel corridors, as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Though it’s unclear how many charging stations this will add.
- Integration: According to previous AAA research, most owners of electric vehicles (78%) usually have one or more gas-powered or non-plug-in hybrid vehicles in the household in addition to their electric vehicles. The benefits of using an electric vehicle for shorter commutes while using their gas-powered vehicle for longer trips may go a long way in addressing range anxiety while also highlighting the benefits.
- Roadside Assistance: AAA is synonymous with the automobile, whether electric or gas-powered. This includes servicing members who own electric vehicles. AAA finds that much like gas-powered vehicles, the top reasons for roadside assistance for EV owners include issues with tires or needing a tow, but rarely for running out of charge. However, if needed, AAA provides members with EVs a charge on the roadside or towing service to the nearest public EV charging station.
- Electric Vehicle Incentives: Currently, there is only one active federal tax credit for EVs. Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) purchased in or after 2010 are eligible for a federal income tax credit of up to $7,500, with EVs with larger battery capacity eligible for more significant tax credits. However, this credit will phase out to 50% of the total credit amount once a manufacturer has reached 200,000 PHEVs and BEVs sold. Only two manufacturers, Tesla and General Motors, have completely phased out their credits.
“Simply improving the range of electric vehicles will not be enough to calm consumer anxiety and encourage them to give these vehicles a chance,” said LaDoucer. “However, with continuous education on electric vehicle ownership, coupled with more consumers seeing their neighbors convert, the popularity surrounding electric vehicles will likely grow.”
For those interested in learning more or needing help with selecting an electric vehicle, check out the AAA Car Guide. This resource provides consumers with reviews highlighting how many advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) are included in the vehicle, along with other criteria and information. All category winners for 2022 are electric, plug-in electric hybrid, or hybrid vehicles.
The survey was conducted on February 18-20, 2022, using a probability-based panel designed to represent the U.S. household population overall. The panel provides sample coverage of approximately 97% of the U.S. household population. Most surveys were completed online; consumers without Internet access were surveyed over the phone. A total of 1,051 interviews were completed among U.S. adults, 18 years of age or older. The margin of error for the study overall is +/- 4% at the 95% confidence level. Smaller subgroups have larger error margins.
About AAA - The Auto Club Group
The Auto Club Group (ACG) is the second largest AAA club in North America with more than 13 million members across 14 U.S. states, the province of Quebec and two U.S. territories. ACG and its affiliates provide members with roadside assistance, insurance products, banking and financial services, travel offerings and more. ACG belongs to the national AAA federation with more than 62 million members in the United States and Canada. AAA’s mission is to protect and advance freedom of mobility and improve traffic safety. For more information, get the AAA Mobile app, visit AAA.com, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.