What’s stopping widespread EV adoption? A guide to enabling sustainable driving

Tim Kenyon, VP, Consulting at GfK, also a speaker at this year’s IFA Berlin, has highlighted some of the issues around electric vehicles and EV adoption in a recent exclusive interview

Touching on the challenges of mainstream EV adoption, Kenyon explains that the main obstacle continues to be the high price tag, which has been exacerbated in the minds of consumers by recent inflationary pressures.

“In GfK’s sustainability research,” Kenyon explained, “EV expense is the number one disadvantage cited by consumers in most countries.”

The analyst cited one exception being China, where consumers are significantly less likely to consider EV expense as a drawback.

This was attributed to the Chinese market seeing significant price drops from domestic automakers, which likely explains why China could be considered an outlier on consumer price concerns. 

Kenyon also noted that a similar trend could be expected in other countries as purchase prices drop and inflation eases.

Other barriers to EV adoption generally cited by consumers include driving range, availability of public charging stations, and charging times. As the market responds with lower prices and more accessible charging technology, he says, increased adoption is expected.

Regarding consumer so-called ‘range anxiety’, which refers to concerns over where to charge, and the consumer perception around battery technology in terms of range, efficiency, and charging times, Kenyon pointed to GfK’s recent Green Gauge Survey.

“We have found that one in two consumers cite ‘limited driving range’ as a disadvantage of electric vehicles,” Kenyon said. “Germany, China, and the USA lead this perception. A similar number of consumers also cite ‘time required to charge’ as a disadvantage, led by UK, Germany, and France. Both sentiments are fairly consistent in most countries where we conduct the survey.”

Again, Kenyon expects the perception and EV adoption to improve along with advancements in EV technology. But he also stressed that, given these persistent, negative views on the part of consumers, there also needs to be a robust educational campaign from automotive manufacturers and government partners, especially as it relates to range anxiety.

Offering potential solutions, Kenyon went on to suggest that consumers feel they need more options when it comes to charging stations, and that charging accessibility is a definite challenge. 

“We see this sentiment very clearly in GfK’s consumer research data where ‘a lack of publicly accessible vehicle charging stations’ was cited by half of consumers as a disadvantage of Electric Vehicles,’ he added.

This was a fairly consistent perception across countries in the research. On the other hand, consumers see positive potential in having charging options in their homes, so there is some hope for the future of the EV.

The GfK research found ‘the ability to charge at home’ to be the third most appealing aspect of electric vehicles for consumers, coming behind “money saved on gas/petrol/fuel” and “doing my part in preserving the environment,” which are tied for the number one most appealing aspects of electric vehicles globally.

Beyond consumer perceptions, an important step in improving electric vehicle charging access would be updating building codes and regulations to require new homes, flats/apartments, commercial developments, and related buildings to be EV ready, Kenyon said. In addition, automotive manufacturers and governments can offer consumer incentives to help retro-fit and update existing buildings for EV charging.

Ending on a positive note, Kenyon asserted that, given the advancements in EV technology and the continued excitement on the part of consumers towards EV, the automotive industry should be considered a leader in the marketing of sustainability.

However, he admitted that there is still an enormous amount of work that has to be done to improve consumer perceptions and access to electric vehicles, as consumers are demanding less expensive choices and faster, more convenient charging options.

They also want to know that their purchase is truly making a holistic difference in helping to protect the environment — from manufacture of the component parts, to emissions, to the ultimate recyclability of the vehicle. 

According to GfK’s research, the industry, governments and related partners are clearly very committed to bringing this sustainable technology to more people around the world, with people excited for the potential electric vehicles have to improve mobility and help the environment.

“As the aforementioned challenges are met, prices normalise, and consumer perceptions improve, we would expect an exceptionally positive outcome for the industry, stakeholders, and the environment,” Kenyon said.

This year’s IFA edition Tim Kenyon will be speaker.

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