More Americans Would Buy an Electric Vehicle, and Some Consumers Would Use Low-Carbon Fuels, Survey Shows

In CR's largest nationally representative survey to date, more than a third said they would consider buying an electric vehicle today
By Jeff S Bartlett
Infographics by Andy Bergman
A growing number of consumers are eager to purchase a battery-powered electric vehicle, particularly when certain concerns related to electric vehicle ownership are addressed, such as Consumer Reports Federal Representative Survey (PDF).
The survey of 8,027 US adults found racial/ethnic and income differences in how people perceive EVs and potential barriers to purchase. Nearly half of those surveyed also reported being unaware of existing federal and state incentives that would cover the purchase price of many electric vehicles, sometimes as much as $7,500 on the federal loan, a key knowledge element for someone to buy one Electric vehicle could move.
With improvements to the nation's charging networks, more affordable EVs entering the market, and increasing range through advances in battery technology, many barriers to EV ownership are showing signs of breaking down over time. The survey results back it up: we found that 14 percent of American drivers say they would “definitely” buy or lease a pure electric vehicle if they bought a vehicle today. That's a significant increase from the 4 percent who said the same thing in a 2020 nationally representative survey by CR of 3,392 licensed U.S. drivers.
Overall, our most recent poll found that more than a third of Americans would “definitely” or “seriously” consider buying or leasing a pure electric vehicle if they were to buy a vehicle today. One of their reasons: More than 3 in 10 US adults say it costs less to charge an electric vehicle than to fill up a gas car (33 percent), the total cost of ownership is lower (31 percent) and the maintenance costs are lower (28 percent) . .
"The survey shows that Americans have a clear interest in reducing transportation costs and reducing their environmental impact," said Quinta Warren, PhD, associate director of sustainability policy at CR. "It underscores some important concerns, but fortunately many of these barriers to owning a battery electric vehicle EV can be addressed with experience and education."
The increasing demand for electric vehicles and hybrids cannot be denied. Gasoline prices are at record highs and Americans are increasingly turning to electric vehicles. Electric vehicle sales increased 76 percent in the first quarter compared to the same period last year, according to Cox Automotive, an information and services company. EVs promise lower running costs, and there's more choice on the market as more models from different categories are on the way.
Consumer Reports conducted the survey to better understand demand and awareness for battery electric vehicles and low-carbon fuels. It was funded in part by the environmental philanthropic group Breakthrough Energy and the Energy Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to a safe, equitable, green energy economy. It was deployed from January 27 to February 18, 2022, when the national average price of gasoline was between $3.34 and $3.52 per gallon. Gas prices rose to a national average of about $5 a gallon in late June. (Download a PDF of the survey report.)
The survey results illustrate a changing EV landscape as more Americans become more aware of the option to buy amid a societal atmosphere of increasing concern about climate change and the role of fossil fuels.
CR is committed to supporting sustainable transportation, reducing harmful emissions and saving drivers money - so much so that fuel economy is a key factor in the overall score we give to every car we buy and test. As a result, the overall scores highlight good all-around models that are energy efficient, help buyers make their purchasing decisions, and encourage automakers to prioritize energy efficiency. CR also last year introduced a Green Choice label using vehicle emissions data from the Environmental Protection Agency that highlights vehicles that are in the 20 percent lowest contributors to smog and greenhouse gas emissions for their model year. You can find these Green Choice vehicles on our website and in our print publications. They are marked with a green leaf icon wherever our reviews are displayed.
Highlights from the survey
Electric Vehicle Visibility: Four in 10 Americans (44 percent) have seen a battery electric vehicle in their neighborhood in the past month.
EV Experience: 17 percent of all Americans have been a passenger in an all-electric EV in the past 12 months, and only 7 percent have driven one. Only 2 percent of Americans currently own or lease a battery electric vehicle.
Views on climate change: Seven in 10 Americans say that climate change is “very important” (35 percent) or “somewhat important” (35 percent) to them personally. Three out of four Americans agree human activities contribute to climate change.
Removing barriers: Charging logistics (61 percent) is the top barrier to purchasing an electric vehicle, followed by the number of miles the vehicle can travel before requiring charging (55 percent) and the cost of purchasing and charging Servicing an electric vehicle (52 percent). .
EV Incentives: Almost half of Americans (46 percent) have never heard of any incentives for pure electric vehicle owners.
Demographics: Our survey found that some groups are more likely than others to buy or lease an EV as their next vehicle:
• Men are more likely than women.
• Younger adults are more likely than older adults.
• Americans with a higher education are more likely than those with a lower education.
• Americans with higher household incomes are more likely than those with lower household incomes.
• Americans living in urban areas are more likely than those living in suburban or rural settings.
Low-carbon fuels: Overall, two-thirds of Americans (67 percent) say that given the choice, they would likely use low-carbon fuel in their personal vehicle if the cost per gallon was the same as the cost of conventional fuel.
Experiences with electric vehicles influence attitudes and desires
Americans who have experience with electric vehicles, including simply being a passenger in one, are more likely to be interested in purchasing an electric vehicle. Overall, only 7 percent of Americans have driven one in the last 12 months, while 20 percent of those who say their next vehicle would definitely buy/lease an EV have driven one. This makes sense as EVs are relatively new and in some ways very different from a traditional petrol car.
"Many electric vehicles are enjoyable to drive, with quick, quiet acceleration and balanced handling, aided by their large, low-mounted battery," said Gabe Shenhar, Associate Director of Auto Testing at Consumer Reports. "In short, they are often a real pleasure to drive."
EV sticker shock
Of Americans who indicated that cost-related factors held them back from purchasing an EV, nearly 6 in 10 said purchase price was the biggest barrier. Of these respondents, a larger percentage of White (60%) and English-speaking Asian Americans (66%) surveyed say “purchase price” is one of the cost considerations that deters them from purchasing an all-electric vehicle compared to Hispanic Americans (55 percent) and Black Americans (46 percent).
Attitudes towards purchase price can be influenced by the attention paid to expensive models from Audi, BMW, Lucid, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Rivian and Tesla currently on the market. But mainstream automakers are introducing lower-priced models, including the Kia Niro, Subaru Solterra, and Toyota bZ4X. Some buyers may be surprised to learn that the Chevrolet Bolt and Bolt EUV, Hyundai Kona and Nissan Leaf have all dropped in price. The 2023 Chevy Bolt is now just $26,595 — about $20,000 less than the average new car price.
And for many EVs, the actual purchase price can be even lower than the sticker price due to federal, state, and even utility level incentives. Almost half of Americans (46 percent) don't know incentives exist. “Tax refunds and other incentives can reduce the purchase price of electric vehicles by thousands of dollars,” said Warren, CR associate director of sustainability policy.
It can be difficult to determine which incentives apply to a particular model since eligibility for federal tax credits is based on total sales. To make this easier, Consumer Reports' Electric Vehicle Savings Finder highlights local and state incentives and tax rebates based on your zip code and the model you're researching. This feature is part of our free membership to, which only requires an email address to access.
vehicle ownership costs
"Most electric vehicles are cheaper to own than comparable traditional cars," Warren said, "even when you factor in a higher purchase price for a comparable gas-powered vehicle."
And yet just over half of Americans (52 percent) who have not yet decided to buy an electric vehicle said the cost of buying, owning and maintaining would deter them from leasing or buying one.
Views and concerns vary between different groups. Of those who say that cost-related factors would deter them from purchasing an electric vehicle, a larger percentage of Black (54 percent) and Hispanic (48 percent) Americans than White Americans (37 percent) say maintenance and repair costs are a concern Repair costs hold them back. However, a previous 2020 study by CR found that over the typical lifetime of the vehicle, EV owners spend about half as much on maintenance and repairs as petrol-only car owners. Electric vehicles have fewer moving parts and fewer fluids to change. The brakes also tend to last longer. Plus, the cost of powering the car is also much lower, especially now with $5 a gallon of gas.
Charging an electric vehicle
About 6 in 10 Americans who have not yet decided to buy an electric vehicle say they have concerns about where and when they can charge it (61 percent) and how far that charge will get them (55 percent). discouraged them from buying. In particular, concern about loading logistics is highest among White and English-speaking Asian Americans, at 67 percent for each group.
The good news: There are now more than 48,000 public charging stations in the US, often with multiple charging ports, and many more are in the pipeline. Fifty percent of Americans say free public charging stations are the charging option that would most likely encourage them to buy or lease a pure electric vehicle, followed by 47 percent who say it's the opportunity to charge where they are live, and 45 percent who say easier access to public fast charging stations. Only 10 percent considered charging at work to be the most important option.
For those who can charge at home, CR has found good wall-mount chargers for $500-$700. Installation costs between $492 and $1,191, according to HomeAdvisor. EV range is typically around 250 miles (far more than most people typically drive every day), meaning overnight charging can meet the general needs of most drivers. Experienced EV owners consider range to be much less of an issue than non-owners, supporting this claim.
Hybrid Savings
For those unwilling to commit to a full electric vehicle, hybrids can be a smart alternative and save owners a lot of gas. A hybrid combines a petrol engine with electric assist, allowing the powertrain to optimize its operation for maximum fuel economy. In a regular hybrid, the engine and brakes generate electricity, so you never have to plug the car in.
For example, swapping a 2017 Chevrolet Equinox V6 for a 2022 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid (another small SUV) could save $1,775 per year in fuel costs, based on our testing and a gas price of $5 per gallon. That's nearly $9,000 in fuel savings over five years. Switching to a pricier Toyota RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid would yield even greater savings, while still providing a balance between 42 miles of local electric-only driving and the long-distance range and convenience that petrol offers. (For the RAV4 Prime, total range per tank and charge is 540 miles.)
The promise of low-carbon fuels
Running vehicles on electricity is just one way to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions from transport. Another reason is the shift to low-carbon fuels from clean, often renewable sources. Some low-carbon fuels are designed to work in regular gasoline-powered vehicles, while others may require new powertrain technology. The term “low-carbon fuels” refers to a range of solutions, but is most commonly associated with plant-derived ethanol and biodiesel. It also includes other energy sources such as hydrogen, liquefied natural gas and propane.
The investigation focused on "drop-in fuels" that could be used in current vehicles without modification. The results show that Americans are quite receptive to the possibility of using them in their own private vehicles and see the value in using them for other applications such as aviation.
Two-thirds of Americans said they would be more likely to use low-carbon fuel instead of conventional gasoline in their personal vehicle if the cost per gallon were the same as the cost of conventional fuel.
Those who are more likely to buy a pure electric vehicle are also much more likely to say they would use low-carbon fuels in their personal vehicles, and if given the choice they would choose to fly on an airplane that uses low-carbon fuel.
The survey showed that there is a willingness to switch to another type of fuel for environmental reasons, but it is important that cars are designed for this. Today's normal gas usually consists of 10 to 15 percent bioethanol, a fuel derived from plants. Higher concentrations require a flex-fuel engine designed to handle the different chemicals, including a dedicated fuel pump and fuel injection system.
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